Six Months

184 days.

As of today, I’ve abstained from cardio for six months. It’s like my half-birthday of sorts.

I really can’t believe it’s been this long. I mean believe me-I can believe it’s been six months since I’ve been able to go for a run, to climb that stair-master, to feel my heart race and so out of breath that I just want to collapse (in the healthiest of ways, of course ;))…but I never thought I’d actually make it six months without doing it.

If anything, taking this break has only affirmed to me how thankful I am for having made the decision to hold off on cardio for one year. If you missed the post explaining why I made that decision, you can read it here. It was never easy…it’s still not, driving by men and women, young and old, running past Nike, sweat dripping down their face, that runner’s high so clearly written all over their face…

Or walking past the cardio room in the gym, seeing guys and girls alike, running their butts off, trying to get that “summer body”-but I know it’s worth it. It’s already proven to be, and I’m only halfway there.

My relationship with exercise has become healthier than it’s ever been since I stopped swimming (at the age of 13). If I’ve come this far in six months, I’m only hopeful of where I can be after 184 more days.

December 28th, I’m ready for ya 🙂

-Bridge

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Responsibility

I was hit with a harsh reality this evening. Just an hour ago, actually. It was the truth that, ultimately, I’m the only one who can take responsibility for my recovery.

It took me over an hour to eat my afternoon snack that should’ve taken about a third of that time.

Now, it’s not like this is completely new, or something that’s never happened before, but it hasn’t happened recently. And that scared me.

What scared me the most wasn’t that I didn’t want to eat my snack, it was that I couldn’t figure out WHY. I’d had a good day. Nothing remotely triggering had come up.

My morning started with a walk to church in the sunshine with Claire, coffee with a new friend afterwards, and then running couple errands, eating lunch, and studying. A couple hours into memorizing the process of mitosis and various parts of the body, I decided to take a little break. It was good to get up and stretch my legs, but by the time I got back to studying, it was after 4:30, and I knew I should have my snack relatively soon if I didn’t want to still be full when it came time for dinner, or be eating late into the night.

I looked at my meal plan to see what I’d eaten so far, and knew pretty quickly that with what I was having for dinner and my evening snack, I needed to have an afternoon one. But all of a sudden, it was like the ED just began to rear it’s ugly head. I felt this stubbornness arise inside of me, and immediately had resolution with the thought that I would not be eating a snack. And no, I wouldn’t be making up for it at dinner. I’d just be short for the day. An hour removed from the situation, it really scares me how at peace I felt with that decision in the moment.

Fortunately, I felt the spirit of Jesus come over me, and after about fifteen minutes, walked to the fridge, and the cupboard, made myself a cup of coffee, and decided that I could at least sit with the food in front of me and see if I could get myself to eat it.

One hour later, I’d finished.

I’m often asked to compare my two experiences dealing with recovery. The first being when I was in the St. Vincent eating disorder program for adolescents, and the second being a combination of residential and then back at St. Vincent’s, but in the adult program. I’ve said numerous times that I got much more out of St. Vincent’s the second time around than I did the first, which obviously raises the question of, “Why?”.

Sure, I took away different variations on things that helped me to cope with anxiety, stress and depression the second time than I did the first. I was older the second time around (19 versus 15), and I had a different therapist. But it’s not like there was really ever a new technique or skill developed or discovered, in the four years between my times in treatment. So why did I feel like I gained SO much more out of the exact same program?

In the end, all it comes down to is a difference in responsibility.  In the adolescent program, though the structure was almost identical and the groups almost exactly the same, we (the patients) were being walked through recovering while being a child, living at home with mom and dad. We were taught to follow our meal plan, but always had mom and dad to look at it and make sure we were. Parents came to meal planning groups every week, and that was when the next 21 meals would be determined, parents included.

The second time around, though I was still living with my mom and had her and my dad’s support 100%, I was in a program that taught us how recovery would look as an independent person. Not everyone lived at home with their parents. In fact, some lived in hospital-provided housing across the street because their own home was too far away to commute each day. Meal planning was done on our own, without parental involvement, and though, granted, I would talk to my mom about what she’d like to make, I was expected to have the plans completed, turned in, and follow them 100%, regardless of whether or not my mommy was there with me to buy the groceries, cook the meal, and measure out (and eat) the portions I needed to. I had to get myself to the program every day, after having breakfast on my own because my mom had already left for work, and there was no one there to buckle me in the car and drive me up Barnes road. This is up to me. This is recovery as an adult. This is taking ownership of my recovery.

I really think that made the biggest difference. Yes, there were other blessings along the way that made the second time around even better. I met Carolyn at Canopy Cove, and formed a friendship that I know will be life-long. I bonded with the girls in my group at St. V’s, something I hadn’t really done in the adolescent program. I became more dependent on Jesus the second time around, as I realized how much I’d left Him when I was in the disorder, though He never left my side. But the greatest difference was the ownership and responsibility I had to claim over this disorder.

