Monday, March 20, 2017

Intuitive Eating: Not the Hunger-Fullness Diet

After my 3 month stay in IP at age 18, I was given a meal plan to follow and had weekly meetings with a dietician back at home to help me stick to it.  We had read some articles and book chapters on intuitive eating during my IP stay, and had taken a few steps toward eating that way.

For example, people who were nearly weight-restored were allowed to leave a couple bites of food on our plates at meals.  We had snack challenges where we could meet individually with a dietician during a scheduled snack time and we were given a snack that was higher in calories than the one on our plan.  We were encouraged to eat it mindfully and leave behind whatever we weren't hungry for.  I remember doing this kind of snack challenge with my dietician and feeling surprised when there came a moment where I just wasn't really hungry for the treat anymore and could easily stop eating it.  She told me to keep the leftovers and either throw them away or eat them later.  This was meant to help me trust myself around the food.  I felt a sense of pride being able to throw away the rest of the snack and not feel like I really cared either way if I had kept it or not.

In the less intensive last few weeks of the program, we had restaurant challenges and also snack challenges where we ate out at ice cream places.  At these we were encouraged to follow some basic guidelines (like eating at least half of the entree and all the sides, or maybe at least half the ice cream) but beyond that, we were supposed to listen to our appetite.  I think we even had a "pot luck" group meal where we were supposed to try a little of every dish and then get more of what we liked if we were still hungry.  We were also able to shop for and pick all our snacks at the less intensive program, and we chose menus and cooked food in our housing groups which helped us decide what sorts of things we liked or didn't like.

At the time, I was ready for these challenges and they did help me learn to trust my body.  After treatment, having a combination of a meal plan and partial intuitive eating was useful even though I did eventually relapse.  However, it was clear that some of the people in treatment were not at all ready for even this fairly structured verssion of intuitive eating.  Some girls said they still weren't hungry for anything, ever and only ever ate the bare minimum requirements.

Some people, when allowed to leave 2-3 bites on their plates, could be seen to be portioning out the biggest possible bites into 3 piles, ready for inspection by the meal supervisor.  This particular behavior was kind of frustrating to watch since I thought it should be obvious to the professionals that this was definitely not intuitive eating, and yet I didn't see anyone get challenged on it.

When I stopped purging for good at age 20, my body was absolutely ravenous.  I had some weight I needed to regain at that point, and I did a lot of bingeing/reactive eating.  Sometime after that, I started to slide into bingeing followed by exercise compensation.  But at age 23, I got deadly serous about stopping all forms of ED.  I was so ashamed that, having claimed to be recovered, my eating and exercise were still so disordered.  So I decided to re-tackle intuitive eating, with a vengeance!  This time, though, I didn't have a meal plan to go along with it.

I became like a drill sargeant with myself. I wouldn't let myself eat a bite beyond what I felt hungry for.  If I did, I would analyze my behavior into the ground, picking apart the likely "triggers."  I completely stopped exercising or weighing myself.  Yet I dropped weight quickly as was obvious from the fit of my clothes.  Probably some of this was muscle lost fhat I'd gained from excessive exercise, but also, I had been over my IP-given weight range, which I saw as further proof that my bingeing was "ridiculously out of control."  I didn't give myself any mercy or think that maybe my body just needed that extra weight from years of starvation and semi-starvation.  And eventually, having lost too much weight by my self-imposed hunger/fullness diet (which I thought was the same as intuitive eating), I started occassionally bingeing again and really being angry with myself.  I didn't weigh myself so I didn't see the pattern of small wieght-loss followed by a binge, followed by more semi- "intuitve eating" and small weight-loss, followed by another binge.  I didn't really figure it out until I started weighing again.

Before I figured it out, I had become obsessed with hunger and fullness.  I could tell within a bite when I stopped being hungry and then thought I had to stop eating at that bite since I was "fulll."  I thought constantly about each bite and every sensation it created.  I thought that's what I had learned to do in IP, but didn't take into account the additional structured meal plan that had helped balance the intuitive eating.  I would find that within half an hour of eating and being "satisfied," I would feel hungry again.  But I wouldn't be sure if it was hunger or not.  Maybe it was anxiety.  If it was, I shouldn't eat more, or at least that's what I thought.  How could I tell?  I thought about it a good portion of the time.

