I’ve been a slacker on the blog this past month and some. Tis’ true.
I’d love to make 100 different excuses as to why (and will totally take this as an opp to shamelessly plug the fact that my partner and I are engaged as of a week ago!) but the truth is I have really just allowed myself to overextend commitments.
Whether it’s recovery meet n’ greet coffees or planning recovery speeches or my 9-5 job or traveling for my 9-5 (and recently for a recovery speech) I am at the point where I can no longer give a present (and meaningful) amount of time to any one email, Instagram direct message, or phone call.
Someone told me once that I needed to create boundaries in my advocacy work or I would get burned out and be of no help to anyone, least of all myself. I ignored this for another two years.
Of course I can, I told myself. I cherish ALL conversations and emails. (I do.)
But, it’s dawned on me since that that person had a point.
While I cherish all connection, I also cherish the privilege to show up and genuinely give my invested time, energy and presence.
I simply cannot do that in unstructured ways.
Over the last year, I have received daily emails that range in various needs: from assistance in finding local resources to treat eating disorders, to starting a personal recovery blog, to general recovery coaching, to parents asking about how to talk to their children.
This morning, a lil mini-documentary about my eating disorder, and recovery aired on Barcroft TV, and what a unique moment in life.
There’s always something to note (like LOLZ on all the “looking into the distance” shots or HEY check out some of the laughable YouTube comments), but I’ll keep it simple.
A reminder today that:
Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. My story is common because I am a white, small, cisgender female who grew up engulfed by “diet and beauty” culture, and the insecurity and expectation that it breeds. That is not to be ignored, but there are millions out there who do not have the same background. Men, women, ethnicities, nationalities, class. I am not the sole representation of what an eating disorder looks like, and will never pretend that I could be or am.
You will never be “sick enough.” You deserve help, no matter your circumstances, religion, shame, or weight.
I had a strong support system when I went to treatment. Most don’t (or they do) and it still means that sometimes they go back to rehab a few times before they get their shit straight. I am still working on what that means in my own life.
Recovery is ever-changing, ever-evolving. That’s why it’s flexible.
It is okay to live with an eating disorder. Recovery is accepting its presence in your life, not ignoring it as “fixed.”
Thank you to my best friend Kim Dyer for being in this, and Kristina Doelling for watching it from her apt in Brooklyn. Thank you to my parents Joanna Byers Hall for putting themselves out there, and being vulnerable to millions as parents of someone with an eating disorder. Thank you to The Renfrew Center for inclusion in the documentary, and taking time out of their lives to participate. Thank you to the camera crew and the producer for not making this salacious. Thank you Bradley’s parents for raising a beautiful child. His life has been the inspiration for so much of my recovery. Shout out to my partner for helping me get through that day, and waking up at 6am.
I am feeling many things, as one does when they see their sniffling face on film. Mostly, I am grateful for the life I have led – in all its ups and downs and side doors and mirrors.
Truth is, this headline is declarative. I have no idea why you relapse.
As I sit here in a coffee shop – mulling through this post – I got a call from a close friend.
“Have you talked to X lately?”
“No… He dropped off a couple months ago and stopped answering me, so I assume he’s relapsed.”
“Linds, it’s bad. Just feel you should know before you hear from anyone else. His liver and kidneys are failing. Was in ICU for 13 days. Respiratory failure. Got out and got back on the painkillers. Sister found him slumped over a coffee table. He’s going to die if he doesn’t get help… and I don’t know if you want to reach back out – but we’re trying anything.”
I stared at my phone.
Stomach sinks. Not because it’s unexpected – but because it’s so expected and yet, no matter how much you can prepare for anything – you never know when the day will just come.
My ex might very likely die, which is two of my exes that I am waiting for that call.
I received it once already – when my best friend fell out of a tree.
And I know it’s only a matter of time these days, before I get it again.
Being a messy person creates a messy life. And I have always held a love for messy people.
(What’s new? Generally speaking, everything I write takes me till the next half moon … but I think I like starting posts off by saying something declarative to build anticipation … probably some public relations gimmick. I’m a fraud.)
