The Perfect Body

I am not sure how the time goes by so quickly.  I guess I have been neglecting my blog because I have had a few people ask about it over the past week.  Yes…the blog is a bit dusty.

My blog gaps have mostly been because I am pretty constantly in a state of emotional full-ness (overwhelm) here and that I am constantly writing homework assignments about my feelings.  I think that the constant emotional drain just tires me so much that I have no energy for the blog.  I have had the idea that maybe I should post homework as blog entries, and I think I will do that.  It is very much what is going on in my mind and with my feelings, so it is very relevant.


9-20-16

My life will change in _______ ways if I had the perfect body.

Just the idea of having a perfect body kind of fills me with some kind of giddy excitement.  Oh to have a perfect body!!!!!  My life would be amazing and different and I would be so much happier.

If I had a perfect body, I would no longer think of my body as disgusting.  Not only, would I not think my body is disgusting, but no one else would think it is disgusting either.  I could go out in public and not have to worry about the critical eyes of other people assessing and judging my body.  I would be free to go in store that I wanted, grocery shop without anxiety, go to restaurants and creemee stands without shame and engage with people without being self-conscious and hyper-aware of my body and body size.

I wouldn’t have to shame myself or have a constant negative self-talk loop playing in my head.  Instead of messages of worthlessness and of my mantra, “fat, ugly and stupid,” I could have self-confidence and pride.  I wouldn’t have to isolate myself, try to be invisible, try to slide through everything in life un-noticed.  I could social and happy and not feel like I am faking it or pretending.  As a matter of fact, there would not be this un-spoken tension of me and the other person knowing that I am disgusting, but just not mentioning it.

I could wear what I want with confidence.  Now, I mostly wear what I want, but not with confidence, but rather with the resignation that the folks here at PHP have already seen my body and know that it is disgusting.  I don’t have to fake it here…Since they already know, I can wear what I want (which I wear for comfort) because the cat is out of the bag, I don’t have to hide or pretend here.  My body glares as too big and too disgusting.  It is sooo obvious.

If I had the perfect body, I would smile more.  I would worry less.  Life would be So. Much. Easier.  And I would be so much less anxious and less miserable.  There is nothing about having a perfect body that could be wrong.

But there is one catch.  I will never have the perfect body.  And I mean that by my critical/perfectionist standards.  It is not a phrase of grace, but a phrase of self-loathing.  I can have a smaller body, but my body is beyond fixing to a point where I will ever be able to call it perfect.  And that infuriates me.  Some of the flaws, I can accept, like stretch marks from being pregnant.  But others….there is no way to make better.

And this leaves me in the futile cycle of trying to attain perfection and all that I associate with it, in a body that I will never like, never accept and honestly, that I would rather be totally disconnected from.  And yet, I am stuck with it.  Quite literally, it is attached to my head and I can’t get away from it.  And so my self-vitriol, self-loathing, self-criticism, self-judgment continue into perpetuity.

If only I had the perfect body, I wouldn’t have to worry about any of this.

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I had to read this assignment during Body Image group.  It was hard getting feedback from my peers because they pointed out how harsh I am with myself and that they don’t think I am disgusting.  They kind of said that I was selling-them-short by assuming that all they see is my body.  There were also a number of people who completely understood what I was saying and how I feel about my body.  (We are in ED treatment, afterall.)  When I re-read this to post it, agree that it is harsh.  And after the feedback from my peers, I actually feel less self-conscious here.  I am not sure that I feel less self-conscious overall….but even a little bit is progress.

Yes, I AM Alive!

For today’s blog post, I am posting the summary that I sent home to my outpatient team this morning:

Okay…After a horrible week, and two days nonstop of crying, Thursday evening, I decided that what I was doing to adjust to being here was not working.  And so, I woke up Friday morning, and decided it was time to do something different. And yesterday went much better.  I don’t know why I can flip the switch like that….But I finally feel like I am settled in the partial hospitalization program, I don’t hate it anymore, I don’t have uges to run away anymore and I have realized that PHP will be what I make of it.  It took me three weeks to get to that point, but I am finally there.

