Friday, September 17, 2010
Although I was always interested in psychology, I decided early on that it would be too suspicious a career field. I assumed that people would think that I was only in the field to heal myself, and that I was too unstable to study psychology. I wasn't so afraid of strangers' assumptions as I was of my friends' and family's. By the time I had started college, I'd flip-flopped through various psychiatric diagnoses, been to more than 10 different therapists, and tried ten or so different medications. Those who knew this, I thought, would definitely look down on me for choosing to study psychology, and would believe that I was incompetent and uncapable.
Those beliefs had to come from somewhere. Why did I believe that they would think these things? Did I subconsciously believe that I wasn't stable enough to go into this career field? Would I judge someone else from a similar background and believe that they were only in it to "fix" them? Where did I get the message that people who've struggled shouldn't help others through their struggles?
I don't really know the answers to those questions, but going away to college was life-changing for me. Within a matter of days, I had grown tremendously, and after sitting through one session of a calculus class for my math and special education major, I decided that this was my life and I had to live it for me. I navigated the system (and thanked the heavens that I went to a small college with accessible administrators), and successfully change my major to psychology. I was brave enough to tell my parents, even though I was expecting to hear, "But you always wanted to be a teacher" or even, "Do you think this is okay, given your own psychiatric history?" They seemed to welcome my first life-altering adult decision.
Once a psychology major, I often said that I didn't really know what I wanted to do. But I knew. I wanted to be a therapist. The funny thing was, at that point in time, I didn't believe that therapy would ever help me. I was a firm believer that most psychopathology was biological, and medication was the only cure. Still, I knew that talking helps. It helps people without psychiatric disorders, and it can also help people who are suffering. I didn't necessarily believe that it was curative, but I believed that it would help people get through the day. And then, I thought, I can guide them to see a good psychiatrist and get them onto the right medications.
Did I tell my family and friends this? No. I told them that I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, and that I was so glad that psychology majors have so many different graduate and career options. I decided that I could be pretty honest with my professors, though, since they didn't know anything about my past. So with some guidance, I decided that I was interested in clinical psychology. To be honest, the graduate school admission standards were intimidating and I didn't think I'd ever get in. As I learned more, I also began to feel that I didn't want to dedicate such a large chunk of my life to research. A PsyD was sounding pretty good, but then I learned about social work.
Social work had a little "something else." It had a two-year field experience, instead of the one-year internship in the PsyD and even PhD programs. It had endless career options, in case I really was choosing to be a therapist based on a desire to solve my own problems. Most importantly, it had these morals underneath it. Social work wasn't about research papers and new treatments. It's about understanding people, helping them to use their own strengths to grow, and the inherent belief that every person is of equally great worth and deserves success, in whatever form success may take in their life.
On the surface, social work was my quick, two-year path to becoming a therapist. In fact, if life had gone according to plan, I'd be a therapist right now, at some agency. I would have graduated 16 months ago and would have a great supervisor, and be working toward an LCSW.
Something that I didn't realize, however, is that life does not always go according to plan. In my past, it seemed to always go the way I wanted it to. I guess you could call me pretty lucky.
Life started to take some turns that I wasn't expecting. In response, I relapsed into my eating disorder. I went into treatment. I recovered. I started therapy, I started school part-time. I worked full-time. I interned part-time. I quickly got overwhelmed. I had more panic attacks than I could handle. I went into the hospital. I quit my job. I dropped out of school for the semester. I left my internship. I started babysitting. I started fresh that January with classes, and then in September with another internship. I began to make headway toward graduation.
And all the while, I healed. And healed, and healed, and healed. I continue to grow and change, through therapy and through my life. And with all this growth, I deserve to be open about why I want to be a social worker.
I was born sensitive, reactive. Maybe my amygdala is bigger than average, if you want to cite the temperament studies. Physically and emotionally. My sensitivity caused my to cry a lot as a child, to have severe anxiety, to have difficulty feeling comfortable. However, by adolescence, I began to realize that my sensitivity was not only a negative thing. I was also sensitive to the needs of others, and I was a very skilled listener. I was a natural giver and helper and caretaker. I suppressed most of these traits in childhood, and presented as anxious, hypersensitive, and difficult to console. Once I began to slowly let my sensitivity take a more positive route, I knew that I had a gift. I am often complimented on my patience. On my empowering advice. On my empathy and compassion. I let these gifts guide me towards a career in social work.
