Sunday, December 13, 2009


I exercised a lot, about 8 months ago, because I really liked it.
I was in really good shape.
Then I got so busy and just had no time for exercise.
Now, I have time.
But I don't feeeeeeel like doing it today.
I'm bored, therefore I should go to the gym.
I have time to exercise, therefore I should go to the gym.
These statements are all incorrect.
I should go to the gym because I FEEL LIKE IT. Otherwise, it's not coming from the right place.
I'm not sedentary. I walk around, I go ice skating, I do yoga, I climb on things. If I don't wanna go to the gym today, that's okay.

And that is all.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Top Five Things I Want, That My Mom Won't Let Me Have

The title speaks for itself. Here we go.

1. Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker

2. A trampoline. Small, medium, large, whatever.

3. A ball pit.

4. Lots of kittens.

5. A hot tub/jacuzzi.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Shoes and Therapy...

So the other night, I was bored and googled my psychiatrist, and clicked on a rating site where I could read people's reviews of her. Everyone gave her a five-star review (and I would have done the same), except for one person, who never even met her but just had to put his/her two cents in.

This was the review:

A***** I******, MD has impeccable credentials and graduated from the top schools, but when seeing any physician experience should be key. If I am seeing a physician and paying top dollar I want at least 15 years of licensed practice. Her date of license in NYS only started on 07/20/05, which is a bit over four years. I will take my chances with someone with excellent schools and a great hospital fellowship with some twenty years in the area of specialty.

I honestly and truly do not believe that years of experience plays a role in the ability of a mental health professional to help a client. Cliche as it may sound, it's more about the experience in the years. Every clinician, whether psychiatrist, psychiatrist, social worker, or nutritionist goes through a thorough education. Further, licensure isn't granted upon graduation! It takes built-up experience and supervision for one to become licensed or certified in a specific field.

I am 23 years old and have seen 14 psychiatrists in my lifetime, when including inpatient, outpatient, and private practice psychiatrists. My current psychiatrist, Dr I, is by far the best psychiatrist I have ever worked with. She is not THE most inexperienced, as I saw two of her med school classmates when I was at an outpatient treatment center, about two years before I started working with her (and I would have gone back to either of those psychiatrists if I had the opportunity). However, the remaining eleven psychiatrists have all been more experienced, and many had great credentials, graduating from New York University, Columbia, Cornell...among the best. While I'll get to the best fit concept in a minute, I just want to reiterate that not only is Dr I the best fit, but she is also the smartest (at least from what I can tell!), most compassionate, and most human psychiatrist I have ever worked with.

My therapist has only been licensed a few years as well. In fact, I just checked the Office of Professions (as the reviewer did for my psychiatrist) and she was licensed in January, 2008. I started seeing her in June, 2008. I do not believe that I have suffered in any way from her lack of experience. Again, she happens to be a great fit for me, but it's more than just a good fit, again. It's about being a good therapist to begin with.

So where am I going about the shoes and the best fit concept?

Okay. Well, let me tell you a little bit about myself. My feet are a size 7, maybe 7.5. Wide. Sometimes I wear a 6.5 and my sneakers are a size 8. Sometimes I can even buy shoes in the kids department, size 4.5-5. I wear a different size in every brand. I can't wear ballet flats comfortably. Converse sneakers make my ankles hurt. I have trouble walking in heels, unless they're boots, then I can do it with no problem. I'm definitely not designed for pointy-toe shoes. I love to wear my Uggs, even though I refused to buy a pair when they first came out, because I believed they were ugly. I have a whole closet full of shoes that I don't wear because I bought them because they were comfortable in the store, but when I tried wearing them at home they just didn't work for me. I also have shoes that are pretty comfortable that looked good in the store that just don't look as good at home.

This is similar to my experience with therapists and psychiatrists. I have seen two dozen or more mental health professionals in some capacity throughout my life. Old and young. Experienced and inexperienced. Male and female. Pretty and ugly. Mostly Caucasian but there were some other ethnicities in there as well. Recently, a friend recommended a psychiatrist to me who she had been seeing for quite some time, and thought she was great. I could not click with her. I was uncomfortable and intimidated, and dreaded our visits.

This is not a unique occurrence when looking for the right mental health professional. You might receive recommendations from other people that don't really work for you. Kind of like ballet flats. Everyone told me how comfortable ballet flats were. I finally bought a pair one day, and they cut up my feet so badly. I tried pair after pair, and I came out with cuts and blisters every time. Plus they didn't even stay on my feet very well.

Everyone has their own opinion on what shoes are comfortable, and what looks best on them. Same with mental healthcare providers. Some people need someone old and motherly, or a wise professor-like man. Others need someone close to our age, or just as long as they're young enough to NOT be our mother. I now know my needs for a therapist/psychiatrist, just like I know my needs for shoes and boots. I need someone young and relatable, compassionate, empathic, someone who will let me speak and won't interrupt me or talk over me unless it's necessary (and just disagreeing with me does not equal necessity). Someone who sees me as an individual, and not a diagnosis. It took a while. I sought "specialists" found that they either lumped me together with everyone else, or were shocked that I was different than their previous patients with my diagnosis. I thought maybe finding a therapist with a PsyD would be a good answer because it's a new degree therefore the therapist would be new to the field. I tried insurance, I gave up on insurance. I tried psychologytoday. I asked friends for referrals. I googled.

