Friday, July 24, 2009
I am paralyzed by the finality of starting something. I am afraid to begin the wrong thing, so instead of trying and changing my mind, I wait. I am waiting for a bolt of lightning to strike the spot I’m supposed to be in. But there is no lightning. There is no final answer. There is nothing, and will continue to be nothing until I begin something.
Last week, I went to the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation -- a foundation that tests a person’s natural aptitudes -- to find direction, and to help me figure out where to start. Their philosophy is that people are happiest when their work is an expression of, and an outlet for, their natural talents. I hoped that if they could tell me what my natural talents are, I would be able to start the “right” thing. The results I got from my testing opened up a world of ideas and possibilities for me. They said, “learn a language, take up an instrument, dance, set goals.” They told me that I have a range of aptitudes that would be great for an editor, an crime scene investigator, a psychologist. My abilities can take me in a thousand different directions, I just have to pick one. They gave me the answers I was looking for. They gave me hope and confidence in myself. But they gave me too many options. I wanted one answer; I didn’t want choices. So now I’m back where I started. I found the information I needed to move forward, but now I am paralyzed by opportunity.
I have always been decisive almost to the point of impulsivity. I’ve never had any difficulty making decisions. I’ve also never had any hesitation in changing my mind, quitting what I started and finding the next best thing. But, this time I am trying to do things differently. I don’t want to quit, give up or move on. I want to build a foundation, be consistent, and succeed at something. I want the good feeling that comes from persistence and dedication. I want to learn new skills and use them. I want to be reliable. But, my fear of repeating the same pattern -- deciding on something, then changing my mind and quitting -- is keeping me from starting a new one. I need to take a leap of faith. I can’t wait forever for lightning to strike.
But, where do I begin?
Thursday, April 30, 2009
I'm sitting in Central Park. I'm dealing with what's in my head, for a few minutes, without escaping. My apartment often serves as endless distraction, avoidance, self-destruction. By getting out, I'm shaking things up in my head. I'm not using the same noises to drown out my thoughts and feelings. There are different stimuli, so I can't be completely numb. I have to take things in, simple things like temperature, people walking by, the light. I have to recognize myself as an entity, separate from my surroundings. I am a person, making use of a worn bench, in a park. I exist. I might not have a big impact, but I exist. Right now, I am not hiding. People can see me. I am accounted for. Even if no one really notices, by being outside, in a world shared with other people and animals, I am acknowledging myself. I have a responsibility on this planet, even if it is just to be another living human, someone people pass by, someone in the park, on a bench. I exist. And that is important. It is important that I exist no matter what I do or don't do. When I'm here, outside, I'm not hiding from everyone; I'm not hiding from myself. And that's something.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
I hate you. I'm sorry I hate you, because it's really not your fault. You didn't do anything wrong. You're so good to me - you let me do everything I want to do and almost never get mad. I'm always trying to change you, to make you better. But nothing you could ever be would be good enough. I know it's not fair to you, but I don't know how to stop. I wish I could appreciate you for what you are and what you do for me, but the world around me tells me that that's not enough. It tells me that it doesn't matter if you're getting what you need; it doesn't matter if you work right. It just matters what you look like. I've never appreciated what you do; I've only ever cared about how you look. I'm really sorry. I don't know how to change.
Monday, April 6, 2009
Last week, in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, I made a goal of having at least one dessert over the next 7 days. I'm proud to say that I accomplished this goal, and more, by trying unique desserts and enjoying them.
My first challenge was at David Burke Prime steakhouse, where I ordered a cheesecake lollipop tree. Yes, a tree with cheesecake lollipops on it! It was fun to eat, and since the lollipops were each a bite of cheesecake, I didn't get too full or feel guilty. Then, with the check, the server brought us complimentary green apple cotton candy! I've never been a big fan of cotton candy, but it was light and delicious, and eating it made me feel like a little kid.
The next night, out to dinner at Alta Strada, I challenged myself a second time. My friend and I tried pastry chef P.J. Waters' famous Cinema Paradiso -- caramel popcorn, chocolate-covered golden raisins, chocolate mousse with popcorn ice cream, and a tangerine slushy. Although we didn't even come close to finishing it all, we mixed the remaining chocolate raisins and popcorn and took it to go!
