Thursday, July 10, 2008

Therapy and Healing and Moving On

This morning I mowed the lawn. My parents always tell me not to do it barefoot because some day I'm going to chop off my foot. But it is just so nice to have the option of going barefoot that I couldn't help myself. So even now, after I've showered, my feet are stained green, but it's ok. I remember thinking about mowing the lawn a few months ago and kind of looking forward to it. But as I pushed our supposedly "self-propelled" mower around the lawn, I think it used to be a lot more fun than it was this morning. Maybe it's because I used to get paid for all that work! As I was trudging around I was thinking, mowing the lawn seems to me the equivalent of wearing make-up every day. Everyday we put it on, only to wash it off each night. We grow lawns of grass only to cut it every week. It all just seems very pointless. Having a lawn is a luxury apparently becuase I never saw one in Cambodia. But maybe they are smarter because it isn't so much work.

I continue seeing people and talking about my experiences to a lot of people. If I am with my dad, he tells everyone. He's proud. And my response to, "How is it being home?" is always, "It's good." I'm not jumping up and down, the feeling kinda wears off. I don't want to sound ungrateful. I am so glad to be here instead of where I've been. But life returns to normal. It's not like you get more than one welcome home party. The party was had and we all move on.

I'm feeling a bit disconnected. I don't have a strong urge to call people or talk a lot. Most of the time I just want to be quiet. I have so much on my mind. At this point, I would much rather hear about someone else's life than talk more about mine. I think the urge may come little by little the longer I'm back. But it has been my reality for so long, I'm enjoying opportunities I get to not think about it.

I have had and will have doctor's appointments all week. We have to check with the ear doctor to make sure the tumor didn't grow back in my ear. I have to do blood tests. I have to get some new vitamins for maintaining my health, because I strongly avoid hard drugs. It's been a busy week.

On top of that, on Tuesday I saw a dietician. Stella, my counselor in Cambodia, recommended it. It went well. Chris, the woman I saw, I have actually seen before. Two summers ago I went to her also. She said I had grown up a lot and wasn't in denial of the ED any more. She gave me a meal plan to follow and it is really necessary at this point that I stick to it.

Towards the end I just had to ask her one question: "I've heard a lot of mixed ideas about this, but I have to know from you: Do you think people can ever recover from an eating disorder?" She took a moment and I could tell she'd been asked this question several times before.

"One-third of people with ED's end up in intense therapy and ED hospitals the rest of their lives. One-third live in their behaviors and habits, but never fully recover. And one-third heal completely. It is a memory, but not a struggle." She tried to assure me that in my condition of awareness and honesty, I can be in that upper one-third. I still didn't much care for the odds.

I asked, "I've been fighting this for the last 2 years of my life. How long should I prepare myself for to fully recover?" She told me that the average recovery takes 7-10 years. I wasn't shocked. But that isn't the best news either.

She said the first 2 years are almost always the hardest and the next few years are continuing to adress and deal with the thoughts. Either way, it is a scary number and I'm still trying to work through what that means for me. I could be 28 years old before this is a thing of the past.

From here I went to see a EMDR counselor, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing counselor. The gist: it is basically counseling specifically for trauma. We talked awhile, we start treatment on Friday.

Treatment. We start treatment. You know, like what people get when they are sick. I don't like that. I feel crazy, as though I didn't already. Towards the end, as we were leaving, she said, "Just so you know, if your insurance picks this up, it will always be on your permanent record." My permanent record. Have I comitted a crime? Am I guilty of something?

My psychology professor at Union told us that soldiers returning from Iraq have dealt with unbelievable amounts of trauma. Some of them seek counseling. But, it also stays on their permanent record, so they are less likely to get a good job afterwards.

What are we doing? Do we have to punish people because they have problems? Are we so concerned with labeling that we forget we are all human underneath? I never considered this question so deeply until I was sitting where I am sitting right now. I suppose no one ever does.