SO much shit has happened in the past two months. If you are willing to read, then I am equally willing to share.
Firstly, I very nearly relapsed into bipolar mania. With the unregulated stimulants, “forgetting” my medications (not taking them because it didn’t feel “right”), not eating, not sleeping properly…These all spell a recipe for disaster – bipolar edition.
I have stopped self harming. That resolution was one that wasn’t actually too hard to stick to, for some odd reason. I think this is because I had only been using this as a coping mechanism on an occasional basis – only when things were REAL shit.
My drinking has been a little harder; sporadic and decreased at best. I HAVE drunk since the implementation of my resolution to stop, but I see those as minor setbacks. No getting smashed, no drunkeness, just simply a drink. In my world, there is no such thing as “a drink”, but lately I haven’t been exposing myself to drinking, haven’t had alcohol at my disposal either. I haven’t allowed myself the access to it.
Eating wise? That is a whole other can of beans right there for you. I have been eating in a very unhealthy and random-ass way. However, upon further analysis, I find patterns and various triggers. Over the past two months, 17 pounds have been lost, some regained, some not. I’ve been holding a stable weight, no thanks to the endless binges that creep at night, when the sun goes down. I starve completely during the lighted hours. Absolutely zero calories consumed, making me not hungry, but victim to intense, overwhelming, dissociated cravings. It turns dark all of a sudden and I? I turn dark to reflect the night. My spirit fades, I depress. I feel so awful that I resort to one of my last existing, maladaptive coping methods: my eating disorder. Bingeing and sometimes purging will ensue, without fail, every night. That is, besides last night. Besides the night before too.
I have been very proactive in my eating disorder recovery. Recently my motivations have increased in magnitude, and I have responded vigorously and thoroughly with my own, personalized and made-up treatments.
Firstly, I brainstormed a spiderweb chart, identifying my biggest challenges. Then, by applying some serious critical thinking, analogies (I LIVE for analogies, no joke) as well as some new medication changes, I really considered the theory and hidden meanings behind my coping mechanisms.
Firstly, the analogy. Imagine a house. I live in this house. This house is totally a mess: falling apart. Windows breaking for no apparent reason, pictures falling off the walls, oven malfunctioning, floors breaking. I am desperately trying to clean up after these messes and salvage my house. What I am not realizing however, is the root of these problems: the foundation of the house.
This house is an analogy for my life. My life is full of falling apart debris. I am scrambling to catch all the things falling on my head from the sky, trying not to get hit by lightning during a storm that was created just for me. My life is so crazy. BUT — I just have a crappy foundation of my life. My eating disorder therapist says: a foundation is composed of three pillars – nutrition, sleep and exercise. In my case? Every. single. goddamn. pillar. is. absolute. crap.
I have forgotten how to exercise without triggering my eating disorder. I have lost the art of getting a regular, normal nights sleep. And I definitely have not had adequate nutrition in over a year. My pillars are unimaginably flawed.
So, how to fix these?
I am taking a new mindset with my mental illnesses. I am realizing that to fix the symptoms, the foundations must be solid. A house cannot stand for long while sinking into the mud.
But how do I find the time to fix the foundation when I am always trying to keep up with the symptoms, with the broken glass up in my house? Apply the principles of Eisenhower’s logic based quadrant of urgent and important tasks in a life.
According to this quadrant, Eisenhower theorizes that a task is a combination of two things: urgent and important. Each possibility (urgent and important, urgent and not important, not urgent but important, neither urgent nor important) is designated a quarter of the quadrant. Thus arises a natural ordering of tasks. Tasks that are urgent and important must be dealt with first. Then the important and urgent tasks, followed lastly by neither important or urgent tasks.
To deal with my house difficulties I am following this pattern. I must deal with the urgent and important things foremost. This represents the serious symptoms – the broken windows and the glass littering the ground. I cannot even walk throughout my house without hurting myself on the broken glass. Sweeping this up is the first step.
What about the foundations, you ask? They are also important. But aha, where falls the urgency? This second factor dictates the order of treatments.
The important and urgent symptoms are:
- dissociation, triggering the need for the implementation of my maladaptive coping mechanisms (self harm, drinking, restricting of food or bingeing) as well as serious symptoms of concentration, distractibility and impulsivity.
