Y’all. I just had Chinese takeout. AND ate something new. (I haven’t ordered takeout in maybe four years.)
Got nothing to say now, do you Sasha?!
That’s what I thought.
Y’all. I just had Chinese takeout. AND ate something new. (I haven’t ordered takeout in maybe four years.)
Got nothing to say now, do you Sasha?!
That’s what I thought.
Good afternoon, readers. Happy Saturday!
So, do you remember when I told you why I named this blog “Putting Down the Rope”? (No shame, if not. Read it here.)
Well, since treatment ended I’ve been feeling much more like myself. I’m sure recovery and the right cocktail of meds is doing the trick, but it’s so relieving to feel more productive, creative, etc. It feels like I’m putting down the rope.
Last night I had the opportunity to attend an art installation at my friends’ art co-op, Holy Unlikely. It was a gathering of some really amazing people, both extremely talented and exceedingly kind. I brought some of my photographs/poems to display in the visual art/gallery-style portion of the evening; something I would have never done a month ago. But now, I wanted to display it. My self-doubt was no longer shrouding my consciousness and I was proud to display the more vulnerable parts of myself. (Recognize the work?)
Later on we arrived at the performance portion of the evening– open mic style– where anyone and everyone were encouraged to sign up to share music, performance art, poetry, random thoughts, etc. I already knew I was going to abstain from participating in this part of the show; I was perfectly content being invisible in the audience. The last time I said I was going to do an open mic night, I ended up hiding in the bathroom when it was my turn. (I still can’t apologize enough to my friend who took the time to learn the song I planned on singing that night…I owe you one, Skyler.)
But last night was different. I felt safe. I felt comfortable. And I was surrounded by people who were baring their souls, just like I wanted to.
You see, art got me through some of the worst times. If it weren’t for this blog, I don’t know if I would be this far along on the road to recovery. It carries me when I can’t lift a leg to walk, it flies me into the clouds when I’m elated.
The memory of this feeling is what made me decide to share the art that got me through some of the hardest times of my life with a group of mostly strangers. I read three of my poems. I didn’t stutter, choke on nothing, or shake so badly it looked like I was having a seizure. And, most importantly, I didn’t hide in the bathroom when they called my name. I told everyone I have an eating disorder, and got applause when I mentioned I discharged from treatment. I read the poem that helped me realize the staff at clinic knew what they were doing even if I thought they didn’t. I read about love, I read about feeling invisible. You can’t take that away from me. Neither can Sasha.
Afterwards, the strangers, who I suppose weren’t strangers after all, came up to me to thank me or share their opinion. One person came up to me and told me they were proud of me and gave me a hug.
The thing is, I feel like shit most days. I’m warring with that rope most days, unable to believe what I have to say or create makes any difference in the world. But yesterday was not most days.
Yesterday I stood up in front of a crowd and delivered three poems into a microphone. My first public performance.
When you put down the rope you can live your life worth living.
Art is subjective, it’s meant to be shared. Art helps me exist in the world. My wise mind knew this enough to allow me to put down the rope, and walk to the microphone- raw hands and all.
Well, that”s it. I am officially discharged from program! I was hoping to publish this yesterday, on my actual D-Day, but alas, time got away from me.
So, here we are. My first day of freedom. I definitely thought I would feel terrified to discharge, and I ended up leaving program yesterday feeling really positive. I’ve learned all I can…it’s up to me now.
I wanted to post something profound, but there’s really not much to say that hasn’t already been said.
The biggest obstacle I’m already facing is dealing with the loneliness. I no longer have a place to go and see friends every day. It feels a lot like graduating from college; you suddenly wonder what to do when you can’t just go hang out at your friends’ place anymore. If anyone has advice to combat loneliness, feel free to leave it in the comments.
Thank you for everyone’s support! The road to recovery is longer than ever, but I’m still walking!