I think that I finally have started to develop an attachment and trust to/with my therapist (as much as I don’t want to admit it.)  I am pushing myself really hard in therapy and she pushes me hard too.  She also calls me out on every single therapy interfering behavior I use during out sessions, it is painful and annoying and I have a hard time not letting it trigger my core beliefs (that she is criticizing me vs. helping me and that it does not mean I am a bad person).  I can see myself getting a lot of work done with her.  That said, I think it is going to be a slow and excruciating process.
They have a level system here and I am still on Level One.  It is hard not to compare and judge myself about it as there are people who have come in after me and are already on Level Two.  It makes me wonder what is wrong with me… I am guessing it has a lot to do with my rocky transition. Oh, and I have had a couple of episodes of engaging in behaviors (calorie counting and 5 days in a row of “invisible restricting”). I did eventually hold myself accountable for both behaviors and have not calorie counted since, but am still struggling with high urges for both.
I am up to 5 solo walks a week.  This is something that I don’t mess around with.  Getting a chance to be outside and have a half hour to myself is very motivating to not abuse the exercise.  I do not want to lose the privilege!  I am also supposed to go to a yoga studio twice a week, but my social anxiety has prevented me from getting there.  I need to make a plan with my anxiety therapist about it.
Speaking of my anxiety therapist, I did my first social anxiety/food exposure this week.  I would tell you it was horrible, she would say it was good.  I can say that I survived and my anxiety did come down after it peaked.  But I didn’t like it.  And…we get to do it again a few more times. 😦
Yesterday, I moved out of the off-site apartments and into the home of a friend of a friend of a friend.  I hated the apartment because it was dark and dreary and dingy.  I need light and brightness. Also, the woman who owns the home is charging me about half of what I was paying the treatment facility for the apartment (finances are my main reason for moving), which will extend the amount of time I can spend in treatment, although I really want to be home at the end of October.
I continue to work hard on on my “homework.”  I have assignments such as, “If I wasn’t judging myself, would I think others were judging me?  And would I even care?”, “Why do I respond to sadness with self-harm?” and “What do I want to change about my relationship with food?”
Okay….I think this about covers the past week.  I am glad I finally got myself “unstuck” and am moving forward again.

Social Dynamics, Sunday and The Collage

Social Dynamics

Wow! The social saga just continues.  The two new admits have been spending most of their time in the living room partly because one is on couch rest.  So…Yesterday, the living room was pretty much devoid of other people.  The new two are so off-putting that people just plain can’t stand to be in the room with them.  Really, it is sad…Sad that the new two are so sick with their EDs that they are colluding and making everyone else uncomfortable.  Sad that they will make themselves sicker. Sad that they don’t realize what a negative influence they are being on each other.  Just sad.  Have I ever mentioned that EDs suck? Yeah…I guess I probably have.

Sunday

Yesterday, I was busy doing more art.  I have had such a fantastic artful weekend.  I finished my book project and will share it with my dietician, Mac, tomorrow.  I usually see Mac on Mondays, so maybe I can give it to her in the morning so she can have a chance to look at it by the time I see her.  I don’t know if it will work or not as she is super busy, but I can at least try.

I had a bunch of finished assignments that I emailed off to Meg.  I am never sure what to do with the finished assignments and I also notice they never show up as completed on my weekly contract.  I figured maybe she needs to see them?  I don’t know. I just want to make sure that insurance sees that I have been doing the work, iykwim.

I also started working on a safe place for my child self.  This was a project Meg suggested after talking to the AT.  I picked up a small wood box on my Michael’s trip yesterday, so am using that and some scrapbook paper I had brought with me to decorate it.  It is only about half done…I mean in terms of decoration.  I haven’t done anything yet to represent the child-me.  But begun is half done, right?

