To see someone you love
look at you with so much sadness;
that is the definition of shame.
To see someone you love
look at you with so much sadness;
that is the definition of shame.
As much as I try to blog at least once a week… it doesn’t always happen. And this one is going to be a doozy because it’s been a while and so much change has happened in my life lately.
So change used to suck and it was scary and unknown and terrifying and I thought I was going to die. Guess what? I don’t feel like that anymore. If I did… these past two weeks would have left me six-feet-under…maybe more.
As spring officially begins (but no one informed the weather because it’s not cooperating to be honest), change has come to my life as well. For the past 291 days I have been either in a treatment center, in between treatment centers, fighting treatment centers, fighting myself for being in a treatment center, or fighting ed while in a treatment center… but last Friday, I took my last steps into and out of of my Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) and made my transition to the “real world.”
I’ll be honest… that on paper doesn’t sound like much. But it is. And I try not to tell people they are wrong, but if you are thinking right now “that sounds easy. You just have more free days,” you are wrong. Flat out fucking wrong. Because along with leaving a treatment center, even one at IOP level, comes leaving the security of a place where you can go multiple days a week for a few hours and be surrounded by others who genuinely get it. It means (if you are like me and went to a center in a different state) packing up and moving yourself 3 plus hours back to your college town and trying to fit back into the place where you used to be…. but this time, without a prevalent eating disorder. It means being somewhere were you can’t see your treatment friends outside of a center even if you wanted to because they aren’t there with you… at all. It means facing questions about where you were and what you are doing that you may or may not want to answer. It means finding a new balance. It means so much more accountability for your own recovery and fear that you might mess up. It means trying to make a place for yourself all over again. And it is scary.
But it is also necessary. It is life. There comes a day when we all need to leave the metaphorical nest of an eating disorder treatment center. Hopefully, you have tested your wings a bit before you do… but you never really know if you can fly without taking the leap. You have to throw yourself out of the nest and trust you will be able to soar sometimes and just ride the wind other times. But either way, the only option is out and it’s up to you to remove both your feet from the edge and go.
And go I did.
In the week since I left treatment, there have been so many emotions. I cried with happiness as I looked over at my boyfriend one evening and realized I didn’t have to leave again the next morning. I cried with sadness as I read our treatment group chat and realized I wouldn’t be able to join in on any of the activities because I am three hours away. I dealt successfully with some ED thoughts as they (not surprisingly) tried to convince me to do something I didn’t want (or would) do, and then felt guilty for having the thoughts in the first place. (But, they will be there sometimes, and it is not whether I have the thoughts but what I do with them that matters the most.) I have struggled (and still do) with insecurities going back to work and feeling like I am annoying and disliked by a co-worker. But then told myself that it doesn’t really matter anyway, because I am being me. And then told myself it again…and again… and again… an still do. I’ve felt apathetic. I’ve felt confused. I’ve felt scared I was slipping because I didn’t write down my food the next morning and make sure I had enough even though I was eating when hungry and all. I’ve felt lonely. I’ve felt immense joy. I’ve felt loose and free and fun loving and then uptight and worried. But all of these things are just feelings. And I am still here. I am still living. I am still recovering. I am still doing my best to push towards what I want most… a life free from ED.
My journey is not yet over. There is so much more to come. And I have miles left to travel. But it’s begun a new chapter. And that new chapter starts with me here. Living a free life where I used to be consumed by an eating disorder.
Have you ever been star tripping?
You look up and spin around in circles and get dizzy and fall down and get your composure and do it all over again.
But you do it because it is fun. You do it because it is beautiful. You do it because it is captivating and unique and changing.
Sometimes you fall down and it takes a bit longer to get up. Maybe you spun around a bit too much and the dizziness overwhelms you. You might scrape your knee or bump into something. So you take a bit longer to pick yourself up and start spinning again–head held high, looking up.
There is nothing wrong with falling. It’s part of the experience.
That is kind of the most wonderful part of it. You never know what is going to happen. You laugh and smile and openly accept that you cannot control where you fall or when. But you know that you do get to pick when you stand back up and how you hold yourself and move on.
You know what’s neat about star tripping? It’s a lot like life.
It’s been a long haul. We’ve been through a lot together. But it’s over now. I’d say “it’s not you, it’s me,” but that isn’t true. It’s all you. You served a purpose for a while, you gave me a sense of control and safety-albeit incorrectly- but I don’t need you anymore. I don’t want you anymore.
I want life and love and laughter. I want adventures. I want smiles and spontaneity. I want health and happiness.
