But seriously guys – who shuffled the cards?

I really dislike my writing lately. If anything, it’s a less than profound literary reflection of myself: repetitive and lacking any sense of growth. Maybe it’s because I’ve been slacking off for the past few months, but when I think about, well, things, I spend most of my time staring at my notebook trying to remember the letters of the alphabet.

Everyone in their twenties feels lost, regardless of having a mental illness. Isn’t being twenty-something a mental illness in itself? But when I really think about it, I don’t feel lost. I’m very aware of where I am. I feel stagnant, which is not a bad place to be for me, to be honest. But it’s not great either. I feel like I made a very important phone call, but I’ve been put on hold for months and am now stuck listening to the same annoying, easy listening hold music while I wait.

I’m still waiting for that post-college adventurous gene to kick in. Is that how it worked for all great explorers? I don’t remember reading anything about that in our class’s skewed teachings of Christopher Columbus. But everyone all seems to be setting sail for the Great Perhaps, while I’m still trying to blow up a life raft. I feel trapped. Chained to a place that is littered with anchors. All I see is someone else’s perfectly filtered future on instagram. If only I could pin all my insecurities on my 16th century phone for not having an app to validate the happenings of my existence.

I want to eat up all the stars and recharge every nerve in my body. There’s a brighter future out there. I know it. I can feel it burning my skin. But I stumble – arms outstretched like a baby taking their first steps, needing to caught by their mother – blinded by the sun.

In just a few months, 2014 has already tested my commitment to recovery. In a lot of ways I feel very strong and tough and stable. It’s rewarding to actually see that I can take the punches life throws at me with grace. But when I ice the swelling, I have to decide whether to let everyone see the bruises or cake on make-up. Lately, it’s easier to apply a smile with lipstick. But the way I see it, in recovery, there is no quick fix so I might as well rock the red lips.

Even though I’ve been questioning a lot lately and I can’t truthfully say that I haven’t had my lapse days, in the end I always come back to the same painful truth: Addiction is a rigged game. Starving, drugs, drinking – it’s all the same. The entire time you think you’re winning. But when you finally lay your cards on the table, you have a losing hand. You might as well forfeit before the stakes get too high, skip the inevitable repercussions of relapsing, and stick with recovery even when it seems like you have nothing to lose.

As I told my best friend recently, you can kiss your demons good morning when you wake up or you can roll out of bed and wash them off in the shower. That choice is presented to me every day. Some days it doesn’t even cross my mind. And then other days it rings louder than my alarm and long after I’ve hit the snooze button. I know it’s hard to let go of something that once was your best friend. You loved them. Maybe you still do. Maybe you always will. But if you have to kiss ’em, kiss ’em goodbye.

Trading in “sick” clothes and wearing vulnerability

Today, for the first time in three years, I bought a new pair of jeans.

I am devastated.

I woke up this morning at an ungodly hour for a day off.  My first inclination was to stay in bed all day and, in all honesty, not eat.  But instead, I decided I wanted some retail therapy and to blow my grocery money (a mere $20) on something to help me feel good about myself.  My wardrobe is made up entirely of “sick” clothes.  Clothes that by all rights I should not be able to fit into.  I am not 100 lbs anymore and haven’t been for a long time now.  But I still haven’t let go of what that number stands for.

I went to T.J. Maxx, the site where I had my first realization that I had an eating disorder my freshmen year of college.  Now, a 24 year old woman, I knew as I walked in the store that this would probably ruin my day off.  Sure enough, I left the fitting room with the familiar chokehold on my throat that had seized me 6 years ago.  But instead of running out and crying to my mother on the phone, I bought some soup and Christmas chocolate and walked home.  I cried all the way.  I cried when I got home.  I ate the soup, I ate chocolate, and I went to sleep for 6 hours.  I woke up, and now I’m crying some more.

