Life After Bullies

i wonder if adults
ever look back
to the havoc they caused
in other children’s lives
i wonder if the bullies knew
their hateful words affected
someone so deeply that
twenty years later
that person finally began
to claw their way out
from under the stone
you threw all those
years ago

why don’t we try harder
to teach children that
words hurt
how did they learn
to be so cruel
at such a young age
life throws enough stones
we don’t need bullies
to pile on

i wonder what my life
would look like if
i wasn’t told
i wore the wrong clothes
or ate the wrong lunch
or liked the wrong music
i wonder what my life
would look like if
i played with friends
at recess instead of
walked the track
with my math teacher

i’d like to think
i’m stronger now
but it would have been
so much better
to develop that strength
independent of fear
and rejection
to test my strength
in other ways

now adults are
picking up the pieces
left by hurtful kids
trying to become their
own person separate
from the who they
thought they were
because others
told them so


I am very passionate about the affects of bullying and cyberbullying that children experience in schools. To learn more about how to make a change, please visit the following sites:

https://www.stopbullying.gov/

http://stompoutbullying.org/

https://rachelschallenge.org/

160,000 STUDENTS SKIP SCHOOL EVERY DAY FOR FEAR OF BEING BULLIED.

 

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floating like a lily pad
past all of the drifting flowers
freely opening their leaves
to the sun as the wind blows them
why am i the one
the frogs land on
while they observe the view
i would give anything
to be something that
draws attention like that

and yet
i love being there
to support the frog
to keep him out of the water
while he takes in the view

Finding Pride in the Progress

*TW: Self harm

I am discharging from UCSD’s Eating Disorders Center for Treatment and Research in three weeks and yesterday my dietician told me I’m under my admit weight. Meaning, I’ve lost weight since I started this program. So before I talk about my progress in program, let’s talk about how much that sucks.

Basically for the duration of program, I will be adding a fattening shake to each meal in a final ditch effort to get me to a restored weight. The thing about weight restoration is, not only does it mess with your already crappy body image, but the added volume to meals is incredibly uncomfortable. When you start an eating disorder program, it’s pretty uncomfortable for you and your GI system. You’re basically teaching your body how to eat again. I firmly believe that the closest friends you will ever make are in an ED program only because of how often we pass gas in front of each other in a desperate attempt to maintain a sliver of comfort in our guts. And, of course, nothing is quite as sobering as supervised bathroom visits. I feel bad for all the therapists in our program…they’ve heard more than they ever should. Bless their hearts. Long story short, I’m not looking forward to my body doing yet another adjustment to the volume of food I’m having to intake.

In other respects, I feel more ready to discharge than I ever have. It’s terrifying, but earlier this week I was able to get a glimpse of how much I’ve progressed in the four months I’ve been in treatment. Not just with eating, but with other urges.

A few nights ago, I was suddenly overcome with self harm urges. Instead of trying to handle it myself (which I knew I wouldn’t have been able to do) I reached out to my therapist (Nikki, remember her?!).  After some pretty low-key discussions about effectiveness and long term goals, I realized that it wasn’t going to be enough. I quickly told Nikki that I needed to use a TIPP skill because I was coming dangerously close to ruining the near 50-day streak of no self harm.

In short, TIPP is a DBT skill (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, for those unfamiliar). It stands for Temperature, Intense Exercise, Progressive Muscle Relaxation, and Paced Breathing. Basically, it’s a distress tolerance to get you down from a 10/10 emotional state. When I first learned about distress tolerance, I learned that anywhere from seven to a ten on the emotional scale was the “danger zone,” and a DT skill should be used to get below a seven. After that, you can begin using emotion regulation skills to continue managing the emotion that decided to go haywire.

Back to earlier in the week. I knew that I needed a shock to my system; everything was triggering me, from the walls and door frames that I wanted to hit my wrists against, to the dinner fork sitting next to me that made me wonder how sharp the tongs actually were. The most effective letter in the TIPP skill for me is T: Temperature. The goal is to shock your system enough to clear your head. It uses the dive reflex, referencing what your body experiences when diving into deep water. To enable submersion for a long period of time, heart rate slows and blood rushes to the major organs to keep them going. By using ice on your face, getting in a cold shower, or even getting your hands, arms, and face wet with cold water, you are triggering that dive reflex.

