February

I hate February.

I was born in February. Late February.

I have many trauma anniversaries. Probably at least one for as many days as there are in a calendar year. It’s hard to imagine that nearly three decades of abuse wouldn’t have covered all 366 potential days.

But something about February is always harder than the other months.

Maybe it’s my birthday. The beginning of it all.

I know there are traumas around my birthday, as there are around all holidays and celebrations. I know I was always hurt on or around my birthday. Not only by my parents.

I was date raped on my birthday in senior year of college. And there was an earlier incident…

Yesterday in session, I was flipping through an old journal. I opened the page to February 5th, 2002.

The entry is one sentence long:

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New Levels of Self-Hatred

My levels of self-hatred are at an impressive and nearly debilitating high right now. I recently wrote about my decision to not weigh myself every damn morning.

That lasted one week. Or six days, really.

Then Saturday came and I’d gained nearly 4lbs. Logically I knew this was likely water weight from having my period, but seeing that number threw me into a tailspin. I was devastated. I weighed myself on Sunday and was already back down 2lbs, but the emotional damage had been done.

I’ve weighed myself every morning since, seeing anything within a 5lb range of Saturday’s number. I either stay the same or gain.

That is unacceptable.

I could tell myself it’s hormones or water weight or even muscle weight since I’ve been doing more strength training and eating more calories to fuel those workouts. I can look at my intake and know, rationally, that it is impossible for me to have gained actual fat. I don’t even eat enough to fuel my body through its basic functions like breathing and pumping blood, so there’s no possibility that I could be eating an excess that would add fat to my body.

Yet still, I see that number go up and I immediately feel fatter. I look in the mirror and just KNOW I am fatter.

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Making Space for Anger

One of the key things my therapist and I spoke about during our phone conversation Wednesday night was emotions. I told her I felt like I had trapped a bunch of difficult emotion within myself, specifically in my chest, because there didn’t seem to be a safe place to discharge them.

I was admittedly upset with her for leaving me in the waiting room for fifteen minutes. I wasn’t able to identify exactly what I was experiencing emotionally, but I knew there was a lot of energy built up. It felt hard to even breathe.

I didn’t want to go to Friday’s session. I considered bailing, but I’d had a difficult day at clinic (unrelated to the actual internship, more about food stuff) and I needed a place to process it. I decided while walking over to my therapist’s office that I would use my hour in session to talk about all of that nonsense.

Which I did. I opened the session by telling her I’d had a difficult day and then started to explain what had been happening. I was telling a story about my colleague who’d lost some weight and was passing around her before/after success story photos that were featured on a prominent website recently.

While everyone was reacting with the obligatory, “Wow you look so great!” comments, my classmate encouraged me to share about my own weight loss. She met me last year, about two months after my relapse so she’s watched my lose a pretty good amount of weight. She doesn’t know it’s due to restricting and disordered behavior, so I know she was just trying to be kind.

I told my therapist that I shared my weight loss with my colleagues. She asked me what number I gave them. I said I didn’t want to tell her that. She asked if I told the truth and I said yes. Then she asked me why I wouldn’t tell her what I’d told them.

“Because I don’t want to.”

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Forgotten

I have session three times per week. Right now, my appointment times are the same on Mondays and Fridays and slightly earlier on Wednesdays. I have to haul ass to get there on time after clinic. This past Wednesday I took a little longer to finish up with a patient and thus I got to the office one minute late.

I know my therapist’s clock is a little slower than my watch, so I wasn’t too worried. I really had to pee though, so after sitting in the waiting room for a minute or so, I just said “screw it” and ran to the restroom, assuming her door would be open by the time I got back.

It wasn’t.

I watched as the minutes passed and I became increasingly more anxious. Other patients came in and then went to their respective therapist’s offices for session. I still just sat there. Eventually, after probably 8 minutes or so I grabbed the book I was almost done reading and tried to occupy my mind with something other than my growing panic.

Fifteen minutes after my session was supposed to start, my therapist opened her door. She looked her normal self and didn’t offer any explanation for the delay. I was scared to say something, but I knew I needed to.

“Don’t we start a little earlier on Wednesdays?”

I watched as she processed what was happening and then a slight look of horror crossed her face. “Oh my god. Yes, you’re right. I’m so sorry – I got confused about the days and times.”

I felt both my heart and lungs stop functioning. I froze in place.

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(Un)tethered

I have weighed myself every single morning for the last year and a half.

Before that, I weighed myself maybe once or twice a month and it didn’t mean much. I think it was mostly just curiosity. The only scale we had in the house was a cheap dial scale that probably wasn’t even accurate.

But when I relapsed last November, one of the first things I did was order a fancier digital scale from Amazon. And from the moment it arrived at my doorstep, I have been tethered to that bright orange square of doom.

My therapist and I have recently begun tackling my eating disorder in sessions. I should have been doing this a very long time ago, but I refused to even acknowledge it was a thing. It wasn’t until it became concerning (enough) to others that I brought it up with her. I guess their concern somehow gave me “permission” to ask for help or something.

It’s been hard. I don’t make very much progress. Or at least I hadn’t been anyway (or maybe it just didn’t feel like it?). I wrote previously that my psychiatrist prescribed Ritalin to help me gain a more “top-down” way of using my brain, allowing for more executive control and rational thinking. That was about three weeks ago.

And I’ll be damned if that isn’t exactly what is happening.

