There are a lot of misconceptions about me.
Some of them have been around for so long that I haven't bothered to correct them in years. In fact, some have been repeated so many times that I myself began to believe them as truth - even when the little voice inside me tried to say "no, wait....that's not right! That's not you!"
Since I have been in treatment I have begun to shed all of the layers of costumes and armor I have compulsively been piling on throughout my lifetime. In the course of this process I have unearthed much of my true self and it has been a bit eye opening (and at times painful and saddening). I figured I would share my findings with you to get rid of any fallacies or misunderstandings. (It would also be nice to share a bit of myself that my friends may not know yet.)
1. I try very hard to avoid getting angry.
I can usually control my temper. Anger is such a volatile emotion. It is temperamental and wild and incredibly difficult to tame. It can do irreparable damage. I myself have done serious destruction with my anger in younger years that I cannot take back. I do not like handing my control over to an emotion. I may get frustrated or irritated, but you will almost never see me truly angry.
2. Nothing makes me happier than helping someone during a difficult time.
I have seen so many people trying to struggle through a crisis alone. Either they have chosen to do so or they have been left to struggle through by those that should have been their support system. Nobody deserves to wrestle a problem all by themselves. It's hard enough going through a bad time. It's harder yet feeling abandoned. Since I've been in residential, I have learned that even when you feel like the worst human being ever you still deserve a team of people who are willing to stand up to the issue with you. Just for support. Just for advice. Just so you feel like you're worth something. Because as much as your brain may try to convince you otherwise...no one is worthless.
3. I am a Mama Bear through-and-through.
I am so protective of my friends and family that I should just start saying I have way more than two children. As I said with #1, I don't get angry very often. However....when I do, it usually has to do with someone wronging someone I love. I am pretty sure if I looked in the mirror I would see myself multiply in size, turn green, and start throwing cars. (The Hulk, people.) I flip from the assertive personality type to the aggressive personality type. I will not back down from any conversation until whatever wrong is righted and apologies are made. Treat my cubs right, or face my wrath.
4. I cringe when the spotlight is on me.
This has been a point of contention in the past with people who only know me from afar. I understand that the fact that I have been posting about intensely personal things may seem to directly contradict my saying that I shake when I am around a bunch of people or I stutter when I speak until I can calm myself down. I get extremely nervous in crowds. I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder. I jump at loud noises. (Luckily, when I'm at work it seems like a switch is flipped and my brain operates in a different mode where I am a calm and competent nurse.) So I do not like attention. Whatsoever. If it was up to me, I would be able to wear an invisibility cloak whenever I left my house. Alas...technology has not caught up to me yet. So why do I write what I do for anyone and everyone to see, then? Surely I must be lying, right? There are two reasons:
A) Due to my discomfort over long, deep conversations this seemed to be the preferable way to let anybody know what was going on in my life instead of letting rumors run around and grow like weeds. I would like people to know the real me, and writing is one form of communication that I am decent at.
B) As I have always believed was true (and has been reinforced by many professionals over the past few months), the less people talk about difficult things, the more power they hold over you. Me admitting I had an eating disorder stripped it of its power. EDs also have the same stigma as any other mental illness. The more people hide in shame and don't get help or ask for support, the longer these diseases are able to reign. Admitting my fault was an incredibly difficult step for me, and it really sucked to get some of the responses that I did. On the flip side, it was also awesome to get the amount of support I did. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
5. I don't need everybody to like me anymore.
I think back to a decade ago and realize what a different place I am in. I am not trying to please anybody but myself and my family. I am not going to change myself for anybody. Pretending to be somebody else doesn't work out. It takes a lot of effort and just wears you out. In the end you are bitter and exhausted. If somebody doesn't appreciate me for who I am or they accuse me of being somebody I am not, I may get sad for a minute as I say goodbye to any good times we have had in the past. Then I move on. I know who I am.
