A Great Day

Yesterday was a great day.

Nothing in particular “happened” to make it that way, but the way I’ve been feeling made it so.

I haven’t been cleared to do more activity, my period hasn’t returned, and I’m not yet done with classes for the term (TWO MORE WEEKS). Yet, for some reason, I’m feeling awesome.

My therapist said on Thursday that I seem like a whole different person. Dr. Rock concurred with her at my check-in with him on Friday.

And you know what’s cool?

I weigh the most I have in over three years. I feel the best I have in that time frame.

My treatment team has told me that as I got into a healthier weight range, I would probably start to feel better. I didn’t think they could possibly right. I guess that maybe they were! I feel the most vibrant, full-of-life, and confident that I can remember feeling since, honestly, ever. And that is despite a lovely zit that’s made it’s home in the center of my forehead!

I know that I’d be naive to think that it’s all going to be a downhill battle from here. I know it won’t be. My meal plan just got increased (again), due to my weight holding fairly constant despite the amount of food I’m putting into it. I’m handling it well, though,  agreeing to make the additions necessary and continuing to move forward. I also have begun to get intermittent cramps, something I’m really (really really really) hoping is a sign of my period on it’s way back. We’ll see!

The photos below are from yesterday. My mom, brother, and his girlfriend came down to Corvallis to go to a baseball game, and I was able to give them a tour of the Football center, where I work. We had a blast. As I said in my Instagram caption, “The sun was out, Beaver baseball won 11-0, and I got to show my fam around the ol’ workplace. Couldn’t ask for a better day!”

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend, Everyone. Thank you to all of those who have, will, or are currently serving our country ❤️

🙂 Bridge

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An Unfortunate Reality Check

I had what I would call “an unfortunate reality check” yesterday.

As many of you know, I have been on exercise restriction for some time now (17 months, actually, but who’s counting?). It started back in December of 2015, when I was admitted to residential treatment, and has been in place (to some degree) ever since. Some of that, however, has been self-imposed. I made the personal decision to take a year off from doing cardio after reading Decoding Anorexia and learning about the increased success rates seen in patients who do so. However, once my year was up, I’d fallen back into a place of needing to restore weight, and so was advised to continue abstaining from cardiovascular exercise. This has been one of the most difficult parts of my recovery, but I am proud to say I’ve adhered to my medical professionals’ recommendations. There have been days (many, actually) that I have wanted nothing more than to get out my frustration, anger, joy, anxiety, sadness, glee — you name it — by running until I hit a wall…but I have refrained. It’s a constant battle between healthy Bridgette wanting to do anything and everything to get my weight up to a place where I’m healthy enough to exercise, and the eating disorder, who tells me if I go over my meal plan by a single ounce, then my entire world will fall apart. I’m thankful that more and more, the former seems to be winning out.

I will say, abstaining from cardio has had many benefits. For one, I’ve learned a lot of new coping skills. Coping skills that I know I wouldn’t have had to learn to use if I could’ve evaded my emotions by “running them out.” Secondly, it’s prevented me from relapsing farther than I already did. I strongly believe that I would be in a much, much worse place right now and would be having to restore a great deal more weight than I am already having to, if I had added cardio back into my exercise regimen once I was granted the “Ok” to do so. Thirdly, it’s helping me view my relationship with exercise more healthily. It’s no secret that cardio exercise is an instantaneous calorie burner, and for someone with OCD, anxiety and depression, and anorexia, that can quickly turn into a full-fledged addiction. I’m really proud to say that I enjoy each and every time I walk into the gym to lift weights now, (albeit wishing I could be there for more than 20 minutes at a time!), and that I feel strong when doing so. Fourth and lastly (though I could probably think of more things!), abstaining from weight-bearing exercise has helped maintain my physical health while going through this recovery process.

“What am I talking about?”, you may be wondering. “Exercise is good for your bones?”. That is true, but as it turns out, it’s only true under certain circumstances. Exercise increases bone strength when hormone levels (FSH, LH, estrogen, and estradiol) are high enough. Otherwise, it can be detrimental to the bones, causing irreversible damage to an already weakened body.

And that is where my unfortunate reality check comes in.

