July 2, 2010

Seven Days of Sunset ~ Day 7… Closing Words: Part 1…

Posted in recovery tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 12:14 pm by eddejae

It is hard to believe that just eight months ago, I truly thought my life was over. That there was nothing left for me to live for. That I was worthless, used up, incapable of ever being happy again. After years of struggling with debilitating depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and what I later found out to be Borderline Personality Disorder, I was tired of trying. I was ready to throw in the towel. I was ready to give up the fight. Over a two month period I attempted suicide three times and overdosed on at least five other occasions. I coped with the pain of past and present abuse, trauma, guilt, and self-loathing with binging, purging, cutting, alcohol, drugs, and victimization. In order to survive, I either disassociated from my surroundings or changed my entire personality depending on where I was and who I was with. I didn’t know who I was from one moment to the next. Most people didn’t even know everything that was going on with me, because I was very good at putting on a mask. Life was chaos. Chaos was life.

I failed therapy after therapy. Medications made me even more suicidal. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder that things started to make sense. However, it still took me a little while to accept my diagnosis and to make the decision to change. It wasn’t until after my third hospitalization that something inside me snapped. I realized that if I didn’t commit to recovery now, I never would, and I would be miserable the rest of my life. It was a decision I had to make on my own. No one… not my family, not my therapist, not anyone… could make it for me. It was a deep, inner choice and true dedication to becoming healthy.

I am convinced that the one deciding factor to my success in recovery was my commitment in that critical and pivotal moment to becoming better.

Without that, nothing would have worked. Not the best therapy in the world, not the most perfect combination of meds, not even the most loving relationship. No…only that commitment that remained even in the most difficult, heart-wrenching moments when those voices screamed at me “Give up! Give up!” …that one small voice of commitment inside that remained, that whispered… “Remember, remember…” That is what made the difference.

My current state of happiness and healing did not happen all at once. It is a result of a lot of hard work, of a long and painful process. Healing, progress, recovery… They are all a result of a series of small, but very important, choices. Really, there is no such thing as a small decision. Every choice you make has vast consequences, no matter how insignificant it may seem at that moment. Remember that when you when you try to get down on yourself when you think you are “failing”… give yourself credit for the tiny successes…. They make more difference than you realize….For it is those seemingly small victories that accumulate and create something magnificent in the end.

Another thing that has greatly helped me in this process has been getting outside myself. The more I reach out to others, the happier I am. The more I isolate myself and retreat inside my own little world, the more depressed I feel. It is hard because I struggle with social anxiety, but just like any other skill, the more you practice, the better you get and the easier it becomes each time. One thing I love to do is bake, especially at night when I can’t sleep. But I don’t just do it for myself, I do it for my friends and family… There’s nothing more fun and rewarding than seeing the joy on someone’s face when you show up at their door with a plate of fresh-baked cookies. Talk about endorphin rush! Believe it or not, it’s little things like that that can really lift you up out of a rut. Try it. Experiment. Can’t hurt, right?

I also had to decide, at a point, to let myself be happy. For most of my life, whenever I started to feel happy, I would immediately begin to feel guilty. For me, I never felt I “deserved” to be happy, because only “perfect” people deserved to be happy. And since I was never perfect, I could never be happy. Took me a very long time, well… my entire life!… to realize that: 1) I am never going to be perfect, and no one is; 2) There is no such thing as “deserving” to be happy; and 3) I can (and should) be imperfect and happy simultaneously. Once I could accept that, emotionally as well as logically (and I still have to work on this daily, as a lifelong habit is hard to break) I was able to do things like enjoy the little things, be in a relationship, and get married (tomorrow!)

Something else I’ve had to learn and work on is boundaries, especially when it comes to helping other people at the expense of neglecting myself. I’ve always had a bit of a “savior” complex, partly out of a genuine compassion for others, but also as a result of low self-esteem. I need to love, but also be loved, as much of my self-validation comes from others’ approval. As a result, I tend to give everything I have to others, whether they deserve it or not, and am often left empty. I give others validation instead of encouraging them to validate themselves.

Over just the last couple of months, I have learned (the hard way), that unless I am taking care of myself first, I am not good to anyone else. I had to learn to step away a bit and focus on my own recovery, otherwise I was at risk of breaking down again myself. One day, when things have settled down and I am comfortable and strong in this new chapter in my life, I will return to helping others in their journey – it is part of who I am and always will be. I love helping others – listening to them, comforting them, being a help and support wherever I can. But I always need to be sure I am in a good place myself first, before I can be a strength to someone else.

The best thing I can offer the world and others is myself – healthy and whole, with a voice that is clear, strong, and true.

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April 21, 2010

It Is Time

Posted in recovery tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 11:24 pm by eddejae

I have been working up the courage and emotional energy all day to tackle what I think is the one thing I have yet to actually confront, and it something I hope to conquer.

It is something I am deeply ashamed of.

It is my eating disorder.

I’ve gone through cycling phases of accepting it and denying it, giving in to it and fighting it. Yet it wins, time and time again, in one form or another – anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder.

