Tuesday, December 27, 2011

6 months and counting...

So here I am at my 6 month 'anniversary' since being admitted in Portugal.  This journey actually started nearly 8 months ago in the wee Terrace hospital where I committed to staying until I was getting on the plane to come here so that I would be stable to fly.  I barely remember anything from then although more and more everyday.

Nothing terribly remakable or insightful to report.  I had an amazing Christmas with my family.  We spent the whole day together and there were lots of smiles and laughter and hugs all around at the end of the night.  We watche da slide show of photos from when my sister and I were small...I have no childhood memories.  Well, none is sort of absolute, I have few childhood memories is more accurate to say.  My first memory is from Kindergarten so I would have been four or five depending on the month.  It's not a happy memory and it is not one that I can really 'see', it's quite foggy.  I remember how I felt and the colour creeping up my face as I blushed but that's about all.  My first vivid memory is actually standing in front of the mirror...seven years old in my First Communion dress thinking that I looked terribly fat compared to all my friends.  Yes, seven.  Who thinks that when they are seven?  When I see such little girls it hurts to think that they might have the same thoughts as I did then.

After that my memories become more clear around 10-11 years.  It's hard to explain...I do remember things like events but not as a picture memory, more as a fact that I know that's what we did but I cannot put myself back into any particular scene and see through my child eyes.  They are all very foggy or there are no pictures associated with them at all.  Often I'm not sure if I actually remember or if I've just seen photos.

It hurts a lot to see those pictures of me as a kid - smiling for the camera, having fun, trying new things...so many of those experiences were over shadowed with fear and I don't know why.  The memories I do have are not good.  I'm trying to train my brain now to remember the positive experiences but it's really true that the negative experiences make more of an impression on the brain/in the mind than positive.

For example (I know we are higher being than dogs but it is a simple description of what really does happen in many minds):  a dog has an owner who is loving to him 6 out of 7 days of the week.  On the 7th day, the owner kicks the dog.  That dog is going to be wary of the owner from then on regardless of the 6 days of good treatment he recieves because he will always be anticipating the kick.  That was me...always waiting for the kick because if I was 'kicked' one time in a certain situation, I was sure it would happen everytime that I ever attempted that thing again.

We're coming up on 2012 now...I'm mostly excited to get dressed up again and just spend many hours with my family.  I LOVE this season but...like I'm waiting for the kick...I always fear january and February as the let down is often severe after the excitement of joy of December.  This year, though, I will not anticipate that crash.  I am going to keep believing that it is not just Christmas that has brought about these feelings and hope in me, it is far more real than that!  All I can do is wait and see.

Today we (the family) are off to Faro, the capital of the Algarve.  I've never been except for the day I flew from Lisbon to Faro and a) I don't remember and b) I only saw the airport and the highway leading away from the city.  So it should be much fun.  I've heard they have a skating rink set up which I would like to try out and other than that we are planning some nerdy fun checking out museums. 

Happy 6 months to me....

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Not a whole lot to say.

Had a wonderful Christmas Eve with the family.  We just spent the day totgether, went to the beach, played 'Four' and opened ur traditional one present each.  I was SO excited for them to finally start to open their presents.  I have one final suprise up my sleeve that i will take to them in about 20mins.....stockings!  :)  They have no idea and I've nearly let it slip so many times.

Dad has requested to go for a dip in th ocean today.  I'm saving my polar bear swim for New Years Day as it's supposed to bring good luck.  :)

Off I go to wake the family!

Love to everyone today.  Especially those who struggle during the holidays.  May you all experience a moment at least of inner peace.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Experience, testing, and learning

So I discovered my weight for the first time in over 5 months yesterday.  It doesn't matter how I did it, I've known for the past few weeks that somehow I was going to find a way to get on a scale.  I was morbidly curious.  I thought I had a pretty accurate body image and I was nearly bang on guessing my weight.  It doesn't make it any easier to deal with though.  In 8 months I have gained over 16kg.  That's not easy to swallow when that's not the plan that was laid out for me when I arrived after gaining the first 5kg at home.

I guess what's most interesting is what I have done with this information.  Initially I was very upset but couldn't show it because I shouldn't have been able to get on that scale anyway but I managed to reach out to some people that I trust a lot.  I worked through it in my head, processing, wondering what exactly to do with this information.  At first, I started to think, 'Screw this.  It's not worth it.  I need to leave and lose just 5kg and I will feel safe again' but it was tempered with an equally strong thought of 'It's good to know I can judge where my weight is by how I look to myself and how my clothes feel.  I've known all along that this is about where my weight needs to be for my body to funtion well and have anticipated this regardless of what I was told on the contrary.  If i need to go back to boney, I can do that in the future but for now I am giving myself a chance to do things differently'.  The number was upsetting but did not discourage me, or decrease my motivation and determination to give myself a solid shot at getting better.  I'm not running away from the program.  I'm not going to demand to lose weight or to decrease my meal plan.  I enjoy the food I am eating and the quantity I'm eating is finally fullfilling my nutritional needs 100% and that is important for health and wellness.

What is so bad to look normal?  Why has a small body ranging from emaciated to just a little on the scrawny side been what I need to feel safe in the world?  At times it was an outward expression of my pain and determination to punish my 'bad' self.  Later, when I knew I was risking my life at the weights I was maintaining and striving for and I committed to maintaining a slightly more reasonable weight it was just a way of staying in control and being able to reassure myself that I did not look normal and still held onto that as part of my identity.

