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.

cha cha changes.

Life, I’m always reminded, is defined by mere moments. By spurts of opportunity and rare offerings that suddenly change the entire course of action.

Things are happening. And they seem to be happening quickly and intensely.

In a few hours, I have a job interview for a counseling position I haphazardly applied to, without thinking much of anything. And they seem to really like me. I’m feeling really confident about it.

On Friday, my old therapist-YES THAT ONE- contacted me. Asking if I would potentially be interested in working for an eating disorder residential facility running groups and providing individual psychotherapy, and could I send her my resume- she’d like to pass it to the CEO? 

That’s obviously a different story, and all the weird transference and feelings about her and this opportunity will be addressed later. 

On Friday, my boyfriend met with a psychologist in private practice who is looking for interns. She loved him (no surprise) and now he is thinking of taking that opportunity. The kicker is that it’s about one and a half hours away. We’d be moving from my cushiony Southern California hometown into the jungle maze that is Los Angeles.

I’ve never moved.

My job opportunities are down here. My internship is down here. My current job that I’m working at (which is just to supply some income) is down here. I’d leave everything I know and start over fresh. This is terrifying; it is also exciting. 

We have the world on our shoulders, and yet, I wasn’t prepared for any of this. 

I love my boyfriend. I love him more than I thought I could possibly love another person, and I always use the phrase that relational health remains strong when the we comes before the me. This is a prime example of this. Figuring out budgeting, figuring out living accommodations, figuring out how to be a grown-up in a professional world I don’t necessarily feel equipped to deal with…

None of this is a rehearsal. None of this is a trial or a practice run. This is real life- this is it. Right here, right now, in this moment…

I have everything I ever wanted- the career I envisioned, a supportive and loving boyfriend, opportunity…

And yet, there is reluctance. And fear. And skepticism and doubt and the activation of those core beliefs, I’m not good enough and I’m not going to make it. 

There is the desire for movement and change and risk with the apprehension that the novelly will somehow destroy what I am preciously holding onto now.

I am a therapist. My job is to push people from their comfort zones, to expand their horizons, and to encourage them to take risks they may have not wanted to take before. That is where the magic and growth lies.

All of this– it’s overwhelming. But I’m going to make it. Because this is where I’m supposed to be and this is what I’m supposed to do.  

cruises and eating

Dear Bee,

It’s really interesting to go on a cruise with an eating disorder history. Cruises, known for their gluttonous feasts and complimentary smorgasbords of all-you-can-eat delicacies, are notoriously dubbed as vacations centered on food. And this is partly true. Seven-course meals. 24 hour room service. Tropical drinks and ice cream and pizza stands everywhere.

I struggled some, but not as much as I expected. I don’t know. I just ate. Like any other fucking person eats. That was relieving. But I watched and observed my fellow passengers, as I do. EVERYONE, it seemed, was indulging, was talking about how they couldn’t wait to resume on their diets as soon as they were home, was laughing about how much weight they were gaining as they piled on another plate of cookies. 

I gained two pounds. That’s it. And most was probably water weight from the sodium and traveling. I ate everything I wanted. Bread at dinner. Desserts two, three times a day. Soft serve ice cream in between. Margaritas and umbrella drinks poolside. I also moved. I danced, hiked, kayaked, walked, and snorkeled. A healthy balance. That’s what life is. 

I won’t look back on this trip and remember what I ate or didn’t eat. I will, however, recall the moments of side-splitting laughter shared between my boyfriend, his family, and me. I will remember when we almost got walked in on having sex in our suite. I will remember prancing around a French nude beach and swimming in the ocean when a rainstorm happened. I will remember the feeling of white sand tickling my toes, Caribbean sun streaming down my back, rushes of the ocean harmonizing any worry. I will remember feeling happy and peaceful. Because that’s why I love to travel. And that’s why I love recovery. 

 

little snippets everywhere

There is so much to write. A whirlwind of a week. A whirlwind of a life.

I celebrated my birthday a few days ago. I had a combined graduation and birthday party. Surrounded by love. I think only now have I truly realized how LUCKY I am to have such unwavering support. Seriously. I remember being a prepubescent child, desperately praying for popularity, for status and acceptance among my peers, for “perfect” circles of friendships. 