I’ve been dying (yes, dying) to go for a run, increasingly so as the weather has gotten nicer and I’ve seen more and more people out doing it. I talked in my last post about wanting to run the 5k that my roommates participated in at the Wanderlust mindfulness triathlon we did last weekend. I wasn’t given my treatment team’s blessing to run it, so I walked it…but that sparked a new conversation. How did we really know my bones weren’t strong enough to handle this? My weight is the highest it’s been in a long time, and actually a weight that I’ve had my period at before (years ago). Couldn’t my body just be taking a long time to start my period, but physically be ready to do so?

Naturally, I presented these questions to my team. They were understanding, and agreed to order blood testing to check my hormone levels. The deal was: If my hormone levels came back “normal,” we would discuss increasing my activity, as that would mean my bones were strong enough to endure more exercise without damage. It would also mean that my period was on its way to returning, but likely was just going to take a bit more time. What “increased activity” would look like was TBD, but you can bet I started brainstorming the minute they said, “We’ll see.” What would I do first?! Where would I run; which trails would I hit? Should I do my favorite loop around the Nike campus, or go back to where we did our summer cross country runs up on Wildwood Trail? Oh, and I could LAP SWIM! That sounds so nice, especially now that we’re getting warmer weather! Not to mention the drop-in gymnastics class I’d been so eager to try ever since before I hurt my hand… I was brimming with ideas, and I hadn’t even gotten the go-ahead yet. You could say I got a little ahead of myself.

Friday I had my blood work done, and I prayed. Oh, I prayed so much. I wanted this so, so badly. I knew that I still had to get to the new weight my treatment team had set, regardless of the outcome, but if I could just be granted the go-ahead to go for a run, I would be so, so happy.

I wasn’t supposed to learn the results until my follow-up appointment with my psychiatrist this coming Friday, but because I’m annoying and wanted to know the results, I called him over the weekend and asked if he could please call me on Monday to let me know; I couldn’t wait any longer.

Well, it turns out that I will be waiting longer. My levels were too low. Not a little too low, but quite a bit; low enough that he doesn’t think my period’s going to return in the coming month, and certainly too low to add in any weight-bearing exercise. To say I was devastated would be an incredible understatement. I got the call from him yesterday morning, and have spent much of the day today pulling myself out of what I know could easily become a state of depression. Despite the sadness, I went about the rest of my day as planned. I still went to the gym and did my 20 minutes of weight-lifting that I’m allowed to do three times a week, and I enjoyed every single second of those 20 minutes. I kept plans to meet up with my Dad, and then my friend Elizabeth later in the afternoon. I will go about the rest of my day, and week, and months to come, doing just what I have been: plugging away at recovery. I know that I can be proud of all the achievements I’m making, even if I can’t run yet. I know that in time (and with added body fat), my period will return. I know that one day, somewhere down the line, I will be able to go for a run — and OH, how I will cherish that day!

It was a really good reminder. I learned from my dietician that though my being at this weight was high enough to trigger my menstrual cycle years ago, it likely is not anymore. The reason for that is: research has shown that each relapse causes a higher body fat percentage needed in order for the body to have a period. The science behind that is that the body doesn’t feel “safe enough” to worry about using the nutrition is getting on non-vital functions, like hormones. Each time I’ve relapsed, my body has had the rug (i.e.: nutrition) pulled out from under it, and therefore, it doesn’t want to waste any unnecessary energy producing hormones. So, while X pounds may have been enough weight for me to have my period before I’d relapsed multiple times, this time, my body may decide that it’s not ready to have a period until I’m at X+Y pounds.

This has been sobering for me. It was an unfortunate reality check, but also a great reminder of the damage I’ve done to my body, and the damage I will work to never do again. I’ve put my body through the ringer and back these last six years, and now I am paying the consequences. I know a lot of people have a hard time reconciling these types of instances along with having a faith in God. I have a hard tine reconciling many things in my faith, but not this. The Bible tells us that God is just. It tells us that He loves us and wants what’s best for us, but also that he is fair, and righteous, and enforces punishment. I don’t believe that God is punishing me by doing this, per se, but I do think I’m paying the consequences for the actions I did to my body.

The one saving grace for me, in all of this, is that my treatment team is proud of me. They’re really, really proud of me — and I can’t even begin to describe how good that makes me feel. I’ve pushed myself in multiple ways over the past month especially, from going above and beyond eating what’s on my meal plan, to trying out new recipes, to being honest and owning up about when I’ve cut something out, and then making up for it, etc. All three of them (therapist, dietician, and psychiatrist) have told me individually how proud of me they are, and I don’t take that lightly. It means a lot, because they don’t always say it…  so when they do, I know it’s genuine. I know that I am doing a good job. I just need to keep at it, and I’ll get there, eventually.

