I feel like the tone of this blog has been shifting towards more personal posts lately which has been unintentional but perhaps meant to be? A couple weeks ago I was really concerned with “what to do” about this blog once I become a legit therapist who sees clients as if that were scheduled to happen like, tomorrow. I’ve since calmed down a little and realized I still have time to figure all that out.
As scared as I often am of being so open here, I hope I’m at least doing my part to “shatter the stigma”– the stigma of being a person still struggling with mental illness while out living life in this strange strange world.
Yesterday I spent Christmas with my family and it was surprisingly pretty okay. My little sister and her fiance are in town from the east coast and it was great being able to see them. We did our yearly tradition of eating dinner at this restaurant on the beach near where my parents live.
During dinner the topic of me applying to “get my second master’s” came up and my dad expressed doubt that this was the best idea. “You’re doing so well where you are now, I’d hate for you to give that up.” This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard this concern; hell, I’ve had this very concern myself. Outwardly, I am doing pretty well right now. I have a stable job at a great company and most days I even enjoy what I’m doing. Why would I want to give that all up to take a risk at something that has no guarantees at providing me that same stability? Well, for one, I don’t plan on “giving it all up.” My plan is to stay at my current job for as long as I can while in school, even if that means dropping down to part-time eventually. I don’t plan on leaving the world of research entirely, I just hope to supplement it with something I’ve always dreamed of doing but haven’t been in a place to pursue until now. I know to the casual observer though, this sounds suspect.
The truth is, the past several weeks have not been easy. I’ve been wrestling with this decision and trying to convince myself it will all be worth it in the end. I’ll admit though that I keep coming up against imagined road blocks, many related to my ability to do what I really want to do given my own demons. When I first had this idea, I was so excited that I got this burst of motivation to make a lot of serious changes in my life. For example, I increased my calories quite a bit and told myself I was going to finally let myself get to a healthier weight and stay there because that’s part of what I thought being a successful eating disorder therapist required. I was almost surprised at how “easy” it was at first. My body image concerns became mostly background noise and I was able to ignore them and remain focused on my new life’s ambition, for the first time ever. It was pretty amazing but seemed almost too good to be true.
Sure enough, a few months into this things started to get a whole lot harder. I’ve become really uncomfortable with the thought of gaining any more weight and I’ve started to question why it’s even necessary. Even if I do plan on working with eating disorders, it will still be quite a while before I’ll be doing that in any direct capacity. What’s the hurry? I might as well take advantage of this time and you know– “get all the eating disorder out of my system”– have one final hurrah. This is the same thing I used to think every time anyone mentioned a higher level of treatment. “Ok, I’ll go but not before I lose as much weight as possible and have as much ‘fun’ with behaviors as possible because once I’m in treatment, that will all be taken away from me, and once I’m out, I’ll be in recovery (lol) and none of that will be acceptable anymore.” Given my history of many failed treatments, this method was never effective. Every single time, my “one final hurrah” just sent me into a deeper state of despair beforehand and made it that much harder to succeed in treatment. I’d be planning my relapse before I even left.
What’s scary is, I can totally see myself at some point going in for “one final hurrah” and never coming out. I’ve seen firsthand and from friends who have been fighting this as long as I have, that things really start to shift around this age. Not only is the body increasingly less resilient to the abuse, but the level of hopelessness that accompanies the deeper stages of this disorder becomes even more ingrained and hard to overcome.
I’m actually glad my dad made that comment, because it caused me to really reconsider this idea. Whether he meant it or not, I took his comment to mean that he doubted I could succeed at something other than what I’m currently doing. He’s seen how long it’s taken me to get to where I am today, and I’m sure it would be very hard for him to see me “throw that all away.”
Well, I don’t plan on throwing it all away, and over these past 24 hours I’ve regained some hope. My dad hasn’t (to my knowledge) been reading this blog, nor have we really discussed my reasoning for choosing to go down this new path. Perhaps if he knew these things, he’d feel differently, although in the end it shouldn’t really matter what he thinks. For Christmas I asked for a bunch of therapy-related books, some of the “must reads” for every new therapist. I’m already well into the first book and it’s become even clearer to me that this is what I want to be doing. Has it all become “easy” again, like those first couple months? No, not at all, but I have a renewed sense of hope that somehow, I can and will succeed at this.