I’m in my twenties. And now I have that. Friends who love me. Friends who are proud of me. Love all around. I am never alone. I haven’t appreciated it nearly as much as I would like to. 

My ex-boyfriend texted me out of the blue. “I’m sorry.” Those were his initial words. We conversed for awhile. I received a long, gushing apology. Gratitude and recognition. A spiritual revelation, apparently. He’s getting married in November. It’s weird. It’s really fucking weird. He says he’s happy for me. Well, I’m happy for myself. And, in a weirdly mature way, I’m happy that he’s happy. As dysfunctional as we were together, I forgive him. And he deserves joy. 

I’m walking across the stage tomorrow. Shaking the dean’s hand. Taking my makeshift diploma (I still have one fieldwork class this summer). Cap is decorated. Didn’t I just graduate high school? Middle school? Time, what an abyss. 

The current love of my love and I are going on vacation next week. The Caribbean. Courtesy of his parents. One of those insane cruises. I’m really excited. We both are. I just love him to pieces; we’re going to have an amazing time. It’s almost been a year now. Tomorrow marks 11 months since our first date. What a thrilling ride it has been. What a beautiful journey we have taken. We are very madly in love with one another; the love just keeps transcending deeper and deeper. It is beyond anything I ever imagined I could experience. 

There’s so many more details- so much more minutia that consists of my day-to-day existence. There was the intense Southern California heat wave last week that resulted in lots of beach time, swimming, and cold beers. There have been clients- so many clients. A couple new ones. Mostly little kids. Play therapy is fun. 

I love the adolescents. I think 12-17 is my favorite population. I think I want to specialize in teenagers. I say this now; it’ll probable change by next week. 

There’s been balanced eating. There’s been less exercise than usual, as I was swamped with end-of-the-year papers, celebrations, etc. There was birthday cake yesterday and there was kale today. There has been coffee and wine and several pancake breakfasts. There was shopping for a new bathing suit yesterday..and it was one of the first times I ever put on a bikini in the dressing room, and thought to myself, DAMMMMMN girl. If anyone says that, it’s certainly someone else. My body has never been good enough by my standards. It’s getting there. 

I’m growing into myself. It’s a good feeling. It’s a good life. 

the strangest miracle

I didn’t binge yesterday.

I gave myself ultimate permission, because I was just tired of resisting. So, I decided to accept: accept that it was going to be a shitty day, accept that I was going to make mistakes, accept that it was just going to be a hard time in recovery.

And what happened once I gave myself that freedom?

Nothing. Because, I completely lost the desire. Nothing appealed to me. And I mean that- nothing. When I told myself I could have everything, all I wanted was nothing. 

Something just snapped in me. I went to my boyfriend’s after class, and spent like four hours talking about everything. And I mean everything. It was raw and authentic and emotional, but it was what I needed to do. Our love is more important to me than my fears- and one of my greatest fears is being vulnerable with people I love, simply because I have never really been validated for doing so.

I told him I needed him to eat with me, that I was scared of doing it alone. I hadn’t eaten since about 11am in the morning, and I had zero desire to do it. I was afraid I would binge. And in my disordered mind, if I’m going to engage in one behavior, restriction is better than bingeing. Better to have a lack of something than an abundance of something, I suppose. So, he ate with me. It was such a process. It all tasted terrible, and I ate like a baby. But, that’s beside the point. I ate. I felt safe. He makes me feel that way. I’ve never depended on anyone to help me with this eating disorder- it’s something I’ve consistently felt alone in- and he did a wonderful job at not overreacting or under reacting. Both of them would have been detrimental.

I could write down meticulous detail of what happened yesterday night, but it would be lengthy and tedious. To summarize, I am finally learning what it means to be open and honest about my triggers and lean on people when I need to. I knew I wouldn’t engage in behaviors around him, so I took that leap of faith and went to see him last night, because my recovery was more important than my worries about sounding stupid or dramatic or so on. 

I am so grateful for him. I am grateful for days like yesterday, hard as they are, because they demonstrate resilience and courage and a willingness to own up to my pain and anxiety and fear. Recovery is painstaking and brutal and nonlinear, but there is a beautiful energy that emerges from the chaos. I am stronger now than I have ever been. Everyday, I grow. Saw a billboard today that said, if you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t doing anything. That’s for damn sure. 