I didn’t intend for this to become a full-length blog post, but I guess that’s just what happens sometimes. It’s hard to keep things short when there’s so much I have to say! There’s a lot more I could write about, but for both my sake and yours, I’ll cap it here. This week is week 8 (out of 10) at school, and as classes are ramping up for final projects and exams, I know things will continue to get more and more stressful. If I don’t blog from now until a few weeks from now, you’ll know why!

I hope you all have a blessed week, and as always, thank you for walking this journey with me.

 

-Bridge

Walking the 5k

Today, I completed my first mindfulness triathalon with two of my best friends. It consisted of a 5k, an hour of yoga, and a meditation. We registered for this a few months ago, and back then it had been my goal to be healthy enough to run the 5k. Yesterday at one of my weekly appointments, I broached the subject with my therapist.

“So, Becca…You know how my weight’s been going up pretty consistently?”

“Yes, Bridge.”

“Do you think, maybe…I could run the 5k with Anna and Claire tomorrow?”

“Bridge…You know the answer to that. Not yet.”

I was broken-hearted. I’d known all along that it wasn’t a sure thing, but I’d been doing so well! Why wasn’t I getting this one privilege that I wanted so bad, as a result of all of my hard work? It was just a measly 3.1 miles, and I was going to be doing it anyway, walking or running! But for whatever reason, my treatment team didn’t think it was a good idea, and I had to just accept that. After taking a minute to process (and complaining/crying to my mom for a while), I took a deep breath, and my mom countered the thoughts I was having, that “I’m not getting any better and I’m NEVER going to get better.” She reminded me that I AM getting better. I’m making progress every single freaking day. Last night, I had a burger and corn, and Hagen Dazs ice cream with my roommates. Today, I ate my breakfast two hours earlier than normal so that we could get to our triathalon, and then at the event I tried a sample of granola. All of those things are little things, but they’re huge to me. They’re things that I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing even six months ago.

Today at the triathalon, I walked the 5k, with two of my best friends. It may not have been what I wanted, but it was what was right for me. And I am accepting that 💗

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My registration bib

Acne and Anorexia, What’s the Connection?

My skin has been breaking out pretty badly for the last several months. I’d chalked it up to just not washing my face enough, using the wrong make-up, etc…but what I found out today changed the way I think about it completely! I’d tried almost everything to make my newfound “acne problem” go away. I’d researched causes of oily skin, purchased multiple skin care products, and my newest plan: no foundation for thirty days (I’m on day 21 right now — no difference!), in hopes of calming my skin down. The weird thing about me having acne though, is that it’s something I’ve never experienced. All throughout middle and high school, I had “perfect” skin. That’s what everyone told me, and it was pretty true — I never even began to wear foundation until I started college, and I’d never owned concealer. So why was this happening to me, and why now?

While I’d entered numerous search terms on my quest to find out what was making my skin so angry, I never thought to Google “anorexia recovery and acne.” When the thought finally came to me today, I was astounded at what I saw, but it also made so much sense! If you’d like to read an article about it, you can do so here.

While it doesn’t plague everyone going through weight restoration (it didn’t happen to me the first two times I went through it), it’s not uncommon for patients recovering from anorexia to experience severe bouts of acne. The reasoning for this is, the body is learning to adjust to a new equilibrium of hormones it’s being flooded with. The hormones have been suppressed for so long, that the body doesn’t know what to do with this massive influx of them…and the results of this are acne. This does resolve it self, with time (one article I read said within six months of being at a healthy weight, i.e. having a period).

You can probably imagine my joy when I read this. Oh, you mean I don’t just have gaining the remainder of my weight to look forward to? My skin is going to erupt into a bunch of tiny little volcanoes, too? Actually, I was glad. For one, there’s hope of my so-called perfect skin coming back…if I stay in recovery and don’t have to go through this process again. Talk about motivation 😉 Secondly, this influx of hormones is a really good thing, as it means my period is likely on it’s way sometime soon. When that day comes, I will SHOUT from the rooftops!

 

I’m not going to blog any more tonight, as I just used this as a little study break between anatomy study sessions. I hope you learned something new though, and as always, thank you for following along and supporting me on this journey!

🙂 Bridge

P.S. I had a weight check yesterday and my weight was up a good amount, again. I am getting closer!

