Psychosomatic Mental Illness?!


Don’t get the stake and pitchforks yet! I’m not saying everyone imagines mental illness. I’ve seen plenty of brain scans, which show otherwise. Plus, I realize psychosomatic refers to physical symptoms arising from emotional or mental issues, not physical causes. Therefore my use of the word is technically incorrect. Nonetheless…

Despite my swing from positive to negative in minutes yesterday, apparently I was more serious than I realized. Last night I told my mom a little about my ED relapse, including that I think I should go back on a meal plan. To her credit, for once, she did not automatically suggest a higher level of care. At the moment, it is unnecessary, but usually when she learns I’m using ED behaviors she says, “Do you want to end up hospitalized?”

However, ever since I told her, I feel like crawling out of my skin! I feel 1,000x more uncomfortable in my body! Realistically, nothing changed; no matter how much “accountability” she provides, we both know she can’t stop my behaviors. Yet for some reason, that one act of defiance (of ED) is terrifying me. Logically, I know my body didn’t grow overnight, but I feel monstrous! I feel more fat and repulsive than usual. It is as if defying ED and reaching out focused my attention all the more on my body/ how I experience being inside my body.

Plus, food instantly became scarier. I struggled to eat breakfast, whereas last weekend I was fine. I’m almost always okay on weekends because even though I eat more than I want to, I know I “have to” in order to keep up appearances. However, this morning I didn’t want to eat. In fact, now I feel like crying. …Hahaha, I talk so much about crying, but I rarely break down in tears in real life >.< …

The last time I cried over eating food was as a senior in high school.  I think it was September and the school year started in August. For a few weeks I went to school in the morning and returned to treatment for lunch, PM snack, and dinner. This was my first full day back at school. I sat alone in the locker room, staring at my lunch. With a heavy sigh, I opened an applesauce cup and dipped my spoon in it. Then I started crying. It is difficult to describe the fear an eating disorder creates. We know we need food to survive. We know most people, given the opportunity, eat every day, more than once a day! But when we look at food we see all our shortcomings manifested. Taking a bite equals admitting or giving into our weakness. It means magically expanding fat cells and everyone you love turning against you because food will make you so hideous that no one can stand to be around you. Food is the enemy; it horrifies you. I literally had nightmares about eating. Eating causes a huge spike of anxiety, fear, and self-loathing. This disease is one thing you’re good at; one thing you can do right. After all, despite your teachers and parents insisting you’re smart and capable, you know the truth. You know you’re inadequate and you’re terrified if you eat, they will finally see the monster you see in the mirror. Illogical? Yes. Insane? Yes. Irrational? Of course. But the feelings and thoughts are as real to you as your grief at your grandmother’s funeral.

Right now, I’m a tight knot of dread and misgivings. I feel nauseous and bloated. I want out of my body.

And why? Just because I committed the cardinal sin, I admitted my human weakness and asked for help. There are a million eating disorder blogs on the internet; it may seem like we’re fine with expressing emotion and needs, but there is a huge difference between anonymously ranting online and using your words to ask someone in your life for help.

Now off to try to kill the other law students with studying…

willow_fake smile

…I lied, one more thing:

Remember how I said when we eat, we imagine we’ll immediately gain weight? I meant it. In my first week of inpatient treatment, I felt my clothes get tighter on my body. I saw my body getting larger in the mirror. If someone wanted to bet me that I wasn’t gaining weight, I would laugh in their face and agree to a million dollar bet. I was at “fat camp”, on a weight gain meal plan and I could see and feel the differences! However, I would be a million dollars in debt because a few days later they put me back on bathroom monitoring. Apparently, I lost weight in my first 2 weeks and they thought I purged in the bathroom. So, while I was sick, not only did my mind whisper lies in my ears and my emotions skyrocket, but also my perception of reality was skewed. My clothes felt tighter on my body and I saw myself gain weight because I believed that was what was happening.

Perhaps the fact that it is happening again is a testament to this being a real relapse? I don’t know because I call these  blips relapses, but it always gets better before I get too sick and even as my least disordered, the thoughts are still in my head. They never left. Therefore, have I ever been in recovery?

Oh, for the record, I was not purging. I was hypermetabolic, a state of increased metabolic rate, usually in response to a significant bodily injury. Sometimes when malnourished people, in starvation mode, begin re-feeding (FYI, a normal or even overweight person can be malnourished! Health is not simply calories consumed, it also quality.) their metabolism re-boots when it gets adequate calories again and it revs up before settling to a normal level. It is a terrible irony for re-feeding anorexics or underweight bulimics because the treatment team gives you a high weight gain meal plan to begin with and then your body makes it doubly hard to gain weight with hypermetabolism. I was lucky, my metabolism calmed down in a month. I knew some girls forced to eat 5,000 – 6,000 calories PER DAY for months and they still struggled to gain weight. It might sound wonderful, eat all you want and don’t gain weight! But it is hell when you’re used to only eating small amounts or throwing up larger amount of food. I remember times when I honestly thought my stomach would burst because it hurt so badly (Yes, anyone’s stomach can burst from too much consumption). Your body acclimated to less food and even got used to regurgitating after large intake. It is uncomfortable to eat and keep down a normal sized meal, much less a menu that would satisfy a 300 lbs football player! In that regard, even normal weight or overweight bulimics struggling in treatment because even though they don’t have to gain weight, they may not be used to keeping normal-sized meals down; therefore, it is physically painful.