So, all of this is not to say that I've conquered my fear of desserts for good. Dessert is still more challenging for me than most other kinds of foods. But, this experience allowed me to have so much fun with dessert that it was, in both cases, the best and most memorable part of the meal. And that, in itself, is a victory.
Monday, March 30, 2009
A calming bubble bath is like a mini vacation; it removes me from the fast pace of New York City and slows my racing thoughts. I don't get to take baths as often as I'd like to, but when I do, I make sure they're special. My secret ingredient is fresh Sake Bath. I may not drink alcohol, but who says I can't soak in detoxifying sake? With the right candles, this bath becomes a full sensory experience. I watch the flickering lights, feel the warm water, hear the crackle of bubbles, and smell my favorite scents - Diptyque's Baies and Feu de Bois. Whether it's a mini vacation or a nice long bath, I find it impossible not to feel better afterwards.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
I have a history of alternating between periods of compulsive exercise and periods of not exercising at all. I've never been able to attain a healthy balance, and my motivation was always disordered. When I was exercising, I did it because I had to. When I wasn't exercising, I was actively rebelling against what I really "should" be doing. About a year and a half ago, when my eating disorder started to take over, I decided that if I controlled my food intake I didn't have to go to the gym. I didn't see the health benefits of keeping my body moving, because working out wasn't about my health -- it was about chasing the perfect body. As the bulimia became stronger and stronger, I began to lose weight. It was the perfect solution; I was getting closer to the perfect body with no work whatsoever. I didn't have to spend my evenings at the gym, because I could cheat the system.
Recovery takes an extreme mental and emotional toll. No longer hiding behind the disorder, the past couple of months have taught me about who I am, how I want to be, and how to care for myself. Until now, I haven't had the energy or stability to work on physical strengthening and healing. In the past couple of days, I have found myself ready to move. My body wants to take on its part in my new life. An eating disorder creates a great divide between the mind and the body. The mind is focused on hating, criticizing, controlling and changing the body. The constant harm leaves no room for connection or acceptance. Now, out of my recent depression, I am starting to feel strong enough to connect my mind with my body.
On Saturday, Brittany - a friend from Renfrew - and I, went to a yoga class together. We headed to Sonic Yoga, on 9th Ave. and 51st St., for a 90-minute session. What possessed me to make this all-level hour-and-a-half class my first-ever yoga experience? I have no idea. Luckily, Brittany and I were clueless together. Somehow, we made it through, doing our best to keep up with the advanced students. As exhausting as it was, I felt a connection with my body that I have never really felt before. Before treatment, exercise meant rejecting my body, trying to make it something better. Now, movement is a chance for me to accept my body and learn to work with it.
As I continue to try new ways of moving, I am excited to become more comfortable with myself and happier in the body that I need in order to live.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
My apartment has a small loft area. This space had been collecting clutter since Tyler and I moved in. Once in a while it served as a guest room, but mostly it served as storage space. When I came home from residential treatment, I wanted to create a safe place for myself -- somewhere I could go to be calm, alone with my thoughts, and away from danger. While it is still a work in progress, this weekend the space finally became usable. Now, when I'm afraid of falling into disordered behavior, all I have to do is climb the stairs to my safe haven.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Yesterday, I gave in to my eating disorder, but it was different from any other time I have acted on symptoms. Oftentimes, people refer to their eating disorder as "Ed." Before treatment, I thought it was silly to give my disorder a name, a separate identity from myself. But, I've found that it's the best way to describe it. In my head, there are two people: Lily and Ed. For a long time, Ed got to tell me what to do. I didn't know how to stand up to Ed, so I did whatever he suggested. In treatment, I learned techniques for fighting Ed. Now, I know that he is wrong, but knowing that that doesn't always translate into disobeying him. Yesterday, I won the mental battle, but lost the physical one. I knew that Ed was wrong, that I didn't need my eating disorder to cope with depression. But, I did what he said anyway. I was so exhausted from fighting a mental battle, that I didn't do anything to stop Ed from controlling my actions. Looking back, I know I could have won. I could have called someone and asked for help. I think the reason I didn't was that I let myself believe that nothing would make me feel as good as giving in to Ed. Of course, giving in only made me feel worse. Next time I am exhausted from fighting, I will reach out for help. I know now that there will be days when Ed is stronger than I am. On those days, I will call for reinforcement.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
For as long as I can remember, my life has been driven by striving to achieve a greater goal. What that goal is has changed over time, but the process of reaching for something has always kept me moving forward.
