Posted in Recovery

Homecoming

I sat in the hospital parking lot for 20 minutes convincing myself to go in. I had a bottle of sleeping pills and a bottle of vodka I had bought the night before in my passenger seat and I knew that if they came home with me there would be a large chance I would get drunk and take every last pill. I couldn’t live this life anymore and I felt that my only way out without shaming myself and those around me was to get out of this life permanently. After 10 more minutes, I decided I didn’t have the strength to go in and admit something I had never had to do before – I was suicidal, and I had a plan to kill myself. No matter how much I was struggling, the perfectionist in me decided that was unacceptable to admit and I saw a trashcan 10 feet away from my car, so I got out, threw the pills away, and went home to pretend like none of this had ever happened.  

In the moment between deciding not to walk into the hospital and seeing the trashcan, I knew something had to change. I couldn’t keep living like this: crying every day after school, praying that I would get into a car accident on the way to work so that I wouldn’t have to go, eating half of what I knew I should have been but because my anxiety and depression had caused every ounce of appetite I had to disappear. It was quickly becoming an unsustainable lifestyle and it had only been a couple of weeks.

“But my students need me,” I thought. “I can’t quit on them.” I had of heard the repercussions of quitting at Institute: long-term subs and even less learning than if there was a crappy teacher in the room. And then I realized: I can’t teach if I’m not taking care of myself. I can’t be there for my students in the ways that they need me if my health is going downhill quick.

Teaching has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done, seriously. Harder than rehab, harder than 4 years in a major that I hated, harder than recovery, and it’s proven that by testing every ounce of mental and emotional strength I have.

Listen, when I applied for TFA my junior year of college, I knew it would be hard. I spent the entirety of my senior year tackling things in therapy I had avoided because I knew they had to be talked about before I left. I knew that to be the teacher I imagined myself being: one that supports and challenges her students the way that my teachers did for me, I had to be in solid recovery.

I had to make recovery a priority, my top priority.

I’ve always made the claims that recovery has come first (well, technically second after my main man Jesus), but I always found a reason to put something (school, work, my life goals, etc.) above it. Recovery wasn’t my reason for pursing things in life, it had merely turned into a process that ensured I could pursue those things.  If recovery had truly been my main priority, I would have left Kelley and pursued a major that made me happy and probably made my recovery process a lot easier. If recovery had truly come first, I would’ve realized that my timeline can wait. If I needed to take an extra semester to graduate, so be it. If I needed to postpone my TFA commitment a year, so be it. Whatever needed to happen to make sure that I stay healthy and happy and on the road to recovery, so be it.

But those things didn’t happen so here I am.

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You see, I’ve always been the person with a plan, with an end goal in mind. In high school my goal was to get to college, in college it was to get to graduation. Nothing could interrupt my timeline: I was going to graduate in 4 years, teach for at least 2, and then go to grad school and be happy. That was my motivator for everything. It was why I worked so hard in treatment, restarted classes just a few weeks after I got back, took grueling summer classes 2 summers in a row (shout-out to you, summer ICORE), and refused to let myself relapse senior year despite going through the worst depression I’ve ever experienced (and continue to experience).

I had to graduate in May and move to Mississippi.

That was my plan and I wouldn’t even let myself imagine a world in which it didn’t come true.

Until now…when my plan, my perfectly developed plan, didn’t turn out how I thought it would. How it was supposed to. You see, ED doesn’t care about a stupid plan. I may have been able to trick it for a while; convincing it and myself that if I just kept it at bay long enough, ate mostly what I was supposed to, took my meds, and attended all my appointments, recovery would still come. Turns out, pretending to pursue full recovery doesn’t actually result in full recovery. When the going got tough, guess who showed right back up and started convincing me that all my problems could be solved by eating less or shutting people out or whatever. And in that moment, sitting in the hospital parking lot, more scared for myself than I ever have been in my life, I realized that my recovery had to come first. For the first time in my life, my health had to come before my plan.

I wish I could tell you that since moving home everything has been great and I got right back on track with recovery and whatever else people are probably assuming happened, but that would be a lie.