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The Collage

Here’s the collage I mentioned yesterday.  I really like the way it came out. It makes me happy. (And btw, any pictures I post when here may be kind of sketchy in photo quality because between taking pics with my phone and inconsistent availability of good light, I can’t always get good pics.)

happyposter

 

Things That Feed My Spirit, Social Dynamics

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.

 Social Dynamics

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.

In Bullets

Yesterday was one of those days that is best captured in bullets because there is so much to say:

  • There have been two new admits in the past couple of days (one was yesterday) and it has totally changed the social dynamic…And I am not sure it is a change for the better.
  • I talked to my nutritionist about the comparing at dinner. I felt better after our discussion.
  • I was ultra-depressed for half the day yesterday (have been pretty depressed for about a week now) lots of negative thoughts, thoughts of self-harming etc. It taped off some as the day went on…We’ll see how tomorrow goes.
  • I am getting more support from my Favorite Direct care person and she is sort of keeping an eye on me. I like that she is helping me.
  • I met with the anxiety therapist again and I am resigned to the fact that there are going to be new diagnoses added to my psych list.
  • I mentioned to the nutritionist that I might like to have 5 minute walks just to get outside and see the trees and stuff. She said we can talk about it more.  (I was sure she was going to automatically say ‘no’)
  • I am totally burned out from coloring.
  • This weekend’s outing is to Michael’s and I really, really want to go which means I have to be on my ultra-best behavior for the next 36 hours. (No more non-compliances.)
  • I started thinking about the concept of “Productive Struggle” that they talk about here.
  • Meg is gone and it makes me anxious.
  • I worry that I will be gone too long and the AT will not take me back (I am sure that insecurity about the one has led to insecurity about the other.)
  • Sometimes, I feel like I can’t relate at all to my peers because they are all so skinny.
  • I have been working diligently on homework assignments and am due to present assignments maybe today and if not, certainly at the beginning of next week.
  • I have been upgraded to half-hour observations which means I only have to be in common areas for a half-hour after meals (When you first arrive you have to be in common space for 18 hours. Then once you are settled, it just for two hours after meals, then one hour and then a half-hour.  I don’t actually know if there is such a thing as no observation)
  • The two new admits puts Hilltop at pretty much max capacity.
  • I think I am going to be here for longer than I expected…Not necessarily at the residential level, but in terms of the whole program.
  • I love the trains that go by. All night and all day there are trains going by.  The most interesting train so far was loaded up with blades for wind turbines (like 30 cars of blades).  Other than that, there are coal trains, freight trains, and recently I have seen trains with red-ish rocks in the hopper cars.  Not sure what that is.
  • I get homesick a lot and am acutely aware of all the things I am missing/will be missing, especially seasonal foods like black raspberries, blueberries, corn on the cob, tomatoes from my garden, blackberries, etc., etc.
  • I have nightmares pretty much every night now and don’t sleep well.
  • The crazy hot weather has tapered some and now it is just really hot out.

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Polly Moved From Our Station and My Four Year Old and Hard

Polly Moved From Our Station

I spoke too soon.  Just when I was getting comfortable, Polly left the table.  Her reason for leaving is valid.  So, I don’t know why it makes me sad, but it does.  I just kind of feel abandoned and rejected.  And I wonder if I did something wrong or if imposing myself on the table was actually bothering her.  I don’t know…But now I feel awkward and alone.  I am trying to decide if I should leave the table too…I just don’t know.  I hate social dynamics.

Really, all I want to do is withdraw.  I put myself out there with Polly, it didn’t work out. Now I should just put my guard up and retreat.  And not try again.  I had no idea how hard the social dynamics would be here.

