Even If

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

I know You’re able and I know You can

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 -Bridge

Mile 22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

In Him,

Bridge

 

New Recipes, New Me

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

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

 

Okay…onto the recipes!

P.F. Chang’s style chicken lettuce wraps

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Blueberry Muffins

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Fettuccine Alfredo

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

 

 

-Bridge

 

Nearing the Finish Line

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

-Bridge

 

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

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

The Last 24

If you’ve seen the show The First 48, you might have gotten my (intended) pun of a title. My mom and I are suckers for Dateline and other crime-TV shows (we actually have one on right now!), and I don’t turn down an opportunity to use a pun when I see one. The last 24 hours have been good. For that, I am so, so thankful. It’s moments like these, when I experience a bit of a break from the eating disorder, that I’m rejuvenated and reminded why recovery is worth it, and why I keep fighting.

I had my appointment with Dr. Rock yesterday, and it went well. He decided to stay vague and not give me the specifics of my weight, but he said that I’d held up my end of the contract, meaning it had gone up at least the amount we’d agreed upon. Instead of feeling anxious upon learning my weight had gone up, like I normally would’ve, I felt okay. It’s amazing how quickly things can turn around, seeing as moments before the appointment, I’d felt like I was going to puke, so conflicted as to whether I wanted my weight to be up (the E.D. didn’t want) or down (which would’ve meant disappointing my mom and providers, as well as losing them). My mom came to my appointment (Thanks for the snow day that allowed her to, Beaverton School District!), which I think helped, but I also just felt a sense of calm after the appointment that I normally don’t. It was very welcomed (Thank you, Jesus).

This morning, I had my weekly session with my therapist. My mom came to that one, too! I walked out invigorated and renewed after we worked through some cognitive remediation therapy, a technique used with the goal of increasing my brain flexibility, and reducing my rigidity around eating disordered thoughts and behaviors. We also talked about how my treatment is really, so simple if I just follow the plan that’s laid out for me. It’s only when I begin to listen to the eating disorder, and try to manipulate things that it gets complicated. I was able to identify that my automatic response to hearing those words “follow the plan” is that I need to be submissive, but my therapist reframed it as imagining I’m following a training program, and my providers are my coaches. That, of course, was right up my alley, and left me feeling excited to get home and get training! We agreed that I would look at this as a 30-day program, just to start out, and that for the next 30 days, I would follow my meal plan TO THE T (just as I totally would if it were an exercise program’s plan), checking in with my mom and my providers as I go along. So, I came home this evening and mapped out a little program for myself in a journal, complete with a checklist of my behaviors each day and a spot to record my highs and lows, mood in the morning and evening, level of motivation, and any other pertinent tid-bits from the day.

Tomorrow, I’ll go to church with my mom and begin Day 2 of my training regimen.

I’m excited.

 

-Bridge

A War Within

Yesterday was a particularly rough day for me. It shouldn’t have surprised me, seeing as I’ve been doing relatively well. I’ve been following my meal plan, and I’ve been eating more variety. I even had tacos at the Blazer game I went to on Tuesday night. Tacos that I didn’t prepare, and furthermore did not know the caloric content of. Uncertainty — it’s where the eating disorder finds its footing. It caused it to rear its ugly head yesterday, and while fortunately, the thoughts haven’t been this bad frequently over the last couple of months, I thought it was a good opportunity to share what they can be like. They tend to get worse when I’m adhering to my meal plan and abstaining from exercise (as prescribed).

A peek inside my head (Wednesday, Feb. 1)-

1:00 pm: I feel like I’m going to throw up. I need to text Mom. I look down at the parmesan and herb bagel sandwich staring in front of me, my eyes wide. It looks back at me, gobs of cream cheese staring, mockingly. How am I going to eat this? My brain begins rolling, trying to come up with ways I could get rid of it. There’s not a garbage disposal in this house, so that’s not an option like it is at home. I guess I could bury it in the garbage, but what if one of my roommates see it? What else can I do, what else can I do…

1:07 pmBridgette! Get it together! You have your weigh-in in an hour and a half! You need every last morsel you can get! Eat that bagel and cream cheese with turkey, and go get yourself a Gatorade, too. Maybe you should’ve put more cream cheese on that bagel…are you sure that’s two tablespoons? You can’t afford to short yourself any calories here. Remember the deal: your weight needs to be up by Friday if you’re going to keep your providers. Eat, eat, eat!

1:13 pm: Don’t listen to that. You don’t need to gain any weight. What are those people trying to do, make you fat? You’re not going to feel any better about yourself by eating those 500 calories, I’ll tell you that much. You’ll probably feel worse; look at all the grease on that thing. I can see it going straight to your thighs. The pants you’re wearing right now won’t fit you, that’s for sure.

