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.

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hanging in there?

God, it’s been a rough few weeks.
I don’t know where to begin.
I’m just on the roller coaster of emotions, and I can only blame it on stress.
I’m working so much, too much, I know that, and this overachiever lifestyle is only harming me.
I’m helping way too many other people…and not helping myself.
It’s really ridiculous.

I miss this blog–it was my baby for so long. I don’t know why I am abandoning it.
I have lots of my clients talking back to their illnesses, using the same strategy I used to do, but I’m not doing the work to myself.
I’m telling them to be kind, while I continue to beat myself down.

This is not healthy.

Three weeks ago, my old therapist called me and asked if I wanted a full-time therapist position at a residential facility eating disorder unit.
Not even kidding. This came out of nowhere.
I haven’t really heard from her since- apparently, it is in the developmental stages, and I’m scared to even get my hopes up because it’s really up in the air, but talk about a dream come true. I’ve been scrapping three part-time therapy jobs, barely making livable wages, working 60ish hours a week. A full-time position would be a dream right now. And working with ED clients? That’s why I went into this field in the first place!

But, I’m also struggling in my own eating disorder life, and that’s because I’ve been stressed as fuck. I’ve been bingeing, craving junk food, not exercising as much as I’d like to, and not sleeping as much as I need. I feel fat, and fat isn’t a feeling, but whenever I “feel” that, it means I’m feeling really insecure, incompetent, and unsettled in my own skin.

But, in my own shallow words, I FEEL FAT.
And there is nothing more triggering in recovery or in quasi-recovery than the threat of being fat.

I’m not fat, but I am not taking care of myself. There’s a difference.
I need to start.
Otherwise, I’ll be burnt out before I know it.

Just needed to get this off my chest. Had a horrible binge earlier. Feeling the post-food coma of laziness, guilt, despair, and anger…it’s nothing I haven’t felt before, but it’s painful nonetheless.

Hope all is wel with my lovely readers. Shout and say hi! I miss this community.

the days are passing.

It’s been awhile since I’ve written. About three weeks. Crazy that it used to be everyday. I haven’t thought about this blog much. But it always feels good to start writing.

I’m living with my boyfriend now. I’m still quasi-unpacking and moving and getting rid of a lifetime of stuff. I’m working a lot. It’s a weird adjustment- not being at home, and I miss my parents, even though they’re only about twenty minutes away. But I also love falling asleep and waking up to my favorite person everyday. It’s been fun- making a budget, figuring out what goes where, calling each other to see who is picking up groceries, etc. It’s the grown-up world, and it’s a world I belong in. I can’t believe after being in school since kindergarten, I’m now completely graduated. I’m completely done with academia unless I decide to continue pursuing even higher education…which I don’t have a current desire to do.

Now that I am working with a school-based agency, my clients are all children and adolescents. It’s a lot of play and art therapy, and I’m constantly reminded how blissful my own childhood was in comparison to the horrors I hear everyday. Adolescents are still my favorite. Especially my girls. I think I’m talented at working with kids. I can relate to them on a very fundamental, humanistic level. I also love the notion of childhood and what it embodies.

I haven’t been bingeing or restricting, but I’ve definitely experienced some struggles. I suppose I thought I wouldn’t be triggered whatsoever once I left home. That, of course, is a myth. Sure, there isn’t all that tempting food around, because we just don’t buy it, but that’s not to say I don’t have the urge to eat an entire package of store-bought cookies in the middle of the night. And that’s not to say I haven’t felt fat or ugly or out-of-control. I’ve felt all of those, and I’ve felt them often. But I’ve also felt the other range of raw emotions: I’ve felt sadness and happiness and fear and guilt and curiosity and embarrassment and excitement.

Day-to-day recovery is so hard, and sometimes it feels like it will always be this nagging weakness of mine, this tantalizing dance on the borderline of health and sickness. It’s not that black-and-white, of course, but in the throes of triggers, it certainly feels that way. Throwing in the towel is so easy, and I can’t lose sight of how easy it is to quit. Recovery will never be the easier choice, but it will always be the better choice. As most things in life are.

I just have to remind myself to breathe when it gets difficult. To forgive. To be patient. To talk about it to people who care. I’m not crazy and I’m not weird and I’m certainly not a monster, despite the negative messages pounding inside my head.