My Four Year Old

I have discovered something.  A lot of my emotional rules and fears come from when I was four.  Clearly, I don’t operate on a 4 year level emotionally…Sort of anyway.   But it is fascinating to see that trauma from when I was four has had such a profound influence on my life.  I suppose that statement that comes from minimizing or denial…I guess I figure as long as I don’t have to think or deal with it, then it didn’t really happen.  It’s too bad that it doesn’t actually work that way.

Hard

Everything is hard right now.  I am just crashing and burning.  And I am not ready to be flexible enough to have Meg be gone for a couple of days.  That said, I don’t really have much say or input in the matter, nor should I.  But here it is…Me being reluctantly flexible. Ugh.

Meg being gone makes me miss the security and safety of Team Heidi.

I don’t know…I am just overwhelmed so I don’t have anything useful to say right now.

Fitting In

I had a really hard time breaking into the group socially when I got here. At first I realized it was because Sarah’s suicide.  I got close to someone at Renfrew and I really liked her and then a bit over a month ago, she killed herself.  I was really upset after she died (obviously!) and what I didn’t realize is how her death still shadows me.  Like little things set me off and I get really upset.  So, when I got here, I totally distanced from my peers.  It took me about a day to figure out that I didn’t want to get close to them because I was feeling very guarded about putting myself out there and then being hurt.  (I have several side notes about other things that have triggered my sorrow/grief about her suicide here, but will tack that into another post.)

So…The women here are intense.  Most of them are emaciated…Just super, super thin. That, of course, is intimidating to me because it makes the fact that I am fat just glare.  And several of them are so pre-occupied with having to find something to have control over that they openly obsess about random things.  It made approaching challenging.

Plus, they are so obsessed with their weight/size (and please note, I know that I am obsessed with my weight/size too, I just do it differently) that they judge each other and I am sure that they judge me.

I have been walking around the social scene on eggshells.  It has been brutal.  I have felt lonely and like I don’t fit in and very left out.  Those feelings hit on lots of my social fears.  Plus I have felt judged and body shamed.  Like body shame that has been so intense that I have been just mortified to exist here.

And while the women have made small talk with me, I only connected with one, and even then my approach has been guarded and closed.

A fucking rough first week.

So, Sunday afternoon, I talked to a recovery-friend about some of my struggles and when I got off the phone, I had a couple of realizations.  If I want to make friends and not feel socially isolated, I need to behave differently.  I need to engage and be friendly.  I realized later that in my anxiety about feeling body shame and not fitting in that I was probably giving off some pretty defensive vibes which were probably off-putting to my peers.  It was kind of one of those moments when I was able to get out of my head enough to look at myself and see what I can do to make things better.

Yesterday morning, I woke up with a new attitude.  I approached peers and felt much more relaxed and open.  I engaged in small talk and at times, worked to connect on the next level with some of my peers.  And I found some responsiveness on their part and I just plain felt better on my part.  And more relaxed.  Which is good, because the energy I spent being on guard around my peers is better spent in other ways here.

Plus, I have made a friend…Sometime mid-week last week I connected (guardedly for sure) with a woman who I have some things in common with.  And she is nice and I like her.  That relationship has kept me from feeling completely like a social pariah.  Yesterday, we connected some more as I let my walls down some.  And then she did something unexpected.  I ate my snack late as I had had an appt during snack time.  So, it was me and a person from Direct Care at the table.  Hmmm…I’m gonna need a name for this new friend…Ummm…..Polly.  Okay, so Polly came over and sat at the table to visit with me while I had snack.  She was partly waiting to ask the woman from Direct Care a question, but really she sat to chat with me.  And her body language was open and relaxed.  I felt kind of surprised (you know…the, “Why would she go out of her way to come to the table and sit and chat with me?”) and I also felt kind of happy.

Yesterday was totally a turning point socially for me.  This may be a hard group of people to connect with as we are all pretty damaged and guarded and inter-personal relationships are not really our talent (understatement of the day) but….I can do it.  And getting to the point where I don’t feel like such and outsider is a huge relief to me.