Posted in Anxiety, coping, mental health

DIY: Weighted Stuffed Animal!

**DISCLAIMER: The information in this article is designed to provide helpful information to people with sensory disabilities, mental illnesses or other special needs. I do not own any rights from Build-A-Bear or Pokemon, or their affiliates. Any references are for informational use only. I understand Build-A-Bear and Pokemon are not responsible for any problems the product has after it’s alteration.**

If you follow my Instagram, you know I took a plane out west for vacation! It was an exciting adventure, but I had my fair share of nerves as well. When preparing for my trip last week, I knew I wanted to bring my weighted blanket to help me regulate my anxiety while on the plane and in a strange city, but the thought of lugging a 14lbs blanket through the airport was less than appealing. I began trying to think of solutions that were more practical for travel, but still gave me the benefits and feelings of security. If you look on Amazon, there are weighted lap pads and some weighted stuffed animals. I had found the solution! But pricing and the time it would take to ship were far less than ideal. So I called up a friend who’s a wizard at sewing, and we got to work.

I love Build-A-Bear and have been collecting for years. I had the idea to buy an unstuffed skin from them and stuff it at home with the poly pellets used to stuff weighted blankets. When I called my local Build-A-Bear, they informed me that their skins were not tested to hold weight inside of them and that they wouldn’t sell me an unstuffed skin if I planned to weight it. Upon further research (a call to the guest service line), I was told that while the animals were indeed not tested to hold weight, there wasn’t anything stopping me from unstuffing it at home and restuffing it myself, so that’s just what I did.

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I picked Squirtle to be turned into my weighted stuffed animal. I liked the idea of having a Pokemon as my partner in crime to hang out with me, much like Pikachu does with Ash in the TV show. After stuffing Squirtle as usual at Build-A-Bear, we brought him to the sewing room at my friend’s house for some major surgery. We reopened the hole in his back and pulled out all the stuffing. It was an incredible sensory activity for me, I used it as a mindfulness activity, focusing on how the stuffing felt in my hand, how it looked, how it smelled… you get the idea. img_20171004_190157882.jpg

Once Squirtle was unstuffed, the real work began.  We sewed small pouches of fabric into sizes that represented the general shapes of his limbs, head and body shape. Those were stuffed into his body instead of regular stuffing. To make sure small things like his fingers and roundness of his head were preserved, I stuck small amounts of stuffing back into his body to give him the final shape he needed! After being stitched back up, he was all set and ready to go!

I couldn’t believe the effectiveness when I tested him out! We had been able to stuff about 5lbs of pellets into the skin, and while it wasn’t like my weighted blanket, it wasn’t nothing either. Placing Squirtle on my chest helped with my anxiety, and when my legs started to shake, placing him on my lap gave me a warm reminder that everything was okay. These positions are much like the ones a psychiatric service dog uses when it’s owner experiences the beginning stages of anxiety attacks. The dog with lay it’s head on your chest or put it’s front paws on your lap when you begin to feel anxious. Squirtle doesn’t feel unlike a newborn baby when you hold him, and it’s a very comforting feeling.

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As predicted, I experienced a great deal of anxiety while on the plane and while taking a bus from my aunt and uncle’s house to downtown Portland. Squirtle was a real trooper and sat on my lap for the duration of my flight, occasionally crawling up onto my chest when I took a nap. It’s fun to imagine he’s alive, especially because he has the weight and density of a real animal. I feel like I’ve got a real travel pal who I can whisper my anxieties to, and know that he’ll keep the secret. Did I get some weird looks? Sure I did. It’s not every day a 21-year-old sits and talks to a stuffed animal in the middle of the Minneapolis/ St. Paul airport, but it got me through my flights!

Do you have a unique possession that helps you get through stressful experiences? I’d love to hear them- let me know in the comments below!

 

 

Posted in bpd, coping, mental health, stigma

After an Attempt

TRIGGER WARNING This article or section, or pages it links to, contains information about SELF-HARM and SUICIDAL THOUGHTS/ ATTEMPTS which may be triggering to those who struggle with suicidal ideation, cutting and other forms of self-harm.

September 2, 2015. The suicide attempt where I would have been successful without the intervention of the police. There’s a wide variety of topics on suicide that you’ll encounter on the internet: warning signs, what to do when your friend is suicidal, statistics and the impact of suicide, etc. What you don’t often hear about is what it’s like to survive an attempt, and how life changes in the immediate and far futures. And when you do, it’s about how friends and family surround the person with Hollywood like gestures of love and support. I’m here to share my story of life after my big attempt and dispell the misconceptions about life after an attempt.

