Hmmm….Lots going on in my mind. Let me put some here.
My safe place.
Another safety piece.
“Innocence Before Trauma”.
Some of my parts.
Hmmm….Lots going on in my mind. Let me put some here.
My safe place.
Another safety piece.
“Innocence Before Trauma”.
Some of my parts.
So…the puppy barked and barked last night. I know from other times that her mom has been away that she has night-time separation anxiety, and so I own and use earplugs. But last night, the barking was too much for me because the other dog was barking too. And he was growling, like he does when strangers are here, and it set off all my hypervigilence/fear/nighttime safety triggers. I was a mess. After a while, I couldn’t take it anymore and I grabbed a blanket, came upstairs and got onto the covers of Linda’s bed and fell asleep. The puppy is in a kennel in Linda’s room, so my presence soothed her and there wasn’t another peep out of her all night. Am I supposed to climb onto Linda’s bed and go to sleep? I don’t know…but it was a total necessity.
Tonight, I am going to try to stay in my own bed because I need to be in my own space. And now that I know that I was safe-enough last night, that the dogs were just feeding off of each other, then I can hopefully be more settled tonight and not terrified.
As a result of last night’s disruption and me being so afraid, I am exhausted beyond measure this morning. Which gives me a perfect excuse to skip yoga. Of course, the truth is that going to yoga seems like too much work and all I want to do is stay home and isolate. I am on the fence as to what I will actually do.
There is also a good-bye lunch (so ironic) for the peer that was discharged from the facility yesterday. I am feeling really annoyed that she got kicked out for not eating for two weeks (because she has made herself so sick that she needs a higher level of care) and yet her group good-bye is a meal in a restaurant, which is how she chose to do it. Anyway, I am frustrated by her and also have no interest in spending time with my peers, so I am very, very tempted to skip the lunch too.
At least this afternoon, I have a legitimate reason to stay home so that I can take a nap.
I will get demerits from Grace if I isolate all weekend. (That was tongue-in-cheek I am much more likely to get compassion than demerits.) Perhaps the truth is that I will give myself demerits if I isolate all weekend.
Path to Recovery
Okay…so I mentioned an art therapy project yesterday. The directive was to make an art piece representing where you are in your recovery process. I kind of took the directive into a less artsy direction and basically made a map. It ended up huge, I bet it is 4-5′ wide.
It starts on the left with the super lows of being entrenched in the eating disorder. It is dark and bleak and hopeless. And as you can see, from that point, all the work is an uphill battle.
But as the progress moves up, and the eating disorder symptoms taper off, things start to look better until I get over the hump and into recovery.
Way on the right are some words that are hard to read that say, “Living Life”, “Life”, and “Hope for the future.”
And where I am on my path to recovery? I am on the slippery slope. It is a one step forward, two steps back, four steps forward, one step back kind of place. So, I slide up and down the slippery slope.
I wish I was in a more secure place and at the same time, I am glad that I am not in the dark place. I am guessing I will be on the slippery slope for a long time. And that’s okay, as long as I don’t slide all the way to the bottom.
I didn’t really depict it, because I kind of put the idealistic version of recovery on the right, but honestly, even that will have a lot of give and take until I get far enough away from the eating disorder. But I have heard from clinicians at Hilltop and from recovery speakers, that one can end up in solid recovery. So, there is hope for that.
I was a bad therapee yesterday. I had therapy at 9. I had been okay, I had talked to my PNP prior to therapy and was feeling good. I adore my PNP so talking to her always makes me feel better for a little while. But when I headed out to therapy, my anxiety hit me. I have no idea why I was anxious, but by the time I got to therapy, I was really anxious. All I can figure is that it was related to therapy. I’m not sure what triggered it though.
Unfortunately, it was one of those appointments where I was really struggling to stay present and connected. Grace did a lot of talking, which was fine, she was explaining some stuff and reflecting stuff back to me. And if you ask me now what she said, I really couldn’t tell you. I know we talked about peers and feelings, I know that we talked about something about yoga and self-care, I know that when I left she said we would go over two homework assignments on Monday. But…the details about all of this is fuzzy because I just couldn’t stay focused. Like, I remember one of the assignments she said, but not the other (but I am going to guess which one she meant). And I can’t remember at all the details about what she said about self-care. Nor can I really remember the peer conversation other than the fact that I was really unhappy talking about it.
