From Mirasol ED Recovery Guest Blogwriter ~ Faith
I used to work in a level one trauma center, which basically means, you get EVERYTHING and anything. I was one the youngest employees there, earning early exposure to a number of things, and some shifts were just surreal. After a few years, death just became death. The end. To protect myself, my heart hardened. My sense of humor tarnished so that no one else could understand me beyond my co-workers.
I was the phone call no one wanted. “Are you Mr. Miller? Can you please come down? Your son is here in critical condition.”
Although I’m glad to have learned about life all I did, it took a number of years after leaving for the numbness to wear off. I could go into the blood and gore details of experience after experience, but what truly strikes me is the shadow of death. An emotion so often brushed under the rug, it’s easier to pretend it isn’t real.
One of my mother’s friends who had cancer fell out of remission just over a month ago.
In her sixties, a vibrant woman of all smiles, I always pictured her in a fluffy red boa, sparkly hat, silky purple dress, and jewelry with all the bling. When I heard the cancer had returned at a vicious rate, this image changed.
When I heard she had to go back to chemo, I made a fun bracelet for her to wear, complete with a ‘hope’ ribbon and pearls. Sometimes, small tokens like these give us a source of strength. She told me she’d wear it every time she got treatment. These are the little things to treasure that so many people let pass by.
For over seven years, I have been treated at various cancer centers due to an unknown blood disorder, and I have met and seen the most courageous, authentic, beautiful, humorous people living their life to the fullest.
I have dealt with depression, bipolar, eating disorders, etc. Sometimes I feared I would get overcome by life and let it pass by like so many of us do. Yet, here were these amazing people more full of life than anyone else I knew, despite the fact physically they were losing it. They were keeping it together where others of us just unravel, myself included. I have always prayed for these people and asked God, “Let them have their life, they obviously are passionate and have a thirst for life!”
I loved how the infusion centers were set up. The chairs faced one another, you became a group, you got to know everyone, and when a patient’s chemo was done, the nurses would come out with bells, kazoos, whistles, and a big birthday cake! In a cancer community, it’s about more than just medicine. Everyone knows your name. The staff get to know you so well, they even know what type of soda you always want, all the little things. That’s what medical care and treatment should be.
Memories flood me.
Last night I got a message. Beta had passed away before we could even get to the hospital.
Part of me almost longs for those post trauma center days, but I no longer feel that blank detached sense of darkness. I feel and experience the emotions of grieving and loss. The only condolence I am able to draw comfort from right now is that it was quick and it was painless.
If you have ever read Tuesday’s with Morrie, he wanted to celebrate his life and not have some sovereign funeral with crappy appetizers and people dressed in black all stoic. Beta would have celebrated, probably sucked some helium out of balloons, and sang karaoke with her high squeaky voice, and of course, glamorously dressed to the nines. So, I’m going to celebrate her too.
How does this have anything to do with eating disorders and recovery?
– Live your life –
Your life is precious. Live your life. Find connection when you feel lost. Do not zone out and let it pass you by!
Make a list or journal about how much the eating disorder has taken from your life: sports, hobbies, school, friends, finances, health, relationships, meaning, purpose, etc. Use this as motivation to no longer stay prisoner.
If you have a rough body image day, go pick out one of your favorite outfits you just love to wear. If you like to put on makeup and do your hair, go for it.
If you have friends and want to go out, do it. Getting out the door is the hardest part.
If it’s in the middle of the night, put on some good music and just dance away dark feelings rather than stay curled up. This can actually be very freeing and fun! Temporarily immerse yourself in the music and know you are beautiful. My level of dancing is right up there with Napoleon Dynamite. I actually got kicked out of a beginner’s tap dancing class my roommate and I took for fun in our twenties. I don’t care, though. I just let it go because it feels great!
If you have a special token from someone or something, keep it with you for frequent, uplifting reminders to take the next best step. One of my favorite nurses at the cancer center I currently live gave me this beautiful 23rd Psalm key chain and I always have it with me. (In fact, it’s what I use to scratch my lotto tickets)
Lastly, let emotions run their course. Things can get really, really hard. At times, it will seem overwhelming and intense. This was me yesterday reading part of some book at Target with tears streaming down my face. Despite what society portrays, it’s actually quite healthy to feel your emotions. The woman looking at me funny just doesn’t know that yet! After all, it took me decades to accept!
The holidays are coming, and they can be triggering for anyone. The triggers are not just centered on the food; it often goes much deeper into layers of relationships, memories, and years of old patterns that may resurface.
Christmas used to be my favorite time of year as a kid. The decorations, the smells, and the traditions were almost magical. Now, I am grieving and trying to use my wise mind no matter what the situation.
Be proactive and work out a plan for your holiday triggers. You are stronger than you think. Do what’s best and supportive of your recovery. This is a season of love and giving, self included! Be gentle. Be kind. Be wise.
Try not to let this be just another holiday season that passes you by. A woman in her sixties once to told me, “Honey! You might as well go for it!” Smiling, I know Beta did just that. She took life by the horns.
“If I only had a cape and tiara, I could change the world.” Beta had one; she definitely left a mark. We are hanging an angel in honor of her this year, and I know she is flying over us right now.
If you, too, are grieving this holiday season, I recommend trying to create a new tradition to honor and celebrate those you miss. A small token can make big waves.
And a mantra for you:
Keep Being Brave
Trust your Strength
Surrender your Fear
Sing Out Loud
Believe in Healing
Unleash you Joy
Celebrate the gift of Today
Never Give Up