I’ve dealt with suicidal thoughts for years. I’ve attempted suicide more times than I’m comfortable admitting. On the day before the big attempt, I was caught in a pretty big lie, and my whole support system was pretty upset about it. The night before, I stayed the night at a friend’s parent’s house because I was feeling unsafe after I had been caught. In the morning I woke up with this giant pit in my stomach. After trying to talk with my at-the-time boyfriend, we’ll call him M, I wasn’t feeling any better. While he said he’d still date me, it was going to take a long time to build his trust back. Since I suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder, I struggle with abandonment issues, and took his comments as a way to let me down easy and that he was really going to leave me. So upon hanging up, I drove to the local hardware store, and went to go look at the ropes. An employee came over and asked if I needed any help. I was lost trying to find a rope strong enough to hold my weight, so I disguised it as wanting to buy a rope to tie things to the back of my moped. I rode back to my apartment and… well you can imagine what happened next.

I called M’s mom, sobbing, and telling her that my life was over no matter what: if I lived or died. I then hung myself. I won’t go into detail. M’s mom had called an ambulance and the police. The police forced entry and saved me. They took photos of the scene IMG_20150902_191816989_HDRand then threw away the rope. I was put in a neck brace and rushed to the hospital and went through nearly 24 hours of tests. At the end of it all, I was told there was swelling in my c-spine, and I’d have to wear the cervical collar for a month and a half. It was the most traumatic day of my life, and even 2 years later I haven’t told anyone what it was like, but I still have nightmares. Once I was medically cleared I was taken to the psych ward. I’ve blocked most of the following days out, so it’s all a blur, but in the days following I had a lot of phone calls. The first one was M’s mom checking up on me. She had brought me some toiletries and a journal when I had been transferred up to the psych ward, and wanted to know how things we going. I tried to ask about M and how he was doing, but she declined to answer, saying that he’d call me when he was ready. A few days later he called, and broke up with me. I reacted quite violently out of a place of hurt. I was crying and screaming at him, calling him a liar and saying that he was breaking his promises to me. It got to the point where he had to hang up on me. After talking to a nurse, I called his mom back and asked if he was willing to talk to me again, this time there’d be no screaming, and I’d be using my new skills I had been learning. Thankfully he agreed, and we had a mature conversation. I had now lost M and his family, which made up almost my entire support system back then. All I had left were my friends B and F. That didn’t last long… the next day I got a three-way call from B and F saying that they needed a break from me. The deal was no contact for two weeks – every message, DM or voicemail I tried to send would not be read and promptly deleted. After two weeks, they’d call me again, and we’d discuss if we’d stay friends and if so, what that will look like. So when I released to go home, my support system was gone. If I thought that was hard, I had another thing coming.

I was returning to an empty apartment. I had no central support. How do you return to a life you thought you were never supposed to live? I had heard stories about friends IMG_20150911_184413463waiting at the patient’s home with letters about how much they love them or the patient gets a fresh and renewed outlook on life and everything is magically easy. NOT TRUE! Not only was I still in an unstable state of mind, but I had a cervical collar that screamed: “LOOK I WAS IN SOMETHING TRAUMATIC, PLEASE ASK ME ABOUT IT SO I CAN BLUSH, CRY AND RUN AWAY!” Furthermore, I when I did open up and tell someone what happened, many people had the audacity to tell me that I didn’t really try to kill myself and it was all fake. Those really got me. What was the cervical collar THAT THE HOSPITAL GAVE ME for then, huh? Just a prop I stole for my big lie? REALLY?  I know my credibility wasn’t the best at that moment in time, but still. Whenever someone told me my suicide attempt was faked, it drove me to want to kill myself even more. I was so hurt and mad that I’d want to prove them wrong, to show them that I was capable of ending my life.

The whole time I had my cervical collar on, I just wanted to hide. I returned to work during that period, and was flooded with questions from coworkers and clients. Because of the collar, it was difficult for me to do the back work, so I spent most of my time at the front desk, checking in and out clients and managing emails and phone calls. Believe me when I say that you don’t realize how much you use your neck until you can’t use it at all. Especially when it comes to riding a moped. Talking on the phone was rough too, so I felt like I was pretty useless during work. Which didn’t help my mental health. For our September monthly work meeting, we went rock climbing as a team building exercise. Everyone doubted my ability to actually climb the wall, but I made it to the top! It was the first time I felt good about something since my attempt.