And tonight, as I sit here thinking about how I just ate my snack, which I so, so badly did not want to eat, I can’t help thinking what a victory it is that I did eat it. Five years down the road, is it really going to matter if I ate this snack or not? Will I even remember? Probably not. But by eating it, I set the tone for this upcoming week. For this upcoming month. For this next year. For this journey of life in recovery as a young, independent adult.

And for that, I am incredibly thankful for the ADULT St. Vincent Eating Disorder program.

Cars, Friends, Classes, and a New Job…Oh My!

If it’s not obvious by the title, this week has been crazy, to say the least! I was planning on driving down to Corvallis last Sunday night, but my mom ended up getting back from a weekend trip later than expected, so I decided to stay the night and head out early the next morning instead. Monday morning, I awoke with a TON of anxiety, which I couldn’t even pinpoint the cause of. I mean, yes – okay, I was moving out. Anxiety doesn’t seem too abnormal a response in that regard. But I was moving into a house I’ve gotten comfortable in already, with a group of girls that I absolutely LOVE, and I’d be coming home five days later for a therapy appointment! It was by no means a “goodbye.” Yet saying goodbye to my mom (and my dogs) was really, really hard. I think more than anything, what scared me the most was the fear of this return to school going just as the previous two have. Both times I’ve “moved out,” both my freshman and my sophomore year, eating disorder behavior immediately followed. I didn’t want this time around to go the same as they had before. I also knew I was about to encounter a ton of things that would trigger past memories and experiences, and I was a little worried about how I’d react.

As if the stress of that wasn’t enough, Monday also brought with it the first day of the academic term, and my first appointment with my new dietician. My class happens to be in the exact classroom I had economics in fall term of last year, which caught me off guard initially and triggered some stuff, but I worked through it and just tried to pay attention to what my professor was teaching. I have a friend in that class, too, which helped 🙂

After class came my dietician appointment. Praise Jesus, I like her. That’s not too common to hear from an eating disorder patient when it comes to a dietician. I do like her though, and I thought the appointment was great, and she’s close by and takes our insurance, so everything’s great in that department. Which is SUCH A BLESSING.

Once my appointment was over, it was time to go grocery shopping. Oh boy, another one of my favorite things (*insert eye roll here*). I called my mom and talked to her while I shopped, bought everything off of the list I’d made at home, and that was that! It wasn’t too bad at all. I spent the next few hours at home unloading my car and working on homework (after I ate lunch, of course), and then when Claire got home, we went to Dixon. I asked her to go with me, and I’m really glad I did. Just walking in those doors made my heart start pounding and my stomach feel like it was in my throat. But thirty minutes later, I’d finished my first workout at Dixon, no cardio (or eating disorder behavior for that matter) done! Claire and I walked and talked as we headed back home, and it was really nice to have her there just to process everything with. Having her as both a friend and a support person is already turning out to be so much more awesome than I could ever have imagined. Tuesday morning, she even asked me what I had for breakfast! It totally caught me off guard, and I was glad! I had eaten, but it had definitely crossed my mind that it would probably go unnoticed if I just skipped it, and as soon as she asked that, I felt so good being able to tell her, honestly, what I’d eaten. The past two mornings, we’ve had breakfast at the table together while reading the Bible and working on homework.

Tuesday was also my first day of work, and my car died! I won’t bore you with the details, but my afternoon was filled with waiting around for Triple A, then waiting for them to figure out what was wrong with my car, then waiting while they replaced the battery that apparently needed replacing, then paying a lovely chunk of money for the new battery, and THEN running home to eat really quickly before I had to get to work!! It was so stressful but also really good practice for real life. I know that I won’t ALWAYS have an hour to eat lunch, or the perfect meal, or be able to fit in my workout, and I’m going to have to deal with that. That’s just life!

My job rocks. That’s all I’m going to say about it, but I’m SO SO SO happy I’m where I am right now. Both in my house and school and work. For something that I was having a hard time making a decision about just four weeks ago, it’s crazy how seamlessly and perfectly it’s all come together.

I got a visit from Lea and Nia last night. They drove down from Portland to go out to dinner, and it was awesome. It’s amazing the transformation that’s taken place, just in me, over the last six months. The last time I was at school, I NEVER wanted friends (or family, even) to come visit. I didn’t want to be forced to stray from my routine, nor did I want them to see the way I was living. But last night, I was so happy when the two of them got here! I was excited to show them around, introduce them to the other girls, and talk about how things are really going. I was able to be proud, and vulnerable at the same time. Six months ago, I was closed off to anything that got a little too personal. Last night, I was open and honest, and also fully engaged in all aspects of the conversation. It felt SO GOOD.

This morning, my car broke down again. I’m not sure what’s wrong with it, and I had to have Triple A come tow it to a dealership, which resulted in me missing class. I’m not too happy about either of those things, but it’s alright. That’s life. I’m thankful to be where I am, with who I’m with, and to have a Jesus who’s walking by my side, always.

-Bridge

Nurse Jackie

I’ve gotten into a new show on Netflix. It’s called Nurse Jackie and it’s about a woman named Jackie (duh), who’s a nurse (duh, again). Jackie’s a super awesome nurse – she acts as her patients’ number one advocate, knows more than most of the doctors she works with, and is the mother of two beautiful daughters. She’s just got one problem: she’s addicted to narcotics.