My body is not my identity.  I am not into body building, I'm not a ballerina or gymnast.  Nothing I am interested in requires me to have a specific body type.  I am interested in learning, in living, in being a good friend and sister and daughter.  I like to feel strong and be active and have energy.  I honestly love to eat good food and drink good wine - it's part of an enjoyable life for me.  I like to cook and taste what I make.  I like to appear capable and be trusted and called on.  I value being present.  I want to travel and experience worlds different than mine to the fullest.  To achieve these things, I need a well body.  A strong body.  I need to be funtioning on a physical level that is compatible with life, not existance.

My body is my vehicle.  It is my only vehicle for this life, I can't trade it in when it gets worn out or run down.  I need to love that it has survived this long as well as it has and from now on cater to its needs so that it can provide what I demand from it.

Do I love myself...physically now but I can accept where my body needs to be and hopefully learn to love it.  Internally, I might not venture so far as to say that I love myself but I think I like me...the real Julia is pretty cool actually.  Far from perfect but as I become my own friend I demand less and less perfection.

I know that my family and friends do not judge me for my body.  At my highest weight I might venture that I had more good friends than at my lowest and friendship is madly important to me.  I will not lead a lonely life just to be a skeleton. 

So, I have learned.  It remains a fact that today, the day after I discovered my weight, my mood is still a little low.  I'm still calculating and recalculating many many numbers and ruminating a little bit but it will not change my behaviour or send me to bed for the day.  I don't hate myself over it, I'm just uncomfortable.  And with this knowledge and attitude, I know that I have grown.

Tonight is Sleeping Beauty put on by the Russian Ballet.  I am looking very much forward to it.

And the Christmas weekend begins!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The importance of repitition

This will just be a short bit but something that has been extremely relevant in my movement forward.

Until the past few weeks I was listening to what people were saying but not connecting with much.  I thought that for sure this program, my last chance to achieve wellness, wasn't going to work for me because I couldn't identify with this concept of the 'negative mind' and the 'child mind'.  I couldn't understand the seperation between my rational mind and my emotional mind.  Up until recently, despite what people said, I believed I WAS anorexia.  That was my identity and would continue to be forever in some regard - whether that be as a recovered anorexic or as one that dabbles in eating disorders forever.  I am beginning to actually discover myself now...the real me that has been there forever but masked, controlled, overshadowed by the omnipresent shade of an eating disorder.  But that's not the point...

Over the past nearly 6 months I have heard the same messages over and over again in my therapy sessions.  I still could not identify with it, it didn't make sense as much as I tried to make sense of it.  I would forget from one week to the next the diagras I had been shown and the messages I had received but then...it clicked.  One day my thoughts came together, really, the light went on.  And it was so important that I had had the repetition of all the messages of positivity and explainations of why I was/am the way I am. 

Since the beginning of my work with my GP and team in Terrace, I have heard over and over again that he/they would 'not give up on me'.  That I was 'stronger than this' and I could 'get through'.  Oh...how many times I pretty much told them to shut up either in words or in the looks I threw at them but there was the little girl inside of me that held on so fiercely to what they said and kept trying because of their belief in me.  The words never got old because the hope behind them was always so real and the feelings sincere.

I am not one for repitition.  I know the saying of 'however many times for the average mind' but I prefer to hear a message once, interpret it, understand, and carry on.  That is not so easily done with messages of hope to the hopeless and desperate; expression of love to those who feel unlovable; and in my case, the explainations and deep understanding of what was/is going on in my head.

So, a big shout out to the biggest members of my cheering squad JS and PCP that despite my attitude have not and will not ever give up on me until I have overcome this beast.

With that in mind, I encourage anyone reading this to take the time to express their love and hope to whomever they have in their lives, especially to those with eating disorders.   There is always hope, every human being is lovable and worthy and even when it appears to fall on deaf ears, somewhere, the subconscious is absorbing the message.  Show it in your behaviour and your words, create a consistent repetion of what is true for those around you.  And even when the recipient exhausts you with arguments against these truths of love, hope, belief, and strength, don't ever stop telling them.

That is all.  I'm off for a walk with my dad and really looking forward to some 1:1 time with him.

Much love.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Birthday reflections

Today marks my first full day with 28 years.  I don't honestly think I should have survived past 25 and earlier in the year I was quite intent on dying at 27.  Well, 28, here we are...together at last.  It's odd to think about.  I know it's not old but it's 'old' if you know what I mean.  I am solidly into my adult life, my parents are both nearly senior citizens.  It seems like yesterday that my sister was upset about turning 30..time flies even when you're not having fun.

The best gift was having my family here.  We had a really great day together.  They put aside their jetlag and really pushed themselves for me.  We went to Sagres, the most western point of Europe and took in spectacular views followed by a quiet dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant in Luz.  We enjoyed wine, appies, main dishes, and shared dessert (and yes, that included a few mouthfuls of a delightful orange/dark chocolate cheesecake for me!).  There was constant and animated conversation and we were comfortable just spending over 2 hours in eachother's company.  It really is special to be fully present in the interactions with my family and to really be working on out relationships.  Family is what I will have for the rest of my life and we are all ever evolving.  I am so so appreciative to have such a wonderful family.

That said, we have our first therapy session together tomorrow.  They are actually quite keen on it it seems which is nice.  Not many clients are as lucky as me to have such a family so eager to learn. 