Returning to life after an attempt is difficult. It’s hard to know what to say to people who know what happened, but even harder to come up with excuses when you don’t want people to know what happened. Because I attempted in my home, it was hard to walk past the spot every time I had to walk past it. It was hard to restart without any sufficient support. I had to learn my triggers, and if you think about it, to learn your triggers, you have to be triggered (more often than not) and dealing with those triggers can be a challenge. It’s more than tempting to relapse into self-harm, or to attempt suicide again. In my case, I had attempted suicide WITH my support system around me, so when I was triggered after my attempt I felt like there was nothing emotionally keeping me here anymore. My self-harm increased during this time. On social media, I came out as having Borderline Personality Disorder, but I mostly tried to portray having a perfect life and that I was entirely happy. I overcompensated for my “failure” by faking happiness. There’s no magical change where things get better, there’s no party where everyone in your life tells you how much you are loved and then you suddenly are healed.

If you were wondering, I was given a clean bill of health. IMG_20150922_162921780_HDR

What’s important in life after an attempt is that you DO continue to seek professional support once you are released from the hospital – a therapist, psychiatrist, even your primary care doctor works in a pinch. It’s also important that you increase your self-care, and give yourself leeway in your recovery because things will not go perfectly. If you have a support system, give them space to process how they need, but don’t be afraid to ask for help if they’re in a headspace to do so. You’re not alone, and you’ve got this.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts:
Call the Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255
or text  HELP to the Crisis Text Line at 741741

Posted in Anxiety, coping, mental health, stigma

To College or Not to College?

It’s back to school time! For some of you, that’s high school. For others, it’s college. Maybe your kids are heading off to kindergarten or you’re teaching in your own classroom for the first time! Empty nests, the freshman 15, new teachers and new schools. It’s both an exciting time and a time of big change. For many, it’s college move-in time. College is a big deal, and it’s not always possible for those of us with chronic and mental illnesses.

I never went to college, and it wasn’t an easy decision. Today I’m going to share my college experience… or lack thereof, in hopes that it helps those of you struggling with the back to school season.

I came very close to attending college… in fact, I probably got about as close as you can get without actually going. I did everything, college tours, applications my junior/ senior year, picked a college, got a roommate, got assigned my dorm room and signed up for all my classes… I even attended freshman orientation. I had everything I needed for my dorm room, including a mini fridge, and was mostly packed and ready to go. About a week before move-in day, I made the difficult decision to drop-out… before classes had even started! It wasn’t easy, but it was the right choice.

In the spring before college move in day, I wore myself thin applying for scholarships and trying to bring my grades up so I could graduate high school. I was also struggling with worsening mental illness symptoms. I was out on my own, living with a friend’s family. I was constantly suicidal, and my friends and I struggled to keep me safe that semester. I was getting Ds and Fs in most of my classes and my attendance slipped. I skipped physics class more than I attended it. I spent most of my time in the PAC, just wishing I could dance my life away. Even with all my troubles with school, at least it gave me something to fill my time. When summer hit, I was a wreck. I slipped into very unhealthy patterns. I threw all my energy into self-destructive behaviors. I put college on this pedestal and began banking on it being the magic wand to fix all my problems. But as move-in day got closer, I was getting sicker. Going to college and doing it on my own, in a new city, with nothing but strangers, scared me. My support system would be so far away and I’d be alone. I was already suicidal on a daily basis, and I knew that going to college was just opening me up to a whole new list of possibilities in self-destruction, and there would be no one there to stop me.

But as move-in day got closer, I was getting sicker. Going to college and doing it on my own, in a new city, with nothing but strangers, scared me. My support system would be so far away and I’d be alone. I was already suicidal on a daily basis, and I knew that going to college was just opening me up to a whole new list of possibilities in self-destruction, and there would be no one there to stop me. Plus, my last semester of high school was a glaring reminder that I was not able to handle a full school load. Making the decision to stay home was embarrassing. I felt like such a failure because I wasn’t going about my education the “traditional” way. My abandonment issues were triggered by the thought that all my friends were leaving without me, even though logically I knew it wasn’t their fault/ because of me. I locked myself in my room for days, refusing to eat or to interact with anybody. The thought of calling the college and dropping out was overwhelming, but the thought of letting my roomie know that I was dropping out and that she’d be rooming with a stranger all year was even worse. That was the hardest phone call I think I’ve ever made.

