tides of December.

It’s been a month since I wrote last, and as usual, much has happened in the past month.

I have another part-time job. This makes three. My boyfriend got the dream full-time job. We have this thing called stability, and that’s weird, because I’m still transitioning from the academic world to the working grind.

I see a lot of clients everyday. It feels like an assembly line of therapy at times, and I’m too new in this field to think that way. But it scares me. Being unable to divvy my full attention to each individual simply because I have so many. Of course, I am still underpaid and overworked. And, of course, mental health is completely underfunded and underrepresented in nearly all sectors of healthcare.

But, I digress.

I know what I do is important, and I know what I do is meaningful. In addition to my children and adolescents, I’m now working with some really difficult clientele right now. The majority of them suffer from chronic pain or traumatic injury. The depression and anxiety is skyrocketed for nearly everyone I see.

I think hopelessness is the hardest symptom of all, and I think that only because I know what it’s like to experience that feeling myself. I know what it’s like to hate hearing anyone else tell you it can be any other way. Because, in your mind, it can only be hopeless. Because, to accept anything other than hopelessness means risking accepting a change you may not like. Hopelessness, in a paradoxical way, feels safer. It is a cushion of certainty, a guarantee that prevents us from the fear of crashing of burning.

The holiday season always arises mixed emotions for me. I am closer to my parents now that I have moved out of their home. Time with them is cherished and appreciated, rather than met with annoyance and angst. Yet, I tend to struggle with body image around this time of year, only because holidays center on food and food and more food.

And, I can use all the positive affirmations and visualizations and deep breathing I want, but there is still the five-hundred pound gorilla in the room that is masquerading as sprinkled cupcakes, and when my attention is on that, it’s hard to focus on anything else.

As I’ve said so many times before, it’s safer to focus on the craziness of the eating disorder rather than the craziness of the unpredictable day-to-day existence we live in. The eating disorder makes sense and it’s in my control. Nothing else is. Nothing else is. Nothing else is.

Nothing is in my control.
Nothing is in your control, either.
And, depending on perspective, that can be petrifying or liberating.

the future of eating disorders

Today was long.

First day seeing clients at a new job. Without revealing too much information, the population is vastly different from the one I’m used to at my other agency. It’s also time-limited, brief therapy, which isn’t exactly my favorite. But it’s kids and adolescents, which I enjoy, especially the junior high kiddos.

I wonder what my life would have been like if I went to therapy when I was younger. My parents don’t really believe in it. They’re more along the lines of “getting over it” and just “thinking about the positive,” which, as a mental health professional, terrifies me. No parent should ever be ashamed of their child needing psychotherapy. It’s like being ashamed of needing to go to the dentist or doctor.

The stigma may be lessening over time, but it’s still there, and it’s still devastating.

Recovery stuff has been good, however I’ve been having trouble sleeping the past few days, which throws me off track. This is the ebb and flow though, and it’s okay.

I’ve been seriously researching this eating disorder recovery work, and I truly think I can make a difference in the systemic approach we have. I have several ideas and am writing extensive literature reviews on the research that already exists.

Most of it frustrates the hell out of me.

For one, I’m tired of overpriced services. For two, I’m tired of high relapse rates. For three, I’m tired of the overall unwillingness to work with a population that DESPERATELY needs help.

I have a vision, and I am set on following it. Maybe it won’t manifest today or this month or this year, but it WILL happen because I know I have the drive, motivation, and creativity to achieve it. I also know how important it is in this society.

It’s something I wish I had when I was deep in the disorder. I want to revolutionize the private practice vs. treatment center recovery plan (which are both extremely expensive), and I want to be able to help re-define a realistic recovery for people who are suffering. I want to be able to reach to those who may NOT be upper-class or even insured. I want to be able to reach to those who cannot afford to do inpatient or residential work. I want to RAISE AWARENESS to this epidemic that is happening in our schools, to our children, in the bathroom stalls, on the plates of people everywhere.

Some would say it’s dangerous because I’m in recovery myself. And I would agree. But you know, it’s worth the risk. Because life isn’t just about helping myself. It’s about using WHAT I’ve learned to help myself to help the greater good. So maybe it’s dangerous, but nothing worthwhile ever happened while staying in a comfort zone. I want to bridge this gap between clinical jargon and actual application. I want to reach out to the bleak and hopeless, the ones who feel they have failed over and over again. I want to change the way we perceive these diagnoses.

