The other morning after weighing my head was so loud I didn’t want to eat breakfast. My mind was telling me all sorts of things like I don’t deserve food, I am unworthy of food, I’m too lazy and fat for food, etc. I just wanted the voices to stop. I drew out what the scale was telling me, with myself in the corner with my hands over my ears trying not to listen. The brown background signifies the overall mental confusion in my head that morning.
Several weeks back, in art therapy, I drew my eating disorder. It had a butterfly coming off the front, hanging down in front of my face, that signified all the beautiful lies my eating disorder tells me. Last week in art therapy, I made this big butterfly out of clay (about a foot across) and last night I painted it. I used some of my favorite colors, blue and pink and pearl. I painted it gold so it would be flashy and pretty. I wanted it to look like something I would want. I wanted it to truly represent the desires that I have to reach out for that butterfly. To embrace it. To look only at what my eating disorder claims it can offer me.
This morning, I took it outside and I smashed it. I actually used that knife sharpener that’s in the picture because I wanted to stab it, but not with something sharp like a knife. That seemed dangerous. So I stabbed it repeatedly with the knife sharpener. I found it strangely satisfying to watch the pieces of the wings crumble and break apart. It felt somehow freeing. Like, “No, I’m not going to listen to your lies anymore! I’m going to live according to my values, and my values don’t align with the lies you were feeding me.” I feel like if I can stop looking at the butterfly, I can see the eating disorder for the hideous monster that it really is. Goodbye, butterfly.
In experiential group last night, we made collages of what our lives look like just surviving and what they look like thriving. The left half is surviving and the right is thriving. I put a woman punching a punching bag because living with my eating disorder feels like I’m always in a fight for survival. I put “Keep calm OR carry on” because I feel like I can do one or the other, but not both at the same time. I put “To the brink” because I feel like I’m always at the brink when I’m in survival mode. I put “everything easier” (it originally said “everything Easter” but I altered it) because my eating disorder promises it’ll make everything easier. I put “the master” because my eating disorder is literally my master when I’m in that surviving mode. It says “wake me when it’s over” because I just don’t deal with anything, I let my eating disorder deal with it for me. It says “comfort first” because living in survival mode means taking the comfortable route instead of the brave route or the right route. I put “look good” and “you can lose weight while enjoying this” because those are both lies my eating disorder tells me. I put “frizzled” and “whipped” because that’s how I feel all the time in survival mode. It says “Now what?!?” because the rules are ALWAYS changing with an eating disorder. I put And for our next trick” because the eating disorder is always trying to trick me. And finally, there is a woman standing on a scaled with the words “what’s your number?” because the mood for that day, the rules for that day, are always set by what the number says on the scale that morning.
On the thriving side, it says “do more than one thing and do them well” because I want to be able to do more than maintain my eating disorder, and I want to have the focus, health, and cognitive skills to do them well. It says “fear of nothing” because I want to get to a state where I’m not living in fear of food, calories, not exercising, the rules in my head, the judgments of others, etc. It says “the best stories” because I feel like only after I’m thriving can I start to accumulate my life’s best stories. I put “Burn bright. Burn true.” because I want to radiate who I truly am as a person, and be genuine and authentic, not isolate, not lie, not hide. I put “love” because it’s my most import value and I want it to be my guiding passion. I put “no regrets” because I’m tired of living in constant regret. It says “feel good” because I want to feel good about myself, I want to feel good physically, and I want to feel good about who I am as a person. It says “a great finish” because regardless of how I started out life or how I’ve spent the last 31 years, I can have a great finish. I put “experience more” because once I am thriving I can truly experience life, not just get through it. I put “stronger” because I am getting stronger every day and want to continue to do so every day after. I put a picture of a lady with two small children because I want to start a family. I put a picture of someone celebrating their birthday with cake and friends because I want to be able to do that. I put “start every day full of life” because I think it’s a great motto to have. And finally, I put a woman doing a handstand because she looked carefree and I want to be carefree.
My psychiatrist wants me to start keeping an art journal of my eating disorder behavior urges. Today I’ve been wanting to restrict, so I tried to put it into a picture. On the left side is a body surrounded by spiky red and black lines. The red line is a deep self-hatred for my body that entirely encompasses me. The black like is the oppressive feeling the self-hatred gives me. The black arrows signify how the lines feel like they’re closing in on me. The dotted arrow shows that these feelings lead me to the thought of restriction and that I shouldn’t eat. I want my body to go away and the only way I know to make that happen is to stop eating.
A few weeks back in art therapy, I drew my eating disorder. One main feature of my eating disorder was the butterfly it dangles in front of my face, which represents the beautiful lies my eating disorder tells me. The promises it makes me. The things that make me want to keep my eating disorder around. Today, my head was LOUD with those lies. I couldn’t get past them and ate only an apple for breakfast and carrots for lunch.