I want cake and chocolate. I want fast food on busy days and comfort meals on rainy, cold nights. I want to eat candy and popcorn at movies. I want to listen to cravings and eat to my desires. I want foreign foods and the chance to try new foods. I want to go out to a restaurant and have the full course meal.
I want to look in the mirror and accept what I see. I want to see myself for who I am as a person and not how my clothes fit or what I weigh. I want to meet new people and not think about how I look to them. I want to go on trips and learn new things and be able to feel the wind on my face on the top of a mountain. I want to run for fun and enjoy movement because it makes me feel good inside.
I want to be me, authentically. I want to discover who I am and fill the spot in my soul you take up with gold. I want to breathe in freedom and exhale rigidity. I want flexibility and variety.
Ed, I want life. And you do not bring me life. You do not bring me any of the things I want above. You hinder me. You hold me down. You tell me I am less than I am. You abuse me and manipulate me and take me away from my dreams.
We don’t work. We never will again. It’s over. We’re done.
Today I almost saw my weight.
After 4 years of not weighing myself and being SOOO careful not to see it, I almost did on a discharge sheet from my visit to an urgent care last week.
I bet some of you are like what…why is that a problem? But it’s actually horrible. It’s terrifying and mind-controlling, and preoccupying, and just miserable.
Because numbers still have power.
I bet you are also wondering how I almost saw my weight. You know how you can do the thing where you blur your eyes a bit? I did that. And then my brain started to wonder what I saw. It started to try to compare numbers in their most basic of shapes. Like when you look at something from far away and it is blurry and a 3 could be a 5 and the 1 could be a 7. That’s what my brain did.
Because ONE of those digit options was okay. The other one DEFINITELY wasn’t.
Why was the other one so taboo? Why did x number of pounds in the up direction make a difference? Here’s what my ED brain thinks:
Why do numbers have that amount of power? Enough power that I actually question my BODY DYSMORPHIA and wonder if it is telling me I am thinner than I actually am…. wow, what a turn to the opposite.
Why does a number have enough power to make me think I will automatically not fit in with my friends? How could it do that?
Why does a number make me think that all these professionals have it out for me and don’t care if I get the f-word?
It shouldn’t. But it does.
I partly blame society for putting so much emphasis on weight and numbers in general. But I also know that I can eventually be strong enough not to care… I am just not quite there yet.
So why do numbers NOT matter….. let’s see:
I might have almost seen my weight…. but there is so much more to life than whatever number was on that page. And it’s going to take a bit to stop worrying about it, but I will give myself the grace and time I need to process and become stronger from my almost viewing of an unhelpful, meaningless number.
I want to magically be at my pot of gold and the happy-go-lucky fancy leprechaun. I want to be on the other side of the fucking rainbow.
But I know that this isn’t going to happen overnight. I know that rainbows come after rain. I know that rainbows really never end. And I know that James Taylor got it right way before I figured it out…
Long Ago and Far Away:
Long ago a young man sits and plays his waiting game
But things are not the same it seems as in such tender dreams
Slowly passing sailing ships and Sunday afternoon
Like people on the moon I see are things not meant to be
Where do those golden rainbows end?
Why is this song so sad?
Dreaming the dreams I’ve dreamed my friend
Loving the love I love
To love is just a word I’ve heard when things are being said
Stories my poor head has told me cannot stand the cold
And in between what might have been and what has come to pass
A misbegotten guess alas and bits of broken glass
Where do your golden rainbows end?
Why is this song I sing so sad?
Dreaming the dreams I dream my friend
Loving the love I love to love to love to love
I wish someone would tell me how to climb the rainbow. I wish someone would give me the answers and tell me what I need to do to get to the gold. But I can’t ask others to solve this for me. I can’t learn without doing and I can’t get through without actually GOING through.
The only way out is through.
The only way out is through.
It’s written on the screen at my treatment center. It’s ingrained in my thoughts.
The ONLY way out is through.
The only way to the other side of the rainbow and to the pot of gold is trekking along the WHOLE FUCKING rainbow. To the other side.
*Note: ED means eating disorder
Imagine what the world could be
if it was only you and me;
the chatter of many fading slowly to few,
Think of all the time, the things that we could do.
Imagine all the wreckage, all the dead, the diseased,
the souls of all others suddenly ceased.
Wouldn’t it be quiet, only whispers on the breeze.
the crashing of the waves, the surf on the seas.
Imagine all our chances, the beauty and the grace.
The sky the only boundary, with smile on our face.
Imagine the sky crashing down,
the city burning, ashes on the ground.
The cries of helpless, panic ,and fright
darkness overwhelms, an ending of their plight.
Imagine all the good, the love and light
as we build a city of glass, mirrors shining bright.
The sun glints and shimmers as we finish our design,
but the world is far from done, beauty waits in line.
