Wednesday, January 17, 2018

1-17-2018 Entry: Updates and the Story of my Eating Disorder

**This is the first entry I have used a voice to text program to write. I apologize for any typos I might have missed**

Hello my darlings, I'm sorry it has been so long since I last wrote and that my recent entries have been further and further apart. Life this past year has been rather hectic and even at the best of times rather overwhelming to say the least. Right now I am entering what looks to be the most overwhelming part of my graduate school career. Not only am I working full-time I'm going to school, I am also working about 30 hours a week at my internship seeing clients for therapy and have just started to work on my integration paper. An integration paper for those who are not familiar is a great deal like a thesis. All of this put together leaves me in a position of rarely ever having time to do the things I want like writing or painting or traveling.

With all of that being said I don't want my darling readers to think that I have died or that I don't care anymore because I certainly do. I am just simply  spending  much of my energy  has  a queer  activist  in the real world  with people I can have a more direct impacts on. As of right now I have 2 individual therapy clients that are transgender and I am leading a weekly lgbtq support group for adolescents. I have started to rub shoulders, so to speak with some of Minnesota's leading social researchers on transgender issues in and out of therapy, and the things they are finding  and coming up with  are really exciting.

In my own personal Journey through the transgender  landscape of life I'm finally coming up on my third anniversary of starting HRT. Which means that at this point what the hormones have not already done they will never do, barring any change in dosage. I go in for labs this week to make sure that everything is progressing the way it ought to and to make sure that my hormone levels are in optimal range.

In my personal life, not a great deal has changed. I still have not had sex since the sexual assault and have started to think that maybe I never will again. Perhaps that is pessimistic thinking but at this point it has been a year and a half with no end in sight. The only good thing I can say is that most of the PTSD symptoms from the assault have diminished a great deal. There are still times when people touch me, even in innocuous ways, where is a flashback will be triggered and I will start to feel sick to my stomach like I did that day. Usually after these incidents I sink into a pretty dark and depressing place and have to fight with the many beliefs that come up around my history of being a sexual assault victim. My therapist and I have been working to some degree to address the ever unfolding memories of having been sexually abused as a child, which is an awful Journey that I wish I never had to take. All of this work I have been doing, however, was confounded about 2 months ago when one of the kids I worked with managed to lock me in a room and keep me as her prisoner for the better part of an hour while she taunted me and tormented me with psychological games. I cannot put into words the damage this experience cause for me both in my working life and in my personal life. This experience caused me, For Better or Worse, to relapse into drinking again. I am glad to report, however, that the drinking has been relatively mild and definitely under control. That's not to say that I do not have urges to drink to excess or to drink myself into the ground but I have managed to avoid or overcome those urges almost all the time.

As far as my mental health is concerned something really big happened not all that long ago and it has been really hard for me to talk about it especially on here because if I talk about it then that means it's real. Around the same time that my resident locked me in a room I went for an evaluation at the Emily program. For those of you who do not know what the Emily program is, it is a program designed to help people with eating disorders. Yep, that's right, I have an eating disorder and it has been around a lot longer than I usually care to admit. If I'm entirely honest the eating disorder started a few years ago when a legitimate digestive problem became a convenient way to not only not gain weight but to assist in the losing of weight.

Since I'm finally willing to actually talk about this I might as well make this entry primarily about the subject and should likely start from the beginning. In all likelihood the foundation for my eating disorder began during my childhood years of watching my mother go to insane lengths and restrictions in order to lose weight when she was already quite thin. As long as I can remember my mother has been dieting, even though she has likely never even come close to being overweight. It was always some new diet, some new way of eating or not eating that was consuming a great deal of her time or her thoughts. Although I can't count the number of times that it happened or even guess at the number of times that it happened when I wasn't aware, I can distinctly remember several times when I heard sounds coming from the bathroom after dinner that made me think my mother was vomiting. I remember asking her at least once if she was okay and I also remember the distinct look of displeasure and possibly even shame as she lied about what she had been doing. I'm not sure if she lied to me because she was afraid to tell me, worried that I wouldn't understand, or if she was afraid that if I knew what was happening I might do the same thing that she was. Regardless it became an unspoken rule that this post-meal vomiting was to remain an unspoken subject. During my early teenage years my mother started to engage and what one can only describe as over-exercising. At the time I just thought that my mom was something of a badass given how much working out she was doing, but only as I look back at it now do I see what was actually going on.

