Trigger / Solution

So… I haven’t written about my eating disorder in so long!

Why?

Well, because I don’t need to, most of the time. I have been stable in both weight and mental health for going on three years now. I cannot tell you how lucky that makes me feel; how grateful I am for the people and institutions who supported me; how deeply I understand how FUCKING HARD it is to come out of this whole.

To everyone still working… keep working. Be gentle with yourself. Try everything once. And most of all, find happiness somewhere– anywhere– and cherish that as you fill that up that deep sinkhole that food used to control.

It’s all pretty words, but I want anyone who is reading this to know that it is 100% hard but 100% possible to be “okay.” Remember how I also talked about how many YEARS it took? Yeah. So.

Anyway, the reason I’m posting now is because in cleaning out my computer, I found an old document. I feel certain I found it somewhere, so wherever it came from… sorry for stealing your great words. It’s a list of triggers and solutions. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great resource. I invite you to check it out.

With love and affection,
B.

A series of unfamiliar situations, “unsafe” foods, unpredictable environments, restaurants, and social eating, like a vacation.
(Solution: Plan ahead, bring my own foods, get through as many challenges as possible, but keep as much consistency as possible.  Seek accountability with one or more of my traveling partners and be completely honest.)

Feeling strong, happy, and successful.
(Solution: remember that I must eat to stay this way.  All strong people eat.)

Conflict within a friendship or family relationship
(Solution: Evaluate my role honestly; make amends if necessary; set boundaries and get out.)

Sadness or failure
(Solution: let myself feel all of my emotions; be gentle with myself.  Remember that I need to eat to have strength to cope.  Remember that no one is perfect.) SEE INSIDE OUT!!!!! (that’s from B)

Stress or busyness
(Solution: make eating a priority to myself.  Eliminate as much stress as possible from life.  Make dates with friends to ensure that I eat when I am “too busy.” )

Weight gain
(Solution: follow nutritionist’s recommendations and forget about it.  Don’t weigh myself.)

Feeling overwhelmed
(Solution: have a friend or therapist help me evaluate and simplify my life.  If I am still stressed, realize that it is BETTER TO QUIT SOMETHING than to fall back into my ED.)

A friend’s ED, weight loss, skipped meals or odd food/exercise habits
(Solution: remember that I am following a perfectly prescribed diet and that I need to do what is right and healthy for me.  Realize that I probably have much more substantial nutrition knowledge than them.  Avoid meal times or diet talk with affected friend.)

Clothes not fitting
(Solution: throw item away and purchase a replacement, preferably a different brand.  Realize that it’s not my failure; it’s the clothing designer’s failure.)

Reading about diets or seeing pictures of underweight celebrities
(Solution: don’t read it.  Get accountability in this area if need be.  If I am needing an escape, read a travel or home decoration magazine, or a Christian or psychology book.)

Sense of loneliness
(Solution: schedule time for meaningful interaction with another human—if I don’t have a friend, make one.  Be vulnerable and express my needs.)

Weight loss
(Solution: immediately evaluate the cause.  If related to illness, take time off from school/exercise/life to get better.  If related to ED behaviors, notify therapist and others and implement what is needed.  If accidental and repeated again the next week, add extra nutrition.  Treat it as a serious symptom.)

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#thursdaymorningtherapy

The last month has been very strange.

For the last few years that I’ve had a salaried part-time position., my schedule has been relatively set. I work from 11am or 12pm until around 5pm. LOTS happens around these times, but this was the basic structure of my weeks. Every day but Thursday.

Thursday was the day I had therapy. For about a year and a half, it was also the day I saw my nutritionist. Most other appointments were also scheduled for that day — GP, gyno, psychiatrist, dermatologist, dentist. Now, I could care less about those other appointments and doctors. Those weren’t what Thursdays were about.  Thursday was my recovery day, my healthy day, my day where my only job was to be well.

I stopped seeing my nutritionist in 2011. I only see my psychiatrist every four months or so. I only go to the GP once a year. And as of December 2013, I stopped seeing my therapist.

It is a very strange feeling that Thursday had this meaning for me, for so long. I think about it differently than other days. Even now, after about three months of Thursdays without requirements, it’s hard for me to reconcile it as just “any old day.” Last week, I took Wednesday off instead of Thursday at work. It was a good choice for my exhaustion, but it felt like a Thursday. And the Thursday I worked? I kept thinking it was Wednesday. No joke.

