/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

coping.

When I was in grade 12, I missed four months to attend a day treatment program at the local hospital. I can’t decide if the worst thing was the meals we were forced to eat or the groups we were forced to sit through. My least favourite group was called Coping With Chaos because we had to role-play scenarios we faced outside of program.

CHAOS. 

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Chaos is defined as:

a state of utter confusion OR a confused mass or mixture

These days, I’m not sure where I stand with coping. I definitely know where the chaos lies though. Everyday feels chaotic but that’s probably an exaggeration. Being realistic and taking a step back, I know that things are tough right now because the semester is ending, finals are in 2 weeks, and I have so much to do. Not the forget the fact that I have a “planned” relapse in the works; or not….

Coping Strategies. They come in all types of themes. There are the strategies where you sit down and comfort yourself but there are also the coping strategies where you push out of the comfort zone and complete something. I guess it also depends on what you are coping with. Here are some coping strategies that I have tried to use in the past.

1. Log out of social media, put on your favourite playlist (currently) and have a 10-sec dance party to let go off stress.

2. Snuggle up under the covers with Netflix and a cup of hot chocolate/tea.

3. Set a timer and see how many sudoku puzzles can be completed in 20 min. (My current score: 15)

4. Take a shower.

5. Get outside and walk to the park for a bit.

6. Block all distraction websites and write 2 pages of an assignment.

7. Clean your room.

8. Edit photos.

9. Watch funny/cute animal videos (x, x, x, x) or this.

10. Hold ice cubes in your hands.

11. Reach out to a friend or hotline (x, x, x)

You can find more resources here.


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why.

What do Christianity and Eating Disorders have in common?

Probably nothing. Except maybe the fact that both are the result of wanting to believe in something or the feeling of direction it serves. It took me years to realize the purpose that my eating disorder served me. And now, as I embark on a new journey through recovery, I turn towards the Lord for that purpose.

My eating disorder, diagnosed as Anorexia Nervosa at age 13, was a source of protection. It protected me from everything that was going on at home and school. Around the time that it began to manifest, my dad had been diagnosed with Prostate Cancer, my parents didn’t really get along and my mental health was already heading downhill. Probably a difficult time so it makes sense I guess.

From a young age, I was the shy kid. I didn’t fit in with the sports crowd or the art kids. I was my own person and that didn’t seem to work very well at school. I didn’t have many friends and often was excluded in activities. Honestly, I’m okay with not having a large social group but then again, that could just be due to how difficult it is to socialize with mental illnesses. I’ve had anxiety since I was 7 or 8 and that made things difficult. Eventually my obsession with disappearing grew into an eating disorder in which I would eventually become small enough to disappear all together. A dangerous task yet I quite determined.


That was the past though. Here’s the now. 


My eating disorder has been a cage that I live within the confines of. An exhausting, daily battle. Within the last 2 years, I completed 4 months of adolescent day treatment and multiple family therapy appointments. I can tell you the spot on the floor in an office that I memorized. I can tell you the set up of every room doctors office I’ve ever attended. I can recite calorie amounts like the back of my hand. I’ve spend countless nights on my bedroom floor instead of sleeping in my bed.

Last year I faced my worst relapse ever. My weight dropped lower than it was during high school, I began to abuse laxatives, starting purging even though I swore I never would, and eventually began abusing caffeine pills. Did you think overdosing on caffeine was possible? Answer: It Is. I took the equivalent of 80 cups of coffee and had emergency services called because of it. So bad that they wanted to take me to the hospital because my heart was beating so damn fast and they were concerned. I turned down the suggestions. I said no. I said I’d get better on my own.


Update: I’m not better yet. It’s been over a year since that night and I am not better. I don’t touch those tablets and I don’t take laxatives and I haven’t purged since November, but I am not better. I am still at war with my mind. I wake up every morning uncertain of whether food will be okay or not. It’s exhausting. I wake up every morning ready to fight. It’s exhausting mentally, physically and emotionally. Yet, I am still fighting.

more harm. than good.

Self-harm manifests in multiple different ways.

