Netflix’s New Movie: To The Bone

Netflix recently released the trailer for a new movie that will be available to stream this July. It’s called To The Bone, and it’s about a girl with anorexia nervosa. Since being released, the trailer has begun appearing more and more frequently on my Facebook newsfeed. Each time it’s popped up, I’ve told myself to ignore it. I’ve tried to shove it out of my head and keep it out of my mind… But that’s gotten harder to do the more people hear about it, and subsequently, repost, retweet, hashtag, and comment on it. I know that as time goes on, and especially once it’s available to stream, it’s going to come up even more frequently, and people will be talking about it. Just like they did with 13 Reasons Why.

I know there are a lot of different opinions about the show 13 Reasons Why, and I’m sure there are going to be a lot about To The Bone as well. I’m not going to try to convince you of which “side” you should be on, of whether it’s helpful and raising awareness, or triggering and should be taken off the internet. I’m just going to share my perspective as someone who has spent a good portion of her life struggling the disorder being dramatized as Netflix’s newest movie.

Last night, after having scrolled past the To The Bone trailer probably 50 times, I gave in. I watched the trailer. And I so wish I could undo it. The first snippet from the film shows the main character, played by actress Lily Collins, calorie counting, compulsively exercising, and weighing herself. Classic eating disorder behaviors. Behaviors I know all too well, and that I really, really didn’t need to watch play out in front of me.

I didn’t watch the entire trailer, and I know that I can’t fairly judge the movie unless I do so. I won’t, and I don’t need to. I don’t care to judge the entire movie, I just want to talk about the things I do know from the parts I did see.

My initial thoughts after watching it were, “No.” No no no no no no no. No, I did not want this to be a movie. No, I did not want this to be on Netflix, accessible to me or anyone else  whose struggled with the life-threatening mental illness. No, I didn’t want it to be “glamorized” for younger viewers, or for anyone, really, who could watch it and get ideas on “how to become anorexic.”

I can’t remember if I’ve talked about this on here before, but something I find myself struggling with a lot in my recovery, is possessiveness of my eating disorder. A big (big, big, BIG) part of my eating disorder was a type of “frozen dessert” called Arctic Zero. My mom now jokes about it, saying “Yeah, ZERO flavor!.” It’s a diet ice cream (if you can even call it “cream,” since there’s none in it!) that’s very low in calorie and even lower in flavor. But for me, during my disorder, it was a god-send. It got me through days when I hadn’t allowed myself to eat anything else, because I could eat that entire pint of ice cream, for only 150 calories. It’s still very triggering to me, to this day.

There’s a competing brand of ice cream called Halo Top. It’s been around for a while, but has become trendy in the recent year. It’s also triggering for me, for the same reason: it’s a diet ice cream, and it takes me back to that dark time of my disorder. Ironically, I never allowed myself to eat Halo Top because it was a whopping 240 calories for the whole pint. That’s less than a single one of my three snacks now, not to mention the additional three meals I eat each day! I’ve very intentionally stayed away from both Arctic Zero and Halo Top since being in recovery. I won’t even walk past them in the grocery store; they just bring up too many bad memories. With Halo Top becoming more popular in the recent year, however, it’s become harder to stay away from. I can still remember the first time I opened the freezer at my house in Corvallis and saw a pint of Halo Top, staring back at me. One of my roommates had bought it. She didn’t know what it meant to me; how would she? Nevertheless, I called my mom crying, overcome with emotions of sadness, frustration, and jealousy.

Jealousy? You may be wondering if that’s really what I meant. I can assure you, it is. It might sound silly, but it’s true. My mom’s compared my feelings around Arctic Zero and Halo Top to that of a jealous ex-girlfriend. That’s my special food. It was my saving grace. How dare you try to steal that from me? I can’t have it anymore, and now you get to?! (Trust me, I realize how dumb this sounds!).

Anyway, back to last night. I watched the first part of the trailer, and immediately felt like a knife was being twisted through my small intestines. That jealous feeling was back. wanted to be Lily Collins. wanted to tell this story. wanted to be able to tell it my way, and I wanted it to be done right.

