This Child

Once upon a time there was a small child… a child with wide eyes of innocence and security. A child that could laugh and play. A child that could cry and be comforted. A child that could make silly faces in the mirror and be glad to see silly faces looking back.

One day, this little child was crushed. Maybe it was because this small child was made to feel no good. Told not to cry. Hit with a hand or a stick. Sexually abused. It might have been the parental conflicts and family dysfunction, it might have been dad’s alcoholism or mom’s push of food as comfort, or maybe the death or abandonment of one or both parents. Maybe it was the ridicule by peers or the ingrained phrase “you’d be better only if…” Maybe not all of these things, maybe just one… or maybe something else. Either way this child felt bad.

As this child grew so did the bad feelings. Sometimes it was easy to feel loved with a lot of ice-cream. Sometimes it felt good to let built up anger or sadness go with vomitting. It felt good to binge and then take laxatives as a means of reaffirming the bad feelings, to self-punish. Sometimes the small child felt in control of life restricting food intake or jogging for 3 hours. The only thing this small child knew was that losing weight would make life better, and that concentrating on the food made it forgettable.

The child became overweight, binging to fill the void. “Food is my only friend, it will comfort me.” The child could not seem to get enough, the void was never filled but temporarily. Plus, the excess weight made it easy to keep people away. To steer clear of vulnerability. “Life would be better if I could just lose weight.” Cook books, this diet, that diet, baking. Endless hours in the kitchen preparing food. This child began purging after binges… the tension and self-hate seemed to lift, and the guilt from feeling like a glutton for so many things, for feeling selfish, for making a mistake, would fade. Laxatives and diet pills, dieuretics and fasting. “My life will be good when I lose the weight.” Striving for perfection, this child began to avoid food. No more than ________ calories today… no more than ________ tomorrow. The control was unbelievable! “I’m not feeling well” or “I already ate.” No more silly faces, but a tired and broken body reflecting back in the mirror saying, “just a few more pounds and life will be better.”

Headaches, dizziness, fatigue and joint pain. Isolation and lonliness. Hyperactivity and insomnia. Back and chest pains. Moodiness. Depression on top of depression. Sickness.
”Life will surely get better soon…”
And then…
this overweight, this “normal” weight, this underweight child died.

The doctors said,
    “heart attack,” 
    “kidney failure,”
    “stroke.”
    “We did all we could.”

I cry for this child, in the end feeling alone and like no one cared. Feeling worthless and stupid, and like a burden to those in life. I cry for this wounded child whose life ends at 12, 15, 25, 38, 55, because of Compulsive Overeating, Anorexia or Bulimia. I cry as I read the words, carved into this childs’ headstone, on a small grave now far away:

  • I need more time to find the real me…
  • to fly like the birds… to be set free.
  • Why couldn’t I stop until I had died?
  • It was hate for myself hidden inside.

 

I am this child.

~Lindsay

Education and Awareness

Awareness, education and advocacy have become my passion when it comes to Mental Illness and Eating Disorders. I have so much more information to come, but I wanted to share this story with you. A simple letter I wrote using my voice has the potential to change many lives. Here is my story.

A few weeks ago, I went to my usual weekly therapy appointment, but was unfortunately not feeling well. My vitals were taken, a quick talk with my doctor, and then it was suggested I go to the ER for treatment of dehydration related to my ED. Things were not at all how I expected them to be. A few hours later, this is the email that I sent to my therapist:

 

“Hey… Thanks for your help today. I’ve gotten 2 liters of fluid already. Vitals still wacko and still orthostatic, and while still high, my heart rate is more stable which they like.

We really need more awareness and advocacy for EDs. The first doc I saw was great but at shift change this doc came in and asked me if I was really bulimic since I was overweight and then proceeded to tell me I’m a little old to be “acting like this”. He told me its what spoiled attention seeking teenage girls do….”

