Tag Archives: treatment

3 Years

Today is kind of a weird anniversary for me. I was scrolling through TimeHop this morning (people still use this app right?) when I came across a post from 3 years ago today. I left for treatment for an eating disorder/self-injury that day. I remember (vaguely, however) being terrified to go out there and have all my vices of coping and not feeling stripped away from me. I was incapable of feeling anything besides numb. There were no plans for a future in my mind, no hope of things ever not feeling as if though they weren’t going to get better. All I remember is being exhausted 24/7; emotionally and physically.

I was vulnerable to the voices in my head telling me that if I only lost a little more weight I’d be happy, I’d achieve that goal of wanting to disappear, to live a life unnoticed. Only the thing is, the more I tried to disappear the more I stood out. That’s where the lies came in. I lived a life of lying, skirting around the truth that I was slowly killing myself. My closest friends would ask what I was doing to lose the weight I had, or if I was eating. I didn’t exactly lie to them, but I wasn’t telling the whole story. I was simply working out daily and watching what I did eat (although a piece of toast with a very miniscule amount of peanut butter isn’t exactly eating). I hid my eating disorder so well and didn’t disclose information about it that my therapist I was seeing at the time didn’t even catch on to what was going on with me (which led to a lot of misdiagnoses, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder) until a month or so before I was sent to treatment.

All these memories came back when I saw those posts from TimeHop this morning. It’s still kind of mind blowing to me that it was 3 years ago, because it honestly feels like it was yesterday. I have come such a long way in my life since going to treatment.

I feel content with my life and where it’s going. I’m now a senior in undergrad with a pretty killer GPA. I’m graduating with research honors next May and hopefully will be going off to grad school after that. Yes I still struggle with my weight, appearance and eating disorder thoughts sometimes but I don’t let them consume me anymore. I have so much to offer the world (that didn’t sound conceded did it?) and after years of struggling, have a pretty good sense as to who I am. The areas of my life which I lost to my eating disorder and mental health struggles, I have either gained back or am working on gaining back. There’s relationships I’m hoping to still amend and the friends I still do have I appreciate them and no longer take them for granted.

There is so much that I have gained over the past 3 years, that it’s incredible to think about how my life has changed for the better. The road here absolutely sucked and was painful. One psychiatric hospital stay, a month in inpatient treatment and a year in outpatient treatment (which sucked more than the hospital or treatment center) are now on my track record. I hated the things that beginning recovery entailed, but if I got my life back in a better way than I could have imagined, I guess I’ll take it.

So today is the anniversary of the day I began the long journey of getting my life back. It’s been almost 2 years since I’ve last self-injured which is huge after engaging in it for 10 years. Being in recovery from an eating disorder is something I feel like I’ll always have to deal with. Every day I have to make choices and check in with myself some days to make sure I’m going down the right path because it is so easy for my emotions to take over and run the course of my life. But I genuinely love my life right now, and I’m so glad I am still alive to have these experiences.

Life After

With it being National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I wanted to take the time out of my night to sit down and write something meaningful about this week. Reading post after post of individuals’ stories about life in the grips of an eating disorder and how they’re now on the other side, I decided I wanted whatever I wrote to be a little different. But how do you make your writing different from the thousands out there that are writing about the same issues?

I have noticed a theme over the week within those posts, however. There’s always that silver lining moment at the end where the writer describes how much life has gotten better since they entered recovery, and I have to agree that it’s a fucking incredible thing being in recovery and not having the obsessions about food and weight on your mind 24/7. But the posts always end there, leaving a sort of cliff hanger, especially for those of us who know what going through the recovery process is like. But what I want to touch on is something I haven’t read much of in the posts:

            The bad days of recovery.

Because guess what guys, it’s not always an easy task and some days those thoughts and desires to once again self-destruct come running back to you. People expect you to struggle while you’re getting back on your feet while in treatment, whether that be inpatient or outpatient. But what I’ve noticed in my own life is that nobody really talks about the struggle so many of us face after we’re discharged from a treatment program and are fully integrated back into our lives. That’s when, at least in my opinion, real recovery starts and is tested on almost a daily basis.

