Thursday, May 15, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Julie

Goodbyes are really hard for me--always have been. I remember leaving to go home from visiting family and being absolutely miserable because I wasn't going to see them for another few months. Every summer, saying goodbye to my campers and staff was always the hardest part; I missed them almost immediately. And when I graduated high school, I said goodbye to many close friends who I loved dearly and we all went our separate ways. Some of these people I rarely talk to anymore. 

The past few months have been a time of farewells for me. In September, I said goodbye to my PopPop when he lost his battle with cancer. In November, I said goodbye to Gettysburg to come home and get treatment for my eating disorder and depression. In January, I said goodbye to day treatment and IOP as I transitioned to outpatient programing, leaving behind wonderful staff and supportive friends. In February, I officially said goodbye to Katie, the nurse practitioner who had worked with my ED doctor; she was my salvation in high school as I fought against Maudsley therapy and she saved my life in the most literal way. And today, I had to say goodbye to Julie, my dietitian, who is one of the most wonderful women I have ever met. I didn't know she was leaving until today. 

I originally met her in day treatment. She would fill in for Christina on the days Christina wasn't available to check meals. I loved her for how laid back she was about everything. She was really responsive when I told her that standing behind me made me nervous, and when I hadn't seen her in a while, she gave me a hug on a day that I really needed it. When I asked Julie if she would see me for outpatient, she was so excited to work with me, which made all the difference to me. In her nutrition sessions, I learned so much about why dieting is bad, why all foods are good foods, and what normalized eating looks like. 

Working with her in outpatient, I learned so much about how to take care of myself and I was always supported by her in everything. In one of our first couple of sessions, she told me that she thought that my brain had caught up with its health, but that I just hadn't decided to be kind to myself yet. She took the time to explain what that meant--being kind to myself meant being my own friend. How if I was talking to a friend, I would tell her not to use diet pills because they don't work, only give false hope, and are bad for her heart. If I was talking to a friend, I would tell her she needed to eat because food keeps her alive and functioning. And Julie told me that I would tell a friend all of her good qualities and say she was beautiful inside and out and she should accept herself the way she is because she can't change who she is. She can't change the body she was given. And in that conversation, I could tell how much Julie meant all of those things for me and how much she wanted me to believe them. 

"I came to love her the way you love someone who saves you from drowning."

It was always so easy to talk to Julie, even when things were hard. She let me talk about my body image issues, which are really hard for me to even talk about with anyone. And she was really comforting in those moments. She reminded me that I am stuck with the body I have--my shape, my height, my hair color, my skin complexion, etc, and that I might as well accept it and love it because its not going to change. She reminded me that I was more comfortable in my ED body than my weight restored body because I was comparing myself to a 12-year-old's body. She encouraged me to start loving my body now becase it is going to keep changing as I get older. And she was always really honest about her own body image struggles, and Julie always stressed how important self-care is in helping her on those days. 

But there were also times in outpatient when I was really angry with her, like in February when she told me that I basically needed to get my shit together or she was going to not see me until I was more willing. I was so angry with her about that. She told me that she can only do so much for me and at some point, I have to make the choice to listen. Julie also said that she gets offended when she spends time working with clients and they don't listen to what she's saying. I was really upset about this because I felt like she was just giving up on me, even though she told me that she cares about me, worries about me and wanted to keep working with me. She could be really harsh when I needed it to get back on track... Like the week that she threatened to send me back to day treatment for two weeks. 

As harsh as she was when I was struggling (and when I really needed a kick in the butt to get me back on track), Julie was incredibly encouraging and gave lots of praise when I was doing well. It always made me uncomfortable when she told me I was "rocking it" or some other compliment because I never really felt it, but I have no doubt that she believed it with all her heart. Today, after she gave me one last hug, she told me that she had complete faith in my ability to recover and stay healthy. She told me that she believed I could do anything that I put my mind to and that I was going to do great in college. Julie told me that she does not doubt my ability to succeed in anything. 

I don't know how to say goodbye to someone who has challenged me and changed my life forever. I don't know how to express my gratitude for everything that she has done for me or how to tell her how much I'll miss eating snacks with her or looking at pictures of her kids. 

I have no idea how to say goodbye to this woman who has helped to save me from myself.

Goodbyes are hard. I wish this one didn't have to happen, but I know it was inevitable. In a few short months, I'll be saying more goodbyes to people who saved my life and have changed me for good, and I'm not sure how I'll manage it.

How do you say goodbye to someone who you basically owe your life to, knowing that you'll probably never see them again because that's just how these things are? How do you let go? How do you find closure when the relationship ends? And how do you be okay when someone who saved your life is suddenly gone? 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Sunday Sermons: "Life After 'Welp'"

I am the worst at posting these on Sundays, but I will get to it one of these days. My notes from May 11th will be up soon!

**Note: I did not write the sermon. Pastor Jeff spent time on it, so please don't plagiarize and steal the sermon from my notes.


