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.

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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.

you can’t have a life worth living if you don’t eat

your insides are crying out to you
why don’t you answer
you keep saying you are working so hard
on your art and your future
but you can’t have a future as an artist
if you starve yourself

listen to your body
do you hear the rumble
that is a cue that it wants to be nourished
your brain is wailing
begging you to allow it to do it’s job
at its highest functionality

you must recognize your recovery
is dependent on your willingness
to do what is best for you
ignore what you saw on the scale today
your creativity and art and future dog
are far more important than a number

natural art

blood is not paint
sharp edges are not a paintbrush
art is not defiling your body
with scars and bruises
it is not as beautiful as you think
there are other things more exquisite

take the sun
setting over the ocean
melting its rays into the
churning water
or a mountain silhouetted
against a pink and purple sky
as if it is not a natural creation
or a painting made of watercolor
capturing a woman mourning
the loss of her home

art can be painful
but art is not created
at the expense of physical pain
you do not shed blood
to become more beautiful

you are beautiful
you are art
in its most natural form

Wise Mind Collection

Hello all! A #MentalHealthMonday post is forthcoming, don’t you worry, but I wanted to make a quick announcement first.

I am adding a new poetry collection to my site! In addition to the unnamed series, I will be writing pieces reflective of my work towards recovery, particularly from my eating disorder. I will be writing when I am in wise mind, and the focus will be on the importance of recovery, that I can look at when I’m feeling willful. I want to channel my creativity, because that tends to draw me in more and be more inclined to share and express what I’m feeling or going through.

So, I hope you enjoy it! I appreciate your readership!

-K