Eventually, I did recover, but I had to stop analyzing every bite and every sensation in my stomach.  Intuitive eating is a lot more than strictly eating when hungry and stopping when "full" (or "not hungry").  When I did that, I was losing weight and setting myself up for binge after binge.  It was awful.

After time, I gained intuitions about how to eat until feeling pleasantly full (not just until "not hungry").  And I also learned that it was also normal just to eat a meal without thinking much about hunger and fullness.  I kept track of my weight just enough to use as external evidence to help me make sure I wasn't undereating because of my intuitions being off.  I didn't want to continue the accidentally restrict/then binge pattern.

These days, I don't spend much time thinking about hunger and fullness.  I definitely eat when I'm hungry, but I hardly think about how I feel after a meal.  I just get on with my day.  Sometimes I feel a little too full after a meal, but it doesn't stress me out and I no longer feel at all any need to dig into "the underlying reason" for why I ate more than I strictly "needed" (whatever that means!).  Generally, eating extra only happens when I eat too fast or the food is just really good and worth eating extra of.  My weight is very stable to the point that I don't weigh myself often since it is boring to always just see about the same weight come up each time.

I definitely wouldn't recommend intuitive eating to someone who isn't weight-restored (or nearly there).  And it's good to start with a structured plan as a minimum requirement.  It's possible to transition out of this later to more complete intuitive eating, but it's good to have someone making sure one isn't losing weight during the process.  There is potential for relapse during the transition time, so it's something to be aware of.  Also, there are different ways of eating intuitively, so really, there is nothing black and white about it, so be careful if it ever starts to feel that way.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

An Old Friend Makes It Through In-Patient

A few posts ago, I mentioned that my husband D's old friend, I'll call K, was looking to go in-patient for his eating disorder.  He was struggling with what was probably orthorexia and with a loss of appetite from anxiety and depression.   He really wanted to gain weight, but hadn't been able to convince himself that his body could handle the foods needed to do the job.

D used to be housemates with K.  I first met K about 7 years ago.  At the time, I was staying a couple weeks with my close friend A, and D was hardly on the radar at that point in my life, but A had been looking for opportunities to set us up. She suggested we go visit D who was staying in another part of the coastal state that A was living in.  I was amenable to the idea, but warned A not to try too hard to set me up with D because I don't like drama and awkwardness nearly as much as she does.  She told me that there was plenty of other awkwardness to distract from any potential new relationship drama: She explained K's struggles with food and the marital struggles of her brother and his wife who were temporarily crashing with D and K.  Fortunately, things went smoothly and we all had fun together.  I remember feeling sorry for K when we all went out for an early surf and he was struggling and shivering in his weakened state.  He said he was trying to gain weight and I tried to encourage him to push past the physical discomfort, but didn't reveal my own history.

After returning home, I stayed in touch with D and a distance relationship slowly began.  Friend A eventually moved in with D and K in a new much bigger house where they each had a floor to themself and D and A tried to help K gain weight as best as they could.  I went for a visit a few months later and saw the meal plans they had tried to help K establish hanging on the fridge.  K had neither gained or lost since I'd last seen him.  Early in my visit, A admitted that she had told D and K about my eating disorder history in an effort to encourage K. I was kind of embarrassed.  I didn't know what D would think and we were still pretty early in our relationship.  (But it didn't much matter because a couple days later, D and I took a trip to visit one of my relatives who said in front of him how glad she was that I had overcome my eating disorder!) Anyway, knowing that both D and K already knew  about my past, I was able to try to share some practical advice with K when he asked.

Over the years since that visit and after our marriage, D and I continued to keep in touch with K.  Unfortunately, when A and D moved out of the house and were replaced with other roommates, K recommenced his downward trajectory.  We saw him occassionally in our travels and visited him in 2013 for a week and he was doing a little better, but his eating disorder might have been a factor in his later breaking up with the girlfriend he had at that time.  After the breakup, he took a downward plunge in his health.