We all suffer with the distortions and the lies and the underlying fears that we aren’t good enough. It manifests in different ways, and for me, it was an eating disorder, but that doesn’t mean I’m not good enough. I absolutely am. The irrationality inside my head does not embody the truth. There is no truth. I am a human, and I am in this universe, and so I just am perfect. It’s kind of a radical acceptance. It’s the philosophy I really believe in.

Life is moving, as it does, and more changes are coming ahead this week. Big job interview lined up for my boyfriend this week and a potential move could happen. And I’m in the process of applying for more full-time work myself. I have no idea what to expect. But the excitement of the unknown propels me.

candid morning thoughts

Dear Bee, 

I’m sitting next to an empty jar of Nutella. This was eaten in two separate sittings- half last week, half at two in the morning today. This was never a binge food before (surprisingly, because it’s basically the “perfect” binge food- I know that sounds so sick). Let me decompress. 

I have been stressed. This semester has been kicking my ass. I see clients three to four days per week in the mornings and afternoons and attend class three nights a week. I am also in the midst of studying for a huge comprehensive exam that will determine whether or not I graduate. No pressure. I usually don’t have trouble sleeping, but lately, I’ve been wide awake and anxious at one, two, three in the morning…even though I am exhausted, I am struggling to let go and fall asleep.

But not all has been bad. In fact, I would argue that most has been very, very, very good. I was offered an exciting new opportunity to work with a new group of clients and my supervisor praised me for doing a good job yesterday; things are super with the boyfriend; my relationship with my family is better than has been in years. However, I am noticing that I am somewhat in a bind. Several of my friends reach out to me, saying “let’s do something this weekend” or “I miss you.” I wish I could feel appreciative; instead, this just piles on stress. My time feels so stretched for the next few months; I am becoming THAT FLAKY PERSON unwilling to make tangible commitments and always keeps the option of canceling available…and I don’t like that I am doing that. I want to spend time with my friends. I also know that I need to remain focused for the next few months, at least until this huge test is out of my way. 

Last night, one of my friends said, “Oh my god, you always eat so healthy!” in response to the salad I was chowing down for dinner. This was awkward. She knows my eating disorder history; she SAW my very public NEDA support Facebook post; she is a training therapist! Then, she had to continue on with opening her bag of chips and offering one to one of my other friends. She turned to me and said, “I would offer you some, but you probably wouldn’t want these.” 

Really. 

I don’t restrict much at all in front of anyone. And yes, I do eat “healthy” by American societal terms, I suppose, but who has the right to judge me for that? Why are we so goddamn critical of how others eat (I am not immune to this, either)? She acted as if I were committing some asinine crime by eating vegetables over chips. 

Well, I got the last laugh because I was the one who polished off half a jar of Nutella and three brownies in bed, at 2am, six hours ago. Just because I couldn’t sleep. Just because I had tried everything else. I didn’t even feel triggered—I was just bored, really. Has it gotten to this point? Sigh. 

But, I’m going to try something new…I’m not going to label what I did as a binge. It was an oversized midnight snack and it was the best I could do at the time. People do this. I’m letting it go. I’m going to live in the gray area today. 90% of the time, the pattern is: either I eat perfectly or good enough or I binge and have an all access pass until midnight to keep on eating. 

Today will be different.
Today, I do not have that all-access pass. I will eat normally. I will turn the experience into an opportunity.

No restriction. No bingeing. 

That is my self-care promise to myself today…and now to all of you. Keep you guys posted.

It’s not the unknown we fear

Dear Bee, 

I’ve been anxious about my future. Feelings of being overwhelmed, feelings that I won’t “make it” in this tough, grown-up adult world consisting of budgets, time management, and full-time work. It’s hard to get ahead. I’ll have my M.S in Counseling by the end of summer, but my particular career requires licensure, which, in turn, means thousands of hours of supervised clinical work. I have the opportunity to find a paying internship after graduation, and I’m going to do whatever I can to land one. Competition, however, is fierce. 

I know, given my stage and level of experience and training, I’m good at what I do. And I love doing it. I’m not a money-chaser, not by any means, but I understand I need enough of it to live comfortably. Moreover, I want to stay in California, which, unfortunately, means a very high cost of living. I suppose it’s just hard not working right now. I’m making zero income. This is the first time I haven’t had a job (or been actively searching for a new job) in about six years. I’m working my ass off at my unpaid internship, grabbing any and every opportunity I can, because it’s the best way to learn and become an attractive applicant for the future. In fact, tonight, I’m going to start leading a brand new support group for young adults facing life transitions. I love that I’m following my dream! I just pray a money trail follows. I certainly didn’t get into this field to become rich, as that would be oxymoronic for a mental health professional, but I do want to travel and have a family. Those are very important to me, and they both take steady income. The good news is that my boyfriend and I will be done with school at the same time, and we will essentially enter the same workforce together. It’s so relieving to have that support. Love is a lot harder to find than any job, so I keep that in perspective.