Sure, maybe having my own problems sparked an interest in psychology and led the way for a while, but it's much deeper than that. My own problems allowed me to grow and develop, to enter therapy and heal, and to become someone truly capable of helping. If I want to understand and help myself, I go to therapy. And when I become a therapist, I will continue to go to my own therapy. I also want to understand and help others, to use my gifts in a positive way. For that reason, I am going to be a therapist.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
So why am I writing here about this? Not to complain about my body. To tell you how AWESOME my body is.
I can run miles. I can work do chatturanga after chatturanga after chatturanga during my yoga class. I can carry around babies for hours. I can climb, tumble, and play with the best of the toddlers. I can twist my body into a pretzel, squeeze into small spaces, do headstands and cartwheels. I shop in your standard stores, in the juniors and petites and misses sections, even in the kids section from time to time.
I'm pretty sure that when the NIH developed BMI calculators and split weights into categories, they didn't think that "obese" looked like me. I still have a bit of an eating disordered brain and see myself as "okay" but "definitely overweight." Friends, family, even doctors have told me that I don't "look overweight." So it boggles my mind that I could be considered obese. They do say not to use these calculators for bodybuilders or professional athletes. I'm really neither.
I'm stronger, healthier, and more goddamn attractive than I was 20 or 30 pounds ago. I was always pretty strong. I managed to stay relatively healthy. And I never thought I was that attractive. But in regaining physical and mental health (and a few pounds), I've been able to turn my life around. And around. And around. And around.
I'm somewhere that I never thought possible. RecoverED (not in recoverY) And at a terrifyingly high weight. An "obese" weight. That's not medically unhealthy at all. I have low-normal blood pressure, perfect cholesterol, great bone density (above average, thank you G-d! I must have had SUPER DENSE bones before the ED and insane Diet Coke addiction took their toll), flawless lung functioning. I eat healthily: my nutritionist once told me that people should eat a healthful, balanced diet 75% of the time, and whatever they want the other 25% of the time. I think that's about where I'm at. Any of my physical problems (lower BP, easily dehydrated, tendency towards orthostatic hypotension, crappy immune system) are due to my history of anorexia and bulimia.
I have friends. I have faith. I have clothes that I look and feel good in. I have a treatment team I can depend on. I have a SELF that I can depend on, too. I am goddamn fine. Technically, obesity refers to body FAT, and I wouldn't really qualify, but since the easy way to figure that out is through BMI, most would just consider me "obese." I'm really NOT okay with THAT. But I am okay with myself.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
There are people out there who can explain their fears, phobias, obsessions, and so forth. But then there are people like me, who know that they're anxious but don't even fully know what they're so anxious about. Those workbooks don't always work either. Of course with this baseline level of anxiety, it's easy to get anxious about the little things in life, and those simple CBT exercises can work then, but as far as the basal anxiety, there's no way to explain it. You can't really effectively explain what the fear is, or even how it feels. It's not "being afraid of" something, it's different. You know that there's a difference between anxiety and fear.
When someone tells you, "don't worry," you know that they just don't get it. You're not worrying. Anxiety isn't an action, like worrying. It's a thing. A thing that can overtake you and a thing that can shut you down.
It's also a thing that can be overcome, but personally, I'm still working on that.
One song that we learned while I was in Israel is called "Kol Ha'olam Kulo," also known as "the narrow bridge" song.
The English translation of the song is that the whole world is a very narrow bridge, but the most important thing to remember is to not be afraid, at all.
When you're anxious, it definitely feels like the whole world is a very narrow bridge. One that's missing a few slats. One that might fall apart any minute. One that you have to stay on, somehow, because otherwise you fall in. It's shaky and it's scary and through the anxiety that the bridge builds, we become afraid of falling. The main thing is to not be afraid.
For someone like me, someone who has suffered from an anxiety disorder since age two or earlier, it's a good message. It's not saying to stop being anxious; it's saying to stop being afraid. The world being a narrow bridge basically, to me, says that the things that make us anxious (or that trigger any other negative emotion or feeling or behavior) are inescapable. We can avoid them sometimes but there will always be some. The most important thing we can do for ourselves is to stop letting those triggers affect us. Stop being held back. Stop being afraid - fear isn't going to make the narrow bridge any wider!
Basically, my chronic anxiety will never be fully alleviated. I've come to terms with that, although I know that it can definitely get better and be pretty dormant sometimes. But anxiety is one thing, fear is another. I need to live with my anxiety (and we need to live with the fact that the world is a very narrow bridge) but I need not let it control my life because that will only let it get worse (and we need to remember to not be afraid because that will distract us as we walk across the narrow bridge!).
