Even If

The song Even If, by Mercy Me, is one I’ve been clinging to lately. Mainly, it’s the chorus that resonates with me.

I know You’re able and I know You can

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone 

I haven’t felt a whole lot like blogging the last couple of days. 

To be completely honest, I haven’t even really felt like talking. 

I got some news on Monday that kind of rocked my world.

My treatment team did a little digging this past week and found my old growth charts, from before I had my eating disorder. My dietician was becoming suspicious that the target weight they’d set for me, the one I just got to, wasn’t high enough. My period’s yet to come back, but she must’ve had a hunch other than that, because even once at a healthy weight, it can still take someone’s body anywhere from one to twelve months to resume having a menstrual cycle.

So anyway, my psychiatrist pulled out my growth charts. He saw that the target weight they’d been using for me was determined when I was fifteen years old. It hadn’t been accounted for, over the last six years I’ve been in treatment, that I’ve gotten older as well — and, that according to the growth charts, my weight should’ve increased.

You might be wondering what the big deal is. What would the harm be in my target weight being just a few pounds too short? Well, according to research that’s been done on anorexia, it can be pretty detrimental. It actually may be to blame for me having relapsed four times over the last six years; I hadn’t been getting to a high enough weight. If you want to read more about the correlation between anxiety, eating disorder recovery, and why the last few pounds of weight restoration are so important, I talked about it in this blog post.

I’d anticipated that I may be getting some tough news at my appointment on Tuesday, because my therapist told me it might be a good idea to bring my mom to our appointment. My mom normally doesn’t come to my therapy appointments because she’s at work. For her to request time off from work is a pretty big deal, so I knew it was serious. I was not, however, prepared to be told all of this new information, including my new target weight range, at my appointment with my psychiatrist on Monday.

The news that I’m no longer weight restored was very hard to hear. I now have to gain as much weight as I’ve put on since I got home from Italy, again…and it’s more than just a couple of pounds. I have to get to a weight that I’ve never been before.

I’m scared. I’m also sad, and frustrated. I’m feeling a whole slew of emotions that I know I could eliminate with the help of my trusty friend, E.D. I’m not going to turn to him for help, though. I’m determined to make it to the other side of this. I know that I can, and I know that I will. But, it is going to be very, very hard. As uncomfortable as I’ve been over the last three months, I am now about to be even more so.

The reality of this new weight range hasn’t just been hard for me, either. My mom’s cried more than once this week. I know she knows how hard it’s going to be for me, and how hard it’s going to be for her. For one, it’s hard for her to watch me in pain, but it’s also hard because it means an even more extensive role for her as the food police. I know we were both so looking forward to that portion of our relationship becoming less and less prominent.

As much as I wish that this process was over (with every fiber of my being…), I firmly trust my treatment team. I know that they want what’s best for me, and I have to believe that they won’t lead me astray.

I was given permission to do a “freebie” of cardio on Monday afternoon, after hearing the news that brought me to tears. I chose to go to Sky High trampoline park, where I bounced around for an hour. It was really nice of my psychiatrist to give me his blessing to do that. I know it burned a lot of calories, and I had to make up for it by adding to my meal plan, but I think he understood the benefit of it for my mental sanity. After doing thirty flips into the foam pit and bouncing, bouncing, bouncing, I drove myself to Washington Square mall and bought myself a new jacket at Lululemon with a gift card I’d gotten for Christmas. According to the “incentive sheet” I’d made for myself a couple of weeks ago, that gift card wasn’t supposed to be redeemed until I’d maintained my restored weight for three weeks. Because of the circumstances, though, and because I wasn’t going to make myself wait another three months to use the gift card when I’ve been working so hard, I made an exception.

I’m back in Corvallis this week for work, but I’ve been on spring break since Monday . I am very pleased with my grades from this term, especially given what I’ve been dealing with, and am very eager for seven days of relaxing with my mom and brother. We’ll leave for Boise for Bradley’s lacrosse tournament on Friday and then drive to Bend on Sunday, where we’ll stay for the remainder of the week. I’ll return to Corvallis the following Monday and begin spring term of classes. I’m planning taking ten credits, which is a step up from the six I took this quarter. My goal is to slowly begin re-integrating into college living, hopefully staying in Corvallis for some weekends and not having to travel to Portland as frequently for more appointments. I will say though, this goal was made before hearing about how much more weight restoration I’d be having to do, so we’ll see how it goes. As my mom keeps reminding me: If I were in treatment right now (which I technically should be), I wouldn’t be getting to do any of this stuff that I’m doing. I wouldn’t be getting to take classes, I wouldn’t be getting to stay half of the week in Corvallis, I wouldn’t be getting to work. For this season of my life, my focus is recovery. I’m going to get myself as healthy as I possibly can so that I can live my life again. That is my real goal.