My eating disorder is a form of self-harm. My anxiety caused me to fall into multiple patterns of self-harm. Nail biting, scratching, skin picking. The worst, by far, was cutting. My wrists are littered with scars still. At my worst, I didn’t see a way out. I couldn’t see myself reaching my 16th birthday. And then my 18th. I didn’t think I’d ever graduate high school. I constantly beat these doubts. I made it to my 19th birthday. I surpassed my expectations of living and reached new heights. I don’t know what this makes me. What does this mean?

I’ve always done more harm than good for my body. I’ve never thought about the repercussions of pushing my body or mind to exhaustion. However, I find myself here again and again. It’s just a new way that my self-harm is manifesting. A scary thought. I have yet to shake my self-harm in its entirety. I am afraid of missing out. A fear so bad that I constantly try to please everyone around me. I am trying to fight but I never want to let someone else down. It’s exhausting. I am so exhausted and I have no way to stop.

I am just 9 days from being 1 year self-harm free (in terms of cutting). Something I never thought would stop, stopped. Yes, I traded one method for another. It’s true. But I am stronger than I ever have been. A year and a half ago, Derek Saunders (Mayday Parade) wrote out a tattoo for me. On Monday, I have a consult for it to happen. I vowed that once I reached a year clean, I would get it. AND I AM. 

Countless relapses. Failed recovery attempts. Hundreds of appointments. Tons of clinical checks. Multiple doctors. Endless days. I want this to end so badly. And it will, eventually.

intentions.

I just received an email from my school regarding courses for next Fall. I laughed. I don’t think I’ll be needing those. My school calls them “Course Intentions”, like what we intend to take in the coming semester if we don’t flunk out or fail something. I think it’s hilarious right now. My intentions are forever changing. Daily.

I’m making a change next year, therefore I do not need to choose my courses. If it was up to me, I would drop out of university and take some time to focus on myself. I would enter a treatment facility and get a job and take my mental health more seriously. Unfortunately, I don’t have the power to do that right now. I’m a second year Child and Youth Care student (not the same as ECE – I swear). I am a second year student who’s giving up all that hard work to attend art school. Imagine my parents (who are both lawyers) opinion on this ??!

Art school. Somewhere to learn to express myself while also creating a business out of it. This decision has to do with my end goal. My life plan of starting my own music venue that doubles as an outreach centre for youth. Sounds so far away but with everyday that I learn something about the music industry or how to work with youth, I am getting a step closer to that goal.

I’m still waiting to hear back from the University I applied to. It seems annoying and silly because I’ve already been accepted to my top choice. A digital communications program at the college just an hour away. But my parents (again, lawyers – ugh) want their daughter to attend a University and receive a degree. Fun Fact: My college program is four years in which I’ll receive a degree at the end. So maybe it’s not about where you get your education. Or where you work. Or who hires you. Maybe it’s about more than that. Maybe it’s about being happy on your path through life.

Life is this journey. And I think we all just pretend that we know what’s really going on. But the truth is? Life is different for everyone. It’s constantly changing and morphing into something else. There’s no world where we don’t face difference and pain and truth. This is the universe that we were given. It’s all that we have. So why fight what the universe has planned for us? I chose art school over community services. I want to produce art whether it be on a screen or a stage. I want to make people happy. I want to find those who don’t like they fit and make sure that they know there’s a place here for them.

It took me years to realize that I could do something with the art I made. I wanted a way to connect my love for live music and my passion for photography. But I didn’t know how to get involved. No one teaches you that. It’s all about the lock and key of the universe. In a rapidly moving industry, it’s about the people you know, and I didn’t know anyone. That’s a different that I’ll tell eventually.

Intentions. We all have them. We all want to do something with them. Sometimes it just takes a bit longer than we want it to. Setbacks happen. It’s okay. We move on. Forward. Leave the past where it belongs, behind us. I’m still facing setbacks. It’s true. And I’m not quite sure when they’re going to stop. But I know that I can’t stop fighting them. I’m going to break through and when I do, I’m going to know what my intentions were.