Friday, June 29, 2012

One year!

Here I am, one year later. It seems, now, to have gone by in the blink of an eye. Days and weeks and months that felt like they would never end, that nothing would ever change, that I was enduring hell for absolutely no reason have brought me to this point. And it's incredible. I find myself going about my days sometimes in some form of routine and without much appreciation for what I am able to do now. After even just one full day of “existing” I find myself bored and the one constant that brings me back to really living each moment is feelings/thoughts of gratefulness. Boredom cannot exist when one fosters an absolute wonder at life because each moment is new and different in some form and has so much beauty to offer.

A lot and hardly anything is changing at the same time. On the outside, things seem pretty consistent. I'm drifting easily into my own style and presentation. I have regular activities that I do and people that I engage with and through this - simplly life - the personal growth continues and I can look forward to it continuing for a long time to come.

Many things have become so simple if I allow them their simplicity and stop over-analyzing and picking through absolutely every thought and feeling. Thoughts happen. Feelings happen. And neither are often earth-shattering or ground crumbling. For example, I've had about three consistent days of loneliness. A familiar feeling that was perpetual not so many months ago. The first day I really felt it, my chest ached; I just missed my friends and family back home so much. I didn't really know what to do with it. I reached out and mentioned it to my counsellor and she reassured me that it was “normal” but I had about an hour where I thought, “Now, what am I going to do about this? There has to be a way to fix it because this is highly unpleasant.” It makes me smile now because it was still a bit of a process to get me to a place where I thought, “Actually, I can just feel this and carry on with things and it will eventually go away.” You see, it isn't the kind of loneliness I used to experience – a kind where you miss something or someone or somewhere constantly and there is nothing that alleviates that. This is a completely “normal” loneliness where I have good friends that live far away and who I haven't seen in some time and I miss them. Plus, I live on my own and I do almost everyone on my own and that can feel a little lonely at times to not be sharing life with others as much as I'd like to. Simple things like seeing a bird formation or a magnificent sunset are always lovely for me but can be even more so when experienced with someone else. Previously, I had no ME so of course I was lonely and searching for something/someone. Today I thought as I entered Day 3 of this feeling, “I'd rather be temporarily lonely and be where I need to be and doing what I need to do than rush away to be with people and risk returning to a life of self-hatred.” That was comforting to me, I have the rest of my life to be wherever and with whomever I want to be, this is so transitory and is essential to enabling me to carrying on in the connected fashion I so ultimately desire.

Another very different experience of feelings for me at this point is deciphering what is familiar anxiety and what is healthy intuition. I have grown in my trust of my intuition beyond description. I went through a terrible phase here where I didn't know which end was up, I had to ask about Every. Little. Thing. In the years prior to this that I spent so ill, I also needed someone else to know better most of the time. I was so numbed out to my gut and had lost all faith in myself as I had “proven” to myself that I was an all-around epic failure, that it has taken a lot of work to regain any trust in myself. I remember a post I made about the people on the outside that surrounded me and I wondered how to bring them to a place where they could trust I see it now, maybe their well-person intuition inferred that I wasn't yet solid in myself and maintained a level of protection for me. If that is the case, I appreciate their ability to care for me and keep me safe when, although I soldiered along with my shoulders back and head high and presented as strongly as I could, I was not there yet. However, this is not as finely tuned as I look forward to it being at some point in the future. I lived many years with extreme anxiety. I was fearful of absolutely everything: sleeping, waking, people, activities, answering the phone, opening the door, being alone, being with people, food, fluid, death, life, darkness, light, and on and on. There were valiant attempts by many practitioners to help me cope with this anxiety: drugs, therapy, “tools”; but I had no idea that this state could actually be alleviated. It has been!! It's not something I will cope with forever, it's something I understand now and have healed from. I can't even explain how it happened, it just did. Like with so many things, I might have a deja vu from time to time and remember what I used to do or think at different times that I just don't anymore and have absolutely no need to do.

Going back to the original statement, it is still sometimes a challenge to recognize what is a fear that is habitual and has just existed for a long time in my mind and what is actual intuition that works to keep me appropriately safe. As is my typical style, I sometimes push things and get a little burned while discovering what was a gut feeling I should have honoured rather than pushed the limits of but how else does one learn and grow? More often than not, it's quite fun anyway.

It's been on my mind to write about my idea of how I will be when I'm through with this program. I'm going to return to a world where the common belief is that people with eating disorders maintain a perpetual state of recovery similar to drug addicts and live at risk of relapse. I don't believe that anyone is condemning me to relapse, just that it will remain a risk for a very long time if not for life. In my case, that's not true. I have never viewed eating disorders in relation to addictions and felt a bit stigmatized by others when that correlation was proposed. I always knew that if I was going to get better it was going to be to a place where I could say with confidence that I was recoverED. That's not “in recovery”.  I didn't want to get better if I was going to be living my life always glancing over my metaphorical shoulder and watching to “signs of relapse”. I wanted to get well with no looking back, and that's the philosophy of the program that I have been so fortunate to be a part of. And it's happening.