Onto a new moment and journey in my life. 

When it ebbs and flows

Dear Bee,

Life ebbs and flows and everyone struggles, and that’s important for us all to keep in mind. I have another relative dying, and it’s hard. God, it’s hard. She’s old, very old, and has lived a full and vibrant life, but that doesn’t make the impeding permanency of nonexistence any easier. I am continuously finding myself questioning life and its meaning and the process of aging and the fragility of time, and it either way, I realize, it doesn’t matter how I think or what I do with that knowledge. Life can and still will happen. The moments still happen. The experiences still occur.

My first day of my last full semester starts tomorrow. Graduate school has flown. Everything in my life has changed. For the better. That is absolutely undeniable. But, it is still a complex ride, an up-and-down process full of uncertainty. 

I went away Weds-Fri to visit with my boyfriend’s parents about two hours away from where we live. It was a much-needed getaway, a spur-of-the-moment decision. They love me. Absolutely adore me. And it’s nice to be so appreciated. I usually do well meeting with parents, but they take it above and beyond. What a comforting feeling. And my boyfriend- I love him so much. That goes without saying. I was feeling really anxious on Wednesday after seeing clients (I felt I had a horrible session with one of them, I also felt very triggered to binge), and I could process this with him on the car ride there. I haven’t given into any disordered thoughts since then- well, maybe once, when I slightly overrate on a dinner meal out with his family. But, whatever. Water under the bridge.

I wish i could enjoy life without constantly obsessing over food, but I just have to accept where I am in my stages of recovery. Healing is slow. But it’s always better to take the long, scenic route than risk a dangerous shortcut. I realize that. I guess I just still grapple with what true recovery looks like. The definition I like is that I can eat whatever I want guilt-free without under or overdoing it. I want to say I I can be able to accept my body at any size, but at this stage, that isn’t true. I like the weight I am now. I don’t want to weigh more. I tend to eat a variety of foods, but I know it’s important to get proper nutrition, so I tend to stick with healthier fare. Some of that may be disordered; some may be genuine concern for my well-being. The lines are not as black-and-white as they seem. It’s hard knowing if my motives come from my eating disorder or from my general knowledge (ex: it’s good for you to workout, it’s good for you to eat salads, it’s good for you to do this, do that, etc.). I guess it becomes disordered when it starts impairing the other parts of functioning, such as relationships, work, and school, which I can safely say it has in the past. Today, not so much. Today, my relationships are excellent and work and school are both going well. 

It’s always a process. I’m always a student. I never want to stop learning, for then I stop growing. 

the rainbow of emotions

Dear Bee,

I’m so sick of the holiday food. There. I said it. I’m so tired of junk food being EVERYWHERE. At my work, in my house, at the parties. It’s way too triggering right now. I don’t want to blame neutral ingredients, but it would be much easier to focus on my emotions without continuously feeling overwhelmed by the distractions of tempting chocolates, cookies, brownies, etc. I alternate between wanting to avoid everything altogether and fantasizing about extreme gluttony. 

To recap the past few days,

My loved relative is still dying. I’ve cried many times. I’ve pondered the meaning of life many more times. 

My ex-boyfriend is now engaged. This bothers me for many reasons. One, being that I felt so much emotional agony after I broke up with him, terrified that he would kill himself because he supposedly could not live without me. Two, he had proposed to me. Twice. And said I was the only person he could ever love. Three, I just don’t like to see him happy. Selfish, sure, but it’s the truth. Four, according to my highly judgmental opinion, he is immature and thus way too young/financially insecure/LAZY and ambitious to actually get married. 

My dad had a birthday. Things have been good with the family. The grieving process does that to people. 

My boyfriend has been off-the-charts incredible. SERIOUSLY. What kind of boyfriend is willing to help me process how and why I feel upset that my ex-boyfriend is getting married…while also completely validating my frustration. Love of my life, I swear. He’s my favorite person in the world. 

My clients are going through deep shit. What IS it about the holidays? There’s been self-harm, suicidal ideation, possible eating disorder behaviors, major depressive episodes, binge drinking, family fights… all I can say is that I’m happy I’m here for them. I’m learning so much every session. 