I am a good person. I am strong. I am protective. I am smart. I am loving. I am kind. I am motivating. I am brave. I am hopeful. I am compassionate. I am courageous. I am a fighter. I am a mother fucking force to be reckoned with.
I am B.
One of the elder statesmen is graduating today.
Let me back up....
When I first got to residential, I was so happy to find that I was not the only woman in my age group with the same bills to pay and gray hairs to pluck. We AARP members were a group of three, and we immediately bonded over a fierce desire to bring down ED once and for all. He had been playing us for fools for ridiculous amounts of time and we had had enough. We were pissed, we were strong, and we were READY. We quickly realized that this fight would be better fought as a team than by ourselves. We spent many cigarette breaks talking about things that only women who had affairs with ED would understand. We are fluent in a language that people who have never dated ED don't even speak. We have laughed together, cried together, yelled and screamed and been at the end of our ropes and had to talk each other off the ledge a time or two. We have helped each other fight for our lives.
So I repeat, one of us is graduating today.
It is a bittersweet feeling. She is such a wonderful woman. She's vivacious, unrestrained, stupendous, phenomenal, wild, remarkable, admirable, and a total BAMF! Well....not as tough as this Marine, but close enough. (Jocoserious!!)
I AM SO PROUD.
She will finish doing what she needs to do and get back to her life as a version 2.0 of herself. She'll be made of titanium. Unstoppable. Fucking smashing.
Watch out, ED. Badass bitches are coming for you.
Worked for 3 weeks to get myself on track only to be run over by the insurance company train.
I was almost at my 3 week mark (3 days shy of it to be exact). I was settled into the routine here, I was comfortable with the meal plan, I had a bunch of coping skills stored up and ready to use at a moment's notice.
I was golden.
My case manager went on vacation for a week. While she was gone, I basically spent the week trying a few easy passes around the immediate area to test the waters and gauge where I was at in my recovery. By the time she returned I thought that perhaps I had started to get the hang of being here at residential and I was ready to start the REALLY hard work! I was excited to have our first meeting in over a week to catch her up on my progress I had made while she was out (and, you know, the side note about the medical emergency stuff). As we sat down in my room her face was carefully blank. Very different from her usual cheerful affect. She opened her mouth and began to speak, and the floor dropped out from underneath me.
That fragile bit of hope I had been collecting and clinging to for 3 weeks instantly turned to ash and blew away.
My insurance company wanted me out in 2 days. They felt that because I had done well on 2 passes and because my blood pressure/pulse/weight were stable, I was clearly ready to go home. Somehow the esophageal tears were not enough on their own to keep me here for another week or two. By their rules, I was stable enough to step down to partial. Maybe even IOP. I will never understand how they can look at my history of visits to my PCP, my ER trips, my infinite lab tests and specialists I've seen and the amount of money they have had to spend treating the side effects of this disease I've struggled with for 17 years and then decide that 3 weeks was a sufficient amount of time in residential treatment to undo all of the damage I had done. They say they have a doctor working for the insurance company. I'm pretty sure it's just someone with a PhD in BULLSHIT. Fucking assholes. Ugh.
At the end of the worst meeting ever, I was told I had to do an all day home-pass to see how things would go before they discharged me. You know. Just in case the insurance people were wrong. So I woke up the next morning, was rushed out the door with a half-assed "plan" for snacks and meals for the day, and told to "have a good pass!"
I was shaking like a leaf before the elevator even reached the 1st floor.
I was not ready. I said this the second they told me about this plan. Just the idea of going back to the place where I practiced all of my eating disorder behaviors and routines and my stress hangs everywhere like Spanish moss does in Florida was enough to start a panic attack. Awesome way to start a difficult pass, let me tell you! It was like I had turned catatonic. I couldn't move, I couldn't speak, I was afraid to do anything because I was petrified that I was going to screw up. I was so scared of the eating disorder that I didn't get to enjoy spending the day with my family. As I sat there on my couch feeling like a claustrophobic stranger being held hostage by my own emotions I had to literally keep myself from running out the front door. I was in fight or flight mode. I did not want to fight this. I had been fighting ED for almost 3 weeks. I knew he was stronger. I knew he was smarter. And now I was on his home turf.
