Sunday, December 30, 2012

Farewell, 2012

I'm sorry I've been such a crap blogger.  She who said not so long ago that the "struggle" had lessened significantly has been back fighting a rather exhausting fight.  I try to select my more objective and positive days to post and I have those times still but, I am tired much of the time from the battle to have those moments.  I also like to extend solutions I have discovered, if at all possible, to hurdles I have encountered.  Not indicating that I think that what works for me will work for everyone, just in a way that gives the message of hope.  Today, I must extend a message of perseverance.

Interestingly enough, as I review my posts, I sometimes encourage myself because what I write is honest.  I know without a doubt that I have felt what I expressed before and I can feel it again if I wait for it and invite it.

That's what my last entry, before the Christmas Day one, has been.  It has kept the wee flame of hope and desire for something better, alive in me.  My drive and determination are still exceptionally strong to see this through to the end.  To walk away from all things eating disordered and step fully into life and myself.  I will get there but I am realizing, with a slight frown, it will take even more time.  During that time, I will need to continue investing extensive effort into my journey to the wellness I desire.

It has been hard and painful again.  Some days my brain feels like it has been wrung out.  I recently saw a book titled, Mind Over Mind and that really made sense to me.  Much of my life now is based on choosing one way of thinking over another and therefore new habits develop - in theory.  I see and understand the theory and it makes sense to me so I am working at that.  

It's like riding emotional waves and some I don't navigate as well and get caught in some sort of undertow.  However, I remain a strong "swimmer", I can feel that I am nearly drowning but each time, see the surface, the sun, and use all my strength to get to that surface simply to breathe.  If I'm lucky, there is a lapse between waves and I can rest, other times, I am thankful for the breath and am faced with the next wave with just a quick gasp, no time for more than a sputter.

What holds me down between the "waves" is any sort of ruminating on why that didn't go as well as the last one or thinking about the next to come.  Thankfully, this week, I was given a simple but so meaningful suggestion:  Do not be afraid/frustrated/impatient that you are not there yet! Also do not think that people will be thinking less or differently of you because you still have things to work on!  We all do!!

I am often all three of those things.  Though I cannot control what feelings will come up, I have decided that I can choose how much "emotional airtime" I give the feelings.  I can notice them, acknowledge and validate them, and move on in my thinking.  Though the feeling might persist, I have the ability to choose my thoughts.  It is tiring but, in my my mind, is essential to the process.  In other, brighter, moments, I have wonderful feelings coupled with pleasant and confirming thoughts and at those times I coast a bit and take my relief as it is offered by the universe and my emotional mind.

As I realize that it is okay for me not to have it all figured out, that it is merely part of the human condition, I am starting to let people in again.  A great fault of mine is a severe drive towards independence out of fear of unhealthy co-dependence.  This has left me feeling isolated at times and now, awkwardly finding ways to reach out and allow myself the courtesy of needing company on this journey for a while longer.  I see the value already, though dislike the practice, of being able to reach out, to not be okay, and to let others know.  To not be okay all the time does not mean I am a basket case or falling apart, it just means I continue to fight my demons.  That, I know, is an expression of strength.  It takes far more strength to be vulnerable with people than it does to appear collected all the time.  Again, something I know in theory and am learning in practice very slowly.

In the meantime, life goes on in beautiful ways.  I am skiing quite a lot and have done both downhill and cross-country.  I have gone tobogganing with some of my favourite kids.  I am farm sitting (that needs to be another blog post, just for fun!) for acquaintances and am busy with my troop of two and four legged beings.  I have had some really great moments with my family.  I have enjoyed the festive season (though I am ready for it to be over) in a different way than I can remember.  I am looking at returning to work and making those arrangements with a bit of trepidation as well as much excitement.  

So, for tonight and possibly for 2012, that is all.  What a year.

As always, so much gratitude to my readers, supporters, cheerleaders, and pillars.  2013 is looking rather awesome, together.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

It's Christmas...

I supposed it's technically Boxing Day now as it is after midnight.

I don't have anything terribly inspiring to say, nothing too heartfelt, but a couple of quick and super awesome things.

This year I did not have to:
- ask for a pass from the hospital or a program to spend time with my family
- be in photos with a tube hanging from my nose
- spend most of the day sleeping due to high doses of anti-anxieties or physical exhaustion secondary to starvation
- plan a tube feed or other schedule around any pass I might have
- stress about what meal came next and/or how to skip it
- sneak to the bathroom, backyard, or bedroom to throw up whatever I did eat
- take hundreds of laxatives now that I am home alone after a long day of eating and drinking
- regret losing the last year of my life to my eating disorder
- dread the year ahead
- wonder if this was my last Christmas because of the ED
- have to call and ask what exactly I should be eating for any given meal
- dread waking up to get on a scale
- feel guilt.  At all.
- feel regret.  At all.

I did, however:
- feel happy throughout the day complete with a few unexpected turns
- enjoy what food and drinks were offered, as I wanted them
- give and receive hugs freely
- maintain eye contact and engage in many interactions
- laugh and smile from the inside
- allow myself to be completely present in my moments, even slightly removed as a "spectator" at times, just to really take in the whole wonderful scene
- look forward to tomorrow's plans with friends
- refrain from giving material gifts as planned
- do what felt right to me as it pertained to religious traditions, without guilt
- get really excited to dress up and did not think about the size of the clothes I was wearing
- feel thankful for this wonderful opportunity to experience the season as the person I have become

What an amazing list, and I could go on.  The difference is so remarkable but feels so completely natural.  This is how Christmas was supposed to feel all along - joyful, peaceful, content, and loved.

Gone are the days of self-hatred so deep that I could not see past it; as are the days of years passing with me standing by, waiting for the strength, courage, and direction to change.

For all of this and much more that I cannot think to put words to because I am tired from this day - I am so thankful.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Choosing your recovery

I've been thinking even further about the whole concept of recovery recently. Through observing my own process and a little of that of others', I wonder how much of our recoveries we do not define ourselves. When I left for treatment, I went with the intention of getting well and never going back to the eating disorder. I decided that despite stats and “facts” and all other external sources, I was going to achieve a solid and complete recovery.

When I indicate that I am “not there” yet in my posts, it is the very end of all this that I speak of. The end of MY journey towards MY idea of wellness. According to any diagnostic manual, I am recovered from anorexia/bulimia. I suppose I would have to maintain it for 6 months outside of a program for that claim to be supported. I will do that and six months from now I may have achieved what I want in my mind too. I know that a big part of the next while is practice of what I have been brought to understand.

There were times when I felt that I had “maxed out” my process; I would have settled and been okay with the degree of wellness I had at many points because it was just so drastically better than when I was sick. I felt often that different emotional places were “good enough” for me and I would just have to accept feeling really crummy sometimes in exchange for the really good days. True, I will have bad days just like any other human for the rest of my life. I will have days where I feel insecure and nights that I cry myself to sleep. I will be disappointed and heartbroken. I will not always love my body or all parts of my body everyday. The thing is: that's all okay!! None of those days mean that I'm relapsing or even at risk. I have been proving to myself since I've been home the kind of emotional resources I have developed and the strength I have. The biggest difference is that I allow these days without them really taking away from the peace/happiness/contentment that I feel inside. That is nearly a constant at this point. Moods come and go and experiences vary, but the good is never completely out weighed by the negative.

