still writing.

Writing, because it’s important, because it’s still a part of my active recovery, because I still have so much to process and explore in life.

I’m going wedding dress shopping soon. That’s nuts, guys. Absolutely nuts. I’m hoping eating disorder brain doesn’t come out, but I’m prepared to deal with it if it does. I know by now that this tends to happen during important events.

I think I’m getting slightly burnt out at work. I’m tired of the red tape, tired of money-hungry executives who don’t actually care about clients, tired of assembly-line, short-term therapy. I miss the depth and heavy processing; I miss the open-ended therapy that I used to do; I miss working at a pace that I’m comfortable with. I’m also getting tired of hours of hours of group therapy, as opposed to individual work. Don’t get me wrong; I do love the groups, but I definitely didn’t get into the field for that. It’s more of an added bonus.

I know I’m paying my dues right now, and I’m making a decent, living salary, so that helps. I think my route will have to be private practice, though, and that’s crazy, because I always anticipated staying with agencies and community-based services.

It is what it is, though.

Eating is okay. Exercise is okay. I’ve been doing my best. Holidays are coming and time flies. I’m amazed I’ve been here for three years. One of these days, I’ll have to reread my life story written on these pages. I’m sure it’s a major trip.

Bye for now!

Cool Winds of November

November is here, and the air has become chilly, and rain is hopefully about to quench my lovely but drought-plagued California.

I hate cold weather, and by cold, I mean anything below 70 degrees, but it is nice to turn into the darkness and snuggly nights and comfortable sweats.

I will always be a summer baby, sun kissed and hungry for the beach, but I’m more accepting of change now.

And indeed, times have been changing, as they tend to do in my life. I’m in a new job. The eating disorder unit didn’t end up opening, as there were too many problems with upper management. I found a new position and left.

I don’t know how I feel about my new position just yet. It’s similar work: working in a private drug & alcohol rehab, but it’s more of a start-up company and I’m pretty sure my boss has Borderline Personality Disorder, which is fine, except that she is unwilling to examine her own role in anything. To date, she’s been my toughest client. As for my clients, they’re lovely.

I’m planning a wedding, which is all sorts of fun and craziness, and I just can’t believe I’m getting married in less than a year. I never doubt my relationship with my fiance- I haven’t since the moment I met him, and for those of you who have read my blog since the beginning, you all knew that. I do have frequent crises, however, about growing up and maturity and what the “real world” entails.

To be honest, I still struggle with what I want my priorities to be. There are days I want to be the grown-up who can clean her apartment and pay her bills and even do cute crafty stuff. There are days I want to go out and party, just get out there and live hedonistically, out of the FOMO and regret I anticipate I will have if I don’t. There are days I want to lie in bed all day, laptop propped on my stomach, half-alive, but half-absorbed in reading whatever junk-food website I want.

There are days where I do all three.

It’s weird, and nobody really talks about this crisis, except for sugary, existential crises outlined in Elite Daily, but I do struggle with accepting the fact that I’m in this weird in-between of childhood and adulthood, of recklessness and maturity, of structure and spontaneity. Of course, it’s not that black-and-white, but old habits die hard, and sometimes I forget that I can live in the gray.

Halloween is always tough with eating, too, and there have been too many sweets lying around at home and at work, and I’ve been indulging here and there, sometimes feeling guilty about it, sometimes getting a case of the fuck-its. None of my overeating compares to my old, frantic binges, but they still feel uncomfortable and they remind me that I still sometimes use food to combat anxiety, fear, and insecurity. Food helps- temporarily- but in the ten on-and-off years that I’ve struggled with disordered eating, I know that it’s only a bandaid on a broken arm. Knowing, however is one thing. Doing the impulsive and enjoyable thing–because that moment simply calls for it–is another.

I rationalize that it’s not the same because it’s not a secretive, hidden binge, and I’m not weighing myself 2428937 times a day, and I’m not starving myself between meals, and I’m not counting every step I take during the day, and I’m not chugging water like it’s my full-time job, but this rationalization is just a facade, and it’s the sneaky and spiraling thinking that leads me back into furtive behaviors I don’t want to have.

