Triggers

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No, not him.

These.

There are two layers of triggers for me.

I don’t know what to expect out of recovery. I tend to have unrealistic expectations. I prefer to be unrealistically optimistic and see where it gets me. I may dream too much about a miraculous better-than-ever-could-be-expected recovery.

The tricky thing about eating disorder recovery is that it is often defined as no longer resorting to eating disorder behaviors. And eating disorder behaviors mirror so closely normal life.

The doubt settles in – did I just not have a second piece of pizza because I am just a normal person who is watching what I eat or did I not have the second piece of pizza because I’m restricting? Do I really not like carbs (because I feel gross when I eat them)? Or is that also a trick of the eating disorder?

I don’t know the answers. I’m sure with time I will find some. Some questions may go unanswered.

So, back to the triggers. There are two levels.

There are food triggers – pretty much get me every time. They make me nervous – not anxious, just uneasy.

  • Pasta: The worst one. I can eat it (especially lasagna) but it is the hardest food for me.
  • Pizza
  • Bread
  • Party spreads – chips and dips, munchies…
  • Desserts (except cookies! ūüôā
  • Hamburgers
  • Potatoes
  • Waffles, pancakes, french toast

 

Then, there are the situational triggers:

  • My mom’s bad days… when the bipolar is evident.
  • Anger of others – in general but particularly directed towards me
  • Changes in plans
  • New relationships
  • Loneliness

 

Feeling triggered is hard… The actual situation isn’t that hard to deal with. It is the domino effect it sets off inside of fear of relapse.

But we keep going – one day at a time.

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Eeyore Days

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Ok, it isn’t really that bad. But it is one of those days when I diagnosis myself with SAD at least fifty times…

Feel like a small monster is erupting inside of me…

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And randomly hide in the bathroom to deal with the tears that have spilled over… but I don’t have enough energy actually to deal with crying and the subsequent makeup mess…

It is one of those days when you really begin to doubt everything… and by everything I mean EVERYTHING – did I even make any progress…

It is just a bad day.

I’m sure the lack of sleep last night isn’t helping anything. I’m not really sure what time I went to bed – but it was late. I refused to look at the clock so I wouldn’t have to suffer the mental pain of knowing how few hours of sleep I was getting.

They are the days you just have to hold on.

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“Don’t deny in the darkness what you have seen in the light.”

These are the hardest days for me. The days when I can’t see as clearly as I usually can, when my emotions are on strike, and everything seems to fall apart. The days I want to just throw in the towel, take a mental health day, and drink a glass of wine. But paradoxically they are the days when I most need to be near other people, because being with myself is not going to get us anywhere good. So the challenge is to be near other people without doing irreparable damage. (Okay, yes, I’m being a bit dramatic – but sometimes the whole thing feels a be catastrophic. It is like all the lights have been turned off suddenly and I can’t yet make out any forms in the darkness.)

They are the days I miss having someone to vent to. The days when I want to shove it all back inside because feeling gets really hard. They are the days when I wonder if everyone is like this or if it is just me.

They are the days that take every ounce of my will power and focus to get through.

Little by little I’m learning to accept that it is okay to have a bad day. That I don’t have to be perfect, that I can mess up royally and I will continue to move forward.

The days that finish with the thought, “Tomorrow is a new day.”

The Maze

They go out every day. They run the maze that changes every night, mapping it – trying to find a pattern – avoiding the Death Eaters that come out at night. Racing, they must be back within the [apparent] safety of the walls before the doors close.

I recently finished the Maze Runner trilogy. I have yet to read the prequel, but I will get there.

In some respects the trilogy appears to be a poor attempt to recreate something like the Hunger Games or the Divergent series, but lacks the depth of the questions and personal struggles of the characters of the above mentioned series.

Let’s face it, having characters whose entire memory has been wiped is hard to identify with. They happily live a life without the complexities we all face that deal with past experience. It is very hard to relate to.

Well… that and the fact that the character’s brains are constantly being meddled with so you really can’t begin to understand what their true personalities and identities are.

What I did take away was a great distraction. It is always nice to travel away to a land far, far away and immerse yourself in a different world for a while. (Even if it is late at night when I should really be immersing myself in sleep.)

There is also something to be said for Thomas’ untiring fight to survive not only for his own sake but for those he loves. That is to be admired, along with the way the author accomplishes this. Even though Thomas has no recollection of the past, he exhibits¬†that desire to thrive and live is etched within the very nature of each human person.

Further, his interaction with Newt, faced with Newt’s hopelessness, can also be enlightening. Thomas sees the value in Newt as his friend, but Newt simply loses the will to live faced with the path he knows lies ahead of him.

