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.

When I’m Twenty Four

I’ve come to realize that freaking out about the future is a regular occurrence after you graduate.  It’s not just a 20-minute plot-line of a sitcom that is dealt with and forgotten by the next episode.  No.  So far it’s been a HBO mini-series with infuriating cliffhangers and no laugh track.

As I’ve mentioned before September is a rough time for me, and by the end of this month, I was feeling really low and not like myself.  Ruminating a lot, feeling lethargic, and being hypersensitive to everything going on around me.  I was second-guessing every decision, worrying about what I’m “supposed” to be doing, and letting fear of failing or getting hurt hold me back.

But then October 1st hit and suddenly I went from neurotic basket-case to employed, optimistic (but still neurotic) soon-to-be 24 year old.  How this can happen in less than a day is beyond me, but I’m just going to go with it.  I’m fairly certain it’s something I’m going to have to get used to for the rest of my life.

I’m not very good at change, or rather the anticipation of change.  I’m told constantly it’s a common flaw in eating disorder patients, but I personally believe it’s a quality shared by the entire human race so I don’t really feel like I should have to apologize for it.  Once I’m in it I’m usually okay, but that moment before the jump is when I start to sweat.  Recently, I think a lot of that has to do with feeling like I need to make up for lost time.  With everything that has happened in the last five years, I’ve put so much pressure on myself to do good and be good.  It’s too much.  I didn’t have control then, and I don’t have it now.  And if there’s anything I’ve learned since I’ve graduated, it’s that life is more enjoyable when you go with the flow.

Last week I was freaking out about my birthday that’s coming up in a month.  I’m turning 24.  That number sounds dreadful.  24.  That’s almost 25, which is halfway to 30, which means I need to get my shit together and why is everyone getting married and having kids, what the hell am I doing, who am I, I need to live my life to the fullest DEARGODBUILDMEATIMEMACHINE

….then again, it also sounds, dare I say, exciting?  Aside from money, there’s very little holding me back.  I’ve got an amazing family and group of friends I can always count on.  For the first time ever, I’m not ruled by classes and homework.  I’m done with school – I have been dreaming about this since naptime in preschool.  I’m single, and not that I’d ever let anyone hold me back, there is a certain freedom in that.  I can just work my ass off and in my free time pursue all the things that I like, which mostly consists of coffee, books, and music.  I have no obligations to anyone or anything, except to myself.  When I think of it that way, 24 sounds pretty freakin’ awesome!

I really need to remember that thought whenever I panic about the future because, as calm and collected as this post sounds, I will freak out again.  It’s just in the nature of every 20-something year old.  And I’m not going to fight it because even in the midst of my string of panic attacks and days of self-doubt, I’ve felt a growing sense of hope in me that’s been getting stronger and stronger since this summer.

No, I don’t have a 5-year plan, but I do have the next 5 days planned, and that’s a start.

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.

“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.

Calories vs. Feels

Today was a bit disheartening.

I deliberately skipped breakfast.  Again.  I got up early to drive to Carver and even though I knew I should eat something, I told myself, “Ehhhhh no.  I’m not hungry.  Just wait until lunch.”  I’m not going to beat myself up over it because I know it’s just one slip up, but one can lead to 100 so easily.

As I think I’ve mentioned before, my hunger cues have been kind of off lately.  When I wake up in the morning I’m not hungry, which makes it tempting to skip breakfast altogether.  It takes more effort than normal to bring myself to eat, and when I think about eating, my body gets turned off to it.  It’s almost like a slightly  nauseous feeling.  Very subtle.

The frustrating thing about all this is that I feel good.  I have my bad days, but overall, I’m content.  Usually loss of appetite is a signal for something negative (i.e. stress, ignored inner turmoil, bottled up feelings), but I really don’t feel bad (most days).  I can acknowledge maybe 3 things off the top of my head that have valid reason to stress me out, but they’re comfortable discomforts, meaning I’m not worried about them.  I’m optimistic and keep on goin’ with the flow.  It’s all good. 🙂

