Posted in mental health, stigma

Mental Health and Mass Shootings

Sorry I’ve been MIA. My laptop quit on me and I had to get a new one.

Getting into politics and topics where people are very opinionated makes me very nervous. A few years ago I engaged in a conversation about politics and it ended with broken relationships and a sour taste in my mouth. I’m definitely a people pleaser and don’t enjoy conflict. Having Borderline Personality Disorder, I struggle with relationships as it is and would hate to give anyone a reason to abandon me. Plus my anxiety skyrockets trying to defend myself. The horrors that are plaguing our world are many, and it’s hard to stay silent and just watch on the sidelines. It’s also hard to know what to do. I’m just a 20something from Wisconsin with a blog, what can I do to help save lives? But when I think about it, if we all contributed what we could, the small things would eventually add up. So here’s my effort to make the world a better place in light of the Vegas shooting and the other tragedies that have kills hundreds across our world.

You can’t read an article about the mass shootings in our country without reading about mental health. One of the main focuses tends to be the state of the perpetrator’s mental health. While mental health may contribute to the attacks, it can be a burden put on the entire mental health community. I myself have had people say that I am dangerous and need to be locked away due to my mental health so I don’t shoot or knife anybody. The morning after the 2016 shooting in Florida, some ex-friends decided to discuss on social media that it’s people like me who commit these horrible attacks. This happened shortly after I had been fully discharged from my residential stay at a mental hospital. The fact that I was sick enough to stay at a hospital seemed reason enough to put me in a category with terrorists.

Does mental health contribute to these attacks? Probably. But there are a myriad of other factors that bring someone to pull a gun on others besides mental health. According to the Washington Post, things like criminal profit, acting on religious beliefs, disagreement with government views, and mistreatments like bullying or prejudice are suspected motivations for previous shootings in our country.

Putting sole blame and focusing all efforts on understanding why these things happen onto mental health greatly intensifies the mental health stigma. It gives people an excuse to treat us like criminals, rather than human beings, even when we personally have given them no reason to think we are dangerous people. It’s horrible, being judged and punished for something we haven’t done. It’s hard to even read headlines or watch the news, knowing that people who have never met you are making assumptions about who you are as a person.

In light of yet another tragedy that has struck our country, please remember to be kind to those of us with mental health. Not only is it devastating and stressful to deal with the emotions we feel learning of these horrors, but we’re also dealing with judgment and fear that we’ll be attacked, punished and humiliated based on the sole fact that we have a chemical imbalance in our brains.

Posted in Depression, mental health, stigma

A Note on Suicide Awareness Month

I think it’s awesome that social media is using it’s viralness to spread awareness on suicide. It’s a step in the right direction when it comes to ungluing the stigma and helping those of us with mental illness feel heard and understood. But I would be lying if I said this month is easy for me. I’m surrounded by constant reminders of the multiple attempts I’ve barely survived. The days my brain made life so unlivable that I felt I could do it no longer. The trauma that drove me to the edge. Each photo on Instagram and article on Facebook just picks off the scab I’ve put on suicide while I heal mentally. I’m reading statistics, wishing I was one of them. Topics on suicide hit me from left and right, it’s like going grocery shopping when you’re hungry. I know the hunger will pass, but in the cake aisle of pick-n-save, it’s impossible to ignore the hunger. The other 11 months of the year I have to fight off the “hunger” on my own, September just sticks me in the middle of a bakery.

Running a mental health blog, it’s no secret I dedicate my time to educating others about mental illness, including suicide. I know that as a neurodivergent. I offer a unique voice to the mix. I can speak to things that the mass public cannot fathom. But in September, I feel obligated to talk about my pain and trauma every day, to anyone online who makes a post. As if my OCD doesn’t force me to dwell on harm enough, now it’s everywhere I look for a month, dangling my pain in front of me, tempting me to engage in the harm. I imagine it’s similar to the thousands who have lost a loved one to suicide. It’s a long grieving process, filled with second guessing and questions. It can take years, so more than likely you’ll encounter Suicide Awareness Month, and be forced to confront your grief over and over before you’re ready.