The need for a meaning for suffering is evident and lacking. Our society also often shares this view that doesn’t value suffering.

“Within each form of suffering endured by man, and at the same time at the basis of the whole world of suffering, there inevitably arises the question: why? It is a question about the cause, the reason, and equally, about the purpose of suffering, and, in brief, a question about its meaning.” – St. John Paul II,¬†Salvifici Doloris

For the runners in the maze, there seems to be no solution. Often we do not find answers to the questions of the heart, the questions shared by all of humanity, but with the same persistence of the runners we forge ahead, day after day, somehow certain that there is a solution.

There is a Wedding Dress in my Bathroom

I’m procrastinating on a paper right now. Adult coloring books are pretty much the best thing ever invented. And Monday is sneaking up on me.

This last week was heavy. So heavy that even the yoga I did this morning hasn’t eased the tension in my shoulders. (Might have something to do with the freezing temperatures and the fact that I can’t get warm even inside my house.)

I spent a lot of years of my life avoiding feeling. I became a master of it. I remember so clearly the moment when I was a senior in one of the teachers who I was talking to about some things that were going on in my life looked at me and said to me, “CRY!” Wasn’t happening. There were floodgates there that I wasn’t ready to open.

Later in life as I began the process of facing, recognizing,¬†feeling, and accepting, my therapist looked at me and told me, “It is impossible for you to keep doing this without letting yourself cry.” That was after the session when I arrived and she told me I had the whole session just to talk. She wasn’t going to interrupt me or say anything – she just wanted me to talk. It took me a few minutes to get going – but I wasn’t going to waste the money of the session. So I talked for an hour – about my mom, about her bipolar… about it all. But I wouldn’t cry.

I cried on Friday. I cried about my mom. Because I came to the sudden realization that I have a really hard time with unresolved conflict because of how conflict was handled in my home growing up – and particularly because of my fear of conflict with my mom. I haven’t dared write much about my mom and her bipolar depression here on this blog. For one reason, I know it is something that I’m still working through. (That means raw emotion on the blog and I’m not sure I’ve quite reached that level of vulnerability.) For another, I know my perspective is that – my perspective – and I don’t pretend to be an expert on bipolar. I know my experience is precisely that – my experience. It is the view of a girl who lived in a house with a bipolar parent, unaware of what was going on around me for many years, and then, once aware, met a situation that is denied.

But there it was on Friday that raw emotion… buried deep within… hurt that has gone unexpressed… and it came tumbling out… My therapist always used to tell me that I shouldn’t be afraid to let the emotion out because it is inside anyways. But the truth is that in letting it out, it burns, it chokes you, it threatens to suffocate you. It was a big step forward for me to let it out. (Because it is a choice to let it out – it is always a choice.) It is the first time I’ve let emotion like that out without my former therapist at my side.

And that emotion – that pain – is there. It needs to heal. But letting it out, looking at it, and giving it to God is the best way to heal.

In the meantime, my appetite is gone. It is to be expected. It will come back as I accept and move on.

It is funny how it works, this eating disorder thing – in which we find it is easier to feel hunger than emotional pain. It is easier to hurt ourselves than to feel ourselves hurt. It is easier to feel a void in our stomachs than in our hearts.

For me, it is restricting (or picking at my face… or running… or staying up late… or even (in the past) throwing up). For the girl I talked to on the phone this evening, it is cutting.

Over the past week, I’ve carried the anxiety and weight of the responsibility of hearing a girl who could no longer carry her emotional pain and so she turned back to the habit of cutting. A girl, a young mother, who was raped when she was a teen – and now is healing… But in the process of healing, of letting herself experience that same tumbling out of emotions, she has gotten to a point she feels she can no longer carry it.

It is scary to be on the receiving end of the texts I’ve received this week (especially after previous experiences of close friends struggling with depression). What do you do for a friend who is hundreds of miles away who sends you a text that “there is no hope for me”, “I am damaged goods”, “this has to end”… I am lucky to have the contact number for someone who is there close to her who got in touch with her immediately. I talked to her tonight and she is set up with a new therapist and will be getting the help she needs.

I’m relieved for her. But the weight hasn’t gone away yet. I ache inside. It has been a challenge. The whole situation is a little triggering for me. I was that girl who needed to feel physical pain because I couldn’t handle the emotional pain. And now, I am different. I am not yet completely healed but I am recovering. Day by day I am stronger. But how is it possible that somehow looking back it seems attractive? How is it that the life I fought so hard to overcome can still catch my attention from time to time?