And another thing.

I miss my therapist. I am 100% certain that I don’t need her in my life right now, and 100% certain that I’m doing exactly the same thing I would have been doing had I still been seeing her, but I miss her. Four years of Thursdays. She knows me better than anyone on earth. And now we don’t speak. How weird is that?! I want to tell her about my successes. I want to cry in my chair across from hers. I want to talk about things that irritate me. I just… kind of want to see her face.

I expect this is normal. Even she acknowledged that leaving a therapy relationship is strange and hard. She shared her own experience of it. And it’s actually been less hard than I expected. I thought I’d feel heartbroken, like every time I thought about her I’d feel sad. That’s not the case. I just miss her. You know?

I talk to my mentees a lot about therapy. Many of them have had bad experiences with therapists, and it breaks my heart. I somehow lucked into finding the most incredible woman who trusted me and believed me and respected me and was there for me and worked with me in a way that worked with who I was. She is the best. I just want all of my mentees (and all of everyone!) to find this kind of person. Someone who is with you 100% every time you’re in her chair, and anytime out of it. Compassionate, caring, but not demeaning or diminishing of your agency.

But I don’t know how to help anyone find that, unless they’re in New York City and can afford her.

What I HAVE been sharing is the website for the specific type of therapy she frequently practiced with me, AEDP. I only know what it is because she sent me referrals for other practitioners of AEDP in other states. From their website:

There is no better way to capture the ethos of AEDP than to say this: we try to help our patients—and ourselves—become stronger at the broken places. By working with trauma, loss, and the painful consequences of the limitations of human relatedness, we discover places that have always been strong, places that were never broken.

Crisis and suffering provide opportunities to awaken extraordinary capacities that otherwise might lie dormant, unknown and untapped. AEDP, as a therapeutic approach, is about making the most of these opportunities for healing and transformation. Key to this experiential enterprise is the establishment of the therapeutic relationship as safe, secure base.

Tomorrow is Thursday. I will not go to therapy, I will not go to work. But I will go and perform a show. Because that’s what I’m lucky enough to be able to do. And much of that is thanks to these past four years of Thursdays.

If you guys are interested in learning more about AEDP or finding a certified therapist, here’s the website. http://www.aedpinstitute.org/

Love.

B.

“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery– air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, ‘This is what it is to be happy.'”
–Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

All she has to do is exist.

“‘You have the luxury of time. You’re young. Young people are doing something even when they’re doing nothing. A young woman is conduit. All she has to do is exist.’ You have time. Meaning don’t use it, but pass through time in patience, waiting for something to come. Prepare for its arrival. Don’t rush to meet it. Be a conduit. I believed him. I felt this to be true. Some people might consider that passivity but I did not. I considered it living.”
The Flamethrowers, by Rachel Kushner

One of the strangest things about day-to-day life is how mundane it seems. I get up. I go to the gym. I go to work. I go home. I make soup. I watch bad TV. I try and get auditions. I go to bed. Ostensibly, “nothing” is going on in my life.

I never really listen to music, except when I’m doing something else, like playing a game on my iPad or cooking, and it’s even more rare that I listen to music while walking down the street. But the other night, I did. I was on the train, and an Iron & Wine song came on shuffle. Now, there are LOTS of songs that bring up memories for me. But all of a sudden, this song jerked me into taking a step back and actually looking at what this “nothing” really is. And I’m shocked to discover that these days– morning to night– that feel so devoid, so par for the course, are the building blocks for an amazing life.

Sometimes I feel that way in New York. This place is idealized by so many people (I, for one, never really did– I guess I just always assumed I’d be here, and didn’t fantasize about it at all), and this is where my “nothing” life takes place. The capital of the WORLD. I have to stop myself, often, and marvel at this city. I literally stop in the street sometimes, and look up at the skyscrapers, like a nerd, and think to myself, “I am living a life that others dream of. No matter what else I’m doing, being here is a success.” Because it is. Because New York is fucking hard.

