addict? alcoholic? both.

I’m home this weekend for a change. This time it’s different though, I’m not trying to figure out what I want out of treatment and I’m not neck deep in an eating disorder. I am home because I am doing well, I am recovering. And it’s strange, I feel heavy yet light. I feel like my hopes have been lifted, that my dreams are no longer muted.

I’ve been reading the Steps in hopes that I will begin working towards something more. I haven’t been able to say it in a meeting yet. I can’t even fathom saying it to my therapist but I can put it here. Something to look back on in a few years.

Back when I came home in November, my mother had gone through my room and searched for all the things that I had hidden. And when I came home, I found the items that she had not found; the blades and laxatives. So this time, she came to my room and I took it all out, I handed it all over. I surrendered to recovery, whole-heartedly. It was hard. So hard that I wanted to cry or scream a few times. It was when I found the last cigarette that her trust in me really crumbled. She was disappointed and worried; I understood. I had been smoking on and off since grade nine, I was relying on alcohol to get through some days since grade eleven, and I was using marijuana just to cope with the underlying chaos. All of this took a toll on me, all the missing memories, empty wallets. If you thought just having an eating disorder was bad, imagine restricting so hard and then getting high just to eat before coming down and purging just to light another cigarette to ease the empty feeling and drinking to forget it all again. This was my life for a while; on and off for years.

The worst is the justification: “I’m a responsible addict. I’m a responsible alcoholic.”

There is no way to be both responsible and an addict. There is no way to be responsible and an alcoholic. It’s not a lifestyle worth living. It’s fucking hell. It’s planning out your day just to use without being caught or needing to go home. It’s missing social outings because you’re too weak or hungover to move. It’s having to do more and more each time just to numb any feelings. It’s the pain you feel when you come down.

I was warned for years of the dangers behind addictions. I was first addicted to the pain, and then to the numbness. I was never able to believe that I was worthy of anything else but the pain. I still struggle to see that I am worth it on a day to day basis. I was told it was hereditary, and I replied that it “wouldn’t happen to me”. I was the good kid. I was the responsible kid.

Addiction and mental health walk hand in hand. Both are deadly. Both can be silent killers. But they are best friends. At some point, I forgot what it was like to actually feel anything. I’ve missed so much because I was just working to numb the pain; a full time job. Something I couldn’t quit, EVER.

Somedays I am ashamed of what I have done and the fact that I can never pick up a drink without falling down a rabbit hole. I’ve dug myself out as best I can by myself and now I surrender everything to a higher power and begin a journey to feeling. I know I can’t do it alone any longer, too many slips and relapses to point it out. I can only be me; unapologetically. I can’t reminisce for who I was in the past and I can’t worry about who I am going to be tomorrow but just for today, I can be myself.

I was 4 months sober last week. It’s going to a long and hard journey but here I am, doing it.

“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” – 1 John 1:9

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” – James 4:10

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goodbye ed. you are no longer a friend to me.

How? How did I end up here?
Neck deep in my sorrows, drowning in empty tears.
Mind battered with lies and deceit.
How did I not notice for so long?
Why did I continue on this path to self destruction?
You. You with the sharp cheek bones and sunken eyes.
You, with the bony fingers pointed at my body and pale lips kept in a tight smirk.
You, caused me pain instead of happiness.
Broke my spirits down to pebbles.
My thoughts and behaviors no longer ensured my safety.
When I was weak, I was weak because of you.
There was no strength hidden in your words,
My bones were achy, constantly twisting, testing how small I could warp my body.
All I wanted was to disappear but you, you made me stand out.
My body was a battlefield.
I tore my skin and poured sadness onto paper.
Journals filled with the dark tales of how I managed to hold myself together,
as I fell apart almost simultaneously.
You pit my anxiety and depression against each other.
Made the world seem too heavy most days.
Filled my lungs with concrete.
Held me under.
You kept my secrets, buried as deep as the earths core.
I sold my mind to the devil, when all I wanted was to find my soul.
And so my soul aches, ebbing and flowing with sadness.
Thoughts flood the dams, my mind no longer a vault.
You sucked breath from my lungs and nourished yourself with my tears.
Liquid calories are okay anyway.
You stole glances in any reflective surface and absentmindedly touched
Finger to thumb, finger to thumb.
wrists dainty and magical.
You were a death trap.