In one form, I restrict calories and I over-exercise. At one point a few years ago, I managed to keep my calorie intake down to about 800 calories while working out 3 hours every day and abusing laxatives.

When I was 16, I stopped eating almost entirely. I weighed less than 90 pounds.

At other times, I have gone on eating binges and then purged through throwing up or taking laxatives and diuretics. In both cases, I would go on an extreme diet until I felt I had compensated for the calories I had consumed.

Now, I’m on a constant binge/diet cycle. I will keep my calories below 1,000 cal/day and exercise at least 60 min/day for a week at the longest. Then, my body gets depleted. I start having cravings and urges to binge, and my body is exhausted. So I binge for a day, two days, maybe three or four, depending on my emotional state. The more depressed I am, the more likely I am to binge. Then, after I’ve had enough and I feel awful about myself because I’ve gained 5 pounds or so, I go right back on a strict diet to lose what I gained – promising myself I’ll never binge again. But I always do. The cycle has repeated itself a hundred times at least.

My whole life is centered around food. Counting how many calories I’m consuming, how many I’m burning, how long it will take me to lose a certain number of pounds. I have a goal weight in my mind, and I never, ever get there. I’m never good enough. And because of my binging episodes, I always feel like a failure. I begin to feel like that’s all I am. A failure. I have no self-control.

Of course, I know that my binges serve a bigger purpose than merely satisfying physical craving. They have become a coping mechanism, even an addiction. For the moment, it numbs me. Anxious? Eat. Depressed? Eat. Lonely? Eat. I have often felt like food was my only friend. It’s always there. Always something I can count on. Always comforting. And you know what else? It protects me from relationships. As long as I am putting on weight, as long as I am uncomfortable with my body, I am kept from putting myself out there; I am not at risk of being hurt; no one can touch me; no one can love me… and… no one can leave me. I am alone, but I am safe. If I feel bad about myself, I don’t socialize. If I don’t socialize, I don’t have to feel anxious and self-conscious. It is a vicious cycle of self-harm and self-hate. I eat to hurt myself. I eat to soothe myself. I eat to punish myself. I eat to reward myself. I eat to keep from cutting. I eat to keep myself from putting myself in a situation where I could be taken advantage of by men. I eat to avoid social anxiety. I eat to stay put. I eat to stay in my comfort zone. I eat so I don’t have to FEEL. It numbs me to the world. It is my drug of choice.

But it is ruining my life.

Eating too much or not eating enough. Never a middle ground. Never a balance. Just extremes. It becomes a game I play with myself. It’s something I can control. It’s something I know. As long as I focus on calories, on exercise, on making lists of things I can and can’t eat… I feel like I’m in control. It is a coping method. When everything else is chaos – my emotions, my social life, my family, my mind – that one thing can stay consistent. It is a true obsession that is all-consuming. Not a minute goes by that I am not thinking about what I’m going to eat next or how I can keep myself from eating when the hunger pangs come.

Listen to my body? I don’t know what that means. I live my life by the clock and by calories. “At 10:00am I can eat 150 calories. I can’t eat again until 2:00pm at which time I can have 200 calories.” These thoughts are at the foreground of my mind almost constantly. You’d think “Eat when your hungry. Don’t eat when you’re not hungry” would be simple, self-explanatory. Not to me. I don’t know what that means. My body and I don’t communicate much.

I constantly compare myself to other girls. Girls on the street, girls in movies, girls in magazines. Any girl. And I usually come up short.

My clothes are old and ragged, because I refuse to buy new ones until I’ve reached my weight goal. Even when I’ve lost weight, I wear baggy clothing to hide my body.

People throughout my life have told me “You’re so beautiful!” or “You’re a perfect size”… I’ve never been able to believe them. It’s so hard. I feel like I should… I want to believe those things about myself… I want to believe I am beautiful and perfect and worthy of love. But as long as I am not my ideal weight, I can’t believe it.

I don’t know what made me like this. Maybe the sexual abuse I experienced during my childhood. Maybe the destructive messages from the society and the media. Maybe influences in my life growing up. Maybe I’m just a perfectionist. I don’t know.

I hate looking in the mirror. I disgust myself. I wish I could love myself. I am so jealous of girls who are comfortable with who they are and what they look like… I envy that freedom.

I want to be free.

I want to be free from this obsession, from this self-hate. I want to be healthy. I don’t want to starve myself. I don’t want to binge. I don’t want restrict my activities and even fail to reach my potential because of this heavy baggage I carry – the baggage of weight that is so much more than just physical. It is mental, emotional, spiritual. My whole identity is wrapped up in my body image. I just want to be free.

Many of my nightmares have to do with how I look and my shame about my body.

I am so tired of it.

