Tag Archives: recovery

My Depression’s Become a Splintered Beam

9 Jan

Depression is no longer an atmosphere now for me. It is not a fog, not the ether through which every day plods, not the pervasive perpetual drowning that it was for months of my life. No, now depression is an interruption. An undercut. A startling collapse of the stage I thought I had so solidly built for myself to stand on. I’ll be walking through my day, seeing clear and breathing free the sparkling clarity of the air around me, when suddenly, I will sit down and some beam, some ballast will splinter and snap within me.

It happens without warning. It happens when I am unawares. And most often, it happens when I am alone.

Lots of the time, I think, at least, it happens just when I have decided to work. I have sat down at the keyboard, or opened a textbook at my desk, picked up a pencil and notepad to work on, and suddenly, my inner fortitude will implode.

Perhaps it is because it is at these times that I am most silent, most still, waiting and vulnerable. The mists of uncertainty can rise up from my soul and condense within me, until they form a painful, solid lump of memory that whacks at the legs I have balanced my new platform upon.

It’s in the solitary quiet that I am most a victim of myself.

That time when depression was the daily weather forecast, unchanged from when some meteoric prediction was made ages ago and left frozen on the screen, I think I set myself up for this. Unwittingly and without choice, sure.

I would come home from school, where I’d spent eight hours that day battling just to stay at the surface of my brain, but more often descending into the suck of its derisive, murderous quicksand. But on the outside, at least, even as I sunk deeper and deeper into the much within, I managed an appearance at least of neutrality.

Oh look, there’s our future valedictorian. Isn’t she pretty. So attentive to the teacher, so ponderous in her work.

People think our eyes are windows but they are merely cracks in a wall, and you cannot see through skin.

So, I would arrive home, flee up the stairs and behind my bedroom door, leaving it locked behind me, of course. And there, where I shed the weight of my backpack and nothing else from my shoulders, I let those walls shatter around me.

And I would cry.

I would cry for hours. Sometimes, I’d try to stuff the pressure of undrowned sorrows back, get to work right away, but that always proved a futile move. It was short and decisive, the tap it took for my mind to break the glass of my eyes, the non-windows.

But I was to be the future valedictorian, attentive to the teacher, ponderous in her work. The idea of returning to school with anything unfinished was anathema. And so the struggle would begin, the tug of war between my tear ducts and my pencil lead, two halves of my mind jeering as they pushed and shoved for control. The brain is a tyrant, and I was under its most merciless control.

School work, whether it was a chemistry set or page of physics problems or couple of chapters of biology reading, became a sharply painful task to face. Because there, with my mind fresh and sweating from its mental acrobatics, I was most prone to cramps from its internal infection.

The voice that says you should die is not a kind one, and it doesn’t give much of a shit about whether you need it to be quiet so you can focus on your calculus homework.

I learned to anticipate a lot of frustration whenever I’d attempt to work, that year.

And while I have slain so much of that monster that grew within me and called its name myself, there are still corners of rebellion in the recesses of my body that never quite gave over harboring that dark hulk of gnawing, piercing tooth and fatally sharp eye. And sometimes, the progeny or memory or still-unrejected parts of that monster rear up in me.

It’s usually when I’m alone. It’s usually when I’m not expecting. It’s usually when I’m trying to do work.

And so I do that thing that so many refer to as “dicking around on the computer.” I flit from sight to sight, trying to find some input that will reset my emotions and allow me to awake once more, refreshed and able to get down to business without the ghosts of old nightmares swimming before my brain and crowding, clouding my vision. I shove down the tearful thunder storms that seemed to appear out of nowhere, knowing that I have stared at my skies for hours on end, hashed and rehashed all of my weather systems, done my duty and attended to the cloud formations that have swept across my soul.

I distract myself. Usually with the internet. Browsing may be a solo activity, but the pages and posts, they whisper of other existences and remind me that there are other humans, others out there. And then I don’t feel so alone.

Some call it procrastination. I call it survival.