So. I may not be able to describe what I'm afraid of or what my anxiety feels like, but it's different than fear and yet so tied to this beautiful song about having no fear.
Kol Ha'olam kulo
Gesher Tsar me'od
Gesher Tsar me'od
Gesher Tsar me'od -
Kol Ha'olam kulo
Gesher Tsar me'od -
Gesher Tsar me'od.
Veha'ikar - veha'ikar
Lo lefached -
lo lefached klal.
Veha'ikar - veha'ikar
lo lefached klal.
The whole world
is a very narrow bridge
a very narrow bridge
a very narrow bridge
The whole world
is a very narrow bridge -
A very narrow bridge.
And the main thing to recall -
is not to be afraid -
not to be afraid at all.
And the main thing to recall -
is not to be afraid at all.
כל העולם כולו
גשר צר מאוד
לא לפחד, לא לפחד כלל.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
This is actually something that I wrote after Clinical Practice with Groups class, a class where the "first half" of the class is a simulated group (although the group has taken up almost the entire class time most of the time) that kind of takes on a support group setting. I'm usually an advice-giver in the group more than a seeker. These are my thoughts about being me.
So I feel kind of like the resident nutjob wherever I go. I know that I am open to talking about the fact that I have recovered from eating disorders, and the fact that I am in therapy, because there shoud be no shame in that. But I feel like my psychiatric hospitalization makes me stand out like a scarlet letter. When I feel a panic attack coming on and need to pop an ativan, I wonder if people think I'm taking an advil, getting high, or just taking my prescription meds. When I relate to something someone says in class, I always feel as though I'm divulging information that I shouldn't be sharing with, as Meredith put it, a room full of strangers. Although maybe not so much because they'd judge me, as much as the professor would judge me for still being so "mentally ill" yet ignorantly going in pursuit of this MSW, something that should be reserved for the stable person.
Me? In all honesty, I think I'm pretty stable. I am the go-to person for many of my friends, those whose lives have given them more severe and less severe circumstances than my own. And when I have my own problems, I look to my resources - my treatment team tends to come first, and one or two close friends, but when I need to, I can and do reach out farther, accepting a hug from a classmate when I spent the class period crying, or calling a friend to get me out of my rut. I know more CBT and DBT than most of my professors, and my mostly psychodynamic orientation is a combination of treatment I've received and professors I've had.
The scars on my body are healed, faded, hidden, and more than five years old. The psychiatric hospitalization that traumatized me more than the panic attacks and flashbacks that brought me there, was nearly six months ago now. The advisor who dismissed me as mentally ill and doubted my ability to handle HB3 ( a class in which I know all the answers and have been asked my the professor to first see if other people can figure something out before I give them the answer that I knew all along) is no longer my advisor, no longer a part of my academic career. I will even be re-taking practice I and she will just be a memory. So why do I feel that my diagnoses are showing through? That I have a lot to offer but it all comes out in personal experience. I have nearly two years experience in social work roles. First as a service coordinator for early intervention and then as a counselor for a partial care program for adults with severe and persistent mental illness. I also interned as an undergraduate at a behavioral health rehabilitative services agency, and completed nearly one semester in field placement at Rockland Children's Psychiatric Center. These are my relevant experiences. BA in psychology from SUNY Geneseo. 1.5 years as a resident assistant. These are the things I can feel okay talking about. But the truth is that a lot of my life experience came from outside my "credentials." What happened in that second half a year as an RA? Why did I only complete just shy of one semester at RCPC? Why do I no longer work as a clinical case manager at the job I adored with clients who I miss terribly? The answers to these questions are the ones that are just screaming to come out in class.
But like I said today, will the group think I'm crazy? There's always someone who's crazier and someone who's not as crazy. But someone has to be the ultimate, and what if, in this case, I'm the nut? I know people who have gone through this same program whose issues are worse than mine (in my opinion), who are more impaired by their "mental illnesses" and unfortunate circumstances. But comparison all depends on company and if I am amongst a bunch of relatively sane students, independent students who live on their own far from home, do I become the crazy girl who still lives at home with her parents, who babysits instead of having a field placement, who was in the psychiatric hospital when everyone else was in class.
I guess it all depends on how you present it.
I'm more than a number, a diagnosis, a label. We all are.
If I preface a statement to "I learned this in treatment/in the hospital," will it help or hurt my credibility? It's something that I have to judge individually in each situation. And something that we can misjudge, no matter how carefully we made that decision.
