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serotonin

If I had known what a difference antidepressants would make in my life, I would have started taking them years ago.

I spent years putting it off, telling myself medication wasn’t necessary.  I’d have day-, week-, sometimes even month-long periods of feeling awful and hopeless, and then a patch of “good days” would come along and convince me that I was making mountains out of molehills.  I couldn’t possibly be truly depressed; I just let myself think negatively too often.

During the bad days, the internal debate of whether or not I should give antidepressants a try seemed like an obvious choice.  I’d keep telling myself “at the next appointment” I’d ask my doctor about it, just to find myself in a better mood when that appointment came, and change my mind once again.  At one point I actually did ask for my doctor’s opinion on  me trying medication, and she was very much in favor of it.  I told her I’d think it over, and of course by the next time I saw her, I’d chickened out.

Looking back, the things holding me back seem incredibly petty.  I was afraid antidepressants would make me gain weight.  I worried that I’d become a kind of pseudo-happy, and be reliant on drugs for the rest of my life.  Even the issue of how much medication might cost went on my list of objections.

The factor that I’m most sheepish about letting stop me, however, is the worry that I’d be judged for needing medication to deal with my seemingly wonderful life.  I’m a privileged white girl, with a lovely family and good friends, a good job, a good life overall.  What right did I have to be depressed?  Even the people around me who “understood” depression told me all I needed was some fresh air and exercise; think positive and you’ll feel better.  All that did was make me feel worse when I tried my best to do those things, and still felt terrible on a daily basis.

All the sunshine and inspiring Eckhart Tolle books in the world won’t pull a person out of depression if the brain chemicals aren’t behaving.

I’m constantly amazed at how much easier life is with the help of my antidepressants.  The facts that daily life doesn’t have to feel struggle-y and grey, and that it’s not normal to be sad and anxious for the majority of your life seemed like brand new information when I started to feel better.  I didn’t even realize how low I had been until I began to feel…normal.

It’s the absence of the bad things that I notice the most.  I don’t have days on end of crying before work, and faking smiles to get me through the day.  I don’t feel like crying and completely on edge when mom starts cooking something oily and stressful for dinner.  I don’t see my future as bleak and hopeless.

Instead, I’m beginning to feel like a real person.  Joking and laughing and being fully present with a person, rather than being stuck in my head worrying about how much they hate me, feels good.  Being able to look forward to things, even the small things, feels good.  Simply being able to enjoy my life, relax a bit, and not have a constant torrent of negative thoughts flooding my brain, feels amazing.

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nothing’s stopping you but yourself

I think I’m at the point where I’m just really disappointed in myself because I’m not better yet.

By saying that I don’t mean to discredit how far I’ve come – I know I have made progress in recovery.  I’m better than I was.  My list of fear foods, if I were to sit down and write one, is a fraction of what it once was.  My anxiety about foods has lessened, I’ve relaxed about food rules, and I’ve had glimpses of how truly wonderful life must be without an eating disorder.  But by no means can I say I’m recovered, and that fact makes me so, so angry at myself.

I really want to do better.  I don’t want to be stuck in this disordered life forever; there’s so much I’m missing out on, still.

I know, I’ve preached on and on about the “compare and despair” thing, and how everyone’s recovery is a unique, individual journey.  But right now, I think it’s the kick in the butt I need.

Two of my friends from Hope therapy have been top of my mind lately.  One, for a terrible reason, and the other for a wonderful one.

I’ll start with the terrible.

I met Jess at Hope, and we just clicked.  I felt we did at least, but I think that’s the way she made everyone feel – her loving, smiling, wonderful personality drew people to her, and made you feel special just to be in her presence.  We helped each other through the shittiest struggles of recovery, and saw each other on some of our best and worst days.  No matter how bad her day was going, Jess always had a smile, hug, or a joke to make someone else feel better.  I watched her transform from a sad, sick, ghost of a girl to the glowing, happy, healthy girl I loved.  The past few months I really think she was doing well – living her life fully and happily.

In the midst of her living her life and doing what she loved, Jess died in what I can only call a freak accident while rock climbing.  It’s still fresh, and not completely real to my brain, so I won’t write a lot about it, but I’m overwhelmed by how unfair life can be.  Jess struggled so hard, and overcame so much, just for this to take away the life she fought for.  My heart is absolutely broken.

At the same time, another one of my recovery friends is making my heart glow with pride.  When I first went to Hope, Brittany had been going for quite a while already, and although I immediately liked her, in the back of my mind she was always somewhat of a lost cause.  It was obvious how very much she was struggling, and I was afraid she was one of the unlucky ones who are stuck, just “surviving” within the disorder for the rest of their lives.

Well, a year and a half later, she’s proving me wrong, and I’ve never been happier about being wrong.  She’s gone away to an inpatient program, and as I watch her progress through Facebook, and get lil updates via text message, I can’t help but grin.  I think she’s really beating this.  She’s becoming healthier, brighter, realer in every picture, and you can see in her smile that recovery agrees with her – mind, body, and soul.  She’s been a bit of an inspiration for me.