A Resolution

31 Dec

I’m not really one for the whole “New Year’s Resolution” thing. As someone who’s gone through years and years and more goddamn years of recovery, I’ve seen through myself that change is usually not something that happens through one grand turn around, one definitive pivot. It is a slow, gradual, back and forth of deciding and un-deciding and re-deciding over and over again, until somehow, as each sand grain of nearly unnoticeable tremorous choice has slipped through the infinitesimally small bottleneck of the hourglass of our life, we look up and realize all of a sudden – it’s over. I’ve done it. The sand has all passed through now. And in the struggle of the moment, I didn’t even notice.

It is the second-by-second way we live our life that matters. Sure, change can begin with some grand declaration, but a proclamation is not the same as an action. And as history has shown in coups and diets, monumental momentary revolutions rarely last. Change requires more upkeep than that.

And so with all that in mind, I’ve written my hope for the world as turn the page 2014. A hope not so much for resolution, but for recovery.

possibility

2014

My wish this year, as we turn the page once more,
is that we will embrace a new language for these further pages,
to write a story no longer of the old deadbeat rhythm and rhyme
we have clattered with and clod along, year after year,
but instead a story the sound of which is strange in the ears of life,
the new noise of decisions spoken in a different tongue,
To build the world, not break it.
To grow new life, not gore it.
To turn hope into happening
and loss into learning.
To realize that the chance to change
is not tomorrow but all the yesterdays that were today,
and that with every second the breath of possibility whispers,
Now.”

Participating

29 Dec

“I don’t know if I will have the time to write any more letters because I might be too busy trying to participate” – Charlie, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I saw this movie for the first time tonight. Most of it, anyway. Enough to understand the important parts.

And of course, I cried at the end. Not just because the end of the movie is meant to take your heart and jerk it in several different directions at once. But because the end, especially the end, that wasn’t just a movie for me. I tried to make light of it, throwing out comments like “that’s a damn nice psych ward room.”

But that’s because internally, I wasn’t seeing Charlie’s cozy room. Internally, I was seeing my psych ward rooms. The ones that I spent too many days in last year. Over a year ago now, actually. It’s strange, that those days, the most bruised ones I’ve garnered in life, are so far away now. It’s been a year. It’s over. I’m free.

But I remember the days when I wasn’t. I have notebooks, drawers of them, filled with pages and pages of those days when I was not participating but was just trying to survive – or, slowly letting go of the idea that I would. My life is there, on those wrinkled and worn and smudged notebook sheets. I couldn’t bear physicality, so I existed, put myself into letters.

Because I needed a way for my narrative to be important.

And so it’s there, years of myself, scribbled down in journal entries and poems and short stories. Years where I left marks of myself in metaphor and analogy. Years where I could only be a silent girl, inked into existence.

In the end, they were all letters. Some of them were addressed as letters to God. But in the end, they were all really letters to me.

I forgot to pack those notebooks with me for my trips this holiday. Well, not quite “forgot”… I didn’t even think about doing it in the first place.

Because I don’t live my life in those notebooks anymore.

Now, I am participating.

 

Thanksgiving is…

29 Nov

Thanksgiving is sitting in a dining hall full of raucous college students who’ve made too much cranberry sauce and too little stuffing, but it’s okay, because we’re really there just there for the dessert table anyway. We sit there, at tables where there is family but no tensions, where we have cooked and cleaned and tasted and refused, and somehow it’s all more grown up than what our parents and aunts and uncles are doing back at home.

There’s an odd sort of organization, to youth.

Thanksgiving is picking what I eat carefully, not dividing it into “good” and “bad” as I would have done a year ago, visiting my friends on a day off from treatment, but just being… cautious, of proportions and the decisions I am putting on my plate in front of me. Making sure it’s not too much, figuring out what I really want and how much can really all fit in my stomach. I get to the piece of pie I thought I wanted and realize that I do not, and for what seems like the first time, I realize that I do not have to eat it. There is no table of watchful eyes, scrutinizing what I eat because once it would have been a blessed miracle if I’d so much as taken a bite from that single piece of pie. Except for last year, when I would have eaten it, to make it seem like I was normal, but would have thrown it all back to the world in a toilet, saying no, I don’t want it anymore, please take my insecurity.

There will be no such trips to the bathroom tonight.

