Thursday, May 30, 2013

Therapy, Budgetary Failures, and An Old Habit

Last day of freedom before I start work tomorrow! Actually, I'll probably still have quite a bit of freedom, since I think I'm only working about 30 hours a week at the research center. I'm also doing some freelancing on the side for extra cash, but it's not a huge commitment. Anyway, I'm actually excited to start working and have a schedule again. My past several days have been pretty structureless—which was nice in that I had the chance to get settled into my new apartment and take care of random errands and appointments and such.

At therapy yesterday, I filled Dr. P in on everything that has happened since I last saw her—graduation, moving, my trip home, my appointment with Dr. A, and coming back to College City. While our conversation was pretty positive, I think she could tell that I was still grappling with the idea of my health limbo, as well as fighting the urge to hole up alone and let myself become emotionally comatose until this thing ever resolves itself.

Anyway, Dr. P was all about distractions. Find classes, activities, book clubs, movies, get a pool membership, set up weekly dates with friends, whatever to keep myself engaged and have stuff to look forward to. I'm trying so hard, I swear—you should see the stack of books I've read in the last month. Plus, I've made it my unofficial mission to seek out the cheapest furniture in College City. My undergrad class has a Facebook group where people post stuff for sale. Now that leases are ending, everyone is getting desperate to ditch their furniture. So far I've acquired a full-size bed, kitchen table and chairs, coffee table, desk, bookshelf, and lamp for about $200. (Then of course my car started huffing and wheezing and rattling, so I spent about three hours and another $200 on repairs yesterday and my plans for a thrifty budget were shot to hell.) Needless to say, I am excited to start getting a paycheck again.

Something else I need to stay distracted from: the scale. I had pretty much gotten out of the weighing habit (ahem, compulsion) over the past couple months—first only weighing myself every few days, then skipping weeks at a time. But for some reason since being back in College City, I've been back at it with a vengeance. I think it may be because when I weighed myself last week at home, the number was unexpectedly down a couple pounds, despite all the restaurants, parties, desserts, and wine of graduation week. So of course, that tripped some nasty little switch in my brain that was all like, Whoa, I can lose weight without trying? Let's see where this goes! In conclusion, I've weighed myself every morning since.

I suppose the good thing is that despite my renewed weighing obsession, I haven't adjusted my eating at all. My weight is frighteningly stable at the moment—set point, anyone? After years of fluctuating, and several months of climbing with seemingly no end in sight, my weight has settled back almost exactly where it was about six years ago, when I was a happy, healthy seventeen-year-old. God, what I would give to have that back again...I guess getting my weight here was just the first step!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mixed Feelings

So, an update of my appointment with Dr. A as promised: apparently all the drugs (hormones, steroids, benzos) and physical therapy have worked exactly as they were supposed to. The muscle and tissue atrophy is totally healed, my pelvic floor muscles are no longer spasming uncontrollably, and the nerves in my hips and lower back have calmed down. Trigger points that had me jumping off the exam table six months ago are now pain-free. I've been having regular periods since last July, my weight is solid, my body fat percentage is healthy, and my hormone levels are back in the normal ranges. In conclusion: the treatment regimen worked. I'm better.

But. But but but. I'm still in pain. Exponentially less pain than before I first saw Dr. A back in December, but still enough to have a substantial effect on my everyday quality of life. Still enough to make me nervous about living alone, about starting my new job on Friday, and about starting graduate school in the fall.

Dr. A gave me a big long explanation about the nature of pain and why my subjective experience of the condition has not kept pace with the objective physiology. I won't even attempt to rehash it all (Dr. A is a highly intelligent, slightly manic, very fast-talking kind of guy) but the basic gist was that my brain hasn't realized that the underlying causes of the pain are gone. My nerve endings are still freaking out, my muscles still tense up and spasm, my brain keeps firing off pain signals, and the whole gang is still generally pretty skittish and upset.

My brain still thinks my body hurts; as a result, my body hurts.

So...the solution? Wait it out. As far as we can tell, I'm physically about 90% cured, and the pain should lessen with time. Again, he said the one thing I've needed so desperately to hear, and to believe: "You're going to be fine."

I don't know if anyone reading has ever experienced chronic pain, but it's a tricky thing. Whatever the initial physiological cause, the pain can eventually become a disease in and of itself. After a while, it evolves into a persistent, independent, self-perpetuating cycle. I guess the eighteen months since this all started were enough for the pain to become fully entrenched, and my body is still digging itself back out. In other words, as Dr. A put it: "The longer you're in pain, the longer you're in pain."