Maybe today's topic will be about body image.  This is something I am struggling with quite significantly lately.  My weight has increased more than I anticiapted and was prepared for although I do not know the exact number that shows on the scale each day.  I know, logically, that I need to be the weight I am but that does not change how difficult it is to tolerate the body I am residing in.  Logic is probably what will get me through this, largely (although emotion is helping a lot too!).  I KNOW that I am not obese or ever overweight.  I know I look normal and healthy now...why is this a problem?  I am told that it is because I am not ready for all the associations that come with an adult body.  That my emotional mind stopped growing at a very young age and through anorexia and maintaining an unreasonably low weight I was physically manifesting the youth of my mind.  I'm not so sold on that idea but it does make sense and it is one explaination.  The thing for me is to keep focussed on what my body can do for me.  It is my vehicle for life, that's all. 

I am rising above the judgements that may be imposed on me by others as they view me, I cannot change them but I can change how I respond to them.  What matters is what people see in my eyes.  Honestly, I wear all my emotion in my eyes.  With a glance I think an intuitive person would see my soul quite easily and that is nothing I fear either.  I WANT people to know me, to see me.  I'm tired of hiding and keeping my eyes down so that no one sees what's going on inside.  Feel my happiness, feel my pain, experience my excitement and sparkle...I want to share it with the world!  And anyone who stops looking at me because of what my body says to them or won't look in my eyes because of the body I possess is missing out on so much of me that I barely feel any judgement at all.  It's freeing.  I don't need to embody my fears anymore.

This comes largely from my rational mind.  I do believe everything I say but I do not own it 100%...yet.  My emotional mind still sees my stomach expand in the mirror after a fruit snack and sees double and triple chins on the ugly girl reflected.  The curve of my hips freaks me out and not being able to reach for the smallest size on the rack and knowing it will fit or be too big is still really difficult.  But I am actually living most days and that means a full aray of emotions and experiences, many interactions, physical activity and rest, enjoying my food, laughing, and thinking.  These things I value over and above what my body looks like.

I struggle to see my bones sink beneath my skin rather than becoming shaper and more pronounced.  I feel a little lost when running my hand down my back is a smooth stroke and not one textured with moguls of ribs and spine.  My veins to not bulge under thin pale skin.  I feel guilty when I sleep on my side and do not have pain when my knees lie together or where my pelvis sits on any mattress regardless of how soft.  I can only remember the shape of my entire pelvis, front to back, that held my stretched skin tight, like it was begging to burst through.  Why emaciation?  That seems a severe response to not wanting an adult body...it's not a drive to be thin, it was a drive to be disgusting and shocking.  I never wanted to look like a model, I knew I never would, that's not in my genes...I wanted to disappear but since I couldn't I wanted the smallest body possible. 

I still have days where I desire this.  Many days.  But it is a want, not a need.  Not a deadly drive.  And honestly, not even an option anymore.  The times I miss all that are the times when I can stop and ask myself what else is going on or grab my phone and make a call to someone who can remind me of what is important.  I remember what I had what I was stick thin...nothing.  And how fullfilled and happy I was...not at all.  I might not have much now, but I have more than then and I believe in the potential to have more (meaning relationships, interests, etc) and BE more.  I finally am able to say:  I CAN.  And I WILL.  One day at a time, one box of kleenex that mops up my tears at a time, one bite, one step, one assignment at a time I will get 'there'.

So here's to bites of cheese cake and getting tipsy off of 2 glasses of red wine and waking up with a headache!  :)  Here's to life as it is after 28 years.

Carrying on...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

More on confirming negativity

I have so much that I want to say and explain to my readers.  Each time something 'clicks' in my head, I am SO excited to share it and to answer any questions anyone might have.

Today I will touch again on another way that I have confirmed the negativity in my mind.  About 8 years ago I became very fearful.  Call it what you want..it was classified as agoraphobia, social anxiety, OCD, and general anxiety disorder.  As I began to challenge what I knew were very irrational fears I had to discover a 'safe' way to begin exposing myself.  I started to ask myself "what is the absolute worst that can happen?"...how about some examples:

I would be scared to call for a doctors appointment.  What's the worst that could happen?  I am not able to speak, I can't make my needs known, the person on the other end laughs at me.  If any of those things happen, I can hang up.  Therefore, the worst that could happen is managable so I could go ahead and make the phone call.


I would be challenging some rules I had such where the plates had to be placed in the cupboard.  What is the worst that could happen if I changed the arrangement?  I would be very anxious and uncomfortable, I would feel dirty and my kitchen would feel dirty, I may not be able to eat off of these plates again.  There are solutions to all of those...I could become stronger by sitting with my anxiety and discomfort; I have over one hour before I have to be anywhere so I can wash all the dishes and the cupboards if I need to to feel 'safe' again; if I cannot use those plates, I still have two on another shelf that I can use until I find a new set or feel comfortable with these plates again.  Again, I could go ahead with the challenge.

At this point, it was a helpful technique for me because instead of being overwhelmed by fear, I was able to ask myself what it was that I was afraid of and from there decide whether it was a fear that could be overcome.  I allowed myself the most irrational possibilities (like a bridge collapsing and someone dying) to really identify what was driving my fear.  Gently, I was able to have the fears and continue to live rather than be debiliated by them.