Last year, he called letting us know that he was searching for in-patient options.  He had the extra burden of finding a place that would treat men.  He was anxious and oppressed with the feeling that he might pick the wrong place and not get better.  I told him that as long as he picked a place that ensured he would gain weight, he would be better off than not going.  He wasn't really afraid of weight gain, but had realized that he just couldn't trust himself to make it happen or to get himself to try foods he'd become afraid of. And yet, the fact that he was willing to go to treatment and gain weight made him feel that maybe he just wasn't trying hard enough.  Knowing his long history with his eating disorder, I assured him that it would be a big relief to let someone else make the food decisions for a while.  I told him what a relief it had been to me to go to treatment and take a break from the mental gymnastics of food decisions.  I encouraged him not to be afraid to try medication if they offered.  It definitely (eventually when I found the right ones) helped me take some steps forward in my recovery and I've seen the same happen in others' stories.

We talked for over an hour and I can't remember all I said (though I'm sure I didn't make that big of a difference in his final decision), but a few weeks later I was very happy to hear the K had made it through an in-patient program and was in an intensive out-patient program.  He said his attitude toward food had completely changed and he no longer feared eating like other people do.

D and I traveled back to the States for Christmas and we were able to see K quite a few times as he had come to visit his family in D and K's hometown.  We shared a few meals with him and he did seem more at ease around food.

In D's hometown, he has another friend, I'll call B, who is a former Marine and really loves food.   B has been on a medication for a few years that is known to increase appetite, and he is considering becoming a chef so he likes to talk about food a lot.  When we are in D's hometown, we spend loads of time with B and one day it just made sense to invite both K and B for a day of fun even though they basically only know each other from hanging out with D and I during previous visits.  We had a great time ice skating and then went to the mall food court for lunch.  K and I went to a place that has mostly "healthy" (meaning it has some vegetables with the food) options and D and B got food from a place that basically prides itself on the multiple layers of fried foods and non-vegetable-containing cheese-smothered options.  I felt a little conflicted about getting the "healthier" option as if as a recovered ED-sufferer, maybe I should be setting a better example.  K explained that even though he is now not so afraid of the "unhealthy" option- he trusts his body can handle it- it's still not what he prefers.  He said that even the "healthy" food he ordered wasn't something he would have been able to eat before treatment.  They had happened to have that same "healthy" restaurant near the treatment center where he had been and it had been a popular option for the out-patient group.

It was interesting hearing K explain to B where he had been for the past few months when B asked.  It was a very matter-of-fact conversation.  B asked a few questions about the program, K answered straightforwardly, seemingly unembarraassed, and then they moved on to other topics.  I wondered how the conversation might have been different between women.  I don't know if I would have been so open about where I'd been if I had been in K's position.  For now, it seems that K is on the road to recovery.  He still has more weight restoration to do, and he did admit that they didn't have a strong focus on aftercare at the treatment facility, but he was working on making some important decisions about work that could help relieve some of his stress and anxiety so that recovery will be easier.

The meal with K reminded me of a dream I'd had a couple months before.  In the dream, I was in a building that looked like an enormous high school with many floors.  I saw some people in passing that I had met in treatment when I was 18.  "Maybe you'll be in our group," they said.  I realized that this was an eating disorder treatment center and that I was an aid and was supposed to assist a group of recovering young adult women.  I sat with a few ladies at a round table in a school-style cafeteria and we each had a plate piled up with breaded fried meats, Doritos, and sausages that were so full of grease that it poured out of the middle when you cut them in half: not a vegetable or fruit in sight.  I was torn internally and a little anxious about the food. I knew there probably wasn't a problem eating a meal like that once, but it was way more than I was hungry for and I didn't know if I had to finish it all to be a good role model.  And I thought, "These ladies will only be here for a couple months eating like this, but will I have to eat like this for years since I'm working here?"

I was stressed about not wanting to trigger anyone so I didn't say anything at first, but then I asked one of the women, "Do people usually finish their meals?" wondering if maybe they were just supposed to eat intuitively and stop when they felt full.  "I usually just keep munching away at it it until it's gone," she replied solemnly.

One woman finished most of her food but left the sausages.  "Do you think you will finish those?" I asked her, feeling torn because it seemed like she had already eaten plenty of food, but unsure whether I was supposed to "make" her finish.  "I just can't eat those," she replied as she cleared her plate from the table without waiting for a reply.

Having that dream contributed to some thinking I was doing about exactly what my relationship is with food now that I've recovered and weather it is as healthy as it can be (and by who's measure?).  Hopefully I'll get a chance to blog about that sometime, but this entry is plenty long so I'll call it quits for now.