So, What makes me a bad therapee? The fact that I knew I was having a hard time staying present and focusing. And I almost said something to her, but I didn’t. I just kept trying to force myself to attend to her and hear what she was saying. Only, clearly, it didn’t work. I am really frustrated with myself for not doing a better job of communicating my state of mind with Grace. Actually, I feel pretty critical of myself for basically wasting a whole appointment because I couldn’t stay present. Fucking stupid.
You know, I was going to summarize the rest of the day, but I realize that it is all pretty fuzzy. I did a project in art therapy that I am going to take pictures of today so I can post them tomorrow. The directive was, “Where are you in the recovery process?” Oh right, we had our Gender and Sexuality group. Someone read her homework assignment and I wasn’t really able to give her much feedback because as soon as she stopped reading, I couldn’t remember what she had said.
The other thing about yesterday is that from lunchtime on, I felt uncomfortably overfull. As if I had eaten too much. And I am not sure what was up with that because I had not eaten too much. And the feeling lasted all afternoon and when dinner came, I had no appetite and had to force the food down. I am going to guess that this was a psychosomatic event. I say that, because aside from feeling overfull, I totally felt like my body had gotten bigger. Like, I happened to put my hand on my stomach and I was startled as to how much bigger it had gotten (since the morning.) Intellectually, I know that my stomach didn’t get bigger in 6 hours. But my distorted perception was that my stomach was bigger, and I looked at my legs and my thighs were bigger too
And then lastly, my mood, which had been feeling a little bit better, dropped again last evening. I was home alone and it was quiet and I just felt the weight of the depression settle on me. I know I refer to my depression as being on me a lot. Have you ever had an x-ray and they put one of those really heavy vests on you to shield parts of your body from the x-ray? That is sort of how I experience my depression settling on me. It is just feels like a heaviness in my mind and body. Like the depression has weight and substance.
I also realized last night that the woman I live with is gone all weekend and that I need to be extra careful to not isolate. And I am a high isolation risk this weekend. I feel more depressed, I am struggling with the departure of my peer. I will be alone in the house. It will be sooo easy to just stay in bed all day. However, I already had plans for a friend to come over tonight, so tonight is taken care of. Tomorrow, I will make myself go to yoga in the morning and to the grocery store too. And today, I will make a plan for the rest of the weekend.
Things That Feed My Spirit
I actually had a good day yesterday. It’s true. Partly it’s because Meg has been gone since Wednesday. I am not happy that she is gone, as a matter of fact, I am pretty unsettled by it but it is the weekend so I wouldn’t see her anyway and tomorrow is Monday and we can return to our normal schedule.
The ‘partly’ part though, that’s because with the break from the trauma work, I have stopped spinning out of control and I feel balanced again. Trauma work exacerbates everything, ED symptoms, self-harm urges, suicidal ideation….It makes it all hard to manage. Of course, that is how I got here…So I can do the trauma work with the support that I need to stay safe.
But I have digressed. Yesterday was a good day because I basically go to do art ALL day. I haven’t done anything that feeds my spirit since I got here. And without using my creative energy, I have been pretty lost. But yesterday, we had open art and I started a project that encompasses 3 of my assignments. I am quite happy with how it is coming out and will put it on the blog when it is done. The other art project we did was in group and we were handed stacks of magazines and told to put together collages about who we are outside of our eating disorder. My collage took its own spin and ended up being much more about my spiritual side than anything else. And it reflected all that I am lacking and missing here in that respect. I get my spirituality and comfort by being outside and walking around (not exercise-wise) and seeing nature…Wait…I wrote an assignment that touches on it, lemme find it and post it.
What Do I Envision a Healthy Relationship with Exercise to Look like?
What is keeping me stuck/preventing me from achieving balance in my ED?
