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 coping, Depression, diagnosis, ED, mental health, PTSD, stigma

Dear Patient Relations – An Open Letter

This weekend I wrote a letter of complaint to the patient relations at my hospital. Being an advocate on my blog and Instagram can only get you so far. I took the courageous action to share my story with the people who will hopefully really help me make a difference. And it’s only right that I post it here so that it may find whoever needs it and I pray that this continues to find the right people so that this issue is addressed not only in my hospital but in hospitals across the country and maybe even globally.

Dear Patient Relations,

My name is Serenity Kaspar and I am mentally disabled. This means I frequent the ER as a psych patient when I need the extra help. I am an avid mental health advocate and with my latest trip to the ER, I ran across some red flags. I am thankful it was me, and not someone in an unhealthier mindset, who ran into these unsafe situations.

I had a dramatic mental episode on the morning of June 9th, leaving myself and my care team wondering if I had overdosed on one of my medications. I drove myself into the ER, as I have many times before. I know you guys have been rearranging things, and I pray my experience today was simply ironing out the kinks of the new program. If that is the case, I hope this letter helps you adjust the new system. Once I was checked in, I was taken back behind the desk to get my vital signs done, then returned to sit and wait. My first thought I’d like to make is that there was a large number of times that I was moved from room to room and all the standing and sitting was very unwelcomed. I had taken too much medication and I was feeling very sick, as I’d imagine most patients would be feeling given the nature of the emergency room.

When I was finally taken back to a room, I was immediately left alone while the staff member asked a question. I was a psych patient left alone in a room full of chords, medical supplies, and more. Now, given what you have done with the psych ER room remodel, you understand the severity of this mistake. This happened not once, but twice. I was even left alone for a lengthy period of time, plenty of time to do some serious damage. After an EKG, I was left alone again in that new, smaller waiting room area. No one at the desk, nothing. I’d like to note that at this point, I had all my stuff and nothing had been checked. I also had not been asked if I felt like I could keep myself safe or if I still had thoughts of wanting to hurt myself or others. If this had been back when I was at my sickest, I would have had a knife in my bad to cut myself with and I would have lied to the initial staffers. There wasn’t enough of a relationship for me to have felt comfortable sharing, nor for them to know if I was truly safe or not, despite how I may have “seemed.”

When I was taken back into the psych room, I was met with a staff purely made of new people. They were not aware of the rules, when we were allowed, what we could wear… nothing. They weren’t even aware of how everything in the room went. I understand that there are staffing problems, but there should never be exclusively new people staffed in the psych area. I ended up being the one to tell them how certain things went. Again, if I had not been this far into recovery, this would have continued to give me opportunities to lie and get away with things that could compromise my mental and physical health.

Thankfully I am in recovery and was not having current thoughts about hurting myself or others. I want to applaud the hospital for the renovations it made to the psych rooms. They are so much safer, and I rest easier knowing that my fellow mental health patients are safer when they come into the ER.

I also wish that this was the only thing I felt I needed to write about today. I have run into some serious issues in your ER before, when it came to mental health issues. I have had staffers sitting with me and answer my questions about how tall a building needs to be for me to effectively kill myself and sat there while I self harmed. I have had staffers check in on me, find me self harming, tell me not to do it, and then leave again, leaving me to self harm to my heart’s content. These are truly appalling things that I have experienced, and unfortunately, I am not alone in this.

–I then included the text from my previous blog post: The Problem with the ER

Please take this to heart and get it to the exact right people that can help change this. Don’t make it another email that’s summarized by checking a few boxes.

I am more than willing to talk on the phone and meet with whoever I need to meet with so that this can change. I am willing to do whatever it takes that mental health patients do not need to experience this, and ultimately reject care that has the potential to change their lives.