And that’s exactly what I intend to do.

The “SYSTEM.”

I have issues with most of the standard “theories” relative to eating disorder treatment.

CBT is a decorative bandaid, DBT is hard to find and difficult to buy into, psychoanalysis is too expensive, and group therapy leaves little room for in-depth personal exploration. Family therapy has high efficacy, but typically, it’s geared towards adolescents, and typically, it’s for wealthier and more motivated families.

Oh, that and most non-profit agencies and college campuses REFUSE to treat eating disorders. Which leaves everyone with: private practice.

Which is no small fee.

What’s happening with me is that I’m developing my own.

I’ve been researching. I’ve been writing. I’ve been thinking and talking outside the box. Using my own experience and my own therapy modality to guide me.

Maybe it’ll go somewhere someday. Actually, no. IT WILL GO SOMEWHERE SOMEDAY.

I’m tired of eating disorders being that “lifelong” illness. I’m tired of high relapse rates. I’m tired of the stigmatization, the broken medical model, the in-and-out recovery, the refusal to work eating disordered patients because they are too “high risk,” the utter lack of funding we have for individuals in lower to middle-class income brackets, and, of course, the fallacy that a disorder as complex as these can be solved with a thought record or a positive coping strategy. I’m tired of anorexia being the most fatal illness and the third highest leading cause of death for adolescents. I’m tired of people neglecting bulimia and binge eating as “crisis issues” because it may not be as physically apparent.

We need more. We need so much more.

There is research. Lots and lots of articles and brilliant professors in laboratories researching neurobiology and possible eating disorder treatments. Great. There are clinicians. Lots and lots of clinicians in residential facilities and private practices.

But there is a gap. There is not enough. The theories are weak. The treatment is difficult. The prognoses are poor.

Inspiration struck last week. My diploma arrived yesterday.

Who knows what will happen from here?

But if someone needs to do it, why not me?

continued changes and transitions

I’m just kind of in this weird transitional funk where life feels like it is slipping through my fingers and the changes are overwhelming and I’m drowning in a sea of uncertainty.

Feeling all the feels, and I don’t typically like feelings. I like numbing feelings instead. But experiencing them is an entirely different experience, one that I’m still learning how to master. 

I’m going to be leaving the agency I started working at a year ago in about six weeks. I already told two clients– I have three more difficult ones (meaning long-term clients who I have very strong rapport with) to break the news to. I hate this. I knew it would be difficult, but I’m struggling to shake off the sinking thought that I am letting people down, that I am just another disappointment in a string of rejection and abandonment. This sadness is different given that the therapeutic relationship is probably the only relationship both client and therapist enter knowing that it will end. It still hurts. Goodbyes are very hard, even on the other side of the couch.

I don’t know where I’m going to be living in the next few months. I have no idea what this new job actually entails (except that it involves at-risk adolescents and involves briefer, more solution-focused as opposed to my more traditional, insight-oriented therapy). I’m stressed about money. I’m stressed that I’m not doing enough. My inadequacies and insecurities keep cropping up, and everyday feels like an emotional swing.

The rock and anchor of all this, of course, is my loving boyfriend, but even that has had its own set of challenges, as we both try and maneuver and develop our own professional paths while simultaneously designing our relationship path. Thankfully, we are on the same page, and we keep each other sane and happy.  He’s doing a lot of great work, and the competitive and controlling side of me that gets jealous (since we are in the same line of work). It makes me question whether I am capable, whether I am doing enough, whether I will succeed or not.

I want to do a million things. I want to write. I want to go into private practice. I want to research. I want to see adolescents. I want to see adults. I want to pioneer new types of therapy. I want to become an expert on certain models. I want to get increased training. I want to work with eating disorder clients. I want to brand myself as a label. I want to make money. I want to get my name out there. I want to help people- above all and through it all, that’s the main one. 

Without the cushion of school to catch me, I now feel immersed in this strange land called adulthood, and even though I’ve been existing in this realm for several years, it has only felt like pseudo reality. There is always the, “I’m a student” excuse to make up for lack of money, full-time work, professional success, etc.