I’m still struggling, y’all. Like, a lot. I don’t feel like going into details, just know that things aren’t great. But I’m working to get back on track. I’m crawling back towards recovery and one day, I’ll get to where I want to be. I’m using this period as a time to grow in my faith and really address some doubts I’ve had about God and His will for my life. I’m using this period as a time to really learn what it means to trust God with everything, not just the easy stuff.

This is all completely uncharted territory for me, but good thing I have a God that goes before and behind me and has never failed to walk me through a valley. He’s been with me through everything, and it’s in these times, where I’m lost and frustrated and ready to give up, that He shows up in the biggest ways possible. I just have to get out of my head long enough to see it.

 

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Posted in Recovery

When Ed Hijacks your “New Normal”

I’m pissed. I’m mad and frustrated and sad and exasperated and so many other synonyms for fed up. Mad at myself for not admitting that it was disordered before it got to this point. Mad at Jan that she told me the truth and what I need to do about it. I don’t want to do it. I don’t know if it’s out of rebellion, or as a way to say “fuck you” to Jan, or because I don’t really believe it’s necessary, actually I knows it’s pretty much because of all three which makes it worse. I have so many reasons not to do it and so few reasons to, it seems. I felt like I was making so much progress with eating. I felt so good about it even thought I know part of the reason I felt good about it was because I was kind of restricting but still. Things felt normal and effortless. I was being flexible and normal! That was the best. I had so much free time that wasn’t spent with meal planning and figuring out food shit. I walked into the kitchen and decided then and it made things less of an ordeal. And I know that I wasn’t completing and I know that it was disordered but also where’s the line? Am I going to be on some sort of a meal plan for the rest of my life? Never able to not be concerned with whether I’m eating enough and if it’s intentional or not? It’s just so annoying. I just want to not have an eating disorder anymore. I want to not have to deal with this shit like the rest of my friends. I’m pretty fine with ed now. I’ve accepted him and know that he’s on his way out but it’s so hard for me to not just give up right now. I know that I won’t because I really like where I’m at and I don’t want to go back. I think about restricting again, and my first thought is that I don’t want to feel like crap all the time again. Which in ED’s terms means I’m weak, but whatever ED.

Recovery is weird. I’m typing this reflecting back on what has been the hardest week I’ve had in at least 6-months. ED has control over my brain that he hasn’t had in a long time, but he doesn’t have control over my behaviors. Today in therapy we discussed how cooking was too overwhelming for me right now, so maybe it be best if I eat out at some safe restaurants the next couple of nights, and I agreed. I love that that is my new compromise. Before it would have been, how about you eat safe foods and have a Boost with dinner just in case, or just try your best and have a Boost as a back-up. We then talked about how I’m having trouble accepting support from my treatment friends because, “I’m the one who supports them, it’s not the other way around.” I, aka ED, spent so much energy before competing to be the sickest and now I’m competing to be the most recovered. ED, what are you doing? I can’t handle you anymore. If you could kindly see yourself out that would be great.

I’m doing better this week. My therapist said something in our last session that stuck with me. “You don’t have to give this so much power. You don’t have to let it control your week.”

What do you mean? Of course it has to control my week. It’s the end of the world as I know it. The end of my recovery world that is. It’s been tough not to just let this turn into a complete relapse. A lot of my friends are doing well, so I can struggle. It would be okay. The world would stay in balance, ED tells me. Because apparently, in my head we all can’t be doing well at the same time even though I know that’s what we’re all kicking ass to fight towards.

But I tried to take that to heart. She was right, I didn’t have to let it define my week and it doesn’t have to define my recovery.

So I’m taking it slow. Not letting these increased thoughts and behaviors define my days and remembering what it’s like to celebrate small steps, like not skipping a snack or completing my meal plan for that day. I feel like I’m completely overreacting to two weeks’ worth of struggle, but I’ve been told that’s ED convincing me to minimize everything, so I’m just not gonna think about that and keep focusing on getting back on track and making sure ED keeps working on finding his way out of here.

Sending out so much love & strength to all of you

Melissa

 

 

 

Posted in Recovery

Thank you

I’ve really been trying to express gratitude more, especially within recovery so I think I’m going to start doing a series of thank yous. Here’s part one:

1 year ago today I discharged from inpatient treatment and started outpatient recovery full-time. Ho-ly crap. What a year it has been.

