In a word, 2020 sucked. It was not all bad. I made it to 40, an age I did not think I would see. My son left the nest to forge his own future in Utah. I miss him but I am so proud of him. I moved into my own place. The first time I have live by myself ever. I received a promotion to help lead a project. While temporary, it has the potential to morph into something more permanent. I am over a year strong in my relationship with my guy. Yet even as I think about these things, I cannot help but focus more on my mental health which is in disarray. My eating disorder out of control. Work from home has been nice (I especially like not having to warm up the car in the morning), however nothing but the walls of my place has been rough. Nothing but the cats and Willy (he is the house spider in my bathroom) to talk to most days. I mean my boyfriend cannot be on the phone all the time with me. And then there is my refrigerator so close. My pantry. Uber Eats. DoorDash. Why go out and binge when you can bring the binge to you? My weight has climbed. I do not know how much because I do not have a scale anymore. The clothes I purchased with glee over a year ago hang in the closet… forgotten. At the urging of my therapist, I broke down and bought some ‘transition’ pants. That what she called them. I call them fat ass pants, yet I am uglier with myself than she is. While I am ready to slam the door shut on 2020, I do not see 2021 charging in to save the day. I look across the vast expanse of the next 364 days with a sense of dread. Knowing me, I will piss it away just as I have the previous 40 of my wasted life.
This week leads up to several months of painful memories for me. I’ve been reflective.
The weekend was a mixture of emotions. I got to spend almost the entire weekend with my new guy. I didn’t expect to find this type of connection with him, especially after two painful breakups earlier this year, but I’m feeling very good about the direction we are heading.
Saturday, my son and I drove out to be with friends and family for the Ritual of Life for a dear, wonderful lady who passed away earlier this month. She was a treasure to me and there was no place else I’d have wanted to be. I wept openly and without shame as we sang, chanted, and celebrated her vibrant life.
On our way to said celebration, I received a phone call from another important person in my life to let me know her eldest son had committed suicide. He and I had dated when we were both in our late adult teens. It’s been well over a decade and a half since he and I had spoken, but his mother and brothers hold a special place in mine and my son’s life. I often joke that she’s the best mother-in-law I never had to marry to get. She has treated my son like one of her own since we came into her life. I couldn’t be more grateful to her and her son’s for being my son’s Grandma and Uncles.
Sunday my guy and I drove to Jackson, TN to bring supplies to a family that lost everything but their lives in a house fire. The dad took us to the house. As I walked around the site, looking at the blanked shell of their home, I was sad for their loss but also glad that nobody lost their life. A new home can be built. Clothes can be found. You can’t replace a life.
I reflect on all of these things and I’m filled with a sense of… gratitude and longing. I’m not particularly close with my family of birth. My one Aunt, who I adored, passed away a few years ago. This November will mark 11 years since mother passed away. She and I were estranged when she died and I hold no guilt over that. I’ve never missed HER but always the relationship I wish we could have had.
And while not close with my family of birth, I do have family of choice that is loving and robust. Those who have chosen me and I them in equal measure. I’m reserved with my affection, but once I give it I struggle with taking it back. Even when the person hurts me.
Perhaps there is an added element of reflection since I have a milestone birthday approaching in a few months. A few years ago, I didn’t think I’d make it to 40. Now I’m staring at it over the horizon and I think trying to determine what direction I want to go. I’m thinking about the people who are in my life. Do I want them there? Do I want deeper connections? If I died today, what regrets would I have?
Life, I’m finding, is far too short. I feel like I’ve wasted far too many years yet I’m struggling with how exactly I want to spend the rest of what I have.
August 2nd will forever be a day I think about. Two years ago today, I had my weight loss surgery. I looked back on what I wrote last year, and I find irony in the fact that I’m still struggling with some of the same issues. Eating Disorder Recovery has been difficult for me. December will mark 1-year since I left the outpatient treatment program I was in. There are days when I feel like I have a handle on this disorder and others when it firmly has a grip on me.
Once upon a time, I was 515 pounds. I have to remind myself of that because I often feel like a failure. No matter where I’m at TODAY, I’m NOT where I’m at when I started. Though after going through two breakups this year, I was very tempted to see if I could eat away my progress. But I know that is my eating disorder talking. It wants me to believe that my fat will protect me from getting hurt, but all it does it isolate me. I need not get up to 515 again to isolate myself. I do that well enough just where I am!
