The Writing on my Arm

If I had a penny for every time someone asked me about my tattoo, I’d be a rich lady! And for the sake of this college girl’s wallet, I WISH that were the case! Nevertheless, I get asked about my tattoo a lot. I love that. It’s part of the reason I decided to get it in such a visible place, because I knew it would be a great conversation starter. It definitely has been. I’ve been asked about it by strangers on the MAX, professors in a college class, baristas at Starbucks, sorority girls during RUSH…the list goes on, and on, and on.

I get asked about it so frequently, that I feel like I should have a pretty good handle on how I like to explain it by now. For whatever reason though, I don’t. It’s because of that, that I decided to write this blog post today. I want to finally express what the writing on my arm means to me.

I’ve never been much of a tattoo person. I’ve said from the beginning that this tattoo on my arm is the only one I’ll ever have, and I maintain that to this day…despite all the warnings from other “tattooies” that assured me I would get hooked after one. Not the case! I don’t care for the look of tattoos, and I’ve never really appreciated them as art. In my opinion, if I want a beautiful piece of art, I’ll get it printed on a canvas and hung in my living room, not on my body. Clearly though, I have a tattoo. So why the exception? Why is Ecclesiastes 7:5 written in permanent tattoo ink on my arm?

As with all bible verses, there are multiple translations of Ecclesiastes 7:5, but my favorite is the New Living Translation. It says,

“It is better to be criticized by a wise person than to be praised by a fool.”

There are a lot of ways to interpret all bible verses, but the way I take this one, is that my eating disorder is the fool. For years (six now), it’s tried to convince me to trust it. It’s made my family, my friends, and medical professionals, out to be liars, when in actuality, they were just loving, concerned people…and rightly so. They were telling me truth, it just wasn’t the truth that my E.D. wanted me to hear. It turned me into a liar, believing that pleasing it was the only important thing in my life, putting to the side my relationships with all others, including with God.

This verse was shown to me at a time when I needed it most; the first time I ever went through treatment. I was fifteen years old. I was vulnerable, scared, and running on pretty close to empty. The eight months of treatment I entered into, was the hardest thing I’d ever gone through in my fifteen years of life (and I’d gone through some tough stuff). I knew that I had to fully surrender myself to Jesus if I was going to come out on the other side of this disease, if I was going to beat anorexia. It was then that this verse sort-of became my life mantra. It still is, and I’m reminded of it every time I look down at my arm. It reminds me in my eating disorder, but also in all other areas of life, that I am not the end all, be all. I do not know everything. And sometimes, what’s inside my own head is the fool. It’s up to me to take a step back, and decide who I’m going to listen to. Will I choose to listen to the voice inside my own head, the fool? Or will I choose to listen to the other voice, the voice of wise counsel, both of Jesus, and of those who He has placed in my life to guide me?

So, that is what Ecclesiastes 7:5 means to me. I guess it wasn’t that hard to explain after all!

In all other news, my recovery is going great. I had a fun week of celebrating my twenty-first birthday with friends, which included multiple instances of going out to eat. And guess what the crazy part is? I actually wanted to. Celebrating, even by way of food, sounded fun to me. I truthfully cannot remember the last time that was the case. My weight has continued to hold in the middle of my healthy weight range, and both my treatment team and I are very proud of that.

I think it’s going to be a great year.

In Him,

Bridge

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Moving Forward

Hello there!

It’s been a while! And I am happy to say that this is 100% a good thing. My life has been busy this summer, but I am so happy. With the exception of doctor appointments (and even those are beginning to dwindle a bit), my life has consisted of “normal” 20 year old busyness, and I am so, so thankful for that.

It dawned on me this morning (while I was coaching at swim practice, and had a fresh blackberry that one of the lifeguards offered me) just how far I’ve come in the last few months. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but MAN, I almost started crying as I thought about it! I didn’t even give a second thought to having an extra bite of fruit, after having already had breakfast, and me refusing to eat a fresh blackberry (Yes, just ONE!) from the bushes while my mom and I went for a walk is something we argued about frequently just six months ago.

Because of that realization, I decided to pop on here and make a list of recent happenings that I am proud of. Here goes.