If my two friends, both of whom I had labeled “sicker than me”, can recover and leave Ed in the past, what’s stopping me?  I know the answer, and It’s time I acted on it.  Nothing’s stopping me but myself.

It’s time to step my game up.
Recovery is possible, even for me.

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my choice, not ed’s

I’ve been thinking a lot lately, and I can’t help wondering what my life would be like if I’d never developed an eating disorder.  Considering this all started before I was even in junior high school, I never had much of a chance to get to know myself and figure out who I was before Ed took over.  All my choices and changes and life events since age twelve (at least) have been influenced by that eating disordered voice in my head.  Without Ed telling me what to do, who knows what I would have done in my life up until now; I could have turned out a completely different human had I never listened.

Not to say, necessarily, that I regret all my life choices.  Who knows, maybe without a fear of frivolous calories I would have started drinking excessively and become an alcoholic.  Bad things happen in everyone’s lives – my big bad thing just happened to be an eating disorder.  I just find it interesting (and kind of scary) to wonder what could have been.

So what’s brought this bunch of wonderings into my mind?  While trying to figure out school and career and future plans recently, I think I saved myself from letting Ed make a huge life choice for me.

My plan (up until now, I guess) was to go back to university this fall and study Nutrition.  I know, with such a history of eating disorders, definitely a great idea, right?  Maaaybe not.  But I justified it by saying that nutrition has been something I wanted to do since high school, and that I wanted to help others recover from eating disorders someday.  Both true, but even in high school when I first considered studying dietetics, Ed was influencing me.  I’m starting to think it wasn’t a genuine Emily interest as much as it was an Ed interest.

Talking about body systems and calories and micro/macronutrients all day?  Yeah, sounds like something Ed would love.  My eating disorder has always loved to overanalyze food, so of course a career doing so sounded perfect.  Me, though?  I really don’t think that is, or ever will be, a positive thing to have in my daily life.  Not to mention that hospitals and doctors appointments stress me out.

I feel bad, “giving up on my dream”.  Everyone I talked to about my plans for the fall was encouraging and so pleased to hear I was headed back to study nutrition.  They were excited for me, glad I was going back to school and doing something I really wanted and cared about.  A part of me is worried that everyone will be disappointed in me, or think I’m a lazy quitter who doesn’t want to put in the effort at school.

There’s another part of me, though, that’s relieved.  And a little proud of myself.  I’m glad I realized this now, before I’ve committed to anything, before I’m years into my studies, and before I get myself stuck in a potentially triggering career for life.  This might be the beginning of making my own life choices, and taking those decisions away from Ed.

I still don’t know what I want to do with my life.  But I’m only twenty-three, I have time to figure it out.  Maybe I’ll stay at my current job for a while, maybe this will lead to bigger things in the same field, maybe I’ll have a brainwave and start on a completely different path.  Whatever I decide, I’d like to think it will be me making that choice, because Ed’s had control for far too long.

Gaining just another little bit of freedom from the eating disorder, I think. 🙂

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it gotta get bad before it gets good (right?)

Whoooops, it’s been a while.  A combination of doing well, being stressed, and lacking inspiration is to blame for my neglecting this blog; I should really get back into the writing mode.

How can I say I’m doing well, but also stressed?  I feel like eating-disorder-wise, I’ve been pretty good lately.  There’s still anxiety about certain foods/situations, but I’m pushing myself daily, and a whole lot of foods have lost the “fear food” title.  In terms of life though, it’s been rough.

I’ve read a lot about how when people start to recover, they feel overwhelmed with the emotions that flood in after being numb for so long.  I can only assume that’s what I’m going through, because there’s no legitimate reason I should be so sad and stressed all the time.  Maybe without the focus on food taking up 96% of my brain, all the other things going on finally feel real to me.

Whether there’s that “logic” behind it or not, this depression/anxiety thing is incredibly frustrating.  Most days, just getting to the end of the day without tears, and presenting myself as a reasonably happy person, is exhausting.  Trying to ignore all the bad feelings is hard.  The voices in my head that tell me I’m awful, I’m not good enough, I don’t deserve to be happy are just so persistent.

And then, out of the blue, I’ll have a happy, carefree day, and criticize myself for ever getting into such a bad funk.  *Sigh.*

I’m hoping this is a temporary thing.  I’m hoping it’ll all get easier soon – eating, thinking, life.  I’m just so tired of always feeling a bit mentally unstable.  Am I ever going to be just normal and happy and healthy?  What’s it like to not have constant negativity and overanalyzing and anxiety going on in your head?