Also, because I am someone who comes from a state with two professional theatres (yes, I said “state” and “two”), I can’t forget my artistic life here. I don’t know how many Broadway and off-Broadway shows I’ve seen for free. This year alone, examples include but are not limited to: Hands on a Hardbody, Romeo and Juliet, The Nance, The Testament of Mary, Little Miss Sunshine, Golden Boy, Picnic… I have seen Julie Andrews in a bathroom, given Liam Neeson back the hat he forgot in a theatre (he was so sweet about it), and seen Patti LuPone, Phylicia Rashad, James Earle Jones, Dianne Wiest, Ellen Burstyn, Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Christopher Lloyd, Fiona Shaw, Daniel Radcliffe, Richard Griffiths, Zosia Mamet, and ENDLESS MORE live onstage, often from a few rows back. How cool is that? And I’ve met some of them too. I did a reading with Anthony Rapp. I did a reading directed by Shirley Knight. Stephen Sondheim saw me act. (sorry, Braggy McGhee just got excited).

L received news that she will receive her last chemo treatment on December 17. That’s literally two years and ten days after her initial diagnosis. She texted me and asked me to be there. I will. And I’m can’t believe it. Walking with L down this path has been so strange and awful and important and… it’s hard to talk about. When I talk about it too much, I feel like I’m being a “poor me” jerk who thinks she was more important than she actually was. But I have to be honest– I was there for a LOT of it. Probably more than anyone else besides her parents. That’s not nothing. And cancer, like all diseases, is powerful. It is a nuclear bomb, and anyone who is nearby when it explodes is infected with radiation. And those of us who bear it, and live with it, uncomfortable though it is, emerge with superpowers. Like Spiderman. (someone shut me up)

Then “Now We Can See” by the Thermals came on as I was trudging up the subway stairs. The last song in the first show “my” company ever produced. 2010. We were very young, kinda dumb, but with enthusiasm and self-confidence, poured to overflowing into this strange group of young people. What a strange, wonderful first New York theatrical experience. We won awards and got raves, yes, which was amazing and thrilling and great, but even more special was the feeling that washed over all of us as we sang this song, stomping, clutching the mikes, shaking our styled hair, in one of the most historic theatres in New York. What was that feeling? A strange mix of confidence, hope, and more than anything, joy. We overflowed. Regardless of what would happen next, those moments in the Ellen Stewart Theatre were unforgettable.

I spent four years with my therapist, and now I’m phasing out. I think I have two more sessions. WHO KNEW I’d ever get to this point? I sure didn’t. I frankly didn’t know what I thought, but in the last four years, I’ve felt so far from “stable” that leaving wasn’t even a thought. But here I am. Moving forward, out of therapy, because I have done so much goddamn work. And that’s the most amazing thing– not, “oh my god, weirdo me is leaving therapy! Crazy!” but “Look at all this SHIT I had to fight through, tooth and nail, to get to this point. Look at how hard I worked. Look at all the time I spent fighting for the life I have now. I battled an eating disorder, crushing anxiety, self-hatred, depression, mania, self-injury in every way you can imagine, and I’ve come out the other side. And I have confidence that I can care for myself, for the first time in a long time. Isn’t THAT crazy?”

My life is nothing special to me, as I walk through it. And yet, I realize that I have walked through incredible forests, forded wild rivers. I am lucky to have it, and I am grateful. Overwhelmingly.

 

Treatment Options for Binge Eating Disorder

This is amazing. I 100% support everything written here, and I have used many of these tools in my (pretty much complete? Eek!) recovery.

Dear Bee

Question from a lovely reader this morning: 

I was wondering what the treatment options are for Binge Eating Disorder. Obviously there are different severities of the disorder and different treatments needed for different people on a case-by-case basis, but I was wondering if maybe you could summarize some of the options out there for some of us.

Basically what I’m saying is, I have Binge Eating Disorder, and it is currently running and ruining my life. I really really need help but I want to know what I’m in for. Is inpatient a thing that happens with BED, ever? Is it usually therapy? What goes on for a typical patient, what is considered “severe,” etc…. I don’t know if there’s one good question in there to answer, but I’m really hoping you might have a bit of input, given that you are a) in recovery and b) on your way…

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What Once We Felt

I spent a portion of tonight re-reading many archived emails deep in the “vault”: I have archives in my box that go back to September 2008.