ANYWAY, this post is hard because I don’t have a solution.
Usually, if I’m going to blabber on about a topic, I like to have an end in sight – but this one is different because I’m not an intuitive eating coach.
I’m just a girl with an eating disorder that feels confused by ‘intuitive eating’ methods – vs reality.
It’s not that intuitive eating shouldn’t be an end goal, it should. In my humble opinion, we all deserve to chow down on Pecan Pie at 4pm on Thanksgiving and move on with our lives.
But, I still feel like 4 years into recovery – and I’m often asking myself “what the hell is intuitive eating?”
Here’s the truth about eating disorders: we are often uneducated as to their risks.
Sure, we “know” they are detrimental, but when I struggled for 8 years I had no real awareness as to what type of bodily harm I inflected on my organs.
I noticed the physical effects: thinning hair, sallow eyes, and stress fractures from running. I observed the light-headedness and fainting spells, but I never took time to explore what that meant internally, especially for my heart.
Now in recovery from my eating disorder, I spent time speaking with cardiologists and medical professionals around the country to learn more about the harmful effects that eating disorders can have on your organs – specifically, your heart.
The last night I ever saw my best friend alive-it was 9pm at a fraternity party at The University of Arkansas, and I was standing there in the front yard backing away from him because I needed to finish a run.
18-years old- my first week of college- he was visiting with his parents on his way to University of Mississippi.
Linds, he pleaded, reaching out for my shoulder. Just stay. Christ, you don’t need to run so much.
I’ll be back, I’d laughed – windshorts hitting my leg. I’ll run home and change and I’ll come back.
But it’s my only night here, he sputtered– yelling down the hill with a red solo cup in his hand– his shorts hanging at the knee. Promise you’ll come back?
Maybe, I’d waved, smiling. I’ll call Riley.
But I was gone before he answered–running. Running because I’d eaten 3 bowls of Special K Fruit N’ Yogurt. Running because I was scared and the ED voice was screeching– And in the end, I didn’t go back.
Scared of calories, scared of loss of control, scared of losing my underweight frame- I texted him.
Goodnight, I wrote, Have fun with Riley–
I met him in the morning– a letter in hand. I love you, I whispered, pulling him close.
Love you too, he mumbled– Because he didn’t know how to be mad.
Don’t be upset, I grinned. I wrote you a letter, didn’t I?
He took it from my hand. I wish you had come back, he said, before turning to get into his parents car.
See you later- drive safe, I waved as he and his parents pulled out of the parking lot– my best friend in the middle seat– his backpack with my letter.
I’ll see him soon–I thought- I’ll make it up later.
And then you– my best friend– who carried me to bed when I fell asleep on the couch.
One month later– you pretty little boy– You fell from a tree, and you died.
8 years later I will always regret not spending that night with you.
Happy 27th Birthday Bradley Jameson- You are so loved and missed! Made that video above 6 years ago, and the only thing I’d change is some of my weak grammar. Love to you, your fam, and our friends that made this video (and the hours of film I still have somewhere in my parents house) possible.
Eating disorders kill, it’s true; but they kill your memories before they ever kill you.
This is the girl your counselors warn you about; the one who has been there for so long that she has her own room.
This is the patient who wears the same outfit for 3 days in a row, and when sitting on the couch, puts her head in your lap as you run your fingers through her mated hair.
This is the patient whose clothes are streaked with paint because when she’s healthy- she’s a brilliant artist- and she often spends her free time in the art room when she can convince a counselor to accompany her.
This patient is the type to give herself a tattoo from a safety pin and ink while you’re at snack one day.
Is that the word DIRT, you say- eyeballs bugging out of your head- when she shows you her fingers. Dirt, you say again- running your hand over each of them. You’ve got to be kidding.
It’s a song, she says- her hair hanging in pieces near her face. It’s a good song.
You hold back when you see that she’s serious.
This is the girl who is delicately beautiful- you find yourself eerily drawn to- but know to remain cognizant and weary of her mood when she’s near.
You will spend hours with on her good days only to forget that she’ll turn the next and set fire to her bedsheets.
Did you take your meds, the nurses will ask her every morning.