I’ve gone a couple of weeks without the intrusive thoughts about my weight and calories, but something I’ve noticed is that it always comes back. We learn skills to fight those thoughts out, as well as behavioral components to engage in to not fall back into the very thing we were once so comfortable in. My own therapist has told me countless times that yes it may be so much easier to just say ‘fuck it’ and go back into living a life of an eating disorder, but there’s so much more to lose at this point in your life now that you have experienced what living is supposed to be like.

Let’s be real here for a moment though guys, sometimes the idea of living this new life, for the rest of our life mind you, seems overwhelming. Some days I wake up and don’t want to continue living this life of recovery. Some days I want to jump right back into the arms of an eating disorder, because coping with the emotions that come from every day life experiences can really fucking suck. They talk about the ebbing and flowing of motivation for recovery in treatment all the time, but just because you’ve been discharged from a program doesn’t mean that ever really stops. It becomes less frequent of an issue, but an issue still nonetheless.

You can go weeks feeling on top of the world and loving the life you worked so hard to get, but some days those thoughts and physical feelings can come back and come back with a vengeance. It’s in those moments though, that you really have to put all of those skills that were drilled into your head into use. It’s a struggle, because now you have insight. You know you can kick those thoughts’ ass, you know you can hold off on engaging in whatever behavior it is your head is telling you to do, and you know all of the things that you could lose by letting yourself get engulfed in those thoughts and actions for even just a day. Because I think we all know that a lot of the time, that one day is all it takes to flip that switch and you’re plummeting backwards.

But unlike the days you were in treatment, there’s not that team of people right there to catch you before you smash into the ground. So it’s all you, and you know you can do it if you choose to. It’s those choices that can either make or break you. It all comes down to choice. There’s this internal battle you enter into with your old self and the new, more insightful self. So what are you going to do? The guilt of fucking up and having to explain to either your doctor or your therapist as to why the scale says you lost weight when you go in for your next appointment or session can be overwhelming enough. To be honest, that has been something that has kept me on my toes a lot over the past year. Having to come up with some lie that seems like a legit excuse isn’t really worth it, because if your therapist is good at their job, they’ll dissect the shit out of what you just told them until they reveal the truth behind the fact you lost weight again.

But I guess I should probably end this post on a positive note, eh? I mean shit if I stopped right there we’d all be fucking depressed and not want to continue trying our best to live a life of recovery. So here it goes, that silver lining moment we all love:

Some days of recovery suck. I mean really fucking suck. But it’s only a day, or a moment or a thought. It doesn’t have to become the catalyst that slides you backwards. If you’ve made it this far to where you can say you’re in recovery, well dammit you can make it past the shitty days too. Without trying to sound like one of those cheesy motivational posters that are scattered all over the place, you’ve already proven to yourself that you can do this. So when you really feel like recovery is a joke and you can no longer keep it up, remember the way you fucking rallied to get to where you are now, even if in that moment it feels like you didn’t make as much progress as everyone around you is telling you’ve made. It’s always hard to see the progress you made for yourself, but you did it yourself. So keep calm and stay strong.

Up to MY Standards

I’ve always been a perfectionist, I mean just go ask anyone who is close to me and they’ll tell you just that. Maybe it’s because of my childhood (all the Freud lovers will give a fist pump at that) and living with that nagging voice placed in my head by those who bullied me and the teachers who never really believed in my abilities (High school guidance counselor, I’m lookin at you!).

So as I got older and became a young adult, I saw a shift in my mindset. I found things I was good at and considered it my pride to excel at these things. Some were healthy, such as my ability to play guitar and make music, and some not so healthy. Those who were seemingly better at whatever it was I too was good at, were seen as a threat to me. I know, it’s absolutely ridiculous to say out loud but it was the truth. But that truth has dangerous consequences.