Anorexia is a disease.  It is an addiction, and when you choose recovery, you have to deal with symptoms of withdrawal.  Addiction tames you before it hurts you.  As awful as it makes you feel, it also makes you feel high and invincible.  Nothing can touch you.  I miss that.  I miss feeling like I had skin made of steel.  Now I just feel ripped open and vulnerable with mangled guts for anyone to sink their hands into.

So yes, I am devastated.  I know that is a strong word to use in regards to the simple act of buying new clothes.  But to someone with an eating disorder, it’s not just a pair of jeans.  It is a scarlet letter burning, “I’m not good enough.”  Now they’re sitting untouched in a bag at the end of my bed waiting to see if I’ll be strong enough not to return them and exchange them for bad habits.

Secrecy feeds eating disorders

The most valuable lesson I’ve taken away from recovery is to never apologize for showing feeling because it only means you’re apologizing for the truth.  Learning to speak my mind was the greatest gift recovery gave me.  I am a much happier person for it.

However…

Sometimes I just want to say, FUCK THE TRUTH, and let it fester away and die.

It is hard for me to admit that I need other people, as well as their support and love.  It’s terrible to need.  I hate it.  Somedays it’s hard to no longer live in a body sheathed with the ironclad armor of an eating disorder.  Empty is strong and invincible.  When I feel overwhelmed and vulnerable, it’s a tempting to retreat back into its’ shell… I miss the days when my eating disorder and depression were secrets.  I know it seems a bit contradictory to have a public blog dedicated to my recovery and struggles when at times I feel crippled by shame and loathing and guilt, but I know deep down it’s too late to go back.  I can’t hide this part of me, and even if I could, I shouldn’t.  One of the reasons I started this blog was to accept that.  Secrecy feeds eating disorders.

It’s lonely when such a big part of your life is secret to your friends… but sometimes I wish I was strong enough to be alone, than risk losing more people I care about or infecting them with this disease that is so damn hard to understand.

There’s a point in everyone’s recovery where you realize that you cannot do it alone.

3 years out of treatment and I still struggle to accept this.

Every time I reach out to someone, I feel this sharp pang of idiocracy and embarrassment mingled with the guilt that I just disturbed the universe.

I wish pumpkin spice lattes and wooly sweaters were enough to keep the triggering thoughts of this time of year out, but they’re not.  The sadness just lays across my eyes and I pass through the days in a haze.
…..I’ll still keep drinking the lattes though.

It’s a chronic illness.

I’m going to apologize in advance for any lack of grammar and eloquence this post may contain.  I’m emotional and in my experience, those things tend to go out the window when I’m in such a state.

I either want to be locked away so no one can see me or I want someone to wrap their arms around me and smother every bit of doubt pulsating through me with kisses and snuggles.  A tad contradictory, I know.  But I feel like such a nuisance and am embarrassed of my disordered thoughts and momentary breakdowns.  All of a sudden, I feel utterly disgusted with my body and life for reasons that probably have nothing to do with my weight, but of course, I will fixate on.  Why?  Because weight has a simple solution.  Exercise, starve – problem solved.  Associate weight with any other problem and with every pound you lose, your problems will shrink as well.

That’s how eating disorders work.  Or at least, one way they work.  Eating disorders and depression are far too intricate to have just one explanation.  Either way, it’s just a lie presented in a pretty little package begging to be unwrapped, and right now I feel like a 4 year old waiting to rip open every present under the Christmas tree.

I’m scared.  I thought I was doing so well.  I exercise moderately.  I eat moderately.  I’ve been feeling good and confident.  Then I go out and socialize, indulge in things that I like, and then feel like utter shit after.  I just – asdfghjklasdfgwhatthefuck?!  Is this how life is always going to be?  Take a couple days off from exercising and suddenly I’m the victim of self-abuse?  Has the progress I’ve made these past 3 months been an illusion?  I don’t think so.  Then whyyyyyy?  Will I ever get to a place where I can do things without a free pass from exercising or starving?  A place where if something unexpected or bad happens, I don’t immediately fixate on my body and beauty.  I just can’t imagine a world like that.  Not today at least…

I’m grateful for the growth my struggles have given me, but god dammit, I hate this fucking disease.  I hate my polluted blood.  There are days where I just get so mad that this happened to me.  Days where I do nothing but cry over the person I might have been if it had been different and pine after the years I’ve lost to this disease.  I want it gone.