Masking failure and pain with the promises of accomplishment and happiness.
You weakened my body.
No longer a warrior in your eyes.
I was too weak. To fight you. To please you.
A pain I could not silence.
You awaited my courage and then struck with grief.
Reminded me that my self worth compared to that of a tiny speck of dust.
I was already dead on the inside and you smiled.
You followed me into dressing rooms.
Disappointment filled my ears, wisps of hair grew brittle.
Waiting rooms held secrets.
Shaking and crying, screaming and shame.
Subtle glances or pitied looks.
Darkness always loomed overhead.
Outside, sun shone lightly.
Peaceful.
Waistband held room against skin.
Too much leeway, too much space.
Not enough space.
A disappearing act, I knew too well.
A prized possession I would never hold.
Thumb and finger, too much room.
But room was good. Room meant growth.
Room meant recovery.

 

reasons.

I have struggled with finding the reasons for my recovery recently. It might have been due to the conclusion that being a touring photographer might not be the healthiest & recovery-centred career right now. It might have been the realization that late nights spend on buses instead of sleeping or driving for 7 hours, sleeping in the morning and working late into the evening, isn’t ideal. Maybe in the future but not in the Spring or the Summer or next Fall for that matter. A few years down the road when things are changing fully for the better and I’m no longer holding onto my demons in a way that “protects” my soul.

As I ponder these things, I create a list of Reasons To Recover. Something I should have made so long ago and sure I did, here and there. But this is concrete. This is real. This is why I need to continue to fight for my freedom.

  1. To return to school.

I was in a program that was detrimental to my mental health before this treatment visit. But I had also been accepted to a program to further my craft in digital media – something I so badly wanted to persue. For treatment, I had to withdraw from the program and have to reapply for next Fall. This time has given me the time to ponder on whether or not that is exactly what I want for my life.

2.  Be able to travel.

Something that has been a trigger for so long. Going on vacation has never felt like a vacation with constant thoughts of how to be productive, how to lose weight, how to restrict meals, how to hide my body. All of this energy put into “protecting” myself instead of enjoying what life has to offer. My dreams to travel to the UK and other countries have been put on the back burner for life because of this eating disorder. I know that not eating means I won’t have the energy to exist outside of my hotel room. So I leave this fear behind, and jump into wholesome recovery.

3. Regain interests I have left in the dust.

Yeah, that’s right, I had interests and hobbies once upon a time. Sometimes I forget that someone existed before my eating disorder but it’s true. There was once a girl who twirled in skirts and who smiled to light up a room and doubled over in laughter. And that girl, was me. I used to play guitar and sing all of the time; the radio was just really intense karaoke…I used to play soccer and basketball. I enjoyed snowboarding on days off and walking the dog with my parents. All of these things that I lost interest in because my eating disorder decided what was okay and to what intensity. I want that girl who laughs so hard her stomach muscles ache and twirls in skirts back. I want me back. And I’ll leave my eating disorder in the dust this time.

4. Experience and describe real emotions.

One of the biggest losses of this relapse is that I forgot what it felt like to feel real emotions. I hid behind my hair and sarcastic remarks. I listened to my thoughts when they told me to arrange my place setting properly and eating in alphabetical order and make sure my liquids were at matching amounts. It was exhausting and heart breaking and I saw it as a safety net. Nothing could go wrong if I did these things. I didn’t feel immense sadness or shame or guilt because everything I tried to control could be justified by any thought. I was using my wise mind against itself. Feelings aren’t meant to be buried and forgotten, they are meant to be felt and shown. So why did I try to suppress so much, for so long?

I write these reasons out as I dive back into the worksheets I need to complete. As I take time to think about all I have accomplished even while my demons have tried to silence my thoughts. I am no longer just a diagnosis or walking, talking zombie. I am a human. Almost 20 and still piecing myself back together. It might take some time but at least I’m starting to move forward. Again and again and again.