An Update

Midterm season began last week and will continue for the next three, so naturally, I decided it was a good time for a blog post 😉

I don’t feel like anything monumental has happened since I last wrote, but things still have happened… So, here’s a little update.

The praises: There has been so much good that’s happened over the last few weeks, the highlight of which took place last weekend. I was able to go on a women’s retreat with my church at school, Corvallis Foursquare. “Wonderful,” is the only way I can think to describe it. While away at Rockaway beach I was encouraged, fed (both spiritually and literally), and challenged. My recovery was challenged, mostly. As you can probably imagine, the thought of being away from my routine for 48 hours did not exactly fill me with glee. Still, I felt that the Lord was telling me to go, and much to my eating disorder’s dismay, I listened! The sun shone (a real treat for us Oregonians!), both the worship and the speakers were great, and we were well-loved. I was able to spend time in fellowship with women I haven’t before, and with whom I share my love of Jesus. I also connected with a young woman who is in recovery from heroin addiction, and I can’t put into words how powerful that was for me. About a year ago, my therapist shared with me an article written by Russell Brand about his addiction to heroin. She was comparing it to my recovery, and his experience with it was so spot-on to my own that it’s stuck with me ever since. I’d never met someone who’d been addicted to drugs, until this weekend. The sharing of this woman’s story and the redemption that Jesus has brought to her life brought tears to my eyes, and we immediately bonded. This week we got together one-on-one and talked about recovery, and now she’s going with me to a support group that she went to during her recovery, on Tuesday.

It truly was a perfect weekend. On an equally as glorious note, I was able to change my therapy appointment to this last Thursday instead of Saturday. That allowed me to go home mid-week, and stay in Corvallis for church this weekend! It was great to see everyone again after such an intimate weekend together.

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How can you NOT worship with a setting as picturesque as this?!

 

The prayers: My depression and anxiety have been pretty sucky these last couple of weeks. I was able to have a much-needed break from the depression part while on the retreat. I’m so, so thankful for that break that God gave me. The anxiety was still present, largely because of the fact that I had very little control over what I would be eating (I ate all of my meals there but brought my own snacks). I won’t get into the details of the depression, but you can trust when I say it’s been bad. I think that I’m doing a really good job of not letting it dictate my life, though, and push myself daily to do the things that “healthy Bridgette” would find enjoyable.  I’m continuing to be monitored closely under the watchful eye of my psychiatrist, therapist, and dietician. I ask almost once a week if my weekly therapy appointments can be moved to every two weeks, but my therapist is insistent that I need to continue weekly appointments in order for me to be successful (at least for the time being). I know she’s right, but I cannot wait until I’m no longer having to make that trek back to Portland each week to see her!

I’m slowly making progress toward reaching my final target weight. It’s been a two steps forward, one step back kind-of process. My mom and I went to the GAP when I was in town last week and bought me a pair of jeans that had a little bit of room in them. My dad has offered to replace my clothes that are getting too small, and I didn’t realize how helpful that would be (not wearing pants that are too tight). It definitely makes it easier to follow my meal plan when I know I have pants that will fit me in a few more pounds and aren’t already bursting at the seams. Something my therapist has been wanting me to do for a while, is get rid of my old jeans…the ones that still fit at this point (kind of), but are certainly not going to in a couple more pounds. She tells me almost every time I see her (and so does my psychiatrist) that I’m just making it harder on myself, prolonging the inevitable in waiting for the day that they no longer fit. And it’s true, I know I am. I just can’t bring myself to get rid of them just yet. It goes along with another phrase I was reminded of by my team this week: Rip the band-aid off! Meaning, just finish up the weight restoration and get it over with! That’s scary to me, though. So, so scary. I guess that’s one of the places where I’m really still struggling — in accepting that once I get to my target weight, I’m not going back. I need to stay there. That thought terrifies me.

On the flipside: Two people have sent me messages over the last couple days that have been incredibly encouraging to me. Neither of them do I know very well, but both are in recovery from anorexia. Both of them have told me, literally word for word, that getting fully weight restored, to their target weight range, decreased their anxiety was so much they couldn’t even describe it. It seems so counter-intuitive, that doing the exact opposite thing of what the eating disorder wants me to do, gaining weight, could provide such relief. Here I have two living pieces of proof, though! Two people who went through what I’m going through, and who are here to tell me that getting to the other side is worth it.

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All in all, I’ve been incredibly blessed over this last month. Aren’t we always?

-Bridge