Three years later, looking back, I’m thankful that I made the choice to not go to college, or at least not at this time. Knowing the severity of my chronic and mental illnesses now, I can see that I would not be able to cope with everything that college would have brought on. While seeing all my friends “move on” with their lives without me was depressing, I know that trying to keep it together and being successful in college would have been completely detrimental to my health as well as my sense of self.

Have you ever made a choice that was against “the norm”? Let me know how you did it and how you coped in the comments below!

Posted in coping, mental health, OCD, PTSD, stigma

How to Say Goodbye

Before I start, no this isn’t a suicide note. Just wanted to make that clear to keep anyone from a freak-out.

This past week and a halfish I’ve found myself in the midst of my biggest relapse I’ve experienced. Generally, I write about insightful things on the blog, hoping to break the stigma one blog post at a time. I’ll be honest, I had a depressed “realization” that the stigma hasn’t diminished, it’s only morphed to fit in with today’s society. I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle. Logically I know it’s not a losing battle, just an uphill one. A long, near-right-angle uphill battle. Okay, yeah, I’m depressed. And I’ve got a lot going on. So I’m selfish this blog post… I’ll figure out how to make this mind dump into something worth reading… maybe… hopefully… eventually… I’m going to use the excuse that this is showing people what it’s like to be in my mind. If I come up with something better later, I will. But for now that flimsy excuse I don’t even believe myself will stand. Time to shout into the emptiness that is the www.

So I have a lot going on in my head right now. Unfortunately, I can’t talk about the two biggest things. Actual legal reasons. I know. It sounds pathetic even to me.

One thing I am at liberty to talk about is the loss of my childhood home. I spent most of my life in that house, and in the past month, my parents moved. Being the home I grew up in I have a lot of good memories. And bad ones. Casualties of growing up. I’m terrified of saying goodbye to my closet. It was my play place as a kid. I have tried for a half an hour to put into words what a special place it was for me. I lined the walls with pictures I drew of my invisible friends, I created a console for the inside of a spaceship and traveled all around the universe (I wanted to be an astronaut scientist with seven kids when I was growing up). I would read, color, let my creativity run wild. I hung a flashlight from the hanger-hanging-pole thingy. I had my favorite stuffed animals, a pillow, blankets… on more than one occasion I happily fell asleep.  When I lived with my friend’s family during my senior year of high school, my closet was a corner of the storage room off my bedroom. When I found myself in states of great distress, I didn’t curl up in a ball under my covers. I grabbed my favorite blanket and my Winnie the Pooh I’ve had since I was 2 and curled up in a ball on the storage room’s cement floor. When I had my own apartment for the first time, I set up my large collection of stuffed animals, beloved blankets, and 400 page Disney coloring book accompanied by 200 crayons in a nifty little nook at the bottom of my closet. Even now, at nearly 22 years young, I still hide in the bottom of my closet whenever there’s a big storm or a tornado warning… or when I’m really upset. Like this morning. My parents have completely moved out of the house and they have a buyer for it. How am I supposed to say goodbye to my closet?!? I have no time, and I’m panicking… big time. I’m always trying to find reasons and tangible evidence in the physical realm to help explain what’s going on inside my head (my pal John Green touches on it beautifully in one of his latest videos). WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO ME WHEN I LOSE MY CHILDHOOD HOME? WHAT IF I NEED TO PROCESS SOMETHING AND THE PHYSICAL PLACE IS GONE?!? Yep. Only slightly freaking out. And I’m putting all this pressure myself to say the perfect goodbye to a stupid house. Yeah. Mixed feelings.

Another thing I’m trying to say goodbye to is this weird secret addiction I have. And before you start thinking, I can guarantee that you’re wrong. It’s not drugs, it’s not alcohol or porn or anything. It’s something that not only have I never heard of anywhere else, but my therapist who has been in the business for over 20 years has never come across anything like it. It’s the single biggest secret and source of shame in my life and even talking about it this much will have me reeling in shame for weeks. Please, respect my trust and don’t try to guess or judge. Please. It’s something I’ve struggled with since I was in elementary school. And I’ve relapsed. Big time. It’s worse than it’s ever been. I’m disgusted by myself and I don’t know what to do. And I’m so embarrassed and ashamed of this that I can’t talk about it with anyone except around 3 people (before you ask, my therapist is in Europe, just another part of my freak out… her parting advice was to feel my emotions and stop burying them before it killed me… literally). Screaming my panic into my pillow has only gotten me so far… so now I’m screaming into the void.