Eventually, this became a way to keep myself from being disappointed.  It extended to all of my interactions...  The worst that could happen was that someone wouldn't like me, wouldn't be able to provide me with what I needed, I would prove that I really was stupid, people couldn't live up to my expectations, etc.  It was a way of protecting myself and limiting my expectations of others and myself.

It seemed like a skill for so long but now I see it so differently.  Imagine that what the mind receives and holds onto most aptly is negativity.  Therefore I am more likely to remember the times that 'the worst that could happen' did happen and thus perpetuate all the negativity that came along with that (feeelings of failure, rejection, worthlessness, etc).  Now, I am trying to see the positive possibilities of interactions, events, efforts, challenges and when I meet a possibility I am so fullfilled and when something goes wrong and things go in a different direction I no longer see it as failure but as something to learn from to change it for next time.

I have let go of expectations, largely.  Of course, I am not perfect and still hold onto some expectations for myself and for others but slowly, I am recognizing those as non-productive.  It is freeing to be able to consider the wonderful possibilities of everything.  It is liberating to be able to leave expectations at the door and take each moment, each person, each interaction, each experience just as it is and no longer as it 'should be'.  There is such beauty already in what is and I have hidden that from myself for so long as I sought out what might go wrong.

Now, I seek to confirm what is positive.  This is what makes dreams come true (cheesey as that sounds).  My other way of thinking made nightmares bearable but now I realize that it doesn't have to be that way.

I think that is my discussion for today.

My family arrives tomorrow for the holidays and I don't know that I will have much time to write but I will, as is possible.

With all my love and holiday cheer,

Friday, December 9, 2011

Understanding my search for negative confirmation

I've had a rather enlightening week.  Finally, something seems to be 'clicking' in my head.  What has been spoken to me I have finally internalized and know to be true.  It is pertaining to what I have often referred to as the double standard that I keep for myself.

I understand this ball of 'badness' that I previously mentioned and how I couldn't explain it and so sought to confirm it.  I still don't understand why I have seen myself as such a bad person for most of my life.  From a small child, I always felt I was to blame for many problems that went on around me.  I was responsible.  If I didn't exist some negative event wouldn't have happened, it was always my fault but unexplainably so.  As I grew older, my rational mind developed with much ease.  As anyone close to me knows, I am a capable academic; a good friend; a party lover; a focussed, compassionate, energetic nurse; all qualities that stemmed from my rational mind while the emotional mind withered.  In an attempt to have logic on my side, I sought answers to why I was a bad person...what exactly had I done?  I came up with little that any person wouldn't do at somepoint in their lives and even with the perfectionistic standard I set for myself it still wasn't reason enough for this deep belief, this knowledge I felt I had that I was so bad and dark.  I had to figure it out...what if, perhaps, it wasn't what I HAD done but what I HADN'T.  I applaud myself for my creativity in conjuring up standards and rules and scenarios that could confirm my negativity...I hope to be able to apply that quality to other, healthy aspects of my life in the near future.

I present you with an example of my thinking that provided me with the confirmation of the badness that I believed was me:

Imagine I am in a store and I see someone shoplifting.  If I choose to say nothing - whether that be confronting the offender themselves or telling an appropriate athority - I was thus also guilty of theft.  But that didn't explain the hate I had towards myself in other situations where where guilt by omission didn't apply.  So, I took things one step further:  If I was in the store where a person shoplifted and I wasn't a witness, I SHOULD have seen them and I should have followed that with telling the appropriate person, etc.  Therefore, my existance was to blame for the success of this person's crime and thus made me guilty as well.

This situation could apply to anything.  My desire for a reason for this inherent badness, that made no logical sense to exist - just as a feeling - skewed my thinking to the extreme.  Any situation could be twisted to explain why I felt such guilt, I created explainations.  I was a desperate for an answer to my feelings and beliefs as those around me have been over the years towards my behaviour.

I still don't understand where the original thought/feeling of guilt came from.  Why would a young child assume guilt for such things as the cat catching a bird, a t-bone collision three cars away, or the pain causing her grandmother's moans two rooms away?  As I grew older, it always boiled down in some bizarrely logical way to my existance.  Like this: I had a feeling, my feeling was real, I believed my feeling to be an accurate reflection of reality that was manifested internally.

I now understand that due to my ultra sensitivity, lack of objectivity as a child, and inability to talk about the feelings I was having to recieve the help of a parent/grown-up to understand situations differently and therefore feel differently and more accurately about things, I crippled myself.  There is no blame here:  not on me - for this started long before I could understand it; not on my parents - for they could not be aware of the feelings I was having.

Understanding this has been a great gift.  It explains so much...the creation of the 'ball of badness' that has existed in my mind within me for so many years and the perpetuation of the negative thought pattern.

Now, with this understanding in my pocket, I can move towards giving that child who internalizes everything and assumes blame a voice.  I may be nearly 28 but it is never too late to change and grow and learn a new interpretation of the world around me to enable me to leave my guilt ridden life and move towards one of internal calm and a rational mind that works together with my emotions to create an accurate experience of all that is life.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Relapse is not an option

Today is a national Portugese holiday...I think it's for religious reasons.  This is also the day I was supposed to get married on in...hmm...2009 I think?  On eof the staff here is getting married today...it's all her's!!!  ;)

I was thinking recently about recovery and relapse.  I often think that it won't make a difference how long I stay, that I'm just not going to get better.  I will always hold on to some aspects of my eating disorder and when I start thinking like that I go in the direction of 'well, I may as well give up now if I'm never going to get better'.  Then my mind goes to how much that would hurt my friends and family and by being sick, I would be causing them so much pain to watch me slowly die and that gives me more fuel to keep moving forward and also makes relapse a non-option.  I could not live with myself if I continued to hurt those people closest to me.  There is just too much guilt around it so that makes me believe that I can endure the pain of recovery and maintaining wellness after I am back in the real world.  Living through my own pain and challenges is not pleasant but it is so much more tolerable than hurting those around me.