This does not mean that every moment of everyday is easy. I have days that are a mental struggle still, where I fight off self deprecating thoughts and making myself tired with efforts to affirm the positive and true. It takes effort still but just a bit less, and less often. However, because I have set my standards high for wellness, I take on these days as challenges. Can I do today better than the last time I felt this way? Will today be easier than last time? Have I learned anything recently that can help me get through this faster and more smoothly than last time? The answer is nearly always, yes!

I have my days of severe doubt but what I am proving to myself is that those thoughts have no place in my world. Sometimes I cannot even believe how much more distance I am putting between myself and the ED as days go on.

I know people who stop at certain points and decide, like I did at various times, that enough is enough and that place will be good enough for them. They applaud themselves – with good reason – for all the positive changes they have made in thought and behaviours but they stop. I suppose no one can be truly stagnant but it seems that there comes a time when one needs to decide within themselves that despite it still hurting after all they have already endured, they need to push a little harder to get a little further. This comes along with a similar blind hope that got me to treatment in the first place. I had no idea that this was actually possible but it was worth a shot. Why does anyone involve themselves in treatment voluntarily? Because they want something more – somewhere within them is a drive and desire for something greater.

Not everyone wants to do that and I do not judge a single person who chooses to hold onto small aspects of their eating disorder be it in behaviour or thought. It is comfortable to an extent; it is familiar; and to be truly without it is completely unknown. Unknown, I have learned, does not have to mean impossible.  Unknown can also mean extremely beautiful!  I didn't know for a long time how things could get better for me. I accepted my bad days and looked forward to the better days and that was “good enough”. I had other people telling me that it got better yet and that was nice to hear but I believed I would only improve marginally over a very long period of time.

Then something switched again a few months ago. I realized that I was not accepting, I was resolving to slow change/progress and I had given up on my idea of wellness that I had arrived in Portugal with. When that came into my awareness, I gave myself a kick in the butt and chose to change my perspective. I brought myself back to the place of possibility and hope. As I said to a friend around that time: accept for today, hope for tomorrow. Then, I again allowed myself to notice my progress as it occurred. It's been completely different than concrete overcoming of ED behaviours/patterns/and some thoughts.  It's not about counting berries and measuring protein and making sure I'm drinking enough and exercising in moderation.  Though everyone seems to have to start there, eventually it becomes a lot more interesting and also less distressing (a long eventually after the behaviuors are gone).  It becomes far more about bettering myself as a person – the kind of growth I have written about that I believe will carry on for life! It is accompanied with slight lingering negative thoughts and that is exactly what intend to shake further.

The biggest part of this was allowing myself the value that I would extend to someone else. Would where I was at, emotionally, be okay in my mind for a good friend or sister? No - then it's not good enough for me. So I kept moving forward. At this point, I would want the place I am at for many people but not without the desire for improvement.

So the whole point of this, is to express that I haven't settled yet. I set out with the intention of becoming fully well and fully myself and I am going to attain that. Probably faster than I think, though I feel sometimes that I'm making very little forward movement. I think anyone can define the recovery they want and work towards it. If one chooses to place the bar low, they can attain that. There comes a time in the recovery process where we choose what our success looks like. I've placed my standards high in the most positive ways and I'm excited to keep working towards the awareness that I want, need, and can achieve.

I'm sure people will say, “It's not that simple”. Honestly, I believe that once one has been supported through the earlier parts of recovery, it really is that simple. Simple does not mean easy as I have written before. My process right now is not always easy and does not always feel good but it continues to be expontentially worth it. I choose to take what happens today, get through it, learn from it, and apply my knowledge tomorrow. In the words of Maya Angelou:
Choose your recovery, define it, learn and apply, and don't stop until you have exactly what you want.


Edit: I suppose I need to clarify a little further. I should say, also, that it cannot be expected that one leaves treatment “cured”.  The thing about this time, for me, it is not a "struggle". It is a continued work in progress towards the same goal as day 1. Some days are harder than other in various ways but it is not necessarily a fight, more of a challenge. During this time of transition, I am faced with more choices – to keep walking down the path to wellness as I desire it with both feet, or to dabble in the old path be it in thought or behaviour a bit longer or even once in a while. There are more difficult and thus interesting questions: Am I happy with me? Am I happy with how I act/react in situations? Do I like how I interact? What can I improve on? What would I like to change? How can I make the changes? Is my way of being consistent with what I encourage in others? Is it bringing me peace?

I have to take all these questions and many more and be honest with myself even when I don't like the answer. Then I have a choice of what to do about it. If I cannot change something concrete, can I change my attitude? And so on...

So, it's just a few words to the concept that to get to recovered (however one defines that) is going to take some time. I still believe that the end result, my goal, is completely personal, chosen, and is going to be more wonderful than I can imagine.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Memories and disconnect

It has been very interesting to watch my reaction to my memories. There are many. Some I have/had predicted that I would react to and prepared. Some I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that I did not react and the others seem to come out of left field.

Yesterday I encountered paperwork filled out my by doctor that had “Anorexia Nervosa” written in the Primary Diagnosis section. That was all it took to feel like I had been hit in the stomach. I folded it up and put it away and went on to enjoy a wonderful dinner party with a couple of key people on my old “team”. It was a fantastic experience to sit next to those who at times sat with me while I was only tolerating tube feeds or sipping Ensure or gnawing nervously on grapes or celery sticks. We ate, drank, chatted. I felt relaxed, it all felt natural, and I thoroughly and truly enjoyed myself. What a blessing to have those opportunities!

When I got home, I decided to “poke” at myself and look again at my paper work. There it was again Anorexia Nervosa in that familiar writing.

*flash* Hospital admission papers
*flash* Smells, sounds
*flash* Fear, dread, shame.

How long has it been since I have seen that diagnosis near my name officially? I suppose approximately 18 months. Yes, about 18 months ago to the day, I carried my last set of admission papers up those hospital stairs, less than 72 hours from my previous discharge, and committed to the next weeks in hospital to stay stable so I could make the trip to Portugal.

It seems like a different life – it really is. Yet my hands still shook as I looked at the words on those papers less than 24 hours ago. Despite the next pages filled with a declaration of an excellent prognosis and indications for continued forward movement, those two words made me feel like I was drowning momentarily.

What an indication of how far I've come. I felt disconnected as a patient from that diagnosis, those simple words. The rest, “ongoing assessment” “consults with...”, etc. was all okay. I can't always predict what's going to hit me and cause an emotional reaction. I can feel on top of the world and like my past doesn't exist and one slight thing can flip me upside down just to test me. This flipped and shook me and yet today, here I am back on my feet. I am refusing to allow too much continued ruminating, I sent the papers off to who needs them today so that I did not have to see that again. It was a combination: the words, plus my doctor's familiar writing (and yes, I can read it quite well, it is very clear!) that got me.

As I keep living, day to day, I encounter various situations that set off alarm bells in my head but I believe I am overcoming my momentary emotional disruptions with more ease each time or at least as time goes on - sometimes it takes a few tries around the same time. It's still very exciting, but some days, some moments, some memories, are still very hard.