So, with shaking hands, I filled my tub with the coldest water I could muster and dipped my toes in. But, as I stood with icy water lapping at my ankles, all I could think about was punching the shower wall in front of me. When I got to the point where my fist was resting on the cool surface of the wall, I realized that simply dipping my feet wasn’t going to be enough. I grabbed my book of cryptograms- one of my go-to distraction methods- and sat my ass down in the tub. I was crying, shivering hard, and trembling from the intense anxiety I was experiencing. On top of that, I was fiercely trying to focus on my latest cryptogram, as I had only decoded two letters at the point that I entered the bathroom.

Here’s the thing: it worked. I had no hope of it working, in fact I was convinced that my urges would overwhelm me and I would end up with bruises that I would have to explain to Nikki the next day. But the freezing water slowed down my breathing, and the puzzle held my attention while TIPP did it’s job. When my distress slipped below a seven on the intensity scale, I changed the water temperature from cold to warm, and sat in the tub with my book and relaxed my muscles. An hour later I was drifting off to sleep, bruise and scar free.

Upon reflection, I am so damn proud of myself. Not giving in to an urge that seemed so overpowering when it started is something I’ve marked as one of my biggest recovery milestones. It made me realize how far I had come since I started my first treatment program that targeted my self harm. A month ago, I couldn’t have done that. A year ago a sure as shit couldn’t have done that. Not only couldn’t I have done it, I wouldn’t have even tried.

So, yes I am still underweight and discharge terrifies me. Meals are still overwhelming, as are all other urges. But this week taught me that I am fully capable of progress, and assured me that it never ends. I will always be moving forward, and just because I have a more positive attitude about recovery now doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to make mistakes along the way.

Your Ass is Mine, ED

I’ve been drafting this post for a few days now, and I was ready for it to be a Debbie Downer; I figured it was time I just open up about the lowest points and the toughest struggles. I returned to work this week, which was quite difficult, and I received my tentative discharge date, which spiked my anxiety and lowered my self-confidence. And then today happened.

A switch flipped.

Today, I suddenly feel ready to battle my eating disorder. My therapist has helped me put on my boxing gloves and pushed me into the center of the ring, and I’m ready to take the first swing. I am a fucking warrior princess.

Earlier today I met a friend for coffee who discharged from program a couple of weeks ago. We discussed life after treatment, and what recovery looks like. I ended up disclosing to her one of the largest obstacles between me and recovery: lying. Dishonesty is what drives eating disorders. They live in the shadows of secrecy and deception. My honesty has been slowly improving in the last few weeks, but suddenly I was ready to kill the lies that have been stopping me from achieving progress in recovery. I’m tired of fighting this fight. And yet, somehow, I found the energy to stand back up and do what I need to do to live. You can’t live if you never eat.

In the last few weeks I’ve come to recognize that the darkness doesn’t completely go away. The urges never fade. Today I was triggered and sat with self harm urges all day. I’m still sitting with them. But I realized it’s what you do with those urges that shows progress and recovery. Today marks 41 days with no self harm. Forty. One. Mother. F*cking. Days. Tomorrow it will be 42. It’s time I start marking down days with no ED behaviors.

The world is going to be triggering. Diet culture exists. There are folks who are uneducated about self harm and eating disorders and depression and God knows what else. And that doesn’t mean I have to act on the urges that arise because of these triggers.

I’ve come a long frickin’ way since I started treatment. I remember my first month thinking, “I don’t need to be here, I’m different from all of these other patients. There’s no way they can relate to me.” I shake my head at the person who thought that. Now, the friends I’ve made in treatment are some of my best, and they understand me like no one else does. Just like I understand them.

A dear friend of mine discharged from program today and got to process about her time in treatment. She talked about her ups and downs and her feeling of freedom from her ED. Suddenly I found myself crying at her words- the first time I had ever cried in a process group in program.* I’m not one to cry in front of others. In fact, until today I was convinced I couldn’t. But the floodgates opened as I realized that I have the power to conquer this disorder. I have the opportunity to feel freedom, just like my friend.

I cried because I was relieved. I cried because I was overwhelmed. I cried because I’m ready. I cried because I’m so scared.

I’m absolutely terrified of what recovery means. But I’m ready to be afraid. To take the leap anyway, because my future depends on it.