As the show progresses, you learn to love Jackie more and more despite her addiction, and even begin to ache for her as she relapses again and again. During her longest stint being clean, she gets into a car accident that she’s at fault for. It’s not bad, a fender bender, really. But the first thing that’s called into question is her sobriety. She’s quite offended, as she’s been working incredibly hard on her recovery – attending all of her required meetings, seeing her sponsor, passing her drug tests, etc. It’s been over a year since she’s used. Why can’t everyone just accept that she’s a different person now, she’s doing well, she’s clean? Why can’t it just have been one bad day, an accident, like it would be for a “normal person” who was in a fender bender?

Because there’s been a pattern here before, and it takes a while to build trust back. Hers, while it has been increasing with each drug test she passes and each meeting she shows up to, is not built back yet.

I could (can) relate to Jackie A LOT in this instance. There have been numerous situations when something’s happened that, if it were any other person, would raise no concern whatsoever. But because of my history with anorexia, it raises a zillion and one flags.

*Gets into an argument with mom*

Are you restricting?

*Forgets to do something I said I’d do*

Were you consumed in your E.D. thoughts? Are you struggling?

*Sleeps in one morning and misses breakfast*

Were you sleeping to avoid breakfast? I hope you’re planning to make that up at lunch.

*Is caught up in conversation with someone at the gym and loses track of time, ends up being gone for 45 minutes instead of 30*

Were you over-exercising? Did you do cardio? Is this E.D.-related?

*Says to therapist that it’s been a good week*

Are you lying to me? Was it good because you were able to get away with disordered behavior? Is your weight going to be down when you get weighed in on Monday?

 

 

It can be really, really frustrating at times, to have “normal” circumstances bring about what seems to me, in the moment, like an interrogation into my recovery. It can seem like the effort I’m making isn’t worthwhile, like none of my progress is being noticed. Am I still regarded as the same person I was when I was hospitalized, when I went to residential, when I was in the DEPTHS of my eating disorder?

No. I’m not. But until the trust is built all the way back again, I’m just going to have to learn to live with it. And not only live with it, but embrace it. In the moment I’m being asked them, it can feel like I’m being attacked, like my character’s being called into question, and it’s really easy to take it offensively. Seeing it from an outsider’s perspective though, such as on Nurse Jackie, has actually really broadened my perspective about it.

Odds are, the people who are “interrogating” me are the ones who are the most concerned and who have my best interest and my recovery in mind. Watching those who love and support Jackie the most be the ones who are “interrogating” her, is helping me to realize that.

-Bridge

The Power of a Team

A Fresh Start, and a Bet

Dr. Rock and I made a deal at my appointment with him on Wednesday. We made an agreement that if my weight gets down to a certain number, I will re-enter treatment. The scary thing about making that deal, is that I’m not too far from that number. I don’t have a whole lot of buffer room, and he questioned if I really wanted the number to be as high as it was. If our “magic number” was a bit lower, then I might be able to catch and address it before things start going too far south, and be able to save myself from having to do this whole process. Again.

But I know the way my mind works. And I know that if I do hit that number, there won’t be any stopping me without significant intervention. So, with a touch of reluctancy and a whole bunch of anxiety, I told him that, yes, I want that to be the number.

The dietician I’ll be seeing in Corvallis specializes in eating disorders, and even better, college-aged clients. She will make a contract between me, my mom and dad, Dr. Rock, and my therapist, stating that if my weight reaches this number, my parents will be called and significant measures will be taken. Obviously, the goal in all of this is for us to be proactive and never have to take action in the way this contract lays it out. But I think it’s invaluable to have a written document saying such things.

When I went back to Oregon State last fall, I’d been struggling to keep my weight where it needed to be for a couple months. I’d insisted that it wasn’t intentional though, and that I wanted to bring it back up. My mom and I agreed that I would see a nurse at the student health center and get weighed in every one to two weeks. We also agreed that were the weight to drop to a certain number (interestingly enough, the same number we’ve agreed on being the magic number), the nurse would call home and let her know, so that we could figure out what to do.

I did go get weighed in every week – that much I was honest about doing. I loved it, actually. I got to use a super accurate medical scale that I wouldn’t have had access to were I just weighing myself in my apartment, and I left each weigh-in feeling better than I had the week before. But I called my mom after each appointment, and told her that the weight was higher than it was. And there was no one who knew the difference.

I’m not sure why when I contacted student health and told them of my situation (the eating disorder and all) they only suggested I see a nurse. Nothing against nurses – heck, I want to become one – but unless you’ve got E.D. training or understand how the brain of an eating disordered person works, you’re not really qualified to be involved in the treatment of one.

