Thursday, March 29, 2012

Life is hard

Life is hard, folks. It's hard! Don't get me wrong; I'm thankful and greatful and happy that I am doing so well with my eatingdisorder/mental illness recovery and I am able to work and have more responsibilities and all of that. But with that stuff comes: work and more responsibilities!

Here are the negatives in my life right now:
  I am tired, all the time. I cut back my hours to 3-4 days per week, but getting up at 5am those days and working 8 hours at a physically and emotionally stressfull job is still alot for me. I feel like a zombie alot of the time. And I still have my responsibilities at home, cooking, housework, shopping, ect. And I am watching my neighbor's kid after school which is really too much for me, but I am not brave enough to tell him that I want to only watch this kid like 3 days a week instead of five. I am doing it for free, and I need to be assertive and tell him it is just too much for me right now, but I just can't. But then again, if I end up in the psych ward my neighbor won't have after school care for his kid at all, so there is something to think about.
Ugh, there are more negatives, but I am tired of thinking about that stuff. So on to the positives!!!!
I am working! Still! Sometimes when I am at work it will hit me: hey, I have a job! I am working! I am doing this!!!!
Guys, this is such a big, huge deal for me. For years it was assumed hat the best I could hope for was just to stay stable and out of the hospital. My big goal was "staying in the community". Even when I first started contemplating having a job it seemed so out of reach. Even the simple act of calling Voc Rehab was a huge step. And silly me, I thoughtthat they would just DO everything for me, call the school, register me, tell me when and where to show up, and set me up with a job when my CNA training was over. Oh no. I had to do all of that myself. And that is a big deal for someone who a) does not call strangers b) does not do paperwork and c) does not to anything on the computer but blog/FB/surf. Yeah.
So, as hard as my job is, the thought of quitting it does not even enter my head. Some days I don't even want to go back, but I know that I will, because when I work I feel successful, and that is a new feeling for me, and I like it! Oh, and they pay me.
Another thing that I have wanted to do for awhile that is now coming to fruition is that starting next week I will be co-facillitating a NAMI Connections support group. Ever since I found NAMI I knew I wanted to be a part of this great organisation. Because of my experiences I have always wanted to be involved with helping the seriously mentally ill. I used to think that I wanted to do something in the professional realm, but lately I have realised that I want to be involved as a peer. I want to be able to meet people where they are at and support them without the constraints of a budget or hours or program guidelines or liabilities. I don't want to be responsible for someone's care. I just want to be there for them. Does that make sense?

So two things: work and NAMI. At some point in the past several years I thought about these things and thought "hey, I would like to do that" and now look, I'm doing it!

Do I sound braggy? I hope not. Mostly I just needed to give myself a pep talk, because today was a rough day, and I need to remind myself why I am doing what I am doing, and why it's a good thing.

Monday, March 26, 2012

on being a friend

Let me be the first one to say that I have absolutely no authority to be writing this post. I have very limited experience in the friend department, because for much of my life I was isolated by anorexia, bulimia, and depression. By the age of 19 I had cut ties with most of my highschool friends (all 3 of them) and was immersed in "being sick". At the time I had deluded myself into thinking that I didn't need friends, that I just wasn't a "social person". That was total bullsh*t. We all need friends. Even just 2 or three good ones. People need people. That's just the way we are made.

Looking back now, I can see how deeply lonely I was. I remember one incident in particular. It was winter; I was 19 and living by myself in an apartment across from a Dairy Queen. I was not working, and due to the fact that I was AWOL from treatment I was not in therapy of any kind. I spent my days alternating between bingeing, purging, and restricting. I kept 2 bottles of vodka in the freezer and when I needed a break from the eating disorder I would drink. I would go for days without talking to anyone.

Periodically I would leave the house to go to the store for binge food, laxatives, and Diet Coke. I hated doing this. It seemed strange to be out around people. The store was so bright. There were people everywhere. People...talking to real lives. What if somebody said something to me? What if I saw someone I knew?
One day I was in the store, at the checkout, and the checkout lady said to me "You have a nice day now!", and I honest to goodness started crying. I choked up, and had to turn away before saying "thanks, you too". By the time I gt out to the car I was bawling. I thought I might be losing my mind, for real. It was that simple act of human kindness, someone talking to me, wishing me well, that broke me down. It was the way she said it, like she actually cared. Maybe it was just that I hadn't talked to anyone in a REALLY long time. Maybe (probably) I was going through a serious depression. I know, looking back, that I was desperately lonely and afraid, but at the time I just didnt want to go there. So I went back to the apartment and ate and puked and starved the feelings away. For several more years.

That's all behind me now, and hopefully for good. I have fought, I have perservered, I have fallen and got back up again. I have learned how to laugh, and that it's ok to cry. I have relationships, I have friends; not a ton of friends, but enough. I am able to BE a friend, which is huge. I am not a perfect friend, but who is? I like to think that am doing ok, I have people I can count on, and  my friends know that I will be there for them when it really counts.

Which brings me back to the title of this post: How to Be a Friend. Notice I didn't say: How to be a Good Friend. In my opinion, you are either being a friend, or you are not.

Sometimes it is easy to be a friend. Sometimes it is not. I think of my 19 year old self, alone and self- destructing in my apartment in the dead of winter. What difference would one true friendship have made? Was I even capable of being a friend? How would I act now toward a friend if she was reduced to a similar state?

I will tell you what I would NOT do. I would not abandon her. I have been there. I know what that hell is like, and in my opinion, one of the worst things that you can do is leave someone alone (crying in the grocery store because someone spoke to her) in that state. It goes beyond being a "bad friend". The word inhumane comes to mind.
That doesnt mean I have to save a friend who is struggling. I leave that to the professionals. Let them do their job. The "job" of a friend is simple: be there. I will tell my friend, through actions and words, "you are not alone.".

Dear Friend,

You are not alone. I won't let you face this alone. Yes, sometimes you can be frustrating. It's hard to see someone you care about hurt themselves. It makes people want to turn away. But I won't.
I know there is so much more to you than just your struggles. I know you are funny, smart, and brave. I know you can beat this. But even if you don't, even if you never do, I will still be your friend. I know you are not your illness. We don't even have to talk abou tthe serious stuff if you don't want to. Maybe, by talking about silly things and cracking jokes, we can remind each other that there is more to life. We can talk about books, movies, our families, whatever. But if you need to talk about the hard stuff, I can be there for that, too. I might not hav good advice, but like I said, I can't fix you. AND THAT'S OK! I will simply do what friends do best: just be there.

Had someone been there for me in this way, back then, would I have recovered sooner? I don't know. Likely not. But I wouldn't have had to face it alone. I thought that because I was sick, I was bad. I thought that I was unworthy of friends. Telling myself that I didn't need friends was my way of dealing with it. I spent all that time feeling unlovable, untouchable. Toxic. But I was none of those things. I was just a girl who needed a friend.

I would like to close this post with one of my favorite passages from the New Testament. Even if you are not a believer, you might still enjoy the beauty of this simple message about friendship:

Love is patient, Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perserveres. Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

*this post dedicated to my friend 'nanas.