730 Days

Today marks two years since I was discharged from my last IOP admission. I don’t miss the vitals/weight checks, or weekend planning every Thursday, or hospital food. However, I do miss feeling understood by others like me, the care given by the providers, and having somewhere to go every day. Before my third (and last) admission, it was easy for me to go straight back into the program. It was familiar and I knew what to expect. I wasn’t getting what I needed from my therapist at the time and I was stuck.

Quite frankly, it didn’t bother me that I repeatedly came back. It felt like an accomplishment at the time. Others like me, the “frequent flyers” often laughed about our situations. It was an attitude of not caring and being a bit obnoxious about it all. But I was stuck in the revolving door and couldn’t escape. Then, one day, it all clicked for me and I got it. It wasn’t funny to have to come back time and time again. It wasn’t an accomplishment to have the lab techs know me by name because I went for bloodwork so often.

I spent most of 2008 and half of 2009 driving back and forth to the hospital, spending hour after hour, day after day in the program. When you’re so used to that routine, it’s very hard to do anything else and move away from it. Luckily, by the time I was discharged for the last time, I found a therapist who really understood and supported me. I finally felt like there was a chance that I wouldn’t need to go back. And I didn’t.

It wasn’t easy, either. There were a few times when I was warned that’d I’d be headed back to IOP if I didn’t step it up. It was scary. I was anxious. My treatment team pushed me and I wasn’t always happy about it. But it’s what needed to happen to make any progress. Goals were set and I needed to stick to them in order to keep moving forward. I thought I could get away with some tricks…but my team wasn’t stupid and they called me out. Tough love doesn’t only work in family situations.

There are still times now when I want to give up and go back to IOP and be taken care of while I ignore the difficulties for a while. In session the other day, I told my therapist that living with the eating disorder was easier than it is now. She laughed a bit because she knew that if I really thought about it, that’s not true at all. Living with an eating disorder is not fun. You’re tired. Cranky. Zoned out. Emotionally unavailable. Constantly worried about food. Not living life. It’s an alternate reality that seems like fun, but when you’re there, it’s miserable.

Manage the Stress

Life has been crazy busy lately, which is part of the reason why it’s been so long since I’ve written. One of the most stressful events in life is moving. Another one of the most stressful events is job hunting/interviewing. It just so happens that both events are happening at the same time in my life. I’ve lived in the same house my entire life and so I’ve never experienced the challenges of moving before. The disorganization of moved boxes and scattered items is enough to drive me nuts. Luckily, most things have been moved out, but I won’t be able to settle down until everything is in its place. Job hunting is no fun and interviewing in the midst of a big change is less than ideal. Meeting new people and going to new places is anxiety producing. And while I could’ve talked some things out in therapy yesterday, I had to cancel my appointment because of car trouble. Add in a dead car battery and a fast approaching book deadline, and it only equals one thing: STRESS.

But what this post is about isn’t stress and what’s been going wrong, but how to deal with those things. It’s definitely easy to get caught up in Murphy’s Law, that whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. Of course, if you think like that, it will seem that way. You can also choose to acknowledge whatever has happened, but also move on so not to get caught up in the negativity. Sometimes it’s hard not to think, “Why is this happening all at once? Why me?” Sometimes it’s hard to think otherwise, but it can be done. When stressful situations occur, you have to take care of yourself in order to not get too overwhelmed.

Deep Breathing – While we all know how to breathe naturally, short breaths don’t help with feeling better. I know for myself, I tend to hold my breath when I’m anxious, and so I need to remind myself to take deep breaths. Let your stomach rise and fall and concentrate on nothing else.

Guided Relaxation – I learned how to follow guided relaxation during IOP and it’s been a great resource, especially before bedtime. Our muscles tense easily and it’s hard to notice sometimes. Guided relaxation helps with releasing the tension and properly relaxing. I suggest Andrew Johnson’s Relax (Relax Free); it’s put me to sleep every time I’ve used it! You can also find his apps on iTunes.

Practice Mindfulness – This isn’t an easy task, at least not in the beginning. Our mind often thinks about events that will happen in the future, or things that have already happened. This doesn’t help in stressful situations. Focusing on the present moment does. Instead of worrying about tasks that need to be completed while you wash your hair in the shower, focus on the sensations in that moment. Notice how the water feels, how the shampoo smells.