The nurse, who I’ll call Jean, was a very sweet woman. She just had no idea what she was doing when it came to monitoring someone who was in “recovery.” I told her of my mom’s and my deal the first week I went to get weighed in, and she said that she would weigh me in, but because of HIPAA laws, she wouldn’t be able to call my mom. She also weighed me in fully clothed, and told me the weight each time…all of which are “no-no”s in the E.D. world. Four weigh-ins into the year, I had reached the magic number, but Jean didn’t say much about it. She hadn’t been recording my weight, and actually didn’t remember what the magic number was! So once she asked about it almost a month later, and I knew I’d reached it, I told her it was 10 pounds lower than it was. I’m not blaming any of this on her. At all. I know that I am 100% responsible. It is unfortunate though, how few medical professionals, especially those who treat young-adults, who are most at-risk for eating disorders, are trained in dealing with such.

The clear point, to me at least, in where we went wrong last year, was in not working as a team. The nurse was talking to me, I was talking to my mom…but the three of us weren’t talking together. There was no one holding me accountable between the two other people who were involved, so I could easily manipulate the truth of what was really going on.

This time, things look quite a bit different. As I said above, my new dietician and I will be creating a contract, and I’ve already signed release of information forms so that all of my providers can communicate with each other as well. I am also signing ROIs for my parents.

Anyway, the point in explaining how this all went down is just to show how powerful a team is. Whether it’s recovery from an addiction, a serious illness, parenting, dealing with the loss of a loved one, etc., there is an invaluable difference in working together as a team. As in more than two people. Not only are there more perspectives that come into play, but there’s an added accountability in each person being able to speak to the other about what they’ve been told.

The Maudsley Method, a very popular treatment philosophy for E.D. recovery, is based around the idea that familial involvement is essential to recovery from an eating disorder. It promotes the idea of giving the parent the full control of their child’s meal intake and activity expenditure until the child is well into recovery, and then little by little, allowing the child/patient to begin to take more responsibility for their own, healthy actions.

For those who stick out the Maudsley approach, despite the often incredibly heavy resistance from the child, the success rate is high. Higher than any other treatment method, in fact. Despite the many little differences that separate the various styles of eating disorder treatment, those which use family-based-therapy as a core component of treatment consistently see a higher success rate than those which go about treating it individually.

I move to Corvallis on Sunday. Yep, in two days. It feels almost as weird to type it out as it does to say it out loud. I have so many images and memories that flood through my head when I think about that. The last time I was getting ready to leave home and go to school, I was not in this place. Not at all. And I keep reminding myself of that whenever I begin to question or not if this is really a good idea. Because, yes – there are still moments when I’m questioning if this is a good idea. I know I’m not 100% ready. I’d say I’m probably closer to 75%. But if I don’t try it, will I ever really know? I’m very comfortable with where my life is at right now, living at home, eating what I want when I want, having my mom to keep me accountable a good majority of the time, seeing the treatment providers I’m familiar with (Dr. Rock who I’ve seen for six years), but I know I need to push myself to do something more. I also know that I want something more. As comfortable as the eating disorder is with me having the safety and security of everything remaining exactly the same, I know that’s not what the real Bridgette wants. The Bridgette Jesus created. The Bridgette that LOVES change and adventure and connections and newness. The Bridgette who loves Oregon State and football and the girls I’m going to be living with – that Bridgette is practically jumping out of her seat to drive away from Portland on Friday, and begin this new adventure.

 

Back to my appointment with Dr. Rock on Wednesday. He bet me that I’ll have to re-enter treatment in six weeks. This may sound weird to some people, but he and I have a pretty close relationship. He knows how competitive I am, and that by him making that bet with me, it’s only going to motivate me 10 times more to do the opposite.

I plan to prove him wrong. With, of course, the help of my team 🙂

Here’s to fresh starts and winning bets.

 

-Bridge

 

 

 

 

Titles and Identity

Identity is a very hot topic within the church. Of all the church camps, retreats, conferences, etc. that I’ve been to, I can’t recall a single one that didn’t address it in some way, shape or form. I was thinking a lot about my identity this morning, after my mom and I had had a particularly difficult exchange. It was our third argument in less than 24 hours. I began to write this blog post early this morning, actually, after my therapy session, but was interrupted by leaving for a church speaker I was going to with a couple friends. A speaker whose talk had quite a bit to do with identity.

How fitting.

Thanks to Jamie Winship‘s talk, I’ve re-directed the focus of my blog post tonight. He made some points that were a little too relevant – and as my friend Lea said at one point, “Bridge, he’s literally speaking directly to you right now” – to not share.

The greatest thing I took away from Jamie’s talk today was our (human) need for order. Order gives us a sense of security. A pretty false sense, at times, but still a sense of security. If we can see the way something’s going, the way something’s likely to end up, we’re a whole lot more comfortable with it than if we have no idea what it could lead to. He talked about the relationship between order, disorder, and re-order. “Order”, as we know it, makes us feel calm. Calm, safe, secure, etc. Order aligns with what the world says we want; order is conformity. What Jesus did when He came to earth, that was the opposite of order. He had to walk through the disorder – the chaos, the confusion, the criticism – to get to a place where he was living in the new order, the “re-order” if you will, the world as God designed it to be. Not the world the way humans want it to be, not the world as Satan wants it to be. But the world the way God wants it to be is so beyond our scope of comprehension, that it confuses us. It doesn’t make sense to us. It seems out of order to us. And so we stick with what we know, with the way we’ve always done things – a way that we know doesn’t work. Because it’s a way that makes sense to us. This doesn’t really make too much sense, but if I think about it, I can totally relate. How many times have I rejected God’s way of doing something because I’m more comfortable doing it my own. Does my way work? No. Do I know that it doesn’t work? Yes. Do I surrender and give myself over to God and submit to his ways, though? No.