For the past 5 years, I have been driven by my dream of a successful career in the magazine industry. I majored in communications, and minored in business, to learn the basics for both editorial and publishing. My summers were spent interning. The summer before my senior year of college, I had an opportunity to work in London. Instead, I interned in New York, one more time, to be certain that I wanted to work in editorial, as opposed to advertising. Within a month of graduating, I had moved to the city and was working as an assistant editor. I loved my job; it was everything I had been working towards.
Then my eating disorder took over, and everything I had been working for came crashing down. I resigned from my job to focus on my health. Now, back from residential treatment, I'm floating. Many of my dreams are the same, but the path I will have to take to reach them is very different. My tendency to live in the future made changes in the present devastating. My future shattered, and my future was the purpose of my present. But, treatment taught me to balance my dreams with my reality. I still need a purpose, but I try to look at unexpected changes as detours, instead of road blocks. Every day, I am doing everything I can to pull myself out of a depression by finding something to reach toward. What I'm reaching for today might change tomorrow, but what matters is that, whatever the goal, it's propelling me towards tomorrow.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
I don't think I'm completely to blame for my obsession with numbers. For the most part, children are taught that high grades are good, and low grades are bad; that high amounts of fat and calories are bad, and low-fat or low-calorie is good. I learned that above a 1400 on my SATs would give me a shot at the ivy leagues, and that a 1390 meant I just wasn't good enough. (Even my 1460 wasn't good enough for me; it wasn't a 1600). Popular culture has taught me that smaller numbers in some areas of my life, and larger numbers in others, are the key to happiness. Lose 10 pounds. Earn 1 million dollars. Be a size 0. Lower your cholesterol, raise your credit score, then you can be happy.
Not anymore. I will no longer be a slave to numbers. I will be happy with less than perfect. Today, my mission is not to be the right weight, it's to accept who I am with all of my imperfections. There will always be room for improvement, and there is nothing wrong with striving to be better. But, I've realized that there is no such thing as perfect in an imperfect world. And, if there was, I wouldn't want to be it.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Brunch used to be my favorite part of the weekend. It was summer. My best friend, Tyler, my puppy, Mars, and I would walk down Columbus to our favorite spot. We would grab a table on the sidewalk, get a bowl of water for Mars, and light up a couple of cigarettes. Mars and I always had the same thing. I would get eggs benedict with the ham on the side--eggs for me, ham for Mars. Our weekend tradition made Sunday my favorite day of the week.
But, meals were never just meals for me. They were a battleground. Eating disorders are perpetuated by a basic cycle: restrict, binge, purge. How much of my meal could I eat without gaining weight? How much was a binge? Did I need to purge, or would I just restrict later in the day? Although I loved sitting outside, soaking up the sun and sharing a meal with Tyler and Mars, my mind was never really there. I was in my own prison, barred off from the rest of the world, deciding what this meal would do to me, what I would let it do, how I could fight it, and how I would win. I loved the tradition and the time spent with my little family, but I didn't enjoy the meal. I was happy that Tyler and Mars got to have brunch, and I got to be there to watch.
This morning, for the first time since I've been in recovery, Tyler suggested we go to brunch. My initial response was that I would be happy to go sit with him and drink coffee, but that I needed to eat my normal breakfast at home. Then I took a stand against my disorder. I can eat a well-balanced meal wherever I am. It is the knowledge of how to feed myself that protects me; it's not eating "safe" foods out of marked containers in my kitchen that keeps my disease from being in control. So, we went. As we walked down Columbus, I thought about what I would order. A bagel, cream cheese and some fruit. None of the foods would be mixed so I would know exactly how much of what I was eating, and it would be the same as eating at home.
