Lately, I have been holding onto my disease. I definitely did not expect this, I mean I hate it, shit it almost killed me, so why am I having a hard time letting it go? I’m not necessarily talking about behaviors, although, sometimes those are still there, but I expected those. What I didn’t expect was the identity piece of it. “If I eat lunch, I won’t have an eating-disorder, and who am I?” or, “If I eat that cake, and don’t purge, I don’t have an eating-disorder, and who am I?” Sometimes my “wise Mind” wins (a little DBT talk there) and sometimes my “not-so wise mind” wins.
I was so pissed at my eating disorder when I went into treatment that I was determined to beat it, but t I think I should have been (there's those words again) more in the moment and in my emotions and not obsessing about when I would get to leave or that I complete my exchanges and didn't have to supplement. (If you don't complete 100% of your meal, you have to supplement with an ensure)
I was so “determined” to get better, that I’m not sure if I allowed myself to be “weak” which is leading to some real insights. I think that sometimes I was so ready to get back, and be over it, and be back to my life that I was trying to prove to everyone that I could. But honestly though, I wasn’t sure if I could (and I'm still not). It was kind of like the ED took on another form of control in that way.” Just lie, just act strong for a while, and they’ll believe you, and then we can go back to doing what we want” What’s crazy is that I didn’t even realize I was doing that until well after I left, so that sucks…
When I stepped down to a lower level of care, I really hoped that it would be short and sweet. I mean, you go from 24 hours of constant accountability and care, to 8-10 hours of programming (that’s treatment talk for “learn not to be so crazy class) and my reasoning was, what am I going to do for the other part of the day up here in Raleigh? PHP is supposed to help you transition back into your life, but how can I transition up here when my life is back in New Orleans? I ended up leaving AMA (against medical advisement). I have no idea if I should have stayed. I don’t know if it would have been the same or not, but I can tell you this; I would be a lot further along if I were able to transition at home. Louisiana’s ED treatment sucks. I’m not kidding; not one little bit. It nearly sucked the life out of me. I refused to go to treatment for so long because I didn’t want to leave my home (and heaven forbid people find out where I am, because that’d be embarrassing) , so I continued to get sicker and sicker until I ended up in the hospital where they should have transferred me to the ED unite, but we don’t have one… So they sent me home to get sicker until I ended up in the hospital again; this time in the ICU, and again, they pumped me full of electrolytes and sent me home to get sicker.
Did you know that early-intervention in ED is key for recovery? I feel like my state let me down in that department, and that makes me angry.
Anyway, I digress. This unexpected connection with my ED has been eye-opening to me. It’s really been a lesson in vulnerability, and I was always focused on the “strength” part of it. My therapist asked me if I was proud of the work I have done, and I said “no” because I’m not better yet. Are you starting to see how my brain works? This is why I had to attend so much programming ;) The vulnerability piece started when I started to reflect on my overall attitude toward my connection with my ED and with my connection to recovery. It’s still a work in progress, and it’s taking everything in me not to judge myself for my lack of perfection, but I so just want to be "normal!" BTW, if any of you out there are normal, can you tell me how to do it :)
I have been writing this blog in secret. I haven't told anyone about it, but I wanted to write down my experiences and feelings in the moment, because they are impossible to replicate once I have (hopefully) moved past them. However; lately I have been verbalizing my story to more and more people, and I find it cathartic and helpful. It has really precipitated my thinking about opening up on a larger scale, but I'm scared shitless. There are a lot of reasons not to: I'll be labeled, I'll be judged, I'll be misunderstood, I'll be worried, I’ll be isolated, I'll feel uncomfortable. But the biggest reason is that I'll be held accountable... and that scares me, but it's also pushing me. See, right now there are people I can still "pretend" around. I still feel like I have always felt, but I know for sure that is keeping my stuck where I am.