That’s a really hard concept. I mean sure, it’s easy theoretically. I say I follow Jesus, so I need to trust Him. Okay. But in actuality, that looks like living my life a lot differently than I currently do. That means living my life a way I’m not really comfortable living it. My eating disorder? That’s comfortable to me. Healthy? No. Harmful? Yes. But comfortable? You bet it is! I know exactly what to expect, I know exactly what it will do to my body, I know exactly how close I’ll be able to get to people and what I need to say and do to keep things just how I want them. Essentially, it’s living life on Bridgette’s terms. But that’s excluding God from the picture, little by little, until I can’t even discern His voice from my own anymore. 

And so it goes for the rest of the world as well. The hatred certain groups experience on a daily basis begins to seem to be the norm, and we begin to divorce ourselves from everything. Not just our partners, but everything. I don’t understand you? I don’t want anything to do with you. You don’t look like me? That scares me; I can’t love you. You don’t worship the same god as me? I can’t love you. You don’t speak the same language as me? I can’t love you. You’re addicted to heroin? I can’t love you. You don’t smell like me? You’re disgusting. Surely Jesus wasn’t talking about YOU when He said to wash one another’s feet…

But nowhere in the Bible does Jesus say to love the people that are just like you. He doesn’t say to love when it’s convenient, or to love when we understand where someone’s coming from, or to love only when we know what’s going to happen as a result of it.
He just tells us to love. Ourselves and one another. End of story.

Similarly, when Jesus says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, He doesn’t mean that it’s true some of the time. We are a beautiful creation of His. ALL the time. And when we beat up on ourselves, or others, we’re just failing to recognize the identity we have in God. Our “true self”, as Jamie put it. Jamie also said something I really liked about comparison. He said when we compare ourselves to other, we lose the ability to rejoice with those who are rejoicing. And I find that to be so, so true. Comparison is such an easy way to strip ourselves of the identity that God has given to each and every one of us.

And finally, Jamie pointed out that when Jesus came to earth, when He came and turned the world upside down as humans knew it – He didn’t just conquer death. He conquered conformity. He transformed the entire way in which we lived. If we’re supposed to be examples of Jesus to those around us, then that’s what we’re supposed to be doing, too. We should be doing the things that seem crazy, chaotic, out of order. The kinds of things that make people ask, “What’s up with her? Where does she get that passion from? Why isn’t she afraid to go up and talk to that man? Why does she give her money away to the homeless, doesn’t she know they’re going to spend it on drugs and alcohol? Doesn’t he worry he won’t have enough to provide for himself?”. All Jesus asked us to do, was to love. He said that He’ll take care of the rest.

Those are the things we should be doing. Stepping into the disorder, trusting that God will turn it into a miraculous re-order; trusting that God will turn our world into something that we can’t even imagine.

And back to identity. Jamie talked about how when the disciples were on the boat during the storm and Peter came out to walk on the water, He was fine the whole time he was looking at Jesus. It wasn’t until he took his eyes off of Him, and began to look at the waves, and the thunder and the rocking boat, that he began to fear for his life. And it was then that he looked away from Jesus, and it was then that he sank. It’s the same for us and in our identities. I could totally relate to this in an eating disorder sense. The second I take my eyes off of Jesus, my hope for recovery is toast, really. Because my human-self’s natural tendency is not to live the way Jesus wants me to live. It’s not to honor my body and do what I need to do for my recovery, it’s to do what the mental illness, my eating disorder, wants me to do. Unless I’m abiding in and walking with Jesus, keeping my eyes on Him every step of the way, and only finding my identity in Him, I won’t be satisfied, and I’ll continue to move further and further away from being the person that God designed me to be. I have to step away from the order – the life that I know, that I’m comfortable with, but that is destructive – and step into the disorder, the submission, the compliancy, the trust in my doctors, therapists, mentors, and Jesus, to get to the re-order. The life that God designed for me. The one where I don’t even worry about anything of this world, but only seek to serve Him. That is where I’ll find my true identity.

 

-Bridge

“Don’t look back, you’re not going that way”

I don’t know who said this quote or made it famous…some wise philosopher, probably. All I know is that it seems relevant to just about anyone, in just about every state of life. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the past — what could have been, what should have been, what was…the list can go on and on.

I spent all day and night last night in Corvallis. I had my last final of the term this morning, and then set off back home.