We sat down. I saw something that caught my eye. I hadn't been planning on having a sandwich. I had figured out my meal already, before we even left our apartment. Eating disorders leave no room for spontaneity; but, recovery does. I enjoyed a chicken, avocado, bacon and green bean sandwich. It was exactly what I wanted, because I chose it in the moment. I couldn't tell you exactly how many ounces of chicken were in it, whether it was exactly 1/8 of an avocado, or more, or how many carbohydrates were in the bread. But, I can tell you that for the first time I can remember, I truly enjoyed brunch.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Last night, a friend said to me, "There will always be bad days. But, that's today. Tomorrow could be a good day again." One of the most difficult aspects of depression is the lack of perspective. When I am in a low, I often feel that I will never be happy again. The ability to recognize that the storms will end as abruptly as they set in is what allows me to weather them. No one can survive utter hopelessness forever; but, knowing that it's not forever is what allows me to survive.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
In a rush this morning, my wallet fell to the floor of the cab I was riding in. Before I realized it was missing, the cab was long gone. Already late to a 9 o'clock appointment, I panicked. What could I do? Not much. I filed a lost property report with the city, cancelled my credit card, froze my bank account and kept breathing. At this moment, I had a decision to make. I could catastrophize--"I lost my wallet, everything of value, my life, and certainly my day, is ruined." Or, I could accept the situation and move forward.
I know that I cannot control my world. But, I have total control over how I respond to it. You know the phrase, "let go and let God?" Well, God or not, I let go. I certainly didn't hope for the best, but I didn't waste energy expecting the worst either. Proving that there are good people in the world, despite an economic recession, my wallet was returned with everything, including cash, in it (less than 8 hours later!). I still have a hard time believing that my positive energy, and the prayers of others, were the reason my wallet was returned. But, by accepting that I could not predict or alter the outcome of this situation by obsessing and panicking, I enjoyed my day and got my wallet back.
Higher Power or not, I'll be checking the seat and floor of every cab I ride in from now on.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
I've begun to notice that most of my friends' amusing, embarrassing, or regrettable stories begin with, "so this one night, I was totally wasted." Since my high school years, this has seemed like normal behavior. Having fun almost always included mind-alteration; having fun meant escaping reality. I never thought it was truly possible to have a fun night out without drinking. Or if it were possible, I thought that drinking would always make the night more fun. This may be fine for some people, but for me, drinking was never just having a few drinks. Why would I consume the calories in alcohol without getting trashed? But, I didn't see a problem. I thought what I was doing was normal behavior because, well, I'm young.
I once told my psychologist, Dr. Joan Lavender, that "being healthy is boring." She has never let me forget it. My roller coaster of emotions and impulsive actions was always exciting. I never want to wake up and know exactly what is going to happen. I thought that being healthy would make my life predictable. What I've found is the exact opposite.
In recovery, I am creating a reality that I don't need to escape from to enjoy myself. Using substances is not my only way of having fun anymore. When I'm intoxicated, I miss what's going on around me. I lose the memories of time with friends and the ability to make real connections. I'm learning that just because I'm on my way to health, doesn't mean that I'm on my way to boredom. In fact, every day becomes more meaningful, more memorable, and more enriching. The time I spend with my close friends strengthens our relationships - whether through laughing, crying, talking, or playing. And I have the presence of mind not to waste my time on people who I don't want in my life. Before going to treatment, I thought that I would come back as a robot - no drinking, no drugs, no fun, perfect, perfect, perfect. But, today, I'm more animated, more vibrant, more creative, and more fun than ever.
So, Dr. Lavender, being healthy is exciting.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Some girls get tattoos of the eating disorder recovery symbol upon leaving treatment. But I don't see myself as always being defined - or ever being defined - as someone who recovered from an eating disorder. I want to be someone who uses the skills I learned in treatment to battle all of the difficult things life throws out me, the eating disorder being just one. So, to remind me of this, I got a tattoo on my right shoulder that says "above the storm." The idea came to me in a reflective writing group a couple of weeks ago; it was part of a quote I liked.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Saturday, February 21, 2009
This “ultimate list” only contains a small percentage of the activities that can be used for coping. To add to this list, please email ideas to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make a coping box:
A coping box is a place for you to put activities and affirmations that you can go to when you need them. Making the box can be a coping activity in and of itself. Go to an arts and crafts store and buy a wooden or sturdy cardboard box. Get any materials you’ll want to use to decorate it – magazines, paints, markers, glue. Decorate the box by painting, coloring or creating a collage on it with calming colors and inspiring words. Then write coping activities, tools and affirmations on slips of paper to keep in the box.
