Thank You, Sam and Nathalie

I’m thinking I’ll stop describing my weeks as being “hard,” because that kind of seems to take away from the “hardness” that they are. How do I describe harder than hard?! This week, again, had it’s eating-disordered challenges. My weight was up on Monday, and I was praised. It was back down on Wednesday, and I was “un-praised,” or however you want to say it. It’s continually a battle. On one hand, I say that it’s not about the food, nor is it about the weight, but on the other, so much of it is. Even though the root of the issue doesn’t stem from either of those things, they are the two things that I’ve learned to use in order to make myself pseudo-comfortable. I refuse to say that they make me comfortable, because the detrimental effects that both have on my health is certainly not a life that I’d be able to sustain for long, and definitely wouldn’t classify as comfortable. Nevertheless, the restricting, the compulsive exercise, the weight-loss, the rigidity, whatever facet of anorexia you want to zoom in on, there’s a false sense of “comfort” that it’s provided me with for years now. It’s my own form of self-soothing, just like a baby has its blanket, or a toddler sucks on its thumb. Other people have similar problems, I know. Alcoholism, drug addiction, pornography, etc. are unfortunately, not uncommon in our world. The major difference though, is that I have to eat to live. So not only am I having to learn how to not use food and exercise in one way, I’m also having to learn how to use it in another way. It’s been compared many a time in E.D. treatment programs to an alcoholic being expected to recover while also having one drink a day, every day for the rest of their life. That isn’t the way recovery programs work, and there’s a reason for that. The easiest (and most effective) way to handle an addiction is to go through the withdrawal phase, and then reintegrate back into life without the substance, whatever it may be. No programs (at least that I’ve been told of!) encourage patients to immediately reintegrate the things that have ruined their lives, in moderation. And that is where the greatest challenge in eating disorder recovery lies.

Today was supposed to not be a blogging day. I told myself (and my mom, actually!) that this weekend I would not blog. I needed to focus. The end of my three week (yes, that is four times the speed of the typical course) anatomy class, Bio 233, is ending on Friday, and I have both a midterm (on Monday) and the final (Friday) that I need to be preparing for. There’s not much room in my brain to be processing and dealing with emotion right now. Which, is interesting, considering “not dealing with”, or “stuffing” emotion is what I’ve been working on not doing during the last five years I’ve been in treatment for anorexia.

It became pretty clear early this morning that the course of my day wasn’t going to go quite the way I’d like it, though. I’m learning to deal with that. In the past (during my darkest periods), I had no tolerance for an unexpected change in plans. If something came up, be it an unexpected time of celebration, or a devastating time of mourning, I didn’t allow for that “wiggle room” in my schedule. Not where food was concerned, obviously — I had to stick to what was safe, my routine — but also where emotions were concerned. I just didn’t allow for it. I refused to let feelings in that would make me uncomfortable. Eventually these would boil over and be expressed in some way or another…whether it was taking it out in anger on my mom, or an intense E.D. “cleanse” to rid myself of the terrible way I was feeling, or by sobbing uncontrollably…you get the idea. It wasn’t a good cycle. It wasn’t a sustainable cycle. It certainly wasn’t a Godly cycle.

Scott Night’s (whom I referred to in my last entry) real name is Sam Day. He was a great source of inspiration and motivation to me in my fight against anorexia, as well to many others in my community, and I believe around the world. He passed away early this morning after a six-year battle with a rare form of bone cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma, at 15 years old. He fought his fight valiantly and hard all the way until the end, and it has been incredibly humbling and heartbreaking to walk alongside his family on the journey that they’ve endured the last six years. Harder for me than the passing of Sam, is the grief of the family he leaves behind. There is not a doubt in my mind that he is running free in heaven right now, celebrating with Jesus, free of all the pain he’s experienced, and the toll that the cancer took on his young body. For him, I am happy. As his mom put it on their Caring Bridge update, “He is free.”

For his family, I am heartbroken. It is really, really hard for me to wrap my head around this kind of a loss. It’s not dissimilar to another loss that our community suffered last fall. On October 6th, Nathalie Traller, a girl with a tenacity for life and character I can’t even put into words, passed away after a three-year fight with another form of Sarcoma, ASPS (Alveolar Soft Part Sarcoma). She was 16 years old.

My mom and I laid in bed, grieving together this morning. I’m not going to say that I never question my faith, because I know there have been times that I have. I whole-heartedly believe God’s word to be true. What I question, more often than not, is why things happen the way they do. I’m going to save writing about that for another day (frankly, because of time; I really do need to study at SOME point!!), but my mom and I talked about it thoroughly. My questions were intense, and they were also real. I told her that yesterday as I drove home from Corvallis, each time a semi drove by me in oncoming traffic, the thought crossed my mind of, I could so easily end my life if I just veered to the left a bit. Why should I not do that?

I know what suicidal feels like, and that’s not how I’m feeling, or how I felt when I drove home yesterday. But still, I’m left wondering. What is the point? Why endure this type of pain, when the ultimate goal is just to get to Heaven, where we’re living eternally with our Father, with no more pain and no more suffering?