“Home” is such a weird concept. It can have so many different meanings depending on who you’re talking to, and it changes throughout different stages of life. What I consider my home is so much more than four walls and a roof. My mom’s always worked so hard to make our physical house feel like a home, but I have to admit, it hasn’t always felt that way. During the tumultuous years surrounding my parents’ split, our house did not feel like a home. It was filled with tension, and terrible memories, and anger and frustration and lies. I couldn’t wait until my mom and brother and I could move out. Then of course, as soon as we had, I longed to return to that place I’d spent my childhood. I missed the feel of the smooth wooden banister underneath my fingertips, for the solitude I found in my bedroom, when I could wake up in the morning and look out my oversized bedroom and see our neighbor’s horses peering into our backyard. I spent months refusing to drive down Burton road, because it hurt that much to see the entrance to what had once been my neighborhood, my oasis, my home. And what hurt even more, was seeing another family move in, their young children playing on the playground we’d left behind, hosting summer barbecues out by the pool, knowing they were painting over my hot pink walls because their boys surely wouldn’t want that, imagining the murals of my dogs with my swim medals hanging out of their mouths being coated over with primer…

It was a lose-lose situation. When we were there, I wanted out. I felt trapped. The emotions were just too strong to stay in the place where my whole world had been turned upside down. But as soon as we were out, I desperately wanted back. What I wanted back wasn’t what was, it was what I’d wished could be. I wanted to return to that home as eight-year old Bridgette, the one who had never experienced pain or loss, the one whose biggest fear was a spider crawling into her bed at night. I didn’t want back to what it had become.

We moved into many houses after the one off of Burton road. Ironically, the first one was only two minutes away. That ended up being both a blessing and a curse; at times, it was a little too close for comfort, but also, it carried with it a sense of familiarity. After Belle court was the house on Filbert street, and subsequently the one on Kearney, where we are now. I will say, this is the first one that’s felt like home to me, in the same way that my childhood home did. It’s really interesting, too — because less than a month after we moved in, I left for college. I’m not sure what it is about it, though I think part’s got to be that my mom was able to purchase it, as opposed to renting the others, that’s made it feel so much more like home than the others. Now, as I prepare to pack up my bedroom to move to my new home, in Corvallis, I wonder what will become of this new home. Memories of a home have feelings that last forever, and I can only hope and pray that the choices I make in this new one will be positive. I don’t want this home to become another place I hesitate to drive by in five years, fearful of the memories that will return. I want this home to be full of honesty, of laughter and joy, of communion and friendship. So far, that’s what it’s been. My greatest prayer for my return to Corvallis this summer, is to keep it that way.

As much pain and grief as losing my childhood home caused me, I still have a dream of buying that house back. I have a dream of my mom being able to live and retire there, and my and my brother’s kids and my mom’s grandkids being able to dive off the same diving board, swing around the same banister that we once did. My heart still wants what my head doesn’t.

What I think I’ve learned from all of this, is how much our memory warps things the way it wants them to be remembered. As much as I still ache to return to our home in Lakeshore Estates, the one my parents remodeled from the ground up, that held birthday party after birthday party, that my grandma’s ashes are in the backyard of, I know in my head that I didn’t feel that way towards the end of our time living there. I know it in my head, but not in my heart. Similarly, is the way I feel about Oregon State. My memories there are such a mishmash of feelings that I’m still not quite sure how to process it. The initial intent in me returning this spring term, two days a week, was to get re-acclimated on campus, and see if I could handle it. To see if all the awful memories of destructive behavior came rushing back to me each time I took the exit off I-5 for Corvallis, or if it felt like the wonderful experience I’d known it could be. The experience I wanted it to be.

Eleven weeks later, the end of my first term back in school, I’ve come to a conclusion that there’s not really an easy answer. I do still get those feelings most times I turn onto Highway 34. Not every time, but most times. I’m still a little uneasy when I walk into Dutch Bros., and I’ve yet to step foot into the gym. Each time I do one of those things though, it gets easier. I create new memories.

“Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.”

The reason I chose this quote to title this post, is that last night I did two things that were really hard for me. They were “firsts” for me in recovery. They both brought back memories, and I had to remind myself numerous times that, while I may have done them destructively in the past, I’m doing them differently now. I’m creating new memories, and I don’t need to set my focus on the old, poor ones I made.

Firstly, I went to a class called Barre3 with Maddie. I really enjoyed it, and actually did okay mentally despite the large mirrors on the wall and number of girls surrounding me in skin-tight clothing. I was able to use the 3 lb. weights, too, which I was pretty proud of (and attribute to my lifting). Okay, after reading that I realize that 3 lbs sounds SO light and it probably reads a little funny that I was proud of that. But if you don’t know what Barre3 is, it’s a VERY repetitive class that focuses on working small muscles over and over again, and the highest weights they even offer is 4 lbs! They recommended beginners start with 1 lb. Rebellious me, though, went with 3…so I felt pretty good about it 🙂 This was my first workout class since being in recovery, and it felt good to switch up my routine a little bit and do something fun with a friend. It’s also funny to think about, because the ONE other time I’ve been to Barre3 (also with Maddie), a little over a year ago, I left thinking that it was a “fine” workout, but I would never commit to doing it because there’s no way it burned the same number of calories as my cardio regimen did. I then went home that evening and proceeded to Dixon, where I did my two-hour routine on the treadmill, elliptical, and exercise bike. It’s just funny because yesterday, the Barre3 workout was probably the most I’ve sweat in six months! And the hour-long class was longer than the workouts I’ve been doing, which are, of course, only lifting weights, and limited to 30 minutes. Oh, how the tables have turned!

