Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Triggers and Recovery

Those have to be two of the most overused words in the land of eating disorder lingo.  I can't stand either of them personally but they do fill a certain niche in expression when it comes to eating disorders.

My understanding of the words was in regard largely to behaviours.  If someone talks about how much they weigh or how many calories they ate or showed off their emaciated body it might cause a fellow sufferer to react and act out in further self-negating behaviours.  Thus begins the competition factor in eating disoders.  I race to see who can die the fastest it seems and a way to rate who is better are being unworthy.  I still don't understand triggers in that way.  I have always said that "I'm my worst trigger" because I have never been particularly influenced by other people's behaviours.  The sick aspect of my disorder was always very personal.  I get physically ill at higher weights than others; my labs were often less volatile; my behvaiours were 100% my own hell and I'm not convinced that they could have gotten any worse but it wasn't because someone else was doing it. 

Now, it's different.  I'm not at the end of this journey and I still have alarming thoughts at times (most recently an experience of a drive to starve myself into oblivion that seemingly came out of nowhere) and I have to examine what is behind the thoughts.  What am I really reacting to?  I am not affected here by other patients and the contact I do have with other eating disordered patients is limited and supportive so where did this particular thought come from?

I think there are various answers but what struck me most was writing to a friend how I wanted to 'control absolutely everything that goes into me and choose that to be nothing'.  I had had quite an emotionally trying week with rather devastating experiences relating to friends and I had said to one of my counsellors 'This sure hurts a lot more now than it did when I was sick and numb.  I wouldn't change it for the world but it's really hard.  It's really like being awake now.'  As I walked through the situations with my friends I couldn't stop how deeply I felt their pain.  It was like having someone open fire on me and me there without a shield of any sort.  I guess that's where I am in this process...getting there but still extremely vulnerable.  Thus caused my reaction of 'I want to starve.  I want nothing to affect me.'  That's not true, I just want to know what to DO with it.  How do I feel and not collapse under the feelings?  How can I not react?  This is unnecessary human suffering and I am human and this is just not right!  Well, true.  I am human and this suffering really hurts them and so it hurts me.  I cannot stop it, I cannot change it much, I cannot save anyone except myself, and I won't get anyone anywhere if I resort to self-negating behaviours in an effort to stop feeling.  So, I work through those truths and start to carry on.

BUT....I still had the thought that maybe I actually want to starve.  Maybe it has nothing to do with feelings and I just want my eating disorder?  So I approach my therapy with a bit of an attitude of 'This is just the way it is for me, I really am hopeless' and I sat and argued FOR the ED for about half an hour.  The purpose this ended up filling for me was confirming what I already knew inside of me.  That I don't want that, that that makes no sense, that it serves no one, and that I need more.  I let the counsellor fight for my life for that half hour.  I gave it to her.  I let my mouth express the negative thoughts I was having and those of hopelessness and desperation and anger and she fed back to me what I knew in my head.  This created a bigger wall against the ED because I knew it and she confirmed it from the outside.  The next day, the thoughts had passed.  It has never resolved that quickly.  Usually there are residual thoughts for days and days and I just have to wait for them to pass.  I can only hope that this progress sticks and that future struggles will just become less and less.

This leads to my understanding of recovery.  I don't like that word either...I like the word wellness.  'Healthy' contained too many conotations for my in the not so distant past.  The concept of recovery as it is familiarily known still fits with what I hope to achieve through treatment.  To me though, wellness embodies a lot more than typically expected of 'recovery'.  What I want is a complete lack of symptoms.  I don't want to struggle with any behaviours and I would prefer to live life without the thoughts.  I know it is possible because of how far I've come already - from obsessing 24/7 about food, weight, behvaiours, body image, etc. to having a day here and there where the thoughts or urges pop up.  I still have a way to go in this emotional process so I know that those classic ED thoughts and symptoms will also come along.  It might mean stuggling for many years with occasional thoughts and urges but being able to see them for that they are 'red flags' of something more important going on.  It would be easier to just give into the thoughts and urges and engage in what has seemed to be effective in taking me to a safer place, a more numb and protected place...but in the long run, I know that it will snowball and that at the end of the day I have two options:  treatment again or death.  Neither of those are desireable in the least, so I choose life.  I choose to fight and work through the thoughts and confirm the truth that validates me as a worthy human being.  And in the future, not as distant as it seems, I will be fully 'recovered'.  Healed.  Whole.

Another random tidbit that I experienced today in speaking with my conusellor abotu body image.  I talked about being worried that I will scare the new client because she will worry that she will get as heavy as me and I wanted my counsellor to tell her that it is my fault that I'm this heavy.  I chose to weight restore to this point because I was tired of fighting what was natural for my body but no one here forced it on me.  I didn't have weight goals each week or even a target weight.  I had a promise to maintain a low weight and I did that until being small was not worth the restrictions in my life.  Anyway, my counsellor said to me, "Well, I see you as long and lean and athletic.  You don't have curves, you can wear any sort of clothing you like.  You're slim and lovely and I hope you see it....that's a compliment you know."  I actually got a bit upset and spurted out with, "I know it's a compliment and I do know all that about myself but I don't ever want to take comfort in someone telling me I'm small ever again!"  It was a really neat experience!  I don't want to be held down anymore.  I want to be me through and through.  I want to embody how big and strong my soul is and I'm getting there (that doesn't mean I'm gaining anymore weight!  I just want to represent that I know that I have a voice, I have worth, I am allowed to take up space, I have a presence...that cannot be done as a skeleton).

All in all, another few days of cascading change and it really is wonderful.  I had reached a bit of a standstill so I gave myself a bit of a push here and there in my behaviours and thoughts and have really benefitted from it.

Portugese lessons tomorrow.  I'm relaly not practicing as much as I should be.  But it's fun to learn.


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