Self-disclosure with clients and self-disclosure with peers are distinctly different.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
1. Unexpected Friendships
Who would have thought that the little drunk girl who visited Chelsea at CEDC while I wanted to nap would be someone who I have maintained a long-lasting and important bond with today!? I never thought so. When she added me on Facebook, it took a little while for me to figure out who she was! We began to talk more regularly and soon became integral part of each other's days. I've found that unexpected friendships are some of the best ones that I've come across. Of course I have friends from childhood, friends from high school and college, from work and grad school, but the unexpected friendships are the ones that have generally been stronger. Those friendships aren't built out of convenience. In fact, it takes a lot more to make them work. You don't see each other every day. You don't slowly learn about each other. You kind of just immerse yourself in the other's world by reading their facebook wall, and by texting back and forth about your days. They happen, when this person stays in your life after those other 50 "random friends" you've added on facebook disappear from your mind and your life. Meg Dalton is not my only unexpected friendship, but she definitely is a reminder that you never know where you're going to find one of those people who you don't know how you ever lived without.
2. Watching someone genuinely struggle (really truly fighting) when you're not isn't so much triggering as it is both scary and empowering.
When you're the one struggling, as scary as it may be, and as close to death as you might be told you are, you know somewhere deep down that it really is in your hands. But when it's someone else, especially someone who you've grown to care about, it's scarier because there is - in many ways - nothing you can do. Sure, you can offer support and friendship, but you can't fix them, and you can't convince them that they can get better, that they need to get better. Meg was already struggling when I met her. At first, I didn't know if she had a full-blown eating disorder or if she was just messing around with it, but I soon learned that she was fully entrenched in it. Every time Meg was admitted into the hospital, I could breathe easier, and every time she came home and decided it wasn't worth it to try, I waited for the day when she stopped answering my text messages because she was dead. Thank God, that day has not come. But the fear, it was so real.
Empowering, I said, too. It can be empowering. Kind of like being a big sister. Actually, a LOT like being a big sister. As much as you want to wear diapers and sleep in the crib again, it's a "look what I can do! I can wear underwear and sleep in a big bed!" Like a big sister asking mommy if she can have a crib again too, we think, "hmm, maybe it'd be better/easier/simpler if I were back in the hospital/if I were starving/if I stopped fighting this." But when we DON'T reach for the bottle or the pacifier, when we don't resort back to our outgrown coping mechanisms, we might continue to struggle, but we feel this twinge of pride as we walk on, as we live full lives. And like a big sister, we hope -no, we KNOW- that our little sister will be able to walk like us, to read and write and talk and be a big girl, just like we are. Just like how I knew Meg would be able to move forward as well. I didn't know how or when it would happen but I knew she had it in her. And she's not the only one.
3. Being Real
I could write for hours about being real, but at the same time, I don't know if I need to. So I won't say too much. I know a big part of my problems come from repressing myself - my words, my art, my thoughts, my body my appetite. However, Meg Dalton is my "being real" outlet. We talk about happy and sad things, bodily functions and food. I need to tell someone that I'm farting like crazy or burping up chik'n nuggets. I know it keeps me sane.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about Meg is something that I did not come to know until recently. I had most certainly caught glimpses of the person that Meg is underneath her eating disorder, but I had never really come to know that part of her. After spending a few hours with her at the end of her residential treatment, I met with my therapist and just cried about how happy she made me. Not only to see that she is happy-ish and healthier, but this person who came out of her who was just more there than ever. Kind of like a "glow" except it was inside and out, and it was like meeting an old friend for the first time, if that makes any sense. Like, I think about a couple of moments and just see rainbows and butterflies in my mind. I always want to hug her and not let her go, but now I know that I can let her go because she'll be there next time. Life is a constant journey. I won't stop growing, progressing, changing, and working through life until I'm dead. And neither will Meg. Her recovery is only beginning, as is mine. I might have two years of recovery on her, and four years of life, but in the grand scheme of things, we are just two young people who have a lot ahead of us and we're lucky - in some ways - to have gone through what we have, because we're that much better prepared for the future. I don't know how people can enter adulthood without having gone through massive amounts of therapy, honestly. But I know I'm ready, and I think that soon she'll be ready too. I believe that one day, 65 years from now, Meg and I will be old ladies sitting on the couch with our blankies and our kitties, watching SVU and looking back at the old-fashioned ways we used to communicate, like BBM and facebook.
Monday, February 1, 2010
However, just spending time with a little 3-month-old baby girl, A, lately, has helped me to appreciate my own body.