In reality, things are going well. I’m learning about myself. So much learning. So much expansion. It’s good, though. I need to keep writing here. I’m doing the Novel Writing November challenge, but I’m also going to keep posting here. I know I say that a lot, but I want to push myself to follow up with it.

The writing heals. It always has.

Love you all.

Therapists are Humans

Hi all!

WOW! I have not updated this blog in awhile, and there is so much to share, but that will be for another post.

Right now, ‘d like to talk about a recent influx I’ve received of emails and messages about my blog & what it means as a therapist. I’d like to clear the air on a few concerns some readers have had:

  1. All details about my clients are CHANGED. Whatever seems like revealing information has been carefully altered to avoid any identification (i.e switching the sex, switching the age, etc.) I take confidentiality AND my clinical work very seriously, and I would never jeopardize my professional standing for something as trivial as this blog!
  2. I started this blog three (?!?!) years ago to document my eating disorder recovery and journey into becoming a therapist. I was in my first year of graduate school. I was a novice, and this blog was merely meant to be a journal chronicling my experience. Rawness and honesty are part of the game. With that being said, while I may not be totally honest about the identifying details of my personal life (i.e my identity or the identity of my clients), I am absolutely honest about my feelings, thoughts, and opinions. I don’t know about you guys, but nothing bugs me more than sugarcoated, pollyanna writing.
  3. Therapists are humans with emotions, thoughts, biases, bad days, shits and farts, just like than anyone else. We do receive extensive training and we do examine human behavior on a very intellectual and dynamic level, but at the core of it? I’m a person first! So yes, clients piss me off, and yes, clients drive me crazy, and yes, clients make me question myself. ALL THE TIME. Yes, this is my own stuff, and yes, I have the appropriate channels to process this, and yes, for years this blog was used as a venting ground. In every profession, there needs to be room for diffusion and processing. This is healthy, and to pretend it’s not there would only lead to my own burnout (which is the last thing I want to happen!). I refuse to pretend like I am above the complaining, worrying, and stress most of us face from time to time. I refuse to pretend like “it doesn’t get to me.” I remember idolizing therapists, too. It’s a dangerous game, my friends. Inevitably, he or she will disappoint you, and inevitably you will have to face the reality that NOBODY is perfect. As much as I wish I could sometimes be exempt from that, I’m not and your therapist isn’t either.
  4. I’m flattered by the controversy and chaos that has arisen out of a mostly-archaic blog (it’s inspiring me to revitalize it!). The attention feels good! I have an ego that needs to be stoked sometimes, and hey, it’s kind of awesome to see a few extra hundred readers and new subscribers for something you haven’t updated in almost three months.

That’s all I need to say. Updates on my life and recovery and work coming soon! Keep it classy loved ones.

la dee dah dee dah

This new ED unit is supposed to be opening up in a few weeks. I’m going to be one of the primary therapists. I’m stoked as hell. It’s pretty surreal, and at this point, I just know I’ll be doing what I’m already doing (running a bunch of groups, working with a small caseload), but I can’t wait to dip my toes into my favorite population. It’s going to be a crazy, emotionally-charged ride, but I feel ready, and I know I’m going to continue influencing lives.

As far as personal life, things are chugging along. Wedding planning and weekend outings and figuring out my life as usual. There is a lot of laughter. People at work sometimes ask me how I’m able to stay so “zen,” and I actually find that very complimentary. I used to be so characteristically Type-A. I took one of those fun online quizzes about personality types a few days ago. I don’t think I scored ANY Type-A qualifiers. Change is crazy.

I am pretty zen.

I am pretty mellow.

I am pretty laid-back.

I’m kind to myself, and that’s cool. I like myself, and that’s even cooler.

I can’t believe it’s August. Time moves in such a paradoxical flow. I guess that’s how life moves in general. It’s a beautiful day, though, and I’m going to enjoy it.

Happy Sunday!

That Liquid Diet.

I had wisdom teeth surgery a few days ago. It didn’t hurt whatsoever, but I was on that mandated 72-hour soft food diet. I didn’t think it would be that difficult: I stocked up on smoothie ingredients, ice cream, mashed potatoes, and other acceptable non-chewy delights.