Days go by and I continue to heal. I really do feel blessed to be where I am at and when I focus on that, the memories hold much less significance for they are only that...memory.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

One month back in Canada!

It's a bit unbelievable how quickly the time has gone. It is clear from my previous post that I am back up north in my home town. I had a wonderful time in Vancouver and being quite a change.

I am so thankful to be able to be with the people who helped me through so many horrible times. Working as hard as I did to attain the recovery I have has been worth it just for me. However, the congratulations from others and genuine acceptance of who I have been allowed to become confirms just how worth it this was.

This was the town where I spent the worst of my sick time and because of that, there are many memories that I would prefer not to have. Sometimes, certain places, sounds, smells, etc. can cause memories so strong I cannot see anything else. These are not often positive but I am working through each of these traumatic “flashbacks” (yes, they are that bad sometimes) and memories. I cry frequently as I allow myself to heal from the past. I am able to talk about it and, though not easy, try to allow people to comfort me through the difficult times.

Being in this town, has also brought me to a place of occasional self-consciousness in a strange way. The only way I can explain it is through an analogy that seems appropriate for the quickly approaching Christmas season:

It makes me very uncomfortable to open gifts in front of people, especially in front of the person giving the gift to me. I feel, in this town, like I'm in a room full of people who have given me presents and I need to unwrap them in front of everyone. What I would love to do is receive the gifts and thank them for the thought and then spend some time with each gift; with the wrapping, ribbon, and card; and with the sentiment each gift holds. After I have processed my experience of the gift, I would like to go back and thank the gifter or send a thank you card, and put the gift to its best use.

I know that this, in reality, is something I would like to be able to do with more ease - quite literally what I am speaking about. Metaphorically, the gifts I have been given are beyond thoughtful, they are life giving, and I need time to adjust to the fact that I was the recipient and that each day is an opportunity to open another and thank the giver in person.

So, I fumble through a lot of interactions at this point still, but not because I feel judged, analyzed, critiqued, questioned, or intimidated as I might have even earlier in the year; simply because I do not have the grace to find my words in all moments, or to reach out impulsively and hug the person in front of me. At other times, I have forgotten my past and step into interactions like nothing of the last years ever happened and that can end up creating unusual situations too.

Overall, in many more moments than not, I find myself so full of love of life and excitement for life as I would hope anyone who had been given a second (third, fourth, tenth..) lease on life would be. I have my times, of course, where things are not awesome, and that is sometimes comforting in its normalcy.

On another topic, I longed for Canadian winter and I am living in it now. The darkness is a challenge but the fluffy white snow that decorate the mountains is just beautiful. I went for a drive yesterday to another town and saw a beautiful and giant eagle and three deer. Wildlife and nature are so magnificent here. I miss the city lights and traffic noise, but I am doing my best to make the most of my time here, with all that it has to offer me.

So with that note, I am off to spend a quiet evening enjoying further introspection about the last few days.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

In a little town, far far away...

I was into my local hospital today to visit an ill family friend.  I knew that I would run into people there who knew me, but I went with much less anxiety than ever before.  What a wonderful experience it was, as each time I have visited as I moved along in this process, has been.  I even saw the kitchen ladies today and that was extra delightful.  So to the staff at Mills I would like to say:

Thank you for your pride in me (it will always be "us"); for allowing me to see your tears that come because of my happiness/wellness; for seeing me as I am now and letting the past drop away; for your hugs, smiles, and little shrieks of surprise.

I am honoured to share my success with this little community that ultimately, became part of a world-wide team. My memory is still vague and names, sadly, sometimes escape me. I remember your faces though, and I remember my experience of your caring and warmth. I remember when, despite being run off your feet, you made an extra minute to sit with me, to remind me of why I was worth the effort. I remember when you helped me laugh at myself.

When I look back, I remember some things that went sideways and occasions when frustration overtook patience on all sides, but those are not the memories that feature in my recollection.

Overall, I regard our past with a bit of jaw-drop awe. I do not know one other person in a persistent position as I was, that has encountered such effort on her behalf. I acknowledge my efforts also, but it was you – the nurses, affiliated staff, and a remarkable doctor – who allowed me to keep trying. I knew I would be truly cared about and valued as Me, every time I hauled myself (and my things!) up those stairs and signed in. Even if every negative fibre in my body wanted to be left alone and had me hissing and scratching like an alley cat, you received me where I was at and helped me build on that even when it seemed like the same things over and over again.

To experience your reactions now, to what I have become is yet another blessing on top of my, already countless, heap. To know that it matters to so many of you to see the positive outcome that was enabled because of a team you were part of; to watch your faces light up as recognition sets in – it is an experience that is again, a privilege that I could have never imagined I would be so fortunate to have.

Thank you” is just a phrase, merely words and entirely inadequate for what I would like to express. I have discovered that the biggest thank you to everyone who has been involved, will be to carry on and live my life to the fullest with love and kindness.

So, for all that you were/did, and for continuing to be part of my life and my process - you all deserve gold stars.

You are heroes in my world.

With such respect,

Thursday, November 22, 2012

No words

I've been meaning to write something that adequately expresses my experience of being home and of life, currently.  I've sat, staring at a blank screen for hours; walking and thinking trying to find a way to sum it all up; searching for someone else's words even that might have gone before me, felt and been this way, and found a way to say it that might fit for me too.

I'm at a complete loss.  I posted this to a friend/on a forum of sorts yesterday:

"I haven't posted here for quite a while. I have found myself in a place where there are few words that do even remote justice to my current experience of the world in all it's wonder. The universe has showered me with wealth in the form of life that I never, ever thought possible, or could even imagine. I am so thankful."
What came to me yesterday is that, though words serve me well and I love them and will continue to write, the most appropriate expression of the light, life, and gratitude that I feel is through living it.
I will find a way.  I usually find the words with time.  Just know that, though far from perfect or always easy, life is so beautiful.
In very light news, I have a gorgeous cat now that I'm more settled and know I can keep her with me.  Her name is Callie.  :)  What a lovely companion.

With love.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Random Rant

So, I'm home, and I have lots to say about being back but today, I am going to go on a bit of a rant regarding the goings on for people seeking eating disorder treatment in Canada.

There has been an ongoing uproar from suffers about not being able to access out of province care for their illnesses. It makes sense to be looking beyond what one has tried and tried again in one's quest for recovery.

Last year, the Ministry of Health, many health authorities, and the provincial ED program took quite a beating as people with anorexia and bulimia bravely brought their struggles to the spotlight. The situation in BC infuriated me and continues to – to an extent. One thing I need to clarify, and finally have the public words to support what I knew of BC to continue this discussion, is that it is anyone's right to seek out of province care in another hospital. It is Canada, and without any sort of specialist's input, one can get a referral to, and access hospital-based care outside of their province of residence.

When I said this last year, supported with my own experience, I was attacked as badly at the ministry if not worse because it was so personal. Who was I to say anything when I had been sent to boutique treatment in Europe, right? Right. Poor little rich girl who was already getting what she needed. Rich? Who are you kidding? Desperate, and fortunate to have family and friends that were willing to sacrifice more than I will ever know to give me the opportunity to get well in the environment I needed, is more like it. I eventually shut up, then, because it wasn't a battle I needed to fight. Despite speaking from experience and with knowledge, I was told I was wrong. I still don't want to become too involved in all this, but there needs to be clarification and credit given to the people who really are trying to help the best they can. So, I quote from a article, the rest of which regards the personal story of someone else and is not pertinent to my discussion today.

