Tag Archives: eating disorder recovery

On the subject of bravery

Wow. If I put off writing this like two days, I’d have spaced my blog posts apart exactly one year. Oops.

I could make a bunch of apologies or excuses or whatever, but what it really boils down to is the fact that this hasn’t been a huge priority for me; the whys and wherefores aren’t all that evident even to me and, in the end, aren’t particularly important. I don’t have it within me to make promises of more frequent posts, but the world is full of exciting surprises, so who knows.

The subject of bravery keeps appearing in my life and it’s something I have a complicated relationship with. I’ve made several choices over the years that others have called “brave” while I just knew the choices had to be made. I’d have called those same choices “brave” in others, which does lead me to wonder if anyone truly feels brave when they’re in the midst of an act of bravery.

At some indeterminate time either early this year or late last year, I started slipping after experiencing some pretty solid months concerning all things related to eating and weight. I could retrace exactly what went down, but it’s truthfully a rather dull series of events that eventually culminated in a plan that I never named but should probably have been called My Very Own Plan To Relapse But Only For Ten Weeks And Then I’ll Stop Because It’s Not Like This Is A Slippery Slope Of Deceit And Doom Or Anything. 

So, long story short, I went down the rabbit hole as it were and ended up in a place that, if I’m honest with myself, is the worst I’ve ever been eating-disorder-wise. I’ve fooled myself into thinking I’m not as bad as I was in 2009 because I haven’t lost the same amount of weight (yet), haven’t fainted in a library (yet), haven’t had many major physical side effects (yet)…but at my Previous Worst Place, I was at least completely unaware of what I was doing to myself. This time around, I’m painfully self-aware. I have made some really unwise decisions for months based on fear (so. much. fear) and the lies that come free (!!!!!) with your purchase of the Eating Disorder Starter Pack and have spent the past couple of months telling myself that I’ve been in a holding pattern when it has been confirmed by reliable sources that I am, in fact, getting worse.

It’s been exhausting. The initial excitement of dropping weight and hiding something has worn off – partially because I’m not dropping weight and I’m not hiding things like I was earlier this year, but also because it’s draining in general. I’ve had to drop two of the three classes I was enrolled in this semester; I’ve had to reenter ALL THE THERAPIES; and I feel as if my life has become some sort of shrine to Not Eventually Killing Myself By Way Of An Eating Disorder.

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Original image source: Hyperbole and a Half | Template source: Know Your Meme

So, after weeks of just sort of flopping around like a lost Magikarp (that’s right: I play Pokémon Go. I’m a cool mom. Minus the mom part.), my dietitian (who’s super rad and has her own blog that she updates slightly more often than I update mine) said the Dreaded T Word (“treatment”) – literally hours after I’d had the following thought:

No one will ever tell me to go into treatment because I’m not like dying or anything.

Or something to that effect.

Anyway, the past few weeks have involved several discussions about Treatment or “a higher level of care” (a phrase which I’m like 99.9% sure is stamped all over every textbook pertaining to the clinical treatment of mental illnesses because it keeps popping up everywhere I turn right now). After an assessment and some discussions with my counselor, my dietitian, my friends, my pastor, my job, my insurance company, the jack o’ lantern I carved last week, and probably the entire cast of Grey’s Anatomy or something, I’ve decided to go into a three-evening-per-week IOP (intensive outpatient program).

At this point, it’s just something that needs to happen. I don’t like it. Parts of it are terrifying, and frankly, every aspect of starting any sort recovery sucks. The number of times I’ve used the phrase “lose-lose situation” over the past couple of months is…a lot. But, it just needs to happen. As one of my very favorite poems says, “If you aren’t recovering, you are dying.”

While I’d love to say this decision was a no-brainer, it honestly wasn’t. These disorders are gross and giant and have creepy talons and a lot of empty promises. They’re coping mechanisms, so they serve a purpose (or at least did at one time), and when it comes time to give them up…it’s legitimately hard. It’s not even about the weight; it’s about having something there that’s mine, that I can manipulate and control and focus on when everything else seems super crazy. Or at least feel like I can. Until I can’t actually control it any more…then it’s time for more help. (I believe the phrase that tipped my dietitian into You Might Need Treatment territory was “I’m not driving the car any more”…and then some smart-ass comment about Thelma and Louise because if I don’t maintain a two-to-one ratio of sincere transparency and deflecting jokes at all times, I will implode or something. I’m working on that.)