I found my therapist by calling a different therapist - one who I decided based on her picture on that I might be okay working with her. She wasn't taking on any new clients and referred me to my therapist, A. And I don't know how well I would or would not have clicked with this first therapist, but I am so glad that things turned out the way they did.

I found my psychiatrist by googling psychiatrists in the area and looking through various sites when Google Ad showed up with a link to Dr I's CitySearch review page. Sounds silly but after reading her profile (and further Googling her and finding some things she had written) I almost felt an instant connection to her and called her right away. I've only been seeing her for a little while, but I couldn't be happier with her.

So, the moral of my story is -- years of experience is not what makes someone a good therapist or psychiatrist. It's their training, their life experiences (more important in this field than in any other my opinion anyway!), their motivations, their character, their driving forces, their natural inclination to help. Experience in the field is always important, you know, to make sure that you actually know what you're doing. But by the time the person is licensed, it's not so much about how long they've been doing it as opposed to what they can do and how they do it. And the fit of the client to the therapist is probably most important. A great clinician can do very little with a client with whom they just don't click. I've been the unclickable client. I've been the clinician in that situation as well. I know it happens. Really, it's more than anything that can be found on the Office of Professions website. You can get an idea (for example, I work better with clinicians closer to my age than my parents', so I know that someone who was licensed in 1970 would not be one who I would call to schedule an intake with), yeah, but don't limit yourself to those "experienced" professionals, because that experience is all subjective. What if someone has been a licensed psychologist for only 1 year, but was a LCSW for 18 years before?! You might not know that off the bat.

Just reminding everyone else to take a second look.

One day, it'll be my profile that you'll be finding and wondering if my credentials are good enough to help you, and I hope that by that point, you've learned to understand that it's more than the credentials. It's what's inside.

I just wanted to put that out there, in case maybe someone is looking for a psychiatrist or therapist and doesn't know how to approach it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

29 Ideas of Thanks

Particularly in the world of young people who struggle with eating disorders (but not excluding old people, or those who don't have eating disorders!), there is a great distaste for Thanksgiving. "I don't like the food" "Why do I need turkey to show that I'm thankful for my family?" "I don't even know if I'm thankful for my family!"

I don't like turkey, and I'm not sure how I feel about my family. But here are 29 ideas of what you and I might be thankful for this year, Thanksgiving 2009.

29. I am thankful that I am not in the hospital (or residential treatment center, or other form of intensive treatment). You can even play this up by adding, BECAUSE I DO NOT NEED TO BE THERE! But only if that's really truly true.

28. I am thankful that there is wine at Thanksgiving Dinner...and also thankful that I am not dependent on it.

27. I am thankful that this holiday happens only once a year... but I am still thankful that it does happen every year.

26. I am thankful to have a family who I do not need to spend time with every waking moment of every day.

25. I am thankful for technology, and the instant access to support that it brings me.

24. I am thankful for my friends. (the good ones, anyway)

23. I am thankful for my therapist. (I was thankful for her last year too)

22. I am thankful of my pet(s). I don't know where I'd be without my cat, Paws, except that I would have a few less scars on me...

21. I am thankful that we have vegetables at Thanksgiving dinner.

20. I am thankful that my extended family is just about as uncool as I am.

19. I am thankful for Scrubs, The Golden Girls, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Law & Order: SVU.

18. I am thankful that I am in school, and not on a leave of absence.

17. I am thankful that I am healthy enough to practice yoga.

16. I am thankful that I can read, and even more thankful that I have the time to do so.

15. I am thankful that I'm a good "stalker" and can find out basically anything I need to know (even though it would be much easier if I had a Blackberry!).

14. I am thankful that I am not in middle school anymore. (Or high school, for that matter. Or college...)

13. I am thankful that I have been learning to take care of myself.

12. I am thankful that I am not allergic to cats.

11. I am thankful that I live in New York.

10. I am thankful that I have a license and a car.

09. I am thankful that I know how to spell, and know how to write well (even if I don't use proper grammar 100% of the time. At least I KNOW it).

08. I am thankful for my psychiatrist and my nutritionist.

07. I am thankful for the ability to find the best in even the worst situations.

06. I am thankful that I have a personality and a sense of humor.

05. I am thankful that I am really good at texting while driving (although I really need to stop. It is really dangerous. I am also thankful that I haven't hurt myself or anyone else while doing this. And thankful that I have been able to cut it way way down).

04. I am thankful that I am not addicted to caffeine anymore (or anything else, for that matter!)

03. I am thankful for Ugg boots because I don't know what I'd wear from September to May without them.

02. I am thankful for the ability to use language, art, and yoga to express myself instead of the maladaptive ways that I used to use.

01. I am thankful to know that I'm not alone in this life.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The WORST of both worlds: The Mental Healthcare System

Okay, so it's approximately 1am on a lovely November Sunday morning. I just arrived home from babysitting. Sleeping would be great right about now. However, I am about to devote the next I-don't-know-how-long to a ramble about the mental healthcare system, and how really, there is not much right about it.