Imagine all the horror as the earth splits in two.
Run you silly souls, have you seen what I can do.
I have only gotten started with the torture you will face.
Brightness versus darkness; light will lose the race.
Two together make the devil present in the brain
fighting, clawing, biting, but only one can be tame.
Which will rule the conscious, which will fall behind?
Which will be the champion, who will win the mind?
tiny beautiful things by Cheryl Strayed.
What a tiny, beautiful thing Strayed’s book is.
Sometimes I feel like all I can (*should*) read in recovery is (are? struggling with grammar right now..) recovery related books on eating disorders, mental health, depression, etc. But to tell you the truth, I don’t want to. Those are well and good and have there place, but I don’t believe they should be everything.
I came upon tiny beautiful things when I was scouring the shelves of Barnes and Noble for just that… recovery books. I had never heard of Dear Sugar or Cheryl Strayed before… ever. I kinda just took a gamble and bought the book on a whim because the title said “advice on love and life” under it. And good gosh could I use some of that.
Strayed collected her answers to anonymous letters sent to her “Dear Sugar” column into one book. She comments on writings of love, loss, abuse, occupational desires, gender identity… you name it. But her advice is so applicable and thought-provoking.
Excerpt: Let’s start at the introduction written by Steve Almond. He states: “Inexplicable sorrows await all of us. That was her essential point. Life isn’t some narcissistic game you play online. It all matters-every sin, every regret, every affliction” (Strayed 5).
My thoughts: God, really… you’re just going to drop that on me? 5 pages in and I just got hit with that doosy. But, it’s so true. I can’t even start to comment on the reality of it… so… MOVING ON.
Excerpt: “Love is the feeling we have for those we care deeply about and hold in high regard. It can be light as the hug we give a friend or heavy as the sacrifices we make for our children. It can be romantic, platonic, familial, fleeting, everlasting, conditional, unconditional, imbued with sorrow, stoked by sex, sullied by abuse, amplified by kindness, twisted by betrayal, deepened by time, darkened by difficulty, leavened by generosity, nourished by humor, and “loaded with promises and commitments” that we may or may not want to keep. The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of love” (15).
My thoughts: First off… that phrase “motherfucking shit.” Thanks for speaking to my sailor mouth soul. But, in seriousness, I have experienced quite a few love’s facades. Love hurts a lot sometimes. I have cried so much out of love. I have cried because I am afraid of losing love. I have cried because I love too much. I have cried because I haven’t felt loved. I have cried because I DID feel loved. I have cried because I thought I could/would NEVER be loved. It’s been emotional. But maybe that is because love really is that important. It is a drive. It is a blessing. It is a curse, sometimes. It is pure. There is such a power in being pure. I would love (ironic use here) to tackle the shit out of love… but I am afraid too. I am genuinely scared of the repercussions of being so forward and so authentic. It’s a work in progress.
Excerpt: “Nobody can protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal” (29).
My thoughts: Damn it, really… that seems so hard. But wow is she right. There is never going to be a cure-all for suffering, for anything. When I read these sentences, I immediately think about my eating disorder. I really did try to starve away the suffering… and then I tried to eat and therapy away the suffering that the starving caused. This is a passage I truly need. It reminds me that I need to survive but I also need to love and be better for my past and my struggles and my suffering. It reminds me to dream and to picture a better time. It reminds me to strive. And it goes back to kintsukuroi… because you will be BETTER for it.
Excerpt: “Trusting yourself means living out what you already know to be true” (52).
My thoughts: I always question if I know what is true. I think that is something that happens when you lived with two voices in your head for years. “Trust your gut.” People say that all the time. But I don’t even know what my mind is saying… let alone my gut. What does that even mean? I really don’t like that expression. It feels out of control. It feels un-thought-out. It feels rash. But it is also raw. Truth is raw. When I think of truth, I think of a line from The Big Short (the movie on the housing bubble): “Truth is like poetry. And most people fucking hate poetry.” But why do people hate poetry? It is so beautiful, so expressive, so authentic, so unique, so personal. And that begs the question… why can I not trust the authenticity of my gut? Why can I not trust the feeling through my bones that tells me what IS true? Why… can I not trust myself?
I’m not yet done with Strayed’s book, and I anticipate I will comment some more on her writing. If you decide to check her stuff out, please let me know what you think!
Healing comes from the simple. Healing is taking out earphones and walking around on a crisp, quiet night listening to the sounds of nature. Healing is looking up at the sky and noticing a cloud shaped like a flower. Healing is in the smile that a stranger throws your way as you pass in the street. It is the morning sun trickling in through the blinds on the window.