“Ryan Jabs, media relations for the Ministry of Health said the ministry recognizes the tremendous challenges individuals cope with on a daily basis dealing with complex medical issues, such as an eating disorder.

"It is important that any client receives the most appropriate treatment to meet their needs, whether that is in an outpatient, residential or inpatient setting, as determined by clinical experts," said Jabs. "The ultimate goal is to help people recover and live in their own communities - and we need to ensure supports are available for people close to home.

"Clinicians work closely with all their clients and their GP to develop and maintain a care plan to maintain a healthy lifestyle, which includes psychological support, health checkups and dietician support. However - and while we will not speak to individual cases - we cannot force people into care; clients need to be willing to continue to participate in their care."
Jabs the ministry is not denying anyone the option of seeking treatment outside the province.

"Anyone can access hospital-based care for an eating disorder in another province, as long as they have been referred by a BC physician and accepted into the program," said Jabs. "B.C. will cover the cost of this treatment through our reciprocal billing agreement, and no pre-approval from the ministry is required.”"

Within these few paragraphs there is a bit of jargon and towing of party lines, but let me speak about it from my experience again.

First in Vancouver, the provincial program did what they could for me. Eventually, like Jabs mentions, they worked closely with my GP and decided that to keep me in my community was better because it allowed me access, with the frequency I needed, to inpatient care. I also had frequent access to affiliated health staff such as counsellors, an OT, and an RD. I saw my GP weekly at the very least, usually more frequently.

The “clinical experts” involved through the provincial program did their job. They admitted me to their program when my name came up on the waitlist; a couple of times they personalized it as best they could in that they gave me a longer stay or options regrading passes and/or feeding schedules. They continued to see me for follow-up clinic appointments that, although I felt were unnecessary, were part of their communication regarding my care with my GP. I was offered the residential program that is available here, they worked to prepare me, physically, for it. In the end, it did not fit for me and we all agreed on that. Though my experience and discharge were traumatic, we all tried our best.

Jabs goes onto say that they cannot force people to participate in treatment. For the 3 years I spent largely in my wee northern community, very rarely was I certified in hospital and never in the community. My GP understood the importance of having me feel like a part of the team and not governed by said team. As needed, he drew on the support he saw in the community. I was doing no one any favours by participating, except myself. I knew, that despite my emotional mind not understanding what was going on and despite how uncomfortable the ideas that were being posed to me were, I needed to let someone else know better.

Within what we had to work with, I tried. I needed to eat, we arranged individual meal support. Was it optimal? Probably not. I “got away' with many negative things but we all tried. Even when I refused to eat or tampered with my supplements, the people involved in my care knew that the regular contact with me was essential. If I was trying to put the wool over one person's eyes, I might be too exhausted in a day or two to keep up the act and therefore, someone else was able to assess my status and possibly intervene at the right moment. The commitment by those involved with me, despite the tricks I tried to pull, sent me a subconscious message that they cared about the me that was really there, inside – masked by all the negativity of an ED. Just because meal support was labelled as such, it went beyond that.

There were frustrating times. There were attempts to have me abide by contracts that told me what I needed to do to stay out of hospital. There were days where I tried to give them all the middle finger and walk away. Regardless, when I inevitably came back (sometimes hours later, days at most), they were there to help me.

Is this a common occurrence? I'm not sure. I hear people saying they've been “dumped” by their counsellors or dieticians and I have to believe that is their experience. But why? Is it that key component to being a willing participant? Was it the flexibility/fluidity with my care that kept me engaged? Partially, I expect it was. I also know that a huge part of it for me was that my team was not sticking by me just to keep me alive but to get me well. None of us knew how to do it. We did know that there was no text book answer or algorithm to follow for Julia, so we were creative – they in positive ways, and me more often in negative ways to protect my ED.

They seized the moments when more of Me was showing and worked with that. They got to know, as time went on, who was speaking at any given time – Julia or her eating disorder. They were tough years for us all, but we did it – together. There was very little force. The only thing that I felt was forced was that no one was going to give up on me.

Lastly, the ongoing saga of people applying for out of province care and declaring they have been denied funding. It is Canada. We can access hospital-based care in any province we choose if we have a referral from a doctor of any sort who feels strongly that we would benefit from something different. There are no special funding requests needed. To be clear, this is just for hospital-based care. As Jabs says, there needs to be the referral and the acceptance of the patient by the program referred to. If either of these parties feel that there is care within the province that could be tried first, one needs to go through the motions.

When people saw me going off to a world-class treatment centre overseas, of course they had emotional reactions. So did I, as I felt so completely unworthy. Part of me knew, however, that it was the last stop for me. It was going to work or I was as good as dead. I also knew that I had done my best within my country and worked as hard as my sick mind would allow me. I tried the provincial program repeatedly inpatient and the residential program. I tried community based care. I tried out patient in Vancouver. I requested to try the program in Edmonton and that was facilitated within 6 weeks from referral (from my GP and acceptance to the program by the director there) to walking through the doors of the U of A hospital. Nothing fit or provided lasting change/relief from my illness.

I look back with pride in myself for working as hard as I did with the little strength I had. I applaud the teams in each place that worked with each other to provide the best care they could for me. I sometimes proclaimed that x, y, or z would not help me but even with that resistance, I knew I had to try because I was aware that I couldn't not try something new/different.

Hospitals in all provinces do the best they can to treat these complex illnesses. I know that not everyone has access to the degree of compassion I received from my practitioners. I do know that every Canadian citizen regardless of diagnosis, has a right to the provision of care that best suits their needs as is available. A key part of all of this, is the willingness that Jabs speaks about. I have heard it referred to as “readiness” and for me, that was the wrong word. I never felt ready because I had no idea what was on the other side of the hell I knew I had to walk through but I was willing to try and to try again. Yes, eventually I reached a very hopeless place but it was at that time when I was able to access when I needed and what worked. For someone else, to keep trying something new, to keep working with whatever few resources they have, something might click sooner or in a different way. What works for them will manifest itself as the time is right.

The purpose of my rant, today, was to bring light to the availability of hospital-based care for all Canadian citizens but also to encourage people to work hard with whatever they have. Keep communicating even if the possible result scares you. I've been there, I've had to tell people exactly how I was feeling emotionally or physically with the understanding that I could lose my rights to anything in a flash because of my honesty; I've had to do the same thing over and over with little tweaks to try and achieve a different result; I've worked with creative teams to try and make things different with the resources we had.

There is not a person out there who cannot say I didn't try everything I could. Yes, I bailed on treatment a few times because I knew (the real me) that it was not for me but that didn't stop my search for something that might work and even trying what I was fairly sure, wouldn't. I believe it was partially that commitment on my part that kept my practitioners engaged. Also, please don't fall prey to the idea that only “specialists” know how to deal with people with eating disorders. That is far from reality. My team learned from me and with me about what might work for me and that kept me going.

If one really thinks that a set of four different pastel coloured walls are going to make a difference – possibly. There are a few variations in programs around the country, yes. Beyond the program is the possibility to meet people who will work for any individual. I also believe that those people are available in any program, hospital, or community. Those people are available in day to day life – let them be there.