This weekend I went back to Raleigh, the scene of the crime. It was weird... It felt like home; I felt safe; I felt accountable. It was also hard. I saw some great friends from treatment and how well they're doing, and I immediately began to judge my recovery. "I'm struggling so much more than they are," "I'm failing" "Why'd I even bother going to treatment? It didn’t work" All of this is bullshit. Well, most of it; there are always things we could be doing better in our recovery, and shit, in our whole lives, but let's not "Should ourselves to death" (the immature part of me loves that quote :)
The judgment is another thing that keeps me stuck, and another is my inability to ask for help. Even after all that time learning how to ask for what I need, I still have a hard time. I'm so wrapped up in seeming strong. This is something I am trying to work through in therapy, but as I sit here writing this article, I am being more and more pushed to publicize my struggle. I should be vulnerable. I should not be ashamed (there's that should again!) But screw it, here it goes. I'm scared, but I need to do it. I have faith that I will be met with compassion and grace from you all, and I just want to be transparent; because I have been opaque for the last 10 years of my life
There will be some of you who are completely and utterly shocked as to what I have written,and for that you can thank my disease. It was so good at hiding, manipulating, and lying that I had you all fooled. Sorry. I hate it too. I still struggle, so I guess I’m here asking for a bigger support system to help me be my best self. I am worth it, and so are you. I struggle, you struggle, we all do. I have lived in shame for so long. Don’t do it, you don’t have to. I’m here to listen to you if you need me to, and shit, you better be here if I fall apart :)
I am an actress. No like, literally, I am an actress. I have an agent, I go to auditions, I have even graced a few sets with my presence. I love the craft. I love being me in a different form, and then me not at all; but for YEARS, my craft suffered. I was uncomfortable, self conscious, embarrassed, and forever afraid that I would be exposed. I was always living in the shadows, hoping that no one would notice my behaviors or see my true colors. This is a deadly combo for an actress. One needs to wear her heart on her sleeve to be successful, and that was NOT happening. Since seeking treatment for my ED, there are a few things that I am coming to terms with: I need to embrace where I am in this moment, and not obsess about where I want to be. I need to realize that I have body dysmorphia and see my self very differently than others (I am extremely uncomfortable in front of the camera). I need to realize that I am WORTH being seen, and I need to own my shit! All of these things are a work in progress, and to be honest I fail a little bit everyday, but what I have learned is that it's about moving forward. I have been battling these demons for over 10 years. I continued to think that they would eventually go away and I would become a normal person, but that didn't happen because things don't just happen, we make them happen. I tried becoming a Personal Trainer to fix me; that didn't work I tried becoming a yoga teacher to "fix me"; that didn't work. I tried becoming a hard core vegan to fix me; that didn't work. And I tried full blown denial to fix me-- we all know how that turns out. Thank God Im not normal. I mean, I could do without the ED, but the rest of my neurosis I will keep; I just needed to learn how to manipulate them in my favor.
I have a great group of people who support me, and the also trigger the hell out of me, but we're working on that. I am learning that my voice is powerful, and it is ok if I want to use it, and I am working on that. I am learning that it's ok to give myself what I need, and I am working on that. I have learned so much about myself throughout treatment, and that directly comes through in the craft of acting. There is a saying in acting, "Actor, know thyself." I'm trying to start.
To finish up, I had an amazing acting class tonight, and pictures were taken. I had a hard time looking at them because I didn't like what I saw, but I came back to my DBT skills and my self-realization--Fuck ED I'm awesome!
We are all awesome, and we are all struggling. lets build each other up
A week ago I lost a best friend. Out of nowhere, she got sick and died a week later. She had a 10 month old baby, and now her widowed husband is left without the love of his life, and left with another human to raise. My friend knew that colon cancer ran in her family so a few months prior to her getting sick, she had a voulentary colonectamy. Cancer got her anyway. My heart is broken from the loss of a lifelong bestfriend. She lived down the street from me, so I spent nearly everyday either playing, studying, gossiping, or watching MTV at her house (because my dad blocked that channel).
I can't help but wonder why the hell she has to die, and I get to live. Don't misunderstand, I want to live, but I have flirted with so much dangerous behavior pertaining to my ED that I almost feel like I have nine lives. She did everything right, even taking extra precautions to make sure she satyed around fro her daughter, and she's not here and I am. It doesn't make since, but I am strating to realize two really major things: 1. Life is so fucking fradgile, and 2. There has to be a significant reason I am still here. I was told in the hospital that the doctors had never seen anyone survive with levels that low, but I did. Twice. Why? Like, really, WHY?
I'm crushed from the loss of the most authintic friend, and I am greatful for the chance to start living more and more each day. This is not dumb luck.
Today, I feel like a failure. Today and yesterday have been surrounded by behavior use. I had every intention of being "better" or being "good" or, shit, being "perfect."
Lets talk about perfect for a minute. Ed really likes to use perfection as a side kick. Its almost like perfectionism is a piece of Ed. "If you aren't going to be perfect today, then be really bad. Lets be perfect in our eating disorder, lets binge and purge five times today, and then skip dinner." How is this logical? I mean, ok, so you slip and engage in behaviors once, why does that mean the day is shot? I can tell you why it means it for me.