Musicians around me became the enemy, a source of jealousy and viewed as yet another individual rubbing it in my face that I was in fact not as good at music as I thought I once was. I no longer wanted to learn from them, because when they tried teaching me new things, in my head all I could hear was them saying “look what I can do and you can’t”. Relationships that could have been so enriching never had the chance to grow because I pushed them away. I felt insignificant in who I was as a musician when I compared myself to them, even though a majority of these individuals had been playing music longer than I had even been alive.

Then there were the not so good things, body image being the main thing. I got sick in my early twenties with an eating disorder, after I decided I was going to go on a diet to lose some weight. Needless to say, that car soon spun out of control and took over my life. But there was something about it that made me feel so in control and on top of my world. Finally, I remember thinking to myself, I had found the one thing in my life that nobody else could be better at than me. I would listen to people all around me telling me that they found it so hard to stay in a commitment to the gym and stick with their diets. That losing weight was not as easy as I was making it look. That was all I needed to hear to give me that little extra push to keep going. Not to mention the fact that my perfectionist attitude always made me feel like crap about myself when I would finally reach that goal weight, because anyone who has ever had the misfortune of having an eating disorder knows that the original goal weight never stays the same. Once you get there you know you can go lower, and suddenly that number on the scale that you once would have killed someone to see, is no longer the number you feel happy with. There’s always more you can do to get lower. That perfect number just barely out of reach.

But where I really want to go in this is the recovery aspect of an eating disorder. Those perfectionist attitudes never really left, and I’m not sure they ever really will if I’m being honest. It’s a long road ahead of me, probably something I will struggle with for the rest of my life. Because I live in such a small town (we joke and call it ‘Smallbany’) I have run into people I went to outpatient treatment with at school, some of them in my classes. I remember the beginning of the semester someone who was in treatment with me, who I never really cared for, walked into my class. One look at them and I saw what I wasn’t any longer. They, in my mind at least, looked good. They had the features I so badly wished I could have because to me in the most fucked up way were what I consider attractive. Suddenly my body image was out of whack and I once again felt inadequate. Sure I have come a long way in recovery, but seeing others look the way that I never had the chance to look, really kind of triggered me. To me, they looked perfect. I, with some weight restored, did not look perfect.

Sure I had my schooling and the fact that I am really freakin’ good at it, but all of that was negated by the fact that I was no longer the best at the one thing I spent so many years being proud of. Someone else could lose weight and be thinner than I am. Suddenly, I was no longer up to my standards of perfect.

But what is perfect? I honestly don’t know if perfect even exists. I remember last week after taking tests I received the grade for one and it was below my expectations. I knew I could have done better, and kicked myself all day for the fact that I didn’t get that grade I knew I could have. My mind took over and I began hearing that voice in my head that told me I wasn’t ever going to measure up to the standards I once believed I could. But this voice carried over into every area of my life. I was no longer good enough at anything, whether it be school, the way I looked, or good enough for relationships (not romantic but friendships and the like).

I know this is all negative, but I think I finally found the silver lining. My standards for my whole life have been set at a place that is almost unreachable but not totally out of sight that I can’t see the end game. I can see it, and that only fuels the need to live up to my own standards. So I’ve been working really hard on giving myself a break, and it’s not as easy as you would think it was. It’s a daily internal struggle, and at times it’s absolutely exhausting. But maybe, just maybe, my standards can change, or I can at least give myself a break and some grace for not reaching that bar that is set so high. So I didn’t get a mark on a test or paper I knew I could have gotten, in the long run will it really matter? So I don’t feel like I’m the best at things I once did, who really cares? I’m not the best musician? At least I’m not the same as I was a few years ago. I’m not the best student? At least I’m not the same student I was when I was told I wasn’t good enough for college. I’m not the best looking? First of all, what does that even mean, and second of all, looks are the least of everyone’s concern at the end of the day. I realize that sounded shallow, and being the best looking wasn’t what fueled my illness. It was the need to disappear and not be noticed. But as I entered recovery, looking good, meaning healthy, became important for some reason.

