Self-Empathy & Compassion

Self-empathy, to me, I feel like this is a brand new topic. One read about in fictional tales, along with princesses with flowing locks of hair and birds that make my bed for me.

In Brene Brown’s book, I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t), she goes on to explain the difference between empathy and sympathy. I’m very guilty of using these words interchangeably for years, but now having such a better understanding of the words. I want someone to empathize with me, but don’t want their sympathy. Brenė puts it,

“When they talked about their ability to overcome shame, they clearly pointed to empathy: sharing their feelings with someone who would understand and relate to what they were saying. Conversely, women used words like hate, despise, and can’t stand to describe their feelings about sympathy seeking- looking for sympathy or being asked for sympathy.”

Empathy, is looking for acceptance, and understanding that we are not alone in our experiences.

It has been argued you cannot give what you don’t have, this also including love and empathy, but I respectfully disagree. It is so much easier to give others empathy and the benefit of the doubt. I questioned daily why I was much more able to cut others slack, or be more understanding of others, why I was so hard on myself, and I believe this is a lack of self-compassion as well as empathy towards myself.

I fully believe that everyone has something in their life they are dealing with. Whether it be a sick family member, mental illness, recent death, financial issues, whatever it is, so I attempt to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. That is it though, right there. I don’t know everybody’s story, as much as I love hearing peoples’ stories and hearing how far they’ve come. What if I did though? Honestly, I might be more empathic and compassionate towards them, realizing what they are dealing with on a daily basis. Why is that any different than myself?

I know my story, I know what I have been through. I may not think it is “All that bad” but I know there are people out there who believe I am “brave” “strong” “courageous”. It is the shame of believing the lies I have been fed for years, and internally believing that I am not deserving or worthy. I am much more empathetic and compassionate to those I don’t know their story, than myself.

Advertisements

More Than Just a Job

It is so crazy to look back and read my journal entries from last year. I was admitted into treatment on December 6th, 2014. I did not want to be there, I didn’t even want to acknowledge the fact that I had an eating disorder, or that I needed help.

It is also amazing to look back on all of the progress I have made. I am no longer crying over food, I have a love for peanut butter. Praise God, I am no longer involuntarily puking after I eat. The nutritionist and T have had such an amazing impact on my recovery and my life and can never thank them enough. It was the most terrifying and rewarding experience of my life.

 

12/13/2014

            Today has been rough. Struggled through breakfast and snack. Had DBT which was actually hard. For snack I had granola but didn’t even want to touch food so distracted myself with making a bracelet. Told Michelle I didn’t want to eat and nicely threatened me with an Ensure. I finally ate the rest of the damn granola.

            Had lunch, well, let me rephrase that… I had a mental breakdown during lunch. Today has just been a really difficult day. I wanted NOTHING for lunch, but decided to make a salad, sweet potato and cottage cheese. I sat down at the table and just began to cry after staring at my food. The RC asked me if I wanted to go outside, breathe, collect myself and come back.

            So, I went outside and cried. One of the outpatient girls saw me and came over to give me a pep talk. I told her, “No worries, just a mid lunch breakdown.” She told me, “It will get better, I know you’re so fucking sick of hearing that, but its true.” The RC came outside for a minute to check on me, then went back inside. I told her it was just an extra hard day and she gave awesome advice on it’s a step by step progress. Then she gave me a hug and went inside. A few seconds later my roommate came out and I began to just cry. I wasn’t hungry, didn’t want to go out tonight, no hunger cues, so don’t want to eat. The RC came out at about this time. I was crying, and just really didn’t want to eat. I told her that I think it finally hit me that I was really here, and really doing this.

            After some hugs, coaxing and talking, I went back inside, sat at the table and took a bite. The nutritionist did second table while everyone else watched me struggle.

Second table ended and everyone got up except the nutritionist and I. Slowly but surely I made it through lunch. Then, after doing my dishes, I was antsy and swept the kitchen. That was when the nurse came and got me, and said Dr. T wanted to see me.

            I went in and sat down, we talked about my vitamin D levels, and I told him about the involuntarily throwing up. He said that was not ok, and I explained the “swallow your vomit” motif and my logic of, “Eat what I’m comfortable with and get punished, or eat until I throw up.” He was not happy with that at all and said he would talk with the nutritionist about it.

            Oh God, I didn’t want to start anything, but I told him it was so much food…and the puking….

So, I went back to the kitchen, picked up the air vent and scrubbed it. As I squatted on the floor the clinical director, T, came in to fix her lunch and commented on me being a cleaner. Two residents came into the kitchen both bitching about how the nurse and Dr. T were taking forever. I looked up and told them, “They were talking to the nutritionist about me because I’m a pain in the ass.”

T looked down at me and inquired, “Talking about you? Why? What’s up?”, I replied with, “Nothing.” She squatted down nearly eye level with me. I told her I was really struggling today. She said, “You aren’t a pain in the ass. Your eating disorder might be a pain in the ass, but you aren’t.” I really, really, appreciated that.