When I left EDCD a year ago I had no idea what the future had instore, but boy was I excited. I was in a place I had never been and for the first time in a long time I was so happy. I mean, I was equally as terrified and guilty and nervous and angry about coming home but I also knew that things were gonna be good. I kept thinking, “You feel the same way about going home as you did about coming to treatment and look how good that turned out. Everything it going to work out.” Besides, I had to face real life eventually. As much as I would have loved it stay in the comfort and safety of treatment, I had to get back to my life.

As I think about this last year, I can’t help but get emotional. I celebrated the anniversary of the day I entered treatment but man, this is a day worth celebrating too. Guys, recovery has given me so. much. Yeah, it’s taken a lot too, but when I let myself look back I can’t help but smile on the past year.

One thing I’ve tried to become more intentional with as I recover is being grateful. Realizing the opportunities that have been given to me, whatever they are, and being thankful for whatever I can get out of them. So I just wanted to write a quick thanks to a place and a group of people that absolutely changed my life for the better. One that I don’t think I could ever thank enough, and one that I’m sure will never actually see this post, but I wanted to put it out there anyway.

To the wonderful, caring, hardworking therapists, doctors, dieticians, chefs, and staff of EDCD,

I thought I had an eloquent letter in my head, but I was wrong. Where do I begin? What do I even begin to thank you for?

Thanks for giving me my life back? Heck, thanks for giving me my life. I’m not sure I ever had it to begin with. Thanks for introducing me to Melissa, the real authentic Melissa. I wish I could say that I love myself and never struggle with self-acceptance or body-image, but I can say that the more I get to know authentic Melissa, the more I like her.

I’m writing this to say thanks for showing me that I’m not the person ED told me I was. I got 3 Cs this past semester. Yep, 3. Cue the audible gasp. The girl who couldn’t stand the thought of getting a B a year ago and who finally agreed to go to treatment only because it was affecting her academics got 3 Cs. This. Semester. Sucked. I wanna say it sucked more than treatment. The thing that pisses me off is I worked my ass off for those 3 Cs and still only got Cs. I want to say I’m totally fine with it and I’ve moved on with my life and whatever but the truth is it’s wrecked me. ED has managed to take full advantage of this opportunity to prove what a failure I am and what a failure recovery has made me. But you know what hasn’t happened because I got Cs? My world hasn’t crumbled around me. I wasn’t kicked out of my program. My family didn’t disown me and I didn’t ruin my chance of getting into a good grad school or getting a good job, in fact I got a good job. I got into Teach for America, C’s and all, and am going to teach elementary school in Mississippi after I graduate. You know what has happened, however? I saw my roommates a heck of a lot more than I used to. I spent time with my friends and let myself have some fun. I decided to sleep instead of torture myself with all-nighters. I focused on me and what I needed.

And yeah, right now I’m trying not to convince myself that I need straight A’s for the rest of my college career to make up for this “abysmal” semester, because I don’t, but I can let myself smile at the fact that yeah, last semester may have been my worst semester academically, but outside of school I’ve never been better and that makes up for it ten times over. And I have you guys to thank for that.

I could go on and on. Thanks for not giving up on me. Thanks for not letting me give up on myself. Thanks for challenging me in ways I’m challenged in my everyday life, even if I hated it in program. Thanks for doing what you do. You guys hear it all the time I’m sure, but you are changing and saving lives and it takes special people to do that.

Lastly, and you guys don’t have much control over this one, but I want to say thanks for being in Denver. I have a great team here in Bloomington, but that’s it. There’s not a lot of extra support besides that. I remember so many weeks wanting to give up and quit. I saw all of my treatment friends going to ANAD or EDF groups or going back to IOP and still having a life. I didn’t have that option. My options are do outpatient or pause my life entirely to go to treatment, in Denver, Indy, St. Louis or wherever. And while I still struggle with wanting to just give up and go back, I’m so thankful that, while I was there, you guys never let me stop thinking about my goals. You never let me forget that treatment was just a stop, it was never the end goal. And while there was no shame in being in treatment or going to treatment, I was always going to have to leave my treatment bubble no matter how many times I came back, so I decided that I’m not quite ready to go back into my treatment bubble. I’ve had one unnecessarily secretive but luckily pretty short relapse but besides that I’ve decided ED’s taken enough of my college years.