I may not be perfect or up to my standards, but I realize now that nobody on this earth is perfect. We all have something that someone else wants, but at the same time we are all so completely different, and now in my life I’m trying to accept that and believe it. So maybe now I will try to set a new standard, a standard of giving myself grace.

 

Dealing with Loss

You learn so much over the course of your life, but knowing how to deal with and handle death isn’t something we learn. I don’t think anyone gets used to people dying, that they figure out a system as to how to deal, cope and go through the grief process. But if someone has, and you’re reading this, please enlighten us all on how you managed to do it.

What brings this up today is the death of my friend, Heather. I met her when I went to treatment in Arizona when I was 23 and she was one of the people I instantly clicked with. She was in the IOP program they had, so she would come to groups and then go home for the day. I remember one day we were sitting on the patio of the house I was in and she told me how she felt like an outsider because everyone else who was there and in groups were residential, PHP or whatever label the insurance companies used to describe people who were basically inpatient. I being one of them. From then on we began hanging out more, I guess you could say I took her under my wing and we became fast friends. When I went back home to New York, I wasn’t expecting her and I to stay connected, but we did. That’s something they don’t prepare you for in the therapy sessions where they try to prepare you for what’s coming once you’re discharged. Overall, in my opinion, they don’t really prepare you for shit because they don’t know what your life is like back home. But anyways, I got off topic.

About a month ago she posted a picture on Instagram of her in the hospital. I thought maybe she was in because of her eating disorder, but when I shot her a message I found out the real reason. She had blood clots in her lungs, but at the time she told me they were putting her on blood thinners for a year to try and keep them under control. I didn’t know then that that would be one of the last conversations I would have with her.

Yesterday on Facebook I saw friends of her posting messages on her wall, saying how they’ll never forget her and how incredible she was. Doing a little more research I found that she had passed away Thursday. I was shocked.

People aren’t supposed to die at 24 of a pulmonary embolism. She was so full of life, encouraging, real, hysterical and we shared so much in common. We always talked about how if I got into a grad school out there we would find an apartment and move in with each other. How she wanted to come to New York because of the 4 seasons (yeah, I tried talking her out of moving here because she clearly didn’t realize what winter in NY entails). She was my West Coast Twin. We loved the same movies (Titanic), the same music (Frank Sinatra) and the same TV show (Law and Order: Special Victims Unit).

So now with her being gone, I can’t help but to feel sad, and I honestly don’t know how to process this or even deal. When I first heard of her passing, my 1st instinct was to text her. I kept replaying the last time we talked in my head, which was about a week or so ago. We had a conversation about faith, God and the Bible. She was in a place that I am/was. Questioning things, wondering about things the Bible says compared to what the world and todays culture says. Our conversations were always real, and she was one of the best people I ever had in my life.

Over the past 4 months I lost 2 incredible people. The loss of my Grandma still hurts like nothing I’ve ever experienced, and now I’m mourning the loss of my friend. I wish I knew I had a positive thing to say about how I’m not letting this grief over them get me down, but I would be lying. My Grandma’s death was hard enough even though we spent 15 months watching her die, but there’s something about losing Heather that feels like a punch to the stomach. It was unexpected, and maybe it’s because for the first time in my life I am dealing with an unexpected death, and even more so the death of a friend who is 6 months younger than me. That’s the killer part.

There’s no manual on how to handle this. No instruction booklet exists telling you to start at step 1, and by the time you get to step 10 or 20 you’ll feel better.

How Treatment Changed My Life

As a lot of you know, I’ve spent almost the past 2 years in and out of treatment. My 1st stint in treatment was the summer of 2013 when I was out at Remuda Ranch which for those of you who don’t know is a residential treatment center for eating disorders. Thanks to my lovely insurance company (I’m pretty sure any case manager who works with eating disorders hates them) my treatment only lasted a month until I was cut off and forced back home and to the real world. A few months later I found an intensive outpatient program (IOP) only 20 or so minutes from my home and that is the place where the work really began in my recovery.