Food has been going well. I haven’t had much of an appetite over the past few days, but I’ve been eating normally, as in not restricting and not bingeing. Because that’s part of my recovery medicine. I’ve also been insanely craving sugar, but I haven’t really been giving into it, because I’ve been feeling sluggish. Instead, I’m trying to recognize that my cravings are more emotional, rather than physical, and that it probably signals I’m tired, stressed, or need to attend to some other feeling occurring within me. 

One of my favorite professors once told us that it’s a misconception to “fear the unknown,” because it’s not the unknown we actually fear. It’s all the horrible events and manifestations we perceive will happen. It’s all those worst-case scenarios. We fear the worst, rather than the unknown. Because what’s to fear about something we know nothing about. We fear bad things happening to us, things in which we have no control over. That’s where I’m at right now. It’s not the unknown I’m fearing. It’s the fear that I won’t get a job, that all this school and training won’t pay off for me, that I won’t make it as a successful adult in this corporate world. These thoughts stem from insecurity, rather than evidence. I’m where I am for a reason. I graduated college for a reason, got accepted into graduate school for a reason, landed this internship for a reason…these things didn’t just “happen” passively to me. I don’t deserve anything this life. Nobody does. We have to earn what we want.

Anyways, food. Everyone is on a diet. What else is new? I wish I could say it gets boring to hear about, but I can’t lie here. I still devour everyone’s meal plans the way they devour the food. It still fascinates me to watch people eat, to analyze their food choices, to review their bodies relative to their nutrition and exercise. It’s like a thirst that still can’t quite be quenched. I would think after awhile, it would just become exhausting to hear all this diet and food talk, but it kind of fuels me. It’s like a safe way to stay disordered by living vicariously through other people’s obsessions or own disorders. It’s not all that healthy, because I’m still ruminating on food, exercise, dieting, etc. but I know it’s better than ruminating on my OWN food, exercise, dieting. I can’t be too hard on myself. Recovery still requires active work and brutal honesty with myself and others. It’s kind of like doing homework for my hardest class. Not effortless, not really something I can just put off or “hope” I’ll understand, but something I have to concentrate and focus my full attention on. That’s how recovery works. It’s not automatic nor is it natural. It requires actual work and deep soul-searching. 

And that’s okay. Because we most appreciate the gifts we work for and buy ourselves. If someone just handed us recovery, we wouldn’t nearly understand the complexity and gratitude that comes with such a valuable present. 

Sweet Tooth Sunday

Dear Bee,

I’ve had a ferocious sweet tooth for the past few days, but I’m trying to just accept those cravings and do my best to both honor them while simultaneously checking in with my emotions. I used to think sugar was my weakness, but I realize that I’m not alone in that. Even non-disordered individuals struggle with it. I just have to be more cautious, because I obviously have a history with bingeing, not just overeating.

Yesterday, I started writing for a bit, but I was interrupted and did not have the chance to finish my thought content. Basically, I was feeling incredibly anxious. Early in treatment, I learned H.A.L.T (hungry, angry, lonely, tired), the four emotional states that can trigger a binge. When I was writing, I was feeling A. Hungry, B. Angry, and C. Tired. In other words, I felt extremely triggered, and it scared me.

I was hungry because I didn’t have a proper dinner the night before due to eating a large lunch. My boyfriend and I went out with my best friend and her boyfriend for drinks. Just had one beer, but I hate drinking on an empty stomach, so I had few almonds. Then, around 11:30pm, I decided I needed to eat something substantial, so I had two large cookies dipped in milk and some candy corn. Great logic, and I felt guilty for the rest of the night. It wasn’t even a binge, but I still beat myself up over it. This, in turn, led to the feeling of anger, which I felt for most of yesterday morning. I was incredibly hungry when I woke up , but my breakfast barely satisfied me, and by lunchtime, I felt ravenous again. Ate lunch, but was SO, SO tired (another dangerous emotion), so the boyfriend and I took a LONG four-hour nap yesterday afternoon.  This was exactly what I needed. Then, we sexed, showered, and barbecued dinner at his place. I felt extremely rejuvenated. We went to a late movie with friends, went for a long drive, and fell more in love. On that note, I recommend Gravity, but only because I have a girl crush on Sandra Bullock.