Which brings me to the subject of bravery. Through this entire process (getting help, slipping, relapsing, getting help again, and now getting a [*sigh*] Higher Level of Care), I’ve heard the word brave applied to my actions. I don’t consider myself particularly brave in light of all of this; I just know things can’t keep going the way they’re going and I only have two choices; one of those involves me being a terrible role model for my friends’ babies, abusing my body horribly, and…I don’t know, having a heart attack or collapsing from electrolyte imbalance or something equally as horrifying and not particularly fun. The other choice involves increasing the intensity of my recovery efforts.

If I were to see someone else struggle through this stuff, live a life truly eaten up (ha) with a debilitating and excruciating disorder, and then choose to get what will no doubt be very difficult help, I’d probably call them brave. They’re repeatedly shoving themselves into uncomfortable and (irrational as it may seem) frightening situations in hope that someday things will be a little better. When you think of someone working every day to fight against actual fear in order to do what’s best…that’s bravery, is it not?

But I don’t feel particularly brave; I just feel as if I’m doing what needs to be done. I’ve found myself thinking about this quote from The Village (which is underrated and you should go watch it immediately) a lot lately:

Ivy Walker: How is it that you are so brave while the rest of us shake in our boots?
Lucius Hunt: I don’t think of what might happen, only what must be done.

I started thinking about this more last night as I have a recovering friend who is considering her own (*siiiiiigh*) Higher Level of Care. She thinks I’m brave; I think she is; we both think pretty poorly of ourselves for “getting to the point of needing this”. And I’m now wondering if anyone ever actually feels brave.

Because, really, what is bravery in the first place? My favorite definition (courtesy of whatever source Google uses) is “ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage”. That doesn’t mean the pain or danger isn’t real or scary, just that brave ones are ready to face it. Bravery involves some sense of fear, some weight, some risk…and in the midst of all of that, it may just be doing what needs to be done despite the hurdles all around. It may not be making a giant show of confidence by breaking the neck of the scary thing and standing on it for all to see. It may just be pushing through and doing what’s uncomfortable and even painful because it’s the right thing to do.

I still don’t know that I’m particularly brave. And I don’t know how much that matters in light of the Lord’s plans. I do know that He’s gifted me with certain attributes and that He’s growing me through all of this. I don’t totally know how everything will turn out. It’s scary and stretching and exhausting…but, I think I know what needs to be done, and I think I’m finally doing that thing…and that’s something.

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Happy Birthday 1989! or how Taylor Swift sort of changed my life in a weird way

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This is the story of how Taylor Swift changed my life, which is a sentence that sounds super dramatic and ridiculous and I am fully aware of that.

So, my friends all know that 1989 was a really important album to me, but I don’t know if I’ve ever explained why. I genuinely have no idea who cares about this, but here we go.

I’ve spent basically my entire life making what should be choices of personal preference based on everything other than personal preference. Yes, yes, even after writing my post railing against judgey music hipsters, I still made choices based on things other than what I actually liked. This controlled every part of my life: instead of basing food choices on what I enjoyed, I chose food based on carb content or “clean”-ness or because eating candy for breakfast has somehow morphed from maybe-not-the-greatest-idea to totally-endearing-and-relatable due to Instagram or whatever; I chose clothing based either on my horrendous body image and need to feel small or on the styles of my friends because I prefer neutrals and neutrals are boring or something (or — as in high school — I chose clothing based on both what would make me feel small and on its Quirkiness Level. I mean…I routinely wore my brother’s camo cargo shorts with a Sesame Street t-shirt. I do not suggest this method of choosing a personal style.); I tried to shift my personality around in order to please friends (who absolutely did not require this of me) and whatever crush I had at the time (who probably thought I was being weird as a result of this) because I am loud and opinionated and decidedly not cute or delicate in the way I wanted to be (there’s a reason Sarah Jaffe’s “Clementine” used to make me cry all the time).

Anyway, I spent a lot of time not enjoying things I actually enjoyed because I needed to put a certain personality that I’d deemed as the Ideal Chelsea out there. Even when I allowed myself to enjoy things that didn’t meet my standards, I did it in secret and rarely admitted to liking certain things to friends (with a sense of shame every single time). This was freaking exhausting because I held myself to impossibly high and incredibly weird standards.