I will fight for this. 

‘And David danced before the Lord with all his might.’ (2 Samuel 6:14)

pass.

I’m home. Oh boy, I am home. And I am terrified. A 48hr therapeutic pass is not how I wanted to spend the rest of the week but it’s also not something I wasn’t expecting. Yeah I’m struggling. But struggle is just another word for GROWTH. So I guess you could say that’s exactly what I am doing; growing. It only fits that the card I chose earlier this morning in Horticulture was “growth” and what I wrote while I had felt drawn to this card, speak for themselves. That’s the cool thing about vibes and stuff, they really speak to you when you need them to.

I guess it’s the same thing about God, eh? He’s there when you want him, and there when you might not but He doesn’t push His wisdom upon you. He lets you wander without worry or fear but He also lets you make choices that may make life harder. It’s all a learning process. Honestly I’m not processing as I write this post; something a staff member told me to do while I journaled during these next 48hrs.

While I recount today based on when I awoke to now @ 10:30pm, here are some victories I’d like to share and remember:

  • got out of bed and dressed before breakfast
  • wasn’t late for groups
  • took team meeting well and was mature about decision
  • called mom and asserted my needs about needing a ride home
  • figured out 2 days of meals & most of my pass plan for 48hrs
  • owned up to mistakes and told the rest of the community
  • fucking pissed ED off and ate dinner!!!!!
  • talked to mom in car about recovery needs/goals
  • went grocery shopping with mom
  • had snack on time (+extra fruit) cause hunger!!!!
  • felt full & planned on showering but instead did some work and didn’t isolate
  • used “check the facts” skill effectively
  • refrained from body checking in mirror when i went to shower
  • did not body check after shower or follow urges to find scale & weigh myself
  • did my laundry
  • took nighttime meds!!!!

Yes the car ride home was over 2 hours long and it pushed some things back but I still managed cause sometimes that’s what happens and you just gotta roll with the punches!! So yeah, ya gurl is back.

FUcking 4 hours home and the motivation is already building. Also did something cool and reached out to my youth leader, J, about coming by to talk/visit this weekend since I won’t have a pass once I am back!!!!

Also getting my hur did tomorrow morning #recoverygoals

 

/little/ girl.

I picture myself as a little girl, smiling…no…tight lipped, almost a frown and not happy being at school. A place I never really fit in but did I really fit in anywhere as a child? Camp? No. Home? No. With others? No. I guess there’s the answer. Constantly as a child I was condoned for being tall and slim. It was a constant compliment. And all I wanted to do was stay that way. So when the comments stopped, my first thought was to become small again. If I could just go back to being a little girl, others would want me present again. To be honest, thinking about those statements make me tear up. Is there trauma hidden behind that statement? Why am I no longer my parents little girl and why does that thought bother me sososo much?

I question this a lot now. Specifically the more I think about how much I dislike being stuck somewhere. Especially now that I don’t like being home. I can’t be a little girl when I constantly want to escape. Why do I want to escape from here so badly? What is keeping me stuck here like a magnet? A negative attraction that I so badly want to escape. What is this pull?

Recently my mum asked me about the underlying issues behind my eating disorder. Why had I turned to restricting so harshly and tearing my body apart all those years ago? Why did I start attacking my skin with a blade? Why was I so upset with myself? She thinks that I know the real reason and I’m not telling anyone. And as much as I almost wish that was the case, I know it not to be the truth. I wish I could understand why I am so anxious and paranoid all the time. I wish I could understand my feelings and thoughts and some how piece together this puzzle to reach an understanding.

What trauma did that little girl face all those years ago? What hit me so hard that my mind needed to hide me from it? What is my eating disorder protecting me from? All these questions I want to ask yet I am not sure I really want the answers to. Do I want to open this can of worms and reach around in the darkness? Not really. Do I want to stay invisible and long to be a little girl again but also long to escape from this city completely? No.

The more it weighs down on me, the more I become tight chested and choked up. It’s exhausting and emotionally testing to believe that something happened as a child that has caused me to become a shell of a person. I am no longer a shell but I am because all I want is to be their little girl again.