Baby A smiled at me today for the first time. She was laying on me napping, then started to cry. Usually when she starts to cry, you need to pick her up and walk around, bouncing her up and down, and patting her back. I was so tired of doing that though and decided to see if something else would work. I put Baby A's feet on my tummy and started bouncing her. Not only did she smile, but she giggled! We bounced together and giggled and made silly faces. If my tummy didn't bounce, Baby A and I would never have had that fun bonding experience where we laughed and smiled together.
I definitely have wide hips. I don't mean this in an "OMG my hips are so fat" kind of way as much as I mean, "my hipbones cover a great width." On top of that, I do carry a fair amount of my body fat on my hips. And, I hate it. I look at my "love handles" and "muffin tops" in the mirror, look at how wide I am, and try to wear long shirts to cover it up. As I mentioned, Baby A needs to be walked around when she cries. She likes to be held all the time, likes to be moving, and likes to be close to your heart. Well, I definitely am thankful for my upper body strength, because at about 12 pounds, Baby A is not an itty bitty baby anymore. But even my strong chatturanga arms need some help. Luckily, I have hips - one on either side of my body - that help me keep Baby A lifted up even when I think my arms might be giving out.
Breasts. Pretty much every woman either loves them or hates them. They're too big or too small. Me? I've always been pretty content with mine. Neither too big nor too small, although the twisted voice inside of me says that they - like everything else - should always be smaller. Nothing reinforced the wrongness of that voice like the way Baby A's head rests perfectly alongside my breast. Really, if they weren't there, and weren't that size, she might suffocate. But it helps me to hold her at the perfect angle. Helps her to comfortably nap - and it's convenient that she can hear my heartbeat right there too. It even helps ME to comfortably relax while she naps.
And my height. I've never been particularly bothered by my height, although finding jeans is difficult, and actually, finding sweats or yoga pants that are the appropriate length is even more difficult. But Baby A's mom and I are the same height. This makes it easier for her to adjust to a different caregiver - still having the same shape body to hang on to. It also makes it easier for me to pass Baby A to her mother while she's still sleeping - she barely has to adjust her positioning at all, and just continues her nap on mommy when I have to leave.
When a baby holds onto you, sleeps on you, drools on you, and just shows that she needs you, and everything that your body can do that she can't yet, it puts things into perspective. You don't need to pull down your shirt to hide your "fat that's sticking out," especially since no one can see it, and also since changing position would wake the baby up. You don't need to have washboard abs or a flat belly, because who wants to bounce on a hardwood floor or, well, a washboard? No baby that I know. Keep it human! You don't need bigger, firmer, smaller, or non-existent breasts in order to be perfect, or just in order to fit into that shirt. You need to find a better shirt that fits you because the way you are is important to someone else. If you can't be important enough for you, find someone else. That's advice that I give a lot. Of course, you should be your own #1 motivator, but if you're not, it doesn't hurt to give someone else, even an infant, that role until you can find it on your own.
All this from a few hours of babysitting. I can only imagine what nine months of pregnancy (not to mention the process of raising a child after birth!) can do to your perception.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Why does it seem like, in this day and age, it's so rare to see someone who has strong morals and values that they hold true to, unless they are religious?
I am by no means a religious person, although I have becoming more spiritual and even maybe developing a desire to become more religious recently. I do, however, think that I am and always have been a very moral and ethical person, with strong values. Of course, many of my friends from Catholic school disagree with a lot of my values and would say that this post is stupid but I don't care.
What I'm getting at, though, is how people treat people. Why did it take a church youth group to bring a feeling of welcomeness at a high school, even after the suicide of an outcast? Why does the protagonist of To Save a Life find God before being able to treat people with respect?
Why can't we find it within ourselves to treat others with love and respect? I don't care if you're old or young, stupid or brilliant, gorgeous or ugly, black or white, I will treat you with love and respect. I'm completely human and have many flaws, and DO judge people internally, but I refuse to let my judgments - which I am trying to change but haven't totally been able to - impact the way I treat people. You might call that fake, but I call it ME. I won't pretend to think you're the most amazing person in the world if I just don't like you, but I will give you the time of day. I will be there if you need to talk. I will donate money if I have it and an organization is legit. I will donate time to a cause I believe in.
I'm not doing this for God. I'm not sure who God is, or what, or where. All I know is, I'm doing it for me.