- Call a friend
- Go out and visit a friend
- Invite a friend to come over
- Organize a party
- Do yoga, tai chi or Pilates, or take a class to learn
- Sit or lie down, take deep breaths, and do some stretches
- Go for a walk in a park, or someplace peaceful
- Go outside and watch the clouds
- Ride a bike
- Go for a swim
- Go hiking
- Go to your local playground and join or watch a game being played
- Sit and throw a tennis ball against a wall
- Get a massage
- Get out of the house, even if it’s just to sit outside
- Go for a drive, or a ride on public transportation
- Plan a trip to a place you’ve never been before
- Take a nap, or go to sleep
- Take a cooking class
- Go outside and play with your pet
- Give your pet a bath
- Borrow a friend’s dog and take it to the park
- Volunteer at an animal shelter
- Go outside and watch the birds and animals
- Find something funny to do, like reading the Sunday comics
- Watch a funny movie (collect funny movies to have on hand for when you’re feeling down)
- Go to the movie theater and watch whatever’s playing
- Listen to music
- Watch television
- Go to a sporting event, like a baseball or football game
- Play a game with a friend
- Play solitaire
- Play a video game
- Go online to chat
- Visit your favorite websites (maybe you are doing that already!)
- Create your own website or blog
- Join an online dating service
- Sell something you don’t want on the internet
- Go through your old clothes and bring them to Good Will or Salvation Army
- Do a puzzle
- Call a crisis hotline to talk to someone
- Go get a haircut
- Go to the spa
- Go to a library
- Go to a bookstore and read
- Go to your favorite café for coffee or tea
- Visit a museum or local gallery
- Go to the park or mall and people-watch
- Pray or meditate
- Go to your church, synagogue, temple or other place of worship
- Write a letter to a friend, family member, or your Higher Power
- Call a family member you haven’t spoken to in a while
- Learn a new language
- Sing along with your favorite songs
- Turn on loud music and dance around your room
- Take photographs
- Join a club
- Plant a garden
- Work outside
- Knit, crochet or sew—or learn how to
- Make a scrapbook with pictures
- Paint your nails
*this has been one of the most useful tools for me – it keeps your hands tied up until your nails dry – a crucial delay
- Change your hair color
- Take a bubble bath or shower
- Sign up for a class that excites you at a local college or online
- Read your favorite book, magazine, newspaper or poem
- Write a list of things you like about yourself on a picture of you
- Write a poem, story, movie, or play
- Write in your journal or diary
*journaling is one of the my most used coping tools—don’t worry about what to write, just write.
- Word purge
*write all of your stresses, worries, fears and negative thoughts on paper, then tear it up and throw it out
- Write a loving letter to yourself when you’re feeling good and keep it with you to read when you’re upset
- Draw a picture
- Paint a picture with a brush or your fingers
- Write about someone you admire and why
- Make a list of ten things you’d like to do before you die
- Create your own list of pleasurable activities
1. No 3 or 4-letter “F-words,” fat, fine or the “infamous”
Why? Fat is physical matter, not a feeling; saying “I’m fine” is always less than what you actually mean; and the infamous f-word keeps us all from better ways of articulating what we really want to say
2. No weights, calories or numbers
3. Speak in the “I,” not in the “we”
By telling my story I hope to help others, but I will never assume that “we” are all thinking, feeling or acting the same way
4. Confidentiality is key
Unless you’d like to, you do not have to identify yourself in any way that will allow other users to know your real name or personal information
5. Talking to others is fine, but talking about them is not
6. Don’t tell anyone they’re wrong or don’t deserve to be here – we are all different