one of those days

Dear Bee,

I woke up to find out that my car, which had been parked in front of my house, was hit on the front bumper. Last year, my previous car (which had been parked in the exact same spot), was completely totaled when someone crashed into it. Luckily, nobody was hurt and my neighbor caught the license plate number of the driver who scratched me. Three accidents in three years, none of which were my fault. It’s no wonder I have a difficulty trusting drivers. My car will be in the shop for a few days. Could be worse. Significantly worse.

Sessions were tough today. It was the first time I really questioned my competency in this field. One of my clients is becoming far too dependent on me, and I need to figure out exactly how I’m supposed to navigate his lack of support system. I remember when I felt like my therapist was also the first person who came to mind when something happened. When I would count down the days, even the hours, until I got to sit on her inviting couch. I understand where he is coming from. Entirely. He’s never received the kind of unconditional positive regard that I can provide him. He’s never had someone believe in him, and I absolutely do. But, fostering his dependency would be unethical and possibly detrimental to his own growth.

And my couple…well, they just come packed with issues, and it’s overwhelming to know even where to begin with them talking over each other, speaking with total disrespect, acting as if there is no love left. It’s hard to spin the magic in just fifty minute hours, especially when habits have been formed over the span of several years.

I love what I do, but I can sense my perfectionism coming into play here! I just have to remind myself that my clients own their lives, just as I own mine!!

And the good news is, I am automatically taking care of myself. I came home after leaving the agency and watched American Horror Story (yes, LOVE) and relaxed. Then, I called my boyfriend and spoke to him. Now, I’m in bed. Before, I would have probably gone straight to the food, knee-deep in chocolate, doing anything I could to numb out the pain and discount the stress.

I know that my feelings are real, but some of my thoughts need to be challenged. I am NOT incompetent and I AM doing my best. That’s all I would ask of my clients, and so, that’s all I can ask of myself.

So, peace. 

 

 

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everyone has problems, but not everyone feels the feelings

Dear Bee,

Having an eating disorder doesn’t make me special. I thought it once did. I was a fragile, delicate thing. Vulnerable and helpless. I needed to be saved by anyone, but I pushed away those who tried, because, of course, I needed to protect that part of who I was. I needed my disorder to feel defined, to feel important. Nobody could understand. I was tormented. I was different from everyone. In my superior mind, I had a problem nobody knew how to handle. I scoffed at the broken set of solutions people offered, already knowing none of them could work for me. After all, I was unique. Important. Special.

There is an unspoken competition among such sufferers. By statistical significance, people with eating disorders tend to have high-achieving, perfectionist tendencies. Thus, it makes sense that if we have to have a mental illness, we have to strive to be at the top of the pyramid.

Again, this doesn’t make us special. Truth is, everyone has problems, and life throws every single person curve balls. That is the bane of human existence, the common core among emotional processing. Pain and misery are, to an extent, inevitable. No developmental life path comes easily, despite the fallacies people present. Resilience and the courage to heal is what matters. It’s really not about your issue, but rather, what you want to do about it. The sickness doesn’t make you special. The recovery from it does.

I find it ignorant and ridiculous when people claim that recovery or sobriety is the magical cure to life’s deepest problems. It’s not. Absence of compulsive or addictive behavior, in fact, just offers you the opportunity to see your problems with more clarity. It makes you interpret life and all its twists and turns for what they are, rather than through the ill-fitting, disordered lenses. You actually feel the feelings. The spectrum of them. Happiness, sadness, fear, jealousy, calmness. They penetrate you. You ride in them. You experience sensations that may have once been dulled or suppressed. And suddenly, those problems you’ve been stuffing? They seem larger than life.

The maladaptive behaviors are no longer your go-to band-aid or remedy for life’s unavoidable stress. When things go awry, you cannot just blame your body or your food intake. When someone treats you poorly, you have to realize that your size had nothing to do with it. When you fail to accomplish, you cannot blame that brownie. It’s easier to point our fingers at our bodies or our diets when life doesn’t unfold the way we want it to. It’s much easier to turn the pain inwards. After all, we self-inflict pain. We are used to it!

But now you are told to FACE LIFE HEAD-ON. You are told you need to do this.

I am the only person living my life. I have no control over essentially anything that happens to me, but I do control what I think and feel about such events and circumstances. This does not mean I live a passive existence. Rather, it demonstrates that I have surrendered to the incredibly freeing idea that LIFE HAPPENS. Terrible things can happen; amazing things can happen. At any given moment, everything can completely change or be taken away. This is terrifying when we really let such an idea soak in. People lose it all every moment of everyday. Lives are shattered. People are torn apart. Violence is everywhere. Grief is everywhere. I have to accept this, and when I think you learn how to accept things for what they are, rather for what they could or should be, the fear dissipates. It is when we resist this idea, when we clutch onto the illusion of control, when we try to manipulate and distort the natural path of life, our lives and our behaviors become toxic. Our thoughts turn against us, and our behaviors harm, rather than aid, us.