I did my first mandated child abuse & elder abuse report. These are really scary…

I’m going to Florida for a week with boyfriend. We leave Christmas Day. I’m BEYOND excited. 

I’ve been alternating between overeating and restricting. Too. Much. Sugar. Why does it have to taste so damn good?!?!?!

I’ve binged one and a half times. I stopped myself mid-binge this evening. I actually put food back. I know I’m supposed to be proud of myself, but I’m irritated that I was numbing my feelings in the first place. The first binge was atrocious. Really. It was just disgusting. I feel like such a savage animal attacking food like that.

Oh, and I’ve felt fat. And yes, I know fat isn’t a feeling. 

And most of all, I feel guilty because someone I love, someone who is close to me, is literally on her last final days…and I’m obsessing about the amount of candy bars I can cram into my mouth without anybody noticing that they are gone. I’m worried about someone getting married, someone who I can’t stand. 

I’m just grateful I can cry and express. I’m grateful for my support reaching out to me. I’m grateful that my life is colorful and vibrant. 

You, Bee, are a security blanket. I turn to you when my world becomes cold and frightening. Instead, I need to trust that my own body can handle the changes in temperature. Because no matter how much you may “protect” me, you also shield me. And this little bird wants to fly free. 

 

putting in perspective

Dear Bee,

The past few days have been a whirlwind. One of my relatives is dying. It happened very suddenly; she’s old, she’s been sick for awhile, but it’s still the looming cloud of death, and that’s a tough pill for any living soul to swallow. Nothing puts life in perspective quite like death. I’ve been very emotional. Yesterday, fortunately, I was able to see her, tell her I love her, kiss her goodbye. I could hold it together while I was in the room with her; it was in my car that I broke down. Tears are good. Emotions are the windows to our hearts. I would rather flesh out the state of love and feel this kind of pain than build walls and stay isolated. Humans are meant for companionship; it is in our genetic biology.

I’ve been reaching out for support, and the response has been overwhelming. Before, I had the tendency to withhold in order to shoulder everyone else’s pain. Now, I actually feel allowed to admit when I am sad. It’s okay not to be okay.

This past week has been an instrumental one. The conference I attended really refined that I’m doing exactly what i’m meant to be doing (therapy), and that there is still so much in store for me regarding what I can achieve and how I can help people. It’s an exciting field, and it’s growing and expanding. I’m entering the workforce, it seems, at just the right time. 

I’ve also been really getting into meditation. One of the presenters, a world-famous neuroscientist and mindfulness therapist, who developed the wheel of consciousness (Daniel J. Siegel– Google this BOSS of a man), did a live demonstration that allowed me to actually, actually meditate for the first time in my life. I couldn’t even breathe uninterrupted for a minute without becoming restless and agitated before doing this activity. My boyfriend and I have been meditating once or twice a day now, and it’s been absolutely profound in enabling me to get in touch with my senses and appreciate the uniqueness of each passing moment. Now I get why mindfulness is such a thing. Once it clicks, it’s insanely euphoric.

Life is insanely unpredictable. With an eating disorder, I realized, I was trying to somehow control that unpredictability. I was trying to keep the world safe and tightly-sealed in my own container, absent of fear, anger, sadness, and insecurity. I didn’t want to be present: it was much too easier to focus and obsess on the future, while dwelling and ruminating on the mistakes shaping my past. I didn’t appreciate small things; I didn’t even really appreciate people. I sure as hell didn’t appreciate myself.

What has recovery given me?

Appreciation. Appreciation for love in all forms, appreciation for what I get to do every single day, appreciation for the rain that’s currently dancing on my rooftop, appreciation for the teenagers who will be confiding in me in a few hours, appreciation for the feeling of this soft blanket over my skin, appreciation for the ability to type this out right now.

To starve worry, you must binge on gratitude.

 

Binge Aftermath

Dear Bee,

The days proceeding a binge tend to the hardest days in recovery. For one, I have to deal with the physical reminder that I ate too much and that manifests as a cramped stomach, belatedness and gas, and a general feeling of fatigue. For two, I have to handle the emotional residue that emerges from the guilt, agony, and internal criticism for messing up.