 

————————————–

I was going to leave it at that. But my therapist encouraged me to use my voice, to stand up for others and myself. So I contacted the hospital regarding what was said and happened. This was the letter I sent to the hospital:

 

 “Recently, I visited your ER for a severe case of dehydration. I had chest pain and my vitals were unstable and I was taken back immediately. I was treated with great care until the reason for my dehydration became known.  I suffer from mental illness and an eating disorder. Unfortunately, the eating disorder had manifested in such a way that I needed to seek professional help for what could have been life-threatening symptoms.

 The staff continued to treat me, however after the reason for my visit was identified, things were very different. I realized sitting in your ER that night that Mental Illness and Eating Disorder information needs to be brought to the attention of many health professionals, including your ER staff. I realize that the ER is not a “specialized” center for treating such illnesses, however I am a person that deserves just as much respect as any other patient.

I was not given that respect. Unfortunately, one doctor I saw told me that I just needed to “stop it” in regards to the eating disorder. What he failed to understand is that I have been in treatment for 2+ years and it is a mental disorder in which one cannot simply “stop”.  After shift change, I saw a different doctor who belittled the situation and made me feel as if I was wasting his time, also telling me that I was overweight, therefore could not have an eating disorder.  These comments were uninformed as well as extremely ill mannered.

Mental illness kills. Eating disorders kill. They are just as life threatening as the heart attack next door. I would appreciate it greatly if there was some effort put into making sure that all patients are treated with dignity and respect regardless of what brings them in to seeking medical attention.

I am a patient at the (XXXXX) receiving psychiatric treatment as well as seeing a therapist for my journey to wellness from this eating disorder that has nearly taken my life on many occasions.

Should you be interested, (and I hope you will take advantage of this opportunity), my therapist would love the opportunity to do a grand rounds for the hospital to educate on mental illness and eating disorders.

I would prefer at this time that my identity remain anonymous, however, for more information please contact:

…..

(Therapist/ Center Info)

…..

I hope you will take the time to consider informing your staff on these disorders that are indeed life-threatening.

Thank you for your time. “

 

———————————-

My letter worked. The hospital as since contacted my therapist to discuss matters and we are hoping that soon he will be able to speak at the Hospital and educate on Mental Illness and Eating Disorders.

We can NOT afford to be silent. Stand Up. Fight Stigma. Change Lives.

~Lindsay

Who Am I?

I was reflecting back on months of therapy work and one of my previous assignments from my therapist was to answer the question “who am I?”. This was not easy for me. I have always struggled with identifying myself. This was many months ago, but this is what I cam up with:

 

Who am I?

 

My first answer would probably be my name.
But, my name does not describe who I am on the inside.
I could tell you I am a mother, wife, a sister, friend and a daughter.
But those are my relationships.

I could describe myself as an introvert, quiet and very reserved.
But that is my personality.
I am organized and academically smart.
But those are my gifts and abilities.

I am a musician.
But that is my talent.
I could describe my appearance, the fact that I am fat and bulimic.
But that is who I am on the outside.

 

So many times I have believed what others say I am.
If I receive affirmation, then I feel worthwhile.
However, when I receive criticism, then I feel like a failure.
I have chosen to ride the roller coaster of emotions,

Leaving me feeling like nothing more than a burden.
I have tried to work harder to prove that I am worthwhile.
Yet every time I mess up or fail, I am reminded that I will never measure up.

I will never be pretty enough or talented enough.
I will never be skinny enough or do enough good things.
I will never be a good enough wife or mother or daughter.

I am nothing more than a fearful, broken heart hidden behind the mask of a skilled performer.
I am an undeserving, worthless fake who is used and dirty.
I am a liar and a cheater.

 

I am anything anyone wants me to be.
I bend and mould myself into whatever is needed.
If a friend is needed, then I am a friend.
If strength is needed, then I can be strong.
If happiness is needed, I can be the comic relief.
I can be whatever anyone needs me to be.
I am a person who lives to please others and make sure they are happy and taken care of while neglecting my own needs, because I don’t truly know who I am or what I really need.