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I Have Time

My first week of clinic is almost done. I’ve done well, impressing my clinical instructor (CI) within a few minutes and continuing to impress her with each day.

Yesterday my CI asked me to work with a patient who’s an avid runner (since I’m also a runner and she figured we’d be a good match). She had me evaluate the patient’s running form and apply the appropriate corrections to help mitigate some of the compensations she’s instituted since pulling her groin. I did some exercises and neurological re-education with her and then we had her hop back on the treadmill to re-assess. You could instantly see an improvement in her form and my CI said, “Wow, great job! I’m just going to give all of my runners to you from now on! You clearly have a lot of knowledge and good instincts on this!” Then she said she wanted me to do my required in-service presentation on treating runners in physical therapy.

Pretty cool, huh?

Sure.

At virtually any point before early December, a moment like this would have made me burst with pride and excitement. I absolutely love it when I nail something, especially in my career. And to have made such a good impression on my CI within a mere three days would have had me beaming like the damn sun.

But my internal response was a solid “meh”. My external response was absolutely appropriate for the situation. I expressed a perfect display of humble gratitude. But inside I barely broke neutral.

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Excited

Tomorrow I start my second clinical affiliation. I was super nervous about how I’d manage full-time clinic with therapy three times a week. Turns out the physical therapy office I was assigned to is literally three blocks from my therapist.

Huh. Interesting how that worked out, eh?

finally got my schedule from my clinical instructor. I was originally assigned a week of mid-shifts, but I asked to switch with my fellow student so now I have a schedule that allows me to go to therapy right after my internship on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

I am very looking forward to getting back into a regular routine. Therapy has felt sporadic and far away lately. We’ve been mostly puzzling our schedules together, trying to make the pieces fit as best we can. I was totally checked out emotionally during finals week, so I kinda feel like I haven’t really been in therapy since late November. We did have one phone session while I was away, but I was so distant and walled up that it didn’t really feel like much of anything.

But she came in to see clients on the 28th and that session was fruitful. I felt very relaxed and spoke openly about how much I’ve been struggling with my eating disorder. I think she was relieved that we were finally really talking about this in a way that allowed for more options. Since I was going to see my psychiatrist later that week, she asked if I would be willing to share about this with the doctor as well.

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A Year of Bonuses

New Year’s Eve is always a weirdly emotional time for me. Similar to my birthday, it’s a time when I feel a lot of panic and anxiety about whether or not I’ve done anything worth celebrating. It’s also a time, culturally, when we’re encouraged to reflect and make promises to ourselves about all the changes we’ll make to be better in the new year.

Fuck that noise.

It’s just a damn day. Sure, the year changes and I guess that could mean something, but is it really that much different than the day before or the day after? No.

Last year I resolved nothing. My only goal was to survive. Anything above that was to be a bonus. And in that sense, I’d say this was a year of bonuses:

I completed all of my clinical coursework, including my first internship, maintaining a 4.0 GPA and scoring a perfect 100 on my comprehensive final practical exam.

I weathered a shit ton of relational and other challenges with a new therapist who is now someone I trust and value tremendously. I saw her once a week. Then twice. And now solidly three times a week.

finally found a psychiatrist that I don’t hate. In fact, I love my shrink. She is my favorite doctor that I’ve ever had, ever.

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Magic Gone

I always loved Christmas as a kid. I think I did, anyway. I have a sense of being mesmerized by the wonder of the season – all of the lights, glitter, music, and overall festive nature of late December.

I also remember a Christmas morning when I was a teenager. Our family had been fighting, per usual. I don’t know what the fight was about, probably something stupid. But I left the house and walked to church. I sat in the front pew for the early Christmas Day mass and cried through the entire service. Back then, church was a safe place for me. I loved being there. I love the pastor and the stories and the music. I was in awe of the old gothic cathedral that was never quite warm enough, but still felt cozy.

As I’ve gotten older, the meaning of Christmas has changed. Primarily because I no longer identify as Christian, but also because of my estrangement from my family. For me, Christmas has always been about the gathering of loved ones. I enjoyed getting presents as much as the next person, but I was also really happy to see the joy on someone else’s face when they opened that super awesome gift they’d really been hoping for. And there’s something about everyone finding their way to each other for one day a year just to eat, drink, and be merry.

It’s magical.

Or it was.

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A Long, Fast Week

I’m writing this from an airport. Our flight back to NYC was cancelled, rebooked, and the new flight has been delayed.

The joys of holiday travel.

Wife and I just spent a week at my sister and brother-in-law’s home, virtually attached to our nieces and nephew. We also spent a little over 24 hours with my “Mom” and her two golden retrievers over the weekend.

It was a long week that went by fast.

It was exhausting, exciting, stressful, frustrating, triggering, soothing, confusing, nostalgic, loving, fun, and unexpected. I would say it was both an incredibly joyful experience as well as tremendously difficult. But that’s okay, it can be both things at once. I’m trying to let it be, anyway.

It’s too hard otherwise. And this is how I went through my life – separating things into “good” and “bad” and putting huge walls between them to stay sane. But I don’t need to do that anymore, so I am trying to allow being “home” to be an experience that is complex and painful, but also really enjoyable and, quite frankly, something I need every once in a while.

I haven’t seen my nephew since he was born and he just turned nine months old. Too. Damn. Long. My nieces are growing like weeds and I HATE missing so much of their lives. My sister and brother-in-law are both wonderful people who I have a great time being around.

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