By the second day, I was absolutely, mother-fucking miserable. I was a raging bitch. I was literally fantasizing about food and all forms of it. Oh my God. No wonder the restriction part of my eating disorder never lasted longer than a few days. The act of eating was never the hard part. The restraining of eating was.

I’m back on normal-ish foods now, and it’s wonderful. The emotions I had during this process were mixed. For one, I felt like a selfish, first-world problem card-toting bitch. That whole children are starving in Africa and you’re whining because you can’t eat solid foods for just a few days guilt trip came on HARD. I mean, people do liquid diets all the time by choice and by necessity. Why was I such a baby? And for two, I felt simply anxious. Was I getting enough nutrients? Was I losing weight (let’s hope, right?! Hey, Eating Disorder!)? AND WHY WAS I SO DAMN EXHAUSTED?

Discomfort, irritation, and general fatigue (but thankfully no pain) topped the emotions charts this week. If I ever thought I could subsist on one of those whacky juice cleanses, my theory was absolutely debunked.

Oh, and in other news, I’m basically going to be a full-time therapist in our developing eating disorder program. Confirmed on Thursday. No other details yet. They WANT me. It’s in the works, the clients are on their ways, the program is being developed. This is happening like…in a few weeks!

Holy shit. My dream is LITERALLY coming true.

Working with the population that is so dear to my heart. The reason I WENT into this field. The reason I wanted recovery in that first place. AHHHH.

Bah, thank God this blog is anonymous. I don’t know if a client would ever want me as his/her therapist if they knew the vulgarity and rawness that is my current life. At least I’m aware and at least I’m working through the shit as best I can. In fact, I wonder if one of my clients has ever actually read these musings. Maybe one day Bee will get name-dropped in session and I’ll just smile creepily to myself.

Wow. Okay. Narcissistic much? Time for bed.

It feels good to write to you again.

Dear Bee,

It feels good to write to you again, and when I say YOU, I mean Bee. I mean the reason this whole blog started two and a half years ago. It has been awhile- talking to the inner voice inside my head, the Eating Disorder pathology that once had such a hold over me.

You come around on holidays, and you were in full-force this past Fourth of July. Having an action plan is obviously important, but that doesn’t make it foolproof. I did the best I could, and I know that is all I can ask of myself. I could sit and complicate every meal I consumed, every pound I may or may not have gained, but it’s not worth the obsession. I did the best I could. 

You’ve been weird lately. I just see you everywhere, more than I’ve had before, in every client I work with. You are addiction. You are compulsion. You are depression and anxiety and paranoia wrapped into one self-destructive voice. YOU may be an eating disorder, but your logic and intensity manifests in infinite souls, like a parasite leeching onto its vulnerable, unsuspecting host. It rarely triggers me in a negative way- instead it fascinates me. How could I have ever thought I was alone with my suffering?

That and I’m working with eating disorders in treatment now. A few of my clients show signs- it’s not their primary diagnoses, but issues with food and body image, as we all know, coincide with issues with any trauma, addiction, or mental health issue.

In other words, you are everywhere.

I feel like I have a better grip on you than I’ve ever had, but that’s not to say you don’t throw me for a loophole. Like the other day, for instance, when I just felt obese. When you kept telling me how hideous and disgusting my legs looked, how round and protruded my stomach was, how ugly I must be. And there was another time where I thought I looked really great and spent a long time getting ready only to see a picture of myself and hone in RIGHT ON my body.

Body dysmorphia in recovery is weird. Sometimes I feel tiny and petite and other times I feel massive. And sometimes I just feel normal. Oh, and that’s my favorite! What the fuck is normal? I’m normal weight, but what does that even mean?  Depending on what you need for me that day, you contort my body.

Recovery isn’t as Eating Disordered focused as it once was. Recovery has become more about total integration of self, about incorporating positive affirmations, self-love, confidence, and self-care. Recovery has become about letting go of perfectionism and control, two your accomplices and my former best friends.

My stress level has gone down. I’m mentally healthy than I’ve been in years.

But you lurk, and maybe that’s okay that you do that. Maybe you keep me on track, keep me vigilant, keep me aware of my surroundings and my powerlessness to the external around me. Maybe you are there simply to remind me just how bad it was and just how bad it can be again.