- My last maladaptive coping mechanism: my eating disorder. This plays into the foundations of my house, but more concretely it is a symptom of my current state of bodily nutrition. Eating disorder behaviors result in a mixed up nutrition, which means bingeing leads to purging – both lead to restriction, but restriction leads to bingeing. An obviously vicious cycle is in play. Breaking this circle is a task which I classify as important and urgent.
These two symptoms are my important and urgent tasks and issues. To be dealt with the utmost urgency, these are my first priority.
To do so, I have logic-ed my way into a solution. Beginning with dissociation, I consider the opposite of dissociation: grounding. By brainstorming a huge list of ADAPTIVE, useful and grounding coping mechanisms, I create a system consisting of randomly choosing these grounding techniques to practice daily. By keeping this habit of daily grounding at strategic times (both during dissociation crises, and during times of stability, which allows for practice and the honing of my skills of grounding), I continue to progress to a more grounded state, and limiting my dissociation abilities. Some examples of my grounding techniques are:
- legitimately sitting on the ground
- getting fresh air and walking around
- self soothe kit usage, to get in touch with my senses
- calming music
- drinking tea
By randomly selecting a few daily grounding strategies, I practice the act and mindset of grounding. This in turn strengthens the brain synapses, the wiring of my brain, to turn away from the maladaptive to the adaptive. I literally change my brain by changing my behaviours.
In regards to my eating disorder, I have devised a graduated plan.
Remember when you were a kid, and you didn’t see any point in brushing your teeth when you were simply going to eat breakfast and dirty your teeth once again? Your parent or guardian maybe created a challenge, a game. Each act of teeth brushing equals a sticker. Once a certain threshold of stickers is reached over the period of a week, a prize is awarded.
This is the basis of my diet. I am treating my underdeveloped brain in the way that I should; as if a five year old girl, I follow the carrot towards healthy eating. The way it works is this:
Week one is a challenge to eat one healthy meal a day. Simple, right? At the end of the week, on Saturday, if I reach my goal of meals (represented and monitored by assigning a sticker to each meal successfully eaten), I get a prize, small and inexpensive, but also something that I enjoy and would be motivated to treat myself with. As the weeks progress, the number of stickers to equal a prize increases. Two meals, followed by a week of three meals a day, followed by more implementations of healthy eating habits – until the ideal, healthy, eating skills are developed.
This week, week one, was a 7 sticker goal by the end of Saturday. I made this goal by eating two meals a day for three consecutive days, followed by a day of THREE honest to goodness meals in the span of 24 hours. So, prize already earned, and with a couple of days left, I had a couple of options. I could either use the rest of the week to starve and try and (futilely) counteract my prior caloric consumption. After all, my eating disordered thoughts and feelings still continue to drive my brain.
Or? I could fight. I decided on this option. I created a bonus prize. Something that I really wanted. My motivation high, I challenged myself to an evening free of bingeing. I had to have, by the end of the week, an entire 24 hours sans la binge.
A seemingly simple challenge, I struggled for two nights trying, and failing, to complete this challenge. Each morning after my binges, I would wake up feeling like utter shit. Guilt, shame, unworthiness. I would force feed myself breakfast, small and low-calorie, and then not eat again until my next nightly binge. But this in itself? A victory, and a huge one at that. Eating regularly keeps my blood sugar levels steady throughout the day. Everyone tells me that regular eating throughout the day, keeping a level blood sugar all day, will directly result in a decrease of my insane cravings that pop up at night. I, of course, have always denied this. I was simply adding fuel to the fire of my eating disorder, so obviously I wouldn’t want to actually try to get better…But things have changed now, and I NEED to get better. For Eric, for the sake of my job, education, future, financial stability? I must improve my eating disorder.
So I decided to try this “eating” thing. I ate breakfast. I ate lunch. I ate dinner, pointedly, before the sun started to set. Then, I waited. The cravings came, but with less intensity than which they regularly haunt me with. I eat, snack really, on popcorn – which I eat a single kernel at a time, and thoroughly tasting every bite. It was a mindful type of eating.
With this, I earn my bonus prize. So all within one week, I’ve eaten ten meals. I’ve not binged for a whole 24 hours. I’ve gotten two prizes (a “spa” night, with face masks; and five plants for my deck).
This whole recovery thing is actually going somewhere now. My motivation: Eric/relationship, job, school, future; all have magnified. I have reasons for recovery, and it is not simply a vague idea anymore. My progress has been immense over the last couple of weeks, and I am constantly improving each and every day.
Wish me luck