It has been almost a year since I last wrote a post, a blog, a song, a poem... anything. Writing has always been therapeutic for me, and yet I have avoided it at all costs this past year.
This past year has pushed me, broken me, built me up, and tore me down; I learned more about myself and became an adult quicker than I ever imagined I would. A timeline is nearly impossible to understand, even for myself, but I hope by writing this it helps someone else in the process.
In June, Zach and I moved our lives from our cozy college town, Columbia, Missouri, to a Kansas City
suburb after graduation. We began our lives as adults, renting an apartment, buying new vehicles, and beginning full-time careers. This was an exhilarating experience, happening so quickly - and with it came worsened anxiety. By October, my body was suffering more so than I would ever had expected. I couldn't understand why every part of me was deteriorating: my mind, my body, and my soul.
I began searching for answers and realized it wasn't that hard, my mental illnesses had taken over. The list of these disorders include: generalized anxiety disorder, major chronic depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and most importantly what I learned this year were, binge eating disorder and night eating syndrome.
With this realization I began searching for treatment options, and luckily I found somewhere that treatment was possible. But, the reality of my life was also very present in the back of my mind. Many of those close to me, well really everyone close to me, was unaware of my eating disorder and the severity of it's impact on my life. Disordered eating is so hard to identify because society has normalized these behaviors.
It was time for me to tell those closest to me that I was going on Short Term Disability from my job, and entering into a Partial Hospitalization Program at an Eating Disorder Clinic here in Kansas City. Those conversations were especially difficult for me to process. I thrive on being in charge and comfortable in situations - and at this point in my life, I was out of control and very uncomfortable with myself and my life. I celebrated Thanksgiving with my family here in Kansas City, and then entered treatment that next Tuesday.
I want to start the next part by stating clearly that I by no means want to romanticize eating disorders. Nothing about them is "sexy", "interesting", "cool", or "unique".
The first day of treatment I was a mess. It was so overwhelming to give over all forms of control. Treatment for me included many things such as: no phones, a schedule for all activities, locked bathrooms, weigh ins every day, but mostly it was regimented, controlled days. I met with a psychiatrist, a nurse, a therapist and a dietitian every week. We were with direct care staff at all times, who sat with us during meals and during breaks. Group therapy ranged from art, to dance, to DBT and CBT. We would also process together, where we just spoke about how we were doing. Through these groups I met some of the most stunning, knowledgeable, and inspiring women.
I was in my program from the end of November through the beginning of January. I learned that many of behaviors began long before I seeked treatment. Binge Eating Disorder (B.E.D.) has only recently been added to the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) in May of 2013, so even though I had been experiencing symptoms of B.E.D., diagnosis was nearly impossible. My earliest memory of disordered eating was when I was only 8 years old. This gave me some comfort in knowing the fault did not rest on me.
Among the things I learned, I found out that I use sarcasm, humor and kindness towards others to avoid feeling my own emotions, talking about difficult situations and especially to get through uncomfortable moments in space. Luckily, I found a soul similar to mine in treatment. She was a sarcastic sweetheart who made treatment easier to get through. The women in this treatment facility truly taught me what love and self-improvement looks like.
As much as I loved about treatment, it also caused me to learn an awful lot about my health, and let me tell you, it was severely dreadful. Early on in treatment we learned about my sudden and seriously high blood pressure. This was dangerous and painful in many ways. I was experiencing painful headaches, lightheadedness, exhaustion and chest pains. For a few days my Systolic number was higher than 200, which is considered a Hypertensive Crisis. I was placed on medication and it stabilized. But, this was not my only health concern as my body was adjusting to treatment, in mid-December I began having episodes of memory loss. We couldn't quite figure out what was happening, until an episode occurred during treatment.
Talk about SCARY. It was an absence seizure. My body was unresponsive to all forms of stimulants: temperature, sound, touch... nothing would pull me out of them. My treatment facility was connected to a hospital, so Zach was called and I was rushed down to the Emergency Room. Over the next 24 hours I received multitudes of tests, blood work, scans and experienced two more seizures. We learned that my medications were interacting negatively together and most likely the cause, however there was no way to be positive. I was released and told to avoid driving for two weeks.
My eating disorders are ugly and frustrating... one of them, Night Eating Syndrome, especially so. This disorder for most is described as, "those [who] eat a majority of their food during the evening. They eat little or nothing in the morning, and wake up during the night and typically fill up on high-calorie snacks". But, mine has a twist. Not only do I wake up to eat in the middle of the night, I do so in a blackout state. I am completely unaware of most of my habits unless I find the evidence in the morning. Sometimes, I even drive to the grocery store in these states. Then during the day I suffer from Binge Eating Disorder, which is described as, "is a severe, life-threatening, and treatable eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food (often very quickly and to the point of discomfort); a feeling of a loss of control during the binge; experiencing shame, distress or guilt afterwards; and not regularly using unhealthy compensatory measures (e.g., purging) to counter the binge eating".
My eating disorders consume my life in so many ways, and still do even after treatment. Talking about them helps sometimes, but I also know the stereotypes and stigmas surrounding these disorders make it really difficult to do so. I plan on continuing to speak about my ED, but also my other mental illnesses. Mine are so intertwined, that treating just one has been impossible. My eating disorder is not magically healed from treatment, so much so, that the past few weeks I have been attempting to re-enter a new treatment facility to treat not just my eating disorders, but also my other mental illnesses.
Insurance has been a major pain for my treatment, and often is for most seeking any form of treatment for eating disorders as well as mental illnesses. Even though my outpatient dietitian and therapist recommended that I seek a higher level of care and re-enter a Partial Hospitalization Program for treatment, insurance denied my pre-authorization to enter. After an appeal where medical records were sent in recommending treatment, I was still denied. They told me, "while we aren't saying I shouldn't receive treatment, they wouldn't cover the care". So, for now I am attempting to manage my eating disorders and mental illnesses on my own with my occasional check ins with my outpatient team.
So, while life has been overwhelmingly difficult for the last year, a lot has been going alright. I realized that my heart was being called to ministry. From there I applied to the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary to pursue a Masters of Arts in Mission and Discipleship. I will begin the online distance program in June. But, it doesn't stop there! Zach and I will hopefully be closing on our first home on April 5th and I just was hired for a part time job as a Stylist at a Plus Size Bridal Salon! I continue to search for the positive things in my life despite my medical and mental illnesses.
If you or someone you know is suffering from mental illness, please do not hesitate to reach out to me, or one of the following agencies.
NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association): https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support/contact-helpline
NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness): https://www.nami.org/learn-more/mental-health-conditions
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or 1 (800) 273-8255.
I truly hope this post will open the conversations around mental illness and eating disorders.
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