So, yes, keep exploring options and remember, it's not always as difficult as some people make it seem, to access different treatment. The actual process is difficult and painful; lonely and can feel unbearable – but that doesn't change with location. In the end, willingness is key and from there, the possibilities are endless.

Friday, October 26, 2012

16 months

I likely won't have time to write on my 16 month “anniversary” of my arrival in Portugal but today is the day, 16 months ago, that I was discharged from my community hospital for the last time so, it works. There are a couple of directions I am going to go with this post. The first is the recollection of a different day, 3 years ago.

On October 28, 2009, I tried to leave the hospital against medical advice for the first time. I packed my things and called my mom, signed the papers and waited. My mom came but refused to take me home. She said she wanted me to talk with my doctor. The nurses had called him to let him know but I stood by the car with my arms crossed demanding that my mom take me to my apartment. My doctor came after he was told of my decision. Close to, if not after 9pm, in the snow and rain, my mom walked away and left him in the parking lot with me. I yelled at him like I hadn't yelled at anyone in a very long time. I told him that I hated him, that he was torturing me by keeping me in hospital, and why wouldn't he just let me go home and die? For 45 minutes he stood there with me as I screamed and cried. He came at me with kindness, calm, and genuine caring and belief that I/we could do “this”. I calmed down or exhausted myself eventually, and he just came over in silence, put his arm around my boney shoulders, and led me back into the hospital - right past my mom -and back up to my room. I stuck out that admission for a few weeks more though not likely completely without incident.

I think that was the day I realized just how much he cared about me and when I really gave myself over to him. In our discussion, he remembers that day as a day where he really saw me. He understood how desperate I was to be helped and yet how resistant I was to allowing myself that help. Three years later and many, many battles behind us – perhaps less dramatic – I am leaving the program that I was kept alive to come to.

I trusted him from the beginning. I have to say, the scarier part of me, then, tried to find ways to manipulate him into enabling my illness. It didn't often work despite what people on the outside might think. When you know someone with this, there is usually a significant difference between their true voice and the voice of the ED and that is an important nuance to figure out. He saw that, that night. I was no longer the compliant patient who tried to appear to do what she was supposed to, to get out of hospital. I was a furious and terrified girl who didn't know how to fight her thoughts anymore. I was refed enough to realize I didn't have the strength to combat my mind on my own. My mom didn't know what to do with me and she'd known me for 25/26 years at that point. It took someone on the outside to be able to see the many faces I presented and objectify what I was saying or how I was acting. That was, for me, the biggest role of my professional care team. To see me as a person and know that what was inside of my head was not really part of the true me. To see beyond my presentation, however hurtful. Families and friends can't always do that, understandably.

If there are practitioners reading this, this recollection is indication of the tenacity that is needed to tackle the maze that is a person with an eating disorder with persistence, compassion, and belief. Socially, how I acted is not acceptable behaviour – to yell at a physician and ask to be sent home to die. Usually that would result in a pink slip which, in my case, would have caused much more resistance and lack of trust. It was disrespectful and hurtful but he was able to see past the eating disorder that was yelling at him to the scared person inside that needed him and needed to be taken care of regardless of the words hurled at him. Don't let the sick person's fear of becoming well make you fight for her/him any less. They have no reference for the beauty that life holds once well, but if really brought to it, won't ever look back.

To the moms out there that don't know what to do with their own kid, it's okay to not know. If an eating disorder has taken over one's mind, there is so little of the person you might have known years ago left. No parent can be expected to recognize the consumed being that is in front of them.

Moving on to the Now! I am beginning a big transition and I can finally say that I am so excited. I've gone through various stages in the past 7 weeks that I've been back since my last trip home and have looked at them all to see if they were indications that I was “ready” to leave and step into life.

The most powerful were not pleasant. I got very angry with the people here and felt everything from lied to to betrayed to belittled to uncared for. I felt especially frustrated with small things and was easily hurt by other aspects in my interactions with the therapists and workers. I felt so alone with this step and scared. I thought that these feelings and annoyances were signs that I was ready to leave and that idea made sense. Of course, a well person would be annoyed with being in a program of any sort – so I must be better now! I thought that these things meant that I was ready. But I chose the cautious route and really asked myself, “Are you ready? Are you sure? Could you benefit from a little more time here? Are you willing to spend some more time if needed that, in the grand scheme of life, will seem very short?” And then I changed my ticket home for a later date.

In retrospect, I knew that it still didn't feel right. I wasn't scared that I would become dependent on this place and people, though. I wasn't scared that I would never feel ready, I just knew that it made sense to stay a little longer, learn some more and refocus on the aspects of me that I needed to prior to transitioning. Staying just a few more weeks has been one of the better decisions I've made all along.

At some point, during these weeks, something shifted. I had to let go of the anger and express it so that I could see what it was really about. I realized that I had shut down the more vulnerable side of me as I was prepared to put on my soldier suit again and face the world as a one woman army. I had to open up again and have it be okay. I had to look at the people I was interacting with as the imperfect beings they are that, despite their humanness, have a lot of valuable input for my life, right now. That had to be okay too. And it was!

Going through those simple emotional steps wasn't easy but they were essential. Really, it seemed like overnight when a real peace about going home came into my mind. The anxiety and obsession with “what ifs” faded dramatically; I was suddenly seeing the overwhelming opportunity that my life and the world have to offer as blessings and not stresses; I looked forward to the unknown because it is just so wonderfully “normal”; I realized that absolutely nothing has to be decided right now and thus, gave myself the space in my head that I need to adjust over the next while. All these allowances have contributed to a growing excitement about going home.

I also gave myself permission to be sad about leaving the people that I've worked so intimately with for the last 16 months. I realized that I will miss them more than I can say but that missing people is part of a life of caring. Part of loving and being loved. Once again, I had to let myself be vulnerable and human. This was another weight lifted off my shoulders.

To release myself from the expectations I held was like taking off a metal jacket. I've felt this before but only as it pertained more simply. I allowed myself at various times to feel different and unpleasant emotions and to express need. I entertained extremes as far as lifestyle and careers went just because I could; and I let myself consider if I could be happy doing x, y, or z even if it went against what I thought I was “supposed” to do. Even giving myself the courtesy of feeling happy was, at one point, another metal jacket taken off. So, I don't suppose this one is any more significant but it is extremely freeing and I figured it out much more quickly than previous weighty matters (what a poor reference! Sorry, better words escape me right now!).

Now, it is time to put a few last things in my bags (with fingers crossed that I will be within the airline's weight allowances!) and double and triple check my drawers and cupboards. I thought the other day, “Wow. In 16 months I have friends that have gotten married, or divorced, had kids or become pregnant; known families that have adopted international children; PhDs started, finished, or put on hold; university degrees completed; jobs lost and found; diseases diagnosed, cured, or life lost because of; milestones of all sorts for so many people.” Then I cocked my head and thought, “And what have I done in the past 16 months? I've regained my life, myself, my happiness. I've connected with people in ways I've never been allowed. I've worked through the murkiest and strangest emotions and stages. I've reclaimed gratitude, joy, and life itself. That's awesome.” This was the first time I realized, clearly and immediately, that I had put myself and my journey on par with that of everyone else. No one was greater or better - more like: I was not less or my journey less important. That was one of the best feelings ever, to understand my worth and respect what I had tackled and conquered without ego or negative pride. I feared for many years that by respecting myself, my head would suddenly inflate and I would have an exaggerated sense of importance. Thankfully, that is not the case. I'm just on the same wonderful plain as anyone else and to have value in my own eyes is an amazing blessing and an essential part of the peace I have about leaving.