All the leaves are falling…

And the sky above my head is very grey.

September is a triggering month for me.  Maybe it’s because I hit my lowest moment this month three years ago, but September always eggs me on to breakdown.  I start to feel scared and unsure of myself.  My head is suddenly covered wall-to-wall with mirrors, and the space between my elbow and wrist prickles when I think too hard.  The changing leaves begin to fall in a flurry of bad memories and feelings.  I’m constantly pulled down by waves of fear, struggling to keep my head above water.

Last September I experienced my first relapse.  It happened so fast.  In a matter of weeks, I somehow crossed the line of healthy and destructive, and by October I knew the thing that was talked about like some cautionary tale in treatment had finally happened.  I relapsed.  Everyone had always said you’d never realize it was happening when it was happening, and WOAH were they right.  To make a long story short, I took the necessary steps to pull myself out of it (i.e. reach out to supports, consult therapist, be open and honest with loved ones).  It didn’t take me long to get back on track.  But of course, life happens and I got derailed again.  I threw out my disordered behaviors for depressive tendencies.  I was not in good shape emotionally and physically for the latter half of my senior year.

But as with every year, I am reunited with September once again.  The month of new beginnings, right?  I’m much healthier and much happier, but there’s something ominous about September, and it’s off to a, let’s say, contemplative start.

This past week I made the trek up to Keene to see one of my best friends.  She’s never been without me throughout her college career thus far, so even though we’re only a week into the semester, a trip was needed.  However, my little weekend visit turned into a week long stay.  It was great.

I got engaged.

Well, fake engaged.  But if this is what it’s like to be really engaged, I think I need to reevaluate my marriage priorities.  It was quite the spectacle, I assure you.  I got to spend time with some really cool people I haven’t seen in a long time, I was reunited with my TAD friends, and enjoyed the New Hampshire air I’ve missed.  So much, in fact, I didn’t want to leave.

Now, I’m seriously considering moving back.

There’s nothing wrong with that.  I just need to make absolutely sure that I’d be doing it for the right reasons.  It’s not enough to say, “It’ll make me happy.”  No.  I need to know what about it will make me happy.  Going out to the bars and having fun with friends are not a legitimate reasons for moving back.  That’s not what I want anyway.  I don’t want to go back to hold onto the college “Golden Years”.  Besides, my “Golden Years” were more like “Bronze Years” or “Certificate of Participation Years”.  Having an eating disorder and depression kind of ruined the romanticized notion that my time in college would be the best years of my life.  However, that means that there are better years ahead of me… which is exciting, but also why I want to be smart about this decision.

My initial worry was that people would judge me for staying in my college town, but fuck it.  At nearly 24, I need to stop caring what people think of me.  Aside from that blip, I’m concerned that the reason I’d be going back is because I’m too afraid to delve somewhere new, which is partially true.  I am scared.  I’d rather be more financially stable if and when I move to a city like Chicago or Boston.  And I’m still so unsure of what I want that I don’t feel ready to move somewhere new either.  So why not use Keene as a transition platform?  Work a couple jobs, save money, but be in a place that I love and also be near supports.  From a personal and recovery standpoint, it balances out.