Tonight, at treatment, I struggled through dinner, but I was able to finish. However, after, my therapist could tell I was really having a hard time so she pulled me into her office to talk for a few minutes before art therapy. She reminded me of the reasons I had given her that I wanted to recover and some other things and it really helped me to refocus.
When I got to art therapy, I decided I was tired of the beautiful lies my eating disorder tells. I’m sick of getting caught up in them. I hate how easily I get pulled into their web of deceit. So, in response, I made a large clay butterfly. When it dries, I want to paint it so it looks pretty, to represent how alluring the lies are. Then, I want to take it outside and smash it with a hammer!!
A large part of me still wants to not eat, to not follow my meal plan, but I’m going to try tomorrow to follow it. I went grocery shopping on the way home from treatment because I didn’t have what I needed in order to follow my meal plan, so to set myself up for my success, I went grocery shopping and filled in the blanks of my pantry. I may hate fighting this on so many levels, but I’m going to beat this. I may be emotionally and mentally exhausted, but I’m going to keep trudging.
Last night in art therapy, I was inspired by my letters to and from my inner child and wanted to give myself a kick-ass surfboard to ride my emotions on. I made the wave to represent different emotions (the legend is on the left). I put the most uncomfortable emotions closest to me in the wave to symbolize embracing them instead of stuffing or ignoring them.
I’m not skillful yet in surfing my emotions. Right now, I’m just hanging onto the surfboard for dear life. Soon, I hope to be able to sit on the surf board. Then paddle. Then stand. Eventually, I hope to be able to surf my emotions like a pro.
Tonight’s dinner was hard and I only ate about half and had to boost. I felt like a failure. I just finished my 6th week of treatment and felt like I should be able to finish all my meals by now. The dinner was a salad with chickpeas, soy chicken, and bread. The salad was so huge that it felt overwhelming and I couldn’t get past it. I’m also still struggling with thinking that “starches=bad”.
My therapist reassured me that since I boosted, it still counts as completing, and that I need to just take recovery as it comes and not try to compare it to anyone else’s journey. She does want me to set up an appointment with the nutritionist, however.
Last night I had a very hard time with dinner and I couldn’t finish and had to boost. When the staff member was talking to me about it afterward, she asked me what kind of thoughts were going through my head during dinner. They were standard Kyle-lies, things like “I don’t deserve to eat” and “I’m too fat for food.” She told me to give her counter thoughts to the thoughts I was having like we had practiced before. I couldn’t. I could not say the counter thoughts out loud. I couldn’t get them to come out.
This, after a bit, made me really angry. It made me remember the wheel of abuse we discussed in group and how my eating disorder felt, in that moment, truly oppressive. Something about that made me really angry. And I don’t get angry.
After dinner, we had art therapy. The art therapist asked me what I felt I needed to work on and I scared her by telling her I wanted to kill something. I worked with paint, which normally scares me because I have no experience with paint and I don’t like to get messy. I painted the above 3 panels.
I painted the middle panel first. That is the death scene. There’s an explosion of blood. That panel, while simple, was intense to paint. In that scene, I killed my eating disorder. I murdered Kyle. But that son of a bitch had it coming.
The first panel represents my eating disorder. It’s dark and oppressive with words that represent my eating disorder.
The last panel is my life after the death of Kyle. It’s bright and hopeful and, yes, there’s a residual effect of his role in my life, but most of my life is filled with what I want to fill it with.
I got my art from the art therapy group from the intensive outpatient program I did. I wanted to share it with you.
I made a sarcophagus with thick walls. It is what binds me, what holds me together. It’s a stoic outer shell, a wall of protection. Inside is chaos and confusions. The black circle with the tendrils is my eating disorder. It is a dark, heavy tar that pollutes my heart and controls my thoughts and actions, thus the tendrils extending up into my brain and body.
This is me. This is an image I get in my head a lot. It’s basically what I want to do to myself much of the time.
Week 1 & 4
The first week, I made the heart and a cover for the heart with a lock on it. The heart is sort of bowl shaped and it has a tear inside because it’s a container for my tears, for all the pain and hurt. The over with the lock was to symbolize how I try so hard to lock my heart away, and with it the pain.
On Week four, I decided I wanted to paint them. I had put the cover over an upside down container to help it dry in the right shape. However, when I went to take it off, it broke into several pieces.
At first, I was upset about this. After thinking about it for a couple minutes, I realized how symbolic it was. Through the course of the IOP, I had grown a lot and opened up significantly. I had made myself vulnerable, and shared my heart, and much of my pain, with my fellow patients.
So, I grabbed some foam board for a base and glued the pieces to it, then painted it.
