Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

Well.  This generally explains my Thanksgiving experience.  This year, however, was different.  And it's taken me a while to digest the day- literally and figuratively. 

My whole life, my parents have hosted Thanksgiving.  It's always hovered around 18 people, swelling to 30 at some points in the past.  Thanksgiving has been, by far, my favorite holiday to celebrate with family because there are no gifts involved.  It's simply family getting together to share a great meal together.  Good food, sharing stories and memories, and an easy day for me to hide my eating patterns.

This year, though.... it was the first time in my life I wasn't with my family.  I shouldn't really care much about that, considering how much my family drives me nuts 85% of the time.  But it was really weird.  And I didn't like it.  I didn't like not being around everyone.  I didn't miss the cursing and arguing that ensued.  Nor did I miss the negative family members who always complain about being on the receiving end of hell.  But I did miss the family. 

Sure, we celebrated together on Friday, but it wasn't the same.  It was just the immediate family.  No aunts, uncles, cousins..... just us.  And the food Friday was non-traditional.  It was supposed to be a "leftover Thanksgiving" meal, but it morphed into leftovers, brunch, and Jewish delicacies.  The meal was actually rather schizophrenic, and as my mom changed the menu a dozen or so times in 24 hours, I ended up without much to eat.

The odd thing about the whole event was the way it confused the heck out of me.  When I was younger, I always wanted to be able to celebrate holidays with friends.  Trick-or-treat with my best friends (was never able to do so, always had to stay with family,) or new years, or even enjoy Christmas Day with my Jewish friends.  But none of that ever happened.  I was always with my family (with the exception of NYE babysitting years).  Somehow, that is what *felt* right, even though I didn't always want to be there.

So this year, I celebrated with my best friend and her family.  I knew pretty much everyone in her family, and I always enjoy hanging out with them.  It was a lovely evening, full of good food, good conversation, laughter, and relaxation.  It was quite pleasant.

But when I got in the car, it hit.  I spent the drive home alternating between tears and "I'm ok right now because" conversations in my head.  Truth was, I really was ok.  A great evening with great friends and great food?  Heading home to a warm house in a safe neighborhood, driving a safe car that's paid off - all stuff that make things perfectly good.  Perfectly all right.

Perfectly ok.  Despite what my head thinks.  That's where the confusion comes in.

So I guess I will remind myself that one of the things I am most thankful for is my treatment team - cause with their help, maybe one day I won't be as confused.....!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Right Now

Right now, I'm ok.

I'm ok because I have a refrigerator with my favorite food inside.
I'm ok because in a little while, I get to crawl into my warm bed.
I'm ok because I went to work this morning at a place I enjoy.
I'm ok because had two doctor appointments today that were positive.
I'm ok because I have my laptop in front of me.
I'm ok because my dog is curled up next to me.
I'm ok because I'm cozy and warm inside my house.
I'm ok because my belly is full from a warm bowl of soup.

I'm ok because I know that I am safe right now.

Right now, I'm ok.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Positive? Positive.

Tonight my dietitian asked me to find something positive in my world.  I was quickly and easily able to rattle off all sorts of positives, yet they ALL had to do with school.  There were two exceptions to that rule-- the peanut and the Pup.  While they both bring me lots of joy and add oodles of positivity to my world, the rest?  All at school.

No matter what happens at school, I find the positive.  I look for and find the silver linings.  The lessons.  The learning experiences.  A student fails at a task or project?  I help them find the learnings, and figure out what they can do differently to reach a different outcome next time.  A colleague feels unsuccessful with an attempt at a new tool or lesson approach?  We sit down and find the parts that felt awesome, and build from there.  Just today, a colleague tried something brand new, and it only sorta worked.  She was not a happy camper, and felt very much defeated.  With her team, we worked to remind her of the successes in the experience, the positives.

I'm great at helping others get there, reach the positive place.  What about me?

Nope.  I suck at it.  At least I suck at it for now.  (In other words, I'm not there, yet.)

Why is it so hard?  I get that I'm not alone in the self-inflicted negative self-talk.  I know that many, many others are challenged by this.  But I'm talking me, here.  And I need to figure out how to shift my perspective.

Example.  Horrible stomach ache for nearly a week.  Like, bubbly, volcanic eruptions that keep me close to the porcelain throne.  After about a half hour (I think, I don't keep track of time during sessions) chatting with my dietitian, she asked me if I still had a stomach ache.  Surprisingly (at least to me) it had subsided dramatically.  Why?  Cause she, like my therapist, has a knack for getting me out of my head.  Which I need. 