"Life After 'Welp'"
May 4, 2014
Grace UCC, Pastor Jeff Nelson

Acts 2: 14a, 36-41
Luke 24: 13-35

  • The expression 'welp' is used to show fatalism, acceptance, resignation
    • Usually about something beyond one's control
    • One usually would have rather it happened otherwise; not an ideal situation, painful
    • Trying to move on
    • For example, 
      • A ball is fumbled on an important play--'Welp'
      • Someone hits a home run off the best pitcher--'Welp'
    • Apply this same spirit to more serious matters--natural disasters, loss, end of relationships, etc. 
    • Similar to saying 'What are you gonna do?' 'That could have gone better,' etc
    • Gives a collective voice to resignation, pain, and the struggle forward
  • In Luke, the disciples walking are in their collective 'welpness' because of Jesus' death
    • There were two certainties in that time: 
      • Death
      • What Rome wanted to happen would happen (ie. Jesus' death)
    • The disciples were resigned and in 'welp'
    • Stranger comes along, who is actually Jesus, but the disciples cannot see him
      • Asks what the disciples are talking about
      • The disciples tell the story of Jesus and of how the women went to the tomb and found that he was raised
      • They are trying to understand
    • The stranger (Jesus) talks of a different suffering Messiah
    • They get to where they are going and Jesus walks on, but the disciples invite him to stay
    • All of them sit down to share a meal
      • Jesus breaks bread and the disciples see him as Jesus
      • The disciples realize that Jesus has been with them the entire time in their 'welp'
    • The disciples go back and tell the story
      • "It is true!" 
      • Jesus was with us the entire time
  • Ignatius of Loyola wrote a meditation on how God is present in all things
    • Not just the good, the easy, the feel good, but the things that upset us, that hurt, the things that make us cry out, the 'welp'
    • God is actively loving, creating, sustaining, etc in all things
  • When we celebrate the sacraments, we remember that God is with us in all things, even though we can't see him walking with us
    • It happens in moments when people come together and this is how our 'welp' becomes 'It is true.'

My thoughts: 
The other day on Facebook, I posted an image that now seems more relevant than ever. It is reminiscent of the poem "Footprints in the Sand" and relates very well to this sermon. 

I have a hard time believing that God is with me even in my state of 'welp.' I struggle to see how God is actively loving, creating, and sustaining me in times of pain and hardship, in times of struggles and relapse. In those times, I just feel like I am being dragged along by someone who wants me to suffer, instead of carried. And there's moments when I get a glimpse and am able to say 'It is true!' that God is with me always--an evening spent in conversation with a friend, the smile and laughter of a child, words of encouragement from a mentor, and so on. But for the most part, I don't see it. I'm in my state of 'welp' right now, not in the part after it. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Set Point Theory

Two days ago, I sat in my doctor's office waiting to see her for the first time in a month. I'd had my weight and vitals checked two weeks prior, of course, but never actually got to see my doctor. Finally, I heard the faint knock on the door which signaled her entrance into the exam room and saw her all-too-familiar smile as she opened the door. Before I could forget, I handed her paperwork and asked if she could fill it out so I could return to college in the fall. 

"Sure... As long as you get back into your weight range." 
"I'm not in my range?" 
"Nope. You're out just by a little bit... X pounds."
"I don't know. You tell me!" 

Inside I was pissed (and I still am)--how the hell am I out of my weight range? I've been following my meal plan for the most part... I don't understand. Followed immediately by the frustrations of doing everything 'right' and how I'm supposed to, yet still being 'wrong.'

Then there was the conversation with my doctor about what my dietitian said last week: 
I don't care what your weight is as long as you are following your meal plan.

My dietitian's rationale was that if I am eating and exercising appropriately, my weight is going to fall where it is supposed to be because there exists a weight my body naturally wants to be. My doctor's reasoning, on the other hand, has to do with my not having been in recovery long enough for my brain to be able to regulate things like my natural weight; she says it can sometimes take over a year for your brain to get back to normal once your body has been restored to an effective weight, which is why it is important to stay in a certain weight range. Going outside of one's range may make one more vulnerable to relapse. For example, when I returned to school this past fall, I was slightly under my weight range and I slipped and then relapsed--HARD. She said she wants me to have a bit of a buffer so if I start to struggle again, I won't fall as hard. 

My doctor and my nutritionist at first glance, appear to have conflicting professional opinions, which is why I did some of my own research when I went home. My research found that both my dietitian and my doctor are speaking to the same concept--this thing called 'set point.' 

Carrie Arnold defines set point weight as "the weight range (usually around 5 to 10 pounds) your body will maintain comfortably without any external input from you--that is, without calorie counting, food restricting, excessive exercise, or purging."

