Is there more good or evil in the world?

Serious question…do you think there is more good or evil in the world?

I ask this question because lately, I’ve felt like the world around me is polarized. I know there is good and evil in all of us, but I feel like I only see one or the other. Depending on where I go and who I interact with, I feel a wide range of emotions daily because of it. 

I absolutely love my job. I facilitate art, writing, and support groups for people recovering from homelessness, mental illness, and addiction. I often feel socially awkward but work is the one place I can really connect with people. I’m not saying it’s perfect but for the most part, when I’m at work I feel like I’m on a high – I’m in such a good mood and nothing can bring me down.

At work, I am around people who have had some very unfortunate circumstances, but I can really see the good in people there.

Then there are my family members who treated me poorly and lied about me. How can someone love you and betray you? I can’t wrap my head around how or why this happened. I’m normally a very open person but this has caused me to lose trust in people. I have my guard up. You don’t know how low people will go. 

I’ve spent so much time focussing on the bad in my family that it’s hard to remember the good. 

My husband and I have a great relationship. He has been my number-one support as I spent the last year struggling with an eating disorder. I can tell him anything and it’s like he always knows what to say. This past month I’ve seen a light at the end of the tunnel and my eating disorder has been a lot easier to deal with. However, while that’s been going well, my husband and I have been struggling financially. I assumed it would strain our relationship but it seems like it has brought us closer. We are definitely in this together.

My husband reminds me of the good in the world. I was so nervous on our wedding day but marrying him is probably the best decision I’ve ever made.

Sorry if I’m making you puke with the mushiness.

And of course, there’s the US. We are a country divided with no solution in sight. It has brought out a lot of ugliness. I don’t need to explain this; you all know what I’m talking about.

I am a very intense and emotional person, so it makes sense that I might feel things are polarized. Do I think there’s more good or evil? Lately, even though I have some amazing people in my life, I’ve been leaning toward evil. Call me a cynical atheist but I feel that’s what the world has revealed to me.

But I am very grateful for the good in my life and I hope, in my own little way, I can put a little more good in the world.

How do you feel? Good? Evil? What do you think prevails? 

Affirmations and Mental Health

Do you ever use affirmations? Do you say them to yourself or post them on your wall or mirror?

I repeat affirmations when I meditate with mala beads and I find it quite helpful. It helps me stay positive even when the world is crashing down around me. I shit you not, it might sound hokey but this technique has helped me survive some pretty dark times. Even I can’t believe it.

I facilitate a women’s support group at work and creating affirmation cards is an upcoming project. I made a few examples for the group and decided to post them above my desk at the office. I look at them every day I work. They pump me up and help me focus on what’s really important. I hope the group members will find them as useful as I do.

There are five cards above my desk – each one is a different color and decorated with doodles of flowers and leaves. I actually had a lot of fun making them. Here’s what they say:

 

I am enough.

I deserve to be treated with love and respect.

My brain is my sexiest body part.

Taking care of myself feels good.

My body can do awesome things.

 

Considering my recent struggles with my eating disorder I decided to focus on body image. I plan on creating a big list of affirmations for the women in our group so they can pick out ones that suit their lives and current struggles.

Oftentimes I say this affirmation with my mala beads:

 

Move forward from here.

 

I have a lot of issues with rumination and I found that affirmation helpful.

I would love to hear what you guys think. What are some of your favorite or most helpful affirmations?

The Big 4-0 and Finally Some Relief — Mental Illness and Recovery

Tomorrow I’m turning forty and it definitely feels like a milestone. I thought I’d be more upset about getting older but I’m actually doing just fine. I don’t want to do anything big to celebrate; I just want to go out to dinner with my husband and daughter. Here’s to another decade!

I have been struggling with depression as I’m sure you can see from my blog posts. This led to a medication change about six weeks ago. It took a few weeks, but when the medication kicked in, I felt a drastic change. It was like someone woke me up. The heaviness has been lifted and things are getting easier. It’s hard to find words to describe the difference the medication made. I feel joy. I can focus. I can sleep at night. I think the best word to describe it is “freedom”. It doesn’t erase the stress and drama in my life but it sure makes it easier to deal with. I am so grateful to have a good doctor and medication that works for me. You really see how much you were struggling when you finally find some relief.

I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder years ago and have managed to live a relatively normal life. Most days I’m fine and maybe I’ve taken that for granted. I act like I’m invincible but it’s pretty incredible how fast my mental illness can pull me down, and once you finally address it, it can take weeks to recover.