I am unique and wonderfully made- a child of God.
Or so that’s what I’ve been told.
I am a survivor- for now.
I am in pain.
My mind is haunted with never ending thoughts.

I am not real.
I am “me”.
But “me” is an empty, hollow shell of a person.
I live and breathe; yet I am no one.
I am lonely and I am tired.
I am confused.

That is who I am.

 

This poem seems so dark and so sad. I am happy to say I have stepped out of that place, and into a place that I more free. Thanks to a wonderful therapist to guide me along the way and a family who has been patient and encouraging, I am starting to come out of this place and learn who I really am. It’s a wonderful, freeing and liberating feeling to finally know who I really am.

~Lindsay

You Are Not Alone

A few weeks ago, frustrated and tired, I decided to adjust my own medication. Not a move that I would recommend to anyone. That led to a plummet to rock bottom. All I could think about was how I couldn’t live another day feeling like “this”. Without meds, I can’t function, but with them I feel drugged, foggy and numb. I’ve been on 12 different medications in the past 5 years for depression. Some better than others, but overall, I was honestly just tired of feeling the way I feel. Major Depressive Disorder has taken over my life and it seems no amount of talk therapy or medication is making progress as fast as I would like it to. My impatience and lack of better judgment got in the way and I started messing with my meds myself.

A week and a half ago, I had a total meltdown in my therapist’s office who suggested I needed to come inpatient to readjust my meds and for safety concerns. I left his office with the intention of going home to pack a bag and coming back to the hospital to be admitted. Here I was again. This would be my 6th admission in either a residential treatment facility or inpatient mental-health treatment hospital and I felt only minimally better than I did the day of my first admission 18 months earlier.

So, I called my therapist. Crying about how I couldn’t do this anymore. Crying about how miserable I am and how I feel like I’m getting nowhere. Crying about how my husband was going to be left yet again to pick up my slack (if I was away in the hospital) because I can’t do the things I’m meant to do. I can’t function on a daily basis and get simple tasks done. And then (thank you, wooded on a hilly road) my call dropped. My therapist freaked out and called 911 and within minutes 4 Sheriffs stood on my doorstep.

They found a very upset and tired me. I just wanted to escape, to sleep it all away- a common coping mechanism for me. So I had taken a couple extra Xanax in hopes of just falling asleep.  With this information, they loaded me up and took me to the hospital where I was held for 72 hours on suicide watch.

I didn’t truly want to die. I have a great life and a family I love. I have 2 great kids and a husband whom I adore. I don’t ever want to die, I just want out. I want out of this head that I’m in; the constant anxiety, the ruminating thoughts, the depression and the constant desire to sleep life away. It’s no way to live. I want to wake up happy and enjoying life. I want to be able to love my kids the way they should be loved. I want to be here, in the moment. THIS moment. I want to feel ok. I want to not feel like I’m constantly running from the thoughts in my own mind. I just want to be in this moment, right now, able to see clearly.

So, why am I telling you this? I’ve been home from the hospital a week now. I’m back on a somewhat decent medication regimen. I feel like I can somewhat function again.  I share these things so that people understand, sufferers and non-sufferers alike. So that the people who do suffer know they aren’t alone. I sat with a friend who admitted herself to the hospital for severe depression not long ago and I know that just being there, even in the silence, helped her because she knew that I knew how she felt. She knew that I knew how troubled her heart was. I knew. So I share my story so that you can know too. So that you can know you are not alone.

Is there more to my story? Yes, much. Regardless of how you got here, know that you are not alone; that your depression, anxiety, mental illness of any kind or any other struggle is not something that you must suffer through alone.

Most of society does not understand. This is obvious and apparent in the stack of medical statements, bills and papers from my insurance company saying they don’t cover this or that for my treatment. They don’t view it as a true medical issue needing medical treatment. Some days, I think I would be better off having cancer. At least then they’d cover the medical bills and that would be one less worry I’d have.