  1. Timing: The time at which I eat my meals and snacks has become so much more flexible. I used to eat breakfast at 8:30, morning snack at 11, lunch at 1, afternoon snack at 4, dinner at 7, and evening snack at 9. On. The. Dot. As you can probably imagine, being this rigid around meal and snack times can be a challenge for, well, life. I would turn down social situations so that I could make sure I was home to eat my food. And no, eating out with a friend wasn’t an option (see #2 and #4), so that meant I couldn’t do anything with anyone for about half of my day. Talk about a challenge!
  2. Variation in Food Choices: The list of foods that I’m comfortable eating has grown, a lot. I used to rotate between 2 or 3 meal plans, and would eat those same meals and snacks every day. Yes, every day, and no, I did not get tired of them (Which is weird, I know. Welcome to living with an eating disorder!). I’ve begun experimenting in the kitchen more, which for the most part, I am actually enjoying. I’ve discovered that I really like sautéed kale, and have been using that in a lot of bowls and salads as opposed to my usual romaine lettuce base. I’m really proud of myself for this, because I continued to use it even after realizing that kale contains quite a bit more calories than romaine. I also know, however, that it has more nutrients, which is something that wouldn’t have mattered to me a few months ago (more calories = not going to eat it, regardless of the nutritional value), but now, I am able to appreciate.
  3. Dating: I’ve gone on a few dates. Like actual, real dates where we got food, not just “grabbing coffee.” I was telling my mom, you don’t realize how much you’re limiting yourself by only allowing social interactions to occur around coffee (which was my life for the last few years), until you start expanding that and being okay with going to get a meal, or ice cream, or whatever. It sure is a lot more fun, and opens up WAY more doors. Who knows if anything will come of these dates, but regardless, they have been fun opportunities for me to have to step outside of my normal routine, and get to know new people.
  4. Eating Out: Kind of going off that last one, going out to eat doesn’t scare me anymore. I can remember a time (not long ago!) when I couldn’t imagine myself ever being able to go out to a restaurant and order something off the menu. Ever. I really thought that wouldn’t happen for me. I’m proud to say that that is not the case anymore! While some restaurants may be more of a challenge than others, I’m pretty confident that I can find SOMETHING that I am comfortable eating on any menu. As a matter of fact, my mom and I are even planning a little staycation before I go back to school, and included in those plans are a few restaurants around Portland that I want to try. Yes, you read that right! That I. WANT. TO. TRY. Wooot!
  5. Fluctuations: I’m way more okay with fluctuations. This is a big one as well. A couple of times at weigh-ins, my weight’s been up a little, and other times, it’s been down a little, which is completely normal, but to me a few months ago, would’ve been terrifying. I haven’t allowed those minor differences in my weight to determine what I ate that day or the following one, and I’ve continued to adhere to my meal plan, per my doctor’s orders. I trust that my body knows where it wants to be, and frankly, I’m really not scared of what would happen if I ended up gaining another pound or two. To be honest, I feel like I’ve already had to gain so much weight, that one or two pounds just doesn’t seem like the end of the world. I’m practically pinching myself as I’m writing this, because I can remember the way it made me feel, like my skin was crawling, when just a couple of months ago, my doctor asked how I would feel if I ended up having to gain another pound or two. I’m seeing huge progress here. Huge. Progress.
  6. Body Dysmorphia: I have a more accurate view of my body. I don’t see myself as “fat”, which, even though I’ve always known that medically I wasn’t, my own view of myself was so skewed that even a few months ago, I would’ve bet you money that I was. I am gaining muscle through weight-lifting, which I’m proud of, but I also think that I’m just getting more comfortable in my own skin. My treatment team has been telling me FOREVER that this would happen (medically speaking, distorted body image is a side-effect of being even just a pound or two underweight), and I’m elated that it finally has. I still have days where I don’t love my body, but who doesn’t? I’m trying to focus more on the things that it CAN do than the things that it isn’t.
  7. Exercise: I’m less rigid in my exercise. This is a huge one for me. I love working out, and I always have. The euphoric feeling people often refer to as a “runner’s high,” I seem to get whenever I get my heart rate up. And to be honest, I think I’ve always been that way, but for a good chunk of my recent life, my eating disorder stole that from me. I worked out because I had to, because I was scared of what my body would do if I didn’t burn X number of calories on the elliptical for even one day, because I didn’t trust my body to take the food that I was giving it and use it to nourish itself, etc. The list could go on, and on, and on. Recently, since having been cleared to add cardiovascular exercise back into my life after an 18-month hiatus, I’ve been able to enjoy things like lap swimming, hiking, circuits with weights, and power yoga. I have some other bodily issues (which have been very frustrating) that are making running not an option for me right now, and I’m staying away from doing cardio machines for the foreseeable future, but these other fun ways of exercise have helped me to realize that I DO love working out, and not just for the sake of burning calories. I’m so incredibly proud of myself for taking the long break from cardio that I did, because now, I’m not scared of what will happen to my body if I take a few days off from working out. I used to be held captive by the monitor that would read how many calories I’ve burned, and now I’m getting to redefine my relationship with exercise in a completely new and healthy way. And, most importantly, I’m having fun while I’m doing it!