My feelings during and after watching the trailer took me back to a time when I made the mistake of reading an excerpt from a book my mom was reading, when I was in treatment the first time (at age 15). The book is called “Brave Girl Eating,” and it’s excellently written. The author, Harriet Brown, wrote it about her experience going through anorexia recovery with her daughter. While it contains incredibly detailed content that is undoubtedly potentially triggering, it was written with the intent of being a resource for parents of children with eating disorders, or really, I guess, for anyone wanting more insight into what someone recovering from anorexia nervosa is experiencing. For me, however, reading the few pages I did sent me into a tailspin. That might’ve been my first panic attack ever, I’m not sure, but I vividly remember lying on the stairs, where I’d found the book, hands over my ears, eyes closed, bawling. All of the memories I’d been trying so hard to keep out of my head came flooding back, it was like I was reliving the darkest of my eating disorder days.

But you know what? That doesn’t mean the book shouldn’t have been published. It doesn’t mean it’s not a great book, and an incredible resource.

It simply means that I’m not the audience.

I think that this show, if done well, has the ability to be a great resource. I think it could inform people, and hopefully steer them away from playing around with the number one cause of death by mental illness. I won’t be watching it, and that’s okay. I don’t need to. I’ve lived it.

Something I’m learning more and more as I go through recovery, is that just because something is not good for me, doesn’t mean it’s not good.

I’m part of a fairly strong E.D. recovery community on Instagram. There’s been a lot of talk about this show in the recent week, and I’m pretty sure I’m the only one with this viewpoint. I’ll have to thank my conversation with my mom for that one. I’ve seen people write, “How dare they put out content that’s so triggering?” and “What kind of twisted person could stand to watch a show like that?” and so on and so forth.

The word, “triggering,” is thrown around a lot nowadays. I realized, when thinking further about this matter, that I was being quite hypocritical. I hate when people are overly-concerned with triggering others. I don’t want to sound too harsh here and say a blanket statement that I think everyone should just “grow a thicker skin,” but as a rule of thumb, that is more along the lines of my opinion. How can I say that, though, if I don’t believe that when it’s actually something that applies to me?

I realized, today, that if I say this show shouldn’t be allowed to air, I’m being that person that I get so frustrated with. I’m being the one who needs to be protected, who’s saying, “You can’t do that, because it affects me.” I don’t want to be that person. I’m working on realizing that my issue shouldn’t become everyone else’s issue, and that’s hard. It would be a lot easier if the entire world was a safe place where nothing anyone did ever adversely affected anyone else. Unfortunately, that’s not reality, and that is something that I will continue to work through.

On another note, my blog was chosen this week as one of the Top 100 eating disorder blogs on the internet, and I was given a cool badge to display on my page 🙂 So, if you’re wondering what caused the change in my site’s appearance, that’s it! The old layout didn’t have a spot where I could display the badge, so I decided to change it up a bit.

 

-Bridge

 

Until it’s Gone

There’s a well known quote, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” I’ve always heard that quote in a negative context, as in: you don’t realize how much you’ll miss something until you don’t have it anymore. I’m beginning to see it in a way I never thought about it, though — that you don’t realize how bad something is, until the weight of it is removed from you.

As the veil of both my anxiety and depression are gradually lifting, I’m seeing the light at the end of this tunnel more and more. Little things are making me smile. I find myself laughing — not forcing a chuckle, but actually laughing — frequently.

I realized late this morning, after having had quite a few frustrating things happen, that I was still feeling okay. In fact, I was still feeling better than I can recall feeling at any point over the last few months (maybe year). It’s like I didn’t realize how bad my depression and anxiety were until I was no longer held captive by them. I didn’t realize that it was my depression that was causing me to take naps most days, not because I was tired, but because I didn’t want to sit through the torturous thoughts that would come through my head, from after I’d finished breakfast to when I had my snack, and then again from that time to when I’d later eat lunch. And on a really bad day, again from lunch on through dinner. I didn’t realize that it wasn’t normal to have to work so hard to smile, even when around people who used to make me truly happy. I didn’t realize that it wasn’t normal to feel so drained of energy all the time, even when I’d gotten a full eight-hours of sleep the night before.