Inside my head, the positive island is tiny, and frequently empty.  The negative island is always hopping.  Sure, there are a few other islands -- school, pup, Aunt-hood, knowledge, creativity -- but the one I seem to spend the most time on is negative island.  (If you don't get the whole island thing, go watch Inside Out.  Trust me, it will be worth it.)  While my finances and schedule won't allow for daily visits to dietitian island and therapist island, the goal isn't to rely on them for getting me out of my head.  The goal is to take what I'm learning through them and apply it to me outside of my time with them.

Perspective shift - from my world outside of school is negative and sucks, to my world is full of tiny bits of positive every where I go - is required.  If only it were as easy as shifting from park to reverse....

P.S.  I did find something positive that wasn't connected to school -- I have a new toothbrush that I love!  For me that's big, cause the dentist and I don't get along well, but my teeth and this new toothbrush?  Awesome!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

The upside to living in apartment style condos that share common walls is that your neighbors can hear a lot.  The downside to living in apartment style condos that share common walls is that your neighbors can hear a lot.

On one hand, one might find comfort in knowing if something happened and help was desperately needed, shouting for help would elicit responses from those nearby.  Or if there was an overflowing toilet or a broken pipe or something, neighbors would notice the noise, and get in touch ASAP, with either you or someone who could help.  On the other hand, privacy?

Babysat the peanut the other night, getting home at 9:30.  Chilled for a bit, crawling into bed around 10:00, and snuggling in for some reading with the Pup before drifting off to dreamland.  I had just fallen asleep, so comfy in my bed, when I heard the buzzer of a door.  A glance at the clock said that it was 11:24.  I figured it was in my dream, so I stayed put.  But the door buzzer kept buzzing.  And it was definitely mine, based on the loudness.

My heart stopped for a moment, I'm sure, as I started panicking.  I mean, who on earth would be ringing my door buzzer at that late hour?!  Everyone knows I'm an early-to-bed kind of girl!  My heart continued racing as I got out of bed to peek out the window and see if there was anything out of the norm in the parking lot.  Nope.  More panic.

More panic followed by loud footsteps thundering up the stairs.  And the the knocks came.  On my door.  Inside the building.

Mind you, part of why I like my condo is because the exterior door is there.  It means anyone getting into the building has one safety feature before getting into individual units.  So as I stood in the hallway in my pajamas, clutching the Pup, I desperately wished I had fastened the chain lock before I went to bed.  I've gotten lax on doing so since the scary neighbor moved away.

After the knocks grew more persistent, I held my finger poised over the "emergency" dial on my phone.  I had to do something.  The knocking wasn't going to stop.  I was frozen in panic.  And then to make things worse, a flashlight started shining in through the crack by the door handle.

My mind was racing with every single bad thought possible.  Literally.  From the cereal rapist to the drunk neighbor to the pissed off parent and everything in between.  I can't begin to explain how freaked out I was.  So I was kinda shocked when I called out and asked who was there without screaming or crying or vomiting.

Turns out, calling 911 wouldn't have made a difference.  Cause they were at my door.

Guess one of my neighbors heard my water running, and was worried because it had been running for over an hour.  So apparently she called the police to come and check.  Ironically, (or not) I had been in bed for well over an hour when she called, meaning she only *thought* she heard my water running.  It wasn't.

Maybe I should feel grateful that she was looking out for me.  That would probably be an easier feeling to stomach than the fear and anxiety I've been swallowing instead.  Being woken up like that completely freaked me out.  I didn't get much sleep afterward.  I was flooded by fears - imagined and real - that kept playing over and over and over again.

Why did this warrant a post?  Cause my therapist and I have been working very, very hard at helping me find safety in my world, a world that I find to be far too unsafe for me.  I have found safety in teaching, in my classroom at my old school and now in my building at my new school.  I've always felt safest in my teaching world.  The rest of the world, my house included, doesn't always feel so safe.  It's going to take a lot of effort to not let this incident derail the progress.  (And maybe because I'm still feeling *that* unsettled and needed to share.  Either way.)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Jumping Ship

Tonight I did something that I haven't done in over 20 years.

A part of me is really sad that I caved.  I almost feeling like saying "you win" to my team.  I mean, after all, this was their idea.  Sure, it took four years for it to move from idea to encouragement to consideration to well, basically I've gone through the stages of grief, actually.  And I've finally moved from acceptance to action.

Tonight I intentionally ate meat.
And I didn't vomit.
And I didn't die.
And I didn't melt like the wicked witch.