My main behavior use is binging and purging. Just writing that down makes me cringe. When I think of eating disorders, I think of glamorously thin people who have so much will power that they are able to turn down food. I always wanted to be like them, but I couldn't. I would even wake up and say, "ok, I'm going to eat virtually nothing today!" and then 11am would come around and I would be famished and binge. I then felt like I failed at my eating disorder, so I would try to make myself feel better with the only way I knew how, binging and purging, which would make me feel gross, so I would comfort myself by binging and purging. It is not unlike someone who has an addiction; in fact it IS an addiction... to food. The act of stuffing yourself until you can't even stand up straight, and then getting rid of almost all of it and feeling completely empty is unlike anything else. It makes you feel amazing-- for about two minutes, and then it makes you feel worse than before. The reason that it's hard to pull myself out of the cycle once it's begun is because it is the only thing that makes me feel THAT good. The problem is, that feeling leaves very quickly and you're searching for your next high.
The only way to pull yourself out of it is to remember and accept that NOTHING will ever this good. you see, the feeling of euphoria is concentrated. What we need to remember is that sustainable happiness is a slow-release, not a flash in the pan. We must change our expectations in order to experience what really feels good--living.
I thought that I could get through this on my own. I mean, if I go and get help what will everyone think? If I go and get help, I'll have to put my life on hold and tell everyone where I'm going. If I go get help, then my dirty little secret will be out in the open, and I won't be able to engage in behaviors. If I go get help, I will lose my best friend, my eating disorder. Yeah, my ED was my best friend. Sometimes I still miss her. I mean she brought me comfort and a since of euphoria, I lied to my OP therapist... a lot. This might sound counterproductive (because it is) but the reasons behind why I lied are so layered and complex. Lying to her was lying to myself. "See, I'm not that sick. I mean, I don't look sick." but I was, and I needed to get help. I needed to put my life on hold, because, quite honestly, I didn't have much of a life to begin with. I didn't have to tell everyone where I was going. Fuck them, I don't owe anyone anything. I told the people who needed to know so that I could get support from them. If they judged me, that was their stuff, not mine. I bared my secret for all to see so that she lost power. My biggest fear was that I would be forced to go to treatment. At the end of the day, it wasn't my therapist, or my husband, or my mom, or my best friend who forced me to go to treatment. It was my eating disorder. How could she betray me like that? I gave her everything (i mean EVERYTHING) and this is how she repays me- by shoving me into a house where I literally couldn't take a piss by myself? Yes, because ED was never my friend, she was always the one that was going to send me away. I don't know how I didn't see the warning signs- the fluttering heart beat, the extreme lack of energy, the foggy brain, the shame and guilt, the swollen parotid glands, the muscle cramping. But somehow, all of these things seemed to pass over me like a thief in the night; not being heard, but taking all of my shit.
Going away didn't send ED away, she still comes around from time to time, and sometimes she stays around. (that tricky little bitch). But, going away saved my life, because now I know how to ask her to leave.
In March of 2017, I came down with a stomach virus. I wasn't able to keep anything down, and my body had no reserves. My hands, feet, legs, face, and even my tong began to cramp. My hands were stuck like clam shells, my toes were stuck pointed, and I was alone in my house waiting on my husband to get back with some medicine. I was unable to walk because my body was so depleted of nutrients, that I fell onto the floor of my bedroom. Luckily, I was able to grab my phone and call my husband who rushed home and rushed me to the ER. When I got there, my worst nightmare was confronted. I had to tell the doctors that I had an Eating Disorder.
Normal Potassium levels are between 3.5-5. Potassium isn't measured below 2. Mine was below 2. My magnesium was also very low. You see, when you spend a majority of your day purging everything you eat, it tends to fuck with the electrolyte levels. On top of that, I was also running long distances in the south Louisiana heat-- that's a recipe for disaster.
After spending 24 hours in the hospital, I was released and promised everyone that I would get better, that this was my rock bottom, my wakeup call, and that I could do it on my own. I couldn't. In November of 2017, I ended up right back in the hospital, quite possibly, worse than the first time. I was admitted into the ICU so that they could keep an eye on my levels. My body was not only cramping this time, but also uncontrollably shaking and twitching. (this was due to the, you guessed it, low potassium)
I began to think that I might need a higher level of care for my eating disorder (I wonder what gave that away...) I began to look up treatment centers online, but I was still dragging my feet and still engaging in behaviors (that's ED talk for purging, over-exercising, restricting, self harm, or using another behavior that's linked to the ED.)
It wasn't until my mom came to my house and basically became a puddle on the floor, begging me to go, that I decided to get serious about it. She said that she was afraid I was going to die before I could get the help I needed, and you know what, she was right. I almost did die. Twice. It's still a miracle that I didn't go into cardiac arrest. If I ever questioned the existence of a higher power, my faith is now solidified. If there's one nugget of info you take from this post, it's that you don't fuck with Potassium. That shit is important! Oh yeah, and eating disorders suck.