I can’t say it makes me feel good, but I know why I do it. I do it to make sense of the things that happened to get me to where I am. Because I do this… well, not infrequently… I remember most of what’s there. But occasionally I stumble upon something that really hits me.

Here are a few things, for my reference, so I have them in one place… and I wonder if some of them bring up things for others. Sending love.

B.

November 2009 – Feeling Like a Victim

Tough session with [therapist] today. It started great… I told her about how great it felt to do Katie’s birthday, a lot of what I expressed to you on Friday. But somehow we sort of got on how I have a hard time feeling like I know how to care for others (I never know what to say!), and maybe that’s because I don’t know how I want to be taken care of. I ended up telling her about this weird thing I have about always wanting to be a victim– like loving being in the hospital when I got that kidney test done, all the Holocaust and Salem Witch Trial obsession stuff– weird stuff. What amazed me was how often I feel that way (wanting people’s pity, wanting to  suffer), and although I don’t totally know why, part of it ist that I feel like I need some sort of validation to be in pain. Like my life didn’t give me any reason to be in pain, and an outward, excessive expression of suffering (like being in a hospital) would allow me that. I feel that way shockingly often.
 
[Therapist] had me try and isolate a place where I felt truly sad– the place that I feel like I need a “reason” to feel. From there we spent a long time “exploring” this deep, ancient grotto of sadness. That sounds really esoteric, but we sort of found this imagined location where I spent a long time. We didn’t “discover” anything, I didn’t have any great realizations, but we explored. It wasn’t a comfortable place to be for a long time.

November 2009 – What Is Going On?

[Therapist],
 
I want you to know some things that I haven’t yet expressed. It is really, really difficult for me to say them, and I think that’s part of the reason I haven’t yet. I wrote a list of sentences I wanted to share and am sending them to you in this sort of unfinished form because otherwise I’m not sure I’d be able to.
 
I eat when I’m not hungry
I feel as though I can’t stop eating
I feel guilty afterwards
I don’t starve myself after I binge, and I don’t purge, so that’s good
 
Even though I know I should gain weight (I bought a scale and I weigh between 98 and 102lbs) the idea of gaining weight is really scary to me and repulsive to me.
 
I love cooking and making food. When I binge I don’t cook, I just eat. I don’t focus on anything but putting the food into my mouth. There is no joy in it.

I hide this from everyone—I only binge when no one is looking.
 
Besides the binging, I am a very healthy person. I feel good about the way I treat my body beyond this one thing.

February 2010 – What People Are Saying / What I Am Feeling

Then, after I finished classes, I got a text from the Theatre Department manager asking me to come to her office. I went up, and we talked about some work things/business stuff (because I’m the head of the department’s assistant, so I help with money and paperwork stuff). Then she asked me to sit down. When she almost started crying, I knew what she was going to bring up, and sure enough, she told me that “there is a lot of concern in the department about whether you have an eating disorder.” She was really sweet and caring (as everyone is when they talk about this stuff to me), but in the place I already was yesterday, it was especially hard for me to hear and kind of put me over the edge. I didn’t know what to say and I just felt really lost and misunderstood. I told her what I always say, about the fact that it was accidental and I know it’s weird and I SO appreciate the concern and all of that, and also that I am making direct efforts to help myself. Of course she was really wonderful about all of it, but I felt self-conscious and really sad all through the rest of the day.

On my way home, I called my mom to tell her how it went, and opened up about how frustrated I was feeling. At some point she said, “I’m glad you’re taking care of yourself, but I’m sorry it had to take your hip injury to make you realize that you need to deal with this problem.” I reacted to that, saying that I had been taking care of this particular “problem” long before my hip started hurting (I’m not sure if I told you, but the hip stuff may be related to demineralization, which could be related to the weight loss). I tried to explain to her what I was hearing and what I didn’t agree with in that, and we came to a kind of understanding, but I think therein lies the root of what I’m feeling right now…

 I wish I wasn’t feeling quite so hyperaware of how other people are perceiving the way I look, and I also wish I didn’t have to jump through all these hoops with doctors and meds, but that’s sort of where I’m at right now. I feel a lot of resistance towards calling the internist and even more towards the nutritionist (I think because I don’t want to be seen as someone with a problem with eating that has to be fixed– I just want to keep doing what I’m doing). And, frankly, I don’t want to take the birth control for very vain reasons– I felt moody, I broke out, and I gained weight. I know the goal is to gain weight, but I want to do it on my terms, not the pills’ terms. Maybe that’s a sign of a “problem,” but I still want to be in control of the things that happen to my body. With all of these things to change how I’ve been going through my life the last few months (a life I feel REALLY good about), I’m feeling nervous, sad, and lost. I’m feeling a lot of resistance to all of this but I think I just have to buck up and do it. I do want to be healthy. But I wish it wasn’t mixed up with all of this.