1:20 pm: But think of everything you get to do once you’re at your weight! Who cares if those pants won’t fit you, you’ll get new ones with that Nordstrom gift card! And you’ll get to work out!

1:26 pm: Work out? It won’t even be worth it. You’ll be too uncomfortable with your body to wear athletic gear in public. And those Zella running tights you love? Yeah, forget about it. There’s no way those are going to fit.

1:30 pm: No, Bridgette! You need this! DON’T give in. You are stronger than this! You only have an hour now before your appointment! You need to hurry up and eat or your weight is most definitely not going to be up and you might lose your team!

1:37 pm: Come on, loser. Find a couple pocket weights and stick ’em in your pants. No one’ll know the difference, it’s a win-win. Your weight will be up and you don’t have to get fat. No harm, no foul.

1:45 pm: That’s not true! Harm AND foul! That’s lying! Come on, Bridge, DON’T go backwards! You’ve come this far and your body needs this! You haven’t had your period in almost a year.

1:50: ** Text comes in from Mom **

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1:51 pm: ** Begins eating sandwich **

2:15 pm: **Finishes lunch **

So, yes, I ate the bagel. The bagel and the turkey, and the cream cheese and the carrots. I was absolutely certain afterward that my weight had increased, probably a couple pounds. I would’ve bet you money on it. The eating disorder was that convincing. Yet, per usual, I got weighed in and was told my weight hadn’t budged. Not down, and certainly not up. Not even an ounce. It hasn’t been a week since my last weigh-in, so my team isn’t letting go of me. That weigh-in will come on Friday.

The two voices in my head are polar opposites, and I know that. It doesn’t seem realistic that both would be experienced by the same person, let alone in the same day. But they were, and they did, and they do (and will continue to). That’s life with an eating disorder. It can leave a person feeling literally insane, and that’s just how I felt today. That’s what causes the majority of my panic attacks: feeling overwhelmed with the uncertainty of how I feel. I feel both ends of the spectrum, the healthy me and the disordered me, so strongly that it becomes hard to separate what’s real from what’s not. I don’t know how to describe it other than as if I’m witnessing a war, and I’m a third-party to it. It’s like I’m an outsider looking in, but looking into my brain, and the winner of the war determines my behavior. I can separate the rational and the disordered parts of my brain from each other, but I often have a hard time hearing the rational one because the disordered one gets so loud. Not only is it loud, but it’s deceiving. I expressed these feelings of frustration, and really, utter exhaustion, with my dietician at my appointment today, and she gave me an article that related to what I was feeling. It’s a paper entitled, Wisdom from those recovered.

You can’t trust an eating disorder. When I think back to having an eating disorder, it’s what I imagine schizophrenia to be like. Once I had gone through treatment once, I knew what was healthy and what wasn’t, I knew what I needed to do to maintain my weight, but this other side of me – the eating disorder – cared far more about not gaining weight. So I did things I never would have imagined doing. I lied, I hid food, I came up with schemes to avoid eating even a drop of yogurt – looking back on it, it seems insane, and it was, but it was the work of an eating disorder, which is not a sane or rational disorder. You cannot act toward an eating disorder as you would toward a rational person. You have to be firm and unyielding, and the eating disorder will do everything possible to bend and break the rules and wear you down. Parents: take that trust you have in your child and use it to fuel your belief that the trustworthy person you know is still there, but they cannot emerge until you weed your way through the convoluted games of the eating disorder, and to do that you have to stick by what YOU, the rational person, know is healthy.

I’m so thankful to have a dietician (and a psychiatrist and a therapist, not to mention my mom!) who cares so much about me, and who has enough insight into this disorder to understand what I’m saying when I come to her in a panic. I’m  going to keep working hard, and keep fighting the voice in my head that tells me not to do what my team has prescribed for me, and I’m going to keep doing just that: exactly what they tell me to.

 

-Bridge

Hello, It’s Me Again

Hello Blogiverse,

I’m back (for a bit). At my therapy appointment yesterday, my therapist suggested I write an entry. I didn’t want to. One reason being my right hand that I mentioned in my last post, which I had surgery on about a month ago. Another reason being my left hand. Yes, you read that right. Having to use my left hand to compensate for being unable to use my right one while it’s recovering has unfortunately brought up the exact same issue in the left one. I have surgery for the other side scheduled for March 3rd.  To be quite honest, it’s really, really sucked at times (a lot of times). Being unable to use either hand (much) has caused me to have to slow down, a lot. Something of which I am not a fan. I dropped down to part-time student status for the term to reduce the stress on my hands.  I’m only taking two classes that meet two days a week, and I’m only working in the football office two days a week. This gives me the availability to go home (to Portland) Thursdays-Sundays. That isn’t what I want, but it’s what I know I need.