I'll start off by saying that we've hit this spot where we've started seeing people as individuals. FABULOUS! But, now that we are seeing each person as an individual, we are recognizing that we may not be able to give them the proper care. HOWEVER, that's not stopping us (now...the use of "us" and "them" are going to be switched off interchangeably throughout this blog and that's just the nature of it being all about the best of both worlds...or the worst) from referring them elsewhere or denying services. When questioned about WHY we're serving the individual in a particular manner, though, we'll just say that it's all we can do because they don't really fit the mold of people whom we serve, so we're giving them the most individualized approach that we can.

I don't even know where to start. Okay. Let's start in the emergency room of a medical hospital with no psychiatric unit. A patient comes in, looking to be medically cleared to be sent to a psychiatric hospital with no medical unit, after an overdose. The hospital does not actively work with psychiatric patients and there is no psychiatrist on staff, however they cannot turn this patient away, as she needs immediate medical care. The team comes up with a protocol. Lock up all her things. Take off her pants. Berate her for crying. Don't answer any questions because she's crazy. Treat her differently from every other patient ever seen in the ER. Treat her differently than she has been treated every time she has been in the ER medically. Don't allow her to use the bathroom. Don't allow her to read a book. She brought her baby blanket because she knew it would comfort her but she's not allowed to touch anything that isn't provided to her by the hospital. Call her psychiatrist at 3am, and then hand her the phone, confusing both the psychiatrist and the patient. Threaten to restrain her when she tries to get out of bed to use the bathroom. Don't remove the IV from her hand, threaten to restrain her if she tries to pull it out, even though there is nothing dripping through the IV, and when there was, it was only an anti-nausea medication.

Let's take a look at Door #2, the hospital which, after hearing about this incident, the patient above swore that she would never go to. A patient is transported by the police, due to suicidal ideation, to the psychiatric unit of a local hospital. She is not allowed to pack anything to bring with her. "We don't know what you might bring." She invites the officers to stay in the room with her while she packs clean underwear and a pair of pajamas. The officers refuse, and bring her out to the car. Upon entry to the hospital, she is told that she must be strip searched, however, there are no female staff on duty at this time. This particular patient has a trauma history, but a patient without a trauma history would probably be disturbed by this as well, and rightfully so. The patient is told that she will be given a 1:1 if she will not agree to a strip search. "This means that a man will be watching you go to the bathroom, etc." The next morning, she is told that if she does not comply to the strip search, it will be forced upon her.

Taking a step away from horrible experiences at psychiatric hospitals, just for a few minutes, let's take a look at a young woman with various learning and psychiatric disabilities, who attends a special school. She attends the school due to trouble learning and managing her social anxiety and impulses at a public school. Like every student in the school, she has an individualized education plan, and a special calming plan that she brought with her from her last hospitalization. However, the staff at the school find it to be too much trouble to deal with her calming plan, because it involves taking 30 seconds out of their day to grant her the permission to leave the classroom, or it "burdens" the crisis staff if they need to talk to the student, although it appears to this outside observer that they are just doing their job. The student's needs were consistently unmet, and one day the difficulties in school led her to a suicide attempt. When hospitalized after that suicide attempt, the student explained to her social worker, "It's a school for kids like me. But they don't know what to do with me. I came in showing them how to work with me, and it's like they don't get it." The majority of the students at the school have behavioral problems, and start fights, or have developmental disabilities that prevent them from being able to succeed academically in a mainstream classroom.

Or take a look inside a community mental health agency. In the day program, most of the clients struggle with psychotic disorders. Although many of the clients are in fair remission, they do often exhibit symptoms of psychosis. This is tolerated pretty well. However, when clients show symptoms of anxiety and depression, it is looked at as the client's irreverence. One gentleman gets very anxious during his groups and tends to speak out, asking whatever random question comes to his mind. He is often very harshly redirected, which tends to hurt his feelings. Another woman struggles with severe anxiety and depression, with no history of psychosis whatsoever. She is brushed off to the side when she's just coasting by, but as soon as she starts to struggle, she explains that staff accuse her of being lazy or stubborn. This continues digging a deeper hole of low-self esteem than she already started with. Her depression and anxiety show little improvement, and while she may not be responding well to medications, this observer tends to believe that her environmental situation may be perpetuating the anxious and depressive symptoms.

Back to the psychiatric unit. Most patients who are admitted to the female psychiatric unit of a particular prestigious hospital struggle with mood disorders - either bipolar disorder or depression. Some also have psychotic symptoms, but few struggle with mostly anxiety. At one recent time, two patients on the unit were treated for anxiety disorders. When either patient cried - as a healthy way of expressing discomfort, instead of keeping it inside and allowing it to mull, like many anxious patients do - it was ignored, dismissed as manipulative, or seen as a symptom of mood dysregulation. When both patients spoke with intake staff about the unit, staff informed them that anxiety disorders are very well-served on the unit. However, the milieu staff did not help to redirect the patients. All they were looking to do was make sure that no individuals hurt themselves or anyone else. Both patients did report leaving the hospital in somewhat of a better situation than they entered - mostly because neither wanted to ever have to be in the situation where they would have to go back there again. Those death-like anxieties were nothing in comparison to the threat of another hospitalization.

