Sunday, July 29, 2012

13 months...The Evolution of Me!

Anniversaries always spark a little drive in me to write so here we are at just over 13 months in treatment.

Mind = blown. Still.

One week until I venture on my next trip home. I cannot express how excited I am to see my family and friends (and dog!) as well as experience a variety of weather systems and speak a whole lot of very rapid English!! :) Those last two sound a bit superficial but I really am looking forward to those things!

I wavered about how I might approach this post and I'm going to take a bit of a risk, have a little more fun, and include photos because it just helps illustrate the process I have had to endure over the last year and a bit.  (As if you haven't heard enough about it, right??)

Some background:
The philosophy of the program here is that when one enters the program, there is an emotional mind in a childlike state that essentially needs “reparenting”. That is in absolutely no way a criticism of parents of people afflicted with eating disorders. The stunted emotional growth occurs at the fault of no one but it exists. The differentiation between emotional and rational minds helps explain how I, for example, was able to hold down a job, live independently, go back to school, etc. as a young adult before the eating disorder took over again and all but physical life was lost. My rational mind, as that of many of ED suffers grew exponentially over my life – often being referred to as beyond one's years – and “normal” life activities were maintained for some time (tragically, many people do not even experience a breaking point where people are finally alerted to that person's unbelievable need. Often one's rational mind carries them forward and through life but not truly living at the same time). Eventually, that childlike emotional mind couldn't take it anymore and it is proven that the emotional mind can short circuit the rational mind thus rendering the sufferer incapacitated in what can seem like an overnight event.

That's all pretty much what happened with me!

I can admit quite freely at this point that I arrived here last June extremely immature in many ways. The growth process was less than pleasant: imagine being 27 and throwing a full-blown tantrum about something as simple as not having the right kind of berries for my breakfast! The only thing different in me than a two year old at that point was that I was more versed in curse words!! Unpleasant is to put it lightly - it never felt good but it was an essential part of this journey.  In short, I needed to be able to express myself whenever, wherever, however, about whatever, and still be cared about.

This photo really say it all. Can you believe that this really was me, at 27 chronological years of age, previously working as a nurse and schooling full-time (combined)? I arrived in Portugal, white as ghost, hair braided in pig tails, and a few weeks later this photo of me delighting in the discovery of a “slide” in a park was taken. There were brief times of relief at that point as I remember really enjoying this goofy moment but what you cannot see in photos is the incessant reel of thoughts and fears usually simply regarding what gentle meal came next.

Eventually that stage ended, I carried on through what might be likened to primary and elementary school age of emotional childhood. It was during this stage when I came off all my meds completely and suddenly “saw” the world. Everything was such a fuller experience and I finally delighted in many simple things.

This was short lived relief! Between here and the next personal photo, I have few pleasant memories. Every moment seemed painful and unbearable. I learned how to cry and indulged in that ability frequently. I begged my family and doctor to let me come home as these “growing pains” were too much and I “just couldn't do it!”. Somehow I did! No, somehow, we did. I could never have done this part alone. There was nothing practical to it! It was only through the guidance of those around me and supporting from a distance that I got through it. Unfortunately, this is a point where many people are told they are not tolerating treatment and sent home. The place where we need to be held tightest through as arduous as it is for everyone involved. When we need the most love and support because it really feels like the world is ending, far worse than the acute stages of being ill!

The "motivation" never left but the idea that something beyond my previous hell could come of the hell I was walking through was extremely foreign!  (not my photo below)

Eventually, I entered an emotional adolescence. That was a lot more fun for everyone! I let out my inner brat (who persists, watch out!); I felt that I could take on the world (example: my extremely premature trip home to Canada in February! That might be likened to a 14 year old moving out into their own apartment because they definitely know better than their parents!).  Prior to that trip, I gained a bit more freedom within the program and "tested the waters" of being okay with my own company.

Next, I came into a place that might be late teens/early 20s where I was considering what I might want to be; who I might want to be (not the core that is me, that has always been there, but perhaps falling more into a style of me); etc. This was unsettling at times also but in an exciting way more often than not!

And now, here I am, ready to step into real life and the question is not so much “how?” anymore as it is “why?” at this point. Not why I went through what I did but the deeper whys of life...the kind that I hope to ask myself regularly for a very long time!

I have never felt more like myself in my life.  I had no idea!  Consistent in thought, feeling, behaviour, and belief. I can't even say how it happened but it has. It was painful (like having hot knives stabbed in my brain sometimes while being kicked in the stomach while having an allergic reaction or asthma attack while big hairy poisonous spiders are crawling all over me!); it was the most difficult thing I hope to ever have to go through in my life and what's next is largely TBA but without a doubt:

It was worth it.
  PS:  I still love a good slide, swing, or teeter-totter and delight in baby chicks!!!  :)

For a more objective discussion/explaination of the process that I went through, please refer to The Secret Language of Eating Disorders by Peggy Claude-Pierre

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