February 2010 – Acting Notes Sound Like Porn

First Orgasm Sillhouette – we will look at this today but maybe you can sit on his lap on “why are you so sweet, so juicy, and so bad?” – so that it is easier for you to climb up the wall?  I want to hold your back arched for a bit longer with your hand up before you moan.

March 2010 – Bragging

And then I rediscovered this: one of the final scenes from the play I did in Feb/March 2010. It was for a forum at my school about Religion and Madness. I went to a Jesuit school. I flashed a lot of people. You’re welcome. Don’t judge me.

 

Self-Sabotage

First of all, did you know Make It or Break It was back, Scarlett?! Live TV… who knew what wonders it could hold.

Anyway. Second to last day at home before heading back to the city. And today I felt depressed and sick all. day. What the hell. It’s been a nice visit– calm, generally pleasant, very little pressure to “do,” enough stuff to keep me entertained but not overwhelmed. Then all of a sudden, I’m on a binging bender and basically make myself ill. I mean, really? Do I TRY to make myself feel like shit?

Once I’m back in NYC, I’m always grateful. I have a wonderful life there. But it’s always hard to leave home. Part of that is totally fucked up, because I had the most miserable moments of my life in this house, in the room I’m currently sleeping in. I left here when I was 16 because I knew it wasn’t a healthy place for me to be, emotionally. So why do I keep coming back, and why does it hurt to leave? Part of it is certainly the rarity of my visits– at most three times a year I come back. Let’s see… I was home last Christmas, and last summer, and before summer? God, it must have been Christmas. So really, just two times. And it’s really, really far. Four hours-ish NYC to Denver, usually a two hr layover, and then two and a half ish hours Denver to Idaho. That’s a long day. And travel just isn’t fun like it was when I was a kid.

I’ll bet I’m self-sabotaging myself emotionally because I don’t like leaving. Not that that explains anything– I can’t figure out why I don’t like leaving and it’s a sick riddle why I’m so goddamn good at making myself feel bad.

My nutritionist used to rationalize the binging in a really smart way. My therapist does a similar thing with my rampant neuroses. Binging helps me stuff my feelings in/numb myself, and gives me an excuse to withdraw. My self-criticism was an attempt to keep myself “good” as a kid, when “bad” was the only kind of kid I ever felt like I was. My social anxieties protected me from getting hurt.

All of this is well and good, and certainly true, but it’s unconscious. It’s uncontrollable. And that fucking terrifies me. I doubt I’m alone here. That’s another thing my nutritionist mentioned about the binging. It’s like this inner chaos that rebels against the parts of me that are desperate to keep everything under control. I have a history of extreme feelings (manic-depression is a diagnosable example of this), and try as I might to keep everything clicked in line and perfect and simple, there are parts of me that refuse to be harnessed. I’ve never been good at balance.

I have one more day here, and then on Wednesday, I fly back to the city. Once I get there, landed and home in my bed in my little studio, I know I’ll feel better. Once I see my friends, I know this little internal discomfort will fade. I’ll slide back into my routine and forget that this trip even really happened. I won’t miss it or feel sad about it… it will just fade away in the wake of my “real life.”

But right now, I feel off. And I have one day to “fix” it, which of course is the most emotionally triggering concept on the planet.

Even I’m impressed by my abilities to subconsciously make my own life miserable.

“What is to be expected of them is not treachery, or physcial cowardice, but stupidity, unconscious sabotage, an infallible instinct for doing the wrong thing.” 
― George Orwell

For Better or For Worse

So far, so good.