Some people try and find solace in their faith and churches. Even the people there won’t always understand. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that if I “just prayed more” that I’d feel better. Mental illness and spirituality are separate things. They do not go hand in hand. That’s like telling a cancer patient to pray harder to get better. Without medical intervention, there’s not a whole lot of hope for survival for either one. Faith just leaves us with a light of hope that at the end, better things will come.

So this is why I share. This is why I write. This is why I’ve spent 2+ years writing a book that will hopefully be ready soon- just so that people like me, and like some of my friends, will know that they are not alone; that someone DOES understand. Unless you’ve been through the pits of depression or other mental illness, you don’t know what it’s like. But I do. And I know plenty of others who do. They may not be as bold as to stand up and say something about it, but I will. Because, I’m tired of being made to feel like I’m “crazy” or there’s something “wrong” with me. I’m no different than the kidney patient at the other end of the hospital hall. I’m sick too. It’s valid. It’s real. And I know I am not alone.

~Lindsay

Setbacks in Recovery: Stay Strong

Setbacks in recovery are bound to happen. I’ve yet to meet someone in recovery for any problem that hasn’t encountered a setback of some sort. I know that I have.

I recently read something in a book that was given to me in attempt to “help” me that actually caused a setback in my depression and anxiety recovery. I was offended by the ignorance of the words in this book that suggested that mental health issues are not true medical conditions (and instead a religious problem). I let this setback drag me down for a few days, feeling as if people just didn’t understand. I had a sense of  loneliness and heartache and it made me want to give in and give up on the fight- even if only for a moment.

But, I had to regroup and the more I thought about it, the more it just made me want to step up and say and do more to raise awareness and advocate for people like me who suffer from a (serious) medical condition. Mental illnesses are true and real. They are diagnosable and treatable. They take just as many, if not more, lives than other illnesses.

If you encounter a setback, whether at the hands or words of someone else, or if you just slip up and stumble, I have to remind you to take a moment and regroup. Set aside time to refocus and stay strong as you press onward with the battle. Not everyone is going to understand or be supportive. We have to take our healing and surviving into our own hands. We have to be the ones who want to get better and make the changes to get there.

~Lindsay

Keep Breathing

Kerrie Roberts sings one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard for someone who is struggling with any life circumstance.

If you are in need of uplifting, listen to her song, Keep Breathing.

When you are in the midst of struggles, there are times that taking another breath seems impossible. There are nights when you just want to give up. But I hope that you find the strength to keep breathing and know that you are not done yet. You have a purpose here in this life. You have people who love you no matter how far away they may seem.

Life doesn’t always go the way we hope it will. We will face struggles that will knock us down and pain that will seem too hard to ever overcome, but there is hope and healing. Keep breathing and hold on… hang on tighter just a little longer and I promise the sun will shine again.

~Lindsay

Why Suicide?

Under the “Suicide Prevention” tab, some new information was added about warning signs that someone you know may be suicidal. Signs and symptoms, no matter how “mild” they may seem to be should never be overlooked and should always be taken seriously.

I have dealt with personal loss in my family from suicide. It is a devastating thing to experience. It often makes me wonder why I ever considered it myself. But when you look deeper, often times death is not what is truly desired. Death is just a means to an end. An end of suffering. An end of pain.  An end of whatever circumstance that seems unbearable.

Often, before someone actually commits suicide, there are cries for help. In some ways it’s through written or verbal actions. Facebook or blog posts may suddenly seem more depressed than usual. Subtle comments here and there may indicate something is wrong. There is rarely a circumstance that help cannot solve the problem or situation in which the person is feeling helpless in.

I know from personal experience, in my most suicidal times and those that followed with actions, it was always the same case- I didn’t want to die. I just wanted my pain to end and I didn’t know how else to ask for help. I didn’t know how to find and end to the trouble myself.

Please don’t ever overlook signs and symptoms of suicide. Every case should be taken seriously and a person should receive help as soon as possible.

~Lindsay

This entry was posted on January 19, 2012. 1 Comment