You Don’t Get Cured

From The West Wing, Season 1, Episode 13 – “Take out the Trash Day”:

KAREN: Is that why you drank and took drugs?

LEO: I drank and took drugs because I’m a drug addict and an alcoholic.

KAREN: How long did it take you to get cured?

LEO: I’m not cured. You don’t get cured. I haven’t had a drink or a pill in six
and a half years, which isn’t to say I won’t have one tomorrow.

KAREN: What would happen if you did?

LEO: I don’t know. But probably a nightmare the likes of which both our fathers
experienced. And me too.

KAREN: So after six and a half years you’re still not allowed to have a drink?

LEO: The problem is, I don’t want a drink, I want ten drinks.

KAREN: Are things that bad?

LEO: No.

KAREN: Then why?

LEO: ‘Cause I’m an alcoholic.

KAREN: I don’t understand.

LEO: I know. It’s okay. Hardly anyone does. It’s very hard to understand.

Thankfully I don’t struggle with alcohol or drug addiction, but I could relate a lot of what Leo says about his struggle with alcoholism and drug addiction to the eating disorder. Even though restricting often starts out for me with “I’ll just miss a couple of exchanges here or there”, or the goal of losing weight just starts with “I only want to lose a couple of pounds”, the problem is I don’t just want to restrict an exchange or lose a pound. What I really want is to lose 10 pounds. The eating disorder is very tricky and I often don’t see that at the outset, but if I take a step back, I can see that just how Leo says that his problem is that he doesn’t just want one drink, he want’s ten drinks, I don’t want to just lose a couple of pounds. I want to just keep losing.

I also liked how he responds to Karen’s question “they why?” with “’cause I’m an alcoholic.” People have often told me things like “I don’t understand why you hang onto the eating disorder, you have so much going for you.” As Leo points out though, it has nothing to do with whether or not things in life are going poorly. Things could be going great, and I will still want to restrict and lose weight because I have an eating disorder. I think the thing is that when life things are going well, I am better able to fight off the eating disorder voice. I am able to remind myself of the things I have going for me, and what I stand to lose if I give into the eating disorder. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t still have an eating disorder, and don’t still have to fight that urge everyday. I do think that with time it gets easier, but I know that it will probably never fully go away.

I agree with Leo too that you are never fully cured. I believe in recovery for sure, but I do think it is something one always has to be diligent about. Again, that’s not to say that it doesn’t get better, or that one day I might hardly notice the eating disorder voice. But it is something I will always have to be diligent about, and as Leo points out, continue to resist day by day.

I also agree that hardly anyone understands. Unless you have lived it, it’s really hard to explain to people just how strong that desire is, and how you really are fighting every day to keep it at bay.

Trump and TV

This is not related to eating disorders in anyway, but it is related to television and something I found quite interesting:

Now That Trump Is President, How Will TV Respond?

The article points out a number of ways that TV could be affected by the election of Trump (I’m sorry, I refuse to call him President Trump). First, networks might be afraid to lose audience members who voted for Trump, which might make them less likely to greenlight projects that are seen as more creative or creative risks. Broadcasters might be less willing to air shows featuring LGBTQ characters, although on the flip side creators might be more inspired to create shows with these characters as protagonists.

The article also mentions how existing shows will deal with the election. For example, Jane the Virgin will feature episodes that deal with immigration and the potential repeal of the ACA. The article doesn’t mention medical dramas, but I would be interested to see if medical dramas will bring up the ACA issue at all, as a few years ago when it was passed Grey’s Anatomy had a plot line about a young girl who had waited for months to have surgery for a tumor until she could get health insurance under the law.

The article also mentions perhaps TV shows will try to steer clear of politics and focus on their primary mission: entertainment.

What do you think? How will TV be different with Donald Trump as President?

Dreams

From Grey’s Anatomy Season 3, Episode 23 – The Other Side of Life, Part 2:

Meredith: At some point maybe we accept the dream has become a nightmare. We tell ourselves that reality is better. We convince ourselves it’s better that we never dream at all. But, the strongest of us, the most determined of us, we hold on to the dream or we find ourselves faced with a fresh dream we never considered. We wake to find ourselves, against all odds, feeling hopeful. And, if we’re lucky, we realize in the face of everything, in the face of life, the true dream is being able to dream at all.

I think there is a huge tendency, both in the press and among individuals, to glamorize eating disorders. I know I am definitely guilty of falling prey to the “dream” that the eating disorder promises. The eating disorder promises that I will be thin, that I will be happy, that it will solve my problems. As the quote says, however, at some point there has to be an acceptance that this is not a dream after all – it is a nightmare. The eating disorder does nothing but wreck things. It wrecks real dreams, life goals, and relationships.

When that realization happens, it’s easy to just give up all together. The eating disorder is not the answer, but in the face of years of destruction, life doesn’t look all that great either. The original path I set out on after graduating from college doesn’t exist anymore, and it’s really tempting to just give up.

I know logically, however, that it’s not time to give up. As Meredith says, it’s time to find a fresh dream. While several doors have been closed due to past decisions and past struggles, that doesn’t mean that all doors are closed. It is so easy to lose hope when things do not seem to be improving at the pace that I want, or when reminders of the dreams lost keep popping up. But I do hope that if I keep going, that hope will come. That I will continue to be able to dream, and realize that if I can just keep fighting through recovery, the dreams can be far bigger than I ever imagined.