Thanksgiving is sleeping in late and laughing with the cashier at the grocery store when yells at me with that affectionate sort of belligerence to “go home!” after seeing me walk in for the second time that day. It’s a weird feeling, when you get along better with the grocery store cashier better than you do your own father. Then again, you see them about the same amount, and one of them has never been given the chance to make you feel small and valueless and wrong.

There’s a terrible irony to it, the ways in which you can be given your daily bread.

Thanksgiving is looking back a year, and feeling that one year ago must really exist in some alien land, far and distant and unfamiliar in the past. Thanksgiving is being grateful that one year ago is not now, is over and gone so that it no longer touches you even at the borders.

There may be a fair amount of denial, but the change is real, too.

And it’s nice, not having needed a holiday to realize all that.

Would you have said the same, yesterday?

This is not different.

26 Nov

Eating disorders tell a lot of lies. There really is no area of life, whether it’s looks or self-worth or grocery shopping or fitness or school or parenting or relationships or anything else, that an eating disorder will not lie about.

Eating disorders will even lie to you in recovery.

This is because eating disorders are self-obsessed fuckers that will do anything to try to get you to take them back, to pay attention to them again. They will tell you that they’ve changed, tell you about all these new options and choices, trying to make you believe that things won’t be the same as before.

Whatever new lie an eating disorder is trying to hook you with, I promise, it is no different than before.

It’s something I’ve had to be wary of, myself, throughout recovery. I know that my eating disorder will try to come up with new images to try to get me to strive after. My ED will tell me that where I am, right now, is not good enough, that there is still something I need to do, even in recovery, to be better. Because the thing with ED’s is, as Amber of “Go Kaleo” puts perfectly, enough is never enough.

Let me be more explicit about what precisely I mean by ED’s “different” lies:

1. You don’t need to focus on losing weight, just being toner!

Aah, the “toner” lie. This is the one that ED tries to hook me with most often. “We won’t focus on cutting down calories or losing weight,” ED bubbles optimistically, “we’ll just work out more so that you’ll have more defined muscles instead!” ED goes on and on about how I won’t look lazy, with all that muscle definition. How I’ll get rid of some of that treatment pudge that comes from being forced to gain weight while not working out. (You know, so the weight can turn into fat cushioning your internal organs LIKE YOUR HEART and allow for better myelination IN YOUR FUCKING BRAIN instead of just becoming muscle that’ll further metabolize you to death.)

Uh hunh. We’ll just make my arms look toner. And then my legs, and then my butt, and my abs, and to do that we’ll just cut out a little bit of dinner here, skim off of breakfast there, just to give a little edge to the muscle cutting. And then we won’t worry about how we’re tired all the time and attached to abductor machines by the hip and have maybe dropped a few pounds since this all started…

Yeah. I see where that’s going.

2. You don’t need to overexercise, just be more regimented about your fitness plan!

“Ooh, let’s download this gym tracker app!” my ED suggests. “Then we can keep track of how much weight your lifting, and how far you’re running, and how long your aerobics circuits are going!”

Yup. And then perfectionist me will see it all before me, and decide it could be better. And so I’ll lift more weights, run farther, work out longer.

And longer and longer and longer and longer.

And I’ll have to keep track of every fucking little detail, every day, looking up ways to get better…

Mhmm. I know that neuroticism. Sure, it’s just getting transferred from calories to weight reps, from low-cal recipes to track laps, but it’s still the same. It’s still an external valuation of my self-worth.

And you know, I’m pretty sure I’m worth just a bit more than how many push ups I can do.

3. You need to eat more healthily.

Uh, wasn’t this the same crap that got me into all of this to begin with? Good foods/bad foods? Eating celery instead of pretzels, a banana instead of fried rice? Sure, maybe I had a cheese quesadilla from late-night coffee house every night this week. I’ve still eaten spinach and strawberries and some more spinach too (dear college board plan, can we change up what vegetables are both offered and edible? thanks much.)

You know what? Next week, I might have a cheese quesadilla every night too. And I’m gonna be just fine.