Right now, I use exercise as punishment, a weight loss tool, a way to achieve a “high” and occasionally I exercise just because I like it…Meaning without an ulterior motive.
My two main forms of exercise are yoga and walking. I have 1:1 yoga sessions at studio near my home. It is amazingly beautiful there, overlooking the north face of the mountain, with a spring fed pond beside the studio and flowers and trees or snow and ice…No matter what the season it is gorgeous there. My instructor is gently supportive and though it took me a long time to be comfortable with her (because I am so uncomfortable in my body) I really find the yoga to be restorative and soothing. It never fails that no matter how depressed or anxious or tired I am when I go to yoga, I walk out feeling calmer, more balanced and relaxed. It just has a magical power.
That relationship with yoga where I always leave feeling better than when I started is what I would like my relationship with walking to be like. I love being outside…And by saying I love it, I am truly understating the importance of it. I find being outside refreshing, restorative and centering. I am an observer by nature and soak in all that surrounds me when I am outside, trees, leaves, slug trails, red efts, the sky, insects, flowers, duckweed…I just take it all in and it feeds my mind and soul. I also am very in touch with the smells and sounds when I am outside, cut grass, snow in the air, pungent skunk, soft fluttery floral scents from wildflowers in the fields, brush crunching as deer run into the woods, birds calling, the wind rustling leaves, tree trunks rubbing together and squeaking.
Plus there is the feel of being outdoors, the rain on my face, the crisp cool morning air and the biting winter air. My favorite is when it is crisp and cold and I can feel it on my cheeks…not quite cold enough to feel uncomfortable, but cold enough to remind me that I am alive and that the world is vibrant around me.
I get to soak all of this in when I am walking. Every little bit of it is important to me. Maybe it sounds kind of hokey, but being outside in nature is my Zen. I love, love, love it.
But….I see and feel almost none of this when I am in amped-up over-exercise mode. In that mode, I lose all of the soothing/calming/restorative aspect of being outside. And when I am in exercise-as-punishment mode, it is all lost.
I would like to be able to walk for the fitness and physical-well-being aspect of it to keep my heart and lungs healthy, to have strong muscles and to keep my body at a healthy weight for me. I also know that I get significant psychological benefits from exercise, helping manage my depression, stimulating my cognition and giving me a chance to roll thoughts over in my mind.
I know I mentioned keeping my body at a healthy weight and I don’t want that statement to send up red flags. I would like to be able to not over-exercise in an obsessive pursuit of weight loss, I would like to exercise to support what weight is good for me. This would be reflected in having moderation with exercise either in frequency or duration. Or increasing calorie intake to support my body for the level of exercise I am doing.
My exercise ideal sounds wonderful. Exercising for health, pleasure and renewal. It’s practically too good to be true.
I can see this healthy relationship with exercise in my head…But when it comes down to brass tacks, I don’t trust myself to do it. I am totally stuck in the ED compulsive exercise mode. I actually knew this would be an issue when I was discharged from my previous res treatment and I actually delayed starting exercising again and I even started with “supervised” walks (by my choice to keep me on track). But once on my own, I quickly got sucked into exercise as a way to ‘negate’ the calories I was eating in my meal plan. I just couldn’t get past the ED thinking. And that same thinking turned the exercise into a compulsion. I couldn’t not exercise. I got all wrapped up in calories in/calories out. I understand this is ED thinking and related to poor body image and self-esteem and body shame…But that didn’t really ease the compulsion part.
I guess the real reason I am stuck in my ED exercise thinking is because I hate myself and my body. Which is a result of injury/trauma to my four-year-old child part and then subsequent re-injury to other parts. And the only solution to that is to work with those parts, ask them to step aside so that I can try to find Self and make decisions from the Self perspective rather than the distracting Parts.
I think that does a good job of explaining what I get from being outside. And here at Hilltop, we are not allowed to exercise. Eventually, we get approval to do so, but it’s yoga and NIA and not outside. All I want is some time outside where I can walk around the driveway a little bit and have some time a little bit with just me and nature.