I don’t have the answers. I’m sure I’ll discover more with time, but tonight I could at least tell her I understood her – that I knew what it feels like to prefer to hurt than to feel. And that temptation to look back is worth overcoming to be there for her. Because I’ve asked God that if I went through all this, to at least let me help others through it. And because I know that tonight I choose to feel rather than to hurt.

I feel for the little girl I was/am who was/is afraid of upsetting her mother and not knowing how long until she will be in good graces again… I feel for that young mother who is scared and nervous about taking the next step to find healing… I feel for this young professional at her kitchen table whose heart aches with the pain of it all and knowing she will be too tired tomorrow morning…

And I ache for the young single mom who broke off the wedding a year ago… who summoned up the courage to pick up her wedding dress… who looked at it one last time today and left it with me to sell… Hence, the wedding dress in my bathroom.

“To suffer with the other and for others; to suffer for the sake of truth and justice; to suffer out of love and in order to become a person who truly loves – these are fundamental elements of humanity.” -Benedict XVI,¬†Spe Salvi

And so I find meaning to the ache within… And I find hope… Hope for the beautiful family of my friend and her young family, hope for my own future, hope for my friend who is a single mother and her prince charming and her future family… and even hope for the bride who will one day wear that wedding dress… And dare I say it, hope for a day when I will wear a dress of my own.

“We have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey.” -Benedict XVI,¬†Spe Salvi

And, yes, Canon in D is playing on my computer right now… Because it seemed appropriate.

 

Running and Musing…

  • I ran eight miles yesterday at a local Metropark. Thank God for cleared sidewalks. (No thanks to the woman at the gate who wouldn’t let us in with $7 as they hiked the rate to $10 for 2016… round trip home for the $3.) I think it will be a great place for my marathon training runs – two loops = 16 miles… farther than any training run I did before my previous marathon.
  • Once I’ve run three tenths of a mile I feel like I’ve conquered that mile.
  • I did Yoga for Runners¬†finally today. I won the yoga mat at a White Elephant party recently. I think the girl I took it from was miffed. My back and shoulders on the other hand – are thrilled.
  • Spring marathons force you to run outside during the winter. Last winter I did manage one 10 mile treadmill run, but let’s be honest… Restarting your treadmill every hour is just inconvenient.
  • I have my new shoes – my old shoes are way worn out. I am trying to get them through the month of January so then I can switch and train in the shoes I will actually wear for the marathon (without wearing them out too badly.) Running shoes are expensive. I wear the Mizuno Wave Inspire. This is the first time the same model of shoe has been available when I’m ready to purchase again. I debated upgrading to the 12, but as I know how I race on the 11’s and my goal is to qualify for Boston, I figured this time safe is better than sorry. And by the time I’m done training and running the marathon I’ll be needing a new pair anyways.
  • I’m going to need a new playlist for the marathon – does someone want to come and do that for me? Please!
  • When I run with someone slower than me, I can hold my pace for so long, but then I have to break free once I can smell the finish line. The mind’s capacity to hold me back slower than my natural running pace amazes me! The mind is so powerful!
  • My running and my sleep are so interwoven. So I’m trying to get to bed earlier… so I can get up earlier… so I can start upping my mileage to be ready for the training program I have (and won’t strictly follow) that starts in March.

11 miles plus yoga this weekend!

Happy Sunday!

Dear X,

Stereotypical? Yes. But let’s face it this blog is much more about me than the readers (at least today on this mid-January, full moon, that time of the month, cold, grey day.)¬†

Dear Future Husband,

I don’t know who you are. And quite frankly right now that I’m dating someone, I’m not sure how interested I am in this whole thing. AKA, I’m freaking out a bit. But don’t worry I’ll get through that.

In the meantime there a few things you need to know about me.

When you meet me you will certainly notice a few things, but there are things that you won’t see. It will take me time to share them with you. But if you are the right one, I know it will come.

I’m smart. I never believed this about myself, especially in comparison to my siblings. I never feel confident enough in my abilities, which luckily keeps me from being too proud. Probably the worst advice I ever got from a friend was that I need to “dumb it down” when I’m dating someone because I’m too intimidating. (I’m not really sure how that is supposed to work – we get married and all of the sudden I’m super intelligent?!?) I like to think. Many call me complicated. It runs in the family.

I tend to be sure of myself. I usually know what I want. I’m quick to find a solution. I’m used to managing 30 teenagers all at once (or 9 children back in my nannying days). I’ve learned through experience to let go of what isn’t essential (a bit of a feat for a control freak). But I want more than anything for you to take charge, to be someone I respect and trust, so I can stop controlling everything. (It gets tiring.)