 -Bridge

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Mile 22

I’ve compared this journey to running a marathon more than once. That analogy still applies, maybe even more so now. I’ve longed for such a long time to be able to write the words, “I did it,” (in reference to getting myself to a place of weight restoration) and now I finally can. As of last Friday, I am at the bottom of my healthy weight range, and I’ve managed to keep myself at that weight for the last week. I am really proud of myself for this. As much anxiety as it brings me to know that I nearing my healthy, restored, enough-for-my-period-to-resume-weight, I’m so proud. This is my first time being at this weight since discharging from treatment last AprilAnd in all of my six years battling this eating disorder, I’ve never successfully put on the weight I had to like I just did, without re-entering intensive treatment. It has been (and still is, daily) an uphill battle, but as my mom reminds me daily: I’m getting closer to the finish line every day.

So, what does this stage of my recovery look like, you may wonder? Am I suddenly back to “normal”? Are my disordered thoughts gone? Can I go for a run, just because I want to?

The reality is, being weight restored doesn’t look a whole lot different for me than going through weight restoration did…at least, not yet. My meal plan hasn’t been adjusted down to a plan of weight maintenance, partially because my dietician thinks I may still be hyper-metabolic, and partially because I haven’t started my period yet. They won’t officially say I’m done gaining weight until that happens. But as for reaching the number we agreed upon, I’ve gotten myself there. My team has since told me more than once that they did not think I would be able to do this while remaining outpatient. While it certainly was not without an incredible amount of effort on everyone’s part, I did it.

For the most part, my days have been hard. I don’t think I’ve gone two days in a row where I didn’t cry at least once. I’m very uncomfortable — physically, mentally, and emotionally — but I know that’s just part of the process. I have had a pretty hard time focusing on schoolwork, my brain reeling with numbers of calories I have and will be consuming, along with other preoccupying thoughts. This isn’t an uncommon problem in patients recovering from anorexia, but unfortunately, the solution (to provide adderall for a brief period of time) counteracts the patient’s main goal of recovery: it acts as an appetite suppressant, and frequently leads to weight loss. So, I’ve had to deal with the preoccupying thoughts on my own. I am getting better at it, for the most part, but I’m looking forward to this next two weeks I have off of school. It will be a nice break to not be stressing about trying to learn the ins and outs of the human body (yay, anatomy!) while I’m also working so hard at my recovery.

As well as my disordered thoughts not having changed much yet, I’m still unable to do cardio. As you likely can imagine, that news was hard to hear. I’d assumed (which was dumb of me) that once I hit my target weight, I’d be good to go as far as resuming the type of exercise I wanted to. That is not the case. Typically (every time I’ve been in inpatient treatment) the rule has been: Once you’re weight restored, you move to Level C activity. “Level C” is code for three 45 minute workouts a week, or five 30 minute ones, cardiovascular activities or otherwise. My treatment team decided that wasn’t the best course of action for me this time though, due to the number of times I’ve relapsed and how key a part of my disorder exercise has been in the past. I understand where they’re coming from, and I can’t even say that I don’t agree with them. I am, however, very sad about it.

Now…onto the happier things! Some of the things that have really helped me over the last couple of weeks:

  • Dana Patterson’s live Instagram chat (I sent her a question and she answered it live. I thought that was pretty cool. Technology!) and YouTube channel
  • Fresh Fit n Healthy’s YouTube channel 
  • Tabitha Farrar’s blog
  • My devotional. I know I say it a lot, but I depend on my times with Jesus in the morning to start my day. My quiet time normally looks like me praying, asking Jesus to speak to me through His word, then reading that day’s page in my devotional, and then reading in my Bible whatever section the reading was based out of. I’ve gone through a lot of devotionals over the past ten or so years, but Streams in the Desert is my current favorite.
  • The two songs that I’ve been replaying over and over and over…and over, again: What a Beautiful Name  and Even If. I swear, between Wicked and worship music, there’s not much that belting at the top of your lungs can’t help, at least a little!
  • Daily check-ins with my mom (I explained those in this post)
  • Yoga. I go to Live Well Studio when I’m at school and practice at home (by myself) when I’m not.
  • My goody bag. My mom had the brilliant idea that I do a little shopping and create a goody bag of rewards for myself. The deal is, I get to pick one thing out of the bag each day that I follow my meal plan completely. These are some of the things in the goody bag: underwear, a sports bra, some socks, an eyelash curler, facial exfoliator, chapstick, etc.
  • Winky (my longhaired miniature dachshund) when I’m at home, and the dogs at the Safe Haven Humane Society when I’m at school. I’ve been volunteering at Safe Haven since October and love just going and petting the dogs for an hour or two. I like knowing that I’m helping them while they’re helping me.

Also, something kind of exciting coming up… The Oregon State student magazine, Beaver’s Digest, wrote an article  on part of my story and how I’ve used this blog  to share the struggles of recovering from an E.D. with others. It will be published in their spring edition, which I believe comes out in a couple of weeks. I’ll post a link on here once it’s out.

 

As I approach Mile 22, I’m excited for what this next chapter of my life is going to bring me. I know it will likely be filled with a significant amount of discomfort, still, but I’m hopeful that it will get better every day, the longer I practice my new, healthy lifestyle as opposed to my disordered one. Thank you, as always, for your support and walking this road with me.

 

In Him,

Bridge

 

New Recipes, New Me

I’ve done something that’s new to me over the last couple of weeks: I’ve cooked. Not only did I cook (which is a big deal for me — it can be scary to see all of the ingredients that are going into a meal), but I ate what I’d created. The recipes were all really simple and turned out really well, so I thought I’d share them here!

I’m going to stop myself from writing a full post right now because I’m pretty slow typing with just one hand, but trust me, enough has happened over the last week that I certainly could!

 

Okay…onto the recipes!

P.F. Chang’s style chicken lettuce wraps

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Blueberry Muffins

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Fettuccine Alfredo

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I found all of the above recipes on Pinterest, but the photos are my own. The fettuccine alfredo was no question the biggest challenge for me E.D.-wise, but my mom had requested it, so I was determined to make it. Nine times out of ten, we eat food that I’m comfortable with (pasta NOT being one!). I sacrificed and ate this meal with her, and I know she really, really appreciated it.

 

 

-Bridge

 

Nearing the Finish Line

Now, I feel I need to preface this post by saying that I’m nowhere near approaching the finish line of being recovered from my eating disorder. After suffering from this illness for six years and having relapsed four times, I’ve come to accept that anorexia is a disease that I will likely be managing for the remainder of my life. I am, however, nearing the finish line of weight restoration (my dietician said that at this rate, I’ll be done in a week), which is very exciting, especially considering that I’ve been going through the process on an outpatient basis. Each time I’ve gone through weight restoration in the past, it’s been in an inpatient setting. Outpatient, for me, however, has looked different than it traditionally does. My team (consisting of my psychiatrist, dietician, and therapist) has been incredibly dedicated to me. Seriously, I don’t know how I got so lucky to wind up with them as my providers. Normally, outpatient means that the patient sees each of their providers once every one to two weeks. Not for me. I’ve seen each of them up to three times a week, ensuring that I was being monitored as closely as one possibly could be without admitting myself to an inpatient treatment program, something I was fighting hard to not do.

My mom has also played a vital role in getting me through this process. We’ve found numerous things that worked, as well as those that didn’t, and I thought it could be helpful to others who may be going through the same process if I shared what did. For one, we are constantly communicating. I know this can be a hard concept for some young adults, as they’re struggling with finding their independence, but if there’s one piece of advice I can give to someone recovering from an eating disorder, it’s that this is not your time to be independent. This is something I grappled with for a long time, but have finally just come to accept. With a lot of hard work, you’ll get there. I’ll get there. But the time to explore your independence is not now, while you’re in the throws of the most deadly mental illness in human history.