Anorexia/bulimia were often ways of me showing the world that I knew I was a bad person and wasn't letting myself off the hook.  I would justify how much it hurt others by telling myself that it was the only way I could protect people from the badness that is me and that people on the outside just couldn't understand that it was not a loss for me to be withering away, it was in their best interest from inside of me.  That extends right to the concept of death either from my ED or from a swifter action of my own...that the difficulty experience of loss as anyone has when someone passes would be so temporary that it would be better for everyone around me.  I KNOW that the pain of losing a loved on eases...even when you don't want it to and one almost wants to hold onto that pain and grief.  But we heal inspite of ourselves and gradually or quickly the sharpness of the pain becomes less and less.  Eventually we forget anniversaries of deaths and realize only after...we can still miss the person but we carry on with our lives because that is our role as the living.  That still makes sense in my head but the difference now is that I don't feel like I have been given the responsibility to dictate my life and death so by allowing whatever to control my fate I am passively choosing to live.  Therefore, I have a great responsibility to use my life to the best of my ability.


If I am to use my life to the best of my ability, I need to be well.  To be well, I need to let go of the notino of holding onto any portion of my eating disorder.  And at the end of the day, with that equation, everyone is happy.

I have let go of the idea that there is a ball of 'badness' churning inside of me.  I am not a perfect person and I never will be but that does not indicate that I am rotten and worthless as my negative mind concluded before.

With that all out there, I continue to step forward, however tenuously, live through the pain and reach towards total wellness because relapse is not an option.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Happy belated St Nick's Day!

One week today and my family arrives in Portugal!!!  I am sooooo thrilled!  I can hardly contain myself. 

Generally, things are going a lot better right now.  Maybe it's because I have my family's visit to look forward to or maybe I really am in a better headspace, I'm unsure.  I haven't been up to much lately, just getting organized for Christmas (read:  waxing, tinting, hair cut...etc).  I purchased my first 'little black dress' just in time for the holidays.  I actually found a style of dress that I loved and bought it in black and in snakeskin print (it's a trend thing...I've done leopard and animal prints are really popular this season here so I thought I'd join the menagerie).  Should be lots of fun.  I'm still on the hunt for some kind of warm things for over top.  Mom and Dad are bringing my heels from home.  :)

Tomorrow evening I'm off to a Christmas concert put on by the Harlem Gospel Choir.  I'm really looking forward to it...I'm going to be singing my heart out to carols gospel-style! 

Not much else is new.  My mood is significantly better - go prozac.  And I am able to challenge a lot of my compulsive behaviors and tolerate the discomfort that comes along with that.  It's good...

I did begin art classes with week with a woman named Ana Dickenson.  http://www.anadickenson.com/ I believe is her website. She does folk-y paintings on wood.  This week we started with a duck shape...yeah, quack.  :)  It is fun and distracting...I just hope to keep my perfectionist tendancies out of my creative outlet.

There's been a lot of drama about treatment for people with EDs in BC.  Drama..coverage...attention given to...I don't mean it negatively, I'm just commenting.  It's pretty intersting how things unfold.  I'm a little saddened that the story to hit the media first was of such a physically ill person, I feel it continues to present that image of the extreme cases of anorexia to the public when someone right in front of them who appears normal could be in as much emotional pain and also at as much risk of losing their life.  The story did feature a very needy woman who I am happy recieved the treatment she wanted...I will not hesitate to say that the U of A program, though ever so slightly different from Extra Care at SPH is no miracle facility the way CBC made it out to be.  Dr. Piktel himself says 'about 50% of people remain chronically ill'...I'm so not okay with that...now can anyone not be actively, ceaselessly working towards changing something that only works 50%.  There are times when the cup should be half full but when it's pertaining to human lives...this is half empty.

It definitely makes me so thankful for all that I have experienced through my illness as an adult and for all the people that kept me alive, never gave up, and conitinue to believe in me.  I mentioned previously that I 'missed' being sick...it's true, that feeling does come and go but I think that even if I don't feel worth being well for, even if I left right now, relapsing would not be an option out of pure guilt.  To be sick and slowly killing myself is to inflict much pain and frustration on the people around me who have put SO much effort into me (time, emotion, money) and for them, I need to choose to live regardless of the pain it causes me.  I need to choose to stop merely existing and really grab onto life as there has to be a greater reason than fate that I am still alive today.

On that note, I will bid you all Boa tarde.

muito amor

Sunday, December 4, 2011

the old life

Today is an accumulation for the past three I'd say...I started feeling this way on Friday.  It started as just an odd sensation of unease.  Today it blossomed into a full blown desire for my 'old life'.  Not that which I've had for the past two years but prior to Jan 2010.  The past two years were a direct highway to death.  Prior to that I felt more in control and I want that back.  I had strict routines that I had to follow to feel 'safe' but they weren't so intrusive were they?  Maybe that question should be posed to my family as they watched me the closest.