Whew! That was quite a list! There are more things, but those are the major ones, and all that I’m going to take the time for. Did I mention it’s been a busy summer?

In all honesty, the hardest part of recovery right now, is that I’m still not “recovered,” even though for the most part, I feel like I am. Both my mom and my treatment team are still very wary of me slipping backwards, and that has been frustrating for me. I would like for my doctors and therapy appointments to be reduced to once every few weeks or so, but no one else is on board with that just yet.

I have to continually remind myself that they are this way because of how many times I’ve relapsed. And I understand it…but still, it can be hard. I get mad when my mom isn’t giving my praise or compliments (full disclaimer…my mom gives me A LOT of praise and compliments…but she gives me constructive criticism, too!), or when she asks me to send her a meal plan for the umpteenth day in a row, but usually, once I take a step back and take a deep breath, I can identify where she’s coming from, and then I’m okay.

Well, I think that’s it! As always, if you’re reading this, thank you so much for following along on my recovery journey. It’s never been easy, but it’s always been worth it.

In Him,

Bridge

Finally Weight Restored, My First Run & That Oh So Coveted “Summer Body”

Well…I finally did it. I’m there. As of Thursday, June 29th, 2017, I am officially, 100% weight restored. I have never restored this much weight without re-entering inpatient treatment, and I am so proud of myself. To celebrate, that night my mom, brother, and I went to a Brad Paisley concert. I’d actually purchased the tickets for us a while ago (it was a birthday present for my mom), but it was quite convenient that it fell on the same day as one we wanted to celebrate! We planned on eating dinner there, but didn’t know what would be available. Yes, if you’re wondering, this in itself was a big deal. Spontaneity when it comes to eating is not easy for me! Anyway, we got to the concert and looked at the food options. There was the traditional concession food: hot dogs, pizza, french fries, etc., but there was also a food truck. It was Bunk Sandwiches, which is a pretty well known sandwich shop in Portland. I’d never had a sandwich from there before (frankly, the thought terrified me), but I realized that I had two options. I could have a probably not very good, overpriced item from the concession stand, or I could try something new, something unique that would probably taste pretty darn good. So, on the day I became weight restored, when it would’ve been very, very easy to restrict because I no longer needed to gain weight, I chose what I wanted. That was monumental. And yes, the sandwich was delicious. I ate the entire thing, even though my mom said I didn’t have to! I had wanted to order the turkey sandwich, but they were out of turkey…so, I had to change my plan. That was an additional challenge. But, I adjusted, and chose another that sounded good (albeit more difficult!): the muffuletta.

The next morning, I drove myself to Nike World Headquarters (the campus is less than a ten minute drive from my house!) and went for a run. Yes, you read that right — I went for a run. It had been 18 months and two days since the last time I’d done cardio exercise. 18 months and 2 days is a very long time. I was humbled at how difficult running for just 25 minutes was for me! It was incredible, all the same. And knowing that I’d waited until my body was really and truly healthy enough to endure it made it all the more special. I deserved this run, and I felt it.

One “side effect” of having now gained the weight that I did? My clothes don’t fit. Oh yeah. Clothes. Kind of important. My dad had told me a while back (when I was first starting to notice my clothes getting tighter) that he would buy me some new clothes that fit me at my restored weight once I got there. Today, he and I went to Nordstrom Rack to try and find some things. I probably tried on over fifty items, and I walked away with two. Everything else either didn’t fit right, or just plain didn’t look good. That was really hard for me. It was really (really, really, REALLY) hard for me to have to go up two pant sizes from where I was just a couple of months ago. It was really hard for me to try on a shirt and see it hug a little too snug in places where it didn’t in the spring. And what was most frustrating, was just not liking the reflection of the body I saw when I looked in the mirror.

My first thoughts were: Bridgette, you’ve let yourself go. How did this happen… You had a body you worked so hard for, and now you’ve lost it.

But then, I caught myself. I changed my thought pattern. I started telling myself these things: This body allowed me to go for a run on Friday morning for the first time in over a year and a half. This body was able to swim laps yesterday, something I haven’t been able to do in years. This body was able to enjoy a beach vacation with my family last weekend, complete with eating the meals that they ate, having a piece of my childhood favorite beach treat (dark chocolate seafoam!) and SURFING. This body, is my healthy body. It’s able to do all of the things my sick body couldn’t do and more.

