I was not rotten and you were wrong.
I could do that and you were wrong.
It wasn't too hard for me and you were wrong.
It wasn't all my fault and you were wrong.
I can finish things I start, and you are wrong.
I am a great mom and you are wrong.
I am a good person and you are wrong.
I am so, so strong and you are wrong.
Too many years of my life have been spent trying to remove this inherently bad part of me that made me the screw-up I have always been known to be. As I got older and I began to meet more and more new people, it became apparent that something was off about this assessment of myself. It just didn't add up. Don't get me wrong - I believed it without question (and on some really bad days, still do). Instead of doing the logical thing (and I pride myself in being a somewhat logical person...) and taking into account not only the things I did that were not-so-great, but the things that I did that were actually pretty awesome.
I'm going to force myself to make a list. On this list I am going to list my pretty-awesome accomplishments. And I am not going to allow myself to "yeah-but" them away. (Some of you will understand just how challenging this can be.....)
So let's get this straight once and for all. Every time you said I couldn't.....I did. And when you said I'd screw it up for sure because that's just what I do, I actually made something awesome.
Are you sure you know what you're talking about?
We're goin' country, y'all!
About two weeks ago, my husband and I were having the same conversation we've had a hundred times before. It had something to do with finances (I hate them), our jobs (I LOVE my job, but it's much more fun now that I'm per diem and I don't feel like I'm stuck in the movie "Groundhog Day"), and our overall happiness.
Let's pause right there.
If we skip back 5 months to June, I was literally playing russian roulette with my eating disorder. Unbeknownst to me, my esophagus was already torn halfway through and had I continued down that path of depression and denial I would not be sitting here sipping my Earl Grey tea and listening to my country tunes on my headphones right now. I was doing what so many people do every single day just to get by. Hell, I was PROUD of the fact that I was able to keep going. I was proud of the fact that I hadn't completely collapsed yet. It's like someone who puts 200,000 miles on a car. Shit, yeah that's impressive! But if you're not getting that thing serviced regularly it's going to croak and you are NEVER going to get it going again. I wasn't suicidal. I was just exhausted with living. Everything took SO. MUCH. EFFORT. It got to the point where I couldn't get off of the couch. I couldn't play with my kids. I hated myself because I wasn't the mom I wanted to be. I wasn't the wife I wanted to be. I wasn't alive or dead. I was somewhere in between. Just waiting for someone else to decide for me which way it was going to go.
That was me.
So my husband and my doctors sent me to ED rehab. And they made me open my eyes and LOOK at what I had been doing to myself. Every single time I indulged in one of my ED behaviors was another time I was pulling that trigger. Click. I could no longer detach myself from that aspect of my life. When it was my secret and my secret alone, I somehow managed to disguise it as part of my everyday routine. I hadn't thought of it as an ED for over a decade. Eating disorders were for teenagers and super models, and I certainly did not fit into either of those categories. So I kept on using those behaviors. Click. Click. Click.
Then they took my gun.
It took every single day of those 7 1/2 weeks for me to stop fighting. I don't know who I was fighting, exactly. Some days it was myself some days it was my treatment team. Most days it was ED. There was so much anger that I had held on to and I had no idea what to do with it. Thank god for giving me the gift of being able to express myself through writing. If I didn't have this as an outlet I don't know what would happen. It sure wouldn't be pretty!
Once I had stepped down from residential and was working my way through the partial program, and then IOP and my case worker hesitantly began to bring up going back to work my initial response was "of course I can do it - do I look weak??"
There. There is one of my major MAJOR character flaws that I will grapple with for my entire life.
It's not about showing everybody how strong I am or how much I can take on without breaking into a million pieces. I played that game already. All I got was one foot in the grave and 2 months away from my kids.
How about we try something completely new?
I've always wanted to be a cowgirl. I dreamed of owning a ranch out in Montana and marrying the Marlboro man and drinking Moonshine and rocking in rocking chairs while listening to crickets on the front porch and looking at the clear, wide open night sky that went on forever and just....enjoying being alive.
I'd never enjoyed being alive before.
Ever since I've gotten home from the hospital this summer I have been much more aware of the little happies. My son's toothy grins. My daughter singing under her breath without even realizing it. The one hour of quiet I get to myself at night to just take some me time. Be that reading, or writing, or just sitting on the couch watching my husband slay zombies on his awful video games. Those are only a few of my happies.
We are moving.
