Hello my darlings. As might be expected I found myself having difficulty finding the time to write a third entry until now. In truth there were times when I considered writing one but decided that it wouldn't be worth the drastic loss of sleep. One of the hardest parts of treatment for my eating disorder so far has been getting up before 7am 5 days a week. While I used to get up that early, or even earlier, all the time both as a paralegal and as a residential counselor (had to be AT work at 7am), the past few months have afforded me a different (read: better) sleep schedule.
My clinic that I was interning at (and will begin working for money at beginning this week) doesn't open until 10am, and I only live 5 minutes away, so getting up at 9:15 was a regular occurrence. Getting up that late means I can stay up to 1 or 2 without losing much sleep. The influences of the creative muses, for whatever reason, seems to hit me most around 10 or 11 pm. In short, I was usually in bed, trying to convince myself to sleep despite the racing thoughts of all the things I need to do the next day when the inspiration to write struck me.
While that state of mind would have produced more visceral entries than this one, it also would have depleted an already depleted internal battery even faster. So, I chose to forgo the more in-the-moment stream of consciousness entries for something more objective and comprehensive in nature. Hopefully it will be just as, if not more than, entertaining and informative (this verbose introduction aside).
So what has happened in the last two weeks? Well, a lot, and not all that much at the same time. And that is what I'm finding more and more with this treatment process, the whole thing is something of a walking contradiction. It is, by far, one of the most difficult things I've ever done, and at the same time it is also incredibly easy. I wish I could really explain what I mean by that but I fear I would only confuse you more than I already have.
Getting up early in the morning every day sucks and is draining, sure, but getting up that early every morning, is also somewhat invigorating. Sitting through group after group after group of therapy, discussion, and education is dreadfully boring and I wish I could go do something else, yet there really isn't anywhere I'd rather be than in those groups. The day seems to draaaaaaaggggg on every day, but when 2pm comes around (treatment ends at 3) I am struck by how quickly it went by and how I don't want it to end.
The only thing I can think is that my eating disorder is to blame for this contradictory experience. The part of me that doesn't want to accept that I have a problem, the part of me that think I can stop the binging/purging/restricting/rinse-repeat cycle on my own, without treatment. That part of me thinks that what we've been doing for the last 4 years or so is relatively normal and not worthy of so much attention. That part of me, even if it begins to acknowledge something is wrong, also tries desperately to convince me that I'm not sick enough for this level of care. It would so much rather I go back to the outpatient level that has already proven to be ineffective than continue in day treatment.
The other part of me, the part of me that has accepted, or at least tried to accept, that we have an eating disorder is desperate for relief. The eating disorder tried to convince us that the B/P/R/R-R was normal, but this other part of me is exhausted from the misery. "Life is misery! But it's less miserable when you are thin!" is what the eating disorder tries to convince us of, but this other part of me knows that's not true. Life isn't just misery. Sure, sometimes it is downright fucking miserable, but having an eating disorder only multiplies that misery. And while being thin does make life a little easier in a lot of ways, it also doesn't guarantee any sort of happiness or fulfillment. Even after I'd lost an enormous amount of weight and was at my thinnest in a very long time, I was still miserable with my body. I still hated it. I still believed I needed to lose more and more weight. I'm not sure there ever would have been a magic number had I kept going. The eating disorder is sort of like a carrot hanging on a rope from a stick. Every time the carrot swings close to you and you think you can finally reach it, it changes momentum and moves further away again. So you chase it some more and it swings back towards you, making you think you've finally got it this time, only to change momentum and swing further away. In case the analogy isn't clear what I'm trying to say is the eating disorder says you'll be happy when you hit X weight, and once you close in on X weight, the eating disorder changes momentum and says, "NOPE! actually you'll be happy at Y weight." So you try for Y, thinking this time for sure, you will meet that perfect weight, until you close in on it and eating disorder pulls another dick move and tells you that Y won't cut it, now you need to hit Z weight. And the cycle goes on and on and on until you possibly, literally, starve yourself to death.
Now I never got to that extreme level of malnourished and underweight, but not because I didn't try for it. And that part, the one who tried for it again and again and again, who thought I'd finally reach that fucking carrot, is the part of me that is happy to get up in the morning, happy to sit through seemingly endless groups, happy to share in some of the most uncomfortable meals we've ever known, and feels sad when the day comes to an end. That part who cried out in sorrow every time we listened to the eating disorder's assessment of how we looked, who we were, and what we were worth is the part that keeps me going. And that's not an exaggeration, either.
This week I almost quit treatment. I completely flaked one day, didn't tell anyone I wasn't coming, and just stayed in bed with the intent to never go again. I didn't want to do it anymore, but that part desperate for relief, convinced me otherwise. The eating disorder worked overtime that day and won that battle. It found a thousand different reasons why we should stay home and not go in. It also found a thousand different reasons why we should never go again, but it didn't win that battle.
So how did it win that battle? How did it convince me that I should just stay in bed? It won because I'd just said goodbye to my therapist the day before and I felt utterly alone. That's when the eating disorder, or the alcohol for that matter, is the most dangerous, when I feel alone, isolated, and cutoff. And that is how I felt when I cried myself to sleep Wednesday night and how I felt when I woke up Thursday morning.
What was the point? Was all I could think. Ashley was the reason I agreed to go into treatment. She was the reason I kept going back to the Emily Program for months before treatment. My connection to her and the help she offered me felt invaluable, and the loss of it was too much to bear. If I couldn't work with her and I had to start over at the beginning with a new therapist then it didn't seem worth it. I acknowledge that on paper that sounds absurd, and to a point it is absurd. She was just one person of the many who are working hard to help me overcome this ailment, but her leaving triggered something deep and old within me.