I will be leaving here whole and without that looming risk of relapse that has been beaten into me over the years in the system. I have been brought to not only my senses but myself. I have developed such a respect for myself, my body, my mind, that I could never go back. I don't have typical "tools to cope". It's simple, I will be (am nearly!) well and a well person couldn't imagine being sick again and would never "need" to be sick.

Yes, one could probably define what I know will enable me to attain and maintain wellness in some clinical fashion but in simple lay man's terms I have: the ability to reach out when I need help; to be aware of what is really good for me; to respect my need to be first sometimes and know that does not make me selfish; to be objective in my interactions and realize that it's not always all about me even when it can appear on the surface as though it is. I am allowed – by myself - every human experience that I allow others – to be scared and angry and sad and lonely as well as happy, excited, proud, silly, etc. My double standards that held me hostage for so many years, those that made me constantly not good enough have been all but eliminated. If I'm not okay, I can say it and not fear being judged and seek out the support I need, I don't need to show it with my body or behaviours.

Even more simply, I like to feel good and I like to look good and those things cannot coexist in a body that is neither too big or too small for who is authentically me. By treating myself with respect and kindness, I am doing my part to become and be what is best for me.

Finally, body image again.

I'm sure people are wondering just how I feel in this body I've “gained” (for lack of a much better word that I'm sure is out there). It's a very interesting experience, this physical recovery. I've known all along basically where I needed to get to weight-wise to have my body function optimally and to respect what is natural for me. I didn't reconcile with this knowledge until very recently. The majority of days are okay as far as body image goes. This has been rapidly improving. I have peaks and valleys for sure but not often worse than any human might experience. There certainly are days where what I see is distorted still. My reflection can change dramatically overnight or even in a moment in a way that I know is not simply fluid retention and is certainly not real weight gain it is just a distortion. Sometimes it can be related to feelings or worries I'm having and other times it's completely out of the blue. Strangely, it comes most often on days where I'm feeling alright about me as a person and the only thing I can think of to explain this is that there's still something in my head that tries to bring me down or wants me to believe that I'm not worthy of feeling good or liking myself. It's not conscious, that's for sure. The thing about this now is that I can recognize when it's a distortion and no, even that awareness doesn't always help, often it's still really difficult to exist in a body that is “so big” compared to what I had become accustomed to and then throw in a day where all mirrors are acting like those carnival funny mirrors?!! It's a challenge but one that is so simple in the grand scheme of things and there is no distortion so great that it would cause me to hurt myself ever again.

I wrote this recently to someone explaining where I'm at with my thoughts about my weight and shape:
I actually have only weighed myself once since I've been back from Canada and it was purely out of curiosity. I have days where I'm driven to get on a scale but I know that it would just give me a reason to berate myself.  So on those days where I know I might react to the number, I know to avoid places that might enable me to mentally compromise myself.  Most days, I don't even think about the number at all.  I consider how I feel in my body, what my energy level is like, how I've been treating myself in regards to diet, exercise, and sleep, etc.  I have days where I'm extremely uncomfortable with being this size, for sure.  But I have days where I don't even think about it at all and even the occasional day/moment where I like it!  My fear of becoming clinically obese again is decreasing as time goes on and how I see it now is that I have too much respect for myself to let that happen in the same way that respect will keep me from starving myself, binging and purging, excessive exercise, laxatives, etc. to achieve a low weight.”

So yeah, it continues to be quite an adjustment for me as I maintain a weight that is most appropriate for Julia. However, my body is merely as big as I truly am inside and I, my friends, have a presence and a personality that has filled out just like the rest of me!

On that note, I will finally post this. Thank you to everyone for your on-going support, it really means the world to me.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Familiar Unfamiliar

I've been away from writing for a while. It doesn't always flow so easily when I sit down at the keyboard and this month has been busy in all the best ways and I really haven't had or made the time to write.

I'm coming up on one year in treatment. Today marks one year since my final discharge from hospital in Canada. It's odd that as I approached this time, I had a little ache in my chest. It wasn't quite sadness, not anger or regret. It wasn't necessarily a longing but all those feelings give me similar sensations. I thought, if I really analyzed it, maybe it's grief. Recovery and attaining wellness is amazing but it is also a big loss: the loss of something very familiar; a way of being; a me I thought was true.