I only get one undergrad, and I’m a senior, so it’s time to have some real fun, there’s no room for you ED.

So thanks again, EDCD. Thanks for giving me the ability to look towards my future with genuine excitement.  You guys really are changing lives.

Peace y’all,

Melissa

Posted in Recovery

A-okay & staying that way

So I’ve been doing pretty well lately. I always feel like I’m bragging when I say this, especially when I know people that are struggling but I’ve always told myself this was my space to be completely authentic and honest and also, it’s not something I should be ashamed of, so yeah: I’ve been doing pretty well lately. And I kind of hate to admit it.

I realized the other day that my disordered thoughts have decreased a ton within the last few weeks (well, excluding spring break.)  Over break, I went on a missions trip with Chi Alpha, the ministry I’m a part of here at school. We went to the Baltic countries: Lithuania, Latvia, & Estonia, and it was absolutely amazing. We visited campuses in all three countries looking for potential ministry/partnership opportunities and God did some amazing work in my heart, and the heart of our team while we were over there.

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Not great quality, but a picture of me in Tartu, Estonia
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A main street in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania

More on that to come except that the food part was pretty tough. It was a whole ordeal and way out of my comfort zone and when I came back all I wanted to do was weigh myself and compensate for whatever damage I was sure to have done to my body *eye roll*. But surprisingly once I went to the grocery store and restocked my apartment, it took literally no thought for me to get back on track.

And that’s what I hate to admit. I hate admitting that I’m having good weeks. I hate admitting to myself that I’m doing well. Why? Because then I’m actually getting better. I tell my therapist all the time that in my head, I can envision myself in the future without an eating disorder and believe it. I can see myself with kids and a husband and a career and not have an ED, I just can’t envision that process. I just can’t imagine the process of actually letting it go.

I was joking that this is the point in what’s been my typical recovery cycle since coming home that I would start restricting and regress because the thought of actual recovery freaks me out too much, but I haven’t done that. I haven’t done this well for this long for a while, definitely not since school started. This is where I should say it’s worth it and whatever, but honestly it’s weird and slightly angering. I’m sitting in a coffee shop killing time before an interview and I really only chose this place so that I would just get coffee and skip lunch. “I’ve been spending a ton of money on food lately, I’ll just get some coffee and eat when I get home,” was my reasoning. Sounds like a very valid, college student reason to me, even though I won’t be home for another 6 hours. Obviously I knew this was a terrible idea, so when I got here I got a sandwich too, which honestly wasn’t that hard. It’s all starting to come more naturally, and while I’m definitely appreciative, I’m still a little resentful.

I don’t know how to end this so I’ll just say that recovery is starting to feel like less of a process and more like my everyday life, and I just need to keep reminding myself that these feels and thoughts just come along with the experience.

Life is pretty good right now and I want to try to savor and remember this time in my recovery, it’s been a long-time coming.

Stay real, y’all,

Melissa

I’ll leave you with this picture:

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Celebratory cheese face after my first psych appointment that I’ve never had some sort of med change because things are working.
Posted in Recovery, Uncategorized

Let’s Talk About It

The theme for Eating Disorder Awareness Week this year is “Let’s talk about it.” So, y’all, let’s talk about it. I try to be open with my process of recovery but the things I share have typically been through several ED-free filters, for several reasons: mainly my well-being and staying true to what I’m comfortable sharing and not making social media my diary where everyone knows every aspect of my eating disorder because heck, I don’t even think I know every aspect of my eating disorder. So, if this is your first time here, this is probably going to be the most honest thing you’ve read about my recovery so far.

When I say recovery sucks, I mean it is literally the hardest, most miserable thing I have ever decided to do. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t question my decision of starting this whole process in the first place. It is me fighting back to thoughts that have manifested in my brain for as long as I can remember. It’s breaking rules that have been engrained into my head over the last 11 years. It’s fighting with myself basically every meal and snack. It’s having my mirror covered up because sometimes the thought of looking at myself is too much to handle. It’s making myself sit with feelings that I haven’t allowed myself to feel for years and trying to accept this body I fought so hard to separate myself from.

