Daily Struggles

Eating disorders are sneaky and they tell you that if you purge or restrict or exercise or abuse laxatives or engage in any behavior that is harmful, then you will feel better. Ha! I feel better for about five minutes and then the guilt sets in. 

One would think that being a therapist for recovery in addiction and having been in my own recovery process for about 2+ years… One would think that I would have a solid coping plan. Such is not always the case.

Okay. If I were to be honest, I have developed a solid coping plan that involves self-soothing and being mindful and so on and so forth. While I preach it to my clients, I am remiss in practicing it. I even at one time had a self-soothe kit. I might have torn it apart and misplaced all the pieces thinking that I was totally okay and didn’t need it anymore. Willfulness is my favorite attitude. Or maybe it is my eating disorder’s favorite attitude.

So, dealing with triggers is important. How you cope will define your recovery or relapse. I am worried that I am about to fall headlong into the rabbit hole and be stuck again. I know that I am not following the plan. I am being willful and lazy and I am terrified of the weight gain. It has not helped to spend time with someone who dismisses my treatment and acts as though my needs are unimportant. However, there are 2 rules that make this thinking obsolete.

Rule #1: You are in charge of your recovery. NO ONE ELSE. People don’t make you relapse, you are the one who relapses. You have the skills to cope. If you are struggling, ask for help and make a plan. Then, buck up buttercup and follow the plan.

Rule #2: You are worth recovering. Do not let anyone belittle you just because they don’t understand. Mental illness is a disease. It is not something you choose, but you can choose to deal with it effectively. If you are sliding back down into the rabbit hole, you are not coping effectively. So, put your thinking hat on and identify what you can be doing better.

While I am being tough, I must admit that I know every day is a struggle sometimes. Lately, for me, every day has been a struggle. Life has knocked me about and I feel as though I am barely holding on. However, I know that I am strong enough to cope. My treatment team knows that I am strong enough to cope. I am giving in to self-pity and feigned helplessness by not coping and wanting to act on dysfunctional action urges.

While I may sound harsh toward myself, I know I will not recover if I do not step up and do what needs done. Eating disorders are sneaky and they tell you that if you purge or restrict or exercise or abuse laxatives or engage in any behavior that is harmful, then you will feel better. Ha! I feel better for about five minutes and then the guilt sets in.

My patients report the same thing: wanting a reprieve from emotions, giving in, and the emotions coming back tenfold because not only are the original ones there, but so are the guilt, anger, and frustrations of giving into the disease.

So, how do we combat this?

We cannot change the past. We can only change the future and that happens by making the decisions to live life to the fullest and not give into the reasonings of our disease. It is easier to give in to the disease, but you will die. I want to live and I want to help others make that decision to keep going.

Managing Grief

My grandfather passed away last week. I was in a state of shock for a few days; perhaps, I still am. I have not truly understood yet what it means that he is gone. I am trying to cope, which means I am coping in a somewhat broken way.

When I heard the news, I left work early and came home and ate and ate and ate. Then, I went shopping. I needed to be alone and needed something to fill this sudden void. I thought something was bound to make me feel better if I kept using food or things to occupy my mind.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work. My coping with food did not fill the void and only increased my anxiety about my weight, which was also exacerbated by the fact that I had to buy larger clothes than the last time I went shopping. Combine that with the thoughts that I missed out on time with my grandfather and I was distraught.

I saw my grandfather about six days before he passed. I remember thinking he looked thin and frail, but I would never have said that to him. When asked how he was, he argued that he was fine, but had some bad days here and there. He was eager to show me his finger that he had cut open with a saw; he was proud of how well it was healing up.

I took him a book on West Virginia tales and stories. When he passed, I asked my aunt and father for it back. I felt like an Indian giver. I gave and wanted back. I wish I knew how much he had read and whether or not he had heard the stories before. In the book, there is a tissue marking his place at the start of the book, just a few pages in. My OCD wants to throw out the tissue, but I am keeping it there because it was something he used to mark his place.

I keep coping in my old maladaptive ways. I restrict, then binge. I want sugar and comfort food. I tell myself that this is not the way to cope, but I am at a loss. I want to talk and I want to hold it in. I said my farewells to his earthly shell and felt like it didn’t really look like him, not without his glasses and a mischievous grin. I think to myself that I never drank coffee with this man, who used to sit on the porch with me in the early mornings and look across the land and say about the rising mist and fog, “That’s groundhogs making coffee.”

The funeral is over and life is getting back to normal, but I am stuck in my pattern of restrict and binge and the urges to purge are back. I have not done that, but the fact that they are there tells me that I am struggling.

Grief is messy and I am trying to cope. I keep thinking that if I only knew more about this or that, I would be fine. But, there is no research that I can do that will soothe my emotions. So, I must keep going and mourn in my own way as I pursue a healthy life. My grandfather told me that he wanted me to be healthy and to try harder. Like my grandfather, I am stubborn and I will keep going. I am a Milam and with that fact alone, I am an outlier.

The Journey of a Thousand Bites

The truth is that I am sick. I have to accept that and it is something that I have to accept sometimes daily. Just because I don’t fit the image of one who is caught in the throes of anorexia, my body is still damaged by it.

I am starting this blog to engage myself and others in the recovery process. My disease is anorexia, with a smidge of bipolar I and a little bit of PTSD… Add a sprinkle of panic disorder and a cup of OCD… That is my mezcla of diagnoses and my things to overcome.

Recovery is an every day process. It is not a straight path from problems to success. It’s more like a roller coaster with ups and downs and twists and turns and you puke halfway through the ride, ruining your favorite sweatshirt… Recovery is like that, only life long.

There are some who argue that you can be fully recovered. I wish that were true. I thought I was. Well, I had decided that I had everything under control and stopped the plan, thinking I didn’t need it anymore, because I was cured. Mental illness no longer had a hold, so I started pantsing life. I didn’t prepare. I didn’t care. I had convinced myself that I had it under control.

Funny thing about mental illness and any addictive behavior: you always think you have it under control until the one morning that you realize it’s controlling you.

I have been back in recovery for about eight months. I have fought that I will just be better when I lose a few pounds. I have argued that I don’t need to eat that much. The fact is, my arguing is getting in the way of recovery. My biggest argument is that I have too high of a BMI to be at risk. As so many people say, “I’m not like those other people who are sick. I’m different.”

We all say that. We are different, but our disease affects us the same. When I see my peers from treatment, I am immediately struck by the idea that they are still super thin and gorgeous and I am just in this category of not really sick. The truth is that I am sick. I have to accept that and it is something that I have to accept sometimes daily. Just because I don’t fit the image of one who is caught in the throes of anorexia, my body is still damaged by it.

I almost died last year.  I knew it was only a matter of time. I was incredibly depressed and was ready to die. On reviewing my labs: I had prolonged QT (my heart could have stopped), I went through refeeding syndrome (It went undiagnosed until I actually started seeing a medical doctor about my health–I was in denial of lasting damage), I lost  two percent bone mass, and my electrolytes are still trying to get in normal ranges.

I tell you these things not to say that I am sick, but to show that I am sick, despite looking well. I am an addictions therapist and I realized today that my recovery is not something for me to get through. It is something that has to be lived. I tell my patients this all the time, but I was caught in this idea that I can follow the plan until I am well and then do my own thing. I did that already and here I am again. It is time for me to own my recovery as what I want, not just what the doctor ordered.

My point of this blog is to focus on living life to the full (poetry), not measured by a scale (pounds).