Monday, June 9, 2014

What if I Fail?

Today I am going back to school by beginning summer classes at a local college. It's been over six months since I've been taking classes, so this day is provoking a lot of anxiety in me because it's been so long. The questions are dancing around my head like crazy this morning. What if I've forgotten how to study? What if my brain can't handle learning new things just yet? What if I relapse into more intense depression or ED behaviors? 

What if I fail? 

I have a huge fear of failure. Failure, to me, means that I am not good enough, not worthy, not smart enough, not talented enough--not enough. I define my success in the academic world by how high my GPA is and how many As I get, but even that does not quell my anxieties. My high standards continually get in the way. School fuels my perfectionism, and my perfectionism fuels my eating disorder. 

And then there's the question of how I am I going to manage being in school again? I can't resort to the habits I picked up the year and a half I spent at Gettysburg because those obviously got me nowhere. How do I manage the stress? What if it gets too overwhelming? What if I'm not smart enough? 

What if I fail?

Ultimately, it all comes back to that one question. This time, it seems there is so much more put onto my successful completion of my summer courses because they are my test of whether I truly am ready to return to my education full-time come fall. If I fail at this, then I fail to be a student, fail to be who I truly am, and it seems, fail at life. 

My identity has always been so wrapped up in my education that when I left school for treatment, I had a hard time separating who I am from my life as a student. Now that I am returning to the academic world, my identity is once again starting to become my test scores, my grades, my success in the classroom. If I fail, who then would I be? 

The other thing causing me great anxiety is stepping into a room full of unknown people. The questions will be racing through my mind. What do they think of me? Am I okay? Do I fit in here? Do they like me? Will I make friends? Will I say something stupid in front of them? Are they judging me? These are the same insecurities I have always felt on the first day of every school year. 

My summer classes are going to test my abilities to really control my perfectionism and my eating disorder. I need to remember that failing is okay, that not having all the answers correct is okay. I need to remember that I am not my education, my GPA, or how many answers I get correct. I need to remember that this is about learning and progress and not about perfection. I need to remember that what other people think of me is none of my business. I need to remember to stop asking "What if I fail?" and to ask a different question.

What if I fail?  
What if I succeed? 

Happy First Day of Summer Classes! 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Truth About My Body

A couple days ago, I posted this picture and the following message on my Facebook page: 

"For the first summer in years, I am at a healthy weight and today, I was able to feel confident and attractive in a bathing suit for the first time in years, which is huge. I am not fully comfortable with posting this photo for my friends to see, but tonight I am saying "Screw you!" to my eating disorder and all the lies that tell me I am not attractive or good enough. This is me (and my favorite, most supportive brother) and this is my body. My body is perfect and beautiful and awesome because it is healthy and it keeps me alive. 
Sarah: 1
Eating disorder: 0"

My anxiety was crazy high when I posted this because, well, I am not happy with how my body looks. It would be a lie to say that my body image has miraculously switched from feeling like shit about how I look to loving every inch of my skin. I do not. 

Earlier that day, I had felt attractive and even sexy in my bathing suit. I felt so good about myself. And then I saw this picture and began to critique every flaw I saw. I took a picture from almost five years ago and sat for hours comparing my eating disordered body to this photo, almost crying because the difference is so unreal to me. But I took a chance and posted it to Facebook... 

The support I received was unbelievable. 

"You go, girl! You are gorgeous, inside and out, and a true inspiration!" 

"I am crying reading this Sarah- I had such a horrible body image day and your beautiful words have really touched me! I am am SO SO SO proud of you!!" 

"You are an inspiration to everyone including myself who struggles with image. I love you, my pretty friend!"

"You are a doll, Sarah. And you do look beautiful. Really proud of you to step out, for we all need to think more like you do. Hugs."

"So very proud of you missy!! You ARE beautiful in every single way! You are on the right path. Xoxo"

"I loved reading this post Sarah! It's a great picture! THANK YOU for posting it! I'm sure that posting this will help you and it will help others struggling with the same issue. You are a Beautiful, Brave, AND Intelligent woman."

"Confidence = beauty! You are both! Stay strong Sarah, you are amazing!"

"You are such an inspiration in so many levels! Proud of you for coming this far, and knowing you will go further! you look wonderful!"

"Your message is beautiful. You are beautiful. And most importantly, you're confident! Love everything about you, my dear! You inspire me every day." 

"Hell yeah! You are beautiful, Sarah. The voice of that eating disorder is a lie. It does not exist. You are Sarah and you are a soldier. Very inspiring!"