I don’t believe in Recovered, because Recovered insinuates some kind of tangible destination, some kind of endpoint. I believe in Active Recovery, the conscious journey towards wellness. There is no end to this, Bee. We keep trudging along, you and me, and I simply need you far less than I ever did.

You’re not gone. Maybe you will never be. I’m coming to terms with that, and the acceptance is freeing. You can’t dominate my life, but you can have influence. I have to recognize where you start and where I leave off. I have to continue mediating a life in recovery of mental illness. It’s a tough pill to swallow, and part of me wants to forget that I ever really suffered, but when I start thinking down that path, I know that’s simply YOU minimizing and rationalizing the hellacious experiences that you put me through. I know it’s YOU trying to tell me I was never sick. I know it’s YOU trying to feed me back into the vicious lies. I know it’s distortion. I sometimes give into it, but I’m only human.

Thank you for understanding, Bee. We’ve come a damn long way.

life is good

Life is pretty good, and I’m busy, and I’m happy, and I don’t write too often anymore, but that’s okay. I’m sure I have a lot to catch up on, but I’m not interested in summarizing all that right now. Just wanted to write.

I’m planning a wedding and that’s crazy because I’m so in love with this guy and because how did two years go by so quickly? I’m not into the wedding hoopla, but I am into marriage, and it’s absolutely surreal that I get to do this journey called life with my best friend beside me (gag, cliché, I know). Weddings are insane, and I’m not getting caught up in the overpriced hype. But, I’m not going to lie. It’s really exciting. It’s really fun.

I’m working a hell of a lot, or actually it just seems like a lot, because it’s my first “full-time job” as opposed to a million strung-together part-time gigs. I like it, but it’s challenging. These are the most high-risk clients I’ve ever worked with by far. Suicides, psychosis, overdoses, and that’s like a normal Tuesday. I want to think I’m making a difference- actually, I know I definitely am, but sometimes I get this intense survivor guilt that some people have such misfortunes…where I’m over here planning a wedding, enjoying my life, rich and full of happiness. It’s a weird paradox.

I’m eating normally. I can’t remember the last time I binged. You guys, that’s pretty huge. It’s been months, and it’s awesome. I feel so incredibly grateful. I’m exercising. My body isn’t perfect, but it’s perfect for me, and I’m practicing acceptance everyday.

I’m happier than I’ve ever been, and it feels really good.

Everything I’ve gone through, everything that I will go through…it’s all worth it.

I’m going to Disneyland tomorrow and that’s awesome.

Aftermath of Death

I don’t write as much when I’m happy. Even though I love writing, it’s not as easy for me when I’m happy. Maybe because I’m not as attuned to my thoughts and feelings…maybe because I’m busy experiencing life rather than documenting it.

One of the patients at my treatment center killed herself last night. I’ve been devastated, and by devastated, I mean, I’ve been crying all day, I’ve been in a ridiculous funk, I’ve been seriously contemplating the work we therapists do and the fragility of life that evens all of us.

There’s not a lot to say. Suicide explains it all, really. It’s just horribly tragic.

God, it’s so fucking tragic.

I knew this person. Like I didn’t know her, know her, but I’ve hugged her. I know her story. I know her trauma.

I can’t even ask why because I know why. Because life hurt.

It just sucks.

That’s all.

I’m engaged, also. The boyfriend (now fiance) popped the question last week. It was the happiest day of my life, but that’s for a different entry. I don’t write when I’m happy, remember? But it was beautiful, it was perfect, and I’m so glad I have found the absolute love of my life.

My Little Me!

I’m really glad I was able to write out my feelings about my client the other day. Writing always helps for me. In this case, it’s helping me be more objective and effective in my treatment with her.

This line of work is tough, but it is so incredibly rewarding. I can’t picture myself doing anything else, and I know people say that all the time, but I just have such an intense drive for the beautifully abstract art that is healing.

I was living at home during graduate school, and ever since I moved out with my boyfriend about 9 months ago, the dynamic between my parents and I has significantly changed. It’s fascinating when I’m back with them because naturally, I unconsciously, revert to my childhood role. I’m more passive-aggressive and far more likely to selectively pick and choose which emotions I feel are safe to express. We weren’t an entirely dysfunctional clan during childhood, but boundaries were undefined and emotions were handled with instability. Some days, I was allowed to cry. Other days, it was, why are you crying? As a child, this disconnect is confusing, and so I learned that love and being yourself was often conditional, rather than a constant state of steadiness.