I imagine that the first thing Jesus said to Nathalie and Sam the minute they walked through Heaven’s gates was, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” That’s the way the two of them lived.

And really, that is all I want out of this life. I was reminded this morning, as I thought of the testimonies that both Sam and Nathalie lived while they were here on this Earth, that getting to that place doesn’t come easily. They went through a lot. We’re talking years of chemotherapy, of putting toxins into your body that make you feel worse, in hopes that they ultimately make you better. Years of scans, lab tests, blood draws, urine samples, emesis bags, IVs, surgeries, amputations (Sam lost both one of his legs and part of his other leg’s foot), hair loss…the list is never ending. Ultimately, their bodies gave out on them, but they got the greatest reward of all. They are now experiencing eternal life with Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

They did what they didn’t want to do, because it was what they had to do.

I cannot live my life the way Jesus intends if I’m engaged in my eating disorder. It’s as simple as that. The actual changing of the mentality and the behavior may not be simple, but the “question” of whether or not I can kind of do this recovery thing halfway, if I can just “half-ass” it, for lack of a better word, which the E.D. will often try to convince me I can do, can stop right at the door. Neither Nathalie or Sam could fight their fight halfway, nor would they be remembered for the relentless, God-seeking, God-fearing, and endearing children that they were, without fighting that fight with everything they had.

That’s what I want.

So to Nathalie and Sam, thank you.

Thank you for being an example to me, and I know to so many others, of what it means to fight with everything you have. To do what you have to even when you don’t want to. Even when it is physically paining you, even when it doesn’t make sense, and even when all you want to do is hide away and turn the other way. Thank you for being you.

 

-Bridgette

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Journal #96

I’m sitting at the kitchen table writing this, at my house in Corvallis, while picking at the ounce of almonds I was supposed to have with my lunch. It’s now 4 p.m., so inevitably my afternoon snack will have to be relatively soon, if I plan to also have dinner and my evening snack, and not still be eating at midnight.

Ugh.

This is exhausting, and I am exhausted. I know I’m not alone – at this point, my mom is thoroughly exhausted, too. So is my therapist, and my dietician, and my psychiatrist as well, I’m sure of it. Granted, my dietician gets the worst of it (aside from my mom, of course), because she meets with me so frequently and connects with me on such a consistent level. I truly am so thankful for her, and there’s not a doubt in my mind that I would not still be in Corvallis if it weren’t for her care and diligence towards my treatment (and really, I feel, for me as a person).

The past two weeks have really been hard. Hard seems to be an understatement at best, but I really don’t know what other word to use. Rocky was put down, and my heart was broken. I wasn’t able to handle it the way I handle emotions best – by suppressing them, which elevated both my grief and my anxiety by about ten notches. While dealing with that, I was also desperately trying to pass an accelerated-pace anatomy class that was proving to be incredibly difficult before anything was ever wrong with Rocky. Also, I have to gain weight. Which, for me, means I had to withstand a constant battle going on in my head, and do exactly the opposite of what my brain was telling me to do. “Had” to, really meaning “have” to…I’m not done yet. In fact, my weight’s yet to go up at all. I’m still below the point that was supposed to mean I re-enter treatment and move back home. My mom and providers have been very lenient with me in allowing me to still be here. By no means does that mean that I’ve been given a break. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I felt this stressed about food, mainly because the onus is all on me now. I’m the one living by myself (shout out to my amazing roommates though, who really do try to support me in any way that I let them), resisting re-entering treatment, and determined to “make this work.” When I go in to my dietician’s office each time, which is about every two to three days now, I know the number on the scale is directly correlated to whatever I’ve done that week, both activity-expenditure-wise and caloric-intake-wise. With the exception of my newly-diagnosed hyper-metabolism, which, having been “blessed” with before, I’ve learned to hate all too well. If you’re curious about hyper-metabolism, this is an explanation from a trusted source (Carrie Arnold, the author of Decoding Anorexia). Basically, me being hyper-metabolic at this point in my recovery means that I have to eat more than the average person would to gain weight. While most people would LOVE to have this issue, I, for one, do not!

My mom has had to resume her role as “the food police”, and I hate that. More than anything, I hate how much I know she hates it. But I also know that she loves me so much, and knows how important my recovery is to my well-being, that she won’t rest until she feels she can. Which, unfortunately, is definitely not now. It definitely helps to be home, because of the amount of support I have without even asking for it (or wanting it, for that matter!). But I don’t want to be back to LIVING at home! I want to keep living here, in Corvallis, with my roommates who I’m continually becoming closer with, and working the job that I’m consistently having to pinch myself to remember that it’s mine, and taking the classes I need to take to become a nurse, despite the fact that they’re killing me! I want to keep living this normal, young-adult life.

And intellectually, I can so clearly see how obvious the solution to the problem seems. My weight’s down, and if it doesn’t go up, I literally lose everything that I have going for me right now. So, duh-I need to gain weight. I should be doing any and every possible thing in my power to make sure that weight comes on.

