205 Days

205 days ago, at the crack of dawn, I left dh and ds for what I thought was going to be 6 weeks of treatment for atypical anorexia. 205 days later, I am being discharged from the program, a healthier, happier and completely changed person. Although difficult in many ways, this extended treatment was the best thing that I could have ever done for myself. I want to thank all my supporters, near and far for helping me on my journey. I also want to thank my therapists, dietitians and other staff at Hilltop for their expert care and guidance that has helped give my my life back. Today will be a day of mixed emotions as I leave the program that saved my life and also look forward to flying home tomorrow to start a new chapter of my life.

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She Slips But Does Not Fall.

I weighed myself. 

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I weighed myself.  This pains me in ways that I didn’t expect.

Everyone always asks, “What is the function of engaging in such-and-such ED behavior?”  And for this, I don’t have a great answer.  I have wanted to know my weight forever…at least it feels like forever.  The compulsion to know has waxed and waned and I try to roll with it.  The day I weighed myself, I started in the morning asking my dietitian about my weight.  I wanted to know if I was “healthy.”  I didn’t quite phrase it like that to her, not that I was trying to be deceptive, but more because I felt kind of awkward for asking.  We discussed it briefly and then moved on to the next topic, but my dietitian told me that we would go back to the weight discussion at the end and that I should remind her to do so.  I did remember, but I felt really embarrassed about it, so I didn’t ask.

Later, I still had my weight on my mind, but not in an obsessive way.  I was reading my old blogs and looked at where I was a year ago.  I was blown away by the changes I have made in the past 12 months.  Seeing how far I have come and how different I am gave me the impression that I could know my weight and handle it.

I went to the closet and pulled out the scale.  Honestly, it felt surreal, like I wasn’t connected to what I was doing and I wasn’t quite in my body.  I tapped the scale with my foot to see if it would turn on.  If the batteries were dead, I would have just let the whole thing go.  But they weren’t.  I gingerly put one foot on the scale and watched the numbers change.  I shifted my weight more and watched the numbers.  Then I just put my second foot on the scale.  And that was it.  The numbers scrolled by and then stopped.  The number was not at all what I expected.  I felt like throwing up.  The disconnected feeling got worse and I felt hollow in my stomach.

And then it hit me.  Fuck! What did I just do? All the time and work that I have put into not knowing my weight…I just fucked it all up.  By standing on that scale and looking at my weight, I just did something that I could not undo.  My eating disorder perseverated briefly on the number.  But the overwhelming feeling I had was a profound disappointment in myself.  And fear…fear that I let down myself, dh and my team here, fear that I couldn’t fix it, the number was in my head.  I couldn’t un-see it

It was pretty much time to leave for programming and this was the only chance I would have to talk to my therapist about it until after Christmas.  As I drove to IOP, my thoughts went from, “The number can’t be right. The scale must be broken.  Yes…that’s it, the scale is broken,” to “I have to exercise, I need to exercise,” to “It’s just a number.  My worth is not defined by a number.”  The thoughts were scrambled and competing.  And I just kept telling myself that all the scale did was give me a number.  It’s not who I am, it’s just a number.  Even if I didn’t like the number, I have been happier in general the past few months and becoming more tolerant of my body.  My body hasn’t changed just because I weighed myself.  Number or no number, next time I look in a mirror, my body won’t have changed.

At the end of the day, I wasn’t thinking about the number.  I am thinking about how much I disappointed in myself.   I am disappointed that I caved and made a choice was not at all a recovery based choice.

At dinner that night, I felt like a fraud.  We were peer posting and I didn’t have high ED urges but I felt like not saying something about my huge slip up was not being honest with my peers.  We stepped to the art room and I told them what I had done.  They were amazing and supportive.  We went back to the table and I said that I needed more support so we actually went to the group room and talked some more.  I explained how I felt like I had disappointed people and myself.  My peers reminded me that I don’t have to be perfect, that some of them had weighed themselves too, that some of them secretly own scales, that weighing myself doesn’t have to derail my recovery, that I am okay.

And you know what, I felt better.  It is nice to feel understood.

I did not tell my dietitian, I am too embarrassed to tell her about it.

So…that’s the story.  But what does it mean?

That day, I ate my dinner, I ate an evening snack.  I went to bed and didn’t perseverate over my “failure.”

I got up the next morning and was looking in the mirror as I hooked my bra. I turned left and right, looking at my body.  It looked the same as the day before.  Probably it was the same.  I had an urge to weight myself to see what the number was in the morning before I had eaten.  I mean, why would it matter? I already blew it by weighing myself. But I knew that I can’t start the habit of daily weighing.  That is a slippery slope that I don’t want to slide down.

