In Transition

Today, a lot of things changed.

I moved out of a place I shared with my toxic best friend (whose best friend status is currently under evaluation). I moved in with 4 strangers whom I will live with during my final year of undergrad. Both my Summer courses began (I attended neither due to the move). I guess that’s not very many things, but it feels like everything.

I need my routines. My routines comfort me. My routines ground me in reality. But I’m in a new house now, and I’m taking different classes, so things will be different. My routines have to change.

This might sound bizarre, but I simultaneously feel like life isn’t real and that I’m falling off the edge of a cliff. I don’t know what to do with myself. What do I do tomorrow morning for breakfast? When do I shower? Do I need to prepare more for Wednesday’s classes? I just want to lie in bed on my laptop forever.

I was excited to use this Summer to fight my social anxiety, so I could be a happier person by Fall. And I still plan to do that. But everything feels so scary right now.

I can’t explain it. But I just feel so afraid. I’m afraid to socialize with the people in my house. I’m afraid of how my social situation will change as I rethink my closest friendship. I’m scared my Summer courses will be terrible, and that I’ll be miserable all Summer. I’m afraid to get a part-time job, and then have to do it. I’m afraid of finishing my undergrad next year. I’m scared to go to grad school, which will probably be in Germany. I’m scared to get a real job after that. I’m afraid of everything I’ll ever have to do for the rest of my life. And I thought facing my fears would feel liberating, but I’m remembering all these times I was forced to face them repeatedly and my anxiety did not improve. That’s where the depression sets in, where life starts feeling like a long list of things I don’t want to do. Usually, my efforts to avoid anxiety (like isolation) cause depression, so it’s a bummer when it’s caused by the anxiety itself. Like what am I supposed to do to live a full, happy life?

Clearly, my thoughts are now devolving into chaos, so I will take this opportunity to politely excuse myself from the internet.

Sarah

Recovery from Social Anxiety Disorder

Today was my last session with a counselor I’ve seen for over a year and a half. So that’s a bummer. But it was actually a really good session, and it helped me focus my goals as I continue my mental health treatment.

I have been aware for a while, albeit to varying degrees, that social anxiety is among my most pressing mental health concerns. I was only diagnosed with SAD around a year ago. Until that point, I attributed my social avoidance to not liking people. And the times I knew I was anxious, I assumed my Generalized Anxiety was to blame. But when I was finally diagnosed with social anxiety , it shed some light on my struggles, and on what I can do to overcome them.

I believe that my Social Anxiety Disorder is currently contributing to around 85% of my mental health problems. And I have many diagnoses among which I must distribute these 100 percentage points. So that says a lot. But my social anxiety causes me to isolate, which makes me incredibly depressed, and which can make it difficult to succeed in my life. It is also difficult for me to find employment, as customer service roles are currently out of the question, and the thought of ANY job greatly heightens my anxiety. But I think that SAD’s contribution to my depression is the most damaging.

The thought of conquering my social anxiety fears makes me want to retreat into a hole forever. It feels so impossible to face these situations over and over until they no longer scare me.

But there was a time when recovery from an eating disorder felt impossible. An age when I could not imagine ever loving my body at a healthy weight. And I accomplished both of those things. I took risks that terrified me and that felt horribly wrong, with the hope that I would eventually find something resembling happiness. So I need to do that again.

I am completely terrified, and I don’t remotely have the support I did when recovering from my eating disorder. But I need my life to be different, so I need to do the work. Here goes nothing.

Sarah

Today is not a good day

TW: depression, suicidal thoughts

Maybe it’s all the Ativan I’ve been having lately, or maybe the stress of exams is wearing me down, but I just can’t do it today.

I’m alone in the world, and it’s the worst feeling there is. I keep texting my ex in a desperate attempt to have somebody, but she never responds. My roommate is being dramatic while her boyfriend coddles her as usual. Nobody else knows me well enough to care.