Posted in Anxiety, bpd, coping, Depression, ED, mental health, PTSD

Self-Therapy: How I Had the Best Monday Morning I’ve Had in Years

I started writing this earlier this morning and am proud to bring you the best self-therapy I think I’ve ever had:

My mental illnesses are taking over. It’s taking all the energy I have to keep myself from attempting suicide, and I don’t even want to die!! My nightmares/ dreams are so bad I can’t even tell if I’m awake or dreaming. My eating disorder and self-image is at nearly an all-time low and I’m starting more intense therapy.  My knees ache in the springtime because of the cool, damp air. My back is getting worse and I’m scared wearing an occasional brace and electrotherapy won’t be enough in the near future. My blog traffic is down so low it’s worse than the first month is was live. I’m stressed all the time. My financial situation is dire. My bipolar is temporarily stable, but the fear or losing control again makes it even harder for me to trust my mood. I’ve had life-altering pain in my side for 7 months with no answers, and more my digestive system is revolting against me and doctor’s don’t know why yet. I’m a mess. I need a vacation. I’m curled around a puke bowl crying and browsing Facebook. I don’t even remember what inspired the thought, but something made me realize I need to do my best to live life despite the blows that knock me down. Lake Monona is my backyard. I got a bigger boost of inspiration than I’ve had in months.

IMG_20170522_080844949It’s 7:30 am on a Monday morning and I just got home from the ER about an hour ago. I’m struggling with my Bipolar Depression and thoughts of suicide while struggling with the scary and unknown thoughts of digestive failure or kidney disease. Every fiber of my being screams to just curl up in a ball under blankets and just watch a movie I’ve seen a hundred times over. Something on Facebook inspires me to just make a positive memory for myself and live a happy life, at least for the morning. I needed to just let go of all of the anxiety over unknowns in my life and enjoy myself. I wasn’t going to let anxiety win. I got up, threw my phone, a waterproof speaker and an Ensure in a bag, grabbed my favorite canoe, Pea Pod, and dragged it all down to the shoreline. I was so excited, but also nervous, because I had this gut feeling it was a bad idea to go canoeing in my current physical condition. Somehow my persnickety brain allowed me to throw caution to the wind and go canoeing anyways.

I started out quite clumsily, it was hard to find a way to paddle that compensated for my current right flank pain. It was so early in the morning that the sun was either directly in my eyes or so low that I was in the shade and chilly. After a period of wrestling with the canoe and the sun, I realized I had forgotten to turn my music on! That improved the entire situation 1000%.  I was singing at the top of my lungs, laughing, talking to the wildlife and enjoying the view. I went down this channel that has a great balance of interesting houses, and wildlife, to look at while paddling. img_20170522_082707328.jpgI drank an Ensure, which is a nutritional drink I was prescribed when I was diagnosed with my eating disorder. I’ve been struggling a lot with my eating recently because I’m about to start meeting with a new professional about it, so I’ve been avoiding drinking the Ensures so that I appear “sick enough” for this new doctor (PRIME EXAMPLE OF WHY THE EATING DISORDER STIGMA IS DANGEROUS). It made me feel really good about myself, but there was still this hesitation inside of me that I didn’t like. My thoughts immediately jumped to pushing myself really hard paddling so I’d burn off the calories and not get fat because I drank it. Instead of acting on that thought, I practiced a DBT skill where you imagine your thoughts and urges as leaves on a river, and picture them flowing past you without judging them or acting on them… only I did it in real life on the lake with some leaves from a nearby tree and watched my urges to over-exert myself and self-image issues drift away from my canoe. Then I “took matters into my own hands” and paddled away from them. I decided to make a conscious choice to leave those issues behind me and “paddle towards recovery”. I think my phone heard my thoughts because the next song that played was a song from my library that dealt with physical appearance and learning to accept yourself (as long as you promise not to judge me for being a Gleek, you can listen to the song here).