I have a great therapist that I continue to work with. I’m in a deep depression right now, but I’m seeing signs that I’m coming out of it. Much slower than I might like, but mental illness doesn’t go on the timetable we want. I continue to take it one day at a time.
Part of my ED recovery is I don’t diet, and I don’t weigh myself (though I did today because I wanted to know where I was at for the year). I have a meal plan but haven’t followed it lately. If I’m hungry, I eat and try to stop when I’m full. I’m slowly getting back to the gym. I’m in school working on my master’s degree. I’m freelance writing and spending more time writing in general. I have a job I love and enjoy.
There are so many parts of my life I’m thankful for. On my 2-year surgiversary I’m choosing to focus on where I’ve come and where I’m at, not why am I not further along.
Originally posted by me on Coffee House Writers at http://coffeehousewriters.com/breaking-up-is-hard-to-do/
Neil Sedaka wasn’t wrong. Whether you’re at the giving end or the receiving end of the breakup, they’re trying. They hurt. And there’s a lot of pain and grief involved. Even if the break up is for “the best” the feelings that result are no less fraught.
Hearts feel broken. Feels feel frayed.
I’ve recently gone through a breakup and as I’ve trudged through the healing process, I’ve come to realize several things that I hope will help those going through something similar.
- Don’t be afraid to cry!
Tears are essential to the healing process. No doubt they’re sometimes inconvenient, but allow them to come when they come. Tissues may be your best friend for as long as needed. Tears might be silent cheek rolls or great wracking sobs. Or something in between. Don’t hold them back. Don’t be afraid of them. Tears have a cleansing effect.
2. Reach out for support!
Amid a crisis, we often feel alone. We feel like nobody will understand or nobody will care. Trust me, your support system cares and they’ll help you through. It might be funny texts, inspirational memes, or the simple presence of them at your side during a walk or meal out.
3. Remember to eat!
Food is natural to dismiss when you’re in turmoil. Eating balanced meals not only gives you something to focus on, but they are helping to the healing process. If you’re always hungry or filling yourself with foods that aren’t the best for you, then the tendency is to assign additional blame that results from the breakup. Healthy, nutritious foods fuel the body when the tank becomes empty and allows us to keep moving forward.
4. Self-care! Self-care! Self-care!
I can’t stress the importance of this enough. Self-care means different things for different people but whatever it means for you: DO IT! If that is writing in a journal, or drawing, or reading, or going to a movie then partake in those things. You are important. You are worth it. You must take care of yourself.
I leave you with a line from Lang Leav’s book Memories:
“And though I can’t promise it will get better anytime soon, I can tell you that it will – eventually. For now, all you can do is take your time. Take all the time you need.”
Originally posted by me on Coffee House Writers at http://coffeehousewriters.com/you-are/
You are in my heart –
Pumping with the blood
that keeps me alive.
You are the breath,
mixed with my life
that keeps me going.
You are in my thoughts –
Drifting with the consciousness,
that keeps me focused.
You are in my dreams,
playing with the scape
that gives me pleasant sleep.
You are in my soul!
Laced with my being,
that keeps me drawn to you.
You are in my hope –
Sprinkled with my future
that keeps me striving for tomorrow.
You are the love,
smattered with the sorrow,
that brings tears of joy and pain.
You are the reason –
Intertwined with all,
that gives me strength and weakness.
You are you,
that makes me love you!
I often wonder when I’ll be able to let go of core beliefs that I’ve held for as long as I can remember. One in particular constantly plagues me and I’d love to be able to kick it in the face one day and never look back.
I took some mental health days (PTO) off from work that coincided with the Independence Day holiday. I’ve spent the bulk of it working on school work, but I’ve also divided some time to drawing myself inwardly.
In less than a month, it’ll be two years since I had my weight loss surgery. I’m still way down from my highest weight yet I’m nowhere near my goal weight. I could provide a list of reasons why that is. My eating disorder being the number one obstacle. For months now, I’ve been in this war with ED over doing the right thing when it comes to my eating. I’d say we’ve come out even most of the time with ED winning some and me winning some. It is a war that long becomes tiresome, but one that I know I have to take on each day. Somedays, it is much easier than others. This is where we come back to the core belief.