 

decisions.

I have so many decisions to make and I have to make most of them by Friday….eeek…..to say I am anxious is probably an understatement. Honestly, these decisions will most likely decide how the next year and a half end up going. SCARY.

Let me preface this post with some background on what’s happened in the past 24hrs: 

  • I had my assessment with the main eating disorder program in my city
  • I had my original diagnosis change from anorexia or OSFED
  • I was given 2 options for day treatment programs in my city
  • I used some specific behaviours (binging) for the first time in weeks
  • I went home and laid everything out on the table with my mom
  • We discussed different treatment options and what I could potentially do in the fall
  • We discussed reaching out to a friends family about their experience in the system
  • We discussed going on the list for both treatment options but also looking into a residential program
  • We discussed my passive suicidal thoughts and what those mean
  • We discussed coping strategies and putting supports in place for the summer
  • I went to group and brought up a lot of my uncertainties with having options now
  • I talked to my group facilitator and based on what I’ve described, she thinks one of the programs would be most improving of my health

Honestly it was a lot and I haven’t fully processed a lot of things that were said. I need to work through it but in reality, I have until Friday to make my decision about what I want to do in terms of treatment. It’s no secret anymore that I am struggling and that I need the treatment. It’s the decision of taking time off of school for an entire year or semester and entering a day program where a lot of the control is still on me.

In reality, residential is not ideal because I’ll just be leaving my home environment and learning how to act in another environment which can be detrimental to my mental health because I will more likely come home after and relapse right away.

One of the day programs only runs 3 nights a week for 4 hours and includes a lot of meal prep however this would mean stepping up and taking responsibility for eating meals on my own — something I struggle with everyday.

The other program runs everyday from 12-6pm and includes 2 meals + 1 snack. More ideal. They also help transition back into the real world after a month or so and if I’m being honest, it seems scary but also includes what I most likely need. The waitlist for this program would most likely have me starting in the fall instead of going back to school and as much as not having the structure of school in my life, the stress would most likely be too much and cause me to relapse again (something I really don’t want).

Here’s some background on OSFED otherwise known as Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder. Defined in the DSM-5 as:

A person with who presents with many of the symptoms of other eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa or Binge Eating Disorder but will not meet the full criteria for diagnosis of these disorders.

Being diagnosed with this eating disorder made me feel like a fake because I didn’t feel that my eating disorder was serious enough to need treatment. I’m not underweight nor do I purge anymore or frequently take laxatives or diuretics. I am no longer as obsessively weighing myself or walking long distances for no reason other than to burn calories. So to hear that I need treatment was difficult. I was ready to be turned away and told that I don’t need the level of care any treatment facilities in Toronto offer.

Having OSFED kind of changed my perspective on my eating disorder. The fact that it is constantly shifting and metamorphosing the longer I progressed deeper into my eating disorder. Since the beginning of my struggle to have a relationship with food deemed /normal/, my symptoms and behaviours have changed each time that I relapse. And I usually relapse yearly….like clockwork. It’s exhausting yet even my eating disorder is structured lol can you believe that?

And to be honest, none of the rules that come along with each relapse make any sense. The things that I can and cannot eat change every time. Sometimes pasta is my only safety and other times it’s blueberry muffins. Sometimes I’m allowed to have liquids while I restrict and other times it’s full on restricting with nothing but a few cups of water.

Where is the compromising? Where do these decisions come from?

Honestly I wish I could pinpoint it in my mind but I am unable to do so. It’s so messy and entwined with my depression and anxiety. Having really bad depression days means I am less likely to leave the house and I can restrict in peace without worrying about most likely binging on my way home at night. Bad anxiety days mean I am more strict with what I eat and get increasingly anxious the longer I go into a fast because I am more likely to binge at the end to “ruin” everything. So I guess neither option is really an option because both ways end in negative reactions. Most days I have been stuck in a restrict/binge cycle that can only be broken at the end of a breakdown where I usually use other behaviours to counteract a binge like laxatives/purging/diuretics.

What am I actively doing to help myself cope as I make these decisions and face the outcomes?