As great as I’ve been doing with my recovery and inculcating a healthy lifestyle here in Rhode Island, I also feel like I’ve been slowly becoming an agoraphobic.  I’ve been isolating.  Here, I don’t have to deal with social anxiety.  But I need to tackle it.  Socializing is a part of a balanced lifestyle.  Going out in Keene made me realize how much I need to work on that.  I was having fun, but I felt very self-conscious and uncomfortable a lot of the time, especially in social settings that involved food or alcohol.  I didn’t exercise much while I was there, and that completely shifted my mindset.  It scares me how easily that happened and how I rely on exercise everyday to give me permission to eat.  I don’t want to have that mentality.  I still have a lot of work to do, and once again I am reminded that recovery is a life-long commitment.  As dramatic as it sounds, I can’t let my guard down for a second.

Also, I love being close to my mom and living with her.  She’s the most wonderful and caring support I could hope for in a mother.  But I also worry that she is my security blanket.  My binkie.  And that’s moms are for, right?  It’s ok.  But after this weekend and realizing that I’ve been isolating intentionally and unintentionally, it feels like a crutch.  So I’m not sure if it’s in my best interest to stay.

Transitions and change is always hard for me, moreso than the average person.  If you think I’m over-thinking all this, I’m not.  I know how I work, and the steps I need to take to make transitions easier for me… I can’t risk relapsing again.  Ultimately, that is the biggest fear here.  I don’t want to go through it ever again.  But that possibility will be there no matter what decision I make so the important thing to do is to acknowledge it, but not let it hold me back.

I could run in circles around this forever, but at some point I need to put down the Pro/Con lists and just make a decision.

Thoughts?  Suggestions?  Criticism?  I want ’em all!

Sometimes I underestimate the power of Time…

Today I met and caught up with my one true love and best friend since 2nd grade, Rachel, for the first time in 2 years.  You’re probably thinking that that’s an awfully long time to go without seeing a best friend, let alone talk to them, and you’re right.  Yes, we both lead busy live and she moved to Germany, but a big reason for our time apart was our own personal growth and recoveries.

When I moved back to Keene 2 years ago, my ex who also happened to be one of my best friends and biggest supports decided that it was in both of our best interests to part ways.  As hurt as I was and as horribly as he handled it, it was what I secretly wanted too.  I honestly can’t say that I was mad.  Sad, yes.  But not mad.  For once in a very long time, he finally did the right thing.  Even though I was making considerable progress in my recovery, the year after I had gotten out of treatment was a tumultuous emotional roller coaster for me and had put a strain on both of us that neither knew how to handle.   That aside, we already had a long history.  I did the best I could.  At the time, I never thought he cared enough.  But looking at back, I think he did the best he could too.  He didn’t know how to handle it.  It’d be very easy to blame everything on him, but I can’t.  He made mistakes and I made mistakes.  Helping and understanding people in recovery is extremely hard.  It takes a lot of strength and patience and compassion.  In the end, I believe he knew he was holding me back.

By September, we were done.  Even though I knew it was a good thing, it also left a huge hole in my already very small support system.  I was terrified.  I had never been without him since I had developed a full-blown eating disorder.  He was the one who convinced me to go to treatment.  He had been with me through some of the bleakest periods of my life.  I started to wonder whether I could do it without him…

And that’s when I realized, it was finally time for me to stand on my own.  As much as loved my best friends and knew they loved me, I always felt like I was still perceived as a disordered being.  Whether that inkling was true or not, it was holding me back.  It kept me stuck in the disordered mentality and despite whatever progress I made, I continued to define myself as such.  It was like when you visit or move back to your hometown after college and people still see you as your high school self.  It doesn’t feel good.  So I decided I needed to break away, not out of anger, but necessity.  With already one best friend gone and starting over at Keene, it seemed like the right time to do so.  It was time to be fearless.

Soon after the Fall semester started, I was cast as Janet in my college’s musical production of The Rocky Horror Show.  The impact of that experience is a story for another day, but it became the support system I needed.  I met new people who got to know me as Kristine, not an eating disorder.  When I opened up about my struggles, I was met with admiration and understanding, not judgement and negativity.  I finally was becoming the recovered person I always wanted to be.  I can’t begin to describe how much I grew over the next 2 years.  I was confident.  I was socializing.  I was free.  Not only did I grow, but I broadened my support system.  Now I have an abundance of friends and family who I can count on.  I don’t have to dump all my issues on one person and strain our relationship.