            I sat down and began to cry. I told her I’m still throwing up. I had a meltdown during lunch, but she probably already heard about that, she shook her head, and had a seat on the kitchen floor facing me. I told her the story, me crying, going outside, etc. I told her it’s the fine line between eating quickly feeling full and sick or not wanting to eat at all. I feel anxious when I am the last one, but don’t want to hurl. I told her that I threw up again and was embarrassed and discouraged.

            She was understanding about this being my first week and tough as shit, she asked if anyone else knew, I said no. She expressed how she wanted me to share at process group about how I’m struggling. She said she was glad I was here and I told her about my very supportive roommate.

            I’m not sure I can express to T how much I appreciated my therapy session on the kitchen floor. I used to think this wasn’t bad, I wasn’t sick and I didn’t need to be here. Yet, I’m the one on the kitchen floor having a meltdown. It really meant a lot to me for her to take the time to talk with me and be supportive. T told me it’s a big jump going from not eating to eating so much.

I’m just so discouraged and embarrassed that I’m puking and don’t want to get caught or in trouble.

Guys, always trust the process. Sometimes we are way to close to realize what we need. It is so much more than a job to these amazing women. I am not where I want to be, but I praise God that I’m not where I was. Sure ED likes to knock, (pretty damn hard sometimes) and I may even periodically let him in when I think it may be helpful. But even these days are better than my laxative abusing, running obsessing, purging oriented life I was “living”.

Trust the process guys!!

Making an Omelet, Touching Your Toes and 11 Other Things I learned in Treatment.

There are so many things I learned, and skills I obtained while being in treatment. Some are just silly and enjoyable, others are deep long lasting skills and opinions and mindsets I acquired.

1. How to make an omelet

Ok, this one is just kinda silly, but I had been doing it wrong for years. Now, I can make beautiful omelets, that taste amazing and hit all of my exchanges. It wasn’t only learning how to make an omelet, but the bonding over meal prep and meal time. It was always a stressful time for all of us, but being able to bond, teach, learn, and make cooking something more than just a chore, was great!

2. Yoga and how freaking kick ass it is

I am very, very competitive and very into sports. Of course, I was denied exercise privilege for weeks. I was going completely insane, I would workout in my room, doing crunches on the rug, step ups on a chair. It got to the point where I was climbing the stairs almost 20x a day because I felt so cooped up and antsy.

We had yoga twice a week, I always figured that yoga would be dumb. I had no clue what the hype had been about that my aunt had told me. At first I walked into yoga, skeptical, expecting this to be a crock-a-shit. I unrolled my mat, and attempted to breathe, “sit tall”, “lead with your heart”, “clear your mind.” I could not get into it, my mind was going a thousand miles a minute. I even attempted to do six-inches while we were supposed to be doing Shavasana. She came by and gently pushed my feet back to the ground.

After a week or so, I began to really enjoy it. It wasn’t competitive, but I enjoyed challenging myself with different poses. I wanted to see how far I could go into forward fold, which eventually turned into the teacher showing me scorpion pose and letting me try that and dancer pose. Part of my disorder was definitely over exercising, so being able to do something challenging and that demanded some sort of muscle, was amazing.

3. DEAR MAN the hell out of people

You need something? Have a problem with something? Dear Man the hell out of them. I also thought this would be a crock of shit, for the first month or so of DBT I was not very receptive at all. Once I began to listen though, I realized how absolutely amazing and helpful it really is.

Describe the situation

Express feelings and opinions clearly

Assert your needs

Reinforce you are listening and being receptive to their ideas

Mindful of the outcome you want

Appear Confident

Negotiate

4. Get off the train

The director is one of the greatest ladies I ever had the chance to meet, and I am so grateful she has had such an amazing impact in my life and my recovery. During my stay in treatment some of my family enjoyed attacking my progress and and making me feel like a terrible person. I received phone calls that left me in tears for hours afterwards, practically “Fuck You” letter, blaming me for everything and how I screwed up our family.

It was so ridiculously difficult for me to hear all of this and not let it effect me and my progress in my recovery. Hearing so many negative things directed at me. The director taught me to “get off the train.” Whether it was allowing all of the negative, hateful, nasty comments just float down the river and out of sight; Or getting caught in the negative comments and being trapped on my family’s bull shit train. I was taught to “get off the train.” and work on letting it continue to just fly by while you sit there and just watch.

5. Support isn’t always family

Kinda ties in with #4. Between letters, calls, texts, even emails, from some family members, I quickly learned they were ignorant, and not supportive. “You do realize walking in there they thought your mom was the patient and not you.” “How much longer do you anticipate on being here?” “You treated me better when you had an eating disorder.” “You shouldn’t take this ‘disorder’ so seriously.” “Is it because of school, you are probably just stressed out…oh, but please tell me you still plan on graduating.” Being told, once again, that what I do is nothing more than an inconvenience, selfish, etc.

It hit me hard that sometimes the people you want to be supportive, aren’t the people you NEED to be supportive. While my blood family was not advocating my recovery, I had amazing support from people. First of all, the clinical director. I cannot say enough amazing things about her. My best friend, she was there during my struggles, completely supportive of me going into treatment, and she continues to be one of my biggest cheerleaders through everyday in recovery. Her parents too, were both amazing, and continue to be there for me. They know how my family have been treating me, and try so hard to reassure me that what I have been doing is worth it and is my life.