With that, I am off to take care of my last minute business and simply relax.

As always, a big thanks to everyone who has walked beside me and celebrates with me as I embark on the next part of this which is, quite simply, just life!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Determination and Choice...Making me work for me.

Yes, you read the title correctly, I'm making all parts of me work for me!

I've been threatening to write for days now but didn't know what to write about. Tonight, I learned a pretty significant (for me) lesson and am inspired to tell about it!

There are days where I am scared that I will, not necessarily go back to the eating disorder but, pick up some other sort of destructive behaviour to get my rush. No longer do I play Russian Roulette when I go to bed at night, wondering if I'll wake up in the morning...that's from a very long time ago now it seems. However, there's still part of me that craves the rush of risk. I know that there are other ways to find that rush and I have a few, healthy ways I get it now, but the fear that it won't be enough, that I'll have to push it a little further and end up possibly risking my life again is present all too often. I figured it out a bit tonight. Additionally, I realized the power of determination and the role it continues to play in my forward movement.

Carrying on with the preamble, I will illustrate the situation this evening that gave me the lesson I needed: I just arrived home from the salon with a new “do” that I'm quite pleased with. I finish my dinner and realize...if I let today go by, it will have been three full days without purposeful exercise. *alarm!* Then the hamster wheel starts analyzing the past three days. The first was after an amazing and spontaneous squash practice where I had the luck of working briefly with a coach from the UK - my body was tired and sore from the new technique. Yesterday, I was busy in good ways and exhausted by the evening. Today, however, I just didn't get myself together enough to head to the squash court in the morning and then spent all afternoon at the salon. It's evening time, the clouds are growing thicker and threatening a wonderful storm. Part of me doesn't feel like going for a walk but part of me says that I “should”. And here begins an all too familiar war of me versus her...

I've already been going through some pretty significant anxiety again as I approach my time to leave Portugal and return to the “real world” with more finality. I have moments of reprieve from the hamster wheel of fear and doubt but it affects each day to some extent at this point. Today was no different in that regard and therefore the thoughts snow balled: when I walk I think even more, I need distraction right now rather than another opportunity to ruminate; I can't go 3 days without purposeful exercise – but that seems like a negative thought so I probably shouldn't engage it and should choose to fight it; if I walk I might run into someone who smiles at me or returns I smile I give to them and that would feel better than sitting at home by myself...but it's late in the evening and at this time of year, very few people are out and about at this time; I need to do something physical, why? Because it's good for my body.

Aha! Sifting back through those thoughts I see that the real motivation is that it is good for my body, my back is stiff from driving so much the past few days, the fresh air is lovely and it's amazing that it is cool enough to be out in it, it's good to do something different than my usual squash practice and games, I can do whatever I choose to for the rest of the evening, etc. The fear was of my mind. I was a) scared of thinking too much while walking without sufficient distraction and b) couldn't figure out if wanting to “treat my body well” with a bit of movement was just a trick my mind was playing on me in a bad way. Part “b” of that needed to be examined carefully and I felt that it was the Real Me desiring this activity. When I realized this, I made my decision: I was going to walk because it would feel good and I was going to make it a positive event. Quickly, I gathered my iPod, umbrella, and phone, put on a better pair of shoes, and nipped out the door.

I hadn't thought it through (read: over-thought it) and figured out what “making this a positive event” might look like. The thoughts started as soon as I began up the hill outside my apartment. Just a whirring of activity in my head and for a moment, I felt powerless. Not for long though, I remembered what I've been thinking about recently that being here, coming through the program, has given me so much and one of the greatest aspects has been the gift of choice. I'd be darned if I was going to feel victimized by my own mind! So I decided I would choose to spend some time remembering the good of my day, the best interactions, rethinking compliments given and received, and humorous moments. That worked for a bit until I was reminded of my earlier anxiety and how big it seemed. I started to analyze that anxiety and...was hit with the most beautiful smell of flowers coming from behind a cement wall! That brought me back out of my head and into my moment. Horray! was I going to hold onto my present? Sing? Sure!

So, I started to sing the song playing at that moment, quietly. It helped a lot to distract from my thoughts. Over the next few minutes, I saw a cute older couple who gave me big smiles. I observed people eating dinner at one of the few restaurants that's still open in the little town I'm in. I felt a breeze and just stood for a moment in the cool air, not thinking at all.

As I turned towards home, I realized that I was doing it! I was making my thoughts and activity work for me. I decided to stop fighting, reduce the effort I was making, and see where my mind went. Quickly, over about one minute, I found myself frowning and feeling very angry about a few things. This is one emotion I have become acutely aware of recently, specifically why I react to certain situations with anger, so I questioned it and encouraged what was underneath to come out and just be. I started to cry. I was simply sad at the thought of leaving! I let myself realize how much I am going to miss about this place I've been for the last year and a bit and allowed myself the tears that brim frequently these days. This all happened over about 3 minutes total and I started to giggle while I wiped my eyes because I realized, I was “doing it”. I was doing exactly what I want to be able to do:

  1. Choose my thoughts and actions and make them best for me.
  2. Be aware of my emotional reactions and allow what is real to be, even if it hurts.
  3. Figure these things out on my own, if necessary.

So, now I sit here, peaceful again and appreciating the determination I have towards achieving the wellness I desire.

I mentioned previously that I acknowledge that the mindset and little devil in my head are not completely gone yet, despite the length of time I have spent in treatment and working towards eradicating my eating disorder completely. This is yet another example of the little battles I still face but far more important than that, it is proof that I'm winning. The real me.

I decided when I was offered the opportunity to come to this place last year, that there was no going back if I was enabled to move forward enough that I could see the end. That commitment hasn't changed, I want to be well more than anything at this point and I need to remind myself of that commitment and put my efforts towards making the wellness I want come to fruition.

So, with today's very simple experience, I've realized how unnecessary my fear of falling prey to destructive behaviour is. I've reclaimed the choice I can have in my life and as far as I am humanly able, I will keep working towards making the right choices for me because I can. I'm far beyond the confused little girl from last year who was either drowning out her thoughts with behaviours or berating and hating herself for any choice to act against the dictates of her mind if she made positive behavioural choices that enabled life. I didn't have a choice then but I've been brought to a place where I do.

This is today's reason why I don't think it's possible to relapse after really coming through this completely. People with EDs are warned that there is a risk that remains for a very long time if not forever. I disagree, as I'm sure any of my readers are aware of! If I have a choice and elect to make the better choice in as many situations as I'm faced with, be they external/situational or internal, eventually, it will become what is natural. I've been built up mentally and emotionally to understand the strength and worthiness I have to live a full life. I understand where tendencies towards negative behaviour (in any way) come from. With those parts of me working alongside each other, I will make a well life, habitual.

No, overcoming eating disorders is not about overcoming a habit. Practising positive choices, once brought to place where that is an option, is.