Aware of the transformation I have undergone in the period apart, I admit, I was slightly apprehensive about seeing Rachel today.  What if too much time had passed and we were two completely different people?  But despite that nudge of insecurity, I knew we would slide effortlessly back into place.  Sure enough, it was like no time had passed.  We’re still two kids sunbathing on the playground map during recess.

Maybe I didn’t need to take that much time away from her and my old supports.  Regardless, the time apart gave me the space I needed to grow out of the mold my eating disorder and depression encased me in.  I am in such a better headspace.  Even just over the course of this summer, I feel so healthy – mentally and physically – and I can see that in my best friend as well.  Just in the way we talked and carried ourselves, I could see we both have a confidence that we didn’t have before.  We’re more sure of ourselves.  We may be uncertain about the future, but we’re certain of our worth and growth.  I’m so proud of us.

I hope to continue reconnecting with old friends.  Maybe someday I’ll be able to reconnect with my ex/former best friend.  I never thought I’d say it, but after today’s success, I’d like that.  He crosses my mind occasionally and I wonder where life has taken him.  Wherever he is and whatever he’s doing, I’m sure we’re both happier where we are now than we would have been if we hadn’t parted ways.

Perhaps time and space don’t need to be perceived as bad concepts in relationships, romantic or otherwise.  I don’t think I’ve ever understood the healing and evolutionary powers they possess until today.  Time and space could be my allies.  Taking chances and a tenacious heart could be too.  Maybe I don’t have to fear them so much.  Maybe there are times to stay put and what you want will come to you in time, and maybe there are times to go out get it for yourself.  I’m finally starting to feel comfortable with treading both paths.  Maybe it’s because I’ve graduated and everything is wide open, but for once I’m facing uncertainty with unwavering eyes.

Come what may, I will be okay.

What does your weight/body image mean to you? How has your body image changed throughout recovery – has it gotten harder or easier to deal with?

Nothing.  They mean absolutely nothing to me.  Some days my ED voice tells me that my body is all I’m worth.  But the reality is that my eating disorder will always be an unhealthy coping mechanism, a diversion from the actual problem.  When I feel shitty about my body, it means something completely unrelated is wrong.  Berating my body hurts less than what is actually hurting whether it be depression or just a dump in the road.

Thankfully, my body image has changed considerably.  The way I view my body doesn’t hold me back as much anymore.  I can say now without even flinching that I am beautiful.  This year I’ve really grown to love my curves.  Bad body image days happen.  It still boggles my mind that I can wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and think, “Goddamn, I am a sexy goddess.”  But then when I eat something and look in that same mirror literally five minutes later, I’ve magically gained 50 lbs.  It sucks.  Still, on most days, I can say, I am beautiful. 

But I don’t think I ever would have been able to say that if I didn’t learn how to love the me that really counts – the person on the inside.  My eating disorder has always been about hiding the things about myself that I saw as ugly and shameful.  None of these things were physical.  If I became perfection on the outside, no one would ever see the imperfections on the inside.  It took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to open myself back up after I tried to starve them out of me.  I have flaws.  Plenty of them.  But so does everyone else.  It was hard to convince myself that letting people see the “ugly” sides of me wouldn’t scare them off.  And sadly, they did.  It hurt at the time and even looking back it stings, but the people who didn’t stay made room for people who would, and now I have an abundance of friends and family who love me for me.

I am beautiful.  My heart is beautiful.  My mind is beautiful.  My body is beautiful.  Feeling strong makes me feel sexy.  And I mean, c’mon.  I had to dance around in granny panties in front of an audience.  If I was able to make that sexy, I am sexy.