For months I thought I was wasting my time attending groups for 4 hours a day, ,3 days a week. I wasn’t motivated to change and I picked and chose the things I would use in my own life. I spent a year and a half in that program until I was finally discharged.

Looking back on those 2 years of many ups and more than enough downs, I realized that treatment changed and ultimately saved my life. I didn’t appreciate it at the time because it was the biggest and most promising threat to ending my eating disorder, but looking back I can see so many things that have changed for the better in my personal life that wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for a team who wasn’t afraid to kick my ass with honesty.

Since I was a little kid I always struggled with how I was feeling. I remember being 12 or so and feeling depressed and like the only way out was to end my life. Yet what kept the mask of happiness over my face for years was knowing there was no external stimulus causing this depression. It’s a total mind fuck when you can’t even place a finger on a cause for your depression and want for your life to end. But when I got into treatment I realized I wasn’t the only one who ever felt this way. The hardest lesson I had to learn was that I had every right to feel what I was feeling and that nobody could take how I was feeling away from me. Now this is totally different from acting on your emotions (you have every right to feel emotion, but acting on them is something completely different). The more and more time I spent talking about how I felt and having people nod their heads in agreement and giving me the feedback that I wasn’t the only one made me realize that I was important and my feelings mattered. It’s not everyday you can be in a place where you’re not only told that you have every right to feel how you feel, but to have those emotions validated? It’s life changing, and once you bring that outside of those 4 walls of a treatment center it can change your life so much in terms of how you handle relationships.

The second biggest thing that changed my life was acting as if. For so long in my life I had acted “as if”. As if I wasn’t depressed, suicidal, full of self-hate towards my body, so when we were told in CBT group to try and act as if I was hesitant. But the therapist wasn’t telling us to act as if we had something dirty to hide, he was telling us to act as if we didn’t have eating disorders when it came to exposure challenges. CBT is big on cognitive and behavioral stuff, seeing as how it’s even called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. So I gave this skill a try a few times when it came to facing huge fears of mine out in the real world and you know what? It actually fucking works! I was astonished!! Soon the things I feared with enough practice became the size of mole hills instead of mountains.

The last thing I want to talk about is assertiveness. This skill I had always sucked at throughout my life. I had this crazy idea that I had no right to ask for what it was I wanted and it hindered a lot of my life and I ultimately became an emotional doormat. Learning to say no without explaining myself was so empowering. Sure there are still things that owe an explanation to, but saying no and sticking to your guns is huge for me. Even calmly explaining how something made me feel or what I need from someone, all came from the 4 walls of the group room where I attended IOP.

I never knew it at the time I was there, but I picked up a lot of skills that has thus far bettered my life and made me happier with what I have in life. Sure I struggle with behaviors here and there, but what person fresh into recovery doesn’t? Yet I’ve found that the more and more capable I am at handling interpersonal relationships (too clinical sounding? Sorry), the less anxious and stressed I become about how I’m feeling and focus less on “how I should feel”.

Recovery is not a straight line

pss-recovery

A lot of people with or without eating disorders can fall into the trap that once you’re “in recovery” everything is so much easier when it comes to food. For the longest time I too thought that once I was out of treatment life involving food would be easy peasy, but I’ve come to realize and even accept that it’s more like a wave. Like every other normal person on the earth, we all have our good days and bad days. But over time you find that those bad days aren’t as bad as you once would have seen them as. Sure it may suck, you may be more vulnerable feeling in front of food but you realize it’s only 1 day out of your entire life. That bad day no longer dictates the rest of your week, and once you view it as just a bump in the road you’re better able to adjust, pick yourself back up and dust yourself off.

What I’ve learned over the past few months from being in my life without the guided hand of a team telling me what to do is that I am stronger than I once believed I was. Yes some food challenges I face cause me to stumble a little bit but when I wake up the next day I try and go about my day like the previous days challenge didn’t happen. It’s in the past and really it doesn’t have that big an impact as I thought it would when I was faced with the challenge.

