Here and There

Maintaining recovery has been hard.

If only going through treatment were a simple solution to cure the complex illness that is an eating disorder; I would be cured many times over!

The treatment I have received undoubtedly changed my life. It undoubtedly saved my life. And, despite all of that treatment and the fighting I have done to escape the depths of eating disorder hell, I am not yet to the Promised Land. I find myself in what feels like a middle ground, or “partial recovery.” I am in recovery but there is surely distance between where I currently stand and the full recovery and quality of life I desire. It is hard for me to acknowledge that there are ways I still turn to my eating disorder, and denial will not propel me forward.

I have not fought so hard to settle for a middle ground partial recovery so-so quality life.

A predominant struggle I face right now is body image. Oh, lovely body image (insert crying streams of tears emoji here). Throughout treatment I gained significant distance from negative body image and ultimately self-hatred I experienced, and slowly that negative body image and self-hatred is striking back. I find myself focusing on wanting to change my body, as well as giving power to very unhelpful and outright mean thoughts I have about myself, which then perpetuates my desire to change my body.

In addition to the above-mentioned, I also find myself struggling to consistently meet my meal plan. I will miss things here and there, which my therapist does not hesitate to deem as restricting. It is both hard for me to hear and accept, but for me missing things “here and there” IS restricting. And missing things doesn’t end “here” or “there.” It is a sneaky little phrase where the context of here and there changes. It goes from meaning missing an exchange once in a while to missing multiple exchanges almost daily, which before I know it leads to a full-blown relapse.

Turning things around to get out of this partial recovery land will require a whole lot of intention and, as my therapist constantly reminds me, connection. Genuine, meaningful, heartwarming connection.

Reflecting on Life

Life is absolutely precious.

We are born into this world and the amount of time we spend alive on Earth is not promised. Some people live to an old age while others pass away at a young age. The latter is the circumstance surrounding a dear friend of mine who unexpectedly passed away at the end of March. This crushing loss pushed me to do some deep reflection on life and how precious it is.

When I reflect on how my life has been recently, I feel like days have passed me by. I realize I struggle to hit the pause button in my day-to-day life, and find myself getting dragged down by various factors including unhappiness. As a result of unhappiness that shows up, I can head on an unhealthy search for happiness despite knowing happiness is not a destination. While in a vulnerable place, especially living in today’s society, it can be an easy trap to fall into. I must bring myself back to what I know is truth, which is that making choices aligning with what I value brings true happiness.

It sounds like it is time to wipe the dust off my journal (coming from someone who used to journal nearly every day) and do some greater self-reflection. I am curious if doing a journaling activity where I step back and take a good look at how I operate in my life with as little judgment as possible could help me clearly identify ways to move forward living with more intention, and to overall do more of what brings meaning and joy to my life. I guess there is only one way to find out?

On another note, something exciting to share is that I am back in my life full-time for the first time since March 2014! I discharged from the Intensive Outpatient Program on April 4, making the full transition out of treatment to outpatient care. That feels absolutely amazing to be able to say. I am incredibly thankful for all of the love and support I received along the way! Without it, I do not know where I would be right now. ❤

Hello, Curveball

Sickness spread through my workplace and unfortunately got hold of me last week. Following my meal plan is a fight on its own… throw a sore throat, nausea, loss of appetite, congestion, a stuffy and runny nose, headaches, fatigue, and overall weariness into the mix, and goodness does the difficulty of that fight intensify. I was not prepared for that added challenge and my mind definitely veered to some unhelpful places.

“Is it okay not to follow my meal plan since I feel sick? That is a legitimate reason, right?”

“Oh! And if I were to lose weight because I didn’t follow my meal plan for a legitimate reason such as feeling sick, that is justified… right?”

No. No. NO!

Restricting and losing weight is rocky territory for me, and the fact that I began to seriously contemplate and justify restricting and losing weight, using feeling unwell as reasoning, felt like a red flag. The eating disordered part of my brain can get sneaky. I countered it, over and over again, bringing myself back to the things I value and the life I want for myself.

I have not been perfect with following my meal plan during this period of sickness, but I have truly aimed to meet it. Prioritizing my recovery requires nourishing my body under all circumstances. This experience has been quite a test for my recovery in many ways. It has also been a learning lesson for the future.

While symptoms of my cold are still present, I feel much better than when it was at its worst the last several days. I cannot wait to get back to a place of good health! Bodies are such incredible organisms and I am thankful for the resilience mine continues to show, especially after all the abuse I have put it through.

Fight On

Returning to PHP last November, before falling flat on my face and allowing my eating disorder to transform into a vicious force to be reckoned with, is among the best decisions I have made!

