Lapsing

TW: EATING DISORDERS

I’ve been trying not to post about this, partially because talking about my disorder helps to fuel it, and partially out of a disordered hope to not “jinx it”.

Things have been slipping, eating-wise. I was doing well for a long time, so this lapse was surprising. It’s only been 10ish days, but I don’t remember the last time I restricted for that long.

I did lose weight after my breakup due to depression, and it was hard gaining it again. The time between regaining my appetite and returning to normalish eating could be considered a lapse, but it didn’t last long. And even so, that was over 9 months ago. Before then, my lapses had been a couple days at most since Fall 2015.

So whoops.

I don’t remember what started this. I have been trying to eat “healthier” and “more balanced”, so that could have played a role. I’m not uncharacteristically unhappy right now.

This also feels quite different from other lapses. I am usually driven by a desire to lose weight, and I turn things around when the restriction starts to impact my mood. This “turning things around” usually feels somewhat relieving, as it improves my mood and satisfies my hunger. It also ends the constant battle in my head.

But this time, I have been largely driven by anxiety. The thought of eating makes me feel panicked. I feel like Anorexia has already taken me captive, and there’s nothing I can do to change this. I don’t necessarily believe that I can’t be happy with an eating disorder; and the prospect of losing weight, while not my main motivation, seems worth it. I don’t feel like me. I feel like it’s 2014 again, and Anorexia has taken me captive.

While part of me is horrified at this development, part of me is also thrilled. I can see a subtle weight difference already, and it’s intoxicating. The high and the confidence boost of restriction are addicting. I feel like maybe I’m doing things right. Maybe the alternative to this is eating crap all day and being fat and hating myself. Maybe this will make me happy. Maybe this is all I have.

I feel like crap physically (my body has such a low tolerance for this shit now), I’m more anxious/depressed, and it’s hard to study for my calculus final, but YOLO? I don’t know.

Sarah

The things I learned in Undergrad

My undergraduate experience hasn’t been very conventional. And I’ve hated myself for that since I returned to school in Fall 2015.

But I just finished a 10-minute guided meditation on self-forgiveness (because apparently I’m a person who meditates now), and as cringey and fluffy as it sounds, I realized something important. Namely, that I have learned so much more since I started university in 2012 than I ever could have if things had gone differently.

I wouldn’t be who I am today if I had graduated in 2016 with my friends from high school. If I hadn’t switched programs. If I didn’t take time off for eating disorder treatment. Maybe things would have been easier, but they wouldn’t have been better. Because I went to university to learn, and that’s what I did.

2012-2013

I began first-year as an anxious but generally happy super-Christian. I went to church twice a week, I volunteered with a youth group, and I planned to declare Religious Studies as my major in second year. I hardly know that 17-year-old version of me now. I feel compassion for her, because I remember that Christianity gave her a purpose and a community, before it gave her crippling self-hatred for being a sinner and stifled her dreams. I feel compassion for her, but I barely know her. These days, she rarely crosses my mind. Anyways, at some point, this girl decided God was telling her to become a nurse. When I didn’t get into the Nursing program for the following year, I decided to major in Psychology for my second year then transfer into Accelerated Nursing.

2013-2014

At the end of Summer 2013, after university education and life experience left me doubting Christianity for months, I made the decision that I was no longer a Christian. When I went back to school in September, all my friends thought I was going to hell, I had no hobbies or interests outside the church, and I had no direction or purpose for my life. I tried turning to science to give me some sense of meaning. I thought if I learned HOW our species and our planet ended up where they are now, I would also know WHY. I wanted to switch into Biology. Then Biochem. Then general Life Sciences. Then physics. Eventually, I decided to stay in psychology after all and do something to help those with mental illness. I developed Bulimia in the Fall, and barely attended any classes in the Winter. I went to the Psych ER three times with suicidal thoughts. At some point, I thought a change of scenery might help, so I applied to double major in Math and Writing at a different university in January 2015. Over the Summer, I experienced a trauma and my eating disorder became restrictive and took over everything. (When I talk about this, I like to clarify that my eating disorder COINCIDENTALLY became worse and more restrictive at the same time, but restrictive eating disorders are not generally more or less severe than other eating disorders)

2014-2015

Just typing in those years brings me immense sadness. This year must have been the most miserable in my life to date. In the Fall, I couldn’t work, and I was waiting until January to return to school. I watched documentaries under a blanket in my room all day, and had energy/motivation for little else. All I cared about was food and calories and weight. And to be honest, I probably needed it at that time, because everything else had gone to shit. I accepted a referral to a Day Hospital program, because I thought I would be magically better in 8 weeks and go back to school like nothing happened. I started attending classes in February, and relapsed immediately. I still only cared about food and calories and weight. I dropped all my classes in late March or early April because I didn’t have the mental capacity to learn anything. I returned to the Day Hospital program in April. While there, I decided to return to my original university, as it was closer to my home so my parents would be nearby and the trigger of commuting would be gone. This school doesn’t have a writing program, so I intended to double-major in Math and English.

