Monday, May 31, 2010

when the world is one giant trigger. (as it usually is).

i just went to my brothers high school graduation and saw a lot people that i hadn't seen since my own graduation. and my own graduation, if you get what i'm saying, wasn't exactly the healthiest time of my life. in fact, of my many relapses, it was probably the worst.

so every other person i saw gave me that knowing smile, as if it's because of them i'm in recovery, and said, "honey- you look so great". if you have an eating disorder you understand where i'm coming from when i say that words like "healthy", "great", "glowing" and "beautiful", when used to describe your post-eating disorder appearance, can be interchanged with words like, "FAT".

i've really gotten better about letting those words shoot into my heart like flaming arrows, but i suppose it was something about the people and high school reminiscing that stripped me of the tougher skin i've spent the past few months growing. so needless to say, i was feeling not so great about myself, and part of me wondered if the people giving the knowing smiles actually felt sorry for me- like- oh. that kind of stinks for her that she can't be skinny anymore.

in addition, i'd come across not one, but two alumni from my high school in current struggles with eating in active eating disorders...not recovery. neither of them had struggled in high school and it was the strangest feeling being the worried one rather than the one being worried about. I felt, once again, like a failure.

so here i am, in a pretty ironic position, with these thoughts in my head, but horrible hunger pangs in my stomach (if you're a fellow struggler and have yet to experience your first hunger pang of recovery, i promise it's coming. don't give up). It was nearly ten o'clock and i'd not yet had any dinner. I never wait that long to eat, and i honestly can't remember a time i've ever been so ravenous.

i had two choices before me: one that wasn't enough to cover my meal plan, and one that was. obviously, the one that wasn't what i needed would've felt so much better. i could've gone to sleep and woken up having numbed out the feelings the graduation had evoked by engaging in an eating disorder behavior.

But unfortunately/fortunately (depending on how you choose to look at it), i'd reached a point of hunger that had taken over my ability to reason with my eating disorder. All I knew was that it'd been a far busier than usual day and i'd missed a couple of starches, and we were at a drive through, and so i ordered fries with my grilled chicken sandwich.

although i rarely struggle with urges to restrict, i'm a bit of an elitist as far as health goes. i don't do carbs that aren't whole grain (aside from the instance above and one other a couple of weeks ago in which i ordered fries late at night after an isolated day of restricting), and the only dessert i've really seemed to conquer is frozen yogurt.

in the back of my mind, i knew i would have a mental price to pay the next day. That maybe it would be better to just leave off the starch and say "oops", but like I said, i'd honestly reached a point that my hunger was thinking for me. (this is still a constant debate in my mind: if i know a challenge food will cause a day of painful guilt is a challenge that much of an accomplishment? feel free to comment on this one).

I ate what i needed and fell asleep soon after.

Sometimes my mom wakes up and shuffles downstairs, slightly hunched over and completely stiff (she’s had three back surgeries: it’s to be expected). She appears as if her back muscles are mummy-wrapped, thick and tight around her spine and her movements are only short and straight.

I mention my mom’s occasional misfortune because it’s the only way I can think to describe my mood the next morning. I felt puffy, gross, guilty. My mind was paralyzed- bound like my mom’s back- but with heavy, oppressive thoughts instead of muscle.

I fought unsuccessfully to break free from my tangled up thoughts. I followed my mom out to the garage, throwing out random questions about my body and other people’s bodies and French fries to which I hoped she would provide some answers that would at least loosen the tension in my head.

The thoughts and questions and words I exchanged with my mom started to spin, and the confusion stirred up anxious emotion. I was disorganized and agitated.

Somewhere in the midst of the emerging chaos, my mind and emotions thirsted for some organization.

And so I looked at my mom and asked her to stand there and listen while I talked things out.

“okay,” I said…

“These are the three broad categories of thoughts and feelings that are making me upset:

1. That I feel like people (my family included) feel sorry for me because I’ve gained weight

2. I feel like a failure after encountering active eating disorders last night

3. I hate the fact that I ate fries. I’m above fries.”

Once I’d divided it was time to conquer. With mom’s help, I went through each of the three aspects of my distress and talked them out until we’d more or less disproved them.

Mom took on number 1, letting me in on a conversation my grandparents had had with her after spending an afternoon with me. “She’s back,” they’d concluded, “she’s finally back! It’s the real EA- we never thought we’d see her again” this was nothing close to reminiscent of pity, and, quite frankly, enough to motivate the rest of my recovery forever, so I let number 1 go.