For me recovery has also been (and still is) the process of learning how to love and accept myself for who I am. When I look back on how far I’ve come over the past year or so I see that I am not that same woman who entered into treatment (whether residential or outpatient). I see the future for the 1st time in my life, I have the drive and motivation to succeed and the further along in undergrad I get, the more I am able to realize I can do what it is I want to do .

There’s still so many things I need to work on when it comes to my recovery, there’s still so many challenges I have yet to meet and make myself do and some distorted beliefs I still have. I’ve still yet to figure out what’s an acceptable amount of time to spend at the gym which is why I have been sticking to home work outs and outdoor activities now that it’s nice outside to actually do them, but getting back into the gym is something I want to have happen for me this summer.

Everyday when I wake up I find myself motivated to do life and be healthy about it. That is a huge change from a couple of years ago. When I first began outpatient treatment I was under the impression I needed to do everything right, but over time that became exhausting. It took me a good year to finally release the ropes on doing recovery and learned to relax. I began giving up a little control here and there, tried trusting my treatment team a little more and found that recovery wasn’t perfect, but when I had those wins in my life that recovery was easier than staying sick and being controlled by food.

It’s not perfect. Trust the process and have a little grace towards yourself.

RecoveryRoad

The Barry Manilow Moments

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Is this title misleading? It’s probably misleading. Oh well, that’s just how I roll.

(be prepared for lots of psychology nerdiness in this post folks!)

Ok so there’s this study I learned about when I was in IOP last year. It’s called: The Spotlight Effect in Social Judgment: An Egocentric Bias in Estimates of the Salience of One’s Own Actions and Appearance. Pretty damn wordy right? It’s actually one of the most relevant research studies for those of us who struggle with social comparisons, poor body image & that ever so lovely feeling like whenever we go out in public that everyone is ultimately staring at us. Sounds like a blast right? No, no tis not!

So here’s the jist of the procedure. Researchers had participants put on a lovely t-shirt with a big ass picture of Barry Manilows face on it and walk into a room filled with people. Now before learning of this, I rocked my BM shirt like nobody’s business because listening to pop music from the 80’s coming from a middle aged man who sings the hits like Mandy & Copacabana really adds a big ray of sunshine into my life. But any ways. The whole goal was to see if people actually noticed this ridiculously absurd article of clothing, and guess what? Barely anyone noticed the picture of Barry Manilow gracing the front of said shirt.

When I first learned of this study I thought it was ridiculous. Honestly, I believed that clothing and body image were two completely different things, but guess what folks? It’s pretty relevant to body image! Shocking I know!

For a lot of us we tend to feel constantly judged. Example: I can’t leave my house without having my make up and hair looking as flawless as I can get it. Also the conflict of wanting to wear sweatpants out is something I just cannot get myself to do. What if someone looks at me? They’d obviously be judging my choice in looking comfortable as a bad thing.

But the truth is, nobody really gives a shit about what you look like! I’ve spent years terrified of being judged, and being judged by strangers none the less! I mean these people have no influence in my life yet there has always been something inside of me that needed them to like me and find me physically attractive which meant extra effort before leaving my house to make sure my outfit is on point (I struggled right there to not say “on fleek”, but I’m not that cool to use that phrase and I really don’t even know what it means). As I learn on a daily basis to love myself and accept the way I look I constantly struggle with having Barry Manilow t-shirt moments.

The truth is nobody is staring at me when I go out. Nobody is judging me when I walk into a room, even though it’s still something I think is happening sometimes. Sure some might look in my general direction, but really nobody is that interesting for others in a room to find fascinating to stare at. Even if they are looking at you, 9 times out of 10 it’s nothing negative. I mean it’s not like you’re Beyonce or Princess Kate. How many times do you glance at someone? Probably a lot is my guess. If you’re schema is focused on body image and how YOU look, there’s a really high chance that it comes into play when you’re out and about. Maybe you’re hair is on point or someone really loves that shirt you wore that day. Yet if you’re so self-aware of what you look like or how you feel about yourself (in a negative way) then those looks turn into something negative. The voices in you’re head tell you they’re judging you, yet like the Barry Manilow t-shirt study, I can bet no one is even noticing you.