In order for us to be able to continue living in this slower, less pressured lifestyle, we are going to need to sell our current home. The mortgage is too large for one person's salary. I have also always thrived in wide open spaces with a lot of sunshine, and our current home can be quite dark and is practically on top of the neighbors. I want our kids to have space to RUN and YELL without someone scolding them or giving them dirty looks (unless that person is me, of course.).
When my husband gave me the go-ahead to set up a meeting with a realtor just to see what the house would sell for, I knew that was my one and only chance to get our wagon packed up and headed out west...ahem, north.
The realtor came first thing the next morning, we had a long talk about prices of properties in the area (looking good these days), how long places were staying on the market (2.5 seconds), and a quick chat about Earl.
I figure if we are going country, the least I can do is give my husband a proper hillbilly name. Poor, poor Earl. Within 72 hours of him saying he might entertain the idea of someday moving to a bigger house up north and selling the house down here, he was coming home to myself and the realtor tunneling through cabinets trying to hide things in every nook and cranny available while Graham happily roamed the living room yelling out the occasional "cooooo-kieeeee!" and being rewarded with a teddy graham tossed over the baby gate. I know I'm not supposed to be driving myself into the ground here, but DAMN you should've seen the before and after of this place. Before you say it, no. Absolutely not. Not for one second did I say "well now that it's all cleaned up I don't even want to move!"
Get the horses hitched up, Earl and stop your whining.
Most people would probably have wanted their spouse to do a good 50% of the hard labor with a job like this, right? Um, no, not me. I asked Earl to handle the porch and the pile of trash in the backyard. I literally assigned everything else to myself. Washing the window frames? Me. Scraping the gunk from the kitchen backsplash thing with a butterknife? Me. Transforming the diningroom from something you'd see on an episode of Hoarders into something you'd see in Better Homes and Gardens.....Me. (And the realtor, of course.)
I'm not upset about this fact at all - I am doing this 100% willingly. I went into this entire project knowing that it was MY idea, MY baby, MY dream. He can't see it yet - he is anxious and worried and I don't want to put more on him than necessary. He still has to work fulltime until we find a place and relocate. I want to make this transition as easy and seamless as possible for every member of this family - my husband included.
Earl was born to be a cowboy, you know.
It's so funny to me, because he was never meant to be a city-boy. He likes the quiet, he likes things to move slowly. He likes nature and he takes pride in doing things on his own (even though he grumbles while he does them.) He doesn't need very much to make him happy. If you asked him, he'd give you some sarcastic response about how he's never happy. That's just Earl. He's a little crotchety. Don't mind him.
So here we go. Onto new things. Big dreams.
If all goes well, in about two months or so we should be one state north of here. I will be able to enjoy watching my family enjoy life. My kids will be happy because their parents will be less stressed out. Earl will still be Earl, but that's what we love about him and we wouldn't change him for anything.
I'm living each moment of each day like it could be my last because 5 months ago it almost was. I could have wasted so many moments being utterly miserable.....and for what? More money? Money to what? Pay a mortgage? For a house that I'm not even really happy in? That just sounds utterly ridiculous, doesn't it?
Jesus Earl, put your damn pants on and pack up the kids. It's time for us to go home.
'My routines with food weren't the only thing I worked on changing this summer.
Pre-recovery, I was ALWAYS exhausted. Physically and mentally. It took an insane amount of energy just to get off the couch to get dressed and to take care of my kids....there wasn't anything extra to work with.
Back when the dinosaurs roamed, when I was little I liked to write stories. I was also a complete bookworm. I spent a lot of time in libraries with my nose stuck in a book. There is something about just walking into a building MADE to store books that makes me feel instantly cozy and giddy. When you read or write a story, you are transported to another dimension entirely. I become so engrossed in my books that the outside world disappears and for an hour or two I get to stroll around in someone else's shoes.
I used to have big dreams of becoming a writer.
I would imagine myself in a tiny cottage in Ireland, just me and a bunch of paper and pens (possibly some sheep, because those were always in the daydream too) with no worries and no pressure and nothing to do but curl up and write all sorts of fantasies down. Page after page of fairy tales and romances, mysteries and thrillers, tearjerkers, science fiction....There are so many directions to go it would be limitless.
Pre-recovery, I was always waiting for the RIGHT MOMENT.
I convinced myself that I needed the cottage and the sheep and Ireland to write my stories. Then came recovery and now I understand that you can't always wait for all of your ducks to be in a row before you start a project. If you keep waiting for everything to be perfect, you very well might be waiting around forever. Let's face it....my husband is NEVER going to allow me to raise sheep in the backyard.