So I ran.
I drove around and avoided the feelings for a while. I tried to calm myself down with coping skills I knew. They didn't work. NOTHING WORKED. In the end, I made the one choice I thought I would never make again because my anxiety and panic were so high that I felt like I was dying anyway. Ended up spending the night on a medical floor at the hospital being monitored to make sure I didn't finish off the injury that was already inflicted on my throat. Got another lecture from doctors and nurses.
I shouldn't be alive right now.
That is supposed to make it easier to get rid of ED. But somehow it is working backwards. It is just causing more anxiety and panic, which makes me need to use my "big guns" as coping skills. I haven't found the healthy versions of those yet.
So, now I am not leaving today (clearly), I have emerged from my 2 day cocoon of self-loathing and shame, and I am trying to get back on track as soon as possible so that I don't dig my own grave.
Missing you all.
Week 2 of residential.
I am a bit of a wreck. I want to scream and cry and punch walls and kick ED in the face. What. The. FUCK. I am so angry right now I can barely get this typed out. It is definitely not going to be as tactful as my normal posts. Is that even the right word for what I meant there??
On Monday I had an endoscopy.
I have had a few of these before - standard procedure for my "brand" of eating disorder. I had been suspicious of a potential throat injury about a month ago, but brushed it off as my usual hypochondria and tendency to think that everything is a catastrophe. I did call my go-to GI guy and booked an endoscopy for 2 months out figuring it wouldn't hurt just to get a "check-up." When I decided to go into residential, my outpatient treatment team strongly encouraged me to bump up my appointment. They even assisted me with that by calling my PCP and begging her to reach out to the GI office. It worked, they moved it up by a month to this past Monday.
I took public transportation to get to the hospital where I was having the procedure. It was nice to get off of the unit by myself for a while and to shed that "patient" role....even if it was just for the 45 minute ride to another medical facility. When I got there I had about a 2 1/2 hour wait before they could get started. It was a long time to sit there and think about all of the horrible things that could possibly be wrong with me. I went back and forth on whether or not I thought they would find anything abnormal. In the end I decided that even if I had done any damage a month prior, surely it would be healed by now! They wheeled me back, hooked me up to the oxygen, slipped me some Propofol and I was OUT.
When I woke up it only took about 5 minutes before I was ready to get out of there and head back to Cambridge. I had been stuck in the hospital gown and confined to the bed for over 3 hours at that point and I just wanted to move again. (There was also that pesky need for a cigarette.....) I asked the nurse how long it would take for my discharge paperwork to be printed up and if the doctor would just call me about the results. She told me he would be out in a few minutes and that he would speak with me before I left. I was mildly irritated and a tiny bit concerned.
When my doctor came out to speak with me he had pictures from the procedure with him. He started talking about endocarditis and tears and biopsies that had been performed and some swelling that would all eventually heal. I was speechless. When he said that he sees this in patients with extreme, long term eating disorders I managed to blurt out, "Oh, Mallory-Weiss tears?" And he looked at me gravely and said, "That is exactly what these are."
For the past few days I have had plenty of time to think of all of the different situations that could have played out had I not come to treatment when I did, if I had waited or if I had come a month sooner.
I am angry because that was my rock bottom. That was something that I never thought would actually happen to me. It is terrifying. It is life threatening. It isn't a gray area. It is completely black and white. If I use ED behaviors, my throat will finish with the injury it started and I will not be here anymore.
That is a tough thing to deal with. Having control is a very big issue for me.
I no longer get to choose how this goes.
I do not get any leeway or any passes for mistakes.
I do not get to have bad days or lapses. I don't get second chances. This IS my second chance.
I am on my 9th life. It's now or never.