6. Self care is not selfish

Growing up practically everything I did was selfish. If I did my own laundry, trying to be independent, I would get yelled at for only doing my laundry and not everyone else’s too. If I did anything for myself it was always selfish, get myself a drink before anyone else? Selfish. Didn’t ask if my brother needed to shower before me? Selfish. I would have to call my parents for a ride home after a soccer game? Selfish and inconvenient.

Through treatment, I learned that not everything I do for myself is selfish. Taking care of myself is necessary. Without self care I would end up right back where I was. Feeling selfish, worthless, all of the lies I was fed growing up. Yes, it is polite to see if anyone else needs a drink, polite to ask if someone else needs a shower. It is NOT your responsibility to ALWAYS look out for everyone else and their needs. Taking care of myself is something that has to be done. I cannot take care of others and help them if I am not willing to care and help myself.

7. You are worth it

You may not think you are, you may not feel like you are… feel again. I believed I wasn’t worth it, wasn’t worth the time, effort, attention. I walked into treatment because others were much more concerned about me than I was. I didn’t believe I needed help, or to be totally honest, I didn’t think I deserved it. My self worth and esteem were practically non existent. I was told, “If you aren’t ready to do recovery for yourself, then do it for your little sister.”

Honestly, that worked. Every time I wanted to give up, or not take another bite, or just walk out, I pictured her. In my mind my sister was right beside me asking me what I was doing, why I was quitting. I visualized telling her I was coming home and her responding with such excitement, “Yay! Are you better now?”. I would have to look into her young, beautiful face and tell her no. Even if you don’t feel like you are worth the shit to be shit on, there is somebody out there who has faith in you and believes in you.

The director sure did. She believed in me on a daily basis, even when I wasn’t able to believe in myself, she was there for me.

8. Hugs are pretty great

I hated hugs. I had a bubble. Nobody was allowed in it. Hugs were for the weak, the sissy, the girly. I didn’t want to mentally, emotionally, or physically allow anyone close to me.

That too changed, I would receive two or three hugs a day. They meant a lot to me. A demonstration that they cared. Even those few seconds of embracing, that was time they could have been answering their phone, meeting with a resident, typing an email. That time was time they agreed to allow me interrupt their schedule and acknowledge me.

9. Be open, honest, and vulnerable

One of the only saving graces I was able to stay in treatment so long was because of the honesty I possess. I was known around the facility as the honest one. I despise lying, hate being sneaky, plus, if I am going to treatment to get help, I need to be honest. Upon admission and for the weeks to follow, I was involuntarily throwing up food because my body wasn’t use to the amount I was consuming. I was throwing up at the table. I would receive a text from family, I would voluntarily purge in the bathroom. I would come clean, express aggravation, discouragement, regret. I felt like a lost cause with all of my slip ups. I was honest though. I told them when I made a mistake, I wasn’t being sneaky, and there was still a part of me that wanted to recover.

Being vulnerable was something I was never good at. The director looked my mom straight in the face when she came once and told her, “It has taken us nearly 5 weeks just to get anything out of her. We weren’t getting anything besides sarcastic comments and snarky replies.” Piece by piece though, I was being chiseled away, opening up about my family, assault, my disordered behaviors. I was ready for help and guidance.

Once I left treatment, I continued to be honest and open. Telling my best friend when I skipped, if I purged, she would check in with me. Honesty is key.

10. The sky is not purple

Growing up, if my mom said jump- I jumped.

If she said we had a yellow dragon named Frank. Then by God, we had a yellow dragon named Frank.

I defended her and my family, regardless.

The problem? You can only be told the sky is purple for so long until you begin to believe it. Whether it is being told you are stupid, lazy, selfish, fat, etc. It begins to stick with you.

I am learning that if my mom says the sky is purple, I am allowed to politely disagree and have my own opinions separate from her. Pretty sad it took me 22 years to realize this.

11. Trust the process

You may not understand the process, you may not WANT to believe in the process (I sure didn’t.) No matter how many times you fail or fall though, just continue to trust the process. It never set me astray, or messed my progress up.

Was eating 6x a day really necessary?

Not being allowed to work out, are you kidding?

I didn’t believe in any of it. I quickly learned that it isn’t my place to understand it or question it, but to just accept it and trust it.

12. Stick to the meal plan

This is so ridiculously important. I am still eating 6x a day even though I have been out of treatment since late February. It is a struggle everyday and I still fight the thoughts of restricting. I tell myself that the meal plan didn’t fail me for the past 3 months, why would it start failing me now?

I still don’t WANT to eat so often, and stick to ALL of my exchanges, but I do it because I want recovery and refuse to let 3 months go down the toilet.

13. Do the next right thing

I will slip, I already have. The key, is to not let one slip snowball into relapse. Recovery isn’t a poof situation, it is a process and a journey. When I purge, spend too long at the gym, or restrict. I don’t allow that one circumstance to impact my next day, or even my next meal.

Get up, dust yourself off, do the next right thing. Eat the next snack, meet your exchanges. A slip isn’t a relapse sentence.