My strongest one is that I’m not enough. I’ve traced where this belief comes from, and it also seems to be a pretty common one from others who have eating disorders. I remember it was something we discussed quite a bit when I was in outpatient therapy. And it is undoubtedly a topic that my therapist and I talk frequently.
During this week’s session, it came up again concerning my relationship with my boyfriend. We’ve been tested lately with somethings that have pricked this belief deeply. I have little doubt it is what has also fueled some dreams that have woken me up in a panic.
It is so hard to want to function when your mind becomes so mired in that record that wants to spin around and around in my head:
- You’ll never be enough
- You’re not lovable
- You’re not worthy of love
- You’re worthless
The days off have helped – a little. Talks with my boyfriend have helped. Refusing to allow myself to wallow in my bed and with my depression have been instrumental. I want to “burrito,” but I haven’t been letting myself. Even with the days off, once my eyes open and my body tells me it is time to get up, I’m up and out of bed. Going back to fundamentals with my eating where I’m asking myself, am I hungry? Then I eat. Am I full? Then I stop. If there is food left, I immediately put it or throw it away.
All of this sounds easy, yet it has been challenging because that core belief is right there on the edges ready to swoop in and tell me I’m not enough or I’m not doing enough, or I’ll never be enough.
My most amazing therapist handed me a small package right before I left her office on Saturday. She said she was glad it came in when it did because she felt I needed this. I opened it to find a silver bracelet and when it turned it over to the inside it says:
…I am enough
I felt tears in my eyes. She said for those days when you don’t believe it for yourself. I’ve wore it since I left her office and found myself stroking it from time-to-time when my mind tends to drift towards those thoughts. I touch the hard metal and it has helped chase those demons away.
I don’t believe it for myself. Not yet. But one day, I will.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.”
Originally posted by me on Coffee House Writers atbhttp://coffeehousewriters.com/eating-disorder-recover/
***Trigger Warning: Following Article Deals With Eating Disorders***
I went to an eating disorder support group meeting, Sunday night. The topic: ‘Laps and Relapse’ got me to thinking about my struggles, and how I wish I were further along on my recovery. You see, two years ago, I was diagnosed with Binge Eating Disorder (BED). The sad part, I’ve dealt with the effects of BED, since I was a child.
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), at least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the United States. For those receiving treatment, recovery is the ultimate goal but often feels elusive.
So, what does recovery look like?
The short answer: it is different for everyone. Well, great, what type of solution is that?
The longer answer comes with commonalities between everyone’s recovery. The first starts with a meal plan. Not a diet, but a healthy balanced meal plan. That can be frightening enough. It isn’t only developing what a ‘healthy balance mean plan’ means to you and your care team, but sticking to that meal plan daily. The act of eating can be overwhelming for those who struggle with an eating disorder. Some foods can be triggering. Triggering means, they cause fear and anxiety for the person struggling to eat.
Self-care is paramount to the recovery process. Self-care has a variety of forms. This can manifest from meditation to journaling to drinking water to preparing food to say something kind to yourself. By no means are any of these things easy to accomplish. Some days they are downright impossible. As cliche as it sounds, the struggle is real. As with your meal plan, self-care is about balance. There will be days when getting out of bed and getting dressed in all we can muster. Whereas there will be other days that we celebrate the snack we had without prompting. It is all about balance and taking the good with the difficult.
Lastly, create a support system of people who will aid you when it is challenging to help yourself. Support systems can be friends, family, therapists, support group meetings, and treatment facilities. Don’t hesitate to reach out to this network when you need it. That is its purpose.
Eating disorder recovery IS possible. It takes work. It takes determination. But you can do it. I can do it. We can do it.
If you or somebody you know is struggling with an eating disorder, please contact the National Eating Disorders (NEDA) Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 or text ‘NEDA’ to 741741.
39 days ago, my world shifted.