What I’m trying to get at is this: people are so busy thinking about themselves that they don’t exactly take the time out of their lives to notice you and how you look. You’re body isn’t on the forefront of their mind when you’re sitting at a table in a restaurant or trying on clothes at the mall. They’re probably admiring how adorbs you look in that new skirt or thinking that they should have ordered what you did as the waiter brings out your dinner (their choice of that salad is looking pretty poor as you get handed that scrumptious sizzling fajita… ok now I’m hungry just thinking about this). So try and relax when you go out and you’re not feeling confident about yourself! You rock that confidence like you’re Kanye, just don’t be a douchebag (but feel free to interrupt T.Swift because that’d be more entertaining than having to look/listen to her).

You Don’t Need a Label

I’ve heard countless times people trying to place a specific label on their issues, specifically when it comes to eating disorders. They’re not as black & white as the world would like to think they are. It’s not bulimia, anorexia, EDNOS, binge eating disorder. No, they’re so intertwined into the personality, and the personality isn’t something you can place neatly in this cute little box. Neither are eating disorders.

“I go days without eating.. but then I eat and eat. I must not have anorexia”

“I binge and purge. But it’s not all the time. Or sometimes I don’t purge but I kill myself at the gym. Does that make me bulimic or not?”

“I eat normally. I don’t throw up, but I can’t stop using laxatives. What does that make me?”

“I can eat my whole kitchen in under an hour. But then I don’t eat for days to control my weight. Am I anorexic, bulimic or something?”

Do you want to know what I’ve learned? It doesn’t matter the label. If you have an eating disorder, you have an eating disorder. It’s just my opinion but you don’t need that neat tiny label place over it and frankly I don’t understand why labeling something like this is “needed”. Maybe it’s more socially acceptable, maybe it’s an indicator for your friends and loved ones so they can “”understand”.

Sure someone who doesn’t get out of bed for days can easily be labeled depressed. Someone who attempts to take their own life can be labeled as suicidal. Someone who hears terrible voices in their head that compels their behavior can be schizophrenic. Someone who has manic episodes followed by terrifyingly dark depression can be bipolar. And for the longest time as I was in treatment, I would wonder hours on end just what labeled category I was neatly placed into.

But as I said, these disorders are so far from a simple label. I don’t know about everyone else, but my symptoms can switch like the seasons. I restrict, work out til I pass out or my muscles get deprived of oxygen that I have no choice but to stop. I eat more, but make sure to take laxatives until I lost the weight “I must have gained” that day. It’s not black and white, in fact a lot of the time those living with eating disorders live in the grey areas, and yes it can be frustrating as hell.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you have symptoms of an eating disorder that control your everyday life, you have an eating disorder. There shouldn’t be this added pressure to fit into a category identified by the DSM-V or professionals diagnosis. Nobody fighting like hell for their lives everyday don’t need that added pressure.

A disorder, mental illness or addiction are just that no matter what they look like.

When Words Fail

What do you say to someone who’s hurting? Where are those magical words you can say to someone to help them get through something that seems so much bigger than them? For someone who loves to write & use words, not having the words to say is a hard place to be in. This past week a good friend of mine told me they had been struggling and in this current moment they are in a place to receive the help they need.

I remember all last week talking with them and seeing them slide fastly down that slippery slope; it was so hard sitting back and seeing the pain in their eyes, voice and words as we talked via text message. Being on the receiving end of that conversation was an uncomfortable place to be in. Usually I have been the one saying those haunting words, so to hear them coming from another persons mouth was difficult. As the days went on I began seeing so much of my past in them. The way news of something destroyed my life and sent me spiraling downhill I saw happening in my friend and it scared the shit out of me.