I don’t remember if I blogged this, but after my last nutrition appointment, I did float the idea of mini walks by the Dietician. She said we could talk about it more (maybe I did blog this, it sounds familiar). I wonder if I show her my collage and read her the above assignment (she was the one who assigned it) that she will understand more my reason. She did say she wanted to talk to me about why I didn’t want to do yoga or NIA. I told her because that isn’t what I want. I guess the truth is that it isn’t what I need. Yes, yoga fulfills some of my needs, but it is not the same as being outside.
I have been struggling over my reaction to the two new admits and how I perceive the difference in the vibe around here…..And I thought it was just me being socially challenged and I have been frustrated with myself for not being more flexible. Yesterday, I learned that it is not just me. After one of our meals, I walked into a conversation where one of my peers was expressing how upset she is about the new dynamic and the other people in the conversation agreed. As a matter of fact, I think I have now heard 6 other people say (which makes 7 out of the ten) that they are really uncomfortable with the dynamic (Being an observer has its advantages, I can hear everything without necessarily being dragged into the muck of things). The new women are “colluding” (a term they use here when people are feeding each other’s EDs) and it can triggering and it is disturbing and just plain annoying. I should clarify, that this is all about these women’s process and where they are in their process and I don’t judge them because of it, ED recovery stinks and I have my own process and barriers…I really try not to judge anyone here. But we are not in a vacuum here and we are on top of each other pretty much 24/7, so it is almost impossible to get space from new “feel” of the group.
Tomorrow, we have our ED process group and on Mondays, it is always a check-in group. We will see if anyone has the courage to speak up about the new dynamic.
And lastly, as posting that assignment has turned this into an epic blog…Polly. I kind of gave myself some space from Polly after she moved from the table, but I am over the surprise and feeling sad, so we are back on track. I spent a long time talking with her last evening, just kind of chatting. Of course, it wasn’t about anything not-ED related (I hate that seems like it’s the only thing I have in common with folks here) but it was nice to chat anyway as our conversation varied between light and serious but was relaxed and a nice way to end a nice day. Actually, I even hung around for evening snack before going to be (which I usually don’t do because I don’t have an evening snack) and chit-chatted pleasantly at the table with folks. It’s times like that that I can see ghosts of my old self and the person I would like to be again.
Today is one of those days…Like I really am surprised I even bothered to get out of bed. I am drained and don’t feel like putting up the fight today. As it is, I delayed getting up by an hour and a half. But the Big Dog and Little Dog expect their morning walk (which is now about an hour late) and so I am at least making an effort to function. Honestly, they may not actually get their walk…But I am not sure hiding in my bed all day is the best solution for my brain.
Plus of course, I have my Appointment of Shame (Nutritionist) this morning and then therapy this afternoon. I would be more than happy to skip this morning’s appointment, but I do want to go to therapy.
And then my mood drops like a rock.
Last night I had nightmares. One of them jolted me awake and I tried to keep my eyes open so that I wouldn’t fall back asleep and slide into the same nightmare. The nightmare was about trying to keep bad guys out of my house and trying to close the windows and lock them, but of course they wouldn’t close. And there was stuff about the bad guys and my dogs getting loose and all sorts of weird and scary things happening.(This is the one that really jolted me awake.) Another nightmare involved hanging onto rocks that were absolutely vertical, but craggy and right above some really deep and murky water. I was terrified of falling in the water and I was clinging to the rocks and couldn’t move. The dream transitioned to me on top of the rocks on the sandy beach and I knocked over a guy’s motorcycle, which made him really mad and he chased me. I ran into buildings and tried hiding and then ran into some place with piles of clothes and blankets on the floor. I was going to try to hide under them, but suddenly my dog was with me and I couldn’t get us both covered in time. There was no resolution, the dream sort of ended with the menace of being found.