I need help. I’m crying for help. I’ve kept all of this inside for so long. It’s been my secret obsession. It can’t be secret anymore. I need support. I need help to overcome this. Lately I’ve been playing around with the idea of engaging in anorexic behavior again. This is a major part of the reason I had a complete breakdown last night… I just couldn’t take it anymore. I felt like I would do ANYTHING to be skinny, even stop eating completely. And if I couldn’t… Well, I don’t want to go that place in my mind. I had stumbled across some pro-anorexic websites that were very triggering. Did you know that there’s an entire Facebook community of individuals deep in their eating disorders that support each other? It’s terrible. They post pictures of skeletal models and encourage each other not to eat. It’s terrifying. And yet it was strangely alluring… I don’t want to become that.

I’m afraid. I’ve lived with this obsession over food and weight so long, if I let go of it, I’m afraid I will feel a void… which leads me to believe that I must replace this obsession with something else. But what? And how do I stop the obsessive thoughts? How do I start accepting myself for who I am? How do I become happy with my body?

For most of my life, I have equated thinness with happiness. I need to change my thinking. But how? How do you change something that feels so ingrained in your soul?

How do I live… REALLY live… without this fear, this inner ache, that drives me into these self-destructive patterns?

I want to be free.

I have to set myself free… Thus far I have been determined to make the disorder, the cycle, work for me. I now realize that is has done nothing but destroy me. It has not brought me anything but pain and misery.

No one else can do this for me.

I can’t live with this anymore.

It is one of the last things I have to cling to, but I have to let it go if I am to be truly healthy.

I will overcome it, no matter what it takes…

Dear God, please give me strength…

And so it begins…

(This song describes exactly how I feel right now about all of this. I don’t know what I would do without music to help me express what I cannot…)

I told another lie today
And I got through this day
No one saw through my games
I know the right words to say
Like “I don’t feel well,” “I ate before I came”
Then someone tells me how good I look
And for a moment, for a moment I am happy
But when I’m alone, no one hears me cry

I need you to know
I’m not through the night
Some days I’m still fighting to walk towards the light
I need you to know
That we’ll be OK
Together we can make it through another day

I don’t know the first time I felt unbeautiful
The day I chose not to eat
What I do know is how I’ve changed my life forever
I know I should know better
There are days when I’m OK
And for a moment, for a moment I find hope
But there are days when I’m not OK
And I need your help
So I’m letting go

I need you to know
I’m not through the night
Some days I’m still fighting to walk towards the light
I need you to know
That we’ll be OK
Together we can make it through another day

You should know you’re not on your own
These secrets are walls that keep us alone
I don’t know when but I know now
Together we’ll make it through somehow
(together we’ll make it through somehow)

I need you to know
I’m not through the night
Some days I’m still fighting to walk towards the light
I need you to know
That we’ll be OK
Together we can make it through another day

April 20, 2010

Never Good Enough

Posted in recovery tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 4:28 pm by eddejae

These videos hit close to home…

I don’t know whether to cry or be angry…

Or what.

It’s all so confusing to me still… I have yet to get to the point where I’m comfortable in my own skin.

It seems such a daunting goal.

Will I ever reach it? Will the negative self-talk ever go away? The self-loathing? The hiding?

And will society ever let women be real?

I don’t know…. I don’t know.

Video #1

This next video made me think of my sister, who’s 12. She’s very thin, but she has a slightly more curvy body shape than some of her friends who still have very “little girlish” bodies… So, she thinks she needs to lose weight. I’m afraid of her becoming obsessive about it. I’m afraid of her becoming like me.

I don’t think we realize how what we say to young girls can affect them for a lifetime and that they are likely to model the kind of behavior they see in women they look up to.

I’ve felt bad about my body since I was eight years old.

My goal was to be a prima ballerina. I went to ballets. I watched. I saw how skinny those beautiful ballerinas were – so skinny they were basically bone and skin.

I compared myself to them. And to the other little girls in my ballet classes.

I didn’t have an ounce of fat on me, but I had a very large rib cage that stuck out. It was just ribs and skin, but it created a bit of an odd shape. None of the other girls had ribs like that. So, I thought I was fat. Didn’t help that my ballet teacher emphasized again and again the importance of having a certain “look” to our future success as dancers.

If it’s not weight, it’s something else.

At ten, I was made fun of for having to wear glasses. Somehow that made me an unlovable “nerd.”

Through junior high, I was actually taunted for being “short.” Or rather, shortER than my other girl friends.

In high school, I was so self-conscious about my acne that I wouldn’t leave the house unless forced.

At 16, I became anorexic.

My dance teacher told me that my calves were too large.

I gained some weight in college, and finally went through puberty, which had been delayed by my eating disorder. People who knew me when I was 85 pounds would make snide remarks such as “Filled out have we?” which I interpreted as “Boy, you’re fat now!”

So, I became bulimic.

I could give you a hundred examples of the social pressure I’ve experienced to look a certain way. Now my sister is going through it. Friends, teachers, the media… You can’t go anywhere without being reminded that you are “imperfect” in some way.

It’s horribly destructive.

Video #2

Last one…Video #3

This last video made me cry….

That’s…

Me.

…Will it always be?