Recovery is taking 25 minutes at the grocery store staring at the nutrition labels on boxes of oatmeal, debating if the 20 extra calories in the flavor I like more are really worth it, before eventually reminding myself that calories don’t matter.

It’s putting my meal plan on the fridge so my roommates can know if I’ve been completing it or not. It’s asking Marie to make me dinner because I panic at the thought of having to both make it and then eat it. It’s eating mac & cheese several times a week for practically a month because that’s what it took for it to not be a fear food (my roommates are saints for living through that)

It’s wondering if I’m really worth all this effort everyone is putting into me.

Recovery is deciding to hang out with my friends on a Friday night instead of studying my life away. It’s remembering that getting a C on a test (or even in a class) does not define my self-worth and neither does getting an A.

It’s going to get Chocolate Moose with my friends and not worrying about how I’m going to compensate. Heck, it’s going to Chocolate Moose by myself because Chocolate Moose is freaking delicious (Plz come back).

Recovery is being vulnerable and open and forming deeper connections with people. It’s realizing that asking for help doesn’t mean your weak and makes your life so much easier when you don’t try and do everything alone.

Recovery has shown me the love of God and a whole new side of my faith that I never could have imagined. (Post on that later.)

Recovery continues to demand everything of me and then when I reach my end, it demands a little more. It’s something I continually choose. Every day. Every meal. Every bite. And I continue to ask myself is it really worth it?

The answer is my friendships. The answer is my functioning body. The answer is my life. Eventually this disease will kill me. There are two options: recovery or death.

It doesn’t get easier but instead simpler, and my answers get clearer. So, I’m going to continue to choose it. Until it is no longer and choice and until there is no longer an answer.

So there it is, my attempt to start a conversation. A conversation that is hard but needs to be had and I’m gonna try with everything in me in the most healthy way possible to keep it going. It’s time to end this shit.

 

Peace y’all,

Melissa

Posted in Recovery

C’s Get Degrees

I’m sitting here writing this instead of studying for a test tomorrow, so naturally my eating disorder is telling me I’m going to fail despite the fact that I’m going to be up all night studying in the library.  Doesn’t matter. I’m going to fail.34d006f321f50dfe304a464ef11cce09

We talked about that word for most my therapy session today. It’s a pretty common word in my internal vocabulary. It’s my biggest fear, by far. I’m not afraid of much, unless there’s a chance I could fail and then the game changes. It’s the root of many of my insecurities and honestly a big part of my eating disorder.

I cannot be seen as a failure.

This is my goal in life, not to be happy or make a difference, but to not be seen as a failure, and while I definitely want those other things, I think at least a tiny bit of my motivation in both of them is because it means I won’t have “failed”. Don’t ask me to define failure though, because I can’t explain it, I just know I don’t want to be one.

My life is driven by avoiding this idea I can’t define and meeting this standard that doesn’t even exist.

Every time I mention “being a failure” in therapy my therapist responds with something to the extent of “Wow, that’s really harsh,” and every time, I don’t understand.

Are you telling me other people don’t feel that way? Other people aren’t constantly filled with the underlying anxiety of maybe messing up? I don’t get it. I was telling my therapist that I literally can’t fathom the fact that people who get C’s in classes graduate and get a job. It’s not an insult to them, in fact I want to be like them, I just seem to forget that employers don’t think like I do at all.

I’m applying to an organization called Teach for America and depending on how things go, I’ll know if I’m accepted by mid-April. The likelihood that I’ll get accepted is pretty good, according to several TFA recruiters. However, I can’t help but be nervous that, if I get in, they’ll renege their offer and kick me out if I end up graduating with one or two C’s on my transcript. I know it’s irrational, but it’s what made me realize just how ridiculous I’m being.

Here’s the new standard I’m trying to hold myself to:

C’s get degrees y’all. It’s true. In fact, I’m gonna change it to C’s get degrees, and jobs, and allow you to live a successful life. Wanna know why? Because grades don’t matter. No one gives two shits about them, so it’s time for me to start feeling the same. College is so much more than grades. I only have 3 semesters left, and it’s time for me to really start enjoying them. Bs should be celebrated, not result in humiliation. Sometimes, self-care involves going to bed early or binge-watching The Office with your roommates, even if it means you don’t turn in one homework assignment.