I actually had a couple different dreams about eating disorder treatment last year.  Has anyone else out there dreamed about eating disorders?



Friday, January 13, 2017

Wild Ride

So much has happened over the past couple months that it is hard to know where to begin.  I may not get to write about it all, but I'll start with the spontaneous trip we took to Bali and the adventures and misadventures of it.

On a Saturday morning late last November, my husband, D, discovered an incredible deal on last minute tickets to Bali.  We just had lotss of details that needed to be taken care of on the home front and a busy weekend planned  with a preformance in church, and a birthday party to attend, not to mention a last minute trip to plan!  But somehow we got it all sorted, got in a day of work on Monday and headed to the airport Monday night for a late flight.

I had a horrible feeling that I was evading my responsibilties.  There were people I could be meeting with, people I could be helping, and other things I could be doing.  I sort of felt like the "bad kid" sneaking off during school hours.  All that immediately fell away as soon as I stepped off the plane!  Like magic, I forgot about all that and asked D, "Why didn't we schedule this trip for longer?"

We had an awesome deal on a hotel a block away from the beach.  Basically, I had four great days of surfing mornings and afternoons and eating delicious food and tropical fruits.

Of course, nothing is ever perfect: I couldn't sleep at all after we collapsed in our room at just after 1am.  Later that morning, we decided to eat at the breakfast buffet at the hotel.  The thinking was that though it is a little more expensive, it would be worth it because we could eat as much as we could then snack throughout the day until dinner (definitely not something I could have handled a few years ago!).  Unfortunately, my eyes were really playing tricks on me (happens more when I don't get enough sleep) and I ended up tripping over a step and falling into a glass door on my way into the dining area! Then when I went over to get some milk for the coffee I'd just poured myself, I tripped over a shallow step that was in the middle of the room and spilled coffee all over the floor, burning my hand in the process!  Yikes!  I was kind of emotional from not sleeping and just the whole reminder that, no, I still can't see well.  I felt tears welling up, but swallowed them back.  I hate crying in public.  Fortunately, I almost forgot the whole thing once I was out surfing.

The second day of surfing, the waves were bigger than I could really handle. I can always catch waves after they've broken, but that's not as much fun as riding on the unbroken face.  The waves were 8 feet which is too much for me since there is always the occasional "rogue set" of even larger waves.  I did manage to catch a few of the smaller ones though.

In the afternoon of the second day, I was going to try to stay in a bit toward the shore and catch any smaller waves breaking closer in, but then things calmed down, there were no waves breaking, and I took the chance to paddle out a bit further.

As soon as I was out there, the biggest set of the day rolled in.  I have no idea how big the waves were, probably a rogue set.  Unfortunately, I wasn't far enough out.  I was right at the impact zone.  I've had waves crash on me before and hold me down, but this was probably the biggest I've been in.  I tried to dive deep under the first wave, but it sucked me up and threw me down, washing me around violently then continuing to hold me down by the strong undercurrent even when the worst of the water tornado was over.   When it had let me go, I climbed my leash back up to the board and came up gasping.  I had barely got a breath when another big wave immediately crashed down on me with a mighty roar.  It threw me down to the bottom that time.  After being held down for about as long as I could take (I didn't have a full breath), I climbed the rope again, begging the board to still be attached to it.  It was, fortunately, and I found my way to the surface.  While coming up, I checked to see if my precious eye protection of sunglasses and a baseball cap were still tied into my ponytail. (The sunglasses had a strap).  Fortunately they were, but I didn't have much time to think about it before another huge wave crashed, pushing and sucking me down again while throwing me every which way then holding me under a third time from the undertow.  Under the roaring water, I kept thinking about how I really didn't want to hit my head on the board or ground and go unconscious.  I'm not particularly bouyant and I didn't know if i would float if I lost the air in my lungs.  I also worried the board might snap off the leash and I'd lose my guide to the surface.  I also began to feel like "this is my life now.  Escaping wave after wave.  How many more will there be?" Fortunately, when the wave let me go, the board was still attached, and I made it to the surface again, immediately hauling myself up onto my boarrd and paddling furiously toward shore.