I’m sensitive. More sensitive than perhaps you will ever know. I was a crybaby as a child, and now I’ve finally learned the value of tears. That sensitivity also makes me fiercely loyal – to the point that I often get hurt by people because they know no matter what I won’t turn on them. I’ve learned to give myself the space I need and love from a distance when necessary.

I’m a runner. But I run because I love it and because it helps me be a better person.

I’m thin. And I have an eating disorder. I’m terrified to tell you that, but my friend who also has an eating disorder assures me that if you are the right one it won’t matter. I’m doing much better and I keep learning every day.

It takes time for me to let people in. I’ve been hurt before. I’m healing. But the scars are there. There things that I freak out about that aren’t such a big deal, but they are a big deal to me.

I ¬†have a great family. But my mom is bipolar. You’ll have to meet her before I tell you that. She is amazing and I adore her. And there are also days I don’t want to be anywhere near her. It is a process and I’m learning.

I love passionately. I’ve learned to love myself. And I will learn to love you. It will take time because I’m afraid of getting hurt. I’m afraid of going back, but little by little I’m stronger and stronger. And I already know without having met you – that you are worth the risk.

I needed these years, this time to find myself. For a long time I longed to meet you, but I wasn’t ready. I had to find myself first. I had to love myself first, so that I could let you love me.

I dream about our future.

Love,

N.

Oh S—!

So there was that time that I swore on a train and ran a marathon!

So today I was reading someone’s account of running a marathon. I feel a little bit about marathons the way I do about the operation I had on my ankle in high school (and I imagine the way I will [hopefully] one day feel about childbirth.) The minds capacity for forgetting pain is quite impressive.

I wasn’t ready for my marathon. Wait… rewind… I didn’t even want to run a marathon. Two of my friends signed up and I was there thinking, “Isn’t that nice for you…” (Okay, maybe there was a little “thanks for inviting me” jealousy thrown in there too.) Then there was the, “N—, you should run it too.” I wasn’t interested. (Or that was just pride saying, “I will not be invited as an after thought.”)

With time the idea was more enticing, but then there was thing… I’m thin… and I’m not really certain running 26.2 miles is a healthy thing for someone with an eating disorder who doesn’t exactly have an amazing track record with nourishing herself.

Let’s face it when I was animatedly explaining what I was doing to my then 14 year old cousin, about how this is historic and did she know about the first marathon. She looked at me without blinking (from under her insanely long and gorgeous eyelashes) and said, “You know he died after that, right?” …

… Moving on…

I decided to sign up for the Chicago Marathon. It is a lottery. So there is all this anticipation of am I going to do it or not – typing in all your data – submitting – celebrating – and then not knowing if you will actually get to do it. I also had to make a deal with myself that I would only sign up if I was sure that if I was pushing it too hard or I wasn’t healthy that I would drop out. (Goodbye, $185.)

I trained… kind of…

I run everyday – I’ve been running since I was in high school and only took a few years off when I relapsed hard. I rarely skip. (This morning I snuck in 1.25 miles after sleeping through my alarm for 40 minutes straight. Insert slow clap.) But I wasn’t running any crazy distances. My first ten mile run since high school was in March before the October marathon.

So when August and September and peak training time rolled around, I was working up my mileage and ran two 13.1 runs on my own. Then I burnt out. It was the beginning of the school year and days were long and nights were short. I was exhausted. So I quit my training. I knew I could finish which was my only goal. I must say it made me feel MUCH BETTER when I was walking in and the lady next to me told me this was her fourth marathon but she hadn’t trained at all because of an injury.

After the train ride down to Chicago, a pasta dinner (have I mentioned that I hate pasta), I had everything laid out… my bib, my oatmeal smoothie ingredients, headband, ipod, Advil, tissues, belt. I was ready.

Until we were on the train at the crack of dawn on the way downtown, a train full of other marathoners all sitting in silence pondering what we were about to do.

“OH SHIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Yeah, that was me – the girl who really never swears. I had left my bib on the floor when I put on my pullover.

Yeah, that was the time I swore on a train. Luckily my friend who we were staying with:

  • sleeps with her cell phone
  • heard her cell phone
  • answered me
  • got my bib
  • one of my friends had driven in
  • she found my other friend’s car keys (because she doesn’t own a car)
  • drove to the station I had gotten off at
  • the train conductor allowed me back on the train without a new pass

And I made it downtown in time to start the marathon.

Nothing like a little Adrenalin kick to get you warmed up before a big race.

So this time around I’m planning on not forgetting my bib, finishing my training, and hopefully not swearing in public.