There were many times I started to turn around. My depression was screaming at me to go back into my bed and just spend the next few hours mindlessly on my phone. Even now, I don’t completely know how I was able to fight those thoughts off and keep going on my planned route. I would mutter a little pep talk (“you got this, remember you’re having a good time?” or “oh no you silly brain. this is my morning and you aren’t taking it from me” or something of the like) and paddle on. At one point my foot fell asleep so bad that I had no feeling in my foot. If you know me, you know I’m ridiculously ticklish

IMG_20170522_083159379
Accidentally wore the perfect shirt…

on the bottoms of my feet. I can even tickle myself! I ran my finger across my foot and couldn’t feel it AT ALL. It was a weird out-of-body experience, and also kinda scary. Needless to say, the rest of the ride I was always wiggling my feet and knees so they didn’t fall asleep. I paddled along, quacking at ducks and then laughing at myself… that’s a really powerful gift, to be able to have enough empathy towards yourself that you can laugh at the silly quirks you have, instead of tearing them down. That thought was another positive thought that I noted to use in the future when I begin hating my childish quirks. I seized the moment and sat cheering myself on for the distance I’ve already run in the marathon to self-acceptance.

 

At this point, I’m about 2/3 of the way through my planned trail to blaze in Pea Pod. Once again, as if on cue, a string of my self-empowering songs played. Pure positive energy seemed to burst from my chest. It was surreal. I paddled with renewed life in me. My cheeks hurt I was smiling so much. I paused long enough to capture a quick video of the moment:

I paddled home in the best mood I can remember ever being in, in recent history anyway. There are a gazillion more thoughts I had and experiences I will treasure from my paddle, but I will leave you with this, recovery is not a straight line. Things had been going well for me these past two weeks, and then everything came crashing down. Even with this paddle to lift me up, I’m still in a funk and overwhelmed. This wasn’t a wand-waving experience that made me feel all better. In fact, I’m still a little low-key passively suicidal. But the opportunity to suspend reality, if only for a moment of relief, was well worth the effort. I’m depressed but rejuvenated. The self-discovery journey I went on today was one I will never forget. I hope this post encourages you to stretch yourself this week, and allow yourself the freedom to take things as they come, and go on a journey with your closest friend… you ❤

Want to hear “My Paddle Playlist”? Check it out here.

Posted in Anxiety, coping, Depression, ED, mental health

Dear 8th Grade Me

2008. The year I started eighth grade. Life got messy the summer before and things have only gotten messier since. If I could go back to what I consider the “beginning” of the chapter of my life that I’m in, here’s what I wish I could say:

 

Dear 8th grade me,
Hi. It’s your future self. You’re 21 now, and drinking a grasshopper as you write this. I know, us drinking alcohol… weird. You don’t know it yet, But you’re not neurotypical. Okay, what does that mean? It means you don’t show atypical (“normal”) brain patterns or behaviors.. yeah, we’re actually mentally disabled. Hard to believe, huh?

So this past summer, at camp, you learned that some things in life are not as they seem. I know you’re completely crushed and lost right now. You feel like the only person who will understand is your camp counselor… but you made a mistake with her and she’s no longer in your life. Over the course of the next year, you’re going to reach out to a lot of different people: potential mentors, friends, even strangers, all because you’re desperate to find answers to all this pain and confusion. It’s going to feel really helpless. You’re going to question every fundamental aspect of your life: love and relationships, your purpose here on earth, your beliefs and your passions. You’re going to start cheating in school… please don’t. I come from the future where you did, and not only do you academically suffer from not learning that stuff in math and history, your self-esteem suffers too. You spend all of your time latching onto people, only to burn them out, along with yourself. This is one of the main symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder – you get diagnosed after high school graduation, so be prepared for this to screw you up for the next 4 years. You will have people who will criticize you frequently for your raging emotions… that also comes from Borderline… strap in and prepare to write a lot of poetry. In fact, it is probably best that you get a journal specifically for your poetry. I have one I’ve had since I was your age, and it’s like my heart is outside of my body it means so much to me.

You’re also going to have your fair share of physical challenges too. You just got diagnosed with a few different knee problems. You’re going to have to wear knee braces for the foreseeable future… you still have to wear them in 2017! Being the stubborn girl you are, you’re going to push through the pain… but sometimes you’re going to take opportunities away from others with your stubbornness… sometimes you gotta let it go girl. People will love you even if you’re not unbelievably “strong” physically.