4. You need to shape up your body some so that you’ll be more desirable.

Anybody else getting bored with? Sounding the same yet to y’all too? I almost fell into this trap over this summer. My boyfriend was away in Japan, and my ED attempted to fill my head with visions of thinner, firmer arms and six pack-esque abs. “Ah, how you’ll turn him on,” ED whispered in my ear.

Lemme tell you about how in the end I didn’t buy into that plan. Yeah, since Japan boy’s gotten back, haven’t had any problem turning him on.

Mmmm, no problem whatsoever. 😉

5. You need to prove you’re still driven.

“Remember when you got up at 7 am every day to go to the gym? Even when you’d gone to bed only three hours before? Man, you were tough. What happened to that will power? What happened to that drive?”

Um, I think I diverted it to doing things that actually make me happy. Remember that whole thing about moderation and taking care of myself and learning that “indulgence” is not in fact a four-letter word? Remember that whole thing about life not being a contest, and “proving that I’m better” than everyone else, proving that I am “extraordinary” not actually making me any stronger or safer or happier?

Oh, apparently you forgot. Well then it’s a good thing I reminded you.

 

Fellow recoverers, eating disorders are liars. No matter how good a plan whatever new proposal they’re trying to throw at you may seem, I promise, look at it closely enough, and you will find the exact same things your eating disorder beat you down with before.

Because when it comes to being “good” for an eating disorder, there is no difference.

Brains are weird.

19 Sep

brain art

Good morning lovely readers! I’m back from my sojourn to the US’s southern regions and have returned to the land of no humidity where I don’t wake up every morning with a dozen new mosquito bites. It’s the little things in life.

But, lovely readers, I have a bone to pick. Well, not so much a bone as a fairly squishy organ. Yup. The brain.

Brains are weird. And by “weird” what I really mean is “confusing asshole.” A lot of you may know that I am a depression recoveree. (Yes, I know the word is technically “recoverer,” but I like “recoveree” better and this is my blog, so there.) Most of the time I am some level of “fine.” No, this summer wasn’t the nastiest my depression has ever been, but it was fairly unfun. Whatever.

For the past three weeks – the period of time I spent traipsing around Florida and Georgia with my boyfriend and my best friend – I’d found a sort of respite. For three blessed damn weeks, it wasn’t a struggle to push myself out of bed in the morning (beyond my normal pre-coffee grogginess, that is). For three weeks, I didn’t have to walk around feeling like my heart was twisted into a coil and my soul was stuck crushed beneath an anchor. For three weeks, the shackles of anxiety and worry and loneliness I’ve grown so used to trudging around in that I don’t even think of them as “not normal” anymore – they just weren’t there. Sure, there was a maybe a moment or two of freak-out, but they were only that – a moment. I wasn’t left with an unrescinding haze hanging over me for days. I felt… free. Light. Even happy.

Then I come back to Los Angeles. Normally touching down at LAX fills me with relief (usually ’cause I’ve just returned from an obligatory trip to that emotional war zone known as my house in Missouri) – but this time, not so. I felt… lonely. But whatever. I shook it off as jet lag or something.

Then I entered my dorm room.

This is why I say brains are weird. (Ahem, confusing assholes.) Brains make connections between physical locations and emotional/physiological responses, right? Seriously – that’s why some drug addicts can overdose on what had been a usual amount of whatever substance for them if they do it somewhere out of the ordinary; their brain wasn’t given the environmental stimulus that told it “I’m going to do x amount of y here” and so it didn’t ramp up the necessary physiological response to cope with that x amount of y.

Anyhoo. Back to my dorm room. About that environmental stimulus… sure, I had just spent an incredible three weeks being happy, but guess what connection my brain had made between my being alone in my dorm room and what emotion I would be feeling?

Yup. Hey there, depression. How not nice to see you.

I keep trying to tell myself that the amount of sadness and loneliness that came crashing over me is understandable. Yeah, I had just spent the past three weeks surrounded almost 24/7 by the people I’m closest to – it’s understandable that there would be some kind of backlash, some kind of withdrawal to their suddenly not being there. I hope.

Yes, I had spent the entire summer forging a connection between the “dorm room” and “depressed” neurons in my brain, so of course there would be a noticeable shock when they fired together again after having laid dormant for three weeks. I think.