And yes, I can’t un-see the number on the scale, but I can “fix” it by doing exactly what I did the next morning, which was to acknowledge my urge, counter it, and then just let it go.  I know that this will not be the last big mistake I make with my eating disorder.  Rather than obsess about it, hate myself and descend into a shame spiral, I am going to see it for what it can be…which is a “learning point”.  Just because I make a mistake doesn’t mean everything is ruined.  And no matter how disappointed I feel in myself, I am not a bad person.

I did not fuck up by weighing myself.  I did not ruin everything.  And how I am dealing with my choice is evidence to me that I have strength of self that I didn’t have 4 month ago, because I am accepting my mistake, not letting it derail me and moving on and doing the next right things. I think I kind of like this person who does not let a mistake drag her down into hatred and self-loathing.

12-27  About the Second weighing

Why did I do it again?

So, a week after the first weighing, I did it again.

This time, when I did weekend check-in  at programming, I admitted to the group that I had weighed myself again and that I had weighed myself last week.  Again, I got questions about what function the second weighing served.  I don’t really know.  I feel like partly, I weighed myself because I could.  And I also know it was totally ED related.  But ultimately, I don’t even know if I cared about the number.

I don’t know if weighing myself was about control over what has been happening while I have been in treatment or about managing the feelings when dh left (I didn’t let myself cry after I left him at the airport) or about my obsession with knowing my weight. I am just kind of at a loss as to what function weighing myself a second time served.

I am not happy about my choice to weigh myself again.  This not a path I want to go down.

I plan on moving the scale to where I can’t access it easily and I plan on utilizing peer support, journaling and containment to get through the next urges to weigh myself.  When I get home, there won’t be a scale in our house.  Of all the ED things I am giving up, the scale is actually the hardest thing.  I need to put more thought into why.

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Moving the scale to where I can’t see it is not a viable option because I would still know where it is.  I can’t get rid of the scale, because it is not my scale, it belongs to the woman I live with.  It is not her primary scale as she has one in her bathroom.  I can respect her space and not weigh myself on hers. So, what to do with the scale outside my bathroom?

I took the batteries out and threw them away.

In order to use that scale again, I would have to make a very deliberate effort to get new batteries and put them in the scale.  That extra step is enough to slow down the impulsiveness of the urge and give me a chance to catch my breath and deal with why I am having the urge vs. just giving in to the urge. I think it is a good solution.

And yes, the two weighings have spiked my urge to weigh myself.  I am getting lots of opportunity to explore what is behind the urges.

Today, I see my dietitian.  I still have not told her face-to-face about the weighings, but I sent her the first two parts above. Plus, I am sure my therapist told her. I will not get judged by my dietitian. However, I am still really embarrassed and will be judging myself. It will be an awkward appointment for me.

Recovery is a messy process.

Thankful

I am not so much a “What am I thankful for this Thanksgiving” kind of person…But….What am I thankful for?

Okay…first of all, I am thankful for myself and the fact that I am even alive right now.  I did not kill myself this year.  I survived the worst points of my eating disorder.  My Hilltop dietitian pointed out to me recently that before I went into treatment in March (at the other facility) I was not eating enough to sustain life.  She pointed out our bodies are resilient and do anything to stay alive, but that the cost is high.  I am thankful that despite hitting some ultra-lows with my depression that I did not kill myself.  Yes, I am just plain thankful that I am alive to write this blog post.

I am thankful to dh for his unwavering support, for keeping our household running, for missing me every day but never asking me to come home, for telling me that as long as it takes and whatever I need, we will make it work so that I can get better.  And I am thankful for his unconditional love.

I am thankful for ds who has been willing to pick up slack at home and step into a role of much responsibility.  I am also thankful for his love and support and flexibility with me being gone.  And I am thankful he is doing it all while juggling a job and a full semester.  He is an amazing kid…errr…man.

I am thankful for my friends,

  • Donna who has kept me in her thoughts and prayers and has kept me in a steady stream of postcards and notes and love.
  • SS for taking good care of my special little friends and for supporting and encouraging me.
  • A., who was invaluable at keeping me in one piece all spring and summer.
  • L., who has been a loving and supportive friend.

I am thankful for my treatment friends who are constantly supporting me, loving me and deeply understanding my pain and how hard it is to heal.  And who remind me that I am worth recovery.

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And I am thankful for Team Heidi. Really, I cannot thank them enough for their support which has gone above and beyond anything I ever expected.  Team Heidi held me up when I had nothing left to keep myself up. Team Heidi kept me safe with persistence and commitment.  And Team Heidi gave me the support to pack myself up and travel across the country for treatment.