Number 2 was a little more difficult. I conceded to the fact that it’s impossible for me not to believe, although I know it isn’t true. My final conclusion regarding number 2 was that for now, the most I can do is cling to the positive aspects of recovery and ignore the negative. I know that one day I’ll be able to be unaffected around active eating disorders (I want to be a therapist so I’m going to have to), but for now, the best I can do is ignore number 2, and stay in recovery. (after all that, however, mom and I agreed that the story that broke number 1 at least weakened number 2 as well)

Number 3 was the hardest and easiest at the same time. i took my mom through the day, accounting for each exchange of my meal plan, and I’d not gone a bit over. It’s still hard to stifle the guilt, but at least I can confidently remind myself that I DID NOT go over my meal plan with the frenchies, and therefore WILL NOT gain weight (but it wouldn’t matter if I did…eh…right).

so there you have it: my triggering weekend and my treating myself like a desk drawer to fix it. I fully intend to use my emotional categorization method…what I hope will one day be referred to as the “Wade Method” when I’m a therapist. Look for it in a textbook one day J

not to say that the day was instantly rid of hard moments and thoughts. The days my mom wakes up stiff, she’s keenly aware of it for the rest of the day, sometimes the next two. What she’s aiming for in getting in the floor and doing her stretches (she’s going to kill me for that) and taking medicine, is to loosen her back to the point of being able to function and accomplish for the rest of the day: to be able to live.

My mental/emotional state was much the same. My goal was not to transform my mind into a free, happy place. sure- it’s free and happy sometimes, a lot of the time, but not all the time. Rather, what I wanted and needed was to loosen things up- to get myself to a livable state. And the livable state led to living, which led to life, which yesterday entailed a celebration of my brother’s graduation/my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary with family I’d not seen in too long. At the end of the day, the fight seemed worth it.



Thursday, May 27, 2010

part II- legitimizing my health.

after i talked about legitimizing my disorder, i thought it would only make sense to talk about legitimizing my health and recovery as well.

actually i didn't think that at all.

I was just watching some morning TV (i'm just as bewildered as you are as to why i seem to do my best sewing to the tune of cheesy morning news shows) and on came a dear little girl (she's 18 now) whom i'd had in my cabin when i used to work camp in the summers.

she's now writing original music and doing shows all over the place and apparently putting out an EP in the near future. I remember her being completely adorable as a younger girl, and she's grown up into a radiant young woman- absolutely beautiful.

before my temporal lobe could even process the sound of her music, i was already comparing the size of her arms to mine.

So she's a totally healthy girl...not super thin at all...but still beautiful. and i mean i would guess my arms look about like hers...unless the camera is making her look bigger than she is...but regardless...she's healthy and radiant beautiful so maybe that means that it's okay that i'm healthy too...if she can be normal-sized and still attractive, then maybe so can i...

and so went my "if she can, then so can i" thought train for the ga-zillionth time.

i used to think that these thoughts were okay- healthy even- and to a certain extent i think that they were and maybe still are.

there's a point in the recovery process that all you can do is grasp for what works and hang on. if you're a fellow struggler you know what i'm talking about--and maybe right now that's where you are- grasping away- and that's fine! It was at this point, when i still had weight to gain and i wasn't even convinced that recovery was for me, that i looked to healthy celebrities, friends, and role models to make myself feel that maybe "health" wasn't so repulsive after all...that maybe i could still be successful and beautiful, "just like (rachel mcadams was a big one for me)".

i'm thankful i thought that way. really. because looking back to the chaotic blur of the beginnings of my recovery i liken where i was to a war trench--there was no time to decide whether or not i was choosing the best or most effective ammunition. it was an intense battle against an enemy that required quick and constant artillery, and google-imaging rachel mcadams or zooey deschanel (wow that sounds creepy) was often just that.

Although there are days when i find myself right back in those trenches, i like to think that i'm now in a bit less heated of a battle that allows for more strategizing and even a moment to breathe now and then (fellow strugglers- if this calmer state of recovery sounds like a place you'll never reach, keep fighting, even when you don't want to, i promise you'll get out of the trenches eventually).

but it's here in a quiet morning moment of deep breath and calm thoughts that i've come to realize this:

my former camper on TV this morning was in the midst of doing what she was created to do- making music. This could be far too romantic of me, but have you noticed that it's when people are in their true element, when they're doing the thing they're best at, that their beauty reaches its full and most radiant potential?

to me at least, it always seems to be true.

unless what you're best at is disordered eating.

i'm thankful for the healthy examples that got (and sometimes still get) me through the trenches. truly thankful. but i think that the reason these people stood out to me had a lot less to do with their physical beauty and state of health than i'd originally thought. Don't get me wrong- health is essential to beauty, but i think that true, undeniable beauty comes from the passionate pursuit of whatever it is one is meant to do.

in other words, i don't want health to be okay for me because it looks good on someone else. although there was a time that such thoughts were my saving grace, it's time i started taking advantage of my newfound health and pursuing some passions, rather than gleaning off the passion on someone's face to legitimize my health. after all, we don't follow meal plans and snacks for sake of achieving health itself; we first achieve health so we can then achieve life. and like i said, with true life and passion comes true beauty.

here's to life and all its beauty. for everyone.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

legitimizing my disorder.

we have a precious woman who helps my mom cleans our house. her name is ann.

ann and i have not always gotten along, but somewhere between the time she called my mom to tell her she wasn't going to clean my room anymore because it was so messy, and the time she called my mom to check on me after she'd witnessed my agony over leaving home to return to Samford after my first fall break, ann and i became friends.

