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

Photo_00023

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

Advertisements

Compassion and Mental Illness Or Friends Who Accept All of You


I have a theory, people with mental illness tend to be more compassionate and understanding of other people’s flaws. For example, the first person to romantically accept me, every secret, every scar, and every contradiction, had a history of depression. Furthermore, I have many friends with various mental illnesses, some of that is by design like meeting people in treatment and I suppose the others are because we attract people similar to us.

Tonight I had dinner with a wonderful friend; we’ve known each other since high school. We met online and discovered we lived in the same town. At the time, we were both mired in our eating disorders and we did some rather disordered things together. The first time we met in person, we bought diet pills together. We ended up going to the same university and living on the same dorm floor (not by accident). Now we’re both in grad school! Tonight we ate dinner at the same place we met 6 years ago. Talk about full circle! She is one of two RL people who I sent a link to this blog. I sent her the Feminism link because I knew she came from the same world and might understand what I tried to convey. I feared there would be a lot of negative feedback. So, I wanted some affirmation. She did understand, but I did not need to worry. No one replied negatively.

Apparently my friend read more than just that one post. So now she knows more than most people. My family may not understand, but she is fricking awesome! She (as far as I know) does not share my proclivities, but she was not weird about them at all!

I realize the people who understand me on the most fundamental level and forgive my mistakes the easiest are the people in my life with a history of mental illness. That doesn’t mean I plan on actively seeking out others with mental illnesses as mates because I fear for any future children’s genetics; nonetheless, I think it is an interesting observation.

I went to a Catholic Girl’s School and I’m Not Catholic


…but I loved that school I entered the school in 9th grade. At first, I was nervous because the vast majority of students were Catholic, we had to take theology classes, and we had mandatory mass every month. I know this is random, but a girl I went to high school with just posted a link to an article about Catholic girl’s schools and it made me nostalgic!

All my nerves were unfounded. Yes, most girls were Catholic, but our religion almost never came up. Freshman year I invited my best friend to a church lock-in. Her parents knew I was not Catholic and they were okay with that as long as I didn’t belong to a certain non-Judeo-Christian religion, which I did not So, all was well. We prayed every morning during assembly, but no one looked at me oddly for not making the sign of the cross. It was okay if I did not say the prayers along with the others. All anyone expected was for me to be polite during the prayer and not disturb those who prayed. In other words, If I was quiet no one cared.

I was nervous about theology classes, not because I was afraid to be exposed to new belies, but because I figured the others would have a leg up on me and I’d do poorly. Again, this concern was unnecessary! First of all, Theology classes may be a loose term. Freshman year amounted to sex ed, which surprisingly, was not limited to abstinence or heterosexuality. Sophomore year was about the Bible, but the teacher presented outside information. Sure knowledge of the basic stories was helpful, but not needed because the teacher explained the plots while teaching. Junior year was comparative religions. That was interesting! No one had a sure grasp of every religion we studied, so no one had an advantage. Senior year was the best, it was a social justice course It wasn’t so much about Catholic tenants anymore, as it was about what you, individually, believed were moral actions and why. As long as you could articulate your beliefs and support them logically, it did not matter whether you agreed with Catholic teachings or not. It was helpful to me because it forced me to really think about why I believed what I believed.

The first couple of times I was in mass, I was nervous. However, there were procedures for people who were not Catholic Again, the only real expectation was that you did not ruin anyone else’s time. So, when they had communion I could approach the priest if I wanted to, instead of making the sign of the cross I crossed my arms across my chest in an X, like I was doing one of those faith falls where you trust the people behind you to catch you. In that case, the priest would bless me and I’d go back to my seat. After taking communion, people knelt in the pews. I could do this and use the time for my own contemplation, or I could not. No one ever chastised me. In fact, if I felt like it, I could remain in my sea the entire time, neither approaching the priest during communion, nor kneeling.

I’ll always be grateful to my high school! They were uncharacteristically understanding and compassionate. You know those crazy stories of administrators suspending kids for imaginary gun fights? My school was level-headed. At 16 I used the school computers to research Gor and I joined a forum using my school email address because at the time, I was clueless about technology. An administrator on that website contacted my school, even though I lied about my age! I was terrified!! I thought I would get kicked out! Instead the school talked to my parents and asked if they wanted the school to block my internet access until I could use it safely. My parents agreed and it was a reasonable consequence. They were not punishing me, they were keeping me safe!