I’ve been called-out (Thanks, Mom) for “sugarcoating” things on this blog. It’s also for that reason I didn’t want to write another post. It’s really hard for me to write how much I’m struggling. I know the number of times I’ve expressed that I’m motivated, that I’m doing everything I can, that I’m going to be done with this soon. And while all of those things have been true in those moments, the truth is, the past couple of months have been inexplicably hard. There have been times, most recently at an appointment on Friday with my psychiatrist, Dr. Rock, that I’ve just wanted to say, “F— it. I’m done with this.” I am putting myself through the ringer day after day, week after week, month after month, for what is now going on six years. I’ve been challenging the thoughts, seeing the providers, doing the meal plans, and eating the dang food. And guess what? It’s not working. That’s how it feels, anyway.

There are multiple reasons that my weight’s continued slipping to the point where I now need to gain back more than just a pound or two. One of them is the state of hyper-metabolism I’ve gotten my body into as a result of caloric deprivation. There’s a lot of really interesting science behind hyper-metabolism; if you want to read about it you can do so here. Secondly, even though I haven’t skipped a meal or snack in months, I’ve restricted in other ways. My eating disorder is a master at cutting corners. I say I’ve had five ounces of chicken, and really, to me, it looks like five ounces of chicken. If I weigh it though, the scale will say otherwise. It might be two, or three if I’m lucky. The same thing will happen with a cup and a half of rice that’s really only a cup, or 16 oz of milk that might only be 12. Those little calories here and there add up, and they’ve contributed a significant amount to my inability to put on weight.

While I am very proud of myself for having not skipped a meal or a snack, there’s a danger in that, because it makes me think I’m doing “good enough.” And as my mom always says, unless I’m following my meal plan to the T, it’s not good enough.

For the next 10 weeks, I’m under contract with all three of my providers: my psychiatrist, my therapist, and my dietician. My weight has to increase by a certain increment each week, or a higher level of care will be recommended, or they will discontinue their treatment with me. I’ve already decided at this point that I will not agree to a higher level of care. I’m just not willing to leave my life behind right now. Not agreeing to the higher level of care would mean losing my providers, who have been through so much with and mean so much to me. That is incredible motivation for me to keep doing the work I’m doing.

The list of things I’m looking forward to doing when I get fully weight restored (which, I have not been since I discharged from St. Vincent’s at the beginning of April 2016) is ever-growing. Among them are: a new pair of jeans, a mani-pedi, getting to use the Nordstrom and Lululemon gift cards I got for Christmas to buy new clothes, a new running watch, getting to use the 3 Barre3 classes I paid for three months ago, an indoor skydiving voucher Brad and I got for Christmas two years ago, a month of classes at Willamette Valley Power Yoga, a massage, a trip to the Nike employee store, and a dog (just kidding, Mom!). I’m tired of this list growing longer.

A common misconception about anorexia is that it’s about the weight. For me, that’s not it at all. It’s not the final destination of my restored weight that’s so hard for me, it’s the process. Unfortunately, gaining weight is a process. My eating disorder lies and it cheats and it sneaks, and it makes me think that food is the enemy! Because of that, I’m putting as many things in place as possible to make sure my brain can’t get in the way of doing what I need to do; doing what my body needs. I’ve agreed to be home, Thursday dinner through Sunday after church. When I’m home, I have meals with my mom’s supervision. There’s less freedom, and therefore less of an ability for the E.D. to utilize whatever wiggle room it may find to short me in any calories. I also have Winky to sit with me when I’m having a really hard time, which is a much better coping skill for me to use right now than to go for a walk (burning more calories), which I am more likely to do at school.

In addition, it’s now been nine months since I’ve had my period (again) and scientifically, that means my bone density is deteriorating. This is the body, and the life, that God gave me and I’m not going to give up. I know that I can walk through this fire if I do it with Him.

 

-Bridge

 

P.S. A verse my mom shared with me this evening: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”  -Proverbs 15:22

Cardioversary

Today marks one year since the last time I did cardio exercise.