Included in my weird standards was the idea that I couldn’t like Top 40 music because I had to be quirky and unique and exude Natalie Portman’s character from Garden State 24/7. This was a constant, ridiculous mental battle because I legitimately love “Raise Your Glass” by Pink, which basically voids any attempts I may have made to avoid Top 40 music. I also judged other people hardcore if they liked things that were considered popular. In fact, despite the fact that I admitted my love for every Taylor Swift song I’d heard to that point in the 2012 blog post I mentioned above, I continued to both judge Swifties and feel a little ashamed of myself for liking her music.

Looking back I realize that Taylor’s music has seen me through a lot. Not in a she’s-what-gave-me-hope way, but just in a she-gave-me-something-to-smile-about-during-a-rough-patch way. I fell in love with a mash-up of “Love Story” and “Viva la Vida” back during my crazy/detrimental Bible school experience; when I was absolutely miserable in college back in 2011, one of the few things I looked forward to every school day was hearing “Mine” on the radio while I was driving; and, I won’t go into details, but let’s just say that “We Are Never Getting Back Together” and “Trouble” were both released as singles at an extremely convenient time.

Fast forward to fall of 2014. I’d just had just taken a three-month ride on the Eating Disorder Relapse Express and was finally buckling down on eating carbs again. I was super self-conscious because I’d gained weight as a result. I was terrified of liking food lest I would lose control somehow and dedicate my entire life to eating pie. I was borderline suicidal due to a lot of issues, and was depressed to the point of not being excited about anything (one of my favorite ways of describing my state of mind was: “I would react the exact same way emotionally to someone throwing me a surprise party and someone impaling my foot with a nail gun” or something to that effect).

I was still trying to hold myself together by not allowing myself to like things that didn’t fit the personality ideal I’d created for myself, which, once again, is exhausting and has an ROI of negative a million.

I was really active in the eating disorder recovery community on Tumblr at this time and happened to start following a college student named Sarah who’d written a poem that I really like. Sarah also happens to be, in my personal estimation, the World’s Biggest Taylor Swift fan. By following her blog, I was inundated with Taylor gifs and videos and news every single day. I began to see posts about how Taylor treated her fans and about her music and marketing. I was impressed in a way I hadn’t expected to be.

The night before 1989 was released, I heard several of the songs via Sarah’s blog and sort of fell in love, particularly with “Clean”. I knew that I wanted to buy the album, but I felt legitimately conflicted, like I was going to somehow lose some (incredibly silly and judgmental) part of myself by admitting defeat and actually paying for an entire Taylor Swift album.

Despite all of that, the next day (one year ago on this very date) I went to Target on my lunch break (I needed the physical album because I obviously needed the Polaroids duh), feeling incredibly silly, and bought the CD. I put it in my car’s CD player and it didn’t leave its spot there for about three months.

I remember feeling so goofy and — for the first time in a long while — genuinely excited about something. Even though it was something small. Even though I’d broken a thousand of my personal rules (Don’t Like Mainstream Music, Don’t Jump on a Bandwagon Late in the Game, etc.). It felt like this insanely huge victory because I’d made a choice based on what I liked rather than on what that Ideal Chelsea that I carried with me everywhere would like. I actually remember telling my counselor about it because it seemed like such a huge accomplishment at the time.

Anyway, since then, I’ve become an unapologetic fan of Taylor. I saw her perform in Arlington, Texas a few weeks ago and danced and sang and yelled and had a grand ol’ time. I’ve become comfortable with a lot of what I enjoy (in recent months, I’ve come to terms with the facts that I love cream gravy, taking selfies, and running despite previous judgey-judgerson thoughts I’d previously had about those who enjoy such things). I’ve really started to allow myself to enjoy the things I enjoy with no weird, self-imposed shame involved.

I’m not foolish; I know Taylor Swift didn’t solve my problems. I know that a lot of growth has been a result of the Lord placing a good counselor and pastor and great friends in my life who’ve all helped me get through my depression. I know that being on a mood stabilizer has helped me tremendously. But, the way I see it, 1989 was a bit of a turning point for me. I was finally letting myself like things based on my personal preferences rather than rules, and that’s kind of important.

Anyway, that’s my apparently very long story that took an entire lunch break to write.

Happy birthday, 1989! I have so enjoyed your existence for the past year! And I feel incredibly silly writing to an inanimate object but whatever!