Stop waiting. Start doing.
So now, I write!
I write what I want, when I want to. If what I'm writing doesn't work out the way I want it to, I put it aside and move onto something else until I can figure out a way to work through the issue.
I am having a blast.
Here's to creativity and flying by the seat of your pants every once in a while!
(You should try it - it's super fun!)
What do you see when you see food?
I was sitting in my living room the other day, fighting with myself yet again over whether or not I was going to eat a snack and my mind wandered off to that oh-so-familiar place where I begin to wonder how many OTHER people are in this situation right now? And then of course I think of how many other people are NOT in this situation right now and the gears keep turning right to, "well, how is it so easy for THEM to eat a snack??" It literally baffles me.
(Let me explain so that those of you who do not know ED will understand.)
This is how I imagine someone without an ED going to get a snack:
This is how it goes when I try to have a snack:
I'm sorry if this is entirely off base, I'm just a little cranky over here because I'm eating a fucking rotten banana. (And for those of you who are wondering why if I am getting better, I cannot just go and get a donut for snack yet...it is because that particular neural pathway hasn't been fixed. When I see a donut, I still automatically want to eat the whole donut factory. It doesn't have to do with food. It doesn't have to do with feeling hungry. It doesn't have to do with my body needing fuel. It has to do with the fact that my brain has all of these screwed up connections in the wrong places and I have to figure out how to rewire it. It's a very complicated job AND SOMETIMES IT MAKES ME WANT TO RIP ALL OF MY HAIR OUT!!! (.......Mindfully.)
That's me for the next few years in recovery. :)
I really like that saying "God never gives you more than you can handle."
Let me just quick point out that I am not a deeply religious person - I have no religious affiliations, and my beliefs are mine alone. I do not get into discussions involving religion and never will. It's a personal thing that is between me and absolutely NONE of you. So there.
This summer I could not handle anything. Clearly. I couldn't even get out of bed on my own. I had people coming to shake my shoulder and say things like "Bethany....if you don't get up now you won't have time for a shower!" Seriously. I had gone from a 32 year-old mother to a 12 year old kid in less than a 24 hour time span. (I paid for the fancy express ticket to my rock bottom.)
Fast forward though 8 weeks of residential where I made lots of arts and crafts with glitter and paint, 4 weeks of partial where I spent my days folding origami and participating in groups while trying to learn to regulate my intake of food. Also to see food as.....food? I don't know....like normal people see it? I don't think I will ever know how that is. Something in my brain is messed up with that recognition. Hopefully through CBT and DBT one day I will see food or hear about it and not have my first thought be to either shove it all in my face or to run away in fear. Those are my two automatic reactions. That's just how the grooves in my brain have been digging themselves deeper for over half of my life.
Not trying to go off on a tangent. Refocusing.
So, yes. I was cleared to go back to work a week ago. I had all of my appointments with my doctors and everyone said my labs were good, and I had a good head on my shoulders, and although I am obviously not 100% PERFECT (Pssshhhaw! Which one of you judgy people is?!) I may resume earning income for my household.
- Insert my husband crying tears of joy here. -
So, just like that I was whole again! As soon as the paperwork got into the hands of our HR department I started to get a little tickle of anxiety. Just a little niggle of the "wait, am I really ready to go back? What if I can't deal with the whole real being a grown-up and adulting yet??"
Don't ever ask yourself that question.
My son had a little runny nose the other day. He wasn't even complaining about it. No cough, no sneeze. Just a little snot. I almost thought I was imagining things. I put him to bed one night and then......BANG! The next morning he decided to learn how to climb out of his crib at 22 months old and ALSO to have his "little snot trickle" turn into a full-fledged god-awful category 5 head cold. Begin 36 straight hours of a screaming toddler, mucus and throw up (sorry for that trigger), fevers, zero sleep (but for some fitful 5-minute naps on a twin mattress thrown on the floor of his room at 2am.) No real schedules. Just zombie baby with mucus and tears and his insatiable need for mom snuggles.
Who would have guessed that I had more than enough to give to him?
I took care of him just fine. I shouldn't have doubted myself for a second. If this was back in June, my husband would have been on his own. My body physically wouldn't have been able to keep up with our son's demands. I literally #crushedit this time. I literally laid on that floor with his toe up my nose and him whimpering in his fever-dreams and I swore like a sailor in my head and I counted down the minutes until sunrise and I held it together like a mother fucking BOSS.
Because I am B.
And that's just what I do.
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.