And this doesn't even touch on the insurance aspect of mental healthcare. This only covers people who are currently being treated, whether against their will or voluntarily. It demonstrates that hospitals and agencies have a mold that they are set to serve, and while they will happily accept people outside of their mold (if only for financial reasons), they will not modify any of their protocol to better serve those patients.

That's not to say that some agencies, hospitals, and professionals do not genuinely care. However, my psychiatrist said it best when she said that most healthcare follows an impersonal insurance-based model, and even when insurance isn't being considered an issue, the fact is that the model of treatment has been based around it, that it's just a best-fit model. There are people out there, like my psychiatrist and my therapist, who do not work their treatments around this best-fit insurance model. All I can say is, thank God.

This was written over the course of about half an hour, way past my bedtime, so I apologize if it's poorly written or repetitive. I'm not really even writing it to inform anyone else. That will be done at a time of day when I am far more coherent. This was more for my own benefit, of getting my own experiences and the experiences of those who mean a lot to me, out there, out of my head and onto the internet.

Because sometimes broadcasting my thoughts allows me to feel temporarily free from them.

I'm not an overachiever. I'm not good enough at it.

Never, ever in my life have I considered myself an overachiever.
Have I been called one before? Certainly.
But I'm not quick enough, not efficient enough, not perfect enough to hold onto that title.
Even in the fullest of my times, when I was working full time, attending graduate school in the evening, interning part-time, embarking on my yoga teacher certification, recovering from an eating disorder and dealing with debilitating anxiety (which included not only eating and medication management, but it got to the point of daily therapy appointments, weekly doctor's appointments, bi-weekly nutrition and psychiatry addition to the emotional drain, and commuting time), and attempting to maintain some semblance of an appropriate 23-year-old social life (oh yeah, and showering, sleeping, and breathing, too), I did not consider myself an overachiever.
Why not?
Well, I was working 30 hours a week. I had co-workers who were working 40 hours a week and put in even more time than that. I had co-workers who were also in school full time. I had classmates who worked 60 hours a week, and girls I interned with who kept their full work hours and did all of their internship hours on the weekends. There were people in the teacher training program who were able to attend class every Wednesday and attend the monthly Sunday workshop whereas I've only been able to attend one class so far. There are people with far more rigorous treatment schedules than I have. There are even people who have a much more complex "getting ready" routine every morning, involving more makeup, better outfits, and more complicated hairstyles than my own.
Can I honestly say, though, that I have ever encountered a person who was doing all of this at once?
I was hardly even managing to do so.
I managed to pretend that I was fine for quite a while.
But eventually that fell through.
So I couldn't achieve this thing that might have been considered an overachievement.
I couldn't even get help until I was sure I was sick enough.

So now, I haven't done much with my time for the past few weeks.
Does that make me an underachiever?
An overachiever?

I don't know where I lie.
I also don't know where I got the idea that I have to figure out what everyone else is doing, and do the same or better in order to be good enough.

I'll never consider myself an overachiever, because there will, inevitably, always be someone doing more and somehow managing.

And I refuse to put myself in that place again.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Recently, I've identified a pattern in my life (and began to realize that I'm not the only one who deals with this).

Often, I find myself in the same uncomfortable situation again and again.

I'll go out with the same friend week after week, and come home feeling worse every time.
I'll go to the doctor and come home feeling horrible about myself because of something she said, something that wasn't meant to be offensive, but that I interpret in such a way, every time.
As a child, I'd try on shoes and clothes that were too small, hoping that they would fit, and being upset that they didn't, every time, and shopping became terrible.
Or I'd forget my homework or my flute or a textbook or a paper that needed to be signed, so I'd start dreading school in case I'd forget something.

So, I became comfortable living with the constant feeling of dread. Even though I knew there were ways to make things better, they seemed so big, so scary, so terrible that just sitting with the constant dread was the better way for me to go.

The first time I realized that I needed to break out of the comfort zone in order to actually hit a more comfortable place was in recovery from my eating disorder. The first couple of times I was in treatment, I wasn't ready to do anything uncomfortable. I was hoping to change my attitudes and once my attitudes were there, I'd change my behavior. Well, there's something chemical about eating disorder behaviors that influences the attitudes. I don't know whether or not it's been scientifically defined yet, but I know it's been observed, and I know it's true of myself. I know the whole "starvation syndrome" where malnutrition = more thoughts of food, and a less positive mood. Anyway, I'm not sure exactly WHY this hit me, but in my most recent (almost two years ago now) residential treatment, I realized that staying where I was comfortable, would not get me to where I wanted to be. I would most likely die in my comfort zone. And dying, really, didn't seem all that comfortable.