It’s just… odd, feeling these feelings again after having been happy for what feels like so long. It’s like I’m walking through a familiar landscape, but suddenly all the angles are odd and the walls jut out in weird places. While yes, this loneliness and the sadness born from it are familiar dressings, suddenly the skin just doesn’t fit right. I have found another shape, and the part of my consciousness that knows that is disgruntled at being forced back into old containers.

With diseases like depression, they say you can’t run away from it, because wherever you go, there you are. But what if it isn’t me? What if it is where I am? The place where so many events and tears have stained the carpet and the walls with memories and expectations? What if I can go somewhere else where there aren’t those constant visual triggers? What if it is not that I can’t run away from it – but that I can at least not walk right in?

Rejection

27 Jul

Choices-fork-in-the-road

Good evening, dear readers. It’s been a very thought-filled week for me. Not to say they were particularly inspired or novel thoughts… mostly just a lot of filling in my allotted blank space on 750words.com. You know, a lot of find a space for my thoughts to live. Or, to put it less elegantly, smushing my brain all over a keyboard. Yup. That’s probably the best description for it.

But in the endless circling of worries and wonderings and whatnots that have found their way out of my brain and into my consciousness, there have been a few topics that have settled into the back of my brain, asking to be written about. A lot of them are very personal topics for me – ED stuff, recovery, rants about body image commercialization – but they all mix fairly nicely into an amalgamated post. So here it is.

And the first topic, interestingly enough, is rejection.

I’ve heard a lot about rejection over my years of therapy of treatment. Usually, it’s about how I’m not supposed to do it. I’m not supposed to “feel my feelings” instead of rejecting them. I’m supposed to learn to come to terms with my body as it is and can be instead of rejecting it as unacceptable. I’m supposed to embrace life with all its laughter and all its shittiness, instead of rejecting an integration of the things that happen to me.

But, all that being said, I think sometimes rejection is okay. In fact, I think that sometimes, rejection can even be a sign of a solidifying recovery.

You see, my facebook feed is pretty much a never-ending wall of cute animals, inspiring quotes, whatever the heck my friends happened to have posted, and science. But sometimes, those “inspiring quotes” and “science” posts have gotten me into trouble.

Or rather, I have gotten myself into trouble and merely used those posts as fodder. At the height of my ED, the various times those maxima have happened, I would grapple for whatever eating disorder-related material I could find. Scientific reports on anorexia symptoms, “fitspiration” images, even recovery blogs. Even if something wasn’t explicitly triggering, even if it was ANTI-eating disorder, I’d still latch onto it. Because at those points, my brain was basically all eating disorder, all the time. I would eat, breathe, sleep, and – yes, read eating disorder. It was how I attempted to cope with the world, after all. It only made sense that I would try to make that world less scary by plastering it with eating disorder too.

But not today. For a while now, while scrolling through my facebook feed, I’ve come across some interesting-looking articles, whether science or pop journalism, that have been eating disorder-related. Today’s scroll-stopping article was about “the science of the anorexic brain.” In the past, I would have dove right in. I would have scoured that article for validation, for excuses for my eating disorder, for patterns I could emulate further. But not today. No, today I only stopped scrolling long enough to glance at the title, wrinkle my nose, and decide that I didn’t really want to read the article. I had other things to do with my night. Other things to do with my consciousness. I didn’t want to spend those five minutes of my life thinking about my eating disorder, plugging myself back into that mentality. No, no thank you. I’ll just keep scrolling. After all, gotta find that next cat picture.

There was a sense of relief from that, scrolling past an ED-related article. ED didn’t have to be my entire life anymore. I didn’t WANT it to be my life anymore. And having one more instance logged away of rejecting ED made me feel just a bit better. Just a bit more secure.

I mean, it’s not as if I’m taking this instance as proof that all my struggles are over now. Hell no. Some days are better than others, but it is still so often a daily battle. An hourly battle. All the little quips my brain makes, seeing which hook will get me to bite… the accidentally insensitive comments my friends make about my meal choice… a particularly unflattering window reflection… the dangers are endless, and I am not invulnerable. Make no mistake, I am watching myself. But this time, it’s myself that I am watching, not my eating disorder. I am trying to keep myself safe, rather than my anorexia. And that is a major step for me.

