Friday, 13 March 2009

Let's Do the Time-Warp

"I'll have a double decaf skim grande latte with a splash of caramel syrup, no
whip, shaken not stirred, rebuked, and then served in a stack of three cups, no
cup sleeve, light on vanilla, a dash of nutmeg, sprinkling of cinnamon and then
punch me in the stomach"

No, that wasn't today's order :P

Yesterday was exactly 2 years since I quit my job at Starbucks. How do I remember the exact day? Because it was the same day I started seeing the therapist I grew to rely on over the next few months (and who probably saved my life, on more than a few occasions).

Back track.

New Year's Eve, 2006, I was inpatient in a research hospital in New York. It was not my first inpatient admission, but it was the first time that I sought it out, determined to recover once and for all. I flew from Scotland to what I thought would be a 4-6 week admission at the end of November 2006. Fast forward to March 2007 and I was finally discharged. It was the first time in my adult life that I had reached a healthy weight, the first time I had completed a treatment program voluntarily and the first time I had ever really believed that recovery was a very real possibility.

By the time I was discharged, fully weight-restored, I was working part-time in Starbucks a few afternoons a week, was taking an evening class at NYU and things were nothing short of amazing. I remember one of the first days after I was discharged- I was walking along the street and saw this adorable puppy. Those that know me know that I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, an animal lover (they scare me!). Neither am I one for mushiness and gushing over "cute" stuff. But the sun was shining and the puppy was jumping around, and I remember laughing. Really laughing. And really meaning it.

I had lived in such a state of numbness and malnourishment, that words like "happy" and "relaxed" really had no meaning to them. Until I was healthy. I sure as hell had MAJOR ups and downs at that point. I sunk to points of depression I never thought possible- but I also LAUGHED. I joked around, I joined in conversations, I slept until reasonable hours in the morning. My mind came alive as my body did and it seemed nothing short of a miracle to me that all of a sudden, the world was full of colours I had never seen before.

The world didn't stop turning when I stopped eating- I just hadn't been paying attention.

I commented on another blog yesterday when they mentioned the "freedom" they felt at a healthier point in their recovery and it really resonated with me. I still had hang-ups about food- I distinctly remember day treatment, when one lunchtime my salad was slightly bigger than usual. My "old" reaction would be to panic and pick out some lettuce/tomatoes- but no. I asked for extra salad dressing! I still weighed myself every day, walked a little more than most people would in the same circumstances, was struggling a lot to accept my new healthy body. But it was as if by gaining weight, a weight was lifted off of my shoulders and for the first time that I could remember, I experienced true happiness amongst the lows. Everything was so bright and intense because I wasn't hiding from the world behind my body- I was THERE, taking up the space I deserve, as if to say, "I'm here world- bring it on".

The months that followed were a struggle. I'm not sure at what point things started to unravel. I look back and it's all a bit of a haze. I did have some genuine physical issues going on which led to unintentional weight loss, resulting in the numbness I had craved during some of the dips amidst my happy/free moments. Piece by piece, everything started to fall apart and I really WAS oblivious. I kept brushing things off as "no big deal" because I didn't see the life I had built for myself starting to crumble.

First I cracked a bone in my ankle and had to leave my Starbucks job. Then my class ended (98% on my final exam- woot! A nourished brain = functioning brain, fo shizzle!), then the stomach issue...then before I knew it, I'd lost a pretty significant chunk of weight, was obsessing over the size of apples and people were making noises about inpatient/residential again.

Maybe I've just blocked it out. There is a huge part of me that is SO angry at myself for letting anorexia take hold of me again, for not trying harder/doing things differently. For taking for granted that I was doing better, and forgetting that there was a hell of lot of work to be done to STAY "better. For making the same mistake of going down the 'quick-fix' route when things got hard, instead of using some of the distress tolerance skills I'd been given in treatment.

There is also this incredible sense of guilt. My family in the US had never really gotten involved with my disorder/treatment when I was in the UK. When I came to New York and they SAW me get healthier, SAW the progress and improvements, they pulled out all stops to ensure that a relapse would not happen. A lot of people invested time, energy and money in my recovery and I don't think I will ever forgive myself for "throwing it back in their faces" (it wasn't intentional, but that is how it has been perceived).

This has been one long-ass post after a long-ass day so I'm leaving it there!

But, I need to keep reminding myself of the freedom that came with health, the happiness that accompanied the lows. Coming alive again hurt like hell, but the pain had a flip-side I don't experience now. I don't know if it's worth it- to have the highs but the deepest of lows? Or to stay in this steady "not quite despair but hurting like hell" state I exist in now. But the freedom to laugh and smile and sparkle and shine...that's got to be worth it.

Today's snack- looks like a repeat (pumpkin spice trail mix w/ yogurt), but I added vanilla extract to my plain yoghurt. Wowsers. That WILL be repeated!

Edit: apologies for weird formatting. No end of trouble with blogspot this evening...


Stef said...

It's great to hear more of your story. It's been quite a long haul, huh? I'm really glad that you have enjoyed freedom and happiness so you can focus on that as your reason for recovery even when you're struggling!

PS When I worked at a restaurant and had to barista too I wanted to KILL people who ordered insanely complicated/fussy drinks and then got their panties in a knot if their milk wasn't steamed to EXACTLY 180 degrees. "Princess drinks" lol

Anonymous said...

I am sure you had some terrible customers at Starbucks!

I totally feel like I am living in this "steady" state of despair--where nothing is high, nothing is low, but deep inside I do hurt so much. I feel like I really do lack that "sparkle and shine."

Every recovery has its ups and downs--use the experience in 06 and 07 as an example that you can recover. Sit back and think about how happy and healthy you felt, and at the time, how free you was worth it.

I am sorry about your family's reaction. I have chosen not to involve my parents in my recovery...and they live only about 20 minutes away. I only told my mom that I was finally starting outpatient treatment about 2 months after I started. They have always known about my ED, but we have never talked about it.

I don't know how to get rid of the guilty thoughts, I keep hearing that I shouldn't feel guilty, but I still do.
But hold on tight to the FREE feelings you had at the peak of recovery. They will come back.

kali said...

ellie. doesn't matter whether you relapsed or recovered... all those people in NY SAW YOU SMILE, SAW YOU HAPPY. they have the optimism and that positivity that you need. like you said, it is the place you reached a healthy weight. it makes total sense to want to return there. just make it permanent this time. you know the changes you need to make, you learned from what happened. go babe, run free and do it.
its easy for me to say i know, and i hope msgs like this don't make me unapproachable or appear like i don't get it... just i don't beat around the bush and like you i've been to that critically ill/almost dead point too many times.

fuck babe, you are such a huge character and personality, it infuriates me to to see anorexia supressing and obsessing you. i mean it genuinely makes me MAD!

YOU ARE GONNA BE FINE. YOU ARE GOING TO BE HAPPY AND LAUGH LIKE YOU DID THAT TIME BEFORE IN NY. and hell.. you'll be there in NY when you do it again.

Cacti Don't Cry said...

Two years... goodness you're making me feel old...

Having known the "healthy" you, I have to tell you what I'm sure you know... she is worth resurrecting!!! It definitely isn't an easy process, because if you stop paying attention for a second things start to "unravel" and when you look back you can't figure out how it happened... but you've done it once, you can do it again.

Anonymous said...

I don't really know what to say to help or advise, but I wanted to say reading your post helps people like me who have no understanding of eating disorders, to understand a little more. Thank you for that, I think you're so brave and a wonderful person.

aussirish said...

wow beautiful post hun :) thanks for sharing more of your story!
its really great to hear you talk about freedom and inspiring post!have a great day hun