Hope

From House M.D Season 4, Episode 14 – Living the Dream:

House: “No, you’re afraid to change. You’d rather imagine that you can escape instead of actually try. ‘Cause if you fail, then you got nothing. So you’ll give up the chance of something real so you can hold onto hope. The thing is, hope is for sissies.”

I blogged about this quote previously as part of a longer entry on how the eating disorder serves as sort of a scapegoat for not meeting the high expectations I have for myself. However, I was rereading the quote the other night, and it spoke to me in a new way, so I wanted to touch on it again.

Specifically, this time the part about imagining the escape stood out to me.Often before starting a higher level of care, I feel hopeful. I imagine myself feeling better – not having headaches, not feeling so cold. Because I know I am not doing well with eating, I blame all of these physical symptoms on the eating disorder, and thus have hope that things can get better if I can stop the symptoms. However, I then start eating more and the reality is, I don’t feel better. My head is still pounding, often worse than before I started eating more (probably from the stress of eating more). I’m tired. I’m nauseated. I then lose all hope and get really depressed. I struggle to hold onto the hope that I will ever feel better. In turn, I start to lose hope that I can ever have a normal life.

What I take from this quote is that the hope I get from holding onto the eating disorder may feel good, but it’s at the expense of achieving something real – a life that consists of more than the eating disorder. Although it’s hard, I have to figure out a way to keep up the hope that things will change while I’m actively trying to change. Rather than focusing on how awful I feel and how things don’t seem to be improving, I need to remember that the alternative is not much better.

Depression

From Private Practice, Season 3 Episode 14 “Love Bites”:

Violet: Depression isn’t not understanding that you have something you should live for; it’s knowing that you should feel differently, but it’s so bad that all you want to do is curl up and die.

I feel like I don’t even need to elaborate on or explain this quote. To me, this so eloquently captures how I feel right now.

I know logically that I have plenty of things to live for – I have a family, I have friends, I have a job, I have cats etc. As someone who usually relies on logic and reason, it is beyond frustrating for me that I cannot reason my way out of this depressive funk. Like the quote says, I KNOW that I should feel different, but I don’t. This disconnect between how I feel and how I think I should feel only serves to worse my depression.

I hope this quote helps others recognize what depression feels like, and serves as a reminder that depression is not something that it is possible to reason your way out of.

Getting Back to Normal

From Code Black Season 2, Episode 8 – “1.0 Bodies”:

Mike: I tried to come back too soon. I’ve been trying to get back to normal. But the truth is, that doesn’t exist for me, right now. I’m not the same, and I don’t know when I will be.

Mike says this after he experiences great difficult while working his first shift since being in a coma due to an accident and traumatic brain injury. While I have thankfully never experienced anything like that medically, this quote really hit home when it comes to recovery.

I have a tendency to jump right back into things when I get out of inpatient or partial. For example, I got out of inpatient last Tuesday, and went to work on Wednesday as if nothing had happened. Sometimes I think that can be helpful – I like my job and my coworkers, so being at work is a helpful distraction and also provides me with a sense of purpose.

However, I think something I need to keep in mind is what Mike says about normal not existing for right now. If I want to be successful in my recovery, I can’t really be normal right now when it comes to food. Normal people don’t go out of their way to eat even when they are not hungry, or plan things so that they don’t interfere with meals/snacks. But, if I’m going to follow my meal plan, I am going to have to eat when I’m not hungry, and I’m going to have to make eating the number one priority. Although I want to just be normal, I might have to do things like leave work early to make sure I get dinner in before gymnastics, or force myself to eat a snack even when I’m still full from lunch. Normal doesn’t exist right now.

The part about “right now” is key too. I tend to get really depressed because I think that my life is always going to be like this – I’m always going to be constantly stuffed, I’m always going to have to plan out meals and snacks. But, I like how Mike doesn’t say that he will never be normal again – he just says that he doesn’t know when he will be the same again. I’m going to try to remember this when I feel really down – that just because there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel right now, that doesn’t mean I won’t ever get back to normal.

Moving Forward

From Grey’s Anatomy Season 5 Episode 18 – Elevator Love Letter:

Alex: Doesn’t matter how tough we are, trauma always leaves a scar. It follows us home, it changes our lives, trauma messes everybody up, but maybe that’s the point. All the pain and the fear and the crap. Maybe going through all of that is what keeps us moving forward. It’s what pushes us. Maybe we have to get a little messed up, before we can step up.

I am lucky that I have never experienced true trauma. I have had a few professionals argue that certain events in my life could be considered traumatic, but I have thankfully never experienced what most people would consider a traumatic event.

However, I think this quote is applicable even for those who have not experienced trauma. Specifically, I think this quote can apply simply to the experience of having an eating disorder. The years of having an eating disorder has certainly left a scar; it has certainly changed me. It has messed me up in some ways, and definitely messed with my life plans.

That being said, years of therapy have provided me with tools to better handle a variety of situations. I have met many wonderful friends in treatment, and in some ways have been afforded opportunities that I probably would not have had if I continued on the career path I was on before treatment. Although I am in a bit of a rough patch right now when it comes to regret over giving up medical school, I am trying to do what Alex says – use the pain and fear to push myself and keep myself moving forward.

I hope that anyone reading this entry can do the same. Trauma and painful experiences are awful, but if nothing else, hopefully they can motivate you to keep pushing and moving forward. Remember too that you are not alone, and there are always people out there to provide support.