And I’m being impatient with myself. And hard on myself. I recognize this. I’m doing more than anyone I know my age, and I’m one of the only students in my cohort to have landed a job (even though it is part-time and very low-paying) BEFORE even completing my program all the way. I want to be more grateful for all that is GOING WELL, rather than focusing on what I cannot control and what is making me stressed.

It’s easier said than done.

I do feel overwhelmed, and this usually motivates me to go out and fight, but right now, this is making me feel somewhat frozen. I’m not sure what my next step is. Boyfriend keeps telling me to practice acceptance; he is right in saying that things will get better, that I am competent and will kick ass in this work, but acceptance of the journey is key.

I know this. I do know this in my flesh and bones, but it’s still hard. It’s really painful to doubt yourself and worry that the rest of the world is speaking some language you don’t know, that you are on the outside looking in, that you won’t get your chance to shine when you’ve been working so hard for it.

Self-doubt runs deep.

The good news is that I haven’t engaged in my eating disorder. The good news is that I’m talking and expressing and seeking support. Feelings are intense, but they pass. They pass, they pass, they pass. 

 

the days after the hard days

Dear Bee,

You are one of my oldest friends. You have outlived every job, every romantic relationship, every school. You and I go way back, all the way to around age 11 or 12 or maybe it was 13–the line between “dieting” and “disorder” becomes blurry–but we have quite an evolution together.

So many times, I have tried to let you go. I have spent so much money and time giving into your pleas, and I have spent so much money and time trying to avoid those same pleas. I am lucky in the sense that I do not believe I have lost life; in many ways, I am absolutely in a mental and physical place that is better than I ever could have anticipated. But, I have compromised much of myself and sacrificed much of myself in order to maintain your existence.

My sanity. My flexibility. My intuition. My sense of self. And, most importantly, my self-love.

When I am with you, I lose these.

It’s not abut you versus me. It’s not even about recovery versus disorder. It’s about keeping my priorities in check; it’s about understanding the costs and risks of engaging with you; it’s about making the best decisions I can when I can. It certainly isn’t about perfection. If it was, I would have been out of the running long ago. 

If you weren’t my weakness, something else would be. That is how humanity works. We all have something. We all falter and fall down sometimes. We all feel lost and hopeless. Emotions are a universal flavor. Pain is a jacket everybody has worn. 

That is the price of this invaluable gift called life. You take some pain and suffering and reap some tremendous rewards and benefits. That is the take and give. And it may not be fair and it may not feel good, but there’s not a whole lot I can do about it. I could complain and bitch and moan everyday and never move.

Perpetual “stuckness” was the phrase I used with a client today. What’s that stuckness serving you? Because you wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t helping you somehow? 

Being “stuck” in quasi-recovery? Being “stuck” on the teeter-totter between wellness and sickness? It serves me comfort, familiarity, predictable pain, a cheap and guaranteed outlet for stress, anger, and any other emotion that feels too “overbearing.” But what does it cost?

My sanity. My flexibility. My intuition. My sense of self. And, most importantly, my self-love.

And sometimes, I’m going to choose old behaviors. Because I’m not perfect. Because recovery is fucking hard. Because this eating disorder is cunning, powerful, and baffling, and no matter how hard I try to work at it, there will be days that are harder than others. Because LIFE can be hard.

But being stuck is never random nor useless. Being stuck has a purpose. Being stuck tells you something. 

Find out what that is. 

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.  

Another update.

I never saw my therapist.

After confirming date/time and everything, I get a text a few hours later…
Her: how much can you afford for the session?
Me: Is ___ (rate I ALWAYS paid) still okay?
Her: Really need 70. Rent has gone up quite a bit (as if I care?)
Me: I understand. I just can’t honestly afford anything more. I just need a session. If this is possible for you, I’d appreciate it, but if not, I understand.
Her: Wish I could, but I have to pay $20 for the office hour (TMI. I DON’T CARE)…I’d really love to meet with you. I’m already lowering my fee from _____ an hour. (quotes an insanely high price that she’s NEVER charged anyone as far as I’m concerned)
Me: Okay. Can’t do it. Never mind then.
Her: Sorry 😦

Why did she fucking ask how much I can afford for the session? Why didn’t she just tell me, straight-up, that she had a change in fees, and this was what I needed to pay? Who does this? Unethical therapists who can’t keep boundaries, that’s who does this.