I am in so much pain and nobody is around to help or even recognize it. I kind of want to die, but I won’t because I have a cat and a sister and possibly a cool future career. But I desperately need someone.

Sarah

Reflecting on Recovery

I am generally feeling pretty down this evening, but I’ve been wanting to write a positive post regarding Eating Disorder recovery, so I figured I may as well do that tonight.

I consider myself to be recovered from my eating disorder. Despite the fact that I was not sick for very long, there was a time when I thought I would never say that. I remember once asking a healthcare provider, “What if I’m stuck like this forever?” I can still feel the desperation I felt in that moment. I remember how trapped I felt when over and over and over again, attempts to stop restricting lead to bingeing which lead to purging and recommitting to restriction. And I am so happy not to be feeling those things anymore.

I won’t re-tell my entire eating disorder history here, but I’ll give a rough timeline of my illness and recovery for context. I exhibited disordered eating patterns off and on during my teenage years, but I would say my disorder began in September 2013. (At that time, I had Bulimia Nervosa, but this would later abruptly morph into Anorexia- Binge/Purge Subtype) My illness began consuming my entire life in Summer 2014. I half-assed my way through a Day Hospital Program Winter 2014/2015, relapsed immediately upon discharge, and gave my best effort when I was re-admitted in Spring 2015. Despite beginning to relapse in June 2015, and slipping many times later, I have more or less maintained my recovery since that admission. Over the course of months, my slips went from 3 weeks long to 1 week long to 3 days long, and they were happening less and less frequently. My eating disorder made it difficult to regain the weight I lost last Fall as a result of depression, but it did not manage to suck me in the way it had before. And today, I feel the healthiest I have been (food-wise) since my disorder began.

It has been a year and a half since I have been seriously unwell, so I often fail to notice the subtle changes in my thinking that I never thought I would experience. But every once in a while, I am amazed and incredibly grateful by the transformation that has taken place.

One thing that has surprised me is the way I view my disorder differently as I gain more distance from it. I used to have an unbearable urge to become sicker before I recovered, to show the world how much weight I could lose before “giving up” by getting healthy. I thought my eating disorder wouldn’t matter unless I ended up in a hospital bed with a tube in my nose. In essence, I thought losing more weight would make me finally feel “sick enough to recover”. But the strange thing is, what finally made me feel this way was recovery itself. For one, the amount of weight loss that seemed trivial to me at the time now feels somewhat shocking. But also, living with the freedom to eat according to my body’s wants and needs has made me realize the extent to which I used to be imprisoned by my thoughts. I have memories of wanting so badly to eat, but feeling physically incapable of doing so. I remember crying over a plate of Shepherd’s Pie, while “This is against the rules” repeated in my head like a punishing mantra. I remember feeling too embarrassed to be in public after my first day in treatment, because I thought everybody could tell I was gaining weight. As I sit here writing about these days, I am thinking “What the actual fuck.” I feel so far removed from that world of obsession and delusion. And that validates my struggle more than further weight loss or an increased level of care ever could have.

My biggest surprise though, is that I am actually starting to love my body.

I feel hypocritical saying that, because there are still days when I think I am fat, and I still let my desire to numb my emotions hurt my body when I self-harm. But whenever a friend says I have a nice butt, (an occurrence that once contributed to a relapse) I respond with “Thank you; I know.” I came home from the gym one day last week and told my roommate, “My legs are great”. I sometimes flex my biceps in the mirror like a douchebag. I thought that losing more weight, on top of validating my suffering, would make me like my body more. And yes, there were a couple milliseconds sprinkled throughout the time I spent unwell where I felt “skinny”. But 99% of the day, I felt tired, depressed, and most importantly, “not thin enough”. I remember riding the train to my first day of treatment (Round 2) at my lowest weight, and thinking my thighs looked fat. I realize now that my unconscious goal was to make my body disappear, something I could never have fully achieved. No matter how sick I got, my body would still have some mass, and my legs would still be there. I looked down at my thighs and hated the space they took up, so making that amount of space smaller would have never satisfied me. Now, I am no longer wishing my body out of existence. I see the way some clothing accentuates my curves, and I feel beautiful and feminine. I look down at my thighs and, while I do see fat, I also see muscle I have worked hard to build, and I see pieces of a human being who is allowed to exist and take up space.