The shore looked so far away and the water was a foamy froth all around me as far as I could see.  I began to wonder if I was also being sucked out to sea.  As I paddled hard, breathing quicly and deeply, I saw a man out in the foam looking at me with big eyes and trying to say something, but I didn't stop to chat.  I just sprint paddled as the next wave crashed behind me.  The foam from that one was so big that it powerfully swept me off the board and burried me, but didn't really hold me under, or at least not for long.  As quickly as I could manage, I was back on the board sprinting to shore.

When I made it to shore, I sat on the sand next to my board thinking.  I felt my hair which was an enormous wild tangle with my ponytail holder tenatively clinging to part of the end barely keeping my sunglasses and hat still attached.  I was so thankful to not lose them as the sunglasses are just the right shade to help my eyes see more contrast and they  would be hard to replace.  As I sat, I thought about the possibility that I could have drowned out there had I been hit in the head or had the wind knocked out of me.  There were other people around, but would they have noticed me?  Also, what was that man out in the foam saying?  Was he ok?  Did he need help?  But my eyes are terrible and I wouldn't be able to see him from shore.  I hadn't wanted to risk myself any further to try to talk to him.  Was that a mistake? Or was he just asking me if I was ok?

"Do I just sit out now?"  I wondered.  but after a rest, I thought maybe it was best to just get back out there and try again before I psyched myself out too much.  This time I stayed closer in and didn't even try to manage the big waves out back.

Fortunately, the third and fourth days, the waves were much more my size: about shoulder height when I was riding them.  Because my eyesight is poor, I didn't want to risk riding the really good sections where there were stacks of people to try to avoid and not cut in on, so I ended up with some of the poorer quality waves, but sometimes got a random good one.  I was happy that nothing scary happened the rest of the trip.

Getting an unexpected wild ride under water is all part of surfing.  While I was held under water, I had tried to relax and remember that the wave doesn't hold you down forever.  I only wish I'd had a dedicated partner to surf with at the time.  Someone looking out for me particularly.  D doens't really like surfing much, but maybe I'll make him come with me more often in the future.

After that wave misadventure, I started to see some analogies to life in what had happened.  Sometimes, we know something is more than we can handle, but for a minute, we get lulled into a false sense of security then get held in it longer than we bargained for.  This always seemed to happen to me when I was in early recovery for my eating disorder.  I would think "just this once" and then struggle with symptoms for days.

On a slightly more positive note, when a wave holds a person down, it is bound to let go; Usually in just 12-18 seconds (though without a full breath, that can feel like a while.). Though it feels longer because it is out of one's control, it's best to relax and just remember that it will end.   It's a good thing to remember for me when life has those periods of time that feel totally out of my control.  They will end and I'll live to see the surface again.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Spontaneous Trip

On Saturday, my husband found some cheap tickets to Bali.  Really cheap.  Since we decided not to return to Remote Community, we decided we could spare 4 days this week to make the trip.  So we are leaving tonight.

Since I've had a recent surge in anxiety that seems to have built up over the past year of un-tethered moving-ness, it isn't the easiest thing for me to just head out on yet another trip, but I know it will be fun.  I love surfing so much.

A while back, I was looking online for surf tips for people with visual impairments.  I figured I can't be the only legally blind person out there who loves surfing.  I didn't find any solid tips, but I found out that at one time, there was an exclusive club called the "Blind Girl Surf Club."  I got excited for a minute when I read that, but then went on to read that it was mostly men in the club and their motto was something like "I wouldn't want to be a member of any club that would have me as a member."  I was disappointed.

Not being able to see well is definitely a limiting factor for me when it comes to surfing.  I always feel like I have to stay as far from other people as I can, and that usually means picking the spots on the beach where the waves aren't breaking as cleanly.  Having poor contrast vision means it's hard for me to interpret how close or far a swell is from me.  My husband doesn't love surfing a ton, but he usually tries to help me at least for a while.  He's great at judging a wave and telling me when to start paddling.

Anyway, when my anxiety levels are high, and a part of me is saying, "No!!! Don't do ___!!! It will bring dooooom!!!" I've found that just going ahead and doing what I'm afraid to do almost always ends up well.  When I think back to the times I've challenged my fears, I don't regret it.  I'm glad for the times I've pushed myself to try things even with the fears that come from having limited vision.  I'm trying to remind myself of this.  Instead of imagining waves too big for me to handle and a crowd too dense to navigate through, I'm trying to remember the times I've started off fearful and had fun anyway.