I always look forward seeing ann when i'm home. i perch on a stool at the kitchen island and we catch up on those staple-aspect of one another's lives that i think it's remarkable we've continued to remember over the years. ann will undoubtedly make me laugh until it hurts...

(nothing will top her story about a michael jackson concert she attended that lasted the extent of one song because someone pulled him off stage and ripped off his pants)

...and i will chuckle to myself every hour or so until my mom gets home from school and i tell her what ann said "this time".

monday proceeded as such, and when i told my mom i'd gotten to see ann she said, "did she tell you how beautiful you look?"

"no," i said, "why would she? does she know?"

"oh yeah- how many times to i have to tell you it was no secret if someone just looked you?" mom said, "when you were home for Christmas she asked what in the world was wrong- said you didn't look healthy- not at all like a young woman, but a sick little girl."

i tried to contain the satisfaction that welled up inside me from what my mom had just told me. close friends and family had harped on my skeletal appearance, yet still, my biggest insecurity was and continues to be that i wasn't "sick enough" to need to recover. after all, i was never hospitalized or given any sort of feeding tube. and i was considerably functional for someone with an eating disorder (in a shell-of-a-life sort of way). maybe the eating disorder was just my way of escape hatch from the torturous thoughts and feelings that prey on my heart and mind when my weight isn't dangerously below what it should be.

it really helped to know that someone outside of my circle of people who "know" had legitimized my disorder...made my relapse last semester seem like a success rather than a failed attempt...made me feel like i'd earned my decision to recover.

but guess what? it's wednesday now. a mere 2 days later, and everything within me is wanting to list off countless other legitimizations of my disorder strung across and throughout the past six months. why? because i feel i need to prove i was sick enough to recover. that this wasn't just a personal vice...some dirty laundry like everyone else has that i could just live with.

i've come to realize that no matter how many people worry, no matter how many you look like a holocaust victim's or you do realize you're shrinking your heart's i get, no matter how much momentary satisfaction or legitimization piles up over time, it's never going to be enough to quiet my disorder forever.

i'm not saying that the ugly truth isn't important to hear. it took honest friends and frightening reports to get my attention this time, but there's got to be a desire to regain life that becomes the true driving force behind recovery. if you're waiting for legitimization, for your disorder to be "good enough" for you to hang it up and recover, you'll be stuck forever.

does any of this change the fact that learning of ann's comment back in december makes me feel like i've earned my recovery? unfortunately, no. but i'm trying to focus on the fact that i can now sit and connect with ann, with one of the best people i know, and let that be my motivation to stay in recovery. that's the kind of motivation that won't lose its meaning.

i hope that one day i can see old pictures and hear, "you used to look like a skeleton," and truly hate my old state of health and appearance.

i'll get there. but for now, i've got no choice but to ignore my eating disorder's desire for legitimization. it's difficult, but not impossible, because now i can see people and beautiful things around me, and not just hear, but listen. i'm not just existing, but experiencing. it's wonderful. and its enough.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

the first.

i've been putting this first post off for awhile now. really. i have.

Do it, God keeps telling me.
okay, God. here goes.

I'd always planned typing this first post early in the morning when the sky is blue and the sun is just resting in the tops of the trees. I'd planned to be sitting cross-legged on my red couch with a cup of coffee in my butterfly mug sitting next to me. I'd planned on all of those things, but then i'd planned on having an eating disorder for the rest of my life too.

neither are happening.

it's 10:58 pm and i've been awake for too long. my mind is dull and my eyes are tired, but despite both of these things, words are flowing.

i suppose this first post should explain a bit about the name/purpose of this blog. i tried to include an explanation beneath the title, but unfortunately, it wouldn't fit within the maximum number of characters. who decided that a space counts as a character anyway?

anyhow, as you might have guessed, i am currently in recovery from an eating disorder. After nearly five years of struggle, i finally came to a place in October of 2009, at which i admitted my want and need for help. After months of pain, joy, anger, struggle, and tears, i am finally in a place at which i trust myself to publish my daily trials and triumphs throughout recovery to fellow strugglers and the rest of the world. Not to say that i won't make mistakes- i plan to be brutally honest of both my victories and my failures. All i will left unsaid is specific numbers, amounts, and photos that could be potentially triggering.

The blog title, "Mo(u)rning Restoration", is taken from Psalm 30:5, which says, "...weeping may last for the night but joy comes in the morning!" This verse has been the true wind in my sails of recovery. Although the hard moments have been just as plentiful as the joy-filled, I am constantly reminding myself when the struggle seems unbearable that the tears will soon pass and in their place will radiate a kind of joy that's worth a million tears. In other words, it is perseverance through mourning- mourning the loss of our disorder, of our ideals, of unhealthy mental framework, of our comforts, of what we thought was our sanity, that pulls the morning sun up into the tops of the trees.

so here i am.

sharing my mourning and my mornings with you.
(i promise there will be plenty of both)

my hope and prayer is that whether or not you are a fellow struggler or recoverer, you will benefit from my shared journey in some way. thank you for reading. i have a feeling i'm going to learn a lot more from you than you from me. comments are always welcome.