A week ago I was the mentally the sickest I’ve been in over 2 years. It took waking up friends at 6:30 in the morning to come be with me before my OCD took over and put me in danger. I felt as if I exhausted my local support system with the visits I kept requiring. people to make so I could stay safe and out of the god-forsaken hospital (before you argue with me, read about my worst ER psych experiences here and tell me if you’d ever want to go back when you were in crisis). My head hurts all the time. My room is a mess. My pets miss their playmate. I sat in my new bungee chair for 72 hours straight last week… then slept in my bed for 36. I’m a mess. I haven’t written a blog post in a week. Heck, I have barely written anything in the past two weeks. I just keep turning over how to say goodbye. To my parents’ house, to ghosts in my past, to my secret addiction, to legal battles, to eating disorder therapists rejecting me…

If you actually read all of this I’m genuinely surprised.

 

Posted in coping, Uncategorized

When Words Fail, I Dance

In case you haven’t already guessed, I like to write… a lot. Over the years I’ve become an articulate person who can usually express what she needs to say and can find words for things that others can’t. I’ve been asked to write books, articles, presentations, and I make it a point to write in some way every day. I’ve always been a writer. I loved keeping a diary, and have done so for most of my life. It’s definitely one of the biggest passions in my life. But there are times where words still fail. I can write things out release my emotions over and over and over again, but sometimes it doesn’t provide the relief I usually feel after doing so. Sometimes, words fail.

This post is a little different from my usual material. To tell this story, we have to go back. Way back. Let’s say, 30-40 years. My parents met in high school drama class. My dad started performing magic when he was younger and continued it as a career into his adult life. My mom’s family was big into the performing arts as well. My grandma taught piano lessons, my uncles were into music and had a band, and my mom grew up taking dance lessons… and she got pretty good too. She studied with the Milwaukee City Ballet one summer. So naturally, when I was growing up, I was bred to be a performer. A 226835_182907175091926_1964194_nmagician for a dad and a ballerina for a mom. I took lots of music lessons growing up: piano, violin, drums, guitar… and participated in a lot of theater. I also took dance classes. I’ve been dancing since I was 3 years old. My first recital was in 1st grade, and we danced to Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! By high school, everything had fallen away except theater and dance and high school. My junior year, I was dancing at the studio 2-3 times a week for 3 hours at a time. I had an elaborate bedtime routine that involved 2 hours of stretching and strengthening along with practicing whatever we had learned in class that week. I loved it. Every Christmas and birthday, all I asked for were dance clothes. But it wasn’t until my senior year that I found my true passion, and the point of this blog post.

One day after my Theater Arts class, the drama director Mr. Nibbe called me into his office. Mr. Nibbe was my favorite teacher, and we got along really well. He was definitely a father figure in my life, especially my senior year. I was going through a lot of tough stuff in my personal life, and it prevented me from dancing at the studio that year. On this particular December morning, Nibbe proposed the idea that we do a musical for the spring show, and that I choreograph it. I was thrilled with the idea. I made up dances all the time at home, but nothing serious. A friend of mine and I had choreographed a piece for the school’s talent show, but that was the extent of my experience. When the time came for rehearsals to start, I was beside myself with nerves. I was catastrophizing, telling myself I was going to be horrible, and all of my friends would be there to see me fail, seeing as how they were all in the cast. I kept waiting for the moment to come where somebody laughed or told me it was awful, but it never came. I got compliments and reassurances from the cast and Mr. Nibbe. When the curtain fell on opening night, I walked out into the lobby and was flooded with genuine compliments. It was an amazing experience. It was so good I got asked to choreograph the same show at a local middle school, and I even got paid for it! I wasn’t as proud of that show’s choreography… it was a lot of similar elements and I feel like I was judged for that. Plus, they never asked me to choreograph again 😛