I left the appointment unsure of how to feel. Relieved, for sure, that my body seems to have bounced back beautifully. I am 22 years old after all; physical resilience should be a given. At the same time, though, I started feeling all the same old negativity: frustration, impatience, despair. I'm tired of hurting. I want it gone. I feel cheated—treatment worked, apparently; Dr. A did his thing, my physical therapist did her thing, and my pharmacist did his thing. The only one who hasn't seen any benefit is me.

But now, surprisingly, I'm okay. I've worked really really hard over the past few days to shape my understanding of Dr. A's prognosis into a positive thing. Yes, I'm still hurting, but things will get better. There's no reason to believe they won't. They've gotten better slooooowly over the past six months, and there's no reason to believe that won't continue. I am doing everything I can to keep myself as healthy as possible—hitting my calorie targets every single day no matter what, limiting exercise, maintaining my weight, having regular periods, taking all my meds and supplements religiously, and getting lots of sleep—and I am more motivated than ever to keep it that way.

The more I write, the more thoughts I'm having about pain, about anorexia, about sickness and health and recovery, about my appointment with Dr. P this morning, etc. etc. etc. but it's getting to be dinner time and my brain is getting fuzzy. Now that my bod is all used to getting food, like, regularly and sufficiently, it does not like being hungry!

Anyone else out there fighting this thing—pain, EDs, depression, whatever—God bless and hang in there. It gets better.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Summer Kick-Off

Getting ready to hop on a plane back to College City! I had five days at home with my mom and dad, and we had a pretty lovely time. Yesterday was my dad's birthday, so we went out for a delicious seafood dinner with my brother, aunt, uncle, and cousin. Then we came back home for cheesecake (which I baked but alas, am still too much of a freak to actually eat...) and presents.

I saw Dr. A on Friday, which was both good and bad. More on this later because I'm too lazy to detail everything right now, but basically things are progressing well although it looks like I'm going to have to hang in there with the pain for another few months. Still, I'm feeling way more optimistic and less depressed all the time. I get frustrated and scared and angry, but I have no intentions of giving up and no doubts that things will get better.

I've started writing in my journal again. As a kid, I kept them religiously, writing pages and pages every day, and then I got out of the habit for several years. Last spring, I made an effort to start up again and wrote pretty regularly through the fall, and then lapsed again. But I'm getting back on the wagon! Call me old-fashioned, but there's something so satisfying about putting pen to paper.

Books of the week:
Lit by Mary Karr - memoir about alcoholism, motherhood, divorce, academia, etc. (Same author who wrote The Liar's Club, which is probably more well-known.)
Touched with Fire by Kay Redfield Jamison - Technically I haven't read this one yet, but I'll probably start this afternoon on the plane. It's about the connection between bipolar disorder and the "artistic temperament," looking at various artistic geniuses (Lord Byron, Van Gogh, Virginia Woolf) who all suffered from bipolar.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - Not a literary masterpiece, but a fun summer page-turner. The plot twists get a little ridiculous by the end, but it's an easy thriller that definitely kept my attention.

More randomness: I've got a lot of free time coming up, and do not want to get stuck in a cycle of isolating myself, especially when I'm just starting to feel a little more emotionally solid. In the spirit of staying busy (besides all the aforementioned books), I've set up dates with a couple friends this week, along with seeing Dr. P, the dentist, and my mechanic. I know, I know: things are getting crazy up in here. Plus I'm brainstorming craft ideas. Right now I need placemats, coasters, and throw pillows. We'll see if I actually get creative enough to make my own stuff or just end up having a Walmart spree!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Graduation Recap, Moving, and Improving

Okay whew, it feels like I haven't had a chance to sit down and breathe for over a week now. SO much has happened since I gave you guys a real update that I almost don't know where to start. We had Senior Week at school, which included a lot of gallivanting around College City with my friends and reuniting with freshman floor-mates, dressing up, drinking wine, staying up until 5am (I am too old for this shit...) etc. Then my brother and parents came into town last Wednesday for my graduation weekend. The ceremony was incredible. Call me old-fashioned, but I just love the pageantry of it all. Along with all the festivities, we also had to pack up my stuff and move it into my new apartment—which is absolutely gorgeous, if I do say so myself. I've probably said it before, and I'll say it again: moving sucks. Luckily my daddy and big brother were champs and got a double bed strapped to the top of a rental car, carted it over to my new place, carried it up to the third floor, and set it up in my new bedroom. My family left College City on Sunday and I flew home last night. Now I'm staying with my parents for a week before flying back out to College City to start work after Memorial Day. As I said, whew.