I felt so betrayed. So livid. This all happened on Thursday. Couldn’t even think straight. Take a risk, want to reconcile some unsaid things in therapy, want to process our journey, but no. This happens. And it’s not the money. It’s the PRINCIPLE. I faithfully saw this woman for a year and a half- I was a consistent client and one who she said could always come back. I’m not trying to act like I’m entitled. I recognize that people change rates; I recognize that this is common in my field.

But, I would never do that to a client. Thursday, as a matter of fact, I had a client text me out of the blue…he needed a session. It had been six months since termination. He wanted to talk; I saw him the next day.

She never instilled boundaries before. And people warned me. It’s not normal for therapists to routinely text/call their clients, to self-disclose so much about their lives, to complain about office rates and coworkers, to offer me a job after graduation…none of this is ethical. Now she decides to tighten up? Whatever. I’ll process this–if I ever really do process it–with another professional.

Eating has been off-and-on this week. Job training everyday. Lots of candy and sugary snacks and free lunch and junk food provided. Sitting all day. Boredom eating. Or refraining as hard as I can…only to overeat later. I’ve had mini episodes of overeating three times this week. None escalated into a full binge, but I’m on the black-and-white pathway of “good” eating and “bad” eating. In fact, I want to just “binge it out” right now…like get it out of my system.

That sounds so distorted. It’s fucked up. It’s the reality I’m experiencing.

I don’t know. It’s just been emotionally difficult. And I don’t want to do recovery. I want to turn it off for a bit…and go back later. But I can’t even do that.

the things unsaid in therapy.

I keep having dreams about my therapist. I terminated our work in December, seven months ago, and yet, I think of her constantly. It’s painful to long for someone that is paid to talk to you. Even more son, it’s painful to be a therapist and know all this and yet still hold out hope that she is out there caring for me, wondering about me, thinking about me. It makes me feel pathetic. It really does. And I hate feeling pathetic. 

I don’t nearly think about my own clients as much as I used to think about my therapist. Why would I think she’s even batting an eye thinking about me? Even more, why do I care so much? 

My boyfriend, who is an incredibly gifted therapist, researcher, and theorist summed it up really well this morning after telling him about another strange dream I had. He conceptualizes clients and human behavior from an attachment-based viewpoint (how we feel with our primary caregivers), so some of this may sound like neurological jargon, but it was really mind blowing for me. 

“She became your idealized mother as you have told me many times. She became a place you can feel safe, someone that on a very primal level felt loved you and saw you for you. She validated every part of your existence as a mother should. she allowed you to also feel safe on a subconscious level. She was changing your attachment patterns but allowing you to feel safe enough to talk about feelings and explore the things your right brain deactivates when stressed. however, she started doing things that made you question her love. She made choices that took her off the pedestal and because she never realized that what she did was wrong she never said anything and that part of your brain that activates danger was activated. When you can no longer trust that she has your best intentions in mind, you no longer have a secure base. Without the base, you go back to your usual response which was to suppress and distance and that’s what you did. you felt threatened on a primal level, you wouldn’t tell her your real reason for leaving (suppression) and you left (distance). Now, she, as a professional, never should have placed you in that position in the first place, but I still think you would greatly benefit by going against your attachment strategy of deactivation (distance and suppression) and let her know how she hurt you (corrective emotional experience). It’s a risk though, and I believe she really hurt you on a level.

I love my mother. I love my father. But I never learned empathy from either of them. I never learned that it was okay to cry and okay to be angry. The actions they perceived as negative were punished and reprimanded. As a mental health professional, I have now learned that this okay…but the parents NEED to validate if they are going to punish (i can see your angry, and that’s okay. I’m so sorry that you’re angry right now because that must be so hard …but we can’t hit other people). I don’t remember receiving that. 

I don’t blame my parents. Few of us know how to validate. It’s not a skill taught in school, and it’s certainly not a skill emphasized in greater society. My first real experience with genuine validation was with this therapist. Me, stepping out of a comfort zone, with fear and hesitance and feelings of utter chaos and failure. Her, metaphorically hugging me, letting me know it was okay to feel, encouraging my worth. Me, trying to suppress my feelings, minimize my pain, laugh instead of cry. Her, drawing out my feelings, maximizing the sensations, noting my incongruity.