People often talk about having "abandonment issues" but most people don't really understand what that means, at least not really. To most it sounds like some people jut have a harder time with relationships ending, but it goes way beyond that. It isn't just that I feel more sad than the average person when an important relationship ends, it's that when those relationships end I am overcome with a overpowering sense of isolation. Bear with me as I try to explain this. Losing a friend, a partner, a coworker, a boss, a family member, or even a therapist can trigger sadness is just about anyone. It can even trigger loneliness or depression in people. With people who have broken attachment like me, it triggers a sense of unending aloneness, like there will NEVER EVER be any sort of comfort or connection again, from anyone. It reminds me that when I was in the utmost need of comfort and connection in my life, I was abandoned and left alone to drown in my grief, pain, and sorrow. So when I lose a relationship, especially unexpectedly, it sends me right back to that place. Over time I've gotten better at finding my way out of that "trauma hole" but it is still the first thing that happens when someone leaves, and that's where I was Thursday morning.
My eating disorder, like a shark smelling blood in the water, came chomping away at my resolve to keep fighting it. It told me all the awful things it's gotten so good at telling me over the years. More than just keeping me in bed, it also tried desperately to convince me to restrict. Why eat? If I ate I'd just get more fat, and even fewer people would care about me. There was no reason to eat, to keep going, to keep trying. It tried to convince me to starve myself to death. It wanted us to die, and if we couldn't find he gumption to end our life through other means then maybe starvation could be an alternative. We were already pretty good at restriction when we really wanted it.
When I refused to restrict and I ate something, it tried sooooooo hard to get me to purge. People often think that eating disorders are just about control, but what they don't realize is that eating disorders are also the thing that preys on you when it senses you don't have the capacity to be in control. The eating disorder, for me at least, is the thing that takes over when I'm feeling out of control. It's not just me trying to control something, it's also something that tries to control me when I'm feeling weak. It's like an abusive partner, living inside your mind, that wants to hurt you, to humiliate you, and to control you. Me really being in control looks like me NOT restricting, NOT purging, and NOT binging. It means that I'm meeting my meal plan, I'm going to treatment, and I'm continuing to fight this fire-breathing dragon inside my mind.
That isn't to say that the eating disorder doesn't appear to offer control. When I purge, in that moment when I induce vomiting, I do feel control... but it's a false sense of control. It's a lie. Without awareness the eating disorder convinces you that you are the one in control. When it convinces you to restrict, it tries to convince you that you are the one in control. But again, it's a lie. The reality is that the eating disorder is the one in control, not you. You become like a puppet who can't see its own strings, falsely believing its controlling its own movement instead of a puppeteer hiding in the shadows.
There are a million different ways to describe what eating disorders can be like. It can be an abusive partner, a demon, a mean voice, a fire-breathing dragon, a shark that smells blood, and a puppeteer. It can be sooo many different things depending on who decides to describe it, but at the end of the day it is for certain one thing: destructive. If left unchecked, unexamined, or untreated, it can destroy everything good in your life, including your life.
If my time in treatment so far has taught me one thing, it's that eating disorders don't happen overnight and they aren't cured overnight. Like a fish freshly pulled out of the water, eating disorder habits, thoughts, and urges are slippery little devils. Just when you think you have a grasp on them, they slip right out of your hand. After two weeks of treatment I thought I was getting the hang of my eating disorder. I thought that I was learning to more effectively manage my symptoms and urges, but when I said goodbye to my therapist my eating disorder slipped out of my grasp and fell out of the boat into the waters of loneliness. As I flailed about in the sudden shock of the figurative cold water, I started to lose hope I'd make it back into the boat, but luckily I wasn't actually alone.
If treatment is good for one thing it's that it provides you with the opportunity to make connections with others who struggle as you do, so when you fall out of the boat they are there to help you back in. They have a towel you can wrap yourself in and comforting words to help you remember that it's okay to fall sometimes.
And while it took several days to come to terms with the loss of my therapist, I have found a new understanding or meaning of this sudden and unexpected change. I thought that I was losing my therapist, that I was being figuratively abandoned by the one person I trusted to most to help me, but I see now that wasn't exactly the case. In a spiritual path kind of sense I think it is no coincidence that my work with Ashley came to a close when I started treatment. While I hoped she'd be there with me for my entire journey through recovery, I realize that she was with me exactly as long as I needed her to be. I don't know that anyone else could have helped me to the degree that she did, and because of that help I was able to make this decision to go into treatment. Like a gentle and caring guide she held my hand and led me to where I needed to go, and once I arrived at that place, our time together had to end. She'd served the spiritual path purpose she was meant to serve and now it is up to me to keep walking on this path. Thankfully, I'm not alone on this path anymore. Not only do I have several new professionals who have come to help me, but I have made friends and connections with the others in the program with me.
So, while I know she is unlikely to ever read these words I just want to say thank you to Ashley for her kindness, her caring, her empathy, her validation, her help, and most of all for her infectious laugh. I'm going to miss seeing you every week and I hope that whomever you end up working with knows how fortunate they are to have you. I hope our paths cross again someday, maybe when I'm all better (or at least mostly better).
Anyways, that's all I have for this entry. I'll try to get more specific on what we are doing in treatment in the next entry. But for now, stay beautiful my darling readers, and never forget how fabulous you truly are, just for being you.