One of the hardest things in this recovery process is trusting. Those of us in treatment hear it all the time: Trust your team. Trust your dietician. Trust your psychiatrist. Trust your therapist. Trust your parents. But it’s a lot harder than it sounds! By trusting, we’re allowing one of the most important things in our lives, our eating disorder, to be taken out of our hands, and submitting to those who know better. There’s nothing they can tell us that’s reassuring enough. My team had told me many a time, “Trust us. It will get better.” And now, I’m finally seeing the fruits of my labor, the benefits of my trusting paying off. With that, I feel my trust I have for my team growing even stronger. I trust that they know what’s best for me, even if I don’t like it, and even if I don’t necessarily agree with it. I know that they have my best interest at heart, and I know that they’re walked this journey with other patients, too — patients who didn’t think it would get better, but for whom it did.

I’m stressed right now. Between going through training for my new summer job, finalizing details for my internship, studying for finals, still commuting Corvallis to Portland and back each weekend, etc., my plate is pretty full. But despite all of those things, I feel lighter. Not physically (my E.D. wishes!), but mentally and emotionally lighter. I don’t feel like I’ll snap if one more thing goes wrong, and I don’t feel exhausted when I wake up in the morning.

I did something challenging today. I got rid of about 50 pieces of clothing. Some of it will be sold, and the rest donated. My therapist has been encouraging me for a while to go through my closet and take out the clothes that are no longer fitting me, as they’re not serving any purpose besides reminding me that I’m gaining weight! The process of getting rid of clothes is challenging though. Not just because they no longer fit me, as I know that can be challenging for the average person as well, but because getting rid of them implies that I’m not going back to a weight where they will fit again. Ever. That sort of finality is scary, it means that I’m letting go of another layer of my eating disorder. As I shared on my recovery Instagram account (@balancedbridge), last week I said, “Goodbye,” to a pair of jeans that had a lot of emotional meaning to me. The quoted text below was how I captioned the photo.

Well, the day has come.
My body-checking jeans are officially too small.
My therapist has told me to get rid of this pair of jeans countless times, and I kept putting it off.
This morning, as I strained to pull them over my ever-growing thighs, I realized that the time had finally come. They are too tight.
It’s with great sadness that I say goodbye to these jeans. They’ve been with me through a lot. I told my therapist that I couldn’t get rid of them, because that symbolized really moving on from my eating disorder. I’ve used these jeans to body-check since I got them my senior year of high school. That’s four years. That’s a LONG time.
Today though, I am choosing recovery. Today, I’m moving forward. And today, I’m saying goodbye to these jeans 👋🏼

If you don’t know what body-checking is, it’s a term used in the E.D. community for measuring one’s body, and it’s always regarded in a negative way. For me, getting rid of the pair of jeans I’ve used to body-check (there were a few other items of clothing used for that as well, but I got rid of them when I was in the PHP program last year) is a pretty big step. I hope to never have to get rid of another item of clothes used for body-checking, as I hope to be ridding myself of that nasty habit.

I know I said I probably wouldn’t blog again before the end of the school year (and I meant it when I said it!), but it’s just such a great outlet for me! I decided to write a post because of today being celebrated worldwide as “National Eating Disorder Action Day.” If you want to read more about what this day means, click here.

 

If you’re reading this, thank you for supporting me and following my journey. Happy June, and I hope you’re able to enjoy this beautiful sunshine!

🙂 Bridge

 

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

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

 

 

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!

A Letter to my Eating Disorder

This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness week. I’ve been working very hard this past month. My weight’s continued to go up (at a painfully slow, incremental rate), which it needs to do in order to keep my doctors and therapist, but which continues to increase my anxiety. Per my treatment team’s recommendation, I’ve agreed to be at home as much as is possible without changing my work or school schedule. Being home ensures that I follow my meal plan exactly, as my mom’s watchful eye is never far from my plate! It’s been a long two weeks, and I know the next couple are only going to feel longer, but I know I’m doing what I need to. In my therapy appointment today, my therapist talked about the loss I’m going to be experiencing in the coming months. She compared it both to leaving an abusive relationship, and also to being an olympic athlete, saying, “I’ve had my run, and now I’m done. I’m going to find something different that I can excel and put my energy into now.” I continue to experience more and more of that grief the closer I get to being weight restored. In an effort to help me express this, my therapist had me write a letter to my eating disorder, saying goodbye. I thought I’d share it here.