You’ve never self-harmed. You’ve even put a razor to your skin to try to imagine what that’s like, and you swear you’re never going to cut. You even tell the youth pastor who’s worried about you that you won’t ever cut yourself – and you really mean it. Keep holding onto that as long as you can. Cutting is really addicting… and you get addicted to it. But never fear! I’m writing this at 393 days clean! Right now it’s your dream to go with the high school ministry to Romania… and you’ll be accepted on the team after Junior year. But because of your undiagnosed mental health issues, you’re going to be pulled off the team mere weeks before they leave for Romania for a month. You’re absolutely gutted. That’s when you first attempt suicide by overdosing and start cutting. A few months later you lose favor with your dance teacher and push yourself unbelievably hard dancing in the Middleton Parade. You collapse and are taken to the hospital, and you trigger life-long lung issues, almost dying from it. Please, learn how to take care of yourself. Practice radical acceptance and healthy coping. Start coloring! Play more music. Enjoy the nice weather. Write as much as you possibly can. Life’s going to get rough, and without your 100%, my past is your fate.

Dear 8th grade me… Do your homework. Go to therapy earlier than junior year. Learn how to cope with the curveballs that are coming your way. Lean on Erin, she’s the only one who stays all four years of high school and beyond. Enjoy being young. And if you ever need me, you can always find me within yourself. Stay unique girly. Rock that multicolored fake hair piece no matter what your friends say about it.

Love,
Me

Posted in bpd, coping, Depression, ED, mental health, stigma

Abuse and the Stigma

The stigma surrounding mental health is still really bad, despite the efforts of thousands if not millions of people standing up and speaking out against it. We (the mentally ill) still fear getting help, talking about their mental illness, face bullying, are told we are faking, or that we are lying, or worst of all are told to go hurt/ kill ourselves.

I myself have been told some pretty awful things. One time an old friend texted me words of hate and shame, she told me I was lying and that she hated me. That night I tried to drown myself in the bathtub with weights. She pursued me over text, Facebook, Google Hangouts and Instagram. I blocked her on all platforms and changed my number. But she didn’t rest there.  It took a huge toll on my mental health. But I didn’t say anything to anyone besides telling a friend about a message here or there. Finally, during my partial hospitalization program with Rogers, I opened up to my therapist and she called the police and the police informed this girl that if she ever got into contact with me again she would be pressed with criminal charges and a restraining order would be filled. Her mom called back and began saying at him that I had just gotten released from a mental hospital and I was unstable. Thankfully the officer had seen my evidence and told the mom that if that was her first defense that there was probably some guilt on their side of things, and he ended the call. Later this was found on her Instagram:

These comments were made the morning after the Orlando murders took place. I was distraught for weeks after reading this. To this day, thinking about me sick to my stomach. These users used to be friends of mine. And in the weight of the Orlando aftermath, I was being compared to mass murderers by people who used to know me! And it was on display for anyone to see. I couldn’t eat and cried for days. I hated myself more than I ever had in my whole life. This and other bullying I’ve faced has made me very scared to open up about any of my mental health issues or the bullies that were telling my support system that I’m a liar. Instead of getting help, I was letting my illnesses get the best of me. I was scared that if I told someone that they’d treat my like I was a crazy person and I’d lose them from my support system. Instead I watched nights turn into days, tossing and turning until I could lay awake no longer. One of my best friends and I went nearly a whole semester not talking because I couldn’t risk being judged – which was compounded by the fact that borderline patients have severe abandonment issues. 

I wish I could say my story is unique or an uncommon occurrence, but I see people with mental health issues receive just as bad or ever worse hate on a daily basis. I see someone post something about their battle against anorexia and read a handful of atrocious comments. Later the same user posts a picture of some hate on a forum about her and it’s nothing but negativity. This user then tried to commit suicide three times and only by flukes are they still alive. When your mental illness is already lying to you, and you’re struggling to hold the tidal waves of depression and dissociativeness at bay, you can barely keep your head above water. Bullying takes down any and all efforts we’re making to stay afloat.