I think my negative mind has glamorized that time of my life to an extent.  I maintained a level of medical stability for greater periods of time than more recently.  My life was basically focussed on the future attempts to weight restroe in a safe environment but whenever that opportunity came up there was always some reason why I didn't follow through.  It was never the 'right time' of course. 

There was also an almost permanent feeling of being high, and not so much from the medication that has sedated me for the past couple of years although meds did play a role...it was the high of starvation and emptiness.  It was the high of exercising til exhaustion and then pushing for those '5 more minutes'.  There was an acutal satisfaction with the number on the scale dropping by the day...of course the weight was never low enough but it was with excitement that I ventured lower and pushed myself harder with no particular goal in mind, aside from hoping to starve myself to death....  hmmm...that just removed all glamour from my mind.  That was the ultimate goal...to eliminate myself.

But it was during that time, approximately the first 3 years after my initial hospitalization as an adult where I felt the closest to perfection.  I was pure and clean or could make myself that way if I needed to.  I was in control (and SO not at the same time), predictable, everything had a structure.  I could smile even when I was screaming inside for someone to save me.  I lost that ability...to fake it.  I have good memories from that time with friends and even by myself, my senses were so heightened.

The past two years I remember very few specifics.  I do know facts of the terrible loneliness and isolation I felt.  I remember hours of debating about whether I should present to emergency and the humiliation that accompanied that.  I remember walking into walls and falling multiple times a day as my legs would just give out.  Lying in a black fog on the floor of any given room unable to move, clutching my phone but scared to call for help and feeling so underserving. 

I do remember clearly the day I gave up earlier in 2011.  I remember lining up the meds that would finally end it all and after having held onto my 'easiest' way out for nearly two years and swallowing down my fate.  And I remember in vague detail the next 36 hours approximately and the despair that overwhelmed me that I hadn't been 'effective'.  I couldn't even succeed at dying.

Hmm...writing all this out has helped remove the glamour I had in my head.  I know that what I had at that time 3-5 years ago was not control, it was not life and if I ever tried to have that again it would escalate and most definitely kill me this time.

So, now I am feeling that I don't want that but that it is sort of my fate.  Much hopelessness and fear that after being so patient and trying so hard that this experience will again end in my failure. 

On that topic, I present a great reason why I have left so many programs/had myself kicked out/AMA off medicine and psych....there is a greater fear in me of attempting to get well and failing than there is of staying sick and dying. 

At this point, I hold on for other people.  When I want to give up, I put myself in my family's shoes and imagine watching my sister/daughter/cousin struggle with this and although I do not place equal value on myself as I would on any of my family I have accepted that that is a very subjective view of myself and am trying hard to believe that I have as much of a right to a full and satisfying life as any other being.

I also imagine my team back home that refused to give up on me even when I acted like I hated them for it, all the while silently thanking my lucky stars that they would catch me when I fell...over and over.  And I hold on for them.  If they believe in me, if they refused to give up on me and saw me through my very worst, the least I can do is try...and try again...and try again.  So I do.

On that note, I am off to make a delightful snack of papaya and sesame snaps, cozy up with my blanket and watch some Grey's before heading to bed and preparing for the arrival of Monday.

My family arrives in 10 days!!!!!  YAY

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Welcome to December

Today is one of my best friend's birthday...but she's most of the way around the world from me.  I wish i was there to celebrate with her.  God....28 this year.  i won't start with the 'and what have i got to show for it' business because that gets no one anywhere!

I've had a pretty decent few days since my brutal one on Tuesday.  I've just been finishing up my Christmas shopping and put everything in the post yesterday.  I've had a lot of fun this year looking for gifts.

I've spent a lot of time downtown Portimao just walking around the shopping streets, it's the old part of the city and just lovely to stroll for hours going in and out of the shops.  Much nicer than the shopping centers.  The weather has been very conducive to being outside.  Fresh and sunny.

today i ventured to the town of Guia to a new store called Iceland that is from the UK and sells British products at reasonable prices.  it was a nice break to walk up and down the isles and be able to read all the product info and recognize it.  I picked up a few treats for Christmas for the family and looked at some books but didn't buy any AND i found some Starbucks VIA coffee and i am super stoked to have a cup in the morning! 

my family arrives in 11 days.  i am SO excited.  we're going to have a blast.  I'm not sure how much time i will have with them at this point in the program.  I'm hoping for a significant amount of time to really soak up their presence.  I know i'll still have sessions and we'll likely have sessions together at somepoint but it's going to be great just to hang out in their company.

some amazing women from back home are grabbing the media's attention regarding care for adults with eating disorders.  they are really astounding me with their courage.  St Paul's is failing so many...

it seems i have nothing deep to share today.  just getting by one day at a time.  i'm not sleeping so well at night but not allowing myself to nap at this point during the day to try and imporve my rest at night...it's not working that way yet.

til next time...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What a day!