I was at a party, surrounded by people, but feeling very much alone. To those that know me, that shouldn’t be much of a shocker. If truth be told, I was tired from a long day the day before and reeling, still, from the breakup of my ex and I. I was contemplating finding the host to say my early good-byes when the guy sitting next to me struck up a conversation. When I meet new people, I’m shy, at first, and this was no exception. However, somehow, he drew me in and we just started chatting. When he stepped out to have a smoke a bit later, he invited me to go outside with him and the strange thing I went! At various points during the night we mingled about, but when I finally decided to leave to head home, I couldn’t find him. I circled the party twice looking for him and, much to my dismay, found myself at the front door empty-handed. Oh well, perhaps I’d run into him again. Then he stepped out of the office area. I smiled and told him I was glad to see him before I left. Boldly, I asked if I could contact him and we exchanged information. I drove home smiling like a bit of a fool.
Then I blew him off for a week. This is going to sound completely cliché, but it was me and not him. I was trying to process my feelings over the breakup and how I knew it was the best thing for me. But what does somebody with Binge Eating Disorder (BED) do when they are processing feelings? Well, binge of course! I was in shame about that too. No sense in talking with this new guy because he’d quickly discover what a fuckup I am. No need to go through that. But then something said “don’t close yourself off” and I rolled the dice. It’s been 33 days and not a day of that has gone by without at least a text from him or to him.
Another party. Then an official date. Dinner and a movie. Then he stopped by my house to ‘Netflix and chill.’ I felt like I was on a freight train moving at the speed of light, yet I wasn’t scared. There was something about this… something about him that felt… right. That the speed and the motion were just perfect for us.
22 days ago, he dropped to one knee and grabbed my hand. Telling me, he had a serious question at hand. I swear my heart stopped only to have it jump for joy when he asked me to be his girlfriend.
My last relationship was almost 13-years ago. That relationship didn’t end on a good note and even after all this time, there are parts of me still healing from it. I’m bound to be rusty, but the wonderful thing is he works through those uncertain times with me. More than once he’s picked up the phone or let me cry on his shoulder when the world simply feels too big for me. He’s talked me off the edge when ED (my eating disorder) wants to take control. He kept me from more binges than he knows about.
Love is a tricky emotion. Beautiful to be sure. We all long for it in various ways. As much as I’ve tried to shut myself off from feeling, I’m no exception. I want to love and be loved. He gives me that and receives it in return.
I’m happy. Love songs on repeat happy. Sleeping better at night happy. Waking up to a smile happy. More good days lately than bad days happy. Less of ED behaviors happy. I love him very much happy.
Originally posted by me on Coffee House Writers at http://coffeehousewriters.com/chapter-1-the-farmhouse/
There was something about the time of day before the dawn arrived. The stillness in the air spoke volumes about the prospect of the new day. There was still a part of me that looked forward to this ungodly hour as if it might deliver something new. I looked out the window on to the two-story farmhouse, betting it was more the location and the memories it brought than anything else. I shook my head, reaching across to the passenger’s seat for the crossbow that rested there. As soon as I felt the hard base of the weapon in my hand, any hint of nostalgia left my mind. There was no room for it today or any day. Not anymore. Such thoughts could get me killed, and I was not ready to die yet.
I eased out from behind the driver’s seat and stood in the old dirt driveway and listened. Once upon a time, the sounds of the farm would have drifted back to me. The animals would stir in the barn, chickens would cluck as they pecked in the yard, and the old hound dog and the toothless, gray cat would chase each other. But there was none of that anymore, only the eerie silence of the pre-dawn morning. There were worse sounds, so I was grateful.
Securing the crossbow for a quicker draw if needed, my eyes darted across the open space as I left the relative safety of the car for the house. My boots made little noise on the grass, but there was a slight creak of the old boards on the porch steps, which caused me to jump. I gripped the crossbow for a moment as if the action would aid in calming me. Between that and the deep breath I took, both effects soothed the beating of my heart, the racing of my pulse… if only for a bit.
The screen door was wide open, yet the wooden door remained closed. Weapon gripped, I took the door handle with my free hand and pushed open. I was ready for anything that might come spilling from within, yet the only thing that greeted me was more silence. I was allowing the ghosts of this place to spook me worse than what was out here. With a grumble at myself and a shake of my head, I entered the house. There was an automatic reaction to flip the switch that would have flooded the front room with light. The only thing I got now was a click as it shifted positions. How many times had I completed that action during my lifetime? Far too many to count. Despite the lack of light, I knew my way around the room. I made my way into the kitchen, my nose wrinkling at the scent of stale water and rotting food left in the garbage can.