We already have a stigma to battle. If you Google “Borderline Personality Disorder”, you can find websites that tell you we’re “evil” and “liars” and “manipulative.” If someone were to read those, and then hear I have BPD, they would immediately be scared of me and distrust everything I say. But that’s not true. I’ve been called a liar all my life, but the truth is, people who know me can usually tell when I’m lying because I’m so bad at it. And after one lie I got caught up in led to me hitting rock bottom, I strive to always be truthful, even when it means something bad for me. As for calling us manipulative, well… as children, Borderlines often do not receive adequate affection and attention from the people who are supposed to give exactly that. Because of this, we crave it when we get older and feel like we have to overachieve and perform more in order to “earn” it because doing “enough” as kids didn’t have an end result of proper validation. However, we are also often put down, endlessly criticized and even bullied or neglected as children. We feel we don’t deserve the attention we end up getting so we “split” ourselves and succumb to self-hate. And remember, Borderlines feel emotions roughly FOUR TIMES as intense and extreme than normal. With all that being said, hopefully, you can understand me when I say we are not manipulative. This is just one example of a thousand comments I wish I could make to combat the stigma.

The stigma stands in the way of us mentally ill, by discouraging us to go to therapy/ talk about/ get help for our illnesses. It scares us into silence. It causes others to wrongfully jump to conclusions or make assumptions about us, driving a wedge into compassion and community. It causes us to get blamed for things we have no control over and makes us hate ourselves even more. It can cause us to hurt ourselves or even attempt suicide. When you add bullying and negative comments on top of the stigma, it can compound these negative effects. Please, not only make an effort to end the stigma surrounding mental health but help combat the bullying and abuse we receive from less educated folks. And if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Posted in Anxiety, Bipolar, bpd, coping, Depression, ED, mental health, OCD

I’m Not Okay – An Explicit Truth

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

This was written a few days ago. 

“I’ll be okay” …is that what you want me to say? Because I don’t know if I’ll be okay. This morning I was in a really good place and now I want to fucking die.

I have healthcare now but I might lose it in the next year or two and with the ACA possibly being revoked I might not get health insurance back. And without insurance, I can’t afford my medication. And without my medication, I will destabilize and probably kill myself. I don’t cut anymore, but I sure as hell want to. I can’t go to Walgreens without walking past the razors and staring at them, trying to somehow convince myself that I can get by another week without cutting. I’ve tried many alternatives to cutting, like meds, sleep, being with someone, coloring, solitaire, word searches, stuff like that. But nothing comes even close to what cutting did for me. I went to Rogers Memorial Hospital for a two and a half month residential stay and after that, I felt like I just couldn’t cut on principle. I cut because it made my anxiety go away, I wouldn’t shake as much, it gave me lots of endorphins which helped a ton, it was a tangible thing because my sickness is “all in my head” (I use that ironically). Plus it’s hard to worry about anything else when you’re covered in blood. I feel physically sick almost every day from stress. I throw up if I eat too much cuz my stomach hasn’t eaten three meals a day consistently for almost 4 years. I throw up if I’m stressed. I throw up randomly. I’ll start shaking in terror while watching a kids movie. I’ll start shaking when I’m relaxing. I’ll start shaking doing a puzzle. I still exit the freeway and then get back on so I don’t have to cross a bridge. I still cry passing a semi truck. I still can’t drive if it’s windy. My blankets have to be with the tag by my feet or I can’t sleep. My car has to beep twice saying it’s locked or I can’t walk away. My mental health kit items have to be organized exactly right or I can’t move on to another task. Not a day goes by where I don’t think about suicide. I think about it whenever there’s a tree by the road, and I wonder if it’s close enough for me to crash into. I think about it whenever I’m off the ground, even if it’s just the top of the stairs, and I calculate my odds of death if I fell/ jumped. I think about it when I see any sort of rope, belt or other stringy things, and I think about how I could hang myself with it. I think about it when I take my medication at night, and I know exactly what to take to hurt/ kill myself. I don’t always have a specific plan, and I usually have no intent to carry through, but I think about it and I crave it. I still get so depressed that I miss appointments and don’t even bother explaining why. It takes me up to two hours just to get out of bed in the morning because my sleep and nightmares are so bad. I can’t work because of my rapid cycling bipolar and unpredictability as an employee. I’m scared to talk about this with my loved ones out of fear that they’ve had enough and will leave me (THANKS, borderline…). I’m scared to talk about it with my treatment team out of fear that they’ll say “but you have skills and lived at Rogers Memorial Hospital and went through DBT” or judge me for relapsing. I’m scared to talk to strangers because they don’t know me or my story. I get lunch dates to celebrate being X days cut free. I get hugs and Facebook likes for being in recovery. But are there “Get Well Soon” cards or hot meals brought over when I’m depressed? No. If I had a physical illness there would be. But with a mental illness? “Shhhh don’t talk about it like that!” I can’t talk openly about my illness without people giving me weird looks. Well FUCK the stigma, I’m saying it like it is. Having a mental illness is hell. I don’t know if I’ll be okay.