All I could do was voice my genuine concern, tell them over and over again I loved them and needed them to stay even though I knew because of the circumstances those words were falling on deaf ears. It wasn’t out of ignorance that they weren’t grasping the truth of my words, and I fully understand that. When you’re falling it’s hard to see the truth and feel anything that resembles love.

A while back in the treatment program I was in we had to do validation letters to those in the group after we each read where we were at in life & recovery. I always found it hard hearing the kind words those in group with me had to say to me, feeling like they were just following the therapists instructions and they didn’t really mean a lot of the shit they said to me. But when it came to reading my letter to the person it was addressed to in group, I meant every fucking word. I had found a community in which I not only belonged, but where I learned to love others in a real way. I think that’s what happens when you’re vulnerable with people, you begin developing a love for the others in the room that nobody can really explain. But I digress.

I know a lot of my friends have a hard time accepting the fact that compliments are real & heartfelt. So last week when I was voicing my concern, I’m not all too sure my friend was believing it. Sunday I’m going to visit them and I have a little gift for them. I tried writing a letter again; it’s always been easier for me to write everything all out than speaking the words. In that letter I write about how much I need them to stay alive & be in my life, how much I love them and care about our friendship. It’s all of the words I had in my heart at the moment, and I know those words can’t fix anything, but I just need them to hear it.

In reality I know there will never be any sentence of words strung together that will be able to reach into a persons heart & remove all of their pain & kill the demons; but I can only hope that if I continue using my words to express how important someone is to me that the words will stick in the back of their minds & when needed they can pull them out of the box inside of their mind & remember them.

Needing to be the Best

School is seriously weird. I never feel more in my element than when I’m doing my homework, sitting on campus or in the classroom. But I’ve noticed that since I’ve gotten to know some of my classmates I find myself internally competing with them. I’m not sure whether it’s my insecurity or that sick need to be the best at something but I become competitive when I hear their grades if they scored higher on a test or in a class than I did.

I know it’s not healthy, but I can’t help but feel like I should give up some of the down time I have worked hard to have over the past few months just so I can be my best academically. Usually I throw my life away in those 3-4 months school is in session. I hide away in libraries or in my room and bury myself under books and assignments just so I know I am doing everything in my ability to receive the grades I know I am capable of getting at the end of a semester. As I’ve learned to relax I have seen my GPA drop a couple points and it’s terrifying. I am no longer “Jess, the girl with the 4.0”, I am just “Jess, the  undergrad student”.

That 4.0 gave me a huge confidence boost; it made me feel like I was finally the best at something and that feeling was phenomenal. Now, I don’t have that GPA and I feel like everyone else. It’s funny because the entire time I was in treatment being normal and like everyone else was all I wanted. But this semester, with this new life of no treatment and full time school and part time work I feel like there’s a void I need to fill.

I was alright last semester because I still had a part of my eating disorder and that made me stand out. No I wasn’t parading around announcing it to everyone I talked to or made eye contact with, but I knew I had it and it somehow made me feel alright. Now I am working on a new life of recovery and that means I am just like everyone else. I don’t have something that makes me different or stand out since i am trying not to give in to my eating disorder thoughts as much and I no longer have the 4.0 on my record that tells the world “I am the best in my class because nobody can get higher than a perfect 4.0”. It’s a mind fuck simply because when I was still sick, in treatment 3 times a week and individual therapy 1 time a week AND working a job part time I managed to get that 4.0. I’ve been wondering if there was a link between my anorexia and my academic achievement of a perfect GPA, which I know I should probably CBT sheet that shit or something (treatment friends know what I’m talking about haha).

So I’ve been feeling a little lost since school started last week. I feel pressure to once again give up my social life for school work and assignments just so I can get a letter on my final grade report that reinforces the “I am the best” mindset. Life is getting complicated again, so I’m sorry if these posts seem all over the place lately. I’m just trying to figure all this shit out while not knowing what the fuck I’m doing.