I had actually been dreading the whole Senior Week/graduation/moving stuff for a long time. 1) Lots of spontaneity, no schedule, and no alone time. 2) Chronic pain and constant activity do not always mix. 3) I hate being the center of attention. But that all being said, I had a wonderful time and dealt with everything really well. It was so much fun to have my family in town and get to introduce them to my friends and professors and everyone. As for food: yes it was tricky, but I'm in a solid enough place that four days out of my routine doesn't totally derail me anymore. In fact, I think the festivities jolted me out of my post-surgery flirtation with old habits. Hard to restrict when you're eating two meals a day in restaurants with your parents. Also hard to restrict when you spend hours running up and down three flights of stairs, hauling clothes and books and furniture. I took my brother out for tacos, ate tuna fish sandwiches at Panera, picked around some ribs and pasta salad at a family barbecue, and drank a Frappuccino to reward myself for bringing up the last load of stuff into my new place yesterday afternoon. My only guilt came from paying nearly five bucks for it.

So, what now? I'm just hanging out at home, fitting in random appointments like a haircut, eyebrow-wax, and dentist follow-up this week. I am also seeing Dr. A again on Friday. Fingers crossed he has another miracle up his sleeve. My hip pain is much better but not gone, and I really want to kick this thing before the next chapter of my life begins.

YOU GUYS. Do you remember how miserable I was at this time last year? The hip/pelvic pain was totally out of control, the anorexia was totally out of control, and my depression and anxiety were totally out of control. I spent my two weeks of vacation at home crying. This year, I've only been home for about eighteen hours, but I spent yesterday evening hanging out with my mom and goofing off with my dad. I am in love with my new apartment, my new research job, my new graduate program, and my new college degree. My health is improving. For now, life is pretty good. And for the most part, things are getting better every day.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Four Years Later

More updates to come, but for now an announcement: I am officially a college graduate! It's been a crazy week of celebrating, packing, moving, marching around in the cap and gown, taking pictures with my friends, introducing my parents to professors, etc. etc. etc. I'm totally wiped and have one more half-day of moving tomorrow, but then I'll be all settled into my new place and ready to start life as an Alum!


Stay tuned. Topics to appear in future posts: family party in which I am fed pork steaks, pasta salad, and coleslaw (who said I didn't have fear foods anymore?); the near choking death of a furniture delivery man on the front steps of my new apartment; sparring with the contractor who installed my wireless; naming my router and modem in the presence of said contractor; and being told by said contractor: "That's a new one." (What? I like to name stuff.)

Happy Saturday all, take care.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Pre-Graduation Highlights

Having a random, relaxing/stressful, weird time-warp type of weekend. I've been finished with schoolwork for over a week, got my wisdom teeth out six days ago and am pretty much fully recovered, and have three days of Senior Week festivities before my parents and brother get here for graduation.

Some highlights of the past week or so:

— I am the proud new owner of an e-reader. My dad loves gadgets and has been dying to buy me a Kindle for years but I've always resisted, preferring old-fashioned books with real pages and covers and everything—but then the student I tutor went all-out and surprised me on Friday with a Kindle as a thank-you/graduation present, so I am slowly adapting to twenty-first century-style reading. Will keep you posted.


— A couple weeks ago, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't work out two days in a row. It just puts me back into that compulsive mindset of I must work out every day, and more today than yesterday that never ends well. Well, I broke that promise this morning. But hear me out! We've had a rare string of GORGEOUS days here in college city—think 70 degrees, not a cloud in the sky—and I felt compelled by some higher power of nature to get my butt out in the sunshine again even though I'd already gone running yesterday. Plus, running just puts me in such a good mood that I couldn't resist. I tried! Anyway, I guess my body decided to teach me a lesson because I was so tired during my run today that I thought I might pass out, and on top of that I seem to be developing shin splints. Note to self: you deserved that. And I will be sticking to my self-imposed exercise limits from now on. Lesson learned!

— My cousin and I went to see Iron Man 3 the other night. Sheesh, I thought I might go deaf from all the explosions. Shut up, I know I'm eighty years old. RDJr. is pretty cute though.

Iron Man 3

— Today may be the day I bite the bullet and finally start packing up my stuff. I've been so overwhelmed by the process that I keep procrastinating, but it just hit me that I have less than a week until I need to be totally out of here for good. Still deciding whether or not I'm brave enough to venture into my closet...