So, I had to really pay attention to my emotions yesterday. Food was on my mind more than I had liked, but what can you do? Those days happen.

It’s my last work shift. Bittersweet. It hasn’t really sunk in yet. Maybe that’s because I’m only working part-time on weekends nowadays, but I’ve been in this position for awhile. I won’t actually have my weekends off for two more weeks, as I have class the next two weekends, but I’m excited for that course.

The weather outside is simply gorgeous. Not sure what my plans are for the rest of the day, but I’m going to make it a great Sunday, because I deserve it. 🙂

Between clients

Dear Bee, 

Where are so many people canceling this week? Not cool. On the bright side, I’ll be out of here early. I can’t believe I’ve only been doing this gig for a month and I’ve already seen such a diverse range of people. I don’t define a person by his or her diagnosis (EVER) because a person is a person, but so far, I’ve had sessions with individuals with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Major Depression Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Schizophrenia- Paranoid Type, Alcohol Abuse, Separation Anxiety Disorder, Pedophilia, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Not to mention miscellaneous but equally important issues, such as: domestic violence, career-related stress, emotional abuse, coping with divorce, adolescent concerns, life transitions, family-of-origin problems, identity crises, and financial concerns.

It’s been a hell of a learning opportunity, and I think I’m doing a good job. I mean, this is pretty much my baseline, right? It only gets better from here on out. My clients seem responsive to my interventions and appear to like coming in to talk. Nevertheless, it’s hard to release the perfectionism in this kind of field. It’s hard to NOT take it personally if a client doesn’t do his or her homework or doesn’t seem to have the motivation to change or doesn’t want to speak to you. But that’s on them, not on me.

I love my Thursdays, because after finishing up with clients at my site, I go to my boyfriend’s house and we start our weekend together. Tonight, I’m surprising him with a bottle of wine and those cute, tasty macaroons (I’ve never actually had them, but they are so gorgeous, and I’m excited to try them)and some massage oil or something romantic like that. I’m too poor to buy new lingerie, but he’s getting sparkling pink wine and my vagina. Happy boyfriend, happy girlfriend.

I’ve had an unusual appetite today, as in, I’ve been extremely hungry, despite eating regular meals. I know our bodies sometimes just ask for more food. And thinking back on it, I barely ate much for dinner yesterday.

And my office has all these delicious foods everywhere, but I’m acting weird because they aren’t “safe,” and therefore, I worry how I’ll react around them. Let’s keep it real: I need to just chill out. I had a cookie earlier, and I survived. I love how sometimes we think it is simply just going to be the end of the world.

Yesterday, I had a client complete a thought record for her anxiety, and when she was talking about her activated trigger, she mentioned, I don’t even know if I should write this down because it seems so silly.

That’s the power of triggers. THEY DO SEEM SILLY. In fact, oftentimes, they seem so silly that we actually minimize their effects and deny our thoughts and feelings around them. But their damage can deliberate us. Triggers keep us frightened and afraid. But everyone with any kind of mental illness or disorder has triggers. They are scary, but they are normal. Recognizing them is key. It doesn’t matter how insignificant or trivial they seem. For instance, I get triggered when a stranger compliments my body. I get triggered to binge, as if I need to somehow prove them wrong or as if I deserve to now “treat” myself due to being so rewarded. Other triggers to binge include:, feeling overwhelmed with schoolwork, eating food I consider “unsafe,” exercising compulsively (because I want some kind of reward for punishing myself so hard), wanting to procrastinate, thinking about the unknown, drinking alcohol, and making major decisions.

Irrationality doesn’t negate the trigger. Knowing something is irrational is not necessarily synonymous with feeling instantly better. Everyone is different, so everyone’s triggers will be different. Just because they are not common does not mean they are not okay. For instance, I knew someone with an eating disorder who felt triggered to binge whenever she watched television. They just went hand-in-hand. Numbing out with food in front of the TV as a means to relax. 

Bottom line: your triggers are not stupid. Your triggers are not insignificant or unimportant. Your triggers are real. OWN THEM then WORK THROUGH THEM.