March 9th, 2016
I’m sitting here at Starbucks, having a challenge breakfast, by myself. Yes, by myself.
This is the first time I’ve done a challenge of something (other than a snack) without anyone else here to hold me accountable. It’s a full breakfast, too-not just a pastry, or just a drink, but both. A drink containing milk, as well as the pastry component. Oh boy. What’s really cool to think about, is how there’s no way in h*ll I would’ve been able to do this even a month ago. I’m absolutely positive I would have restricted it. And while, yes, there’s no way now for my mom to know, or my therapist, or my dietician or psychiatrist, I will know. And hopefully, that will begin to be enough. Hopefully, I will begin to want recovery more than I want my eating disorder. I’m moving in that direction…slowly. Currently, there is the accountability that my weight will be taken again when I go back to the program on Friday, but that’s not always going to be the case. At some point, I have to make the decision to own this recovery, and not be solely reliant on others to walk with me through each bite.
I got my discharge date yesterday, and that’s mainly what’s sparked my thinking about all these things. I mean, yeah, I was thinking about them before, but now, it’s at the forefront of my thoughts. I’m discharging next Friday, March 18th. As in nine days from now. WHAT?
I kind of knew this point was coming, seeing as this is my eighth week in the program, and expected duration of treatment is six to eight weeks. Obviously, recovery takes a lot longer than that (like, a lot longer; the typical time period for one to complete full recovery after developing an eating disorder as an adolescent is five to seven years, according to Decoding Anorexia), but this intensive environment of treatment can’t be kept up forever. At some point, one has to reintegrate back into normal life. That is a very, very terrifying thing. Hence, my desire to begin challenging myself more with doing things on my own. I want to find out, while I still have this incredible network of support, where I run into the most trouble, so that it can be addressed before I’m solely in outpatient care. Granted, my outpatient team will still consist of my psychiatrist (Yay for Dr. Rock! :)), the new therapist I met with a couple of weeks ago, and a dietician, but there’s something very different about having three separate appointments, once a week, for an hour each, than being in treatment for 20+ hours a week. That’s a big, BIG adjustment. Especially considering I’ll be adding in going back to school at that time. Saying I don’t feel like I’m ready would be an understatement. But at the same time, I don’t feel like I’ll ever be ready. Unless, I suppose, I remained in intensive treatment for five to seven years, but we all know that that’s obviously incredibly unrealistic. And also, what type of life would that be, anyway? Even if my eating disorder thoughts subsided substantially, my depression would probably skyrocket. Speaking of which, I’m really hoping my slow return into things I once found enjoyable, like school, hanging out with family and friends, participating in church and Young Life activities, etc. will aid with my depression and help my desire to remain attached to the E.D. subside. I’ve got a good feeling that it will.
Last night, I finished Decoding Anorexia. Wow. If I had the power to make every E.D. patient, family member, friend, doctor, therapist, etc. read that book, I would. I’ll likely read it over again, once my Dad’s finished with it. The amount of validation and insight that it provides into the many fascinating, as well as ridiculously frustrating components of an eating disorder, is beyond my ability to explain. I swear, I’m going to end up reading 90% of the book out loud to my mom. I didn’t realize how incredibly frustrated I had become by not being able to explain what was going through my brain: Why I physically felt (feel, at times) that I CANNOT eat, regardless of when the last time I consumed something was; Why I begin to shake (and, as the book explains, experience the exact same symptoms as one with a drug or alcohol addiction does in withdrawal) and am CERTAIN that I will go crazy if I do not get to go do my workout, for the EXACT amount of time as my head is telling me that I need to do it for; Why I find such greater appeal in bodies that are emaciated than those with an adequate amount of flesh and fat/muscle covering the skeleton…the list goes on, and on, and on. The answer is (almost) all biological. Eighty percent of it is, anyway. These feelings and thoughts that I’ve had, and tried to fight, for longer than I can remember, are explainable. And it’s NOT due to the “Societal obsession” with thinness, as so many of us have been taught to believe. Now, it’s about learning to counter those thoughts, and accept that while, yes, my brain may be telling me to do the exact opposite, I need to nourish my body, and allow it to rest at times. In the brain of someone with anorexia nervosa (AN) there is a crossover between the neurotransmitters than distinguish between reward and punishment. The brain literally feels that by eating, you are going against it’s survival instinct, hence why it is SO difficult for the person to eat. My brain is, in a sense, processing things backwards.
The chapter titled, Gym Rats, was my favorite. In a person with AN who has developed an exercise addiction in turn with the E.D., the exercise portion is often significantly harder to conquer than the eating. It’s recommended, in fact, to abstain from ALL exercise, including walking (!) for one year, to have the best chance at remaining in recovery. That’s almost unheard of! Hence, why there is such a high rate of relapse in AN patients who are dealing with an exercise addiction component of their disorder, as well. Because of the knowledge I’ve gathered from reading this book, I have made the decision that I’m going to remain on a break from cardio for a while. I don’t know about a year, but I’m not going to return to it simply because I’ve been “Cleared” to do it. This is huge for me. If Brian would’ve told me two months ago, that I would be cleared to work out while still in treatment, and would make the choice to NOT go run on the treadmill anyway, I would’ve laughed out loud! But this is a choice I’m making to help my recovery, and despite the majority of my brain that’s telling me how stupid I am for making that choice, I’m going to hold myself to it. I did go to the gym last night (the first time going alone) to do some weights and strengthening exercises, and it went really well. I struggled with comparing myself to others there, and a STRONG pull to walk right into that cardio room, but I countered the thoughts, and refrained from going where I knew I shouldn’t.
As I finish up this post, I’ve also just finished my breakfast. A major challenge breakfast by myself-the first of many, I’m sure, completed. I want to end with another fascinating fact I learned by reading Carrie’s book. In recovering from an E.D., falling short of one’s target weight (which is determined by their doctor, after examining the patient’s growth charts, a healthy BMI, the percentile they remained in prior to developing their E.D., a bone density scan, etc.) by as little as ONE KILOGRAM (which is just 2.2 pounds!!) dramatically decreases a person’s likelihood at remaining in recovery. That is amazing to me. And interestingly enough, it’s often that last 2.2 pounds that are the hardest to put back on. At that point, you’re already back to looking “Healthy”, you meet the diagnostic criteria for a healthy IBW (Ideal Body Weight), etc. But Carrie explained it well; Imagine you’re biking up a steep hill, and you decide to stop twenty feet from the top. You’re so close, why not just stop there? Because stopping there will cause you to roll backwards. There’s a huge difference between being at the top of that hill, and being twenty feet from the top.
If you’re interested in purchasing the book Decoding Anorexia, you can buy it on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Decoding-Anorexia-Breakthroughs-Science-Disorders/dp/0415898676/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1457549035&sr=8-1&keywords=decoding+anorexia