Secondly, I went to Market of Choice. That store, especially in Corvallis, is probably second to Dixon (the gym) and, ok, my old apartment, in terms of the most triggering places for me. They’re where I engaged in the most unhealthy behavior and where the eating disorder ran the most rampant. If I had it my way, I wouldn’t return to any of the above places. Ever. But I know that if I followed that mindset, I wouldn’t make much progress…so I dragged Maddie there with me after our class. (Actually, I explained the situation to her and asked if she’d be willing to accompany me, and she was more than willing to.) Walking back in there brought back SO many memories. I don’t even want to recount them on here, to be honest. But we went in there, engaged in conversation the whole time so I wouldn’t get too lost in my head, and made our purchases and left. It was fine. And now, the next time I go back, it might be just a little bit easier.

And who knows? Maybe eventually I’ll be able to go alone 🙂

 

-Bridgette

p.s. I apologize for how all over the place this post is…I’m just going to blame it on finals and leave it at that

 

 

 

 

Journal #91

I woke up this morning thinking I would blog about what a good place I’m in. How I feel the best I think I’ve felt, really, since my seventh grade year. I didn’t know that even greater things were to come just a couple hours later!

My workout this morning was good. I felt really strong. And I don’t want to dismiss the significance of that statement being a positive one. For such a long time, I’ve been afraid of being strong. Strong means more weight, and even if it’s muscle, I didn’t want it. On Tuesday, at lunch with Lindsay, she commented on how strong I looked — my “toned arms” in particular. If I would’ve heard that six months ago, it would’ve set off like an alarm bell in my head.

OH NO! Someone can visibly SEE that my arms are getting bigger. They said I’m looking stronger. Stronger means more weight. I’ve put on weight. I look fat. Time to double up on the cardio and decrease any of the strength training I’ve been doing. It’s obviously making me bulky.

None of which a normal brain would’ve taken from Lindsay’s simple statement. She said I looked strong. Strong and toned — which is an idealistic body type for most people. But not for the eating disorder.

When I heard this on Tuesday though, the typical internal dialogue didn’t begin. I could feel the alarm bell getting “triggered”…like it wanted to go into its automatic response, but it didn’t. I felt a grin come upon my face. I was happy — really happy — to have my new muscles noticed. Even if that did mean my weight may be up by a couple pounds. I felt secure in my body, and I didn’t question the intention of her statement. She said it in a positive way, so it was probably a compliment. And I was going to treat it as one. I texted my mom right after I left, “Lindsay said my arms look really strong!” and, knowing what my typical reaction would be to hearing that, she responded with, “That’s an awesome compliment!” I didn’t need her validation, though. I was feeling good about myself, and the eating disorder was NOT going to take that victory away from me.

Something similar happened last night. My mom commented that I looked “different”, but she couldn’t pinpoint what it was. After a minute, she said that she realized it may just be how much better I look with a little more weight on me.

Whoops.

Normally, that would be enough to set me off.

MORE WEIGHT. I have more weight on me. I’m fat. I’ve gained so much…I’m out of control. What’s happened to me? I used to take care of this. I used to be good at this. This never would’ve happened last year. How did I let myself slide so much?!?!

Now, clearly, nothing my mom said was negative. In fact, she said that I looked better. But “better” and “more weight” NEVER align in the E.D.’s rulebook. Any increase in weight is ALWAYS a negative.

The cool thing about what happened last night?

It didn’t bother me. Just like it had in the situation with Lindsay two days, prior, I felt the alarm bell start to go off, and then…it just didn’t. I looked at my mom, at her warm, smiling, loving, face (though her eyes showed she was anxious to see how I would react), and I said thank you. We talked about it for a minute while I assured her I was fine, and then she went off to bed and I went to work on some homework. No harm, no foul.

Progress.

Okay, some more things. I’m not going to be able to update about everything that’s happened these past few days for the sake of this blog not taking more time to read than anyone has time for, (and more time to write than I should be spending, given that finals are next week…) but really quickly-