Pulling a small flashlight from my pocket, I used it to shine inside the pantry. There was a squeak from a rat as it scurried out of the light’s path. At first glance, I saw that those furry bastards had gotten to the boxes and packages. Holes were in most of them and the food spilled across the shelves and floor. With a shrug of my shoulders, I pushed items out of the way to see if there was anything I could salvage. The efforts weren’t in vain. I had several canned goods and a box of crackers that had made it unscathed sitting on the kitchen table. I rummaged through some other shelves and drawers to see what else I could find. While I had done my best not to think about it since entering the house, my thoughts turned to the fact they had done the same thing before leaving, and I felt as if I might hurl. Laying my hands, palms down, against the counter to steady myself, I knew coming back here was a bad idea, but I needed the supplies. When I felt the prickle of hot tears stinging, I drew my hands into fists and pounded the counter.
“No! No!” I would not do this. Not there. Not now.
Swinging around, I left the kitchen. I needed to get out of here, but the food was only one part of what I had come back for. Allowing my sorrow to turn into anger, I crossed to the stairs, moving up to the second floor. It was darker up here. All the doors were closed. Wait, all the doors should be closed. I had shut them before I left, but the door at the far end of the hall was halfway open. That was my parents’ bedroom. Tensing for a moment, I pulled the crossbow around, cocking my head to listen. There was nothing out of the ordinary, yet the silence of the house was almost deafening. Step-by-step, I drew closer. Debating for a moment whether I should pull the flashlight again, I decided against it. All my senses were honing in on my destination: the door.
Through the crack, I could see the outline of my parents’ bed, and I stopped, holding my breath and listened. Kicking out with my foot, I pushed the door the rest of the way open. It crashed against the wall. I jerked the crossbow into position. It was ready to shoot anything that moved; my heart was in my throat.
Nothing. Nothing stumbled out. Nothing reached for me. I let loose a nervous cackle. Grumbling to myself, “Good God, woman! You will give yourself a heart attack before you can get out of here.” I relaxed the weapon and entered my parents’ bedroom. There was no helping the flood of emotion as I stepped inside. I saw the place as it used to be — one of love, light, and laughter. I did not want the dark, dank room with the overturned draws and ransacked appearance to greet me. I pushed the strewn pillows and blankets out of my way, making my way to the other side of the bed. A necklace with a key dangled from inside my shirt while feeling along the floor with my other hand until I felt the indentation of where the fake board was. Without care, I pulled it away and tossed it on top of the bed, revealing the lockbox hidden there. Using the key, I opened it.
On top, I could make out a photograph I could not afford to look at right now. Instead, I shoved it into my back pocket. The next layer was several hundred-dollar bills I pushed aside. Money has no meaning anymore. Two shotguns dragged out of the hole and laid on the bed, and I wondered for a moment if they had had these that night would things have turned out different. Like so many other overwhelming thoughts since coming back here, I had to push it away lest it gets the better of me. I was dragging up the few boxes of ammo when a sound from the bathroom stopped me cold.
Attention jerked towards the closed door, and adrenaline pumped through my veins. I was jumpy, but someone… or something… was in there. My breathing slowed down, and every sense zeroed in on that door. Could one of them have gotten into the house and somehow trapped itself in the bathroom? I got up to my feet and brought the crossbow back around to the ready and crept toward the door. I could have choked with the way my heart was in my mouth and pounding in my ears. For as scared as I was, I was also angry that one of those bastards would be in my parents’ house. Had not enough happened here without one of those damn things defiling the place? My mind was racing with what to do. The door was thin enough. I knew I could kick it in without an issue. Would I be quick enough? Kill or be killed? You bet your sweet ass I could. I drew a breath, and as I pushed it out, my boot crashed the door open. A terror-filled scream cried out to me. “PLEASE, DON’T HURT ME!”
I jerked my arm upwards in time for the arrow to plunk into the wall above the head of a wide-eyed young girl, I spat out, “Who the hell?”
“Please… I was here for shelter.”