I am thankful for Hilltop Team Heidi.  The support of this team has helped me learn things about myself that I never knew and showed me I have strength I didn’t know I have.  Trauma work is a bitch, and I have had multiple teams here that I have trusted enough to do the work and keep focused on my recovery.  And even though I am one of many people they treat each year, I feel like they actually care about me.

I am thankful for the first treatment center I went to this year, for re-feeding me and getting me medically stable.

I am thankful for the woman who took me into her home and lets me stay here for very little “rent” thus helping me be able to stay for treatment as long as I need to.  I also appreciate her kindness and companionship.

I am thankful for the UU I found and the support of my Pastoral Care person (whose house I am going to for dinner today.)  It is so nice to be taken in by strangers and treated like I am an old friend.

I am thankful for the little things.

  • This puppy, that makes me absolutely crazy and that give me much joy.
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  • The little magical bits of nature I find:
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Oh! And I am really thankful for finding my way into a yoga studio where I feel safe and cared about and supported with trauma sensitive instructors and financial accommodations.

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Truly, my list could go on and on.  I have much to be thankful for this year.

Now…If I can get myself out of my anxiety and mood funk, which is still following me like sticky dark shadow, I might be able to make it through today without falling apart.  However, I am still really struggling and I am not looking forward to going to programming today (Yes, we have programming on Thanksgiving day) and I am anxious about the dinner I am going to later because I really won’t know anyone there.  But I will try, just for today, to cut myself some slack.  And if that’s too much, then I will just try 5 minutes of grace at a time.  And if that doesn’t work….well…I can only do the best that I can do.

Moving to IOP

It’s like every time I get on board with blogging…I get interrupted in the flow.  But as of this week, I think I can be much more consistent with my blogging because I am going to have more free time.

Tomorrow, I start my first day of the intensive outpatient program (IOP).  IOP is significantly less demanding in terms of program time.  Instead of being in programming for 10-12 hours a day 7 days a week (although the past few weeks I have been having weekends off so was only there 5 days/week) I will be in programming 4ish hours a day 5 days a week. The meal system changes too.  At PHP, as you go through the levels, you become more responsible for your meals.  At IOP, you are responsible for all of your meals and only have one supervised meal a day.  And that meal is something you bring in yourself.

So, I am going to have more free time, more meal responsibility and less programming. This part of the program is going to be the most challenging and the most work out of all the levels I have been in so far.  I am a little scared.

Of course, the change of programming means a change of treatment team (again!).  I am truly fortunate, in that my psychiatric NP from home is picking me up for psych stuff while I am in IOP.  Since I adore and trust her, I really couldn’t be happier about it.  However, I will have a new therapist and dietician.  I have met them both and I really like the therapist and Kyla highly recommends her.  I actually ran into Meg a few days ago and she also thinks the new therapist will be a good fit. <phew> The new dietician though….I have met her and….Let’s just say, I am highly skeptical.  And I am really frustrated because I felt like she was questioning my integrity and also wanting to over-support me.

My PHP dietician at Hilltop has been very hands-off with me for the past couple of weeks.  I got thrown into my first solo-weekend day with no support from my dietician, but I made do.  After that, I expressed concerns about portioning and food-anxiety, etc. and my dietician kept telling me that I was doing fine and that it wasn’t a problem.  She didn’t review a menu with me, didn’t ask me what I was eating…She just reassured me that I knew what I was doing and to keep doing it. Okay…So, I did.  Honestly, she was totally missing me on my need for support, but I muddled through, kept asking for support and not getting it and then just saying, “Fuck it” and doing it on my own.

Now the new dietician wants me to track every meal and send her daily “Honesty Logs.” This is when I got mad.  First of all, I have never had to do an Honesty Log.  Those logs are reserved for people who lie, deceive, and try to cut corners without telling their team.  I am totally insulted that I have been asked to do Honesty Logs.  I have a lot of integrity and am always honest with my team.  I don’t lie or try to deceive my team.

And….If I was given so much autonomy by PHP dietician, who repeatedly assured me that I know what I am doing and was totally hands-off with my independent meals and meal planning, then why do I have to be micro-managed now?  Argh!  I am so annoyed.  The new dietician tried to explain it was to better use our appointment time so that we weren’t talking about food and what I had and how it went, but so we could do more important stuff.  ?????  Hello???  Does this make any sense?  I am in ED treatment.  Talking about food and how meal planning and eating is going seems kind of important to me.