 

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I feel so incredibly lucky to be surrounded by a small army of warriors every day. The friends I have made in treatment have cheered for me at my worst and celebrated with me at my best. Much of my strength comes from them. I was so incredibly fortunate to have had this revelation with them today. To know that as scared as I am to take the first swing at my disorder, they are behind me to back me up and root for me.

Recovery. It’s happening. Look out, Eating Disorder. Your ass is about to get kicked.

 

 

*While writing this post I realized that I am roughly half as energized and motivated as I was earlier today. And yet, I’m still energized and motivated. Just to give you a sense of how intense this day was for me.

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on a night i want burned deep into the flesh
of my memory
like a burn
a scar that will never fade
i hold tightly
to you
the stranger
with a smile that lit a fire somewhere deep inside me
long strong nimble fingers
that floated through the air along with your words
my legs quivering beneath the weight of your
lips on mine

i know i will soon forget
the scar will fade
slipping off my memory bank
back into the darkness of my mind
so i must hold on now
hold on as tight as i can
until i know i must let go
feeling should not be wasted
despite time being ever fleeting

The Bitch Bag Breakup™️

So, listen Sasha. We gotta talk.

You and I both know we have a long history. I’ve been wrapped around your finger for years. Our hands stay intertwined no matter where we go, and when I can’t find you I panic. It helps that you’re gorgeous; everything I wish I could look like (and more). I think you did that on purpose. You see, while I was fawning over you for all this time, you figured out exactly how to keep me around. Promising a life of beauty, happiness, art, and endless pain to foster my creativity. After all, you were the one who told me good art comes from suffering. And I believed you for a long time. Until now.

I’m outing you, Sasha. You’re emotionally abusive, and I can’t take it anymore. It’s time to shine a spotlight on you in front of the world. You thrive in secrecy. The shadows is where you like to play. Not anymore. It’s time everyone knew you for who you are: an emotionally manipulative piece of garbage. In fact, you’re more like the gum someone scraped off their shoe and stuck to the garbage in the trash can. Someone close to me recently described you as a “bitch bag.” I’m sorry to laugh but…you know what, I’m actually not sorry at all.

I’ve written a lot of posts about you and your devious ways, Sasha, but I always end up slinking back to you at the end of the day. Desperate to cover myself under the cloak of your shadow. But this is my promise to fight you. To not let you seduce me into your twisted ways. To not hinder my recovery for the sake of your comfort.

So, there it is Sash. I’m declaring this our official breakup. I’m taking back the reigns from your thin, frail hands. I’m going to live my life now. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.

 

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The inspiration for this breakup is funded in part by Demi Lovato’s Sorry Not Sorry. Please find the lyrics here, as I have been playing it on repeat all day.

*If this post has left you thoroughly confused, please feel free to learn all about who Sasha is and why we are so codependent here.

Promise of Recklessness

I have a friend who, in my opinion, writes beautifully. Her writing is reckless, yet eloquent and poised. She dives deep underneath the surface of herself and her subject to explore the meaning that lies underneath. My perfectionism tells me I need to be like her; a profound writer. An explorer. A collaborator. A curator. When I read her work I immediately feel inspired to work, to get something on the page. Yet when I do, I’m met with contempt in my own mind. I scrap it, claiming what I write will never be as good as hers.

The thing is, I can’t allow my perfectionism entrance into my creative hemisphere. I can allow it to open the door and poke it’s head in, but it is not welcome across the threshold. I write enough about perfection and it’s role in my life, but when do I stop writing about how I’m going to ignore it, and actually start ignoring it? Otherwise this blog is just proof of my hypocrisy. And I sure as hell won’t write anything profound if I delete everything I create. I read a quote recently from Austin Kleon, author of Show Your Work! that sums this up pretty perfectly: “You can’t find your voice if you don’t use it.”

As I write this, I’m sitting on a bench on a cliff with the ocean spread wide beneath me. It glimmers and glistens in the sunlight, moving effortlessly. I look out at the water and think “That is perfection.” But then I notice the waves bumping into one another, tripping over themselves as they stumble towards the sand beneath me. The surface is smooth in some places and rough in others. Boats carve white trails in it’s surface. No two waves look exactly the same.

Nothing is perfect. Not even the sea, despite it’s many idyllic qualities. The sea is chaotic. Constantly giving and taking with reckless abandon. Today, as the sun warms my face and my nose inhales the salty air, I am making a promise to be more like the ocean. Unforgiving. Exploratory. Imperfect.