Which brings me to my next topic. Done with rejection, on to choices. Because when it comes to recovery, choices are so deadly vital. And yes, I do mean the oxymoron. I have come to realize that in the end, recovery – or relapse – comes down to choices. I am not going to get better because I feel better. I am not going to get better because I had some big epiphany. I am not going to get better because somebody else is forcing me to. I am going to get better because of the choices that I make, day in and day out. And if I want to recover, I have to take full responsibility for my choices. I cannot entrust them to my emotions, or my energy level, or my certainty about my future, or my friends’ availability. I have to entrust them to what I know, in the end, is what I need to do.

I will get better because I chose not to purge, rather than because I felt beautiful. I will get better because I chose to go buy groceries (and by “groceries” I mean REAL food, not a stock of gatorade and caffeine), rather than because I suddenly have absolutely no issues or fears when it comes to food. I will get better because I chose to eat breakfast, and lunch, and dinner, and some amount of snacks in between, not because I felt deserving or pretty or accomplished.

Yes, I hope that with time, I will feel all those things too. I feel them every now and then. And my life is no longer ruled by an overwhelming despondency stemming from the utter certainty that at any given moment, I am never good enough. Now, when I am sad, it’s not so much because I have believed the inner critic in my head that used to tell me I am nothing more than a splotch, it’s because – well, life was just shitty. It gets that way sometimes. And then people get sad. And then usually, life gets at least slightly less shitty and people get slightly less sad. I will not pretend that everything always ends up okay. I have come up against too much of reality to assert that. But that’s a topic for another day.

But as for my own life, as for things getting less shitty and me getting less sad, I have hope. Something about SNRI’s and neural plasticity. Also one particularly wonderful boy who somehow manages to make me feel better just by looking at me. Yup. I’m incredibly lucky, and I know it.

Anyhoo. My point is that I realized that in the end, recovery is up to what I do. The choices I make. It is in making the choice to go on with my day instead of forcing my finger down my throat, it is in choosing to make sure that I have consumed an relatively adequate number of calories each day (by listening to hunger cues, by the way, not by obsessing over grams and percentages and calories. that’s just… ew. ain’t nobody got time for that.), it is in choosing to go hang out with my friends or give myself that extra time instead of going to the gym for a second or third hour that day that I am going to get better. It is in the nitty-gritty, unexciting, excruciatingly mundane choices that I make that I am going to get better. And in some ways, that’s annoying. But in in many more others, it’s a relief. Imagine, if recovery were dependent upon having some glamorous revelation. Imagine, if recovery were dependent upon how the sound of your alarm clock and the humidity of the atmosphere and the arbitrary wash of chemicals and hormones your body produced in response to your inbox that day determined how you feel. That would be terrifying.

But recovery doesn’t work that way. It just works entirely on the fact that no matter what some anxious voice in your head may be telling you, at any moment, you have the ability to make a choice. To start, or to stop. To eat, or to not eat. To do what in the end you know you really should do, or to decide that you are going to listen to your eating disorder, even if for just “one last time.” At any moment, you have the ability to choose the way your life is  going to go. ED patterns, or not. Simple as that.

Of course, simple in no way means “easy.” Sure, it may feel like you’re going to turn into the second Mt. Helen because of not walking into the bathroom. Sure, it may feel like nobody’s going to love you again, least of all yourself, if you eat that peanut butter sandwich. It may feel like if you make the decision not listen to your ED, you are worthless, wrong, weak, or whatever other adjectives ED has chained you with.

But the beautiful thing? Feelings aren’t facts. And how you feel doesn’t decide what choices you make.

You do.

Well, I haven’t gotten to turning my wrath towards body image commercialization yet, but I think that’s a rant for a different day. For now, I’m choosing to crawl into bed with a book I’m reading and get some sleep before traipsing around mountains with some wild canines tomorrow.

Right now, my choice is to do some self-care. What will you choose?