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Mom Effect

I just had a really good talk with my mom. It amazes me how much closer we've gotten throughout the past couple years, especially after how furious I was with her and my dad when they made me take a medical leave from school my sophomore year. Our relationship really suffered then, and I've always had trouble talking about ED/depression/anxiety/any emotional stuff with her—I just simply couldn't articulate it. But things are a lot better now, and we just spent about an hour talking about how I'm feeling, what steps I need to take to get back on track physically and emotionally, and I hung up feeling much more optimistic and okay than I did when I first answered the phone. Go Mom.

Basically, I'm overwhelmed about all the events happening this week. I feel like there's a ton of pressure to have fun and be festive and, like, live it up pre-graduation. Have fun, dammit! Just be happy! And in some ways, all that pressure is making it harder to actually enjoy myself. It's a fine line between keeping myself busy and engaged and social versus letting myself get totally overwhelmed by the flurry of activity and lack of routine. I'm having a lot of internal conflict about how this should be one of the happiest, most exciting times in my life—about to graduate from college, tons of free time with my friends, my family coming into town to celebrate—but at the same, I'm in a crappy place health-wise and risk letting that overshadow everything else.

Something I just said to my mom: "My life would be pretty perfect if I just weren't in pain." And I really believe that's true. It wouldn't be absolutely perfect, but it'd be pretty close. And it's not fair to myself to let the physical pain outweigh everything else I have going for me.

On the food front: things are going better. I'm upping my calories, which has gotten easier since I'm off the painkillers and actually have an appetite back. I gave myself a stern talking-to the other day about how there's no way in hell I can let myself go backwards, and how all the health issues will only multiply if I head back towards Anorexia-ville.

I should've titled this The Mom Effect and The Blog Effect! Writing always makes me feel better. Thanks for reading, love to you all.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Temptations and Wisdom

Well, I am now wisdom-toothless as of Monday morning! The actual surgery went fine, except that anesthesia tends to mess me up BADLY and I woke up after nineteen minutes with my mouth full of bloody gauze and absolutely zero clue where I was or what was happening. Thankfully that passed, and I spent the next two days sleeping it off/popping Vicodin.

The food issue—eek, I underestimated this and am really really really trying hard to keep myself on track. Both of my bottom teeth were impacted, so my jaw is super sore and I still can't really chew anything, plus the painkillers totally wiped my appetite the past couple days. As a result, eating really sucks and I've been WAY in the red in terms of calories. In the irony of ironies, guess what I—weight-restored and 100% pro-recovery and anti-anorexia—have been subsisting on for the past week? You guessed it: BOOST. I had almost two full cases leftover in my closet from last summer, and it's been the easiest thing to get down when I'm confined to a liquid diet and nauseous from drugs.
Anyway, of course this is setting off all sorts of triggers and alarm bells in my head. I don't know how many times this has to happen for me to realize that a consistent sufficient healthy diet is absolutely positively always necessary. I cannot casually cut calories, I just can't. This happened about a year ago when I got food poisoning and stopped eating for a couple days—accidentally lost a few pounds and never went back. At least not until a couple months later when R started threatening to put me in the hospital.

So I'm not like relapsing or anything, but the drive to restrict has definitely been nagging at me. I feel myself being super careful about what/when I eat or drink. I tell myself that I should go easy on my stomach, that I've been totally sedentary and therefore don't need as many calories, that I weighed too much to begin with and this is the perfect chance to trim down....etc. etc. etc. Same old crap. That being said, there are several important differences between now and last spring that have me in a much better position. First, I have no desire to lose weight and go backwards. At least not in any rational, intellectual sense. It has taken a lot of hard work and tears to get to where I am right now weight- and intake-wise, and having to go through that all again would be horrible. Second, my brain and body are both way healthier than they were last spring, and I realize that jumping back into the eating disorder would be majorly destructive all around. I've hit rock-bottom over the last year, and I fully blame the anorexia. I just can't go through it again.

And third, I'm proud of myself for having gotten to this weight and maintained it for a few months, even though my body image sucks and I feel yucky about it most of the time. But I'm taking concrete steps to get myself healthy, and I really do think my body is starting to heal.