I didn’t give choreography another thought until about a year later when I was cast in a show and then asked to choreograph it as well. I had a blast, and was nominated for a local theater award for my routines! Shortly after the show, I went to Rogers Memorial Hospital for my residential stay. We were required to go to the YMCA 3 times a week, and we were expected to actually work out during that time. Not being one for ellipticals or weight-lifting, I found myself an empty yoga studio and using the sound system to play music to dance around to, or more commonly, to stretch to. I was bopping around when a very emotional slow song came on that Lady Gaga had written about sexual assault., but it can be used in a variety of situations. The words really resonated with me and my treatment at Rogers, as I worked through feelings of suicide and wanting to destroy myself. I decided I wanted to choreograph a dance to this song. I started looking forward to the YMCA trips. I choreographed the dance to portray that there was this invisible force torturing me, throwing me across the stage and trying to kill me. I even used a scarf as a prop to show strangulation and this force pulling me around. Most days I cried while choreographing this routine, because it allowed me to combat these feelings around me, almost as if they were physically around me and not just in my head. My friends started noticing just how emotionally drained I always was after the Y and were awesome support on the particularly rough days. When I finished the dance I called everyone into the little yoga studio to show them the dance. Not only did I cry, but a few of my fellow patients were moved to tears as well. You could tell that the energy in the room had changed slowly throughout the dance. It was as if a fog filled the room and made everything slow and heavy. The air was thick, and everything seemed still for a moment. I will never forget the moment, or all of the love that I received from my friends afterward. Rogers has a rule where we can’t touch each other, but I got lots of hugs anyways. I went home about a week later, and it was then that I realized just how helpful the dance was for me. Dancing that story did things inside of me that no amount of writing or therapy ever could. Words hadn’t been enough. Words had failed me, but dance had not. Now whenever I’m really stuck on a feeling, I try to find a song and dance to it for a release. Not having proper space to dance since Rogers last year has lessened the effect that choreographing a piece has, to the point where I actually haven’t been able to choreograph a piece like that since. I

I went home about a week later, and it was then that I realized just how helpful the dance was for me. Dancing that story did things inside of me that no amount of writing or therapy ever could. Words hadn’t been enough. Words had failed me, but dance had not. Now whenever I’m really stuck on a feeling, I try to find a song and dance to it for a release. Not having proper space to dance since Rogers last year has lessened the effect that choreographing a piece has, to the point where I actually haven’t been able to choreograph a piece like that since. Tonight I cleared out half of the basement storage area, giving me just enough concrete floor to work with. It’s definitely not the ideal floor, bruises are already forming, but the rush of picking a song and nailing that first few second of choreography has reminded me just how powerful dance is. Without my parents, grandparents, dance teacher Ms. Shannon and Mr. Nibbe, I don’t know what I’d do, or how I’d express these emotions. My toes are itching for another go, but for now, I must sleep… since I’ve been awake all night dancing.

What do you have in your life that helps you release your extreme emotions? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Posted in Anxiety, Bulimia, coping, diagnosis, ED, mental health, stigma

Secrets Can Kill

TRIGGER WARNING This article or section, or pages it links to, contains information about EATING DISORDERS which may be triggering to those who struggle with body image, eating disorders, purging or other forms of unhealthy weight loss.

Three years ago, towards the end of my senior year of high school, I had a secret. It was a secret that I would keep to myself for years. A secret that I was forced to reveal this past week. I’m embarrassed, ashamed and scared.

Earlier, during my senior year of high school, I moved in with my at-the-time best friend’s family. It only took a few months, after the “honeymoon” phase, before some things started to go sideways. At the time that I moved in, I already knew I had Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). I always perceived food to have rules surrounding it, for example, there were rules about going back for seconds, how much you could take and what foods you could go back for seconds for. Each home I visited had different rules about snacks, seconds, types of food you could eat, etc. I became overwhelmed with trying to keep track of all these rules and experienced crippling anxiety surrounding the food and whether or not I’d be punished for breaking the food rules. Eventually, I became consumed by this fear, and I began avoiding eating food out of fear, and when I was eating food, I didn’t allow myself to eat too much so that I wouldn’t break any rules. I began sneaking food and keeping it hidden in my room, because in my mind, if no one saw me eat it, it didn’t count. When I moved my senior year into another household with foreign rules, it was a great source of stress for me.