I was having a really hard time in general, self-harming daily and feeling suicidal. My counselor had given me a smooth…something (I’m not sure what it was, exactly) and rubbing it helped me to self-sooth and stay grounded. Unfortunately, it fell out of my pocket and broke. It was very sharp and I accidentally cut myself on it when I picked it up, so I gave it back to my counselor so it wouldn’t be a temptation for me.
The next day, I decided to make stones to have the same purpose and effect. I made mostly smooth ones, but a couple of textured ones. The bottom of each stone has a word like “calm” and “believe”.
I want to paint them.
Remember how I thought I was going to enjoy Wednesday nights because we get to do art therapy?
Tonight was…not good.
I manged to finish my whole dinner. This left me feeling this horrible, confusing mixture of pride and GIANT, excessive guilt. Also disgust. And naturally, I spent the next few hours incredibly nauseous.
After dinner, we had art therapy. Great, right!?
I have no idea why, but I started crying about 10 minutes in for no apparent reason. Then, at the end, I got to talk about why I was crying.
I had a really hard time the rest of the night. I sat in the back of the room during the second group and basically just cried softly to myself the whole time.
I didn’t eat snack.
You’re supposed to boost if you don’t have snack, but I kind of snuck out while the staff was busy. I’m sure I’ll hear about it tomorrow.
On the way home I got really carsick. Like, ridiculously carsick. I almost threw up on the way home. I took some nausea meds but I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to keep them down long enough for it to work. Luckily, I was able to and I’m starting to feel a lot better.
In other news, I went to the doctor this morning, got blood work and an x-ray. I got hardly any sleep last night and I had a terrible headache that turned into a migraine, so it’s been a long day. Between the doctor and treatment, I went to the laundromat to wash clothes, so this is really the first time I’ve had to just relax today.
I had a staff member tell me today that I need to eat before I come in tomorrow. I explained that I’m having a really hard time doing that because I know that I’m going to have to eat dinner and a snack and not purge either of them. She suggested trying to eat something, anything.
I said I would try to eat a hard boiled egg. I was half-lying. I don’t know yet whether I will actually try.
A couple of bright notes, now!
Tomorrow, my sister is coming into town so I get to see her and my baby niece and nephew!
Also tomorrow is the last day of treatment for this week! I cannot wait for a break! I’m am exhausted. This has been such a long week.
Tonight was so much better than last night.
I finished most of my dinner, about 95%. So that’s now 2 meals and 2 snacks I have kept down.
I didn’t eat before treatment yesterday or today, but I couldn’t eat knowing that I had to go and eat dinner and snack and not purge.
I took the bus(es) to treatment this afternoon and had to walk about a mile to the bus stop. That’s not really very far at all, but having not eaten today, or yesterday except less than half of my dinner and some goldfish, I found I just didn’t have the energy for it, and my asthma began acting up about halfway through the walk. Silly me, I forgot to take my inhaler. I had to stop and sit for a moment.
However, I did make it to my bus stop and caught the bus.
I was extremely nervous the whole time I was journeying to the center. I don’t mind riding the bus if I’m familiar with the route or the area, but I wasn’t familiar with either. I experienced some anxiety along the route, but I managed to make both of my buses and arrive on time. So yay for that!
I have no idea what dinner was. I tried asking what was in it, but got very vague answers. I know it had broccoli, which is great as I adore broccoli.
We were required to eat cream puffs with dinner. I couldn’t, and neither could 2 other patients. I felt less bad not being the only one who couldn’t finish the meal.
Our first group was surprise art. We each had a large piece of paper and we had to draw something that represented our eating disorder. Then, we passed our picture to the person on our right and they had to add something to the picture. We kept passing them until everyone had added to everyone else’s picture.
Above is a photo I took of my picture. Mine started with the person (minus the tears and boots) with the green thing on her back and the butterfly connected to the green thing.
The green thing is the eating disorder. It has tentacles going into her brain, arms, and body. It represents how my eating disorder takes control of my mind and how I often feel like its puppet. The person is kneeling because I feel like it has pushed me down, has power and authority over me, and how I feel powerless to stand up against it or fight back. The butterfly connected to it represents the distraction, the allure of the eating disorder. Like the eating disorder is saying, “look here! Look at how pretty I am and how much I help you and don’t think about what I’m actually doing to you!”
I think that allure of the ideal in my head of how my eating disorder can “help” me and the comfort I find in it sometimes makes it hard for me to see the realities of it, what it’s doing to me, my life, my mind, my body, etc.
I like the things that everyone else added, but it’s way too late (and this is way too long) to get into all of that in this post.
Our second group was a processing group, which I had no idea what that meant. Basically, you just have to process, talk through, something that’s happened in the last couple days, then receive feedback and support.
Tonight, we worked on a craft during process group, which makes processing a lot easier.
Luckily, we didn’t get any homework tonight.
So tonight was still hard, but it was a lot less hard then yesterday. I’m hoping tomorrow will be even better. And hopefully I can finish dinner tomorrow!