Sooo….I am skeptical.  Of course, the most annoying thing is that I was pissed at our transition meeting and she knew it.  I told her that I would consider whether or not I would do “Honesty Logs” and if I decided I would, then we would not be calling them “Honesty” logs.  I am not sure she knew what to make of that.   Ummm…and I don’t know exactly how I did at making a good first impression.  😦

Oh…and one last thing about IOP.  It is in an ugly place.  I mean that literally.  Both the residential program and PHP program have been tucked in woods, peaceful, serene….Deliciously soothing to mind and body.

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IOP? It’s in a totally more urban area and it overlooks a parking lot, McDonald’s, Krispy Creme and gas station.  And the view just past all that is the highway.

I don’t like change.

 

 

 

Callie’s Oops and the Trauma Narrative

Callie’s Oops

Yesterday morning did not go as planned. Callie had a different obligation and did not make it in to Hilltop until after lunch.   My whole plan of reading her my narrative, talking about my fears about presenting it, etc. was totally blown to pieces.  And of course, there was no sitting in on my session with Kyla.  I struggled with this turn of events.  Of course, my core beliefs were triggered, that I am worthless and not important, that I am can’t trust anybody or count on anybody, that’s what I get for being vulnerable and reaching out to someone. And I kind of sorted through the core beliefs and eventually worked my way to my feelings.  I felt hurt that she had another obligation.  I felt disappointed that she wasn’t going to be there.  And I felt scared that my plan of working with her to manage my anxiety didn’t go the way I wanted.

And of course, I didn’t actually talk about any of this during my appointment with Kyla.  Nor did I talk about any of it with Callie.

Ultimately, just before group, I got a very mini-version of what I planned on with Callie and it was helpful.

The Trauma Narrative

So, presenting the trauma narrative was horrific.  I made it through and I did not die of shame, even though I was sure I would.  I did get supportive feedback which reduced my shame and I did leave feeling better than when I went in.

Now, I have a peer who says things she shouldn’t, so she sat with me this morning and listed all the people who had had a difficult time with my narrative (as in were struggling after the session.)  I didn’t really need to hear that.  But…whatever.  This peer actually says lots of things that are upsetting or triggering to me (and it actually takes a lot to trigger me, but she always seems to hit my sensitive spots) and seems to have no awareness.  So, that was kind of hard.

But anyway…the trauma narrative from when I was 4 is done.  I am sure I will get to process it lots more in therapy, but presenting it in the group is done.

And Callie?  Callie was there in the group, and I totally was comforted by her presence. And her being there and having read parts of the narrative right before group (I had her read the parts that would be hardest for me to not skip, so that she could call me out on it if I needed it) really did help me stay accountable.  And I also knew that she had read the parts and not hated me, so hopefully no one else would hate me either.

And this morning, I feel super depressed and sad and raw.  It’s just a typical day at PHP.

 

 

 

Homework and Callie

Homework

I am supposed to be working on homework right now.  I have an assignment to write about, “Identify the cycle of needing to be perfect that blocks me from receiving the care I need and deserve.”

Ugh.

I can kind of deal with the first part of the assignment…but the whole “need and deserve” thing….It just doesn’t work for me.  I want to reject care.  I don’t want people to care, I don’t want to be vulnerable and I don’t want to need people.  I want to keep everyone (except dh) an arm’s distance away, safely on the other side of my walls.  I don’t need care.

And deserve? Are you kidding me?  I don’t even think I deserve to spend money on food that I will eat because I think it is a waste of money (and food).  I don’t think I deserve nice clothes.  I don’t think I deserve peoples’ kindness and attention.  So…deserving care?  I don’t think so.

I know this is harsh, even I can see that…but it is sooo entrenched in me that I don’t know how to get around it.  I mean, I am supposed to challenge it and ultimately, retrain my brain.  But sometimes, I am so stuck in my core beliefs that I just don’t know how to break out of them.

Callie

So, I am going to ignore the homework and write about Callie instead.

Callie is one of the Direct Care staff here.  We have a rotation of 5ish regular direct care staff and they are all very good.  It seems as though Hilltop is quite particular about who they hire and the level of education the people have.  Some of the direct care staff people are even therapists.  I think all of them have Master’s degrees and if not, are working on their Master’s (though I haven’t actually asked everybody so I don’t know for sure.)  Anyway, there are a few that I am really attracted to, that seem like good fits for me, though honestly, they are all approachable.

Callie has turned out to be the person that I reach out to the most.  I really like her, she is very “real” and honest and caring.  I like the way she thinks, I like her insights and I actually feel like I have made a connection with her, which is huge for me.  I have let her into my little world.  Again, huge.  I really feel like I can talk with her and that she hears me.