I can’t explain in words how profoundly grateful and surprised I am to be in this place I didn’t think I would ever be. I so easily forget the progress I’ve made when depression and anxiety continue to affect my everyday life. But I get to work on these issues with my fully functional, well-nourished brain, and then go home and eat Reese chocolate peanut butter spread like I give a fuck, and then do my abstract algebra homework somewhat-efficiently, and then spend time with friends because I have the energy for it. Focusing on my current struggles is important, but it’s also nice to look back on the progress I’ve made and feel proud and thankful that I have gotten this far.

Sarah

2 Years Later

I wrote this letter 2 years ago today. It had been 2 months since I had been discharged from an Eating Disorders Day Hospital program, and it would be 1 month until I began the program for a second time. I wrote this to my future self in Day Hospital, so whenever I started romanticizing my eating disorder (which I do a lot), I would be reminded that it was hell. I still pull this letter out sometimes, when I start looking back with nostalgia on my life with an active eating disorder. I am proud to say that, 2 years later, I consider myself recovered from Anorexia, and I have no plans of going back.Untitled

Coming Out to Myself (Part 1)

This post isn’t going to be about mental illness. Unless you view homosexuality as such, in which case you can go fuck yourself after first reading this. (I’ll take any views I can get)

But anyways, this is going to be a gay post. Because I suppose I am that. And somehow, I managed to live 21 years before figuring that out. This fact makes me fear that others will not believe me. It even causes me to occasionally not believe myself. Thus, I spend a lot of time reflecting on those 21 years, and how I missed something so important while living them. And the story I uncover is one I would like to share, if only for confirmation that my experience is valid. This story ended up getting long pretty quickly, so I have split it into 2 parts.

To avoid Rachel Maddowing you further with an infinite preamble, I will now begin the story about the time I thought I was straight for 21 years.

Chapter 1: Grade 7

The first time I remember considering my sexuality was grade 7. I thought I might be developing crushes on some of my female friends, and I was terrified. I was a Christian at the time, and believed homosexuality was a sin. I hated myself for even questioning my sexuality, and prayed every single day that I was indeed straight. I ruminated on the issue for what felt like months (but I was 12, so it may have been a week and a half), and then one day I definitively decided that I was straight and that I would not question that fact ever again. I thought that if I spent more time wondering whether I liked girls, the devil would somehow get into my thoughts and make it true. I don’t know how much of this ridiculous belief came from religion and how much from OCD-related superstition, but it was there, regardless. I forced the question out of my consciousness, and carried on with my wonderful, straight life.

Chapter 2: The Boyfriend Years

I have had a total of 3 relationships and one depression-induced hookup situation. You will soon learn that depression was a recurring theme during the boyfriend years.

My first relationship with a man was actually the best. I was 16, all of my friends were in relationships, and my best friend was a guy. Part of me always knew I wasn’t attracted to Liam romantically, but I had methods for dealing with this pesky fact. Sometimes, I told myself that this was a good opportunity to gain experience being in a relationship. I told myself that all high school relationships felt this way. But mostly, I shoved the inconvenient thoughts deep inside my mind, where they would resurface every few months only to be shoved away again. I actually look back on my time with Liam fondly. He was really sweet, he was my best friend, and we were just a couple of dumb kids living our high school lives. I broke up with him suddenly after becoming much more religious, more social, and less bored working at Christian camp. I still feel  bad about that.