Our constant communication looks different day to day, depending on what I might need. It may be as simple as a Bible verse, texted to me during a meal. Or, it could be a Bitmoji (Yes, my mom uses Bitmoji. She is that cool.) along with a text saying, “Snack time?”. Many times, it’s a phone call, sometimes with me crying on the other end while she prays for God to give me peace of mind, other times with me just needing to vent about how overwhelmed and uncomfortable I feel. Whatever it be, she’s always there for me to turn to, and I can’t stress enough how important it is for someone going through recovery to have a person do what she does for me.

Other things we’ve found to be helpful have been:

  • Following a strict meal plan, created by my dietician, my, mom, and myself. I have about ten that I cycle through and I am allowed to change up to one meal or snack a day, but everything else needs to remain the same, and I have to tell my mom what I am changing ahead of time. This reduces the amount of preoccupation I have throughout the day around what I will be eating, because it’s already set in stone.
  • Doing a daily evaluation. Every day I record in a journal my: mood (in the morning and evening), level of motivation to recover, any acknowledgements of things I restricted that day, and both my high and low of the day. This is something we did when I was in inpatient treatment that I found helpful, so I decided to do it for myself in outpatient as well.
  • Reading my blog each morning. It probably sounds silly, but about a month ago, I was telling my mom how helpful it had been for me to read some recovery blogs I’d found. She kind of laughed and said, “Bridge…Why don’t you read your blog? It’d probably help you!.” And it has! I read one post every morning, while I’m eating breakfast, to both remind me of where I’ve been, and to give me motivation for where I’m going.
  • Spending time in God’s word. I’m an early riser and always have been, so for me, my special time with Jesus is in the morning. I love curling up on the couch, with a blanket and my fuzzy socks before anyone is awake, reading my devotional and Bible, sipping on a cup of coffee and having alone time with my Creator. I thank Him for everything He’s done for me, and ask Him to give me strength to fight this battle today.
  • Decreasing my coffee consumption. I’m an avid coffee drinker and always have been, but my treatment team wasn’t too happy when they learned I was drinking up to five cups of black coffee a day. We agreed on a compromise: One to two cups of coffee I’m allowed to drink black, and if I want any more than that, it has to be a latte-type drink of some sort, or something with a milk base. I also have to order it with whole milk.
  • Going home as much as possible. My treatment team initially wanted me to move home, but I was resistant, and eventually we came to a compromise that I would be home Thursday afternoons through Monday mornings, and at school Monday mornings through Thursday afternoons. This really has been a great compromise, as it’s allowed me to have the structure and support of my mom (i.e. her supervision around meals and snacks) for half of the week, and the friendship of my roommates and “normal” life of a college student the other half. The latter is something that I really think is important for me emotionally.
  • Rewarding myself. This may sound silly and like I’m just looking for an excuse to give myself gifts, but really, it’s not. Each time I have a good weigh-in (aka, my weight has gone up), I do something special for myself. A couple times it’s been getting my nails done, one week I bought myself a new book, another time I got myself a pair of earrings… The idea is that the eating disorder tells me that gaining weight is bad. With positive re-inforcement, I’m hoping to teach myself that for me, it’s good.
  • Paying attention to how much activity I’m doing. My dad bought me an Apple watch about a month ago, something that was really sweet of him and that I really appreciated, as an “I’m proud of you” gift. One result of it has been allowing me to see how much activity I’m doing. I’ve had to be really careful to not get obsessive about it, but I’ve done a great job at that, I think. I only check the activity tracker to see if I’ve done more than three miles of walking that day…which, on days that I’m working, I do, easily! Some days, I’m walking up to seven miles! I had no idea! It’s amazing how quickly all those trips to take the garbage out and deliver mail can add up. It also explains why I’ve had a harder time putting on weight in Corvallis than when at home in Portland. At home, I rarely walk more than two miles a day. I’ve been adding in a minimum of one Gatorade and sometimes more food to my meal plan on days I’m walking more than three miles, and I think that’s really helped in my restoration process as well.

 

I know it’s going to sound cheesy, but it’s true. While I’m nearing the finish line of weight restoration, I’m nearing the starting line of the rest of my life. And that is something that’s just finally started to click for me. I’m hopeful that the next time I post on this blog, I’ll be weight restored…and that is something that I can honestly say: I am so, SO excited about.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, check out the Recovery Resources section of my blog.

 

-Bridge

 

P.S. I’m having surgery on my other hand tomorrow. I probably will not be blogging again for a little while! Have a blessed month, everyone!