I do not think my mother actually tried to instill in me a deep insecurity about my body but regardless of her intent seeing this Behavior both apparent and hidden created something inside of me that I did not understand for the longest time. I can recall on countless occasions my mother teasing me ever so lovingly about my weight and giving me unsolicited advice about how to lose weight or how to alter my diet or how to exercise more. From the outside looking in this might just seem like a mother who is concerned primarily about her child's health and well-being, but now that I have a deeper insight I can see what was really going on. My mother, bless her soul, was projecting onto me all of her own insecurities about her body and her weight, and whether she intended to or not she instilled Within Me those very same insecurities. Gradually over time I began to hate my body, which for a transgender person who already feels crushing helplessness at the wrongness of their physical form this really did not help things. Whenever I looked at the mirror I felt disgust not only because I was seeing a male body looking back at me but I was also seeing an overweight body looking back at me. The feeling of dread and revulsion that I experienced at my own reflection was overwhelming and unfortunately the only coping skill I seem to have ever developed to deal with those overwhelming feelings was to eat. And so I ate my feelings and the more I ate my feelings the bigger I got, and a bigger I got the bigger my feelings got requiring me to eat even more to cover them up.

Now things might have gone along just fine had I not developed an ulcer in my stomach. I likely would have just continue to gain weight or stayed at a rather high weight. But as fate would have it I developed an ulcer that made it nearly impossible for me to eat food and to keep it down without becoming physically ill. If I ate small amounts of food then things would be okay, but given that I was terribly overweight and used to eating a great deal of food I nearly always ended up becoming ill. At first this was a natural process so to speak, But as time went on and my illness continue to progress I found that sometimes it was easier to induce vomiting rather than simply wait for it. Once again had things gone as they were I likely would have recovered from the illness and continued to either stay at my weight or gain weight, but my wife decided that she wanted to go on Weight Watchers. Now this idea seemed great at the time, especially because I had been told by more than one doctor that Weight Watchers was a quality weight loss program that avoided many of the pitfalls of Crash diets. I found this to be relatively true but what I didn't expect to find was the gradually growing obsession with food and Counting points that came with Weight Watchers. Now this Obsession started in me to a small degree but it definitely took off in my wife who became almost tyrannical about the food that she ate. Fortunately for me my wife like to cook and given that she had a great deal fewer points than I did this meant that I was always eating relatively small meals and quickly started to lose weight. I was still struggling somewhat with my digestive problems but as I lost weight and began eating healthier food my digestive problem slowly but surely grew into an eating disorder. You see, I found that I didn't have to count the points of food that I ate when I vomited them back up and given how familiar and comfortable I had become with vomiting and inducing vomiting, things began to spiral out of control. My wife began to call me bulimia Queen and while at first this was a joke and a means of teasing me it wasn't long before it was no longer funny and things began to be concerning. I can still remember the day that my wife finally spoke her concerns about my post meal vomiting and suggested that I tell my therapist about it. Now, if you are a rational person you might think that I took her words seriously and told my therapist right away what was going on, but just like alcoholism Eating Disorders are not rational. Rather than going to my therapist right away I think I waited somewhere around a month or more to say something and when I did say something I did everything I could to minimize it and pretend like it wasn't a big deal. Thankfully I have a wonderful therapist who wouldn't let that fly and encouraged me to talk about it more, and to do various therapeutic things around it.