(of course, my belief is leaning towards the fact that God is inside everyone, so perhaps it is God. Perhaps God is what drives good things, but maybe God is just a synonym for the charge of positive energy and love. I don't know if I believe in God as a person-ish thing, but if God is energy and love and respect coming from one and channeled to another, then I guess you could say that I am sure that I believe)
** Funny thing is, this post was kind of taking a very non-religious standpoint... "Why do we need to use religion as a reason to be nice to people? Why can't we just treat people well without doing it because we want to go to Heaven, we fear God and don't want to get on his bad side, etc? Why can't we all just realize that as humans we are all inherently equally deserving of everything?" and yet, I kind of surprised myself at the end.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
This past Friday, I had the amazing opportunity to see Margaux Laskey's one-woman show, Size Ate. I almost didn't go. I didn't think I had anyone to see it with, then Marissa mentioned free tickets, and I decided that for free, I would go alone. Then I ended up roping Ana in to see it with me (it was not very hard to do).
I laughed, I cried, I wished I had a pen and paper to write down meaningful things she said, and I thought. A lot. Thinking is what I did most of all.
I think that different parts of the show struck a chord with different people. One thing that got almost everyone, whether they had eating disorders or not, was "the walking scene" where Margaux is walking up and down the blocks of NYC to burn off her nearly-nonexistent caloric intake. Personally, I could remember being there. I even got one of those nostalgic twinges in my stomach, wishing to go back, if only for a day, an hour, a minute. But that wasn't the kicker for me.
Unfortunately, I don't remember the quote exactly (I am going to try to ask Margaux for it and will update you)...but it was something to the effect of, "Mothers die...children grow up...something else that I related to less went here and it was emphasized that LIFE GOES ON."
Well, if you know me personally, you know that my mother did not die. But if you know me really deeply, you know that that is one of my greatest fears and perhaps played some sort of part in the development of my eating disorder.
If you know me on the inside, or if you have a really good perception of people, you might also know that growing up is one of my biggest fears and that I have used my ED to avoid that as well, in addition to lots of childlike coping mechanisms that are healthier, like watching kids' movies, playing with toys, etc.
And if you have seen me struggle and see me now, you know that the biggest thing I am trying to teach myself is that life goes on. People die, life goes on. Children grow up, life goes on. We gain weight, life goes on. We eat two pieces of cake, life goes on. We lose an important piece of correspondence at work, life goes on. We run out of gas on the highway, life goes on. We fall in love, we fall out of love, we win, we lose, we achieve, we fall short, but no matter what, life goes on.
Another thing that kept running through my head was, "Size Ate." Because the truth is, I AM a size eight now (usually. sometimes a ten, sometimes a six...hell sometimes I'm a 12 and occasionally I buy an XS...it varies!) and thoughts go through my mind..."is she saying that this is the perfect size? her perfect size? it's not the perfect size for me! I'm too big." I'm too big at a size eight? I was a size sixteen once. I remember going from 16 being too tight to finally fitting to 14 (when I said to my mom, "And soon I'll be a 12, then a 10, then an 8, then---" she stopped me and said, "we don't want you getting too thin! Just healthy!") to 12 to 10 and when I fit in the size 8, when I hit that single digit, of COURSE it wasn't good enough. I still feel huge! Some days I feel pretty but I am bigger than a lot of my friends (many of whom are in recovery from anorexia, though, so I'm not really comparing myself to the right people), bigger than the models, bigger than Rachel, Phoebe, and Monica who I watch on Friends, bigger than my therapist, nutritionist, and psychiatrist - all of whom I admire, bigger bigger bigger. (Notice that I'm not listing on here all the people who I'm smaller than. The average size in America is 14 so I'm smaller than more than half of the American women...but does this appease me AT ALL? No. I only want to be smaller than the people who I'm bigger than, of course. I only want to wear a size smaller than what I already wear. If I become a consistent size six, I'll want to be a four. That's what's so appealing about being a 00...nothing comes before it. Well, not in "grownup clothes" at least.)
I will never be a size 0 or anything close to it. It is possible that if I had my genes and a different childhood where we didn't eat sweets, where we were active and never watched tv, where I didn't drink soda, where I never was overweight as a child, I might have eventually healthily grown into a size 0. I have a small bone structure, for real, I do.