2015-2016

I managed to mostly maintain my recovery through the Summer. I met Jenn in the Fall. She made me happy and was a great motivation for recovery. I’m still getting over our breakup, so I’ll just say the recovery stuck and Jenn did not. I also decided to only major in Math, as that meant graduating with a BSc instead of a BA, and the English courses at this school are not remotely writing-related.

2016-2017

Jenn broke up with me a few days before classes started in September, so I started the term suicidal. I was in the hospital a few times for overdosing, and was very nearly admitted as a psychiatric inpatient. I managed to get my shit together just in time, and got through the term. In the Winter, my roommate was admitted inpatient, and everything was about her for months. I sound unsupportive and I honestly am, but I had zero support and she was incredibly selfish during this time. I don’t want to get into the details, but our friendship became very toxic, and it was all very difficult for me. I made no changes to my program this year, believe it or not.

After 6 years of undergrad, I will (if all goes to plan) finally receive my degree in 2018. That degree will tell the world that I came to university and I learned about math. And I used to take comfort in knowing it wouldn’t say anything else. Like the fact that it took me 6 years to achieve, or the fact that I changed my mind on my program 20394 times, or the fact that I entered school wanting to be a missionary, or the fact that I lost a year of school to complete eating disorder treatment. But today, I kind of wish my degree wouldn’t just say I learned math. I wish it would say that I learned where I stand on religion, how to survive when I don’t want to, how to cope in unhealthy ways, how to cope in healthy ways, how to break and then put myself back together, how to love, the fact that I love women, what heartbreak feels like, how to put my life back together a second time, what I really want to do with my life, and how to work towards the life I really want. Because I learned all those things, and looking back, I wouldn’t change my path one bit, because those struggles and setbacks and detours made me grow into the person I am today. And I learned things about myself and the world that I will use for the rest of my life. So my undergrad hasn’t been conventional, but thank god it hasn’t been.

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

Bye, 2016. See you never.

I felt like posting an update tonight, and then I realized that it’s about the right time to start reflecting on the giant pile of shit that was 2016, so here I am.

Before I begin, I would like to contextualize this year in my life by briefly summarizing 2014 and 2015, which weren’t too great for me either.

I began 2014 in my first Severe Major Depressive episode and was bingeing and purging almost daily. Around March, I began dating a guy I didn’t like at all because I was desperate to not be alone. That relationship ended in July with a traumatic event, and my eating disorder worsened and became mainly restrictive. I was unable to function, and did not return to school in the Fall. I began a Day Hospital Eating Disorders program in December.

I remained in the Day Hospital program for the entirely of January, getting discharged on the 31st. I returned to school in February, but maintaining recovery on my own was harder than I had expected, and I relapsed almost instantly. I was re-admitted to Day Hospital mid-April and was discharged 9 weeks later. I began to relapse in June and July, but was able to turn things around, and have essentially stayed well since, aside from the occasional  bad week or two. I was fired from a job after disclosing my mental health disability (which is definitely illegal), and later quit a job that caused more anxiety than I could handle. I moved out and returned to school again in September, and in November, I began dating my ex. Ugh, fucking Jennifer. 2015 concluded with the one good month of that relationship.

Enter 2016. The New Year brought a lot of anxiety, as I hadn’t yet told my parents I wasn’t working and I knew they wouldn’t be happy about it. My ex was being dramatic as fuck about her co op term, and was unbearable to be around. She also stopped giving a single shit about me. In May and June, I had to live at home, as my landlord sold our student house and the new place I wanted wouldn’t be open until July. I also had a hard time finding a job, which caused a lot of self-hatred and finance-related anxiety. The job I eventually found was pretty good, but working really triggers my social anxiety. And of course, on my last day of work, my ex broke up with me in the shittiest way imaginable. I suffered my second Severe Major Depressive episode, which brought on 3 overdoses, a relapse into self-harm, a brief eating disorder relapse after unintentional weight loss, and just overall misery. And then a fascist, sexist, reality TV star became leader of the free world.

So here we are, in December 2016. The past three years have been one very long shit-show, but maybe things are gradually improving? My hospital stays lasted days instead of months, I held down a full-time job for most of the Summer, and I spent most of the year out of the toxic environments at my parents’ houses. I learned a lot about myself and became much stronger. I loved and I lost (it should have been you, Bernie), but mostly I survived. And maybe 2017 will fuck me all over again. But maybe it won’t?