I so appreciate how stubborn I am at this point. Determination was a better word tonight, I wasn't digging my heels in against something, I was figuring it out, as I went along, what was going to work for me. I did it, I learned. And it's an awesome lesson.

So, for anyone wondering “when it gets easier?”, for me, I think it might be now or at least soon. I've acknowledged that I don't need to be scared of my mind because I choose how to let it work more often than not. I choose how I see things, what I take away from situations, and where I am going to spend my energy. Some days, I still crawl into bed completely exhausted from the emotional fight – but it's not everyday. Additionally, I finally see the real “light”. I see where this process I'm going through right now can take me. Throughout the last years of being sick, once I understood something, I was often able to work a bit better with it/resist less. It was more practical then (why I needed to be in hospital and fed, etc.) but now, the way I see the fight I need to put up at times still, is a means to a really beautiful end!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Peas and Carrots

As of late, probably 5/7 days of the week, if I'm eating dinner at home, I make myself peas and carrots as part of my meal. Simply boiled, drizzled with olive oil, and heavily salted (not like “heavily” used to mean). I love them. I enjoy them. I actually, look forward to them.

This was amusing to me when it started a few weeks ago because of how I used to balk at peas and carrots being put on my plate by my mom. Everyone had the same and although I do not remember ever having messages of “Finish what is on your plate” given to me directly, there was an expectation within me from a young age to appreciate what I was given and darn well get through it. Sure, there were the peas that “slipped” off my fork and landed on the floor and the “that's plenty” comment for carrots (or turnip! – which I have also incorporated as of late from time to time) even if it meant a not quite full belly after a meal. No one could have convinced me at 5 or 7 or 9 or even 17 that I would ever desire peas and carrots and choose to make them for myself!

Of course, there are the more recent, and less amusing, memories of filling out menus in hospital and trying to choose the “safest” items – vegetables included – and dreading the days when peas were my only option. Or, knowing that I had whatever cooked veg was coming from the kitchen that night and having panic attacks at dinner when the vegetable happened to be peas (which usually came with corn too – gasp!). What I can now say is that I, the real me, delighted in those days because I was cornered into having what I enjoyed. My favourite meal was peas and corn all mixed up with cottage cheese with an insane amount of salt and pepper. My “head” sure didn't like those days though and emotionally, sometimes it was too much to handle. Another “chess move” that was difficult for me and any care provider to navigate. It's sad, looking back at the past number of years, and thinking that I could be so scared of something so simple. Yes, my outward expression was simplified to fear of calories when beneath that and so much more importantly, there was that unworthiness that I should not enjoy food. If I must eat, I need not enjoy. Food was categorized in my head as, at best, a necessary evil and not to ever become something I delighted in.

So tonight, I sat with my heaping bowl of veggies, heavy on the peas, and smiled as I do each night I make that choice. It's funny because of the 5 year old who, yes, tried to get those darn peas stuck under her plate, or mix them in with my mashed potatoes (which actually became the most favourable way for me to eat them! Kind of like an Orbitz drink was...a little texture to the tasty delight). Or who just got them “over with” first so I could get onto the better things like roast beef and spuds. And a bit of a proud smile at the significance of those little, round, green, sweet, delights and how very much allowed I am to enjoy them as and when I want.

In other news, I've changed my return to Canada to a later date. I had a bit rough but therapeutic week along with a few other experiences that indicated I could use a few more intensive weeks before heading on my first, real transition trip home. I'm already looking to book my follow-up in 2013.

I wrote about in my post about anxiety how pleased I was that no eating disorder thoughts had come up. I need to write more on this but I am tired. So for tonight, I hope it suffices to say that it is not always so straight forward. The ED is still a “go to” in my head in some of the hardest times. To be clear, it is only in thought, but the mental fight against behaviours sometimes arises too.

I want my walk through my process to be one that can inspire hope but I cannot clothe hope in even mild deceit. I choose to write more often on my better days but I will not deny that sometimes, it is really very difficult even 15.5 months into the most intense treatment I've ever experienced and despite all the emotional progress I have made. I've worked hard and I am by no means giving up - ever, I am merely recognizing that the real end of all of this...the distant memory of me with an eating disorder and it inhabiting my thoughts at all, remains in the future. I know it will come. It took a long time to cement in my head, and it will take a whole lot less time to get over by choosing the high road repeatedly. By perseverance, belief in my self, engaging my stubbornness in the most positive of ways, and not neglecting the part of me that still needs to reach out, I will get through to the other side will bells on. I still need reassurance and encouragement sometimes, though. I know I can do it but sometimes, like having someone remind you that you are loved even when you know it, it's nice to hear that other people know that I can and will do this. I will see it through to the end. I can. I will.

There are easier days which are becoming ever more plentiful than the difficult days. I held a standard for myself that these more challenging days “should not” exist after all the work I have done and all the effort I have made. I still fall back into judging myself for my thoughts and feelings at times. But today, a great day, I see it for what it is. I got through these weeks as my body and mind adjust further and I will get through it again the next time any of this arises with even more chutzpah!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Here is a powerful voice...

I have things to say, as always, about myself and my life but I saw this today and it gave me chills.  In these two plus minutes, the life of bulimia is described painfully accurately.  The shame, the blame, the fear...and the wonderful end - of life - for another.  Live on, Caroline!

Caroline performs "Fat"

Thursday, September 27, 2012

15 months...tomorrow, but it's not about that!

What a week! I feel like I've had a holiday from a life that doesn't, at this time, need one. Such a compliment to the company I kept.

I spent the better part of the past two days with some fabulous friends. I'm exhausted today but still smiling. Have I learned from these 36 hours? Absolutely. Additionally, my gratitude towards life, the universe, and the people in my life, has again taken over – and that is my favourite feeling.

I'm not sure where to start when discussing the beauty of this week. Perhaps it would be simplest to begin with what happened last: saying goodbye. This had to have been the happiest goodbye I've ever had and of course, not because they were leaving and we were going our separate ways again. It was because I'm not certain we even said the words “good bye”. We said, “Til next time” a few times, we cheers-ed ( foreign tongue!) each other and our visit, and I drove away with and from big toothy grins. I felt confirmed in what I know: that good-bye is only ever “see you later”.

As I drove home, psychedelic music blasting and possibly interrupting the sleep of fishing village locals along the way, I asked myself how I could describe this experience. How could I explain how different this was? Why was I smiling after seeing my friends off when I have no firm idea of when I will see them next?

Simply, it is because I know I will see them again. I know that they understand that the world is small and that they value relationships/friendships/people as highly as I do and exhibit that in their words and actions. In that respect, I am quite excited about where the next meet-up will take place!

However, it's deeper than that. The above is a lovely knowledge to have but for me, the whole experience is another indicator of how far I have come and how solid my progress is.

I used to hate goodbyes when I was very sick for various reasons. The most glaring is that I felt interminably lonely and scared to be by myself. At other times, I felt like I was being “left behind” as people carried on with their lives and I held myself hostage and stagnant. Above those feelings, there was an underlying and rarely expressed dread ad grief that any goodbye to a friend could quite possibly be the last. Death – sadly, a largely acceptable outcome in my mind for many years - was a possible interruption of plans to meet again.