It’s time to kick failure out of my vocabulary and start living for the things that make me happy and not just make me look good.

I need to start thinking about what’s best for authentic Melissa. The Melissa who knows that she is enough and that her future is going to be as incredible as she lets herself believe.

Now it’s time for me to go

 

Posted in Recovery

Recovery+Internet=Vulnerability. Ugh.

I remember when the talk of me actually dropping my classes and going to treatment was getting serious, I sat outside one of my classes writing the thing I had wanted to write for what felt like forever. I tried to craft the most poignant and elegant post to reveal to everyone what I had been struggling with and what was happening. I had wanted to admit this for so long. I was sick of keeping this secret and honestly, I thought that the more people that knew, the more likely it would be that someone would make me get the help I wanted but could never admit for myself.

So the decision was made, my bags were packed, and the day before I flew out I posted my announcement on Facebook, torn between feeling incredibly relieved and also terrified because I knew there was no going back after that. From now on, whether I liked it or not, everyone would know about ED. There was no getting rid of it.

At first I didn’t mind. I didn’t want to have to deal with trying to come up with excuses as to where I was and what was going on. All of my friends down at school obviously knew, my mom had told my extended family, and I told every other important person in my life I thought should know, but mostly, I was done hiding. If I was serious about getting rid of ED, I knew it couldn’t just be between me and him.

I got so much support with everything that I posted about treatment. I truly am blessed with fabulous friends and family. I got so many well-wishes and knew that so many people were back here in Indiana praying for me and cheering me on, and it was great. I loved the freedom I felt to be able to post stuff. I loved that I could be honest and real and just let recovery integrate with the rest of my life. I was hoping that if I didn’t make it a taboo topic, others wouldn’t either.

In treatment, all of that was fine. I was able to post but didn’t feel any pressure to keep people updated and didn’t have to say what was going on because my team was always there and I wasn’t home so people didn’t expect anything, well actually they did expect things. They expected it to be tough and for me to be struggling and for it just to be a weird time in my life. All of that seemed normal and the whole idea of treatment was just such a private thing that no one expects you to say anything about it at all because, well they just don’t.

Now that I’m home it’s not the same.

People want updates. They genuinely want to know how I’m doing with school and recovery and all of it, which is fine. I don’t mind people checking up on me, it just reminds me how great the people in my life are, but the issue is I never know how to respond. I’ve gotten better at not immediately responding with, “Great! Thanks!”, but I still never know what to say. I know that they want me to be honest, which im okay with, I guess. It’s not nearly as hard for me to say, “Honestly, not too great” when talking to someone but it’s always the follow-up, “Oh, what’s going on?” that gets me because the truth is, I don’t know if they’ll be able to understand what’s going on.

Sure, they’ll get that I’m struggling with food or something but it’s a lot more difficult to say, “Well, my body image has been terrible recently and I made the stupid decision to weigh myself so now I’m trying to convince myself to go and at least try and eat something for lunch because I ate 20% of what I was supposed to for breakfast and I know that I need to go eat even though the thought of it makes me sick and all I can hear and see is fat while I’m eating and honestly, I’m just really tired of recovery and I really want to give up because all of this is a lot more than I thought it would be and im tired of fighting and being exhausted and all I can think about right now is getting the number I saw on the scale lower and I have to go to school and work and still try to function and be a normal college kid and…”

Yeah, it’s just a lot easier to say, “Honestly, not too great”.

I know that I’m making this a lot worse in my head than it is in real-life and the majority of the people asking genuinely want to know so that they can help me but I’m not too sure that I’m ready to put all of my secrets out there yet. The internet already knows what was my deepest, darkest secret…I’m not sure that I want them to hear everything that goes along with that.

 

Ugh. Vulnerability sucks…I know it’s worth it in the end but right now it’s just…ugh.

If anyone has had any experiences, good or bad, with being more open and vulnerable with people and how you’re really doing, I would love to hear what has worked, or hasn’t for all of you.

 

Keep killin’ it y’all

Melissa