But it’s so, SO, so much harder than that.

I can accept how simple the remedy to the pain is, until it comes time to actually do it.

I’m really good at that, actually. If it weren’t for the fact that it’s something that’s so detrimental to my health, I could probably call it a gift. I’m really good at understanding something literally, and being able to explain exactly how I can fix the problem, what should be done, yada yada yada…but when it comes time to actually do it, I freeze. It’s like the E.D. part of my brain takes over, and my “real” brain just surrenders to whatever the eating disorder wants it to do. Which, in just about all cases, is exactly the opposite of what I should be doing.

The battle I’m going to be experiencing over the coming weeks is going to be challenging. I’ve already found it to be seemingly more than I can bear, and I’ve yet to actually gain any weight yet (despite the severe reduction in exercise and elevated caloric intake, which makes me ridiculously uncomfortable, weight-gain or no).

It’s back to no exercise, drastically increased food, and I’m doing it all outpatient. As has become my mom’s new mantra for me, “Scott Night doesn’t like chemo.” Scott is a teenage boy in our community who has been undergoing treatment for cancer for the last several years, which has resulted in two amputations, and is now receiving chemotherapy again. While I would hate to make it seem that I’m comparing my situation to that of one dealing with something as horrific as cancer, it’s a good reminder. Scott doesn’t like chemo. It’s not easy, it’s not fun, and it sure as heck doesn’t feel good. But it’s what his body needs. So he does it anyway.

 

I’ve never been one to seek out support, but at this point, honestly all encouragement is welcomed. I am growing very weary of this fight, and really just want it to be over with.

 

In Him,

Bridgette

 

P.S.

If you want a bit of Sunday night entertainment, here’s a link to a video of my roommates and I trying to kill a giant spider the other night. It’s things like these that make me want to stay here in Corvallis.

 

Journal #95

This weekend has really, really sucked. I don’t mean that in a complaining sort of way, it’s just the truth. Emotionally, the past seven days have been ridiculously hard in just about every way possible. I should be studying for my anatomy test right now, (the last two of which I have failed-and yes, by “failed”, I mean I got an F) but I needed a quick break and decided to do a brief update.

My not even five year old dog, Rocky, short for “Rock Star”, which he was named as a tribute to my nickname in the eating disorder program (the first time around), is injured. Injured to the point that, without a miraculous turn around, he’s going to be put down on Friday. Rocky, the dog that I was promised when I was in the hospital, and my parents were offering me anything that would possibly motivate me to eat, and who I brought home the weekend I discharged from the program. Rocky, who’s been by my side since day one of recovery–who’s licked my tears away after every awful therapy session, who was there to give me kisses each time my exchanges were increased, who my mom and I walked around the block the first time I was finally cleared to walk again. Rocky, my best friend, is more than likely no longer going to be with us after Friday.

It’s impossible for me to type those words without breaking down. My entire weekend (and much of this last week, and the weekend before that) has consisted of tears and laying by Rocky’s side. No joke, the last two nights I’ve slept on the hardwood floor just so I could have my arm in his kennel. This weekend was the first weekend that I’ve ever been at home and he’s not slept in my bed, since I was fifteen years old.

So yeah, emotionally this weekend was rough. In addition to everything going on with Rocky, I’m supposed to be gaining weight and studying to the point where I can bring my grade up to a B (which is the only grade I’m really okay with, given that I think it’s pretty unlikely I could wind up with an A…). To put that into perspective, I’ll point out that I wasn’t doing too hot in this class BEFORE my best friend in the entire world (okay, all you non-dog people are probably rolling your eyes at me, but trust me–he’s my baby) became immobile to the point where he can’t bend his head down to drink water, and alternates between crying and yelping when we try to get him to go to the bathroom.

I know this post is sad. I like to think of this blog being uplifting and encouraging for the most part, but this is my reality right now and I wanted to do at least a small check-in. I’m still chipping away at my recovery, and God bless my incredible dietician, who has been meeting with me every other day to ensure my weight is doing what it should be, and reassuring me that I’m not going to gain ten pounds overnight. That being said, I am supposed to be gaining weight. Which is really, really hard, especially when I’m overcome with grief 95% of the time. I saw my therapist yesterday, which was good, but almost the entire session was spent talking about Rocky! I hardly have an appetite when I’m not emotionally distressed, let alone now. My exercise has been reduced to three days a week, and my exchanges have been increased. Were I not seeing my dietician so frequently, in conjunction with my mom being SO involved (yes, to the point of annoyance on my end!), I know I wouldn’t be moving forward. Actually, I don’t even think I’d be staying in the same place, I’d be going back.

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Rock and me two summers ago at the beach

So yes, these past 7 days have been pretty sucky. I probably won’t post for the remainder of the week, because I really need to do my best to compartmentalize my sadness and just focus on anatomy for the next few days, in order to get through the rest of the term. I would really, really appreciate any and all prayers for Rocky, though.

 

In Him,

Bridge