Sure did, she’ll say- smiling at you as she drops the pills in the secret pocket of her skirt.
Take it, you hiss at her.
They’re trying to change me, she’ll say- on the days where everything is a conspiracy.
This is the patient who greets her parents with a “Fuck You” as they walk in for visiting hours- but minutes later is on the ground sobbing as she holds her mother’s skirt in the fists of her hands.
She is completely predictable in her unpredictability and often you wonder if it’s on purpose.
She is dangerous, uneasy, and charming.
There will always be one of these- though you’ll lose track of her the moment she’s gone.
2.) The Debbie + Penelope
Okay, so I combined them… but who doesn’t love a good SNL reference?
This type of patient is your Debbie Downer; the one who has no intention of getting better. Who sits in the corner with her hood over her head and when called upon to talk- gives the finger.
This is your patient who talks in group and everyone sighs because they know it’s about to be a rambling vile of negativity.
This patient makes it known when they don’t receive mail, consistently reminds everyone that she’s been in rehab more times than she can count, says ”shit” when asked how her day is going- and often chooses to sit alone in the community room.
This person is exhausting. Tiring to the point that you start to keep a daily tally of the negativity for no other reason than to drive yourself mad.
This is the person that all new patients make their mission to “fix” while you watch- smirking- from the other side of the room.
Sure, go ahead- you think- you were once innocent to Debbie’s ways too, but eventually you lost hope.
Sulky betch, you think when she slinks by in the hallway.
But then one-upper Penelope rounds the corner and you are suddenly stuck – frozen in place- deciding which is worse.
You see, rehab is a club all in its own. A sorority hierarchy of sorts where one is- at times- competing with another.
One-upper Penelope is just shit at playing into the blanketed social subtlety.
This is the girl who lets you know that her anorexia is more severe than yours. Her physical health in worse repair, and her bulimia more efficient.
This is the patient that walks down the hall while you’re waiting- wrapped in your medical gown- for your 6am morning vitals. Shivering in the hallway as the dew rests on the grass- you’re rubbing crusty sleep out of your eye as she tells you animatedly- borderline excitedly- that her heart rate is worse today than yesterday.
This is the girl you nod at and say ”oh shit” when she tells you- but are secretly signaling to your friend across from you to add this to the list of annoying crap this girl has said.
This is the girl you grow weary of quickly, but then feel bad later because you realize that eating disorders, in fact, make you bat shit cray.
This is the girl who revels in being sick, and in the end, you feel sorry for her.
Since it’s the beginning of NEDA’s 2015 National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (2-22 – 2-28), I wanted to jump on the bandwagon and provide some stats that I’ve received via my work with Project Heal.
Often, I feel as though people still don’t know where to place eating disorders on the spectrum of mental health issues- so I think it’s beneficial to take it back to the facts on occasion and put the disease in perspective.
Take a look:
– 10 Million: The number of men struggling with an eating disorder
–30,000 (!): The average cost per month for eating disorder treatment
-81: The percentage of 10-year olds who are afraid of being fat
-30: The percentage of 18-24 year olds who cut food calories to replace with alcohol (Drunkorexia)
-10: The percentage of of women and men who actually ever receive treatment for eating disorders*
-1: Eating Disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder.
50% of women in America use unhealthy weight control mechanisms such as fasting, skipping meals, and purging.
Think about it. Think about the people in your life.
Treatment was a blessing, but there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the women I shared those hospital gowns with– and how many of them could not afford to stay longer because their insurance crapped out and they simply didn’t have that kind of money.
The insurance system for eating disorder coverage is bullshit. Google “eating disorder treatment costs” and you’ll find a slew of negative articles about the “loopholes” of the mental health coverage in this country.
I watched countless times as women packed their bags sobbing in the hallway of our facility.
I do NOT forget those tears.
They were deemed “healthy” by an insurance system of people who had NEVER seen- never spoken- never given a second glance- but merely ”stats”- and turned back out to keep fighting a battle they weren’t equipped to win. This, in turn, perpetuates a system of relapse. It perpetuates a whopping 85% chance of relapse for eating disorder patients.