But I grew up with parents who were so proud of me for eating three helpings one day that I started to eat three helpings of dinner every night ,even if I really didn't want to. I drank soda and ate Oreos to the point that I couldn't sleep at night because I liked the bubbles in the soda and I liked the mushiness of the Oreos (FYI: seltzer has bubbles too, and broccoli can be cooked to the texture of mushy Oreos, so if my parents were really concerned, they could have made some changes). It was exciting to be only 11 and able to order from the "grownup menu" but if you were going to order from the grownup menu, you had to plan to eat it all! I wasn't a compulsive eater by any means, but I was not a healthy eater and I wasn't very well informed at all. I knew that diets consisted of Diet Coke, salads, and SlimFast and I knew that kids weren't supposed to go on them. Sometimes I was uncomfortable with my size and I wished to get smaller but it never happened.
In 7th grade, The Best Little Girl in the World happened. I would like to thank my 7th grade English teacher, who could never get my name right and always got me in trouble, for assigning the book that made me realize an eating disorder was possible. Would I have found restricting and purging to be ways to cope at some other point in my life without having ever had this book or having Mr. Feig as a teacher? It's quite likely, especially due to the torment I began to steadily receive in middle school due to being overweight. I skipped a meal for the first time in 7th grade. I used to eat lunch in Health class, because that's what the kids who took band had to do. So, I stopped being Healthy and ditched the lunch. No one ever said anything. Nothing negative, anyway. On the outside, I started getting comments about my weight loss and I loved it.
My sixth grade graduation dress was a size 14 (I was not even 5 feet tall). My eighth grade graduation dress was a 13 (which they say translates into a 14 but I'd say it's more like a smallish 12...since Juniors and Women's sizes are so different). When I buy a dress now, I buy a 6 or an 8.
Sometimes, I say that I am lucky in that I have never had to gain weight as part of recovery from my eating disorder, in the true "weight gain" sense at least. However, part of my recovery has been gaining five pounds and accepting it. Sometimes realizing it's muscle. Sometimes realizing that I'll lose it after my period. And sometimes realizing that bodies change, mine included.
It was funny, really, when I hit my own personal "size ate." I had been a size ten for about a year and some months of a stable recovery. I had gotten really into fitness for a while, and was weight training and dabbling in kickboxing, in addition to doing lots of yoga. When I weighed myself, I was shocked to see that I had gained five pounds, and when I searched for dresses for my cousin's wedding, I was pretty sure that I'd need to buy a size 12, not a size 10. It turned out that I actually needed a size 8, because the numbers may have gone up, but the body had built muscle and changed shape.
Just two days before seeing Margaux perform "Size Ate," I had a little realization myself. I, like most other people in recovery from eating disorders, "feel fat" a lot, and become convinced that I am gaining weight when I am eating something enjoyable, relaxing, not exercising for a long period of time, etc. I had a doctor's appointment with my ED specialist for the first time in a few months, and I knew she was going to weigh me, and I don't always like her response. I said to my therapist, "I am going to need to weigh myself!" She suggested to me, "You're seeing Laura (nutritionist) that day, why don't you have her weigh you first, instead of doing it at home, since you haven't in so long?" I had never weighed myself at my nutritionist's office. We agreed that it would be best to focus on the fact that my weight is not important right now. So, I saw Laura's scale for the first time - the same exact scale as my former nutritionist had. The last time I had seen this nutritionist, S, had been back in 2008, nearly two years ago. I stepped on Laura's scale and was the exact same weight as I had been on S's scale two years earlier. To the tenth of a pound.
And I have eaten brownies, cupcakes, cookies, pizza, lasagna, chicken nuggets, french fries, sweet potato fries, peanut butter fudge ice cream sundaes, pasta, potato latkes, full-fat salad dressing, and so forth. I have survived two thanksgivings, two christmases, a handful of Jewish holidays, birthdays, work parties, reunions, etc. I have exercised regularly, and I have gone months without exercising.
And the truth is, for the majority of the past two years, I have listened to my body and done what it wanted, and my weight didn't budge.
Would I have liked it to have gone down? Yes, yes I would have. Was I WORKING at it going down? No.
I may be able to pull out pages and pages of evidence saying that I am NOT at a healthy weight and need to lose 10, 20, 30, 50 pounds in order to be healthy. However, I just wrote pages of evidence right here saying that I am just fine.
Weight doesn't matter. Food doesn't matter. Size doesn't matter.
Intuition, that's what matters. Feeling good (or trying to). Breaking free.
Pizza was a HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE fear food for me for so long. So huge and so much fear, in fact, that I was convinced that I didn't like it. Even the smell really did make me nauseous (although anxiety makes one nauseous too...) and I could not stand it. It started with the calories. Then the way it tasted when I would throw it up. And finally, just the anxiety itself made it so disgusting to me. I couldn't even think about eating it.