Another nightmare was much more scattered and included a part about me helping a woman with her babies. I was washing them in a sink because she didn’t know how to. I couldn’t get the water warm enough and it was spilling and sloshing over the edges of the sink. The littler baby slid under the water and I didn’t notice right away, I pulled him up and he sputtered a bit, but was okay. Then I was drying them off and dressing them and handed the little one to his mom and while I did that the bigger baby pooped, but was diaperless because I hadn’t gotten to dressing him yet. And he was playing in his poop and just covered in it. So, I had to bathe him again, but the water still wouldn’t get warm enough. At this point, I had a huge mess of water and poop and towels around the sink and on the floor. I had to take the baby back to his mom, who at that point was somewhere else….Which meant I had to leave the mess and I knew I was going to get in big trouble for leaving the mess. I tried explaining (not sure to who) that I would be back to clean it up…But I was terrified of getting in trouble.
Lovely, eh? And baby dreams….I haven’t had “save the baby” dreams (in this dream, educating their mom how to bathe them was saving them, as well as keeping the little baby from drowning) in a really long time. It was one of my constant nightmare themes for years. What is going on in my brain?
When I woke up this morning, my thoughts went pretty much immediately to suicidal ideation, urges to self-harm and intense self-loathing and shame. Looks like everything is back to normal in my world.
And this is why I never count on my good mood lasting. Because it never does.
Today, I see the nutritionist. After the weekend I just had, I would rather crawl under a rock than go see her. And then in the afternoon, I see the AT. I am not sure I am up to emotional upheaval today….Or I suppose, I already have the emotional upheaval, I just don’t want to deal with it or really deal with anything today.
Why I Cried
Yesterday, I showed the AT a piece of art I made while in treatment. It was the day my lovely friend, Biebs was discharged. As a matter-of-fact, she left about half an hour before that particular art therapy group. I took her leaving really hard. I really grew close to Biebs (and still keep in close contact), she is smart and insightful and caring and we spent many hours together in the late afternoons walking back and forth on the sidewalk in front of the facility. When she came to say good-bye, I just totally melted. She and I had started the same day, and I was the last of us left. Everyone else I really cared about or who were from the core group I hung out with for the first month had already left. And now, my amazing friend, Biebs was leaving too. It was just too much.
By the time I got to art therapy, I had not pulled myself together. It was so bad that even people who never offered hugs offered me hugs. And there was nothing anyone could do to make me feel better. I was just broken.
So, I went into art therapy and cried. I cried for the whole session, even while doing my project. The art therapist running the group put a box of Kleenex beside me and I just grabbed tissues and cried and worked on my project. It was horrible. And then when we were done, the art therapist asked me to stay after the session and we talked a little bit and I cried some more.
It was just an afternoon of raw, unrestrained sorrow.
Yesterday, while I was showing the AT the piece of art from the day Biebs left, I felt that deep aching sadness again. Of course, not as strongly as it was a while ago but it was enough to make tears spring to my eyes. And for that sadness build and come right up to the surface.
And then, I realized something. Or…I didn’t realize it, it was something I already knew, but I guess it was just really driven home for me. One of the reasons I hate dealing with the childhood trauma stuff is that I can’t bear to feel all the feelings that come along with it. All the feelings that I had as a child who had been sexually abused. All the feelings that I refuse to feel and that has led to a life of stamping out and not allowing feelings. All those feelings are still there. And if looking at the piece of art from the day Biebs left evoked the feelings from that day, looking at the me child-me will surely do the same. And I can’t do it. I can’t feel those feeling. The overwhelm of pain and sorrow and all the rest of it is far beyond my ability to handle it.
I was able to articulate my concern about the art triggering the feelings of that day and how I am scared about dealing with child-me stuff triggering those feelings. And I did it between tears and dissociation and terror (and I am impressed that I was even able to be articulate in all that emotional mess!). The AT was very compassionate and reassuring. But I am still terrified of the mess of feelings I am going to have to deal with at some point. I don’t know if I can do it. However, it seems to be the key to everything….Or at least to lots of my dysfunctions. But how do I deal with the agony of it without engaging any of my maladaptive coping mechanisms? And how do I manage the feelings without restricting? How do I stay safe?
Ugh. Too much to think about!
This morning, I am off to Philadelphia. The treatment facility is having their annual reunion and I am going. I am really excited about it and looking forward to seeing friends and staff and feeling the safety bubble that is Renfrew.
Look out Renfrew, here I come!