Today has been laughably bad.  it really is amusing.  i woke up and we were out of prozac..no biggie but unusual.  then around noon, i get a letter from the portugese government regarding a parcel i have been expecting telling me that it's being held in Lisbon and they're requiring some documents from me and the sender (it's a Christmas present for crying out loud!).  so i went and spoke with our lawyer and she says, 'don't worry but it's best if i go deal with this myself'.  ok!  :S  THEN i went and picked up a special something that I have been searching for and waiting for exactly that to be ready to arrive on time for Christmas in Canada and stupid me forgot it in a change room in Mango and 30mins later when I went back for it...it was gone.  joke's on the theif though for reasons i can't write here for it would ruin a very special surprise if someone specific is reading.

this was all followed by and intense session with Peggy where a lot of my reality hit home again...things i want from people but can't have...missing comfort i never actually experienced.  as i sat sobbing in the car on my way home all i could say was, 'i want my mom'.  what i really wanted was affection and gentle words from someone who's not paid to give it to me.  i lean on the people here so heavily and the hope is for me to be able to trust people again and feel worthy of love and practice receiving it and being unconditionally accepted...but who matters at the end of the day are the people in my life that don't make a living off my treatment.  i just doubt people so much...but the counter thought to this is that i was genuine in my nursing all the time.  LPNs are not paid well, the hours are long and the work physically and emotionally draining.  but i loved my job.  i loved my patients and i was real with them.  i chose to continue in that line of work despite shift work and exhaustion and i never went to work on a day where i couldn't give 110% of myself.  but that is an expectation i have of myself, not of anyone else.  I guess, even if i don't expect it from others i can try to accept that they feel as passionate about their work and thus, me, as i did about my patients.

i went to Swan Lake last night put on by the Russian ballet.  it was amazing.  it was an interesting experience too as during the first half i found my mind racing a mile a minute about everything and i was getting way overstimulated by my experience both privately and externally.  i was able to talk about this at the intermission and the second act i was able to fully engage in the ballet and the music and the story...and it was really really enjoyable.  there are more ballets coming to Portimao in the new year which i am looking forward to attending also.

tomorrow starts official Portugese lessons.  I'm looking forward to finally learning, better, the language of the country I am in.  it's quite funny...the other day i tried and tried to count in French - something that has been second nature for my whole life - and i found myself confusing French and Portugese.  The Canadian I was with helped me out..she's not working too hard on learning Portugese...and I was able to get my count on again.  :)  funny how the mind works.  Knowing even a touch of French is helping with picking up the Portugese (of which I can understand a significant amount and can eavesdrop hehe), there are many German and Latin roots that I can identify too.  It's not a terribly difficult language so far but I am FAR from technical about it.

Nearly winding up November already...I'm SO ready to say Tchau to 2011 in one short month and I even have my party dress to ring in the New Year!


Sunday, November 27, 2011

As predicted...

My mood has crashed.  They say it's expected and 'normal' for where I'm at in the program but it really leads to excessive feelings of hopelessness.  It's actually fairly debilitating.  I know, I know...'don't engage in depression'...and I haven't up until now.  I fight it.  I get out of bed when every muscle in my body aches and my mind so bleak that the darkness and warmth of being under the blankets is all I want.  I recognize that we are having beautiful days and get out for at least a few hours each day and feel the sun on my skin.  Today I watched the sunset and listened to the waves crashing near the shore of my favorite beach (Praia do Vau).

I know that getting through these days will make me, again, appreciate the reprieve that will eventually come.

The worst part of feeling like this is the irritability that comes along with it and the complete inability to talk.  I'm told over and over to keep talking.  To put my thoughts out there and have someone help me objectify them and turn them to positive but something stops me - ties my tongue and mutes me - and I feel like I've gotten no where.  Retreating into my familiar shell of silence and pleasantries (although that is also a challenge) gives me the familiar negative comfort I have known for so long.

The theory here, is that my rational mind has developed normally and at times, seems beyond my chronological age.  My emotional mind, scientifically proven to be the mind that actually sustains people and can short circuit the rational at any time (as evidence by my major relapse into anorexia 5-6 years ago..my emotional mind finally said no and my rational could not sustain my day to day life). 

So within this, the emotional mind that I have developed is one of negativity.  It has been learned ad confirmed from a very young age (say, 2-3.5 years old before I was able to self-regulate, soothe, etc).  The main point of this program is to address this negativity and change it to positive.  This is achieved largely by repitition and practice.  Expressing the negative, exposing it, and learnig a new language of positivity.  This is such a simple explanaition of what I am practicing here...but the reason I'm even explaining this is...sometimes I am TIRED and I just don't want to fight it anymore.  In these darker days I wonder, what would be so bad about keeping this current way of thinking if I maintain change with my behaviors?  I really have come quite far with my thinking...I know it could get better but maybe I don't want it badly enough (that's what they would tell me in any other program if I had so many days of apathy), maybe I'm just too lazy, maybe I'm so terrified of actually not being able to change my thinking that I'd rather give up now and accept that I can be 'okay enough'...  I'm not sure.

I know I could be okay if I left now.  God...tomorrow's 5 months here and I have done a lot of work and put in a lot of effort.  But they say it can get even better than this.  That I don't have to be 'okay' but that I can be WELL.  I'm not convinced I have the patience to wait for that.  I just want my life back.  I want to work and have friends and hobbies and I think I could now.  It would be a struggle but I'm okay with struggling!  I don't need life or anything else to be easy - I wouldn't want it to be!

Like I have said before, the better days are not often worth these days.

All I can do today is make it though and look to tomorrow...or next week...or 17 days from now when my family arrives...and wait for the day when I can be gentler on myself, when the voice in my head is a little quieter and I am again able and allowed to smile, when the beauty of the sunset permeates my mind and soul and I find peace again. 