I think of doing what I fear as sort of a preventative "exposure" therapy, like is used in the treatment of phobias.  Going blind could really limit me if I let it.  I don't want that to happen.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Big Fancy Move

So much has been happening lately, and yet sometimes I'm so bored.  We left Remote Community and moved in to our first semi-permanent residence.  We are no longer technically vagabonds, since we now have a place where our stuff will be based and our bed can keep it's sheets when we head out for the next trip.  We will still be traveling as much as ever, but now we will be paying a boat-load of rent.

Haha, I guess that's the negative way of looking at it.  Actually, it does feel kind of good to put clothes in drawers and know that I'm not going to have to completely empty and clean those drawers next time we leave.

I've been taking a required training course for the past week.  It is on a topic I'm already familiar with, so I've had a hard time staying focused and not reading other things during the classes.  That's part of the boredom.

The other part is that when we were last in Remote Community, so many exciting things were happening and I was helping with a project that is exactly the kind of thing I've been training and waiting ten years to do.  It was so fulfilling.  Now I'm back in town, getting yet more (redundant) training.  And it doesn't look like there will be funds for us to go back to Remote Community until next year.

Oh well, guess I'm just learning patience yet again.  It's a very hard topic for me since I'm losing my eyesight progressively.  I just really want to get on with the things I feel like I'm meant to do.

So, we moved in with a flatmate whom I've written about previously that I'll call T. Also, another person, a co-worker is staying with us before she gets relocated to another branch of our organization.  I'll call her C.  I really love C.  She is a super-sweet, quiet person, that comes originally from a country I've never been to but which has a culture like some of the places I've loved working in in the past.  Some friends of hers, also from the same country invited us over for a huge feast on Sunday where they cooked some typical dishes from their homeland.  It was amazing and they were so warm and friendly and we laughed the whole evening.

T is very quiet and keeps to herself a lot, but she does have friends she meets up with a few times a week.  She is the one who mentioned that she used to run, but lost too much weight.  That comment had made me curious about her.  She seems to have some pretty fixed habits.  She goes on exactly the same walk at almost exactly the same time every day.  There is nothing wrong with routine, but I personally would get tired of taking the same route day after day for months. I told her about a couple other routes that are about the same distance, but she sticks to her normal one.  She did seem open to trying something new, though.  She said that it was good that the routes I suggested were the same length since she finds that the length she does works for her and shorter or longer wouldn't be good.

She is a diligent housekeeper.  We aren't slovenly, but I worry that I won't be able to keep up with her and keep the chore distribution fair.  We haven't really talked about it directly yet.

My husband (D) isn't big on chores.  He does things if I ask him to, but rarely thinks to do things on his own.  He doesn't mean to be lazy or anything--He does do cooking and dishes almost everyday--but he just has a very optimistic tendency to estimate that the last time we did a chore was far more recent than is actually true.  For example, if I wash the bed sheets, then a week later, ask him if he wouldn't mind throwing them in the wash, he always thinks we just washed them a couple days ago.  When we were engaged, he said he washed his towels and sheets every week or two, but have since observed that this probably meant every month or two.  I think time just passes extra fast for him. :)

I"m not complaining.  I really hate cooking and I am super happy to have him cook most of our meals.  And he even usually does most of the dishes when he cooks.  However, I do feel like it will mostly be up to me to keep things clean enough that T won't be annoyed.  I would absolutely love to be living in a flat just with D.  I don't like the guilt and pressure of having someone else to please.  I also don't like getting woken up by noises in the kitchen.  Oh well,  I guess at least T's early starts to the day will help us stay on a better schedule and make better use of the cooler morning hours.

Well, nothing really too insightful to say.  This move has been a fairly big transition.  We've been making some home purchases and it's been nice to buy things we want, like certain kitchen appliances we've sometimes had to make do without.  (I really like having a microwave, a slow cooker, and a blender, all in the same kitchen!)