Living in the world we do, there’s a lot of focus on getting a “summer body.” We’re inundated with advertisements for products that promise quick fixes, magazine articles that claim they have the top exercises to trim your tummy, and images of photoshopped celebrities who look unlike 99% of the population (many of whom don’t even look like the actual celebrity in real life, in the first place!).

What I’m learning, is that my ideal summer body doesn’t look like anything at all. My ideal summer body is one that allows me to live my life to the fullest. It’s one that’s healthy enough to go for a hike when a friend invites me to go on one with her family. It’s able to go out to a fair and enjoy a milkshake on occasion. And for me, it’s one that has a little bit of fat on it.

This summer has been great so far. It’s been really busy, but all full of good things. My internship with Medtronic is going fabulously; I’m getting to stand next to a surgeon as he implants a pacemaker into a patient’s heart, and I’m not quite sure what more I could ask for beyond that! I’m loving coaching the summer swim team, and my online class is going fine (let’s be honest, I’d be happy to not have that be a part of my summer!). I hope to write more later, but for now, that’s it.

🙂 Bridge

 

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

 

Thank You, Sam and Nathalie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s what I want.

So to Nathalie and Sam, thank you.

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

 

-Bridgette

Journal #92

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a “Journal entry!” This is coming directly from my heart, without much filtering, so I’ve decided it fits better into that category.

As I mentioned recently, my therapist has told me that I need to reread Decoding Anorexia. She said in our appointment a couple days ago that she thinks I’ve become “lax” about my recovery, and have begun to view my own hesitancy towards gaining those few pounds back as the resistance that most women would to that suggestion. I’m not sure how she does it, but she somehow knows how to explain my thinking before I even understand it…(granted, minutes before, I’d just said, “I just think we’re making too big a deal out of this; if any normal person just lost a few pounds they’d be PRAISED, but I’m being hounded and punished until it comes back on…”). Subsequently, came the assignment to reread the book. And yes, okay, it was a good idea, Rachel! I sat down with it this afternoon on the couch and opened up to Chapter 10, the second to last chapter. It’s titled, Oops, I did it Again…, and I remembered that it was the one that talked about relapse.

By the time I finished the first page, I’d remembered how powerful this book was for me. I was reminded that Anorexia is an illness — not a mind game, or a diet gone wrong, or an obsession with weight, but an illness. If I don’t stay on track with my recovery, meaning that I am intentionally meeting my exchanges each day, as well as not exercising more than five days a week (for only 30 minutes at a time, and abstaining from cardio, for now), I WILL RELAPSE. Hard. As Rachel told me the other day, if I need to tell myself that I have Diabetes, or another medical illness that explains having to be rigid about food intake and exercise expenditure in order to strictly enforce my recovery behaviors, then that’s just what I need to do. Because skipping meals is not an option for me. Skipping snacks is not an option for me. Overdoing exercise, even one day, is not in the cards for me right nowOne year into recovery, studies show that the brain has begun to form new patterns and habits, and that more flexibility can begin to be integrated (in terms of not always having three meals and two snacks a day, or going over the typical exercise allowance for a particular event), but it has to remain intentional.

The new wallpaper for my phone, which I found on Pinterest (what can’t you find on there?!) says, “You’re either working on recovery or you’re working on a relapse”, and that’s my mantra for this next month. Really, it’ll probably be one of mine for the remainder of my life, but this next month especially. I know that this month, I need to get back to the top of that hill. Like I’ve quoted from Decoding Anorexia before, being just 2.2 pounds away from “the weight”, is proven to significantly affect the likelihood of relapsing. It’s the equivalent to being 20 feet away from the top of a big hill — so close, but far enough that as soon as you stop pedaling, you’re going to slide right back down to where you started. So, for right now, that’s my goal. Get to the weight. Whatever it takes. I’m gonna get to the top of that hill!

I’ve got a lot more to write about later, but for now I’m going to get back to studying for my anatomy midterm tomorrow.

In Him,

🙂 Bridge

Walking the Tightrope

To be completely honest, I’ve had a pretty hard week.

I don’t think my roommates would guess that. To an outsider, I think I look like I’m doing pretty well. My mom knows, though. Moms always know.

I wasn’t quite ready to acknowledge that I was struggling as much as I am, largely because I’ve been able to tell myself I’m doing fine since my weight’s not dropping. Per usual though, my treatment team beat me to it. I saw both my psychiatrist and therapist upon returning home this weekend, and they spoke firmly with me. My therapist threatened to stop seeing me if I don’t make changes. Hearing that kind of woke me up. I hadn’t even been thinking that was a possibility given where I’m at. I’m still medically stable. I’m still eating three meals and my snacks each day. I’m not overdoing the exercise. But I’m not where they want me to be. I’m at a standstill. And as they put it, there’s no point in seeing all of them each week if I’m not making progress.