I likened my change of heart, change of attitude, and change of direction to standing on a cliff above a lake and jumping in backwards. Not knowing what's below me, how far it is, if I'll live or if I'll die. Now, I'd never advocate doing that IN REALITY. But metaphorically, it served me. I mean, I suppose we could just call it standing on top of the high dive and closing the eyes and jumping in backwards. But fear-wise, it definitely felt like jumping off the cliff. I began to embrace the mantra, feel the fear and do it anyway. I realized that the fear would never go away, not at this rate, and I would just need to do what I needed to do.

I could apply this to my eating disorder, and could give advice to others to do the same. It was the only thing that got me through the rut. Why, then, did it take nearly two years for me to realize that this circle I went through with the eating disorder that needed to be broken, really needed to be generalized to the rest of my life!? Good question. A lot of times, eating disorders are just a way of expressing the problems of the rest of our lives. When the eating disorders are gone, the problems are still there. Thank god for therapy.

Yeah, therapy. So I didn't realize this whole thing myself. My therapist brought up the fact that I needed to do something about my work situation, and that yes, it would be uncomfortable at first, to tell my supervisors that I would be leaving and so forth, but that I would need to leave my comfort zone (of just getting by at work and being 99% burnt out) in order to be more comfortable.

Then today, I went to the doctor. She said some things to me that made me "feel fat," and that I had predicted would happen. I had asked my nutritionist to talk to her and she agreed to, but she constantly reiterates that I need to talk to her. As do my friends who know her, and those who don't know her. I need to speak up for myself and deal with the discomfort of doing so, in order to be more comfortable with my doctor.

I can't go back in time and start writing things down so as to never forget to bring something to school, but I can stop the dread by starting now.
I can't go back in time and stop trying on clothes and shoes from departments that were too small for me to stop the negativity that comes from shopping, but I can accept my size now (I'm 23 and there is no need to try to shop in the kids department...all right, except for certain occasions it's okay to see what's there since it's cheaper. But only certain stores).

But I can speak to my doctor next week about the way I feel when we talk.
I can resign from my job. I can say goodbye to toxic friends.

And I can't expect things to go beautifully every time.
In fact, I have said goodbye to toxic friends, and they became very bitter and the drama dragged on for too long. I have also resigned from a job or two and felt disrespected and unwanted by my supervisors after doing so.
But these are not pieces of evidence why I shouldn't go out of my comfort zone. It's why I should try again and again to build more evidence as to why I should and why it's all right.

Too often, our comfort zones mean that we're settling. Sometimes, they're not even all that comfortable at all. Just a shelter. I told a friend today, hiding in your eating disorder (or whatever other comfort zone) is like hiding in a trench or a little dugout shelter in an active war zone. You have the option of getting to safety, getting to real comfort, real LIFE, but you'll have to pack up your things, book a flight, and leave everything behind. Luckily, I'd say about 99% of the time, at least in my life, it's not nearly as scary as that.

But we still need to leave that comfort zone sometimes in order to become more comfortable in our lives.

I have a lot of comfort-zone-leaving to do in the next few months.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Trying this AGAIN.

This time, I'm going to try to write in here more regularly. I was so active on LiveJournal, years ago. It was a great release for me. I'm trying to find a great release again. Here's today's reflection.

Pretty much anyone who knows me, knows that I have an incredible relationship with my therapist. Sure, some people have been weirded out by the fact that I text her (although we are working on decreasing that, because I was using it as a coping skill). Others might find it creepy that I have googled her randomly, although I'm never looking for any new information, just proof that she exists outside of our sessions (and, in true therapist fashion, I get minimal results...unlike when you google me and get the Myspace pages of a few pre-teens from Ireland). And still others might wonder why I have such a great therapist who is not a specialist in eating disorders (well, I think it might be for that very reason. because she specializes in working with PEOPLE, not disorders!), or that I could afford a NICE apartment if I didn't go to see her for therapy and saw someone on my insurance instead.

I had a long "weekend" of Thursday through today of thinking and reflecting, and had many many pages of journals, so last night I texted my therapist asking if we could have a session-and-a-half or a double. We started off planning on a 75 minute session but ended up with a 100-minute session. It was the best 100 minutes I could have asked for.

Why? Well, I mean, I did work out some important things, got a lot off my chest, and learned her daughter's name by a total accident! But that's not what was so inspiring.

My therapist has disclosed to me before that she's been in therapy. She implied that she may have been in the first few months that we worked together. Then once we were talking about terrible therapists, and she told me that she once saw a therapist who constantly fell asleep in the middle of their sessions. Every once in a while, she reminds me that going through "shit" and going to therapy is as "normal" as normal can be.

It's just so empowering, to have a therapist, who appears PERFECT (although she reassures me constantly that she is not, that she is human), to be showing no shame about being in therapy. It's the attitude I LONG to be able to show at work (I would get in trouble for disclosing it at my current job, which is understandable since I work with a different set of clients), and to be comfortable with saying it out loud in the world.

Her honesty makes me feel sane. Makes me feel capable. Makes me feel like I can do what I want to do, and if something's going to get in my way, it's not going to be my past.