I am not afraid of true recovery, but it’s taken me a year to get this point, and I still falter and doubt it often. It’s not always a consistent desire, but it’s a consistent need, and I’ve learned how to distinguish the two.

I have the choice to embrace life, and I do.

I have the choice to FEEL FEELINGS, and I do. The good, the bad, the scary, the ugly. Feelings are beautiful; they send us subliminal messages, for they are the unspoken words speaking louder than any thoughts or behaviors we may have. Nothing in life is more organic than that.

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.

I think I’m going to show this blog to my boyfriend…?

Dear Bee,

It is very interesting how these letters have evolved in content since the beginning stages. Sometimes I reread the previous entries just for reference: my gratitude is overwhelming. I put in so much hard work, and it’s wonderful to reap the limitless benefits that come from choosing recovery every single day. 

I remember when I used to be afraid of eating. Just in general. I hated it. I couldn’t trust myself around food. I couldn’t trust how much I would or wouldn’t eat. Newborns and infants have this ability, and yet, as we mature and grow, we lose sight of our intuition. I couldn’t do a biological and inherent act necessary to survive. I couldn’t eat just to eat. It was terrible. Dark, dark days. After such a long journey, it feels feels relieving to gain some of that inner trust back. 

My life is so colorful now. So exciting. I am just SO happy. 

But, looking back: I was afraid. Definitely afraid. Comfortable only with the black-and-white. Desperately trying to achieve perfectionism and be the very best at anything and everything I did. 

I was so convinced that my body determined my worth. Sadly, we live in a society that cherishes physique. We do determine people’s credibility and attractiveness by the sizes and shapes of their bodies. In the past, when people complimented my size, I would either thank them (while silently disagreeing and wondering why they were lying to me) or thank them (while feeling more of an urge to keep doing what I was doing). In other words, not eat, over-exercise, and binge to make up for feeling so deprived. A chaotic cycle- it became second-nature. Chaos was more familiar than simplicity, and I thrived on my own internal drama. 

I had to learn how to re-feed myself. With everything. Not just with food, but with LIFE. Nourishing the body is one thing. Nourishing the soul is what counts. Nourishing the soul is where the healing and growth comes. At one point, I just stopped caring about what felt good and only did what I thought I needed to do. I let my compulsions drive me. And, it worked. I was numbed by to-do lists, diet plans, growling stomachs, and ridiculous schedules. On the outside, I was this calm and collected young woman, always with many friends and support. Inside, I was killing myself. 

I wasn’t taking care of myself. With an eating disorder, you’re, in fact, doing the exact opposite. Learning how to actually take care of yourself, physically and mentally, is one of the most rewarding journeys any of us can take. Because we simply cannot take care of others until we are able to extend that same love and kindness to ourselves. In recovery, I love who I am. In recovery, I can chase what feels good. In recovery, I am free.

I leave for Europe on Monday. I think I am going to show my boyfriend this blog. He knows I maintain it, and he thinks it’s great that I give so much support to the eating disorder community. I tell him that I have to give back what I have been given.

It’s scary- breaking down the walls. There have been some really ugly days captured in here. He knows about my past. Knows about the starving and bingeing, the weirdness with food and exercise, the complications of recovery. therapy and therapy groups, the challenges, the fears. He sees me in such a healthy place. And it’s true. I met him when things were finally coming full-circle in recovery. And I mean, really full-circle. 

But, to have him peak at the raw emotions lined out on the pages so many of you have read…to read about the heartache and fear and vulnerability, that’s a huge risk. Even though I may be afraid to take it, I’m going to do it, because I know he’s there to catch me. Already, I’m thinking about all the things I’ve written: the slips, the anger, the ridiculous pleas to just stop feeling triggered…some of it seems so crazy, but it was real. It was so real. It was so painful. 

But, I pushed. I keep pushing. I am a fucking warrior. 

He loves and accepts me unconditionally, and in showing him this true piece of me, he will get to see a part of the authentic journey of recovery. This is who I am. I can’t change my past. But I sure have grown from it. I don’t regret a single second spent in my disorder because without it, I would never know how amazing recovery could feel! And as for the boyfriend, he will get to fall in love with me over and over again. No barriers, no hang-ups. The fear comes from the shame, and the shame is what I am trying everyday to dismantle. Radical honesty, it’s the glue that makes our relationship so strong and beautiful.