There was one time the dad of the family and I were in the kitchen and getting ready for work, packing out lunches. I couldn’t’ find anything I wanted except some leftover pizza, and I asked him if I could take that to work. He said it was fine, but when my lunch Screenshot_2017-07-15-17-17-53.pngbreak came, I had multiple text messages from the mom, expressing feeling upset because she had been looking forward to eating pizza for lunch. When I returned home after work, she confronted me about it a second time and then proceeded to give me the silent treatment for the next 3 or 4 days. There were many similar incidences where I ate the wrong things and was yelled at, monitored closely, or given the silent treatment. Suddenly I found myself running to the bathroom, throwing up after I ate because of the sheer panic and guilt over what I had eaten. Before I knew it, everyone seemed to be commenting on my weight and just how skinny I was. I weighed a mere 100 lbs. I became consumed with my body image. I felt like I had the dream body. Although I was uncomfortable with how skinny I was and with all the comments I was getting, everyone else seemed to think it was a good this. At least I was getting attention from it. People would tease me for it, but I took it as a compliment. I began avoiding unhealthy food unless I was alone. I began obsessively working out, doing challenging ab routines and lifting weights to keep my arms looking good. I received a comment on how strong and hard my thighs were, and I immediately added leg workouts to my nightly routine. No matter how much I worked out, I wasn’t getting skinnier. I knew I had to get skinnier or everyone would hate me and tease me for getting fatter. I began secretly purging whenever I could after a meal without being caught. When I moved into my own apartment and lived by myself, I was purging after nearly every meal. I had to stay skinny. I bought clothes that were almost too small for me as motivation to lose weight. I lived right by a bike trail and a local nature preserve, and I went walking for hours in an effort to stay skinny. I became obsessed with how I looked. I often couldn’t remember the last meal I had eaten. I felt confident and sexy, but it wasn’t enough. I wanted more.

When I went to Rogers, I attended their mood disorder program, and they forced me to eat every meal, otherwise, I was going to be kicked out. I tried to purge when I could, but with 10 other patients and 3-4 staff members on the floor at any given time, it was a challenge. Sometimes I’d wait until everyone was asleep and purge then. But I was gaining weight. Twice a week I was weighed, and I completely panicked. I eventually became so overwhelmed that I stopped caring. I would still push my food around on my plate and purge when I could, but I became beside myself with shame over my body IMG_20170420_064023300weight. Suddenly, no matter how much I ate or how much I exercised, used laxatives or purged, I was gaining weight. Even when I didn’t eat for days, I’d step on the scale and see I had gained 3 more pounds. I tried everything, but I still kept getting fatter. My clothes were too small. And by the time I went out and bought new clothes, a month later even those didn’t fit anymore. Before I knew it, I had gained 100+ lbs and I had no idea why.

A month ago I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. One of the symptoms of PCOS is that I produce an excessive amount of male hormones. Men tend to carry weight in the abdomen area, so women with PCOS also tend to carry a lot of weight in their abdomen too. Despite all the laxatives, purging and excessive exercise, I was now over 200lbs and HATED my body. I had gone from a size 0 to a size 18… a size small to a size x-large. I was overwhelmed and became desperate, and I tried to seek help. I had never told anyone I had bulimia, I had never been diagnosed, but I’d known I’ve had it for nearly 3 years. I tried getting help for ARFID, hoping that I would pick up some skills to help with my bulimia along the way, but I was met with unwillingness and zero concern everywhere I went. My primary care doctor, my psychiatrist, the ER doctors, other mental health professionals. etc. One time the ER doctor had the audacity to say that I couldn’t have an eating disorder because I was too fat. There was an eating disorder specialist that I kept calling, but she only returned my call once, and now seems to be ignoring me. I felt like I was a lost cause and worthless, because no one seemed to want to help me.

All of this climaxed this past week. I was staying at a mental health facility because I had gone off my meds and was in great need of some respite after over 25 days of being fully manic. It was a 5 day stay, so while I was there, they offered 15 meals. I only ate 2 meals. After both of them, I purged everything I could. The second night, I was caught. The staff member stood on the other side of the bathroom door, asking me what I was doing. I knew I was caught and confessed that I was purging.

“What can I do to help?” she asked.
“I don’t know, I’ve never gotten help for an eating disorder. I can’t control when I purge.”
“Okay. Well just stop it. Make sure you flush and just go back to bed.”
I hear her footprints retreating. I finish purging and I wash my hands and face before returning to my room, consumed by tears.