  •  Lea’s home from South Africa, and it is wonderful. There’s nothing like having one of your best friends home after six months to fill your heart with joy. YAY for no more 9 hour time difference!
  • As I think I mentioned earlier, I wrote a story for my Writing for Media class a couple weeks back, and my professor ended up publishing it yesterday. It was quite an honor for me, since he normally only publishes stories from his 400-level class on his own website, and I’m a sophomore in a 200-level class. If you’d like to read it, you can find it here.
  • Last night, we had our first roommate dinner with the girls I’ll be living with next year in Corvallis. Yes, I decided to stay for another year. It was so awesome, and I left feeling abundantly blessed with the fellowship and community I’m getting to experience with Claire and Anna. And we’re not even living together yet! Lindsay and Tara were in and out, too, so it was awesome to get to be with them as well — even if just in passing! Claire has agreed to be a support person for me this next year, and while all of the girls seem game to help out however I need, she’s sort of stepped up to make sure I always have what I need, whatever it be, and more importantly, always have an ear to talk to. Our new friendship is working out to be such a blessing that I know can only come from one rooted in Jesus.
  • Going off of the last bullet, I followed my whole meal plan yesterday, despite having numerous opportunities to restrict, even though yesterday was a rest day (from exercise). These days are always hardest for me to eat everything, as I’m often not as hungry (and typically struggling more with body image), but I know in this immediate period of recovery, it’s important for me to consistently meet all of my exchanges, even when my hunger cues aren’t requesting them. My breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, and evening snack were all eaten alone (just by the way it worked out with my schedule), and my dinner was with the girls. I was tempted to only have one taco instead of two (they were big tacos!), and I knew no one had seen my meal plan (which clearly said TWO), but I went up to get myself a second, anyway.

And now, finally…the meaty stuff.

I did decide, on Wednesday, after a lot of prayer, tears, and conversations with my mom, dad, Lea (thank goodness she’s home!), Nia, Lindsay, Brad, Carolyn, a good friend who just came home for the summer, and my godsister, that I will stay at OSU for one more year. I’m going to begin taking prerequisites for nursing school, make use of the strong support system I have in Corvallis, and solidify my recovery while living independently before I venture out to a completely new environment. Since I’ll be in Corvallis for another year, I accepted the job, which is with Oregon State Football. This decision was really hard for me, as quite a few of the friends (and my brother) I spoke with were in pretty strong support of branching out and getting a completely fresh start. I prayed, and prayed, and prayed some more, but finally, had to get back to Oregon State about the job. It was a phone call with my dad that gave me the confidence enough to make a decision. He said, “Bridge, I’ll support you either way, but if delaying your becoming a nurse by one more year is going to drastically reduce the likelihood of you relapsing, and solidify the stability you have in your recovery, isn’t that worth it? You can transfer to nursing school next year.”

I think deep down, I felt that was the right decision, but hearing him say it put my heart at peace. I wasn’t certain enough about it to push against what my friends were suggesting until I heard the words come from him. The two of us tend to disagree on a lot, but those words gave validation to that inkling inside that was telling me to hold off for one more year. It was getting close to 5 p.m., when I’d told OSU I’d let them know by, so after thanking my dad and telling him I’d let him know what I decided, I hung up and prayed. Feeling the most certain that I had that it was the right decision, I called my mom, shared my thoughts with her, and then called and let Oregon State know.

I’ll be moving to Corvallis in just over three weeks to begin training for the job, and will take courses at OSU this summer. Over the past 24 hours I’ve only grown more and more confident about my decision, and was praising Jesus with worship music in my car, with the top down, my whole drive back to Portland from Corvallis last night.

Remember what I said at the beginning of this entry, though? That I didn’t even know what was to come later today?

When I made the decision about staying in Corvallis, I still hadn’t heard back from two of the three nursing schools I’d applied to. Yesterday afternoon, I got a call from Biola University, saying that I’d been accepted to their nursing program and could begin in the fall. Not just with prerequisite courses, but with their actual nursing program — something that’s pretty rare for a program to allow for a student who hasn’t even taken her anatomy courses yet. The woman who called me was so sweet, and so excited for me, that I couldn’t even bear to tell her that I’d already decided, and would not be transferring schools this fall. I waited until the office was closed, and then sent her an email explaining that I would not be accepting the offer.

I didn’t just say “no” though, I explained the situation pretty thoroughly. I told her that I was in recovery from an eating disorder, and that after a lot of praying and talking it over with my family, I’d decided that it wasn’t the time for me to move away just yet. I said that it was a hard decision, but one that I felt was best, and that I appreciated all of her help. Due to the nature of their nursing program, I knew that it wouldn’t work for me to transfer there the following year, and I told her that as well, so they could take me off of their mailing list. I added that I knew it was going to make it harder to get into schools, as she’d told me earlier when I called and asked about the program, but that I was trusting God to provide.

I got a call from her around 10 o’clock this morning, saying that she had received my email, and wanted to follow up with me personally. Not only was she incredibly sweet and understanding, but she’d spoken with the coordinator of the nursing program, and they’d decided to postpone my application to the Fall of 2017, and agreed to simply deduct any prerequisites I take this year, while I’m working on my recovery, from the courses I will have to take in 2017. Remember, this is the program that doesn’t typically do this. Once I decided not to transfer this year, I’d crossed them off my list.

I had nothing to say. This was nothing but an intervention from the Holy Spirit.

I was in shock on the phone, as I know she could tell, and she sounded pretty happy herself. We praised Jesus for a minute together, and then she said she had something else to tell me. Biola has a program for students recovering from eating disorders, specifically, so once I was ready to move to California, I could enter school, begin my career as a nurse, and have the support I needed at the same time.

Again, I had nothing to say.

So I just sang worship instead.

 

In Him,

Bridgette