Nothing. I know that I need to call one of the programs tomorrow and ask some questions. I also need to talk to my mom and really lay out the possibility of taking an entire year off of school – something that I have never done and really struggle to make happen. I need to make time to self care instead of relying on keeping myself as busy as possible because that makes me more likely to restrict and then end up binging. I am reaching out to my social worker and getting referred to a psychologist who works with eating disorders and anxiety/depression. I talked to my support group facilitator about private practice support as well (people she trusts and would recommend) and I am trying to be more open about my mental health with my mom.

I am so lost and calling out to God to help me through this difficult time. I don’t have much direction and I am not sure where to find it as I continue to struggle with who I am and what I want in life. I have so much that I want to accomplish but I know that I cannot do it while so wrapped up within my eating disorder. I am thinking that it might be time to take a step back from the music and photography communities and focus on self care in the simplest forms of sleep and other things that I used to do. I am neglecting so many things because my drive has me making last minute plans to shoot shows and then not being happy with the outcomes because my mood is fluctuating constantly. It would be a really tough decision and definitely not one made in haste but honestly it has been a long time coming. My heart might be there but my mind is not and I need to get back on my ‘A’ game. Honestly I need to take my energy, time and focus away from photography and put it towards my mental health.

I am not taking care of myself. I am coasting down a mountain side and the longer that I go, the faster I speed and eventually I am going to fall off.

This spiral has been going on for way too long and I really need to reassess the constants in my life.

For You are my rock and my fortress; For Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me. – Pslam 31:3

Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. – Pslam 119:105

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. – Proverbs 3:5-6

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. – 2 Corinthians 4:16

Some resources on OSFED and other eating disorders:

healing.

This past week has been busy. I finished my second year of university, accepted my college offer, and spent a lot of time at the children’s hospital visiting a friend. A friend that I hold very near to my heart and pray to God to give her strength constantly. Nonetheless, this meant visiting the hospital.

Hospitals. 

Oh how I wish I didn’t have to step foot in one ever again. Although there seems to be a difference between visiting others and going for yourself. You see, I spent a lot of high school in waiting rooms and doctors offices. I know hospital layouts like the back of my hand and can tell you the exact layout of the rooms I frequented the most often. But I would never go back in time and relive any of that. For a while, visiting friends at hospitals felt strange. Like I was going through a time warp and all of a sudden, I needed to be sick again. But the truth is, I was never sick enough to be admitted so I don’t need to be now.

My friend is sick. With many different chronic and mental illnesses who bounce behaviours and symptoms off each other erratically to create a dangerous tornado of issues. It’s sad to see her lying in a medical bed, hooked up to an IV with a tube down her throat to eat. But I know that she is strong and courageous and trying to live through it. She’s still surviving and staying strong, so I will stay strong for her. Today we were told that they are moving her to the locked psychiatric ward to deal with her eating disorder a little more focused and supported which means I will no longer be able to support her physically. I will only be able to send thoughts of strength and love and courage through God. I wish that things were different right now but I know it’s something she needs and I think deep down, she knows this too.

This week I laughed as I thought about all the changes that are happening in my life currently. Both negative and positive changes of course. This week I am going back to the high school that I graduated from and telling my teachers about the changes that I am making to my life. Like how I’m changing programs “drastically” or about my booked tattoo that I am getting next week or my trips into the US for concerts next month. What about how I passed an exam that had math on it? Or how I got a full-time, well paid job for the next 4 months? That I am a year self harm free? All of these are amazing things and definitely changes to be proud of. So I am.

I am also visiting a hospital on Friday though. Shocker I am sure lol. The hospital that I attended 5 days a week for 9 hours for 4 months during senior year. The place that helped me learn how to cope with gaining weight and completing school work and eating 3 meals/2 snacks all at once. The place where I completed a fucking journey and pulled myself out of my eating disorder two years ago. I am so happy to be going back and seeing the CYC’s that helped me so much.

Healing happens constantly. Shape shifting as we move from one part of life to the next. It can be messy and upsetting and difficult and slow, but it still happens.

Change is inevitable. Live it. 

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:28

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. – Deuteronomy 31:6