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“Wow, she’s really let herself go.”

The most feared comment among recoveries.  But I can’t say it’s not true.; I have let myself go.

I’ve let myself go to the movies and eat Buncha Crunch and buttery popcorn.

I’ve let myself go out to dinner with my really cool family.

I’ve let myself go to parties and dance and drink all night.

I’ve let myself go hike mountains.

I’ve let myself go on adventures with friends and fill up on nothing but laughter.

I’ve let myself go sing karaoke with people who are in no state to carry a tune.

I’ve let myself go skinny dipping on the 4th of July and watch fireworks dance on the water.

I’ve let myself go for a walk instead of a run.

I’ve let myself go on coffee dates on crisp Fall days.

I’ve let myself go on a real first date.

I’ve let myself go have great sex with someone I love.

I’ve let myself go have bad sex with someone I don’t love.

I’ve let myself go become a part of a family of friends that love me for me.

I’ve let myself go stand up for myself when I was being treated badly.

I’ve let myself go sing and act onstage without worrying about whether the audience deems my body beautiful.

I’ve let myself go walk across a stage to grab a diploma.

And most importantly,

I HAVE LET MYSELF GO FURTHER THAN YOU EVER WILL IF YOU THINK WEIGHT IS THE MEASUREMENT OF HAPPINESS.

I have so many more places to go.

And so begins the final stretch of summer…

August is upon us and I have made it my mission to exercise every single day.  But when I swore my declaration of body-hate independence, my mom asked me, in almost an accusatory way, why bother doing something if I don’t like it?

A very good point.  In fact, I consider it a rule of life.

But the truth is, I don’t hate jogging.  I hate the deathly humidity we’ve had this summer that has put a major dent in all my jogging prospects.  Some people find the heat invigorating.  If you’re one of those people, I envy you.  Truly, I do.  I wish it didn’t melt me into a pile of misshapen goo.  But walking, nevermind running, in 100 degree weather is horrid.  I don’t enjoy it.  So I don’t do it.

However, aside from the unbearable heat, I mostly hate the build-up to get my stamina to a place where jogging isn’t torture, but rather a second-nature daily activity.  I’m not looking to be an athlete or to run a marathon.  I just want exercise to be a part of my lifestyle.  Permanently.

When I look back on last summer, I can’t help but feel a little twinge of frustration at where I was then and where I am now.  As far as stamina goes, that is.  I started jogging regularly around the end of August right before school started.  After a summer full of many nights at the bars drinking with friends (no regrets btw), I was feeling sluggish mentally and physically.  So I decided I needed a change.  I stopped drinking and slowly started exercising.  I honestly thought giving up alcohol would be harder than exercising regularly, but it wasn’t.  In fact, it was really easy.  And it made a huge difference!  Usually I have a hard time keeping myself motivated and on track, but this time around it wasn’t much of a challenge.  Maybe it was because I knew I was going to be performing a lot and was stressing about looking good on stage.  Or maybe it was because I was expecting my then-boyfriend to be even more supermegafoxyawesomehot after bootcamp.  Whatever the reason, it worked.  I was diligent and kept myself at a healthy moderate level of exercise.

I want that back.

And I can have it.  I strongly believe it’s an issue of mind over matter because I do not think that I am horribly out of shape.  In the past few months of getting back in touch with my recovered self, I’ve come to realize that I associate negative self-talk with exercise, which makes me afraid to do it.  Who wants to subject themselves to self-loathing?  I don’t.  It certainly isn’t very motivating or at all nice.  I need to break through that fear.   I need to break through that chain of negativity we all wear when things get tough.  THAT is my ultimate goal for August.

I’ve made a lot of healthy changes this summer and hopefully August will prove to be just as rewarding, even if it is in small doses.  I cannot wait to welcome back the brisk Autumn weather with open arms.  But until that happy moment, I’ll just chip away at my goal and think happy thoughts.