“I’ll be okay…” I can’t say it.

Posted in ED

Does My Eating Disorder Count?

This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge eating, purging, Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified… the list goes on. I have Avoidant/ Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), which unfortunately goes unnoticed most of the time. When you look at what are supposed to be “comprehensive” lists of all types of eating disorders, ARFID is not always listed, despite it being a real disorder that’s in the DSM-V. I used to think that it was because my eating disorder was unimportant or that it wasn’t real. I have family and friends who validate my eating disorder (ED), as well as my treatment team and 2 dieticians, but I still have doubts that my struggles with food count.

I’ve struggled with ARFID for a solid number of years now. Growing up, food always had a lot of strict and complicated rules on it. Every house I went to had different rules that needed to be followed. When I broke the rules, I’d get punished, or I’d be so ashamed and be hard on myself. I hated snacking and eating meals. I was always so scared, so I started avoiding eating as much as I could, and when I did have to eat, I’d limit how much I ate. I began a list of foods and their rules in my head, trying to keep up. “if you eat cereal you must have 2 bowls” “you can only have two snacks open at a time” “if you go back for second for dinner you have to get seconds of everything” “my kids can have seconds and eat leftovers, but you can’t” etc. in my late high school years and especially after graduation, I became very thin. People kept telling me I needed to eat cake, or that if anyone gave me a hug they’d snap me like a twig. I loved how skinny I was. I had no idea how sick it would make me.

During one of my dozens of stays on the psych ward, the nurses noticed just how little I was actually eating. When they asked me to start eating more I got scared and refused to eat all together. They also noticed how underweight I was one day when they were updating my info in my chart. The staff had a dietician come talk to me. When it became apparent I had an eating disorder, they called into question the need for a feeding tube until I got the help I needed to start eating right again. Thankfully we didn’t go that route, and instead, she prescribed me a special nutrient-heavy drink.

A few months later I attended Rogers Memorials’ FOCUS program as a resident for two months. Once a week I worked with a dietician, and I was required to eat all three meals a day, and two snacks a day. I was under a watchful eye of staff to make sure that I was compliant. I also had to attend a nutritional class once a week. While I didn’t like any of it, I knew it was important. Sure enough, I started gaining weight again. From the start of my ED recovery until today, I’ve gained about 80 lbs. and am now at a healthy weight. But my fight is still long from over.

I still struggle with body image on a daily basis. Taking a photo when my stomach is bare is incredibly difficult for me. I usually take at least ten before finding one I’m somewhat okay with having “out there”, even if it’s just a text to a friend. I still have serious food issues. I had a panic attack in the grocery store when my friend asked me what kind of frozen pizza I wanted for dinner recently. I average about one meal a day if I’m being totally honest. I still have to drink Ensures to make sure I stay nourished. But I struggle to talk about and show my eating disorder.

It doesn’t always feel real for me. Sometimes I struggle to believe my eating disorder is valid and not an excuse. But with each frozen burrito, I feel like I’ve accomplished something, and that helps me know that my eating disorder is real and that it is something I struggle with. Just because it’s lesser known or sometimes overlooked by websites doesn’t mean it’s not something I deal with every day. My eating disorder is real, and I’m proud to share my story to help spread awareness this week and every week.

Spread awareness this week using #NEDAwareness
For More on Eating Disorders: 
nationaleatingdisorders.org
National 
Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237