My mom put it interestingly this morning when she said, “Bridge, you don’t accept ‘average’ in any other areas of your life, not your grades, not your athletic ability..not your performance on anything. When it comes to your recovery, though, you’re perfectly happy staying just where it’s ‘good enough.'”

What she’s referring to, and what my team’s getting on me about, is my weight (big surprise). While I am eating just enough and not over-exercising, I’m eating just enough. The bare minimum. My weight’s not at the point where I’m being pulled out of school, but it’s close. Like, one pound away close. Close enough that Dr. Rock’s convinced if I came in to get weighed before lunch instead of after, I’d be at that “magic number.” My weight’s been below where it’s needed to be for over a month now, and I’ve been out of my weight range for a little over three weeks. I’ve consistently been told, and agreed, that it needs to come back up. Not a lot, but where it was at when I discharged from treatment.

That’s a lot easier said than done.

You know what’s frustrating about all of that? I feel great right here-right where I am, right now.

I’m comfortable in my body. I’m comfortable with what I’m eating. I love where I’m living in Corvallis, my friends, my family, my work, and I’ve gotten into a rhythm with school. I’m not at the point (yet) where those things are being taken away from me. I know that if I challenge the eating disorder, just for those last couple pounds, it’s going to bring up the thoughts and feelings that I’m finally feeling free of. So, I’m very comfortable staying right where I am.

And my therapist told me yesterday that that’s okay. If I want to keep doing what I’m doing, and be (as she said) “almost anorexic,” that’s fine. I won’t continue to see providers and I won’t have a team breathing down my neck about getting back to where I need to be.

I also know that if that happens, it’s only a matter of time before I do start to slide down the slippery slope again, and hit that magic number that I know triggers the landslide into a deep and dark relapse.

I feel like I’m walking a tightrope. I’m very comfortable right now, but if I stay here, I know it’s only a matter of time before I fall. Or, as my mom said (don’t moms always know everything?), it’s like an alcoholic who’s doing “okay” just having one drink a night because they don’t want to endure the pain that would come with giving it up completely. That’s not a very secure future. If it’s a temptation, with the end result potentially being incredibly destructive, why even mess around with it? Especially in the case of alcoholism or anorexia, where it’s biologically based. I should, as the Bible would say, “flee from temptation.”

I know that the consequences of my staying at my current weight is relapse, because I won’t stay there. Almost Anorexic Bridgette will slowly but surely succumb more and more to the eating disorder, developing weaker and weaker bones, completely lose her period and ability to have children, likely die early from heart failure, and most importantly, not experience the true freedom and joy that comes with living. As comfortable as I am right now, I know it’s not the life Jesus wants for me. Heck, that’s not the life want for me. Almost Anorexic is not the Bridgette that’s going to be able to study abroad, to intern in Colombia, to be a nurse who impacts the lives of children, who is able to jump for joy when the Beavs beat the Ducks in the Civil War.

So, as I write this blog post (which, yes, is also serving as a way for me to process all of this!), I am ready to proclaim that I need to gain that last bit of weight. I need to do it not only for me, but for Jesus.

Goin’ for the #gainz

 

In Him,

Bridgette

Reflections on Colombia 2016

This is a post from my friend Opher, who spent the past two weeks in Colombia. We met on his second (my first) trip there last summer, with Young Life Expeditions. The trip was one of the most incredible and God-filled experiences I’ve ever had. The plan, as of last fall, was to return to Colombia this year an intern with the Young Life organization there. Once I went back into treatment, it became clear that this year was not the time, but I cannot wait until I’m able to experience the love and community Jesus has and is cultivating in Bogota.

To Be an Opher

Bogota, Colombia.  My second home.  I say that with my full heart.

I just returned from my third trip to Bogota in the last four years with Young Life Expeditions.  Each time I have journeyed there, I have fallen a little more in love.  And this year was no different.

First of all, I want to encourage my friends and readers to seriously consider embarking on a Young Life Expedition.  Young Life is Young Life no matter what language or culture you are in.  That is because Jesus is Jesus no matter the langauge or culture.  The emphasis YL puts on relational ministry here in the States holds true internationally.  The YL leaders across the world are no different than those in the States.  Teenagers are teenagers.  Take the risk and the bold step to get out of your comfort zone and witness this beautiful truth with YLX, I would…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Bridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

-Bridgette

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