I turned away from the splintered bathroom door and the girl inside. I was seething. Snatching the shotguns and ammo up off the bed, I wasted no more time in heading back downstairs. My mind was racing with thousands of thoughts, but the main one was that I needed to get the hell out of here. I knew better! Damn it; I knew better! I almost left the food I had gathered, but in a few hours, I would curse myself for leaving it when I got hungry. Laying the guns down, I rummaged around for a box or bag or something to carry my loot. An old canning crate caught my eye, and I swept it up, tossing the food into it. I had thrown the last of it when I knew I was not alone again. Hand on my crossbow, I saw the girl from upstairs peeking around the door frame.
“I could have shot you.”
My words were hot and laced with the annoyance I felt. She said nothing in return. Not that I expect her too, I guess. Angry more at myself than her, I laid the guns on top of the crate and picked it up. Walking past her, I crossed the living room and left through the front door.
The sun had come up and bathed the farm in its golden light. I did not take the time to appreciate it. Loading the things I had taken from the house and about to load myself, I saw the girl standing at the bottom steps of the front porch. Could she not be much older than 16 or 17? She was pale as new snow. Her hair was long and the way the new morning light hit it, it reminded me of the fields of golden wheat that used to line our property. She stared at me with large eyes with dark circles under them. It was not an uncommon look. Sleep was challenging to come by these days. I shook my head, pulling the car door open as she called out to me.
“Let me come with you. I won’t get in your way.”
I got into the car, refusing to look at her, refusing to allow me to think about how Rebecca would have been about her age — denying myself the guilt of leaving her here. But as I began to drive off, something in the distance caught my attention. Across the now empty field, I made out two slow-moving figures. It was only two. She would be okay. She would be all right. Even as I thought it, I swore I felt their attention shift. Was it the idle of the car? The smell? My imagination? Regardless, I gripped the steering wheel and put on the breaks.
“Damn it!” I muttered and slammed my fists against the steering wheel. I pushed the electric window down and craning my head out. “C’mon! Now!”
I do not know if she saw them too, but she ran for the car as if they were after her. I moved the crossbow to the back where I could still reach it if needed as she got in the car. Those wide eyes looked at me, to which I grumbled again as I put the car back into gear and getting us the hell out of dodge.
Originally posted by me on Coffee House Writers at http://coffeehousewriters.com/five-things-for-self-care/
An essential part of mental health many advocates discuss is self-care. Simplistic in its approach, self-care can be much more challenging to accomplish when your mind is telling you, “You aren’t worth it.” The question we often struggle to answer is, what do you do when you’re struggling with that voice in your head?
There is an approach my therapist speaks highly of, a method used by many. I’ve discussed with others who struggle with mental health on how this approach helps them as well. This will aid with easing one into a place where self-care may be possible. It’s also an excellent technique to help with lessening depressive episodes or anxiety (panic) attacks. I’ve heard it called many things by different people; the first time it was explained to me it was called “Five Things.”
When to use this might vary for individuals, but I think it would be beneficial for any time, one is struggling to get and getting their mindset back to that sense of Self. As many who fight through the battlefield of mental health know, the concept of “Self” is what helps to lead us back from tight gripped hands of depression, anxiety, or any of the many more types of “holds” our brains have to offer. “Five Things” aids in bringing us to a place of self-soothing. It helps to recalibrate our minds to listen to the little stable voice instead of the more prominent emotionally driven voice.
What is “Five Things?” Simply it’s:
5. things you can see
4. things you can touch
3. things you can hear
2. things you can smell
1. thing you can taste
Something versatile about “Five Things” is it can be done anywhere. It can be as simplistic or as involved as the person would like or need it to be. Do you enjoy writing? Put your things in your journal. How about art or drawing? Then tuck them away on your sketch pad. Don’t have anything but your hands available? Tick them off on your fingers. Are you standing in line at the grocery store? Think about them silently.
This technique can be used as a jumping off point for other self-care activities. This can be accomplished by using the things seen, touched, heard, smelled, and tasted like something more to research, or learn about, or find a new hobby that fills and adds meaning to one’s time. Or it can be treated as nothing more than a one-time activity focusing on the senses. The point isn’t how it’s used but it’s used.
Regardless of what the voice is saying/shouting/repeating; YOU ARE WORTH taking time out for “Five Things” and more.