Mirror Mirror, an organization dedicated to educating about eating disorders, has a very good article on set point theory, which you can read in full here. I just want to hit some of what I found relevant--

"Everyone has a set point and just like you have no control over how tall you will be, or what color your eyes and hair will be, you also have no control over what your set point will be. Your body is biologically and genetically determined to weigh within a certain weight range. Set points vary for each individual person. That is why it’s not a good idea to go by the weight charts that you see in medical books or hanging in your doctor’s office."
Read: Weight is biologically and genetically determined; you can't change it. Also, BMI charts are crap.
    "When you go below your body’s natural set point, your metabolism will react and start to slow down to try and conserve energy. Your body will start to sense it’s in a state of semi-starvation and will try to use the few calories it receives more effectively. You may start to sleep more, your body temperature will drop, which is why you hear so many anorexics complaining of being so cold, and after too much weight loss many women experience the loss of their menstrual cycle. Basically their reproductive system shuts down because their bodies probably could not handle a pregnancy. Many people that are dieting also experience uncontrollable urges to binge. That is because your body is telling you that it needs more food than you are providing it to function properly.
    "Just as your metabolism will slow down when you go under your body’s set point, it will also increase if you go above it. The body will try to fight against the weight gain by increasing the metabolism and raising the body’s temperature to try and burn off the unwanted calories."
    Read: Your metabolism will adjust accordingly to keep your body as close to your set point weight as possible. 
    "If you have been dieting for years, it can take up to a year of normal eating for your body’s metabolism to function properly and return you to the weight range that is healthy for you."
    Read: It takes time for your body to figure out it will be regularly getting appropriate amounts of nutrition, so your metabolism will not start functioning properly as soon as your start eating. It takes time to adjust--sometimes up to a year!
    I guess what I took out of all of this is the idea that my body has already genetically and biologically determined what the most effective weight is for me. There is nothing I can do to change my weight. And while what Julie said is true--as long as I am following my meal plan and getting adequate nutrition and exercise, my weight will take care of itself--however, I am in recovery from an eating disorder. In layman's terms, my brain and body are confused and unstable so even missing a single snack or getting in a 20 minute walk can cause my fragile metabolism to shift. Therefore, I need to trust my doctor and stay in my weight range until I am more stable, and then my body will be able to take care of itself. 

    (But really, someone remind me of this tomorrow. And today. And every other day. Because although writing about it helps me understand it, the writing doesn't make me believe it any more than I did before.)


    To read more about set point theory, check out these articles: 
    "Set Point Theory" by the Centre for Clinical Interventions
    "A Hunger Artist" by Emily Troscianko, published on Psychology Today
    "A Thigh of Relief" by Jenni Schaefer

    Thursday, May 1, 2014

    Sunday Sermons: "See for Yourself"

    I've decided I'm going to start a new weekly series exploring my faith on my recovery journey called "Sunday Sermons." (Yes, I know it's not Sunday, but eventually I will actually get it posted on Sundays!) Basically, I'm going to include my sermon notes and then some of my thoughts on what I got out of the sermon. 

    **Note: I did not write the sermons. The person who did spent a lot of time on it, so please don't steal the sermons from my notes. 


    "See for Yourself"
    April 27, 2014
    Grace UCC, Pastor Jeff Nelson

    John 20: 19-31
    1 Peter 1:3-9
    • ​Think about an embarrassing moment and/or a moment when you've been the only one to give voice to a different perspective 
      • ​Sometimes others have defined you by this moment
      • This isn't fair
    • Doubting Thomas is how we know him
      • The name is because on the evening of the empty tomb, Christ appears to the disciples and they rejoice, but Thomas wasn't there. When the disciples tell Thomas what they saw, he is skeptical​.
      • Christ reappears to them all a week later and Thomas believes because he's seen with his own eyes
      • Jesus says "Blessed are those who have not seen and believe"
        • ​This is read as a scolding
        • ​However, other disciples probably would have reacted the same way
    • How would we have reacted if we were told this had happened? 
      • As people, we tend to want to experience things for ourselves
    • There is a temptation​
      ​ to see confirmation as the end of everything, as if there's nothing left to know or explore
      • ​This is false. 
      • We need to explore, learn, and ask questions so that new things can emerge
      • We need to claim the promises and beliefs for ourselves
    • ​Bottom line: Our faith is never finished--there are always new things, so we need to seek our own experience, not just take the word of others. 

    ​My thoughts: 

    This really hit home for me as I've been struggling in my faith lately. I know the Bible and I know Christianity and what I'm supposed to believe and say and do and all of that, but I really need to claim the promises for myself. I need to claim the beliefs for myself and figure out how they fit in my life. I need to be more like Thomas and ask the questions that ​
    ​aren't yet fully formed in my mind so that I can grow in my faith and really develop a personal relationship with God. 

    The last bit I totally related to recovery. I have a hard time believing in true freedom and true recovery because I haven't experienced it for myself or even watched someone recover (although I've met people post-recovery). And that's okay. I need to question, doubt, explore, and learn so that I can figure out exactly what recovery is for me, because it's not the same for everyone. Also, just like faith, recovery is never finished. There's always something new to experience, so instead of taking the word of others about what recovery should or should not feel like, we need to seek it for ourselves. 

    It's kind of cool (and extremely frustrating) how recovery and faith can go so hand-in-hand. This message really challenged me to re-explore what both of these things are for me, personally, instead of just relying on the word of those around me as to what I should believe, think, do, feel, etc. 

    I guess it's time to start/continue figuring out what faith and recovery REALLY mean for myself!