Stress will forever be a part of our lives but there are tricks we can use to keep things from becoming unbearable. Sometimes, it does seem as though everything piles up at once, but it doesn’t last. My move is almost over, I did well at the interview, I rescheduled therapy for this afternoon, and a new battery brought my car back to life. I still need to deal with the book deadline, but after everything else, that’s a piece of cake.

Lucky #7

Ask anyone who knows me, and they will tell you that I am definitely not one to brag about my accomplishments. For the most part, I feel embarrassed if I am praised for something I have done. It’s hard for me to tell others about something I am proud of. Since there is always someone else who has done the same, I don’t feel it’s necessary to point it out. Doing well is not good enough for me; it’s only worth praising if and when I’m the best, if I’m the only one in the world who has done it. For something to be an accomplishment, it has to be BIG and unique. Continue reading

What “Nutritionists” Really Eat

As soon as I began my recovery process, I wondered if my treatment providers followed their own advice, and especially, if they followed the same meal plan I was given. Until I was admitted to IOP, I thought I was the only one who wondered. Then I learned that we were all curious to know if they ate what we were supposed to eat. During dinner time at IOP, we ate in the hospital cafeteria, and sometimes a couple of our treatment providers would come in for a snack. We all watched to see what they’d buy while trying not to be too obvious, and we all whispered about their choices. We talked about it amongst ourselves and kept quiet until some one had the guts to ask the question we all wanted to ask. “Do you really do what you tell us to do?” Without hesitation, we got an answer: “I wouldn’t tell you to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.” While we had no reason to believe she’d lie, it was hard to picture any one following our meal plans. To us, it was a lot of food. We didn’t know what was normal.

I’ve also wondered how many providers treating those with eating disorders had (or have) an eating disorder themselves. To us, any one who was thin must’ve had an eating disorder. “Pretty people” were supposed to only eat healthy food, and our treatment team was made up of some very attractive women. That myth was proven false when, during rounds one day, some one noticed an empty bag of potato chips in the office trashcan. She asked the doctor if she actually ate the chips. They were a “bad food” and she ate them! It was another piece of evidence that what they taught us, they followed themselves.

While my experiences with treatment providers have been positive, not every one in the business should be trusted. I recently came across an article posted by another recovery blog. The article is from Marie Claire – which may be triggering – and it seems as though Marie Claire is not the best source for healthy articles for those in recovery. “Food experts,” who are apparently very popular with some famous clients, let the world in on their own eating habits. I figured that since they give advice to others, they’d know exactly what is healthy, appropriate, and “normal” intake for a day.

I was wrong.

Out of the five (so-called) nutritionists, the first one grabbed my attention the most. Natalia Rose works out of NYC and charges $850 per personalized program. According to her stats, she is underweight, and she doesn’t eat anything before the sun goes down because the air, sunlight, and clean water gives her enough energy. Her food log consists of nothing but fruit, a bit of greens for a smoothie, and macaroons for dessert. She added a squeeze of lemon to her breakfast tea – and she COUNTED THE CALORIES. The three calories (which says “All calorie counts are approximate.”)  in the juice were written down to be included. I’m not sure where she learned to be a nutritionist, but these few details scream “EATING DISORDER!” Or at the very least, disordered eating.

While I still have my struggles, I am wise enough to know what is an appropriate meal plan. Natalia’s is not one that should be followed, nor one that should be given to her clients – especially to those with eating disorders. It makes me frustrated to know that if some one is struggling and they go to see her, chances are, their eating wouldn’t improve. A “nutritionist” doesn’t necessarily have to be qualified to practice. I know enough about nutrition to educate others, but I wouldn’t be comfortable enough to give that type of professional advice. A dietitian, however, is very much qualified and must pursue degrees, an internship, pass an exam, and obtain licensure to be labeled a “Registered Dietitian.” The two are different and may have very different views and techniques.

If there is no “RD” behind the person’s name, they may have no idea how to handle eating disorders. They may believe in fad diets. They may harm some one. Seek some one else’s advice. The only way to stay stable in both metabolism and weight is to eat a balanced variety of foods, with meals spaced out appropriately at the same time each day. Every thing is okay in moderation. You want that ice cream cone? Go for it. And please eat before the sun goes down.

The Power of Words

Wording can be changed in your thinking, too. “My day is ruined!” and “It’s okay, I won’t let this destroy my day.” are both responses to the same situation. You may guess which one works better. (Hint: Not the first one!)