I latched onto that so quickly. She became a lifeboat. Every session, I longed for her. I held onto compliments like they were tangible presents. I will never forget the time she called me special or the time she told me she would always be there for me or the time she said she had my back. I will never forget when I began complaining that I was afraid I was letting her down, and she stared at me and said that was impossible. Once, in a very dark eating disorder time, she said, “You are so smart and such a go-getter; I have full faith in you,” and I still cling onto that very basic message when recovery becomes hard. 

The fifty minutes were not enough. I could have sat on that couch for weeks. Whether we talked or not, the content rarely mattered. Being in her presence mattered. Feeling that kind of love and safety mattered. Like a small child, I just needed that comfortable, secure base. I needed to know someone loved me and could care about the dark and painful sides of me. 

She wasn’t the most ethical therapist. She asked me for referrals; she once said she would be willing to supervise me when I start interning as a therapist; she talked about her own life far too much; she probably allowed me to call and text her way too often during the week when I just needed to talk. She asked for a letter of recommendation, and that was the final straw. I’m not her employer; I was her client. That stung. But I never told her. I just told her treatment was over, the goals had been met, and have a good life.

There were so many cracks in this idealized mother, but I wanted to look past them, because underneath her unconventional ways,I knew she cared. She told me she cared, and she showed it. An eating disorder survivor herself, she had the resilience and the willingness to help someone who was struggling the invisible fight so many of us suffer. She knew my pain; in fact, she had already lived much of my story. 

I wanted to be her. She was a therapist in private practice living in a relatively upscale part of Southern California with two children and a husband. She was recovered. And that’s all I wanted then. Recovery, and I mean full-circle recovery, seemed like a distant life from my own. Everyday had been a battle in my mind, a battle of eating and exercising and the scale and how much willpower I thought I had or didn’t have.

She had the life I was waiting for; the life that seemed impossible when I first started this graduate school journey and was “required” to attend my own mandatory psychotherapy. I hadn’t even started seeing clients. I was in an emotionally toxic relationship. My parents and I were fighting regularly. I felt fat and ugly and insecure and lonely and anxious constantly. I was working two jobs, averaging nearly fifty hours a week. Everything was on a routine; I thrived on spontaneity, but I was living a life of rigidity and compulsion. I wore a smile, concealed the pain, and convinced the world my life was perfect. And nobody could call me out on that facade until I met her.

She challenged. That’s the best kind of therapist. One who can challenge you with love. One who can call you out on your bullshit, while also telling you that your bullshit doesn’t make you broken. One who can defy your eating disorder, while understanding its complexity, ferocity, and incongruity. One who understands ups and downs and will stand by your side throughout all of it, with no expectations and no disappointments.

I am the therapist I am today because of the therapist she was for me. Again, much of what she said didn’t matter; only a few interpretations and interventions really stand out. It was the safety, the presence, and the feeling of being understood. I cannot emphasize that enough. I grew through the relationship. Yes, she hurt me. I can own that now. But the process, the messy and complicated and joyful process of psychotherapy, was exactly what I needed. She was what I needed. 

Maybe one day I will get to the place where I can call or write to her and tell her exactly how I feel and assert myself. I can get the closure we both know that we never really had. Termination was too abrupt, and my boyfriend was right. When the going got tough, I escaped. This is my pattern in relationships. This is how I’ve learned to protect myself. Cut people off–then I feel guilty–then I want to reach out, but it seems too late.

I know she would accept it lovingly. i know she would be proud of me for standing on my own feet, as this is something she knew I struggled with. Right now, that seems way too scary. But one day, I’ll get there.

How progress happens

Dear Bee,

Cleaning out my room and car today led to the findings of many wrappers. Evidence of an eating disorder. Evidence of secretive, shameful episodes of bingeing or overeating or private consumption. It saddens and worries me. Am I actually making progress or is it all just a mind-fucking game of two steps forward and three steps back?

Of course I’m making progress. That is undeniable. 