 

To my eating disorder-

I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to write this letter. You’ve been partially out of my life for a while now, but in some ways you’re still very present. I can feel myself cling to you with every fiber of my being, not wanting to let you go as you’re being pulled away from me from my psychiatrist, therapist, dietician, mom, supporting friends, and of course, the chemicals helping: Prozac and Zyprexa.

We had a good run, you and I. I honestly can’t imagine the last six years of my life without you. You gave me someone to turn to in the midst of my family’s collapse, something to excel in when I lost my sport and greatest passion due to injury, and most importantly, a sense of calm and numbness unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. But you caused me a lot of heartache, too. Physical heartache, actually – according to the EKG I had to have before I went to Residential, my heart’s already suffered one heart attack, and I know if I keep fooling around with you, I’m at risk of having another one that I may not be so lucky as to recover from. You stole other things from my body, too. I’m embarrassed to wear my hair down because of the way you caused it to fall out in clumps – one of the many side effects of malnourishment – and denied me of having my period (and potentially my ability to have children) for years. You’re the cause of so many missed experiences, as well, more than I can even recount. The many things I said, “No”, to in order to follow your rules, the freshman homecoming dance I spent in the hospital, the cross-country meet I feigned sickness for in order to evade eating, the college scholarship to run track in Alabama I had to turn down because my mom couldn’t trust me to be that far away from home. And let’s not forget about the numerous stress fractures likely compounded by you, either – or Raynaud’s the circulatory disease I developed as a result of you at the young age of fifteen.

Eating disorder, I’ve done so many things for you that I would’ve never done otherwise. You turned me into a completely different person; you made me to be a liar and a cheater. You’ve damaged relationships so badly that I can’t believe they’re still intact. You caused tension to flood places where it never belonged. I’ve been so blessed by the people God has put into my life to support me in this fight. I’m going to utilize them to help turn me against you, to remind me that you’re no good for me.

Despite all these things, eating disorder, I don’t hate you. In fact, I still love you a lot – that’s what makes it so hard to say goodbye. I can’t imagine what it would be like to live without you; you’re my comfort, my security blanket. But in the moments when you’re calling me back to you – when you’re lying to me, saying that I’m nothing without you… I’m going to remind you that in fact, it’s you who’s nothing without me. And unlike you, I’m not fighting this battle to keep me with you alone. I’ve got a ton of professionals on my side as well as my family and friends who love me and who care about me. Most importantly, I’ve got God on my side. And while I know you’re caused by a chemical imbalance in my brain, I serve a living God who tells me to cast all my cares and anxieties on Him. He is stronger than you. And with Him, so am I.

Sincerely, and Farewell,

 

Bridgette

The Last 10 Percent

My anxiety has been unequivocally bad over the last couple of days.

Actually, I take that back. It’s been this bad before, but it was under different circumstances. It was when I was in treatment.

The differences between going through the process of weight restoration during AN recovery in an inpatient setting and on an outpatient basis are astronomical. In inpatient, I had support around me at every turn. Every meal, every snack, every bathroom break. There was never a moment I was alone, and there was a great deal of security in that. These days, as I’m trying to restore weight without having to re-enter treatment, I’m alone a lot more than is ideal. To me, it makes it feel like I have an option as to whether or not I follow my meal plan. My mom reminds me that it’s not. If I want to live a  full life, I need to follow it precisely, as that’s the only way I’m going to ever return to my healthy self. Not Bridgette’s sick-self, constantly going to appointments, having to check in with my mom, and being at home on the weekends.

I don’t need to go into detail regarding the relatively constant state of panic I’ve been in over the last couple of days, because what I just said is informative enough. It’s been relatively constant. At work, at school, in my own home — you name it, it’s been there, ranging from a moderate sized pit in my stomach to a full-blown panic attack. It leaves me shaken. But, there’s a bright side. I’ve been reassured by my providers that my increased anxiety is proof that I’m getting closer to where I need to be. What am I talking about? Why is anxiety a good thing, you may be wondering? That’s how I felt too! Then I read this article that my dietician shared with me.