It’s easy to stay quiet about this struggle. I don’t want to deter the overdue attention the mental health community is receiving. I don’t want anyone to feel bad or guilty for sharing photos, articles, and especially their stories. But it is Suicide Awareness Month, and to do this month proper justice, I think it’s important I share this side to suicide awareness.

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 bpd, diagnosis, mental health, stigma

Disclosing for the First Time

Disclosing you have a mental illness, whether it be to family or friends, to an employer, even on social media, it’s scary and carries a lot of unknowns. With such a stigma hanging around, I’ve seen it be very discouraging to make your mental illness public. It took a long time for me to open up online about my mental illnesses. My first big diagnosis was Borderline Personality Disorder. It wasn’t until 4 months after the diagnosis and 4 psychiatric hospitalizations that I was comfortable posting on Instagram about my illness. It took me days to figure out what I was going to say and how I was going to approach the issue. I decided that education was key. People would be less likely to judge or be stigmatizing if they we operating with a knowledge of where I was coming from… right? While the response wasn’t completely accepting, it was overwhelming better than what I was expecting. Days before I opened up online, I had lost my at-the-time boyfriend, his entire family, and temporarily lost my best friends. I needed support. I was genuinely trying to navigate life after a suicide attempt on my own, and while I didn’t disclose this particular information, my motivation was definitely hoping to find support. If you haven’t opened up about your mental illnesses, do not worry. There’s no rush. There’s no timeline you’re expected to follow. You never have to if you don’t want to. But if you’re looking for inspiration or even just a place to start thinking about it, here’s what I wrote when I first came out.

I’m still young and new to this world. And maybe this is the borderline talking. But I’m going to shed my two cents on mental health awareness and share my personal story.
I have borderline personality disorder. I feel the same emotions you do. But I feel them on a more extreme scale. When I first got diagnosed it was explained to me as such: let’s take a range. 0-100. 0 being no emotion, like a Psychopath. 100 is an emotion, so extreme no one has felt it. People without borderline, well, their feelings typically lie at a 20 on this scale. Now take someone with BPD. Our everyday emotions, on the same scale, are an 80. Having borderline has been compared to having 3rd-degree burns on 90% of your body. Brain studies have shown the emotional centers of our brain overpower our logical centers. People with BPD struggle to maintain relationships due to the intensity of the emotions. It’s hard for us to keep a job. Sometimes it’s a miracle if we can muster up the mental energy to even get dressed in the morning. I’ve spent nearly a month working on this post because I over-analyze everything. We’re trapped in our brain. Some days it feels like an eternal hell. I never know what emotion I’m going to feel from one minute to the next. It’s agony to look at all the people I’ve hurt. I constantly struggle with fear of abandonment. My brain can only think in black and white. I can say from personal experience: it’s exhausting. 1 in 10 people suffering from BPD successfully commit suicide. Mood disorders have a 6% suicide rating. I don’t share any of this for pity, or for attention. in fact, I ask that there are no “oh my gosh I’m so sorry” or “you’re so strong” comments (or the like) added to this post. I’m choosing to share my story to bring awareness to the fact that mental illness is a very real thing. And it’s very present in our society. It’s not something we can just “get over.” there have been days where I have called into work sick, crying on the phone because I mentally was feeling particularly unstable. I’m very blessed to have a job that understands and has graciously worked with my disorder. But I’m one of the lucky few. Mental illnesses are very real. I once watched someone struggle with the idea of taking a shower or simply go to the grocery store, due to anxiety. Things that most people can do without thinking. The world is starting to shift its view on mental illness, and it’s up to us to keep that change going. I know I’m only one voice. I know most people will not take the time to read all of this. So I want to say thank you to those who did. Borderline personality disorder is only one of a myriad of mental illnesses that people struggle with every day. 1 in 4 adults has some sort of mental illness. Please educate yourself. We thank you for it. I proudly wear green for mental health awareness and gray for BPD awareness. And I thank you again for taking the time to read this.

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 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/