Self-disclosure is a very controversial thing in therapy. Honestly, I don't wanna hear about her marital problems (although in my head, she does not have any) or if eating Coldstone makes her feel fat (I do believe that she has told me that it does not, that she finds it purely delicious. I LOVE her food attitudes. Better than a nutritionist, because her stuff is based on human nature, not scientific nutritional knowledge!) or that she has a pounding headache (I'm sure she has had one at some point while working with me, it would have been nearly impossible not to!). And she doesn't disclose those inappropriate things.

But what she shares, is so powerful. Empowering.

When I say I want to be like her, I don't just mean in the "I want to be a thin blonde with a great, husband, a sweet daughter, and a baby boy on the way" but that I want to connect with my clients the way she can connect with me, to have the dedication, understanding, and empathy that she is able to share with me. To have that with just one client, even, would be enough.

My therapist is incredible.
The therapeutic relationship we have built is so strong, the strongest, stablest, healthiest relationship of any kind that I have ever had. (at least, in my opinion...and it's helping me to form MORE stable, healthy relationships)
And I'm realizing that sometimes in order to follow my dreams, I need to do less, not more.
I am not the same as everybody else.
Or anybody else.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sunburned belly.

I have a killer sunburn on my belly, despite wearing SPF 50 sunblock. Why, then? Well, besides being painfully white, naturally, I have not shown my belly to the world in 15 years (aside from one occasion of drunken topless tanning with my sorority sisters in college...but it was Western New York and definitely wasn't sunny). So this sunburn, as painful as it is, really says a lot.

It's not that I had an eating disorder for 15 years. I did not, in fact. But I guess my body image issues may have started at that time, when I was about eight or nine, and was just "too big to look cute in a bikini" anymore. I remember crying over it. When I was 12, I remember making my weight loss goal to be that I could wear a halter bathing suit (not a real bikini, just one that showed a little belly). I never reached that goal. I don't know if I was never skinny enough or if my eating disorder started around that time and I was never able to acknowledge that it would really be okay if I wanted to wear that bathing suit. But I stuck myself in sticky, peely, one-pieces, usually a racing bathing suit like Speedo as opposed to an ugly old lady suit, for many years, until Old Navy launched the Tankinis and everyone else followed. I was probably 16 or so? Tankinis became my summer bathing suit of choice - no, of necessity - as I refused to ever wear a one-piece to the beach again. So uncomfortable and really just miserable. The sand gets in it, fills up the crotch and everywhere else, and it's so difficult when you have to go to the bathroom, and so on. Tankinis were it. I had lots of friends who I KNEW had bigger bellies than I did, and they wore bikinis, and I admired them for their ability to do it, but part of my mind said, "Why would you do that!? Someone would look at you. You don't have the kind of confidence to do that. You would obviously attract attention. They hold their weight better than you." So I stuck with my tankinis. Two years ago, I did lounge in a pool in my back yard in my sister's bikini top, because it was strapless and I needed to tan over my strap lines for my cousin's wedding. I kept my hands over my belly the whole time, of course, but I mean, at least I wore the top.

I had gone to the beach two or three times this summer so far. I don't know if it's really true, but I felt like I was the only woman under 40, or at least the only woman who had not given birth to a child yet, who was not wearing a bikini. Is this true? Probably not. But it felt like it. I felt the sun beating on my black bathing suit, burning me up. I felt like everyone was looking at me, thinking about how much it would suck to be 23 and so fat that I couldn't even wear a bikini at the beach among strangers.

My black tankini was a great find. It supported my boobs perfectly, and had really cute stones on it, and a high-cut bottom so that my belly never hung out. It served me well for two summers, but swimming in the ocean really takes a toll on bathing suits, and it was not in good shape at all. My boobs were all over the place, the body was stretched out and wider than it was long, and the bottom had been scratched up by the sand a few too many times. Not to mention I was built differently when I bought it, as it was before my days of yoga and weight training. My body has changed a lot even if I weigh about the same.

I was talking to a few friends about how difficult it is to find the right tankini, and how I need to go buy a new one. One friend in particular really upset me when she told me to just wear a bikini, because it's easier, there are more, and it won't lose its shape as much. I freaked out. She doesn't know what it's like to be fat! And so on. And maybe she doesn't. But even if I'm not skinny, I'm really not at a point where it's inappropriate to wear a bikini, or so people began to tell me when I told them about my dilemma.

So, I went to KMart, where I could make a small investment in a bikini top (I wasn't going to spend more than $10, because what if I went to the beach and people laughed at me, the obese girl in a bikini!?!) and a new pair of bottoms as well. I sent about 10 pictures to two of my friends, to make sure that I looked okay in it. They reassured me, and then reassured me that they were not "just saying it."

I bought the top on Wednesday, and by Sunday, it was beach day. The weather report called for thunderstorms, but somehow it was sunny from 11am when we got to the beach, until well after 3:30 when we left! I wore my bikini to the beach, although taking off my tank top was scary at first. But feeling the cold water on my belly, and feeling the sunshine and breeze across me when I laid out, it was far more liberating than I could ever have imagined. And I don't even think I got any rude stares.