But progress in mental illness is so different than progress in, say, some kind of skill or quantifiable subject. Progress in mental illness is multi-layered and complex. It all depends, I suppose, on conceptualization. Post-modern theories, like those of cognitive-behavioral sciences, use numerical figures to determine success (i.e: engaging in one less behavior each week qualifies as an achievement). Older theories, like psychodynamic and humanistic schools of thought, tend to believe awareness and insight create the pathway to change. Which is better? The concrete approaches that focus on numbers, solutions, and behavioral outcomes? Or the abstract approaches that focus on childhood, family-of-origin, and even current state of being? Of course neither are better and neither are worse. But, the bottom line is, progress is not clear-cut. 

Progress in eating disorder recovery moves forwards, backwards, upside-down, and inside-out. When you think you have it figured out, life throws you a curveball, you’re resorting to behaviors you swore to never do again, and suddenly, you feel back at square one. Maybe at square zero. I thought this was unique to just eating disorders, but I have found that this is characteristic of nearly every “mental illness,” ranging from anxiety to depression to even personality disorders. Similar to the ebb and flow of life, there is an ebb and flow to our mental states and our recoveries and our feelings. A million variables affect this: what’s happening in our current lives, the triggers that range from friends to families to school to our moods…We are vulnerable creatures and resilience is not just the act of being able to be “perfect” at any given moment. You aren’t back at square zero. Everyday, in fact, you’re standing in a new square.

We must honor the process of progress, as non-linear and unconventional as it may be. Every new turn presents us with a new opportunity and with a new chance for healing and recognition of our past lessons and future endeavors. 

There is this old saying that progress moves slowly. I think perhaps we are missing the point. Progress doesn’t move all that slowly; it’s just moving in directions we may not be expecting. 

End of Therapy Journey

Dear Bee,

Well, I had my last therapy session.

It was emotional, and by the end of the hour, we were both tearing up. This whole weekend has been insanely life-changing, but that’s for a different post. The five-day psychotherapy conference completely inspired me in every way, shape, and form, and I’m grateful for the experience to be in the same room with some of the most influential people in my field. 

Anyway, back to therapy. I ended up terminating. We had a closure session today. I had prepped her with a text. Reflecting on the past fifty-one sessions, I started treatment a completely different person than I am today. I wanted to work on my eating disorder. That was it. Little did I know that I needed to work on boundaries, end a few toxic relationships, including the one with my ex-boyfriend, quit my jobs, and learn how to take care of myself. Little did I know how much ALL this mattered before, during, and after the eating disorder work. Today, I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my life. I cannot emphasize this enough. I am head-over-heels in love with my boyfriend and feel incredible fulfillment in what I do on a daily basis. 

Grieving the end of therapy is like grieving the loss of any other relationship. She helped me, and at the end of the session, after we hugged, I told her, Thank you for believing me. She responded, That was the easy part. 

But when you barely believe in yourself, hearing that validation and concern from someone else means the world. And, for so long, I did NOT believe in myself. It hurt more than anything.

My needs stopped being met. Therapy stopped feeling so magical. I started feeling more annoyed, more bored, more as if I was wasting my time in session. 

But God. I loved my therapist. Ethics and dependency aside, she was THERE, and I mean, UNCONDITIONALLY there for me. It was unlike any support I had ever received (prior to my boyfriend), and that was exactly what I needed at the time. That’s what most of us need, but never receive. And so, in fifty sessions, over the course of about fifteen months, I was able to end a volatile relationship, repair issues with my family, attend eating disorder support groups for a few months, quit two jobs, attain an incredible internship, trek around Europe, and, of course, fall in love. I was able to learn the value of self-care. 

I can always return, but I doubt I will. It’s time to move on. I’m sure I’ll go to therapy in the future, because I think ALL therapists can benefit, but for right now, I’m going to see what it’s like to work on my own self-regulation, emotions, and self-care. I have the tools. Now, I just need to use them!

I am no longer tormented by the vicious throes of daily eating disorder battles. And that doesn’t mean I’m recovered. It just means I know how to handle and manage the ebb and flow. I can live a life free of the absolute obsession and bondage that came with the compulsive nature of such a complex disease. I have worked my ass off in the name of recovery, but it’s been worth it. 

I hope therapy helps my clients as much as it helps me 🙂