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Family Breakfast


I couldn’t sleep last night. In order to keep myself awake while driving I ate breakfast and did not turn the heat on in the car. I didn’t feel cold. My car said it was 12 degrees outside; the radio said it was 10 degrees. I think I was ok because when I shivered at 19 degrees it was late afternoon. So, the sun was low in the sky and this morning it was shining. Also, I forgot my meds a few days last week. Today I remembered and maybe my body is no longer used to the high dose of stimulants.

Anyway, when I was sick my mom instituted “Family Breakfast” because unless someone watched me, I didn’t eat. I saw right through the “spending more time together” lie.

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Today my mom ate breakfast with me. Usually I don’t eat breakfast, but also she is usually on her way to work when I am getting ready. Eating breakfast with her reminded of “Family Breakfast”, which reminded me of treatment.

In turn, it reminded of me treatment friends. Some of them are dead; others are on disability. One died at 20. I’m now 23, things aren’t perfect, but they could be much worse.

In other news: I’ve only skipped 3 classes this week. Granted, 2 of them were Contracts, meaning I’ve skipped 3 of the 4 class times we’ve had this semester. The other was Civ Pro…Oops! I plan on going to Contracts at 2 pm today. I also plan on actually doing research for the paper due Sunday before the night it is due. Then again, I always plan on studying/ catching up/ reading for class/ etc., but then sleep sounds so much more inviting. Haha, yesterday I was awake for a grand total of 8 hours.

LotS_cara eye roll

A Bad Day or A Couple of ’em


I haven’t been to school since last Thursday. As a result of MLK Jr. day and my schedule that means I only really skipped 2 days, but still… I’ve spent the last 2 days in bed. I got up after 5 pm today and maybe 4:30 pm yesterday. I have homework due at midnight. I’m obviously behind in reading. I’m miserable again I hate this! I’m doing it hoping next semester will be better, hoping I’ll like the job I eventually get, and hoping the student loans will be worth it. I’m more and more convinced I should quit. Why am I doing this to myself?

At the same time, everyone says the first year sucks and it gets better. Plus, I haven’t taken my meds in a few days. We aren’t even 2 full weeks into the semester. I can still turn things around, easily! Right now I’m telling myself I won’t make a decision until I’ve been back on my meds for a few weeks and I’m caught up in school. Otherwise, I fear I’m making a rash choice out of feeling, not reason.

I had an awful nightmare. I haven’t had nightmares in a while. I was supposed to meet with a new lab for the first day of psychology grad school in L.A. Apparently, I went to UCLA in my dream? I got lost and freaked out, then I made a wrong turn onto a broken bridge. However, I didn’t realize it was broken until it was too late to decelerate. I flew through the air, a good 200 feet above the ground. I was certain I’d die, but then 20 feet from death, I stopped. My car got lodged on a beam above the ground. I sat there, paralyzed in fear, afraid any  movement would destabilize me. Paramedics got there in what seemed like over a half hour and they freed me. We rushed into the hospital and they quickly took stock of my injuries. Once I was out of danger, they wheeled me to a locked psychiatric unit, even though I swore up and down that I was really just lost, that was not a suicide attempt. They said it was an eating disorder unit because my electrolytes clearly indicated I was engaging in dangerous ED behaviors. It sucked, it was worse than any psych ward I’ve experienced or even seen (I.e. One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, Girl, interrupted). Everyone hated me…

How we Measure Progress


I belong to a pro-ana Facebook group. Give or take a few girls leaving for recovery, the same 50 girls have belonged to the group for over 2 years. One of my best friends there asked how I was doing because I hadn’t posted in a while. I told them about school, coming out, and my weight. The overwhelming response?

“WOW, you’re doing so well!”

Not surprising from a bunch of eating disordered girls. But it got me thinking about priorities. Is this, our weight, really the most important measure of our worth or success? I would like to say no.Fringe_its all just nubmers

It makes me sad that we put so much emphasis on our appearance. Let’s see… I almost killed myself more than once last semester, I cried – a lot, I was almost involuntarily hospitalized, I barely passed my classes, I rarely attended class or read material, and I lost my scholarship…but WOW, you lost a lot of weight in an unhealthy amount of time!!