Who knows what tomorrow morning will bring, or even the middle of the night, as my stomach is quite the hyper sensitive beast.  But I ate.  An entire cup of chicken rice soup.  I even drank the broth at the end of the cup.

This was (as exaggerated as it sounds) an excruciating task.  It meant giving up the title of "vegetarian" which I've coveted since I was 13 years old.  It meant giving up on what has proven to be the most useful tool in my eating disordered box of supplies.  My eating disorder has one less ally now, and that worries me.  Maybe it shouldn't, but it does.

It worries me because the path to recovery, which has been a dirt road littered with gravel and rocks, often challenging to travel, might just be starting to smooth out.  That should be good.  Making traveling forward easier, leaving more and more disordered eating behaviors behind me.  But those behaviors have been my travel companions for so long, leaving this one, the original, the biggest supporter behind?  It's anxiety inducing.

On the up side, it means that there is room for another tool, a healthier eating tool.  It means that, as long as there are no detrimental reactions to meat becoming a part of my body (and yes, I will give it a full six weeks to try out,) my menu will grow astronomically.

A part of me feels like I failed.  Like I couldn't keep up, even after more than 20 years, a vegetarian diet.  The reality is that when I became a vegetarian at 13, I only had one known food allergy.  20 some years later, I have a dozen.  Those are not choices.  I must avoid them.  The vegetarian avoidance is a choice.  It always has been.  One I hold very tightly to.  I mean, I am a vegetarian.  Period.  It's my choice to continue with that vegetarianism at the potential expense of my body, or make the choice to eat meat again as a way to better take care of my body.  I might hate the outside of my body, but I really do want to take care of the inside.

Distressing.  Confusing.  Sad.  Anxious.  Remorseful.

But also kinda proud of myself for pushing through this massive hurdle and making the attempt to take care of my body in the way it needs.  Kinda.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Picture Day

There is one day of the year where parents win the battle of what to wear, brushed hair, and washed faces.  Picture Day.  It's the day everyone in elementary school panics, making sure the kids get their pictures snapped before they head to gym or recess, so they don't muss up their appearance for the day.
Recently, my school experienced our annual picture day.  400 shiny, smiley faces, all dolled up, patiently waited for their class to be called.  Interspersed between the class photos, teachers and staff members slipped in, cringing as they sat on the stool in front of the back drop, waiting for the camera flash to pass, and comparing this year's picture with the pictures of colleagues nearby.

This year marked the 30th school picture in a row.  In a row.  Yup.  I've been in school since I was in kindergarten, and without missing a year, my picture has been taken every year since.  All of elementary school, all of junior high, all of high school, all of college, and since I went straight from college to the classroom, I truly never missed a year.

Part of me wants to have all of those pictures in my hands right now, so I can line them up and compare how adorable I was as a child, to how absolutely and completely anti-adorable I am as an adult.  It would be a great excuse for a beat-the-crap-out-of-me session that could span many hours.  Productive?  Nope.  But likely exactly what would happen should I get my hands on all 30 pictures.

Another part of me wants to compare the last 12 years worth of pictures, all my years in the classroom as a teacher, and see what changes I notice.  Unfortunately, that will also result in a less-than-pleasant me-bashing experience.

Like many recovering from eating issues, appearance is a sticking point for me.  I whole heartedly believe the lies I tell myself - that I am hideous, a monster, a mirror-breaker, that my appearance makes me impossible to befriend, much less love.

I know they're lies, logically.  My therapist reminds me that they are lies I tell myself, and that I've been telling them to myself
for so long, I now believe them, even though they logically don't fit.  I know that.  I mean, I head into the grocery store and no one avoids me in the aisles.  I walk into school and no one - kids included - run from me.  I guess I don't look that bad outside, even if that's how I feel on the inside.

This year, picture day was a very reflective one.  Looking at my picture, I kinda didn't recognize the person looking back at me.  That person is put together, coordinated in dress, a warm smile, and wrinkly eyes that show laughter.  That person looks like someone who knows what they're doing.  It looks like someone who can take charge and accomplish things.

Which is what I kinda do.....

So while it IS most definitely my picture, and this IS what others see when they see me..... what's it gonna take for me to see the "me" that they see?  What's it gonna take for me to shut down the lies, once and for all, and replace them with truths?  Something has to change.  And while picture day might not ever be a favorite day, one day, hopefully, I will look at my school picture and go "oh, yeah, I like that person!"

Thankfully, I have a long career ahead of me, with many more picture days to practice!