These are just a few of the comments I received from friends and family. No matter how many times I read it, I still can't believe it. I have amazing and supportive friends and family, who bless me every day with their love for me and encourage me on my journey. I still am completely blown away by this. 

But I wasn't feeling better... Until one comment hit a nerve. 

"You deserve all of this and all of the confidence and positivity you are receiving. I love you girl."

In my mind, I don't deserve any of this love and support because I am not enough for it. I am not deserving of it. I disappoint people, I screw things up daily, I don't perform as well as I should. I'm finding it really is true that "We accept the love we think we deserve." I struggle to accept it because I am not yet sure I deserve it. 

This is okay. I am allowed to struggle with this. 

I read in a book once that "The truth doesn't have to be known, or believed, to be true," and that line has stuck with me because of the inherent rightness that exists in it. I don't have to believe I deserve any of this love, positivity, and confidence for it to be true that I do deserve it. I don't have to believe the words of my friends and family for them to be true. 

But I know the truth. 

The truth is that my body is healthy. 
The truth is that my family and friends are proud of me. 
The truth is that they think I am beautiful and an inspiration. 
The truth is that my weight and shape in no way affect whether I am beautiful or not. 
The truth is that my weight and shape in no way determine who I am as a person. 
The truth is that I have worked hard to get myself back to a healthy weight. 
The truth is that I deserve all of the love and encouragement and positivity given to me by my loved ones. 
The truth is that I deserve to be confident about my body because it is freaking beautiful how it is now--healthy. 

Maybe one day I will believe all of this as truth. But for now, I am glad I have supportive and loving family and friends to speak truth into my life. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Sometimes I forget I have depression...

Sometimes I forget I have depression.

Not because I've suddenly recovered from it or it's miraculously gone away, but because most of the time, I am so focused on the fact that I have and eating disorder and I need to recover from my eating disorder. I never really, truly think about recovering from my depression. 

When I think about recovery, I always think about it in terms of eating disorder recovery. I guess that's because it's so easily tangible, whereas depression recovery is not. With eating disorder recovery, I can see the recovery by seeing records of my following my meal plan, by being told by my doctor that I am in my weight range, by no longer being orthostatic or bradycardic. But with depression recovery, it seems like the only thing defining recovery is the ambiguous 'feeing better.' 

I guess depression recovery can be measured by how much more I am leaving my house, how much less I am isolating, how many times I reach out to friends, but none of that seems to signify recovery to me. My depression is this all-consuming feeling of drowning, of being suffocated in this endless pool of hopelessness and pain. It is like being in a cave full of only darkness, where there are absolutely no exits anywhere. It's continual grieving for something that you never knew existed. 

Depression is not so much behavioral as an eating disorder--more mental and emotional, but it is so much more complicated than that. All that depression is becomes so mangled and tangled up inside of my head and interwoven into my life that operationally defining it is not something I can do. I know people have done it--professionals--but defining and explaining it for me, as someone who experiences its intricacies and quirks day in and day out, nothing seems adequate. 

It wasn't until recently I actually noticed I've been completely forgetting about my depression. I obviously know it exists... It crosses my mind every night when I take my antidepressants that, "Hey, Sarah, you have depression and if you stop taking these drugs, you'll soon feel like shit." But other than that, it's hardly ever a thought. 

A little over a week ago, I spent my part of my night/early morning in the emergency room because for the first time in months, I had selfharmed and I was worried I may have gone a little too far. A friend decided I needed to go to the hospital, whether I wanted to or not--I was definitely on the side of not, and so we went. I spent that early morning and the days following trying to figure out exactly what had happened, what had triggered me to do what I did that night. And no matter how much I thought about it, I was not able to quite discern what happened (usually it is fairly simple to see a causal relationship with my behaviors). 

It's slowly come to me that I used selfharm as a way to cope with the overwhemingness of the depression that I was feeling inside of myself that night. Nothing happened to trigger it, just like nothing ever happens to trigger it. It just is, sudden and suffocating. 

I guess lately that I've just been tuning out my depression, focusing on the tangible aspects of my eating disorder recovery, seeing everything I was feeling as an effect of no longer using eating disorder behaviors, and ignoring the fact I have a dual diagnosis of an eating disorder AND depression. 

I've realized I can't treat one and just ignore the other. Recovery does not happen on it's own, and although eating disorders and depression can share similar symptomology, they are not the same illness. I have to work on recovering from both. So now it's time to focus on both maintaining the progress I've made in my ED recovery and learning how to manage and live with my depression. 

Because even though I sometimes forget about it, I do have depression and it does highly impact the qualitiy of my life.