I've been re-reading this post to keep myself motivated and on track, but the desire to "accidentally" restrict and lose weight is still really powerful. I promised you guys I was done with this stuff, and I swear I am....but this struggle is definitely keeping me humble.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Counting My Blessings

Because my mind is starting to go down those dark pathways again, I really need to do this right now:

— I teach ESL to an adorable Chinese engineering student. When I told him that I'd be getting my wisdom teeth out, he said "Oh that's okay! You will still be very wise!" Then this afternoon he texted offering to drive me to the hospital and stay with me during the surgery. My goodness, there are wonderful people in the world.

— Last summer, I got a card from the city library, which is actually closer to my apartment than the school library. Since finishing my finals last Thursday, I've read four books and have another stack waiting.

— Dr. P gave me a book called Just Fine about invisible chronic pain, and has been doing some of her own research to help me cope. I'm really lucky to have her—to know that there's a safe, supportive space for me one hour every week. I always leave her office feeling better.

— At the departmental awards ceremony last week, my advisor told me he was giving me an A+ for my thesis credit hours and recommending me for the highest level of Latin honors. YEAH I'M BRAGGING, SUE ME.

I know that depression is an illness, and that it's not entirely within my abilities to control how I feel, but  it feels like I might be sitting at a crossroads—pull myself out of this new, emerging dark space, or let myself be sucked in. My mind has a tendency to let the bad totally overwhelm the good, and I am positively determined NOT to let that happen. I am so so so scared of getting caught up in the same cycle as last summer and fall: of feeling sorry for myself, crying constantly, and berating God or the universe or whatever for doling me out such a shitty hand. In most of the meaningful areas of life, I pretty much hit the jackpot—family, friends, school, etc. I gotta let that stuff carry me through until the rest gets better.

EDIT: Almost forgot to add this to my list of blessings, but my eyes!!! They have been essentially pain- and problem-free for almost five months now. Can't even express how much this has improved my daily quality of life. There ARE miracles, just gotta hang in there long enough to find them.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Fighting the System

Feeling a teensy weensy bit depressed. I'm not sure what set me off, but it's mostly about health stuff. Trying to remember that it won't be like this forever. Sorry to be vague, but even on a pseudonymous blog something creeps me out about sharing all of my bodily woes on the Internet. Basically I don't feel well, stuff keeps going wrong, and finding a good doctor is such a fucking nightmare.

Luckily I found a nurse at the campus health center who was willing to go to bat for me this past week. She was on the phone every single day with one of the offices in Big University Teaching Hospital to get my paperwork into the hands of a specialist. But still, the fact of the matter is that she had to call and bug them to get anywhere. I have since been assured that a physician will be "looking over" my records so that I can finally get an appointment set up. But, of course, I have also been assured that it will "take a while" to get an appointment in this particular department, and it could be months before I actually see the doctor.

It just shouldn't be this hard, you know?

I hate making this blog a dumping ground for my whining and wailing, but sometimes it's all I've got. Sorry guys, more soon.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

News Roundup

Last papers of college are DONE. Now I have two weeks to pack up my stuff, get my wisdom teeth pulled, buy furniture, move, and graduate. Whew!

I saw my therapist Dr. P yesterday and talked about some of the frustrations I've been having lately. And gosh darn it, that lady always knows how to make me feel better. Someone remind me again why it took so damn long to find a therapist I actually liked?

More on this later, but we talked a lot about the exercise issue and how running is always always always going to be a trigger for me. Hard to admit sometimes, but I really feel like I need to keep myself honest on this one. No matter how awesome running makes me feel.

It's probably no secret around here that I am an unapologetic news junkie, so some world news to go along with my personal news:

— Anyone else completely baffled by this Boston bombing saga? It seems like every day there's some new headline: "They're foreign radicals!" "They're Americans!" "Big brother brainwashed little brother!" "Little brother was a sweet kid!""But his mom was a nutjob!" "He had an arsenal of weapons!" "Never mind, he was unarmed!" "And he played soccer!" It's really hard to see this kid, who is three years younger than me and has that cute face and puppy dog eyes, as a terrorist. Trust me, I have friends and family in Boston and am absolutely horrified and furious about what he did, but it's still sad. Call me a bleeding heart liberal, if you must, but I feel for everyone in this. What a waste of life.

Something we can all agree on: Chechnya is not the same as the Czech Republic. Good lord.

— This is a totally different kind of starvation than what I usually discuss on here, but a really hard issue and one on which I have very mixed and complicated feelings: force-feeding at Gitmo.

The world is a scary place. Sometimes it's hard to reconcile the seemingly tiny yet somehow all-consuming struggles and anxieties I face in my daily life with all the horrible destructive things happening in the world. If anyone figures out a way to negotiate that divide, holler at me.