I deserve his love, and I am finally at a place in my life where I can happily say I deserve what feels good. 

❤ 

Grateful Optimist

Dear Bee,

Journaling is so healing. I love writing these letters. In fact, I just love recovery: the good, the bad, the laughter, the tears…it’s one amazing process.

I have written about it countless times, but I never want to underestimate the power of gratitude and optimism. Gratitude puts my life in perspective. Gratitude gives me insurmountable joy and satisfaction. And optimism? Optimism makes life always worth living. Optimism turns ordinary situations into fabulous moments. Through recovery, I have become a grateful optimist. Through recovery, I have started to transform into the person I always wanted to be, but didn’t know I could ever become. 

My eating disorder is a symptom of fear, insecurity, anxiety, and depression. I’ve been working to conquer each of those. I worked through fear when I first walked into therapy, when I bravely ended a stagnant, dysfunctional relationship just as I started recovery, when I first went to an OA meeting, when I began to eliminate negative people from my life, when I started opening up about my eating disorder in real life and through this blog, when I quit a job because it became too demanding, when I booked a trip to Europe on a whim, when I decided to plunge into a new relationship a few weeks ago because my intuition (correctly) told me this was going to be wonderful. I am working through insecurity through cognitive restructuring and positive affirmations. I am learning to believe that I am worthy, amazing, and beautiful. I used to rely on this validation from other people: now, I can give it to myself. I am working through anxiety by meditation and yoga, by learning how to deep breathe and step out of triggering situations. I now recognize that most of my worries are irrational, and I am working to work accept the present moment for what it is. I am working through depression by actively seeking to engage in positive activities and people and taking medication. 

Recovery isn’t cheap. It isn’t easy. It isn’t quick. It isn’t linear. It isn’t logical. It isn’t even fun most of the time. But moments and clarity like this make every penny, hour, tear, and heartache worth it. 

Recovery at any attempt is always worth it. A desire to heal yourself is always worth it. Self-love is always worth it. Happiness is always worth it. Treating yourself with kindness is always worth it. 

Eating disorders are NEVER, EVER worth the sacrifice of your health, self-worth, and happiness. 

I used to be a perfectionist, so it was no surprise that I delved into recovery with the same kind of mindset. I still have high expectations for myself, but I firmly believe in progress over perfection. My expectations have shifted from I have to do this perfectly to I am exactly on the right path. There is no right way to recovery, and it is a journey, not a destination. I am so kind to myself lately. I am so much more forgiving. I am proud of myself, and I am happy with myself. These are huge accomplishments. These give me so much joy. 

Most of all, I know I am worth recovery. I no longer want to be sick. I no longer want to be hidden or protected by my eating disorder. I no longer want to shun myself from the world. And how am I doing this? Mostly by shifting away from dwelling on the problem and instead focusing on the SOLUTION. Recovery works when I work it. Recovery feels good when I let it. Recovery has changed my entire life. It has given me immense courage, peace, and energy. I love deeper than I ever have before. I experience richer than I ever have before.

For today, I am a grateful optimist. I am happy to be me. I am in love with my life. I am a girl who still consciously decides everyday that I AM WORTH IT. 

recovery: fear versus excitement.

Dear Bee,

Short letter today. You’re not demanding too much of my time, which is a great and relieving change of pace after a rough week or so.

Being “crazy busy” makes me forget about you. I like that, but at the same time, I recognize that my compulsive personality towards work/school can be just as destructive as the one I share with you.

School is getting intense. I’m leaving my job in less than two weeks. Big changes. In the past, you have flourished during times of change. You have been my anchor; my constant; my reminder that even if the unknown is scary, I can always have some degree of predictability and safe comfort.

Not anymore. The body cannot physiologically distinguish the difference between fear and excitement. If you tell yourself you are scared, your mind will react with fear and instantly search for the negative elements to reinforce that feeling! Simple as that. On the other hand, if you tell yourself you are excited, your mind will react with excitement and instantly search for the positive elements to reinforce that feeling.

The mind complicates; the body simplifies. We construct the world with self-fulfilling prophecies. Example: You tell yourself you “can’t handle food at parties,” and sure enough, you lose all sense of “self-control.” Your behavior is simply reinforcing your thought! And why shouldn’t it? You have already dismissed yourself as weak and helpless and powerless…and when the inevitable does happen, you can just say, well, it was bound to happen, anyway!

I remind myself this everyday:

I am excited for my life. 

I am excited for the changes.

I am excited to embrace the unknown.

I am excited for my recovery.

I am excited for my recovery.

With excitement, anything feels possible.
With fear, everything feels impossible.