I wish I could say that I'd listened to my therapist but I didn't, not for a very long time. You see, that conversation I had with my therapist was over two years ago and I am still struggling with my eating disorder. That's not to say that I haven't done anything about it but I certainly haven't done as much as I could have or even should have. While I was spiraling after my divorce into an alcoholic stupor I was also purging almost everyday and often multiple times a day. It had long since stopped being just something that happened because of digestive problems and started to become something that I planned out ahead of time. Most people when they are not hungry and are offered food decline the food, because why would they eat it if they weren't hungry? But I, unlike most people, would look at the food and determine if I was willing to purge in order to eat it. Thoughts like "I can just throw it up later" became commonplace in my mind. At the heart of all of this though was that shame that I learned so long ago. I hated my life, I hated my body for not being female, and I hated how fat I was believing wholeheartedly that no one would ever want someone as fat as me, so my purging habit became a form of self injury. I wanted to punish my body for being wrong and for betraying me, and I wanted to punish myself because I didn't feel like I deserved love. The eating disorder took a new turn about a year after my divorce, shortly after having lost my job at Pride. It had always been about binging on food and then purging it up, but the shame I felt about losing my job became so great that purging was not enough of a punishment. Instead of just throwing up my food I decided to stop eating food altogether together. I felt so numb and terrible inside that the pain of hunger from days who depriving myself of food started to become something that was pleasurable. Much like someone who cuts themselves to feel better, I starved myself. I went weeks without barely eating anything. I started to feel physically weak and tired all the time and I so frequently had headaches that the only time I would eat would be to help keep down Tylenol. This phase of restricting went on for about 2 months and in that time I lost probably about 20 lb. I felt weak and had difficulty concentrating but I felt so happy to have lost weight. it felt like I had stumbled onto gold and I was going to be rich for life. I knew the secret to weight loss and it was so simple, all you had to do was not eat. Unlike diets that require you to count points or cut out certain foods or alternate different kinds of foods to mess with your metabolism my diet was astonishingly simple, just don't eat. I didn't want to stop either and I really didn't want my friends or family to know in case they tried to get me to stop. It wasn't until I was going to have a roommate that I knew would recognize what was going on that I decided to say something, and when I said something they did exactly what I expected them to. They tried to tell me to stop, that it was terrible for me and I needed to eat in order to stay alive. Despite the voice inside my mind that told me I needed to keep going, which had grown so loud it was practically deafening, I decided that maybe she was right. I stopped restricting even though I wanted to keep going so badly. I started eating again, slowly at first but growing over time until I ran into my old problem once again. Purging became my friend again and while it has not been terrible in the past few months the fact of the matter remains that I'm still purging on a regular basis.

 When I went to the Emily program and did the assessment it became abundantly clear to me that I did have an eating disorder and even though I knew this to be true, it has taken me years to finally admit it. My darling readers, I have an eating disorder and I'm not afraid to admit it anymore. I struggle with bulimia and there are times when I struggle with food restriction. the social worker who did my assessment wanted me to do their day program, which would have meant that I spent the great number of hours a week working on my eating disorder, but I did not do what the social worker wanted me to. I didn't disregard her because I thought she was wrong or that I thought I could do it on my own, I disregarded her because I didn't have time in my schedule to allow for such program. in many ways I regret that decision, even though it was probably the only real option I had. Unfortunately this means that I have not been working on this problem, and definitely have not been giving it the attention it deserves. I don't really know how I'm going to fit in eating disorder therapy with the 70 Plus hours a week I am spending at work, School, and my internship, but I know that I need to figure it out.

Well my darlings, my eyes are getting heavy and I need to get up early in the morning so I need to wrap this up. my story could have definitely been longer and maybe one day I'll tell it but for now this will have to do. Taking this step is huge for me and hopefully you all can empathize with my reluctance to bring it up. So if you also are experiencing difficulties with your eating habits or you know that you have an eating disorder, please know that you are not alone and there are ways to make it better. Goodnight my darlings, thank you for reading, and always stay fabulous.