I entered PHP with the understanding it would be for two weeks, which is a timeline I presented. After getting the ok from my employer, I made the choice to follow my team’s recommendation to stay in PHP until I at least reached a place of weight restoration and get back on a maintenance meal plan. A little over seven weeks later, I discharged on Wednesday, January 18. Despite being a short stay in comparison to the 10 consecutive months I once spent between residential and PHP treatment, those seven weeks and two days felt incredibly long. I threw up my fists and fought my eating disorder head-on with great intensity I have never fought it with before. I took on challenge after challenge, fighting to truly do that fully surrender thing I talked about.

Today marks exactly one full week that I have been out of PHP and I am fighting what feels like a new fight. While I have made extreme progress surrounding my recovery over the years, I have never succeeded with maintaining a solid level of recovery after stepping down from PHP. I want this time to be vastly different than previous times. I am channeling a lot of energy and focus toward prioritizing my recovery.

I am both excited and scared to write this new chapter of my recovery journey. I so badly want to be on the other side. I am fearful I will never get there. I am also determined to get there. I have not fought as hard as I have and come as far as I have to settle for less. I am going to fight on.

Fully Surrender

Dear Self,

Accept the help that is being offered to you by people who truly care.

Love, D

Looking through my phone, I stumbled across the above note I wrote to myself on February 27, 2014. It resonates with me a lot right now.

I made a decision a few weeks ago that was very tough to make. After struggling to significantly turn eating disordered struggles around while in the Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) and simultaneously participating in outpatient therapy, I decided I would step-up to the Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) after the Thanksgiving holiday for a two-week “tune-up.” Reflecting on input from people I greatly trust, truly connecting to realities of where I was at in my recovery, and graciously receiving support from my employer to take time off to return to PHP, all contributed to returning to PHP feeling like the right decision. After sending an email to my IOP team, essentially making my decision official, I definitely panicked, yet committed to myself that I would follow through.

Well, last Monday, November 28, was my re-admission to PHP. I strongly second-guessed my decision after signing paperwork and making it onto the unit. Being back in that environment as a patient, and connecting to what being there entailed, was incredibly difficult to take in. My flight instinct fired up and I nearly convinced myself to leave.

I did not leave.

I chose to stay.

Concerning my recovery, I fear fully surrendering. My recent struggles surely highlighted that for me. Even after receiving extensive life-saving treatment where I surrendered in many ways, which allowed me to make significant progress toward full recovery, I did not surrender in all ways, unintentionally holding onto ties to the eating disorder out of fear – ties that eventually caught up to me.

As difficult as it can be to face some realities of my recovery journey, I am thankful for my greater awareness. I am also thankful for the beautiful opportunity I have right now to get better on track with extra support. I am fighting very hard to fully surrender, which for me entails letting go of control and placing full, sometimes blind, trust in the team of providers I work with.

I need to let go.

I need to fully surrender.

I am longing to truly move forward in my life past the eating disorder, solidly into recovery, and feel willing to commit to doing what that takes moving forward, as hard as what it takes may be.

Living vs Life

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

– Mary Oliver

I wish I had the entrance essays I wrote to get into the university I decided to attend. I believe those sadly passed away with one of the laptops I clumsily destroyed? Or, they passed away with the prehistoric PC I used during the ages of dial-up? It is hard to remember that detail. Either way, they are no longer in my possession. What I do remember about them, that peaks my interest, is Mary Oliver’s above-mentioned quote served as the basis for one of the prompts. I am curious what I wrote in response – especially since, ten years later, here I am still pondering the question Oliver poses.

What is it I plan to do with my one wild and precious life? A simple answer is that I plan to truly LIVE it. I put an emphasis on “live” because, while I have been alive for 27 years, I cannot say I have spent those years truly living. Sadly, I do not feel alone in that. A reality is many people in today’s society are moving through life merely existing, some of them on what could feel like a never ending search for happiness.

Living encompasses much more than being alive, and happiness is not a destination.

During my recovery journey, I was introduced to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, also known as ACT. ACT primarily focuses on identifying core values, and making choices that align with those values. Furthermore, it emphasizes how living a values-driven life fosters happiness. I have done a lot of work around values, and through that work I clearly identified connection, specifically human connection, as a core value of mine. When I feel connected to my people my soul fills with a true sense of happiness.

With where I am currently at in my life, essentially out of the house from 7:00 AM to 8:30 PM during the week, juggling a full-time job, an intensive outpatient eating disorder treatment program, and outpatient therapy, all while trying to stay on top of other life happenings, I get some quality connection but overall feel a fair amount of disconnect. That disconnect can bring me to a lonely place. Fighting to connect with facts supporting the reality that I am not as alone as I can sometimes feel helps to lift my spirits when I find myself in such a place. My schedule is not going to ease up as soon as I would like; I need to be intentional about staying connected to my people, as well as connecting to other things I find fulfilling.

To revisit Oliver’s question – I want to create a life for myself that is filled with an abundance of meaning and joy. Life is far too precious to let it pass by, wandering aimlessly in a state of existence.