I don't know if I'll ALWAYS wear a bikini to the beach. But I do know now that it's an option. My sunburned belly may hurt right now, but it's a reminder to me that I am actually okay, and that even I have come to terms with the fact that I am just fine.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Some writings from a few months ago

Sometimes, I like to look back at my writing. I've sent out various text messages, emails, and facebook notes with random thoughts. Here's one I wrote in March, after being out of treatment for almost a year, that I am particularly proud of.

I don't even know where to start with this. I really wanted to write something just because I've been mentally reflecting on the changes to my life over the course of the past year. I mean my physical location and physical condition have obviously changed drastically, but that's the least of it.

The things I've learned about myself, and the things I've learned about others and the nature of life are incredible. There are people who have faded out of my life. There are people who had walked in and then out very quickly. And there are new people in my life who I'm so glad to have there. And each person brings with them something, or things, that contribute to who I am in this moment.

I could go on and on about the incredible people who are in my life at any given time. I have a tendency to see people for the true good inside of them. But for a change, that's not what I'm going to talk about. I'm going to talk about how I see things differently now.

I've learned to be a real person, having a heart and soul, strengths and needs, crisis and relaxation, and most importantly, balance and equilibrium. The idea of balance, equilibrium, grounding, peace always scared me. Terrified me. I didn't want to accept myself, I didn't want to feel comfortable enough to accept myself. I wanted to live in a constant state of discomfort so that I could always have that little monkey on my back nudging me to do whatever it wanted me to do to change myself.

I won't lie. I don't think I love myself. Not right now. But I am working towards accepting myself. I am willing to learn to do that. And from acceptance, maybe I'll find love. I have to accept myself the way I am before I can change anything. If I don't accept myself and try to change, then what am I changing from, anyway? "I can't accept myself because I don't like my current weight." I'll never like my weight no matter what it is if I can't accept myself first. Pain + Non-Acceptance = Suffering. A little DBT for you to think about. I suffered enough. It's time to accept.

I'm finding balance, peace, stability, enjoyment, happiness. I was so afraid of all of these things. But the more I sample them, the more I really want them. It's why I'm surrounding myself with like-minded people. It's why I do yoga, why I work with Andrea, why I read silly little books, why I do artwork and writing and take hot baths and hang upside down and why I go to work and school.

I believe that everything happens for a reason. Every person who walks in and out of our life. Every event, good or bad. Every piece of the puzzle will eventually fit together. I believe in magnetic attraction. I can't explain any other reason why I still ended up studying psychology despite hating my intro class, why I kept going back and trying yoga again and again till it clicked (especially after hating it at RCC, and then pinching a nerve in my shoulder from overextending in freakin child's pose at CEDC, and being bored in a Sunday morning class), why I had a steady well-paying job and sought out another one that I adore, why these people who have been through their own struggles and now are moving forward in their own lives have walked across my path to inspire me at just the right times. I have no other way to explain it. It just happens for a reason.

That's the other thing. That it happens. It just does. It's life and it unfolds itself and while you've got the power to make the best decisions with the given circumstances, life itself is what you do with what you're given. The greatest life can unfold itself before you and you can sit in the corner. Or a life with ups and downs and struggles everywhere can be laid down in front of you and you can get over each mountain and roll down each hill with more and more strength than the time before, and come out of the whole thing with so much that you've accomplished for yourself, so much that you've given to others, and so much value.

So my lessons that I've learned this year?

Live. Try. Grow. Hurt. Accept. Embrace. Reflect.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Writing My Memoir

I'm in the process of writing my memoir. It's difficult, though, because I've only lived twenty-three years. At the same time, it's difficult because I've accomplished a lot in those 23 years. I've kept journals as long as I could write, yet that doesn't help, because the critical things that I want to write about now, are things I refused to write about then. I have an outline, and a few chapters written. I don't want to just write about my life...I want to write about lessons learned, the people who walked in and out of my life, and things so abstract that I can't figure out how to express them.

my intro.

I have wanted to write a book for a very long time now. So why For Melissa? And is it really for Melissa? Melissa, a girl I have never met before, passed away due to complications that resulted from bulimia. In a way, it is for Melissa. Or, inspired by Melissa, rather. More, it’s for everyone else. Everyone still living and breathing. Everyone who’s ever struggled – whether that struggle was with one’s own eating disorder or another debilitating addiction, or whether that struggle was with living with a person who was waging her own internal battle using external means. Everyone who’s ever felt a twinge of, “is this really life? Is this it?” That’s who this book is really FOR. I guess I could have titled it “For Everyone.” Because it is. But it’s for Melissa, because when she left this world, it seems as though her spirit gave me the push I needed to get writing.

This book isn’t my memoir of life with an eating disorder. It’s also not my memoir of life after an eating disorder. It’s not even a memoir, really. It’s more my commentary on my life experiences, many of which were impacted by the fact that I was going through or had gone through an eating disorder.

I don’t know if I was ever close to death. I kept as far as possible away from doctor’s offices for the longest time. I was never emaciated. Never forced into treatment by a third party. Never a “real” bulimic or anorexic. And I always believed that I wasn’t sick enough.