Now I’m going to break a rule here and compare myself with someone else.  I promise it’s to make a point.  When I look at my general diet, I see it as pretty healthy.  It’s fairly balanced and the portions are reasonable.  The concept of eating 3 times a day is still something that makes me uncomfortable, but I do abide by it.  But then this weekend, I visited my sister.  In my eyes, she and my mom have always been the epitome of healthy.  Her 3 meals a day put mine to shame.  They are actual meals.  My idea of a meal?  Well, an orange for breakfast counts as a meal, right?  WRONG.  I’m confusing a snack with a meal.  My sister and I were making lunch and she was asking me what I wanted, listing off options.  Pizza, macaroni and cheese, quesadilla, etc.  Everything she offered was (in my mind) too much for lunch.  Eat a quesadilla for lunch AND eat pasta for dinner?  I couldn’t possibly do that!  Especially since I had cornbread and butter for breakfast!  Jesus Christ, you want me to have orange juice too?!  TOOMANYCALORIESDEARGODNOHELPMEASDFGHJKLASDFGHJKlASDF

THAT, my friends, is disordered thinking.  Again, forgive the comparison (I’m already awaiting a text from my sister yelling at me), but I thought it would be worth it to illustrate a point.  Out of everything that comes with an eating disorder, the one thing that I truly have not shifted in my mind is the number of calories I, as a twenty-something year old woman, am supposed to be eating daily.  Usually that number is around 2,000-2,400 cal.  My mind runs on a 1,000-1,200 cal basis.  Granted, as someone who used to only consume (aside from nothing) 300-800 calories a day, it’s an improvement.  But it’s still too low.  I don’t know why, but just as 800 calories used to boggle my mind, eating over 1,000 is still hard to wrap my mind around.  Even today, I ate homemade pizza with my grandparents and then they made chicken salad sandwiches, potato salad, and salad for dinner (ha lots of salads).  It’s like I still have trouble processing eating those two (again, in my mind) big meals consecutively, which is frustrating.  Something’s wrong with me.  I feel like an alien. :/

So here we have reached the dilemma.  I’m happy and comfortable with what I’m doing in my recovery.  Even if I don’t meet the advised caloric intake per day, I feel fulfilled and healthy.  The question I keep asking myself is, do I still need to consider upping my intake just to meet a health standard?  Or do I measure myself with how I feel?

There are days when past events or people that have no current relevance in my life cross my mind, and I can’t do anything to stop a tightness from taking root in my chest and tears from welling in my eyes.  It could be something that happened years ago, but I’ll still grieve over the loses and the ache of their absence.  It makes me feel stupid, but I don’t think I’m the only person who has those moments or hours or days, and that’s comforting.

The Ten Commandments

No, not in the biblical sense.  Although, they are much more sacred to me than any religious text.

Today I was going through an old journal of mine and stumbled on this entry from two years ago.  I wrote it right after my last therapy session before I moved back to Keene (a grueling decision I made that I thank myself every day for making).  I thought it might be helpful to share as it gave me some needed insight on how much progress I’ve made in recovery.

August 22, 2011

Today was my last day of therapy.  This is what I have learned:

  1. I am much braver and stronger than I thought.
  2. My depression and eating disorder do not define me.
  3. Anger is not a useless emotion.  But hold on to it for too long, and it becomes toxic.
  4. I can stand up for myself intelligently and with class.  
  5. My friends and family are my greatest motivators.  But they are not my saviors.  At the end of the day, the only person who can pick myself up and move forward is me.
  6. Be honest with yourself and with others.  Always.
  7. There is no point in keeping things bottled up.  It will only hurt yourself.  If you just talk things out and tell the truth, you will have a healthier and stronger relationship with yourself along with the people around you.
  8. Assumptions can lead to the worst misunderstandings.  Just talk. (Notice a trend?)
  9. Making mistakes is human, and I am not an exception to that.
  10. I love me.

When I wrote these ten, say, commandments, I was praying they were true, still not ready to let go of the disordered hand that guided me through most of my life.  They were merely lessons to me that had yet to be practiced.  Nearly two years later, I can let out a big sigh of relief.  These are no longer mantras I have to mentally recite to myself every day.  They are engrained beliefs that I no longer question.  They are all true.  It’s hard to believe there was a time when these words were foreign to me.  I may not always be happy where I am now, but I’m not where I used to be and that’s good enough for me. *pats self on the back*