My last goodbye to these two was said from a hospital bed and to be quite honest, the memory is vague at best and was gently jogged over this week but remains very distant. I know it as fact, but not much more. What I had completely forgotten (and still do not remember) was that I had another opportunity to see one of these friends another time and declined because once again I was in hospital and “not up for it”. Knowing this now actually breaks my heart, again, for the little girl that was me and for others in similar states. I can imagine a few reasons I avoided this second reunion: embarrassment (hospitalizations are not the most glamourous or proud experiences), anxiety (what would I possibly talk about?), exhaustion, more self-denial (of the experience of a person who cared), doubt (that he cared at all), fear (that I would care and therefore put up resistance against my slow march towards a final end but not be supported to keep living)...

Sad, yes, but again, the opportunity for gratitude arises. I survived and had the experience of these past two days full of life like I haven't been in a very long time. Additionally, I was present complete with my real self.

I'd say I sure sassed the grim reaper this week! It thought I'd die full of miserable regrets (like not seeing my friend a second time)...not so! From different corners of the world, we found a midpoint, a time that worked for all of us only because of how things fell into place in our individual lives over the past three years.

We discussed this slightly during our visit, but I do not believe strongly (or at all) in coincidence.

If anything can be taken away from this by the most hopeless person I would suggest the following concept: if there is no other reason to be seen or created in any given moment, possibility is worth getting through one more day and one more day after that. What one chooses with this day might have immediate effect – be it reward or negative consequence – but it will also be part of even the faintest outline of the future as one cannot know or sometimes even imagine.

Oddly, I think I will keep this shorter than usual and stop on the note of possibility. There is always more to say and maybe “15 months”, due to being coupled with an amazing week, will be a post deserved of more than one entry.

With all kinds of gratitude,

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Just write.

I have no idea what direction this might take but I have the desire to write. I have about three potential posts half written but can't seem to complete them. So with no clear purpose at this moment, I may as well embark on a discussion my world.

I've been back in Portugal for nearly two weeks. I've been enjoying some wonderful company; making plans for the future as best I can from such a distance; continuing to consider what my next while after leaving Portugal with more permanency looks like; and appreciating the amount of time I have now for introspection.

I had a number of days in a row where I noticed my anxiety climbing. I fought it in all the ways I know how and found myself exhausted at the end of each day. It has passed but I am still recuperating emotionally from it. It is not that surprising that I would have some anxiety at this time. Although I could not specify what was directly causing me anxiety, there are many things that I am considering at this time that would provoke anxiety in a lot of people. For example: Where will I live in the next month? Where will I work? What do I want to do? What can I do to get to a place where I am doing more of what I want and need to do to feel fulfilled? Etc. However, it did not seem to obviously be any of these things at the times I found myself hyperventilating. I was reminded of the nature of anxiety...sometimes it seems to come from no where, when one is least expecting, or cause a reaction to something one would usually not react to. Sometimes the cause is not necessarily one can rationalize away and essentially figure out and move away from.

Unfortunately, I found myself losing any sort of “filter” I have (which is very porous to begin with, I am a direct person when I am communicating but being direct is easy to couple with kindness and that's what I found I lost because of my own emotional state). Kindness, yes, comes naturally to me in many ways but it still requires energy. This is something I am happy to put my energy into because it feels good to me, it feels real to me, and it can only benefit everyone. However, when I am drained of emotional energy, it can be a challenge to muster up enough to extend to others as well as myself.

When I look back at some of my interactions over the past week I would say that I was mean at times and rude at others; impatient at best with myself and with others.

Lesson 1 that will not be further discussed at this time:  Identifying when I am not able to be the person I want to be for various reasons - this time emotional energy - it is best to step back.

Prior to realizing this, I had these more unkind interactions.  How quickly the negative part of my mind took this, jumped in and blinded me to the lifetime of kindness I have tried to live! I had a number of hours (and that is quite long enough!) questioning if I was a “good person” at all or if I had been “brain washed” into believing something that wasn't true about myself. The worst of what ifs came up: What if I am becoming what I feared most by attempting to recover? That I am actually an inherently bad person that needs to be half-starved and medicated out of her mind to protect the world from her?

I smile a bit as I write that now because it is just familiar. It's a way I've thought for a very long time and although I am well on my way to breaking habitual negative thought patterns, they still comes up at times. That said, being familiar does not make it comfortable because at times, those more tricky and insidious negative thoughts seem so powerful and very, very real.

At this point, I can reach out and ask for external confirmation of my goodness as a person. The biggest difference from say, a year ago til now, is that I am receptive to this feedback because I have the knowledge and proof that I am a good and worthwhile person. Sometimes, I just need reminding.

I suppose this is where I might stumble on an answer when people ask me if I have recovered from my eating disorder. Behaviourally – yes. Over the past week I had very strong negative thoughts and feelings but none of them were taken out on my body or made me question how I should treat my physical self. Through the first few fighting days with this incredible anxiety, I even opted to soothe myself rather than push myself. I distracted in wonderfully “healthy” ways. Body image did not come up. My hunger cues became a little skewed as they do for many people under stress but that did not change how I acted. In fact, I can confidently say that nothing typically eating disordered came up at all!! To me though, the question of being “recovered” includes the mindset and thought patterns that brought on and perpetuated the behaviours. The fact that I got through this time with none of the “simple” reactions that I may have had before (specifically food and body related questions and concerns) is evidence that I am working towards the kind of recovery I always wanted but am not quite there yet.

This kind of experience cements in my mind the idea that I will not live a life at risk of relapse. Yes, I need to be careful and gentle with myself for some time and most importantly, continue to reach out and let others support me; but I am capable of living just like every other human who encounters all sorts of challenges – not as a person with this past that looms over me with an endless possibility of re-occurrence.

That said, I cannot deny that my thinking eventually, when I was emotionally exhausted, still went to that negative place that lead to the manifestation of the ED in the first place. Whatever little beast is left in my head still fights for her say – tries to bring me back to a place of minimal worthiness and value. Once again, it didn't win and these are just the battles I need to fight and win over and over again until that thing is beaten down for good.

In the meantime, I have much more to practice especially when it comes to reaching out and valuing my needs as much as others'. When I am belittling myself, I also minimize my struggles and that, more often than not, leads to the creation of a much bigger event of getting through the harder times than is necessary. As with most new habits, it's all about practice.

I have to commend my friends and family, again, for their patience with me. I do not expect the unconditional love that I continue to receive. As I've said before, I understand this is a process that will continue for sometime and I'm getting “there” as quickly as I possibly can. If I gave myself half the degree of patience that is shown to me, my internal existence would be much more pleasant! Working on that too...

From my experience, I see the absolute importance of a strong support network for people coming through and out of an ED battle (among other struggles of course). I have been fortunate again in that I have this network and I am so excited to be present in all ways in life with the brilliant people that are going above and beyond cheer leading. I see your extended “hands” and although I still hesitate and question, I'm trying to reach out. Finally, we can walk next to each other rather than everyone trying to go ahead and holding onto me for me. Thank you bringing me along when I couldn't do it myself; for now letting the past fall away; and for the continued desire to be with me in my present (and future) in however I am meant to be and am becoming.

With so much love and the peace that is becoming far more familiar than turmoil,