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Creativity, Revival, Encouraging In-patient, and Señor Footlick

When we were getting ready to move to Australia, I had this full-size electronic piano keyboard I really wanted to bring.  I was struggling to find an affordable case for it that would protect it during international travel.  When extensive online searching turned up few results, in exasperation, I googled the dimensions of the piano: 57" x 14" x 9".  I don't know what I was hoping would happen, but the first result that showed up on the screen was actually a Bible verse: Isaiah 57:14, which says in part, "Remove all of the obstacles out of the way of my people."  Shortly after that, I found an adjustable case that is meant for ski equipment, but perfectly fit my piano (with some extra clothes packed in it for padding.  Not only that, but none of my travel fears were realized: I had read online that one of the airlines we were traveling with would charge the price of an extra seat to transport an instrument.  That would have cost well over 1000 dollars.  We were able to transport the piano for just the price of an extra piece of baggage without even incurring an oversize fee.

As you can see, I was invested in being able to keep playing piano.  But it has sometimes been kind of a bittersweet thing for me as I've been losing my eyesight.  I used to be able to sight-read music easily and play whatever I wanted whenever I wanted without much effort or practice.  It was an incredible stress reliever and being able to pick up new music and play it kept the novelty factor high so that I didn't get bored of playing the same old stuff.  Unfortunately, with my diminished eyesight, sight-reading has become nearly impossible unless it is just from chord sheets, which I don't find as interesting.  I have always been alright at playing by ear and improvising, but reading music provides so much more interest to me because it helps me play in ways I would not have thought of myself.  It is a big loss for me not to be able to do that anymore, at least without hours of painstaking practice.  So my biggest stress reliever was becoming a huge source of stress.  My practice sessions sometimes ended in silent tears as I mourned the loss of my favorite skill.

But fortunately, that's not the complete end of the story.  Over the past three weeks, my musical creativity has taken off and I've written eight songs complete with lyrics.  I've been pouring my extra time into polishing these songs and it's been really satisfying and has renewed my joy in playing the piano.  It feels like a big fat gift has been dropped in my lap!

When I was in the throws of my eating disorder years ago, my creativity took a big hit.  When I was a child, I used to love to write my own music and poems.  When I became ill at age 13, my brain was absorbed in the obsessive tumble of food thoughts and malnourished worries.  I only wrote music or poems if I had to for a school project.  I think I wrote one song during my high school years  and it lacked the emotional depth of the what I'd written previously.

As I became more nourished, I began again to turn emotions into poems and music, though on the music side, I mostly switched to arranging songs I knew rather than writing new ones.

In the past few weeks, the community where we are staying has had a "spiritual revival."  There are been refreshing changes all over the place, and I see my music writing as a tiny part of something bigger that's happening.  There have been young men who have turned away from petrol-sniffing and have started to go around "blessing" people.  Part of that  blessing has included them sharing God's love with kids who stay our all night in groups vandalising and petrol-sniffing.  There has been a real sense shared by everyone that there can be positive change here.  There have even been people who say they have been miraculously healed from various ailments.

One of the projects I've been working on with a wonderful older Aboriginal lady has taken off at lightning pace.  It has involved me becoming more familiar with two languages related to the one that I'm learning.  The time I've spent with this older lady has blessed the socks right off me.  It is so amazing to come to the other side of the world and be so united with someone so different from me.  We find so many things to laugh about and encourage each other about as we've been working toward our goal.

In the past three weeks, we (D and I) did have to move to yet another house.  This time with no air-con in the bedroom.  (Hardly anywhere around here has air-con in the main part of the house, but I always hope to be able to sleep in the cool!)  But the positive has been that we have the place to ourselves which does take away a certain amount of stress.

We are moving back to town in 3 days then maybe we'll be back here again next month.  It's been a bit stressful deciding whether to try to get our vehicle back to town this time or whether we can actually count on being back here and deal with it later.

One of D's (my husband's) old friends contacted me this week.  He has had a long battle with an eating disorder.  Unfortunately, he is really unwell right now and is looking to enter in-patient treatment for the first time.  He wanted to know about my experiences and any advice.  I'm glad that I had researched a few things for this blog that could be helpful for him.  He is in a place where he really does want to be well.  Sometimes, it can be hard for people to reach out for the right level of help even when they really want to get better.  They think their desire to get better should be enough to help them conquer their disordered behaviors on their own, but unfortunately, it doesn't always work that way.  I encouraged him to go ahead and put himself in a place where others can help him turn things around.  He has tried to get better for so long and wanting to be well just hasn't been enough so far.