I'm not really sure how I brought pizza back into my life. I had veggie pizza three times during my residential and partial treatment at CEDC (although it was not served by the program any of the times - it was always out on pass). I had never eaten pizza with veggies before, actually. Maybe one veggie. But usually, I'd just get plain pizza - if any pizza at all, as far back as I can remember (aside from my extra cheese days as a child). Veggies made pizza seem a little more well-balanced though, and I was able to apply my nutrition education to it and feel okay about it.
After coming back to New York (where pizza is very different than it is in Boston!) I still refused to eat pizza, but a few weeks into my stepdown program at Renfrew, and my FIRST night in IOP (the day after my birthday, which was scary enough, going out for dinner and having dessert), we had pizza. There were 2 plain pies and one veggie pie. Classic NY pizza. We had to have a slice and a half, AND salad WITH DRESSING. And only one of our slices could be veggie. So I had a veggie slice and half a plain slice, and some salad. Lots of girls said that they were so used to bingeing on pizza, or eating more pizza than that. Others, like me, struggled with the pizza, having it be the first real pizza they've had in ages (since college graduation, for me). One girl (LOVE YOU <3) wasn't able to eat the pizza at all. But I got through it. I wasn't proud - I felt disgusting. But it was done, and it tasted pretty good.
My family eats pizza a lot. I came up with a solution. Our local pizza place has a basil slice - a crispy crust with a very tasty sauce with lots of garlic and basil, and no cheese. I'd get that a lot, loaded with veggies. Healthy, yes. Tasty, yes. Pizza, not really.
I've had tastes of pizza, was pressured into slices of pizza, and so forth, on various occasions. I won't lie. I've definitely had pizza before my defining pizza moment. But those slices of pizza in the past weren't independent choices. They were pressured. They were almost forced.
Then one day, in Grand Central Station after my psychiatrist appointment, I felt a craving for pizza. And, I went to the counter and got myself a slice. Just a plain slice, to go, to eat on the train. I did it. It was delicious.
This was a couple of months ago and I have eaten pizza a handful of times since then. I've been to trendy pizzerias and classic famous pizzerias bragging about the best pizza in the county. I've eaten NYC pizza, New Jersey pizza, suburban NY pizza, and homemade pizza. Saucy, cheesy, crispy, doughy, garlicky, basil-y, different everywhere.
And right now, I am about to go out for pizza with my family. And I'm excited for pizza. My therapist loves pizza and eats it at least once a week - never just one slice. My nutritionist loves pizza and eats it often too, as much as she wants, because she knows her body is not going to lie to her. They have both given me recommendations of good pizza places near my classes. I've resigned myself to the fact that I will be eating a lot of pizza this semester. And I will be enjoying it.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
All my life, people have said to me, "worry about yourself," "don't make unnecessary work for yourself," "stop doing so much for other people," "you come first," "you don't have to..."
And sure, there may have been times when I helped other people when I was the one who needed help (a great example would be my first round in residential), but I've since learned to balance it. Asking for help and giving help.
After discussing reaching out to various people to find resources for a friend in need, I said to Andrea, "I do too much for other people..." and she said "I don't think so! Unless YOU think it's too much..." It really set off a lightbulb for me.
Because who is to tell me if what I'm doing is too much? Random people who don't know me very well at all tend to be the ones who say it. I'd rather listen to and help a friend then go out drinking and dancing. I'd rather use my internet time searching for therapists for a good friend instead of playing Farmville and Cafe World. Id rather lend a hand when I have a hand to lend, than just respond with sadfaced IMs and "oh, that sucks." I prefer, "How can I help you get through this?" or "Would you like it if I _____" or just plain old, "I'm always here to listen."
I did get burnt out listening to a couple of people in the past, but they weren't my good friends, and they were extremely demanding. At first it was nice to help but eventually it was too much. But I called myself out on it, before it hurt me much, if at all. And now, even knowing that sometimes I might get sucked in a little too far, I'm happy to help.
When I'm employed as a professional, there will be boundaries and I won't be able to dive into someone's life as fully as I can right now. Helping is something I like to do and as long as it makes me feel good and isn't hurting anyone (and is generally helping someone else out in the process..even if it's a failed attempt because they at least know that someone cares), then I say go for it. It's not taking over my life -in fact, it makes my life better in the long run because it will get my friend back on her feet. Hmm, maybe it's even a little selfish ;)
I know self-care and balance are important, and I think that right now, I've got them covered. I think I've developed a lot of self-awareness and know when to back down.