In a way, Christian camp indirectly lead to my second relationship. I decided to stop taking my antidepressants (which I had started taking the previous Spring), because I needed to “trust God to help with my anxiety and depression.” To be clear, this wasn’t a message communicated by the Christian camp, I just have a way of taking things way too far. So I was depressed, and anxious, and lonely. And a guy in my history class started giving me attention. Conor and I were together for around 8 months, during which time we repeatedly broke up and got back together. It wasn’t a great relationship, but I couldn’t handle being alone, so I kept returning. The relationship ended for the final time just before I began my first year of university.

The things I learned in university began giving me doubts about Christianity. These doubts compounded over time, and the answers that used to satisfy me didn’t anymore. I stopped considering myself a Christian in August 2013, leaving me with no friends, no hobbies, no identity, and no purpose for living. I developed Bulimia that Fall, and experienced my first Major Depressive Episode in the Winter. I began sleeping with some jerk from gymnastics, because he was giving me attention when I desperately needed it. That ended when he left me at a pub for having a drink because apparently he didn’t want to deal with me being drunk in his car. Ah, the memories.

I met my third and final boyfriend during this same depressive episode. I was still desperate for some kind of attention, so I began dating this person despite knowing I was not attracted to him. The relationship was awful, but it was less awful than being alone with my depression. I don’t say this person’s name, because that relationship ended with a traumatic incident that left me incredibly mentally unwell and affects me in some ways to this day.

Chapter 3: Anorexia

As I mentioned earlier, I had been Bulimic since Fall 2013, but mentally I was not terribly consumed by my disorder. Bingeing and purging helped me cope, but the idea of stopping didn’t seem like the end of the world. But when the aforementioned traumatic incident took away my appetite and lead to quick weight loss, I was instantly hooked. I told myself I would not start eating more once my appetite improved, and I didn’t. I want to be clear that I do not think Anorexia is more serious than Bulimia. I am only saying that my eating disorder happened to become more restrictive and more serious at the same time. Anorexia took over my life, and I was not physically or mentally capable of feeling attraction for anybody. I had no desire to be in a relationship, as my only care in the world was losing weight. It took two stays in Day Hospital to get me on track towards recovery.

To Be Continued….

 

Feeling Positive

My desire to write is typically inversely correlated to my mood, turning my blog into a heap of depression. But right this second, I am feeling genuinely happy, and I want to write about it. This may be related to the fact that I should be studying, but regardless, here is happy Sarah.

I feel obligated to mention that objectively, my life hasn’t gotten much better. My roommate is out of the hospital, but our relationship is irreversibly damaged, and we have decided to live apart next year (aka May 1st). The Summer is a terrifying swirl of unknowns; I don’t know where I will live, where I will work, who I will hang out with, or whether I will enjoy my classes. So it’s an anxiety-provoking time, which conveniently follows a Wellbutrin increase (which is great for mood, not so much for anxiety). Blah blah negativity blah.

But today, right this moment, I feel happy. Maybe meditating for the past 6 days has caused me to achieve enlightenment, but I somehow doubt it.

Today is a snow day (because Canada), so I get to spend the day curled up in my apartment. If it didn’t lower my mood long-term, I would spend every day like this. Fortunately, I can enjoy this day indoors guilt-free with the certainty that I will resume my usual activities tomorrow.

I planned to go to the gym today, so I did something resembling a home workout with moderate kitten interference, because I want those gains. Then I showered and got right back into my cozy pajamas. Then I did my daily chores (feeding the cat, laying out tomorrow’s outfit, etc.) and meditated. The only thing left to accomplish today is studying for my midterm tomorrow, but I’m already feeling fairly confident about it.

So here I am, feeling clean and warm in my cozy pajamas, mindful and full of endorphins, hanging out with my cat and reading about commutative rings. Everything about this day brings me joy, which is something I haven’t felt in a while, so I want to appreciate it while it’s here.

I am facing very stressful situations later this week, and the uncertainties about the Summer will continue to cause anxiety, but right this second, I feel joy.

I don’t recognize myself and have strong urges to insert a bitter, cynical comment. But the things that make me cynical and bitter will still be around when this joy passes, so right now, I’m just going to enJOY it. I’m so funny.

Sarah