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.