The next day they diagnose me with bulimia but don’t do anything to help me, despite me asking where I can get help for my eating disorders. Later, I request information on bulimia and types of treatment. I get handed a single page that defines different eating disorders and talks about how anyone can get an eating disorder. There’s another page that just shares statistics of eating disorders.

When I’m discharged I share my experiences with one of my friends, and she tells me she’s going to ask her mom, who is a doctor, about where I can start getting the help I need. Thankfully she took me seriously and gave me a phone number to call.

That brings us to today, me writing this blog post. This had been one of the more difficult pieces I’ve written. My struggle is going from 3 years of being private to having the whole internet gaining access to it. But I think it’s a very important thing to share. If I had continued to keep this a secret, it could have killed me. 4% of people with bulimia die. I had a deadly secret. I hope that this post encourages those struggling with an eating disorder to start seeking help, just like me. You’re not alone. I see you.

 

Struggling with body image or an eating disorder?
Text “NEDA” to 741741
National Eating Disorders Hotline: 1-800-931-2237
https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/

Posted in Anxiety, bpd, coping, Medication, mental health

When it Rains, It Pours

TRIGGER WARNING This article or section, or pages it links to, contains information about SELF-HARM and SUICIDAL THOUGHTS/ ATTEMPTS which may be triggering to those who struggle with suicidal ideation, cutting and other forms of self-harm.

If you follow me on Instagram, some of this will sound familiar. A few mornings ago, I had an unfortunately realistic dream that left me convinced that I wasn’t a real person, and that I was engineered to have everything go wrong in my life.

Ever since my junior year of high school, I’ve been a believer that I had bad luck or essentially the notion that everything in my life went wrong. This started when I got involved in my old church by having a mentor, but because of the extent of my suffering, she felt the need to share my story with the staff members of the church. Every week when I went to youth group, my mentor or a staff member would deliver me some form of bad news from the development of the staff knowing my sufferings. My friends at the time agreed with me when I compared my life to a TV show, where every week’s “episode” brought a new curveball that I, the main character, had to deal with.

My first psychiatric hospitalization was an acute stay of a few days on my hospital’s psych ward. It was after a suicide attempt where I tried to drown myself in a bathtub with a back of rocks on my head. My emotions leading up to the attempt were rooted in the belief that everything in my life is bound to go wrong. That I have terrible luck and therefore I needed to protect myself and those around me by escaping the bad luck via death. My bad luck seemed to continue even in the hospital when I accidentally seemed to break two computers and was ignored by the ward’s head doctor. My Borderline self played into this belief with my abandonment issues, telling me that my friends and boyfriend were going to leave me as another effect of my bad luck. So I SHOULD try to leave them via suicide before they have a chance to leave me. I ended up discharging myself before I was ready to return home, with the hope to escape reality once again by suicide. Obviously, I was unsuccessful, seeing as how I’m still here.

A few nights ago, my brain attempted to convince me of another possible reason as to why everything in my life seemed to go wrong. I am still desperate to find an explanation for all the trials in my life. Here’s what I woke up believing:

“I’m not human. I’m an experimentation. I was designed to have everything go wrong eventually in my life so my creators could observe. They wanted to see how someone could respond to abuse in various situations. They wanted to know what would happen if you kept kicking someone while they’re down. I’m worthless. No one cares about me, it’s all fake, it’s all a ruse to see how I respond. That’s why I cut myself. So that I would see blood and pretend that I’m real. That’s why I want to kill myself so much. That’s why I take medication. They give it to me to make me different kinds of sick. To experiment. That’s why everything’s going wrong right now. That’s why everything always goes wrong. ‘When it rains it pours’ is my life motto. It’s always pouring. The PCOS, abuse, lack of friends, self-harm, mental illness, all my lung problems, my skeletal issues, being ignored by the world, etc. It’s all just someone’s idea of a sick and twisted reality and I’m just something to play with and leave behind.”

My brain decided this was my new reality. I’ve been fighting it off for days and I’m still not 100% sure which “reality” is the real one. I don’t want to take my meds because part of me is convinced “they’re what’s making me sick.” I know that’s only perpetuating the problem if I don’t. I’m grounding myself but nothing’s working. Even a freezing cold shower left me thinking I was still being watched and laughed at by my creators because I was trying to erase that reality. The concoction of PTSD and psychosis can do weird things…

My life seems to embody the saying “If it rains, it pours.” And I’m still trying to find answers to my question of “why?”