During junior year, I relapsed with my eating disorder. I barely made it through the 2nd semester before being hospitalized. I was still in treatment during the beginning of my senior year. M school was absolutely wonderful! They worked in concert with my treatment programs to ensure I got all my work. They were understanding about due dates and tests. They did not penalize me for missing half days. For a time, I did half days, starting at going to school once a week for a half-day and then working up from there. I did not reach full time until November! Yet, I graduated on time because my school was so understanding and helpful. I remember more than one girl I was in treatment with did not have helpful schools and some had to repeat grades or fight tooth and nail just to have communication between the treatment center’s tutors and their school. I would not have graduated with my class if my school was not amazing! Plus,, we had a senior year retreat before classes started. I missed it because of treatment and they had a bag of notes made for me. 🙂

Things weren’t perfect but I loved that place. I miss it! If I have daughters and I can afford private school, I will send them there, even though I’m still not Catholic! Sure there was normal teenage behavior, like rumors. Apparently, everyone knew about me. When I got to PHP in my home town, I met a girl from my school who was a year younger and she said she was not surprised to see me there because people talked about me last year. Honestly, with my symptoms and rapid weight loss, it was hard to miss. Gossip is a normal thing for teenage girls.

Yes, I wore a uniform and it was freaking easy! I miss that to! I barely had any clothes during high school because I only wore other clothes on the weekends. It was great to wake up every week day and not have to worry about what I was going to wear or if I’d look stupid or what clothes were clean. It was quick and easy. Going to college, buying a wardrobe, and wearing a new outfit every day was tough! I don’t mean I didn’t  know how to fit in, I mean it was easier to have a uniform! Some people think uniforms are the great equalizer, making it unclear whose parents are wealthy and whose are not. Eh, that is not always true. Our shoes and socks were regulated, but some girls had designer purses or cars for their 16th birthday. Whatever. I still like uniforms! Also, every was relaxed. No one cared about how the looked because there was no one to impress. Almost no one worse make-up. Some girls cared more than I cared and did wear make-up or hair accessories, but no one thought poorly of either choice. The only time I ever wore make-up in high school was for special occasions. It irks my mom now that I continue that habit at 23!

Contrary to popular belief, the nuns at my school were sweet, non-judgmental old ladies who taught a few subjects and lived at the school. I never had a class taught my the nuns, but I never heard a bad word whispered about them ad they always greeted us cheerfully.

I know all girl’s schools have a catty reputation, but there really was not drama! At times people would argue or create drama, but it was rare. Our class was small, 70 girls per grade. If anything, we were very supportive of one another. I’m friends with all of them on Facebook. Last November one girl invited all of us to her house for a get-together. This Christmas season, another girl suggested we all – yes, all – go out clubbing. That is not my idea of fun, but my point is even though I may not be best  friends with all of them, we are friendly. If I was in dire straights, I could ask any one of them for help and they could do the same. Also after hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans school was closed for some time and many of the other Sacred Heart schools in the U.S., including my own, took their girls in until the school was repaired.

Also, one of my teachers volunteered, without my parents even asking, to sit with me at lunch when I first started eating lunch at school again to give me accountability. She was awesome! 🙂

I’m a Daughter of the Sacred Heart and I have the ring to prove it at convents around the world. My family went to Italy and at the Church at the top of the Spanish Steps in Rome is run by Sisters of the Sacred Heart. There is a miraculous painting there. I wanted to see it because I’d heard about it in school, but it was after hours. The painting was located in a school adjacent to the Church and it was closed to the public during the time of day we arrived. I found a nun who spoke English and asked about the painting when she told me it was off limits. I explained where I went to high school and showed her my ring. She got keys, unlocked the building and led me to the painting! ❤ According to the Wikipedia page I looked up for the correct name of the Spanish Steps, it is no longer run by the Sacred Heart, but in 2008 (after the Wikipedia page claims it was turned over to others) the Sisters of the Sacred Heart were still there and in charge.