Why does it always have to be about looks

Maybe it is because we hate everything about ourselves and our weight is at least something we can change, whereas other things are relatively immutable like intelligence.

Art Therapy


I tried looking for my Affirmation Book (at the end of inpatient, everyone got a small journal where patients and staff wrote well wishes and encouragement) last night, instead I found a stash of art therapy pieces. In some ways, not much changed over the past 6 years. I still suck at art and I still feel the same way about myself.

This the battle for recovery symbolized by two stick figures playing tug-of-war. And look! I’m winning!

art therapy

This is the cyclone of emotions and thoughts that I used my eating disorder to silence.

MM art ed11MM art ed8MM art ed9MM art ed7

This represents my identity; without my eating disorder I am no one/nothing/nobody.

MM art ed10

This is the program for an impromptu talent show we put on. Surprisingly, they let a few of the girls do a short gymnastics routine and they did not supplement them for the lost calories. Usually, they were very strict about movement. If you were redirected more than twice about frequently shaking your leg, sitting up too straight, etc., they gave you 60 CCs Ensure.

MM art ed1

For the 4th of July we had an extra Nutrition Group, yay! The topic was managing recovery around the holidays. I also wrote some notes from my dietician. According to her, I disliked eating because it meant being around family. Oh, treatment teams and their propensity to blame others, especially family, for mental health problems!

Firefly_Saffron eye roll

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Since we weren’t allowed books, magazines, TV, radio, etc., the only things we were allowed to do when not in groups was make up silly things like the following words set to The Twelve Days of Christmas, color on Disney coloring pages the nurses printed for us, and make friendship bracelets.

MM art ed6 MM art ed4 MM art ed3

All the help I got for discharge meal planning! Haha, it didn’t matter because I went straight to PHP, but they didn’t know what my discharge plans were until the day before I left because some people thought I should stay longer.

MM art ed2

Um…I’m not sure what this is! I think it represents the confusion and chaos created by emotions.

emotions

Lol, I have no idea what the shriveled, psychedelic Eye of Sauron, afflicted with pink eye, floating on its side means!

eye

This looks like pure boredom, not an assignment. I see a green balloon that says “Happy Birthday” (I spent my 18th birthday in treatment). I also see an unhappy purple ghost (A Monster? That one purple gaseous Pokémon? Something else?)

bday

Who the hell is Stella?!?! In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not much of an artist! :p I doubt I drew this.

stella

Thin-Skinned: The Truth about Some People with Eating Disorders


I disagree whole-heartedly with the other messages of this person, but the following interview excerpt is intriguing. It falls in line with my idea that “crazy” is really feeling deeply and that TedTalk “Lessons from the Mental Hospital”.

“Women who struggle with eating disorders are what I call thin-skinned and what I mean by that is they’re very emotionally sensitive and highly intuitive.

If you’re born thin-skinned into a world that values being thick-skinned which is the culture we, the Western culture we live in today that values, oh no big deal, water off a duck’s back, doesn’t bother me, then what happens is you get this idea, oh my gosh is
something wrong with me?

And so begins the process of trying to be thick-skinned when you’re not and that’s the function of the eating disorder because it blocks your awareness of very deep, intense
emotions.

So what has to happen is they have to develop the skill set for how to be a thin-skinned person in a thick-skinned world and it is a skill set. You don’t need to change your DNA, anybody can learn it, but it does take practice and it does take being able to go some place where it’s taught.”

This is true for me and true for every girl I’ve known in treatment. It means sometimes we are oversensitive, but it also means we’ll do anything for the people that stick by us. I can’t change who I am, but maybe I can find a way to turn my character traits into positive aspects.

SometimesbecauseFringe_feelints

Welcome Back to the Roller Coaster from Hell


Yesterday was not so great. I felt like I was thrown back 7 or 8 years to paralyzing fear, emotional abuse, scarring self-injury, and suicide attempts.

Today is a wash so far. I didn’t get out of bed until 5 pm.

I’m ignoring people again (I know I need to reply to some of you); I feel guilty. When I feel any negative emotion I withdraw. I realized the reason I’m not in a relationship isn’t a lack of interest or ugliness, it is because I push people away.

I also realized in order to give a relationship a chance, I need to let go of my eating disorder. The idea scared the hell out of me and I’m not so sure I’m ready to do that.

Will I be ready to let go at 114 lbs? I doubt it. I know from experience once I reach x weight, the acceptable goal weight lowers again.

Anger and sadness swirl in my heart, but right now they’re veiled by exhaustion-fueled apathy.

Ha, that reminds me, yesterday my mom said, “Are you going to be some weird hermit?” …Um…maybe, but when she asked the question I just spent a week with family and a night with high school friends.

Also, 1 hour until my law school grades are posted!