I am anxious to know if he has followed through.  He had a tentative date set to go to treatment, but I don't know if he has actually entered in-patient yet.  He was really struggling with feeling satisfied that he had chosen the "right" place.  I tried to encourage him that any place would be better than nothing at this point, as long as it is a place that will help him gain weight.  He actually does want to gain weight, but he seems to have a ton of food phobias and also depression and anxiety that has affected his appetite.

To end on a happy note, there is a silly young dog that has shown up in this community that I have named Señor Footlick.  At random times when we are out walking he bounds toward us with a smiling, panting face and tries to nuzzle and lick our feet, even as we continue walking.  I was in the tiny nearby shop the other day and suddenly felt something soft on my feet, then lick, lick, lick: Señor Footlick!  Even when you try to push him away, he just keeps coming back for more.  He turns up in places kilometres from where we last saw him, and every time, he has one goal.

Well, that was a little bit of everything.  Here are some questions:
If you have had a mental illness (eating disorder or other) how has it affected you creativity?  
Have you ever had a time of unexpected "revival" in your life (spiritual or other)?
Have you ever found that your history with some kind of life difficulty (eating disorder or other) has given you a platform to try to help or advise others?
Are there any silly animals in your life?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Catching up

It's been a while since I've written.  That's not super surprising to me since it's always been easier for me to start a project than to keep it going.  I've got lots of unfinished things that I need to get back to at some point.  However, I do hope to keep up with this blog for the foreseeable future.

I thought I'd recap the past few weeks with a lisf of the good and the bad.

Good:  We've been living in the same place for almost three weeks now!

Bad: A water main broke and we had no water all afternoon when we were supposed to be cleaning and moving out of the previous apartment (which is right next door).  We had to rush the cleaning when the water came back on, but we missed a couple minor things.  The lady who moved in came over in a rage when she moved in and made us do more cleaning. (It didn't take long because it wasn't a huge deal!)

Good: The lady who we are living with came over with us to help clean and talked the new neighbor down out of her rage.  The neighbor even apologized as we were leaving!

Bad: My husband parked our vehicle in a never-used space that is technically on the side of the property that the neighbor is renting.  (She had let us use this space the last time we were here.)  She went into a rage again.  (Yeah, maybe I wouldn't have parked the car there if it had been me, but my husband is a very live and let live guy, so it didn't even cross his mind that she would be bothered by this.)

Bad: That parking space (which is shaded: shade being a very precious commodity in this climate) has not been used even once since my husband moved the car out of it.  Even when the lady's bf comes over he doesn't park in it because it is narrow.  So we often get in our hot car looking at the space with longing.

Good: At least she hasn't yelled at us since.

Bad:  I saw crocodile tracks on the beach I usually walk on.

Good:  A semi-wild dingo joined me for my walk and I knew he would be the canary in the coal mine since he is definitely a more edible size than I am.  That is, I knew the croc would go for him instead of me if it was there.

Good:  My husband fixed some major car problems on two of our adopted family's vehicles.  Plus, he did it for free using parts from the dump.  (It did take a long time, though.)  It was extra good because he got to work with Aboriginal guys on the cars instead of just doing it alone.  He is really passionate about teaching people how to do things instead of doing it all for people.

Good: He might also get to teach a short course on auto maintenance to some young people.

Bad: I became allergic to my sunscreen!  I thought it wasn't working at all, then I realised that the redness wasn't from the sun (I rarely burn), but was coming from the sunscreen itself since I got "burned" when I put on my cream without going outside.

Good:  I found out that Vaseline has an SPF of 2 to 5.  I mix it with some mineral powder foundation and wear a big hat and I haven't gotten burned so far since giving up on my sunscreen.

Bad:  Vaseline is not a renewable resource.  (Sorry, earth!)

Good:  I should have some "physical" sunscreen coming in the mail soon.  (I think it has zinc oxide and maybe another mineral.)

Bad:  We live in such a remote place, things take weeks to arrive by mail.

Good: It may be remote, but I do live in a beautiful place, and we've had quite a few opportunities lately to take people out to fish and gather on their ancestral lands.

So that's it for now.  I have a lot of different posts started or floating in my head.  Hopefully I'll be able to get to them soon!