I love my parents, but they were not equipped to manage an eating disorder. They were not equipped to understand the emotional and physical intensity that is this mental illness. And that’s not their fault. It’s a hellacious mess to deal with. But that doesn’t mean it was okay or fair. That doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to feel angry, sad, or even resentful that I didn’t have all my needs met. The experience of these emotions and the subsequent processing of them is paramount to the healing and recovery process.

Nobody randomly develops an eating disorder, because the eating disorder is always the symptom of other problems, whether it be unaddressed depression, paralyzing anxiety, or devastating trauma. Eating disorders are the inward expression of outward rejection, danger, and chaos. Eating disorders are a perceived way of maintaining control and order in a world that feels frightening and unpredictable.

I’ve been spending a lot of time with my inner child lately. I’ve been validating and nurturing her. I’ve been listening to what she needs. I’ve been keeping her close to my heart, because she deserves it. She deserves to be loved. She is a beautiful person. And she is lucky to have me. And I am lucky to have her!

Anonymous Therapist to Anonymous Client

Dear Client,

You are so beautiful, and you don’t realize it. That’s okay. I don’t blame you for that. I’m so lucky I get to see your beauty. I’m so lucky I get to know you, because you are such a special person. You don’t want to be part of this life. You never asked to be born, and life has been hellacious from the start. You’re so young, and yet, you’re so wise and so lived.

I have been thinking about you all day. I can’t stop.

I really want to hug you. We had a moment today- a bonding where I felt so incredibly close to you, and I felt that you experienced the same. It was really nice. I’m lucky that I have connection in my life. But I am so glad I get to provide that connection for you. Just so you know, if you weren’t my client, if you were just a random girl on the street, I’d probably avoid you. But once getting to know you, I’d want to have a sleepover with you, paint your toenails, make you laugh, read your fortune, tell you everything is going to be all right. I know you wouldn’t believe me, but I’d continue to say it.

I want to know if you’re going to make it after your treatment with me is over. This is what makes my job so hard. I hold onto the hope that you will be okay, but I’ll never know. And this is just brief, your time with me. I’m just one person among thousands that you’ll interact with. I promise you that I care, and I know that doesn’t say a whole lot, but it means something, doesn’t it? You don’t believe anyone really gets you, and maybe I don’t either, but I promise I am doing everything I can to understand.

I see so much of myself in you, and that’s why I’m writing this here, because it’s not anything I could ever tell you. This is your treatment, not mine, and this recovery is about you, not me. You are so brave, you know? So incredibly courageous. I don’t like the word strong, because everyone has told you that. You know you’re strong. I want you to know it’s okay to be weak. You’re still loved.

Thank you for trusting me. I know most people have destroyed that trust, have betrayed you, have taken away any resemblance of transparency and hope. I won’t tell you that I’m different from them, but I’m doing my best to show you.

You are so special. You radiate without even knowing you shine. I have been thinking about you all day, after seeing you today, after the contact we made, after the distress you were in. Again, thank you for trusting me. To just listen. To just be there.

There’s not much else I can do. But I promise you I can be there.

This life is hard. Believe me, I know. You didn’t deserve the playing cards you were dealt, but that’s your reality, and I want to help you channel that energy into something greater. You are so much more than the sum of your traumas, and life is so much more than the ticking time bombs until your death.

You are so wonderful. I want you to know that. I will tell you that in some capacity every single time I see you, because I don’t think you hear it enough. You are the reason I got into this field, you know? You are the type of person I wanted to help. On the surface, we’re nothing alike. But, I’ll tell you this: you pull me. You have an existential knowledge like mine and a compassionate soul like mine. You have so many strengths, and I pray you recognize them because they will save you.

You’re someone I won’t forget. I promise you that. I know you don’t think you have impact on this world- I know you feel like a piece of shit more days than not, I know that you everyday has been a struggle. But you have an impact on me. You’ve changed me, and I thank you for that.