This is for all the girls, and guys, women and men, who aren’t sick enough. Because if you’re sick enough to believe that you're "not sick enough", you’re sick enough to get yourself better and get on the right track. I know that not everyone reading this is sick, and that not everyone who does have an eating disorder will take this, or anything, as a step towards recovering their life.

I’m writing this to inspire. I’m writing this to share. Most of all, I’m writing this to grow. Some of this is my story. Other parts are the stories of people I know. The only other thing I can guarantee is that Melissa will never read this. Be grateful that you are.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Beach Therapy

So I have to say, I'd been on the brink, teetering dangerously close to a relapse. The "Ed voice" and the "healthy voice" in my head were fighting all week long. I hadn't felt like that for more than a few moments, a day at most, in a very long time. Probably a good year. Anyway, to be completely honest, I was scared. I couldn't go back to it! But it felt like that was the only choice. All my standard coping skills seemed to be failing: reading (a great temporary escape, but not longlasting), sleeping (one of my favorite activities but I didn't have time for naps and had trouble falling asleep at night!), yoga (felt good during the class but as soon as I got back into the car and thought about my next meal...terror), arts and crafts (just didn't feel like I had the motivation). I'm back to going to therapy only once a week instead of twice, and going to yoga instead, so I didn't even have the consistency of twice-a-week therapy that helped me a lot (although if I really felt that it was necessary, I know my therapist would've gone for it). I had resorted to safety foods from my disordered days, and numbers were beginning to plague my life. I was behind on my charting at work, forgetting to check the weather before getting dressed and leaving the house, and letting my gas tank run on empty (ironic?). These things were slowly happening for about two weeks before the full-on "OMG this is it...I can feel the relapse coming over me."

I don't know what I would have done if things had gone differently, if my schedule was slightly different. I don't know if something else would've clicked, or if I would have spun out of control and still be spinning right now, but that's not important because that's not what happened.

What happened was the trip to the beach. I drove for two hours with my coworker and four of our clients (adults with severe and persistent mental illness), and another van with two coworkers and four clients followed us, down the shore to Point Pleasant Beach. Most of the clients wanted to stay on the boardwalk, smoke cigarettes, and eat. But two of them wanted to go onto the beach. My coworker and I took them down the boardwalk and onto the beach, where we set up our spot.

The second my toes hit the sand, I knew I would be okay. When I settled onto my towel, and breathed in the ocean air, I felt slightly more at ease. When my client, N, and I walked down and got our toes wet, it was as though the ocean washed away the "insanity" that had been circling my brain for the past week or so.

I got back to work extremely exhausted, maybe from four hours of driving on the Garden State Parkway, but maybe also from allowing my body to get rid of the negative and rebuild the positive, somehow. I'm not really sure how all that inner-self stuff works, but I believe it's gotta be at least somewhat real because I can feel it.

I went to yoga this evening and even the positions that were harder weren't a struggle. They were just a challenge. It reminded me the importance of challenges in our lives, and even the importance of reframing our struggles into challenges. Struggles bring us down. Challenges help us rise above. Any struggle can be a challenge. Likewise, any challenge can be a struggle if you let it, but you don't have to.

I'm still tired, and I'm hungry again and my "ED voice" still tells me that I can do without food even though I know I need it, but I'm signing off and heading up to the kitchen before going back to bed. It's quite difficult to sleep when you're hungry. I am remembering that now. It's quite difficult to function when your life is consumed by an eating disorder. That's one "challenge" I don't need. Recovery, fine. But to challenge myself to be successful and disordered at once, as so many people wish to do, I'm going to aim to not have to do that.

So that's my story. I can't wait to get my beach bum back to the ocean again.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Resurfacing this thing?

Well, I am finding more and more people having and even using blogs, so maybe I'll try this again. It's a little classier than a facebook note, for when I have something insightful to share.

I've been reading, working, and yoga-ing, and enjoying the fact that I do not have classes for the summer. Life's got it's ups and downs as always and maybe I'll write about some various things that strike me on this here blog, both about the ups and the downs.

Maybe I'll even show you pictures.

Also, I've kind of given up on getting into a good sleep schedule, because I end up sleeping past noon on Mondays, since I'm off, then staying up till about midnight and having to wake up in 6 or 7 hours to get to work at 8am, then I usually crash Tuesday evening, sometimes I'm even in bed BEFORE 8pm, and always sleep all through the night...and beyond, because Wednesday I don't have to work till 1, so I sleep late again. Then I don't go to bed until Midnight or so, and have to wake up around 6 or 7 again, since I work 8-5 on Thursday. Thursday evening I guess is somewhat normal, except that the last few Fridays I've had misunderstandings with my alarm cllock and ended up running late, not waking up until well after 7:30 and having to get to work at 9. Then I stay up late because YAY ITS THE WEEKEND, and try to get up by like 10 or 11 on Saturday and Sunday but it rarely happens...and then the week continues. This is my third week of this. before that, it was just plain old 9-5 Monday-Friday but I'm working 30 hours now, since I'll only be able to work 30 hours this fall when I'm interning 15 hours...and am beyond exhausted, so I figured I deserved something resembling a summer vacation.

Well there you go, you get a little ramble and you weren't even expecting it.

I do wonder if anyone will ever read this.