I went to the gym this morning, my favorite class. It’s taught by this big black man named Paul, who is hilarious and warm. The usual folks at this class could be translated into a sitcom– there’s Erica, the buff white girl who dates black men, whose favorite song is “Golddigger.” There’s Hoodie Ray, buff and big, who wears hoodies and pounds some serious dumbells, silent as the day he was born. There’s Yulie from the Bronx, and Little One from Queens. There are the Jens, Jen 1 and 2, a white couple, mid-twenties, who often come to class together. There’s Cathy the Asian woman from down the block, and Big Nick, tall and gay. And I’m my own character too now, cute and silly, high voiced and enthusiastic. We play “Name that Tune” with old school beats, we answer themed questions like “What was your worst date” and then do 25 thrusters. It makes it worth it.

But I felt pretty shitty today. I saw myself in the mirror and I didn’t like what I saw. I saw a blob of white flesh, a non-descript face, puffy and pink. I saw thick thighs, emphasized by the clinging of my yoga pants. I saw an ass that blended into these thighs, plushy and fat. I saw thick, undefined arms, blurring into the white wall. I hated myself. It was unpleasant. And made me just want to be better, instantly, be perfect, with the snap of my fingers, never eat again.

Of course, that’s not the answer, and for better or for worse (for BETTER, B, it’s for BETTER), I can’t starve myself life I used to. I can’t feel hunger and not feed myself. I know that’s a really positive step. I do. But at the same time, I wish that I could do what I used to do without thinking, cutting my meals down into snack portions, a tiny portion of cereal for breakfast, plain yogurt with a third of an apple, a small bowl of salad with a splash of balsamic for lunch, a quarter serving of couscous with sauteed veggies and one tenth of a block of tofu for dinner. Tea. Water. Probably around 800 calories or less per day. It felt normal, but it wasn’t normal.

I can’t eat like that anymore. Over the last two years, my nutritionist rewove the fabric of my brain about food– noticing what’s too little, despite any ED logic to the contrary (“but I ate too much last night!” “but I just wasn’t hungry!”). And I know that eating too little just leads to eating too much. These things I KNOW.

But just because those are the facts doesn’t mean that I spend significant portions of my lifewishingbeyond belief that it were otherwise.

Wishing that I didn’t binge.
Wishing that I could “diet.”
Wishing I could stick to a firm food plan.
Wishing I could control the feeling of hunger and the feeling of fullness.
Wishing I could slice off the excess on my body and make myself lean, clean, just the core of me.

But I can’t. I can’t do it. I have to just go day by day. I have to let myself hate myself and then move on, because life doesn’t change in a day. I have to take each meal as a new challenge– a challenge I sometimes fail. I have to honor my hunger because I cannot control it. I have to find a way to love myself so that I have the strength to walk outside at all. I have to find a way to love myself because my whole life is comprised of meetings where I work to convince other people that they need me (for their play, their movie, their friend, their colleague).

It’s fucking hard, though. And I often feel like no progress has been made– that I’ve been mired in the depths of this disgusting, shameful disorder for years and years with no escape. I feel entrenched, suffocated, covered in fat and carbs and food I’ve shoved into my mouth. And I feel so angry that this happened to me, especially at this time in my career, in my life, where I NEED to be at my best, emotionally and physically.

But here I am. And I have come far.

I have talked to my friends about my feelings.
I have honored my hunger.
I have admitted when I’m at my worst, and honored it.
I have also sucked it up and ventured out when I’m at my worst.
I have never purged, no matter how many times it seems like the right idea, the solution to all of this.
I have forgiven myself, every single day.

“It isn’t easy, it doesn’t count if it’s easy, it’s the hardest thing. Forgiveness. Which is maybe where love and justice finally meet.” –Tony Kushner, Angels in America

__________________________________________________________________________________

Harper: In your experience of the world. How do people change?

Mormon Mother: Well it has something to do with God so it’s not very nice.
God splits the skin with a jagged thumbnail from throat to belly and then plunges a huge filthy hand in, he grabs hold of your bloody tubes and they slip to evade his grasp but he squeezes hard, he insists, he pulls and pulls till all your innards are yanked out and the pain! We can’t even talk about that. And then he stuffs them back, dirty, tangled and torn. It’s up to you to do the stitching.

Harper: And then up you get. And walk around.

Mormon Mother: Just mangled guts pretending.

Harper: That’s how people change. ”

–Tony Kushner, Angels in America