I planned to eat three meals today, and that’s exactly what I did. No more, no less. Even though my binge wasn’t massive (just a bunch of random chocolate, rice cakes, and some cereal), I didn’t have any appetite today…didn’t feel my stomach growl once. But I knew, I knew I couldn’t restrict today. I had to be kind to my body. Otherwise, I’d end up doing exactly what I did last night.

I did talk to the boyfriend last night. We conversed over text. I didn’t feel ready over the phone. I can easily talk to him in person, because I can gauge our conversation by the nonverbal communication… but over the phone, it seems strange. And I told him what happened. He was there. He listened. He validated. He was supportive. He didn’t try and fix a thing. Instead, he told me he was proud of me, he loved me, and he would do anything for me. God, he’s an amazing therapist. His clients are so fortunate. And I’m fortunate. Because I know he’s never going to judge me or think I’m crazy, despite what my eating disorder tells me. He understands mental illness, obviously, and he understands the ebbs and flows of recovery. And if he doesn’t understand, he asks questions and actually listens to my answers. I’m very blessed. And I don’t want to ever sabotage it. 

It takes so much courage to heal. It take so much strength to admit weakness. It takes so much endurance to recover. 

I know it’s worth it. I’ve experienced enough freedom to know that I’ll never stop fighting the good fight.

Oh, and in other news, I made a Tumblr in honor of my growing fan base and readership! I’m expanding (I know ZILCH about Tumblr though, so I’m trusting all you lovely readers to add me and help me out??). But here’s the link!! Ask me questions or whatevsssss you kids do on this website! 

http://loveletterstobee.tumblr.com

 

PS: I’m going to be attending a super exciting conference for the rest of the week. Not sure how much I’ll be posting on here, but I appreciate ALL THE LOVE! You all are amazing. <3<3<3. 

 

 

What more could I want?

Dear Bee,

The end of a long, much overdue weekend has arrived. It has been a jam-packed past four days, full of the people I love and the things I love doing. Friday consisted of lounging around with the boyfriend…and I can’t really remember exactly what we did. Oh, wake up sex. And errands. And a long nap. And there were pancakes. And a really long walk. Saturday were the two birthday parties! On Thursday, I had written that I felt somewhat apprehensive about the food situation (one party can be triggering enough, but having two of them back to back seemed overwhelming). Needless to say, it went exceptionally well, meaning I didn’t just sit around and focus on what I was or wasn’t eating. Yesterday, I went hiking with one of my best friends for a few hours, had lunch with her, and then went over to the boyfriend’s, where we lounged for a bit, walked around an outdoor mall, and then hung out some with my family. Today, I went hiking with my dad, coffee and dinner with my mom, and watched a movie with my brother. 

It’s amazing how much I can eat without WORRYING incessantly anymore. It’s okay for me to eat out. It’s okay to eat at different times. It’s okay to be a little hungry or a little full…I can handle them both. Things have just gotten easier. For the first time, I don’t feel like I’m swinging between restriction and bingeing. I don’t feel like I’m riding onto the orthorexia train, rejecting every packaged food or ingredient I cannot pronounce. I’m just eating. Pancakes here and guacamole and chips there. Shaved ice and breakfast cereal. Coffee cake and Thai noodles. Sure, sometimes I feel a little stressed, which cues the internal, which is healthier or how much am I supposed to eat or maybe if I eat this, I’ll skip lunch or I’ve already eaten all this, so I may as well keep going, but that soundtrack is more faint as time passes.

This eating disorder will be behind me, and I know that. There’s just more to life. I chose recovery. I choose recovery. I don’t want an identity bound by sickness nor do I want to engage in behaviors bound by compulsion and maladaptive habituation. I did not choose this illness. None of us do. But I’ve moved on from that. I no longer beat myself up for something that I may have been genetically, biologically, or behaviorally predisposed to developing. It wasn’t my fault. I was sick. It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t know how to stop.

I’ve grown. This eating disorder has forced me to live beyond my comfort zone, to challenge the distortions that composed my here-and-now reality, to accept life and all the ups and downs that come with it. It has been a journey, a worthwhile one. I am finally at peace with myself and finally in the mental state I always wanted to be. There is no perfection. LIfe doesn’t change dramatically. But everything feels different. Renewed. Fresh. Beautiful. Life feels exciting. And I am very much enjoying the ride. 

And, really, what more could I ever want?