I’m generally pretty cynical, and it’s not like I expect the new year to bring me fairy dust and a pet unicorn. But the bar has been set low, so 2017 will likely be an A+ year on the bell-curve of my life. I guess I just need to do what I can to make that happen.

Sarah

My eating disorder is an asshole

Hi everyone,

I wrote a post recently (yesterday?) about my strong thoughts of relapsing into Anorexia. I acted on some behaviours yesterday, and today, my eating disorder won’t shut up. It’s kind of shitty having my brain hurl insults at me all day, and I thought writing about it might help.

So, these are the nuggets of pure wisdom that Anorexia is bestowing upon me on this lovely day:

1.I never actually had an eating disorder, and especially not Anorexia, because I barely lost any weight. None of what I went through matters unless I do it right.

2. I am a dramatic piece of shit for complaining when I literally restricted for one day. People do that all the time. I’m a weak, pathetic whiner. I have been so dramatic about the barely-real eating disorder I had, and I need to either shut up or get a real eating disorder.

3. I am going to get over this in a day or two, as soon as I get hungry, because I am weak and undisciplined. I was never able to lose that much weight, and I never will be, because I can’t do anything right.

4. If I relapse now, maybe I can actually be skinny and see what that’s like. Then it will be out of my system.

5. If I relapse, people will care about me and like me.

So, this was fun. My brain is a super fun, exciting place to be. That’s really all I wanted to say, because I am a dramatic whiner.

Hope everyone is well!

Sarah

Oh haaaaay Anorexia

TRIGGER WARNING: This post is being written by my eating disorder.

Things have been a lot lately. I still feel depressed and lonely more than three months after my breakup. I’m writing finals this week and next. Finances are very tight, as I am reaching the end of the student loan money I received in September. And I am dreading the hours I will have to spend with my family on and after Christmas Day. Maybe this is why I have been feeling particularly nostalgic about my eating disorder lately.

I don’t feel fat- no more so than usual anyways. I’m not feeling anxious about eating a normal amount with decent variety. Recovery is not difficult right now.

But I keep thinking about the high I got from losing weight. The way I actually liked myself for a little while. I think about watching my body change and feeling my clothes get looser. I miss the routine and the obsession and the perfection. I even miss that god-awful Day Hospital program, where healthcare professionals cared about me for a second because my pain became visible.

I know rationally that I was miserable when I was in the throes of my disorder, and that I would hate myself if I gave up on recovery. But the desire to lose weight is so strong. I can feel Anorexia taking over my brain, and I don’t even mind. This might go away in a day or two, or I might let it continue.

Today, for the first time in a while, I tried solving a problem by restricting. My roommate bailed on our plans today, and I felt incredibly angry and anxious at the sudden change. I wanted some way to let my anger out, and my stomach was in knots anyway, so I threw out the bagel I was making for dinner and had a bowl of vegetables instead. I’m having a hard time studying now, but I feel powerful.

I don’t know what to write as a conclusion. Obviously, my thoughts are incredibly disordered right now, and they’ll probably go back to normal soon, but I wanted to express them. So, there they are.

Sarah

New Year Blues- A Real Update

Hey, everybody.

It is probably about time that I post an actual update, so here I am. As I mentioned in my previous (alcohol-fuelled) post, I intended to blog a lot over the Winter holidays, but I did not. I am two weeks in to a new school term and am getting busier by the day, but I hope to prioritize this blog a little bit more in the coming months.

Over the past two weeks, I have suffered from worse-than-usual depression. My life is incredible right now, so it is very confusing to feel this way. I just have days when nothing, not interesting classes, not social events, not even my incredible girlfriend, seems to bring me joy. On these days, I am convinced that I am a burden to everyone around me, and that I will never achieve a truly happy life. My doctor has increased my dose of Effexor, so the hope is that this medication change will help.

I have started to wonder whether this depression is seasonal. I was incredibly depressed at this time last year, but I was also experiencing a relapse into my eating disorder, so I assumed that this was merely a side-effect of malnourishment and of watching my life crumble around me again. My first severe Major Depressive episode, which left me sleeping past noon everyday and failing/nearly failing all my classes, occurred at this time two years ago. I remember dreading Winter every year in high school, because while I was not aware that I suffered from Depression, I knew that the dark, cold days from December to March left me feeling really down.

Fortunately, I am still feeling well enough to fight my Depression by attending social events, signing up for therapy groups, and going to class. I consider this to be immeasurably important.

Unfortunately, restriction has started to creep in as my insecurities about my body become harder to cope with, and the “high” I experience when I lose weight seems increasingly attractive. I am not restricting enough at this point to damage my health, but I do need to turn this around before it gets worse.

So this is my update. I hope it doesn’t seem too pessimistic, because I hold a lot of hope that my mood will improve and that I will remain on track with my recovery. I hope everyone is well, and I will try to write again really soon.

Sarah