I don’t know all the details, but aside from working here, Callie has been going to school and this fall, she is doing an internship, supervised by Kyla, in addition to her work hours.  And so, as I have connected with Callie, she mentioned something about sitting in on a session with me and Kyla.  And so, if everything works out today, she will.  I am good with this as it will help Callie know me better and further our relationship.

Also, I am supposed to read my trauma narrative to Callie this morning in prep for reading it this afternoon for Sexual Healing.  Since I am so ashamed of some of the stuff in my narrative and since it is soooo revealing, I am afraid that I will skip parts of it.  Well…I desperately want to skip parts of it, which would not be very productive.  So, if Callie knows what is in it, she can help me be accountable.  (She will be in the group taking notes, which is one of the parts of the Direct Care job.)

And thus, I have officially  integrated Callie into Hilltop Team Heidi.

Just saying Hilltop Team Heidi makes me miss my home Team Heidi.  But I think the Hilltop Team is as strong as as the home team, so I am very lucky.

 

 

I Ran Away

Sometimes, I think if I actually survive all the therapy and work at Hilltop, it will be a miracle.  Yesterday….Well, it was one of those days.

First of all, I felt like crap most of yesterday. It started after lunch on Sunday, I kind of had a stomach ache and was super tired.  When I woke up yesterday morning, my stomach ache was full-on nausea and I felt like shit.  I was achy and my head hurt…I must have picked up a virus somewhere (yet another reason to not go out in public…too many germs!).  When you are in ED treatment, not eating is not an option and I was not looking forward to the day.  They are big on giving you meds if you are nauseous but I don’t have a prescription for that med…So, I just muddled through and was miserable.

As a matter of fact, I felt so sick that after breakfast I told the direct care person, “I just have to say for the record, that I do not purge, so if I throw up, it really is  because I am sick.”  Of course, they all know I don’t purge, but I thought it was worth saying since people do swap around ED behaviors.  The DC told me just to let her know if I felt that bad.

I did slowly feel better all day, until right before bed…I think being tired made everything worse.  This morning….my stomach is a little bit wobbly but hopefully better.

Okay, but enough of that.

Therapy yesterday sucked.  Worse than usual.  I was stuck in defensiveness behind my walls, frustrated that I can’t immediately snap out of my defensive habits and angry at my therapist for that stupid trauma narrative.  The appointment was frustrating and pointless and was just like spinning my wheels on ice…I got nowhere. I had that old familiar suicidal mantra echoing through my mind. (Probably I should have mentioned that to my therapist?  But I didn’t want her to think I was being dramatic….Not that I engage in much drama here.) I left the appointment furious.  I went upstairs, put my laptop on the table and walked out the door and kept walking.  I ran away.  I just couldn’t take one more minute of PHP or Kyla or anything.

Of course, there is no place to run away to here.  And I purposefully did not grab my keys when I headed out the door (because I would truly have left the grounds), so I walked down to the parking lot, and sat on the ground between my car and the car next to it and I just sat there.  The sun was shining, the wind was blowing, the sky was blue.  I could hear the hawks and the rustling leaves and the squirrels in the woods.  I decompressed a little bit, I was no longer furious, but my self-harm urges spiked to that level where I would have willingly self-harmed to feel better.

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I rode out the SH urge.  And the leaves fluttered down around me and their crispness caught in the wind and they spun around as they fell.  I felt hungry (stupid body!) and still had high self-harm urges and I still hated PHP, Kyla and this state.  But I knew it was time to go back to the building and be safe and eat a snack and do the next right thing.

Of course, this is the real world, so I got back to the building, ignored that I had snack, started browsing airline tickets (I was still stuck in my ‘flight’ (running away) mode).  And then a peer came and sat with me. And another. And another.  And soon there were a handful of peers listening to me hate therapy and hate the program and missing home. And they were kind and reasonable (to counter my lack of reasoning) and they even encouraged me to get snack.

So….I vented, had snack and then told my favorite Direct Care person, Callie, that I really needed to talk to her.

Talking to Callie helped a lot.  And I need to write more about my relationship with Callie, as it has become important here.  But…I will have to do it later today or for tomorrow’s blog because I am just plain out of time right now.

So, I ran away yesterday, but not very far.  I fantasized about buying a plane ticket home, but did not.  I got support from my peers, even though I didn’t ask for it, and wouldn’t have asked.  I got really, really angry, which is something I don’t often do.  I felt like self-harming, but didn’t.  I felt sick all day, but still met my meal plan.  I connected with Callie and felt reassured.  And really, most of that happened in the space of a couple of hours.

Hopefully, today will be less intense.