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face your fears

16877957240_c37e2c0888_o I feel like I’ve been latching on to positive, encouraging, “don’t give up” quotes lately, and today’s Quote of the Day felt like a very important reminder.  “Find what you’re afraid of most and go live there.”  You know what I’m afraid of, despite wanting it so badly?  Recovery. Recovery is scary.  Recovery is uncomfortable.  Recovery is challenging every rule and belief and unhealthy habit that I’ve clung to for the past ten(+) years. But it is also necessary.  And at times, wonderful.  When I can celebrate my dad’s birthday with him with cake, when I have a relaxed night out with my “famjam ladies”, when I go to my doctor and she tells me she’s proud of me – that’s when recovery feels amazing. Maybe I make too big of a deal out of those tiny recovery wins.  Or maybe I need to keep making those “tiny” things stand out in my mind, just to remind myself it is all worth it.  Without those bright spots, this recovery struggle would be pretty bleak. Things are getting less scary though, as time goes on and I keep making the choices that make me Ed uncomfortable.  Comparing now to a year ago, or even a few months ago, I’m proud of how far I’ve come.  And it’s only because of the hard, scary, uncomfortable stuff that I’ve made this progress.  A fully-recovered life is out there, but there’s a whole lot more of that scary struggle between here and there. So?  Find what you’re most afraid of and go live there.  Keep making the scary food choices, keep going outside your comfort zone.  It’s only by doing those things that this eating disorder is ever going to go away. I got this. Ed’s the one who should be really scared, not me.

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that different, weird, wonderful feel~

It’s a different, weird, but wonderful feeling to leave a doctor’s appointment and feel really, really good about yourself.

Usually I leave the doctor/dietitian/therapist’s office feeling kind of dodgy, kind of guilty, kind of like I know I could have done better.  Even after a good appointment, I usually have a vague sense that I’m frustrating my doctors.  But today, my doctor was all smiles, and told me she was proud of me, and that was an altogether much lovelier experience.

After a month (or two months, really, including my time away in Asia) away from therapy, some stressful events at home, and a week traipsing all over New York City, I was incredibly nervous for my checkup this morning.  I thought I was doing well, but still, these appointments make me anxious.  Not knowing whether my weight had gone up, down, or stayed the same makes me even more anxious, because I know that’s one of my doctor’s main concerns right now.

So it was a huge relief when my doctor checked my weight, looked at my chart, and with a big grin and a thumbs-up, said “Good. Good!!”.  (It was also a prompt for more anxiety, because good = weight gain = panic, but I’m trying to ignore that side of my brain right now.)  We talked a bit more about how things have been going, and overall she seems very pleased with me.

This is new, and I like it.  There’s a tiny bit of me that is terrified right now, because gaining weight and beating out Ed just feels like I’m doing something wrong.  But I know this is good, and I know it’s getting me closer to true recovery.  Bit by bit, I’m getting there!

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compare and despair

I have so many important words and phrases highlighted in my copy of Life Without Ed, the book might as well have bright pink pages.  One of those lil nuggets of wisdom is one I need a reminder of all too often – “compare and despair”.

I know recovery is a personal thing, I know everyone’s recovery looks different, and I know it does absolutely no good to compare your progress to that of others.  But still, some days I find it hard to remember how far I’ve come, when others seem like they’ve gone so much further.

It’s strange, because even while I’m frustrated with myself and jealous of their progress, I am so incredibly happy when I see my recovery friends doing well.  Seeing the difference between the sad, sick, empty girls I met last spring and the vibrant, happy, healthy girls I now call my friends is amazing.  I can feel the difference when we’re together – the room is filled with hope and laughter and love (all rarities just a few months ago).  It fills me with joy to see all the positive changes in my friends, and to see them leaving their eating disorders behind and moving on to better days.

The problem comes when I start the comparisons.  Right now, a bunch of the girls who went through orientation with me and started group therapy at the same time I did are getting close to “graduating” from the Hope program.  They’re all doing the “Stepping Stones” therapy group, which is basically the finishing up, review-what-you’ve-learned, end of your therapy and treatment.  Never mind that I’m not doing any groups right now (so it’s not even a valid comparison), the fact that they’re doing the group and I’m not makes me feel awful.

This just starts a whole slew of worries and self-criticisms.  Am I that far behind?  What’s wrong with me?  How come it’s so easy for them, while I’m still struggling?  Have I even made any progress at this??

Another girl came in to group last week, noticeably happier than she’s been in weeks, saying she was feeling so good about recovery.  She was having a good few weeks, and feeling happy, so she had started eating again!  I’m sorry – what?!  I’ve had happy times, and sad times, and all the while I’ve eaten, and still had an eating disorder.  You cannot tell me that it’s as simple a matter as being happier and deciding to eat.  And yet, looking at some people’s recovery, it seems like it is just that easy.

I know, I have no idea what’s going on inside their heads, and I have no idea what issues are truly present in their lives and recovery.  It’s just so frustrating when I keep seeing other girls making recovery look so easy.  For me, it’s been anything but.

See?  Even just trying to explain those comparisons comes out sad and negative.  Jenni Shaefer knows what she’s talking about when she says compare and despair.  I need her in my head constantly, reminding me to focus on my own recovery.  When it’s not being compared to everyone around me, my progress is pretty impressive, too.  This is my story, and my recovery, and I’m doing the best I can.  Just gotta be good with that!  (Although it doesn’t hurt to celebrate and be happy for my friends’ progress too – we’re all pretty great)

🙂

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