If you don’t want to take the time to read it (though I’ll say, it’s a great read!), I’ll sum it up for you. Basically, there’s new scientific data that says when someone in recovery from anorexia nervosa gets to between 90 and 95% of their restored weight, anxiety increases significantly. The level of anxiety then decreases back to a normal level once they’re fully weight restored. Well, surprise, surprise, 90-95% is exactly where I’m at! While it’s been a rough few days and I know will likely be for a few (weeks) more, I was very encouraged by these findings I read about. I’m really thankful my dietician passed it along. She always knows just what I need!

 

-Bridge

Olympic Reflections

The Olympics have always been really special to me. As I’ve shared before, I used to be a swimmer. Swimming wasn’t just something I did for fun, it was my passion. My world. My identity. The highlights of my summers were camps taught by elite coaches and the end of the long-course season (Can I get an Amen?), with sleeping in a foreign concept. I had practically memorized Michael Phelps’ book Beneath the Surface, and Natalie Coughlin’s Golden Girl, reading one or the other at least once a month, and had posters of my idols donning my closet ceiling.

My most vivid positive memories are of swimming: swim practices, swim meets, swim camps, team banquets and State Awards Ceremonies… I don’t think I’ll ever get the feeing of standing behind those blocks, heart pounding, head racing, muscles pulsing, out of my head. As a young swimmer growing up, my dream was always to go to the Olympics. I was dead-set on competing; it wasn’t a question of “if”, but a question of what I’d have to do to get there. My email was “Beijingbound101@aol.com” in reference to the Beijing Olympics, but given that I would be not even 12 years old when those took place, I was planning on competing in London, in 2016. The greatest gift I’ve received to this day was traveling to Omaha, Nebraska with my mom to go watch the Olympic Trials. I’d already met Michael Phelps before, but at trials I met the young Missy Franklin, before she’d gained fame as an Olympian. Those trials just fueled my fire for the following games even more.

In the year following my “retirement” from swimming, any mention of the Olympics felt like a stabbing pain in my chest. I know I was only 14 at the time, and I know it’s not likely I would’ve been an Olympian had I been able to continue swimming. But it was that “What if?” that left my heart mourning.

The London Olympics seemed to go by in slow motion, and I can recall numerous nights spent crying in the shower and in bed while trying to fall asleep at night, asking God why He would’ve given me this passion and desire, not to mention talent and determination, for this sport my body wasn’t able to do.

I don’t believe time heals all wounds, as I don’t think I have or ever will get over my loss of swimming, but the degree of pain has definitely subsided. I do not feel a gaping hole in my heart from the hole that swimming left simply by waking up in the morning, but I definitely still feel it when I walk past a swim meet going on at Dixon, see a girl running around with wet, chlorine-saturated hair, wearing an iron-printed meet sweatshirt with her name starred on the back, or, yes, am reminded of the Olympics.

My identity is (obviously) no longer found in swimming. Ideally, I’d find it completely in Jesus; that’s a lot harder than it sounds. In these past years, through my parents’ divorce, transitioning schools, and my eating disorder (just to name a few), I’ve grown significantly closer to Him. It’s still hard to accept that I don’t have any one “accomplishment” I can claim, though. I don’t think that desire will ever fully go away. And I think that as long as I don’t use that desire to fuel the eating disorder, that’s okay. I’ve definitely noticed that the E.D. is significantly more attractive, even if just to my subconscious, when I’m dwelling on my swimming days and reminiscing on those moments of success.

I don’t really know why I’m writing this, mostly to process, I guess. I spent an hour last night watching swimming videos, and did my entire anatomy reading while listening to the playlist of songs I listened to repeatedly for over a year after I quit. It brought back up the sadness again, but I also think it was needed. It’s a reminder that I’m not going to get those days back, whether I weigh twenty pounds less, or not.

Success is a tough thing. I think it can be awesome when used for God’s glory, but I also think we, as humans (at least I am), are often attracted to it for the wrong reasons. When I’m pitying myself in moments of reminiscence, I’m not sad because I think my lack of swimming accomplishments won’t bring as many people to Jesus as I wish it would. I’m sad that I won’t get that satisfaction of being a champion, of blazing new trails, of making a name for myself. When I refocus myself and realize who it is I’m supposed to be living my life for, the whole thing seems a little silly, to be honest. I think there will be a way for me to bring just as much glory to God, whether I’m an Olympic swimmer or not 🙂

-Bridge