Some days I say that I miss it. I have to work to remember the 99% of that life that I don't miss. The only thing I ever miss is the predictability of that existence. I always knew what came next. I understood what my ultimate goal was: death – and I just plodded along the path that would get me to that goal. In the meantime, as all those around me tried to wake me up, to save me, I knew what would happen. I would have time by myself in which I would sabotage my health and I would be admitted to hospital in a worse psychological if not physical state than the time before. I didn't do anything spontaneous because that might interrupt what was “supposed” to happen. Of course there were other reasons, larger and more practical reasons that I didn't do much outside of what became my norm however, predictability played a big role.

Anorexia/bulimia gave me an identity. It was my job, my extracurricular activities, maybe even my style or at least my presentation! It was my thoughts and speech. Now, I've happily walked away from that and I am discovering a person who somehow held on and has now been brought out. All the lies that I suffocated myself under have been stripped away and the real me is shining brightly over all things negative. But right there is the loss. Now I have me and nothing else that defines me. I don't seek to define myself through my work or friends or activities completely but those are things that I hope to incorporate into this Self. So when I miss the ED, I know what it is. I miss the familiarity, the predictability, and the identity.

Real life” is less than predictable and I enjoy all the “normal” things that happen – positive and negative – in my days. I laugh when it rains on the day I have my whites out to dry; I can't help but raise my eyebrows when my washing machine, oven, fan, and dishwasher and internet all choose to stop working on the same day; when I drive the wrong way on a one-way and get honked at, my reaction is almost always, “Hee hee!!! Oops!” and I carry on. I've come leagues from where I was in being alright with others being late for appointments or cancelling and with those same things with myself. I really don't care if things change very last minute as long as it's done respectfully. I don't need to know that menu at a restaurant or every ingredient that's in a meal and have it presented the same way every time or as expected. I created predictability in my life through what was diagnosed as OCD. And then the medical side of the ED was quite predictable. I always knew that x+y would result in z but it didn't mean I could stop.

The most unsettling unpredictable thing about my life right now is actually me. My moods, reactions/responses, feelings, interests, etc. Are ever changing and that's tough! I'm getting to know myself as a becoming well person and it is kind of like meeting a teenager.
So for now, I'm just letting myself feel whatever comes along. I'm not fighting it, I am talking about it a lot, and I'm just letting it be. I really can't change my feelings but I can change how I react to them and what thoughts they lead me to have and eventually, I think, that will change many of the feeling reactions I have. There are still two paths in my head: one of positivity and one of negativity and I need to make an active choice oftentimes to put blinders on to the familiar negative and beat down the path of positivity and what's actually real and make that the new familiar.

There's a song by School of Seven Bells called “Lafaye” that has an amazing line that I could never have imagined I would apply to my life, “the familiar unfamiliar will be the only thing you knew.” So true. I'm becoming familiar with the unfamiliarity of being a well person. So far, I still know a bit of the old ways of being too well but I'm winning over it and making a new familiar unfamiliar.

It's actually a lot less unsettling than it sounds!

Still, all these thoughts don't stop the strange ache for that life I lived but it is less with each day. It's still confusing when I feel like I think I want that again. I hear that when I'm actually, fully well, that will seem even more absurd than it does now and I really look forward to the time when I don't even have a moment of that ache. Like everything at this point, I don't imagine there will be some monumental event where I realize that things have changed and my world shifted. I expect it will be a gradual occurrence that will result in a completely well me looking back and smiling at this time of “bambi legs” in the beginning of wellness.

On that note, this tired girl is heading to bed. I just returned from a whirlwind trip to Lisbon. Now, the focus is all back on me and how to make the next steps forward towards the goal I came here with: eradicating the negative. It's just so possible and so imminent...

Friday, June 8, 2012

11.5 months

I've been meaning to sit down and write for some time but I've actually been busy!  I have nothing earth shattering to report.  The progress continues, sometimes at a snail's pace but never actually coming to a complete halt.

I'm having one of the richest experiences right now in fostering an amazing friendship.  I'm learning a lot about myself but above that I am just feeling so blessed to have this girl in my life.  I have noticed a shift in my "need" of the counsellors here from being incessant to much more occasional.  I enjoy being in touch with them but I dont' have to be as I did just a couple of weeks ago.  I'm confirming what I Knew?  No, I'm experiencing what I hoped in being able to find what I need in the "real" people in my life.  I love my counsellors and I know I will have them in my life forever but it's a great thing to know that there will be a day when I don't even have counsellors, I have friends and that/s what I need.

There is a saying that's something like, "Friends are the best therapists" and it's so true.  Not in that I require them to sort out my convoluted thoughts - that's still my counsellors' role - but that friends know how to reach the Me that's inside and bring her out and how could I want anything more?

So on that note, I apologize for the absence and I will write something in more detail soon.