Now, yes, I walked 16 miles a day while in Italy. And yes, there have been some times where I have been active enough to get my heart rate up that one could consider it aerobic. But as for going out with the intention of doing cardio exercise? I have abstained for a full 365 days, and I am incredibly proud of that. I remember the day I first started thinking about the possibility of taking a break from cardio. Not like a “while I was in treatment and they made me take a break” break, but a real break. One that I was really doing for myself, that no doctor or therapist was holding me to. One that I was doing because I believed it was what was best for my body, and for my mind. I’d just finished reading Decoding Anorexia for the first time. I’ve read it enough times since then to feel like I know it like the back of my hand. I was shocked by the studies that had proven how effective abstaining from any cardio exercise whatsoever was for someone in recovery, especially when there had been an exercise addiction component. It was so clear in the science, that someone in recovery needed more than just the bare minimum of a couple of weeks, or even months off from exercising their body in order for it to fully heal, and especially to avoid relapse. A year was used time and time again to show that enough time had gone by, that the patient could begin reintegrating exercise back into their life and do it in a healthy way. I remember reading that and thinking, “Okay. That’s it. That’s what I want. A healthy relationship with exercise. So I guess it’s gonna be a year.”

And it was a long year. It was a long year, but at the same time, it went by fast. So much has happened that I can’t believe it’s really been twelve months. I hated my decision at times, I resented it, and I was often jealous and frustrated of my friends that were doing things I wanted to do: going to workout classes together, training for a marathon, going on a hike, doing a mud run. But even on the worst days, when I cried on the phone to my mom because I just felt so awful and wanted to go for a run more than anything, I never questioned it. I knew that it was the right decision for me, and I was determined to stick it out. I think for a long time, this year of no cardio will be up there with my proudest accomplishments.

If you’re wondering if I’ll be going for a run today, the answer is no. Would I like to?

HECK to the YES.

But I’m not. I’m not going to rush into it just because it’s been a year, when I’m not at my goal weight yet. I don’t think that would be very good in principle. But it is a heck of a lot of motivation for me in my eating to know that the second I am at my goal weight, I’ve done my time and can begin to slowly reintegrate cardiovascular fitness back into my life.

Okay, but aside from cardio…I’ve had quite a few victories the past few days. And surprisingly, I still feel pretty darn great.

Victory List:

-On Wednesday night, I went to look at lights with some family friends. We had decided to get dinner at the food carts, and I got a bratwurst! The man (chef) asked if I wanted him to make it with oil or with butter, but said that the butter tasted a heck of a lot better. And I said he could use the butter!!! I will say, it did taste pretty good. As my mom would say, “Everything’s better with butter!”

-On Christmas morning, my mom made crêpes for breakfast. I ate them. Not one, not two, not even three. I ate four crêpes (topped with butter, lemon, and powdered sugar). And the E.D. just had to deal with it.

-Later that morning, Brad and I went over to my Dad’s house. I didn’t know what was going to be there for lunch, but had decided I was going to try to be flexible. Worst case scenario, I knew they’d have stuff I could make a sandwich with. His wife had made sliders, which were made up of roast beef, mayonnaise, oil, swiss cheese, and dinner rolls. Not a single food in that list is not a fear food of mine. I had them anyway.

-The morning after Christmas, I was headed out to the mall and told my mom I was craving a Jamba Juice. I then went and got one, and I did not choose one based on the number of calories it contained. I picked the one that sounded the best (which happened to have more calories than my usual and “safe” option). It was the “Mega Mango” and it was delicious.

-That SAME day, I was coming back from the mountain with my Dad and step-brothers and Bradley in the afternoon (I didn’t ski or board, just read and looked at the snow), when my dad said they were going to stop at Dairy Queen. I’d already had my afternoon snack of an Almond & Coconut KIND bar and an ounce of nuts, but thought, “Heck, I’m trying to put on weight anyway. I’m going to get a Blizzard!” and ordered one! It was Heath and I really enjoyed it. I don’t think I’d had a Blizzard in at least five years.

-Yesterday morning, my mom and I went to Grand Central Bakery and I got a blueberry scone and cappuccino. E.D. wanted me to choose a much smaller pastry and order the cappuccino nonfat, but I pretended I was in Italy and just ordered them the way they were. Both were delicious.

So yes, you could say it’s been a successful week. Oh, and did I mention? I got the stomach flu on Thursday night! Both Friday and Saturday I was out cold (actually I was hot, sweating up a storm!), hardly eating (obviously not helping my case) and throwing up (luckily only once). That obviously could’ve set me back, but I’ve been rallying and working extra hard to make sure I’ve made up anything I could’ve lost over those two days.

On another side note, I’m having surgery on my hand/wrist this afternoon for carpal tunnel (I know, crazy at my age, right? I think so, too). Because of that, I’m not thinking I’ll be able to blog or do much typing for a while, so it will probably be a few weeks before there’s another post.

All things considered, I’m so thankful for mine and my family’s health, and for all of my friends. I’m thankful that our Savior was born in a manger and that God sent Him to live on Earth so that we could be forgiven. Thank you to everyone who reads this blog, and I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and have a happy New Year!

 

In Him,

Bridge