I know it will come and with that I know I have changed because right there, is hope.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Wham Bam

Obrigada Senhora!  hmm..doesn't have the same ring as 'thank you ma'am' does, eh?  at any rate, with a wham bam my Christmas shopping has dearly been completed in one day.  It was a great day.  I've been stalking many stores looking at their products for weeks as I prepare to pick what I beleive to be as thoughtful gifts as I can.  I mean, presents are presents...they are just material things and I have little time for receiving gifts as I really don't NEED anything more than I have (in fact, I need a lot less than I have!) but yet, I do love to shop for others.  :)  I have a very short Christmas list this year.  Shopping, wrapping, etc. is such a pleasure for me.

In other news, I feel my mood slipping.  I'm digging my fingers and heels in to hold onto every bit of positivity I have.  The darkness looms but I will fight it from overwhelming me.  If it does, I will make it through, get up when it passes and try again but oh!  some days the pain does not seem worth the mild better feeling of the gentler days.

I have had many meal plan changes in the past couple of days and more to come over the next week.  I have put myself in Peggy's hands completely and have given up any control I was trying to maintain regarding food.  It is scary still for my sick mind but the real me is cautiously excited for the variety and challenges.

The dogs we have been expecting here at the villa arrived today.  What a highlight!  They are just delightful so far and I look forward to my adventures with them.  They are rescued dogs that began their own journies of healing at a farm west of Alvor.  Keana is quite the timid little girl, while her partner in crime - Fada - is a much more rambunctious character.

Another week draws to an end and next week finds us in December already...where has 2011 gone?  How I look forward to 2012!!!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Here I am

So, five months into this I finally have started a blog.  It's such a simple solution to keeping anyone who's interested in the loop regarding my journey on the road to wellness.

I will not review in any detail, the first four months as that is old and relatively well reported news.  This ends the monthly updates on Facebook as I'm not actually sure who's interested and who isn't so now you have the link to here which will likely become a much more intimate account of my walk towards the light and full recovery from anorexia and bulimia.

I suppose I shall begin with what would have been the five month update.

You may recall that I spoke of the fourth month as the most difficult...well, it only got harder.  My mood continued on a rapid decline and my anxiety reached new peaks.  Without haste, we came to the decision to use medication again for the interim to help ease the symptoms and enable me to better engage in the program as that ability was being hindered greatly.  Initially I felt I was eating my words by accepting pharmacological assistance again after being SO proud of myself for coming off of all my drugs but I see it in a different light now...it is not at all a weakness in me but a temporary necessity.  Medication has it's role and I am confident in my ability to use it appropriately.  The most important thing is that I know now, what it is like to feel (be that in extremes, it was real) and I don't ever want to lose that.  I don't want to numb out and be oblivious to the world as I needed to be previously, this time, medication is going to facilitate me working on the real things by helping me stay a little more grounded.  There will be a time in the not so distant future that I will again attempt to leave pharmaceuticals behind.

In other news...I had my gall bladder out.   It was my first time being the patient with 'Abdo pain NYD'!  I was subsequently treated for constipation and reflux (Really.  They doubted that I knew what those felt like...hmm) and sent home only to return a 3rd time to emergency and following an abdominal ultrasound, was appropriately booked for a cholecystectomy.  Surgery went smoothly - it was my first! - and recovery was fast.  I discovered that I have no problem taking Demerol and that it really does work!  It has definitely given me a better understanding of post-op discomfort and it's treatment.

That was my biggest event this month.  The rest of my time has been spent fighting a strong desire to remain in bed and/or trying to catch my breath when the walls seem to be closing in on me.  Each day, any moment for that matter, in which I find a bit of peace I am so grateful for and just bask in it.

I am consistently discovering what I took for granted when I was in Canada.  Espeically as the Christmas season approaches, I miss the progression of the snow down the mountains throughout Autumn; waking up snowed in; leafless trees; not being able to find a decent pub to have a drink at because there's bloody hockey games playing everywhere; making snow angels; the absolute silence of a snowy street in the middle of the night; the night sky with stars one can't even begin to count (I swear there are fewer stars here!); the smell of wet wool and hanging said sweaters/mitts/scarves near the wood stove to dry; venti Starbucks hot beverages and walks in the crisp air...I'll stop, but please take a moment and be present in these moments.  Everyday I think to myself how true it is that we don't know what we've got til it's gone.

Those things are not gone from me but I miss them.  I am appreciating the different scene I am living right now.  I am minutes from the beach and the waves at this time of year are remarkable (here is a link to the video of Garrett McNamara successfully surfing the biggest wave ever - 30m - off the more northern coast of Portugal just recently http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ip1agvUFbSk&feature=related )
The sunsets are also amazing with the sky illuminating with yellows, oranges and reds so vivid (yes, vivid and bright).  The rains are beautiful, often coming town in torrents leaving the earth refreshed and the air so humid and creating amazing rainbows (single rainbows thus far) pure accross the sky.  The storm clouds are blacker than I have ever seen and the thunder and lightening storms amazing.  I am also enjoying being out in the afternoon in a long sleeve tshirt with no sweater and requiring sunglasses for many hours on most days.

It is not bad here at all, just different.  I miss 'home' but I am not allowing it to impede my experience of here.

I am looking very much forward to Decemeber.  My family arrives mid month and although this isn't entirely the 'destination Christmas' that we have spoken of for many years, it is 'a' destination Christmas and it will be much more enjoyable than the last...many.

This is all for now.  Much love and keep an eye out here if you're interested in further updates.  Each day comes complete with its peaks and valleys and I am welcoming you to join me in the journey.

much love....or as I recently heard...Much Metta.