Wow. It’s my last week of treatment at my eating disorder clinic. I discharge in three days. What a long ride it’s been. And how strange to be leaving a place I’ve come to find comfort in. It’s funny thinking of it as comfortable, considering what has happened in those four walls over the last 5 months. I could say so much about my time in treatment- and I’m sure I will, eventually- but these are the memories, thoughts, and feelings that stuck with me:
On my second day of program I was in the bathroom before morning snack, texting my parents that I was going to leave. (This was after an early morning discussion in which I told them I wasn’t even going to show up for day two. I did.) Before snack I was still incredibly full from breakfast, and my body was making the adjustments it naturally makes when you start feeding it after a long period of starvation. I wasn’t going to tough it out, I was convinced the program wasn’t for me, that my eating disorder wasn’t as bad as everyone else’s, and that I didn’t need to be there. I told them I’d go to a less intense program. Something better suited for me. I sat in that stall and cried and cried. My mom told me to call her, but as I was being supervised in the bathroom, I didn’t. What came next was an avalanche of encouragement from both parents. My dad ended up telling me what I used to survive some of the hardest moments of program: taking it one minute at a time. One bite at a time. If I could conquer the next five minutes, I could do anything.
And here I am, one week left and still taking it bite by bite. It’s how I got this far.
I remember thinking that when I was done and discharged from program, I would be 100% better; “cured” from my eating disorder. I couldn’t have been more wrong. But don’t flinch, I didn’t say that was a bad thing. You see, I have made significant progress in my time here. Sometimes I don’t recognize myself. And other times, it’s really hard and I feel like I’m starting back at square one. What I’ve learned is: that’s recovery. It’s messy and difficult and nonlinear and a constant battle. It’s how I fight the battle that marks the progress and proves that I’m walking the road to recovery. It’s a long road with a lot of potholes and the sun beats down on you, but at the end of the day, I have the tools I need to be successful in my recovery. That is what I am choosing to focus on in these last three days.
I experienced the widest range of emotions in this program. The many meals I sat at the table in the dining room and cried into my lap, not able to look at the meal I couldn’t complete. Feeling shame as my peers would walk past me, exiting the dining room, and some squeezing my shoulders; a reassurance that only caused me more shame. They got to leave, but I couldn’t. They were watching me struggle.
And from there, the bonds deepened. On my darkest days I was seen. On theirs, I could see them. We never left each others’ side. Always hoisting each other up, carrying one another from one mile marker to the next. We were going to cross that finish line, and we would cross it together, whether we did that physically or otherwise.
Not only was there anguish, but there was intense joy. We all rooted for one another; when someone overcame a major barrier in their disorder, we were elated. Nothing will compare to when one of the younger patients, a dear friend of mine, found out he got accepted to NYU in the middle of program. That night, while checking out, everyone in the room listed him getting into NYU as their best moment from the day. Even now, I beam whenever I think of it. We are a family. When we struggle, we support each other, when we celebrate, we hoist each other up.
I still have tough meals (and tough days) despite being in my last week of program. And each time I struggle, I look around at the room of people, who understand what it’s like to struggle with something that comes so easily to everyone else, and find comfort.
I may be a warrior princess, but it’s only because of the army standing behind me.
To my friends in program: I will miss you all so much. Each one of you is so special and so beautiful, and I am privileged to know you all. Never stop fighting. Never stop putting down the rope.
celebrating the end
when you’re moving
back to the beginning
On my last Friday in program, my last Friday upstairs in the place where I started, my last Friday with some of my closest friends, I had to write about it. I hope you expected nothing less.
the three of us march side by side
not in any rush to get anywhere
except to the place that drew us together
we laugh and joke
with those around us
leaving our struggles in our wake
this is our time
we sit down by the water
watching the ducks swim by
anxiously waiting for someone
to take their dog on a walk nearby
so that we may experience some
unbridled joy that radiates
from the furry four-legged creature
amidst the stress of pushing ourselves
no matter the weather
i go with them
i bundle myself up
because i know what i have to sacrifice
to keep up the tradition
and after all it’s not really a sacrifice
it’s an opportunity
to be fully present with the ones
who changed my life
who taught me to rise above
the hardship and celebrate
the successes no matter how small
i know this is not the end
our friendship defies the walls
of the building that introduced us
and yet i still mourn
no longer seeing them every day
no longer joining them
for one hour at the end of every week
to take a collective deep breath
it is a dialectic
so today i will spread my blanket
on the grass once more
and lay under a blue sky
the sun gracing us with it’s presence
as if it knew we needed it on this day
and laugh and share and breathe
on our final mindful walk
an ode to my other two musketeers, the Harry and Hermione to my Ron
i love you both so much
and remember this is not
*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.
Despite having my mindset towards recovery take a 180 degree turn
I’m surprised to find that the urges don’t get any easier
I am exhausted
and the fight feels like it has only just begun
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.
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.
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.
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.