May 9th, 2016
This month is Mental Health Awareness Month.
For a long time, I’ve been ashamed of the photos my mom has on her computer from the time I was at my lowest weight.
They’re only on her computer, because I deleted any such evidence from my own. I can’t stand to look at them. Or at least, I couldn’t, until I decided to do so today.
I opened up my mom’s laptop, clicked on iPhoto, and with great hesitancy, began to scroll farther and farther back in time, until I reached 2011.
The year I was hospitalized.
It’s really interesting, actually, to look at the progression of weight loss that occurred. As I looked back through each photograph, I recalled each experience, as if it were happening in slow motion. In previous times when I’ve done this, it’s been incredibly triggering to me. It brought me back to a time when I was living in a false reality, when I was a different person. Today, after a pretty tough E.D. weekend, it only made me want recovery more.
As I looked at the old photos that had once scared me so much, to the point where I would have nightmares about returning to that point in my life (nightmares which I still have), I was encouraged.
I’ve come so far.
Farther than I think I often acknowledge.
This weekend was hard. I had a very, very difficult day on Saturday, which I’m attributing to it being a rest-day (aka not working out). I had to take Saturday off because we were going on a hike Sunday for Mother’s Day. A hike which ended up not being much of a “hike”, in my exercise-obsessed mind.
All day Saturday, as I was struggling to cope with the fact that I wasn’t exercising, and still had to eat all the exchanges on my meal plan, I reminded myself that I would be hiking the next day. So I was (somewhat) able to justify my lack of activity, even though each meal was a challenge.
Sunday came, however, and a day that was supposed to be all about my mom ended up being largely about me. Not in the sense that I dictated others’ actions-we still did our hike, we ate lunch all together, and I ate dinner at home with my mom, but in the sense that my mind was somewhere else. It would be ignorant of me to say that that doesn’t affect my mom, or anyone who’s with me for that matter.
I put on my Nike running leggings Sunday morning in preparation for our hike, and was immediately convinced I’d gained weight. With the nice weather we’ve been having recently, I haven’t put on running tights in over a week. I also haven’t seen my dietician or psychiatrist (the two people that weigh me) in just over a week, the longest I’ve gone yet between weigh-ins. Having already struggled with the eating and not exercising the day before, and not having the reassurance from the scale that my weight had not exponentially increased, I practically had a meltdown.
It was only 6 o’clock in the morning.
The day continued on, however, and we went on our way to meet up with our good family friends for the hike. It was really fun, and as I pointed out to my mom, I was very much present during the actual hike. I wasn’t preoccupied the entire time, which is progress. The hike ended, though, and I was by no means ready for it to end.
That was my hike? It was nothing! I’d call it more of a 45 minute walk.
Not enough to justify everything I’d eaten yesterday and would be eating today, without exercise.
So, I came up with what I thought was an obvious solution. I’d just go to the gym when we got home. Problem solved.
As we all loaded into the car to head back home, my mom had the great idea that we all go meet up at a park on the drive back to Portland, and could sit down and have lunch!
It was 10:00. We would get to the park by about 10:45.
I normally (always) eat lunch after 1:00.
**Meltdown Number Two**
My mom tried to reason with me, and did eventually talk me into agreeing to eat my lunch with our friends, even though it was two hours before my normal meal time.
I ate everything I needed to, but much of the conversation ended up revolving around food and exercise, which was very hard for me. I started to shutdown about ten minutes into the meal.
I am, however, incredibly grateful for that experience. Because just like my shopping trip at Urban Outfitters the other day, it’s another battle I’ve won against the eating disorder. Another step closer to reaching a “normal” life, and being able to re-integrate into society. And as we all know, being able to talk about food and exercise is quite essential to functioning in our culture today.
When I returned home, and told my mom that I would be going to the gym, I was met with resistance. Mom didn’t think going to the gym was a good idea. In fact, she said the only way she would allow it would be if I compensated for it by increasing my exchanges for the day.
Well, I wasn’t about to do that!
**Meltdown Number Three**
The remainder of the day continued to challenge me, but I did make it through, albeit being quite grumpy. I was very eager to see my psychiatrist the next day (today) and see just how much my weight had increased.
So, I saw him today, and guess how much my weight went up? Not much. Not even as much as I’d lost between my previous two appointments (not sure if I’d mentioned that in here), so he said if anything, it needs to go up a little bit more, to get back to the weight I was when I discharged from treatment. Still, I walked out of that appointment feeling satisfied that I had not lost weight since the last time I’d seen him. Again, another sign of progress. Six months ago, if you’d told me that I would be walking out of Dr. Rock’s office, calling my mom with a smile on my face to tell her that my weight was up, I’d have undoubtedly not believed you.
But anyway, back to where I started this post. Pictures.
A picture says a thousand words, and I can’t think of a better way to express how true that rings than by sharing this photograph below.
The photo on the left was taken two days before I was admitted to the hospital for an unsustainable heart rate and unhealthily low body weight. More than the numbers on the doctor’s charts showed, the greatest thing I’d lost was my spirit. I was a shell of myself. I wasn’t loving Jesus, I certainly wasn’t loving anybody else, and I wasn’t looking to anyone or anything but the eating disorder for my sense of self, satisfaction, and approval.
On the right, this photo taken two days ago, is of me, the real me. Do I still have days that I’m pretty much tortured by the eating disorder? Absolutely, yes. Was yesterday one of the worst body image days I’ve had in a while? Yes. You know what’s interesting though? Even when the photo on the left was taken, my body image absolutely sucked. I was NEVER going to be satisfied with the lifestyle I was living then. It was a vicious, endless cycle of destruction. I can undoubtedly say now, that I’m moving closer and closer to being the Bridgette that God designed me to be each day.
And as one of my friends from treatment told me,
“If you’re going to dislike your body anyway (referring to never being satisfied even at the most unhealthy of weights), wouldn’t you rather dislike it and still be able to do all the fun stuff you want to do?”
Yesterday, we hiked.
In two weekends, I get to get on a plane and fly to Columbus, Ohio, to visit my best friend from Residential.
In a month, I (hopefully) will get to return to Corvallis full-time and resume a normal, college-student’s life.
I would rather weigh a few pounds more than I’d like to and be able to do all of these fun things, than weigh a few pounds more than I’d like to and be stuck in a hospital bed or treatment facility.
I love the quote,
“Mental illness is not a choice, but recovery is.”
I used to be so ashamed to look at the photos from the days when I was drowning in my disorder because I thought they showed how weak I was.
Today, I looked at those photos and thought, “Wow-look how strong I am today, and look how far I’ve come.”
That is something that I am proud of.