So....Let's all hope I'm the BAMF I've been working towards being for 31 years now!
I'm really doing it.
I've been in treatment for 6 days now. It has been quite the....adventure? I'm not sure how to accurately describe it. I think I have felt every single emotion possible in the span of less than a week. The most prominent ones have been homesickness (I miss my babies with every fiber of my being) and hope (I actually think that this process may do the trick.) My lovely husband has been so awesome throughout this entire thing. He has held down the fort marvelously. (He even bathed the baby without me having to remind him!) The kids are happy and healthy and I am confident they will remain that way until I can come home and be happy and healthy with them.
So many people have sent me words of encouragement.
After posting my last blog and announcing to the entire world that I had this issue and that I was going into treatment, I got mixed responses. About 99.9% were SO wonderful and positive. I heard from a bunch of people who have been struggling with or had previously struggled with eating disorders in the past, which was something totally new for me. I had people thank me for being so open and honest about a subject that is usually kept secret or hidden behind closed doors. (Unfortunately this is one of the reasons these things can drag on for years and years....it's easier to avoid something if you're ashamed to talk about it.) Before this month, I had never discussed my ED with anybody else who has struggled with one. Now that I am here, it is like I am in a village where we all speak the same language. When I am explaining something that has to do with ED, everyone else knows exactly what I mean before I even finish my sentence. The other girls here are so extraordinary. As a group, we all reach out to one another and try to offer words of encouragement and advice when one of the others is struggling. We don't judge if one of us isn't able to completely follow the program for the day. We give hugs for victories and hugs for failures. We understand that recovery is a long, windy road - not just a straight line with a beginning clearly labeled with a "go" sign and an ending signified with discharge paperwork. It's not like "BAM! You finished your 30 days! You're cured! Go be normal and we'll act like none of this ever happened!...." It is something we will have to be dealing with for the rest of our lives. (By the way, that revelation SUCKS to find out.) The ED voice won't ever go away - you just hope that one day it will become background noise instead of some asshole screaming in your ear about everything that happens throughout your day.
There are so many different directions of treatment.
This is a very structured program. We have every minute of every day planned out. We have groups galore! (I am going to be a pro at running them when I finally get back to work...you're welcome in advance to all of my coworkers! Also, I miss you guys.) We have things like Mindfulness and Yoga and CBT and DBT and everything in between. They really cover their bases here.
Oh, hey! Speaking of CBT.....
Here is a metaphor for those of you who don't suffer from an ED and/or don't understand why recovering from eating disorders is so difficult.
Is a Cow. (A super-cute cow, but a cow nonetheless.)
Now, I know you have all been 100% sure this is a dog for your entire life, but from now on, you have to remember this is a COW.
No matter how successful you are, every time you see this:
You will think "DOG" before you remember, "WAIT!......I'm supposed to think this is a cow!"
Did you get it right? Good job!
It takes a little bit of time and effort, right?
That is one. single. thing.
Now try applying that process to every single thought, feeling, situation, process, and action throughout every day for the rest of your life.
Do you understand why recovery isn't a 30 day easy-fix now?
And now a quick metaphor for those of you either currently in recovery (YOU GOT THIS!) or dealing with their ED symptoms (STAY STRONG!):
Going through recovery for an eating disorder is like playing the longest, hardest level of Mario Bros (old-school Nintendo, tyvm!) EVER. For those of you who are elderly like myself, do you remember how you would sit in front of your huge, boxy tv on Saturdays trying to get through level after level just to get to Bowser at the end? Your ED will constantly come up with new strategies. You knock down one goomba only to encounter 2 more. You finally make it through the hallway with the windmills of fire that you have to time so you don't die, only to fall in the lava and have to start all over. EVENTUALLY, you will make it to Bowser, kick his ASS, and save the Princess. Well, hopefully.
Don't stop. Push harder. Keep going.
Mother and wife by day, psych RN by night. So many different ways to view life. I try to take everything in and be very slow to judge.