And then there’s the eating disorder. I was stuck for months but now I’m in a good place and I feel I can finally put my experience at the treatment center behind me. It was the nightmare that saved my life. I needed it and now it’s done. I just want to focus on the progress I’ve made.

It is amazing what modern medicine can do. My life has been greatly impacted by mental illness since childhood, and I thank science for giving me a life worth living.

I love my family, I love my job, and now I want to write my butt off. Life is good!

Thirty-nine was rocky and turbulent, and now I’m ready to put this year behind me. On to better things…

Thank you all for your support. I absolutely love reading your comments. There are some really smart and thoughtful people on this website.

I’d love to hear some stories of your milestone birthdays!

How do you view your parents?

There is something very childlike about me. My husband says it’s endearing. 

My eating disorder started when I was eleven years old, and unfortunately, eating disorders can stunt your growth both physically and emotionally. For me, I don’t know about the physical part. I’m very short, but so is the rest of my family, and I went through a normal puberty. However, emotionally I’ve definitely felt some growing pains. 

I always feel like someone has to be in charge of me, usually my husband or dad. I’m impulsive and decision-making can be difficult. I always feel I have to look up to everyone – I’m never on equal footing with other adults. 

My most recent round of treatment for my eating disorder really stirred the pot, and I feel like I was violently thrown into adulthood. I now see myself as an adult which has affected my interactions with everyone else.

This is most noticeable with my parents. I always saw my parents as above me – people who tell me what to do and someone I should work hard at pleasing. In a way, they could do no wrong. I didn’t question them. 

But now I see my parents as human. I see their emotions and flaws. They’re no longer above me. In a way, we are the same. This has led to some tension in my family and it really sucks. 

Has anyone else gone through this? How do you view your parents? When did you stop seeing your parents as parents and start seeing them as other adults? Do you consider them equals? At what age did you feel like an adult?

My 40th birthday is in two weeks. I’m sad that I spent so many years feeling like a child.

Staying Chill and Feeling Hopeful — What’s Your Method?

I’ve been through a lot of shit. We all have. I have been especially hard hit regarding mental health issues, but lately, many other stressors have been dominating my life. More responsibilities at work. Family conflict. Writing projects. Financial worries. You get the picture.

When I feel like I’m coming undone I usually turn to meditation with my mala beads. However, I feel I need some new ideas and I want to hear from you. How do you stay chill? Do you have a relaxing activity that you enjoy? Is there a breathing exercise that works for you? Budget-friendly ideas are a plus.

I’ve noticed I’m watching a lot of TV in my free time. I need to find a way to relax that doesn’t involve binge-watching shows on Prime and Netflix. While laying on the couch and watching TV can be very relaxing, it often comes with some guilt – like there are a million other things I could be doing. I know it’s okay to watch TV sometimes but this is too much and I feel it may be fueled by my recent bout of depression.

How do you relax yet stay motivated?

Another question – are you hopeful? Despite my mental health struggles, I’m usually a positive and optimistic person. It’s been waning a bit lately but I know it’s still inside me. I always feel something better is in the cards. Even on my darkest days, I realize that almost everything is temporary. 

So tell me – how do you stay chill and hopeful?

Update on Writing Projects

I wanted to post a little update on my writing projects.

Freethought House, the publisher of my poetry book, was also going to publish my memoir about mental illness, recovery, and atheism. However, they recently had two people resign and they are no longer able to move forward with my project. I haven’t decided what I’m going to do with it yet. Maybe break it up and post it here or maybe find another publisher.

I recently submitted two entries to a short story contest. I rarely write fiction but I really enjoyed working on my entries. I am now convinced that I should spend a little more time working on fiction. Winners will be announced on October 31st and I’m currently looking for more contests to enter.

Also, I will be submitting my erotic poetry book to a poetry collection competition later this month. I have been working on this book for a really long time and this is the kick in the butt I need to wrap it up. 

I have been struggling with depression for the past few months and recently had a med change because of it. While I’m waiting for the meds to kick in, these writing contests seem to be the distraction that I need. I love to write and this is giving me something to work towards. I’m having a lot of fun with it.

As always, I am so grateful for your support. I will keep you all posted on my projects from time to time. Wish me luck with the contests!

The Downside to Being Open About My Mental Illness

In my early twenties, I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and an eating disorder – both of which I struggled with in childhood. I’ve had my ups and downs over the years but recovery remains an important part of my life. I’ve always been open about my struggles thinking I have nothing to hide, but it doesn’t always go as planned. Here are the downsides to being open about my mental illness:

When conflict arises, people assume I’m the problem because I’m the one with the mental illness, but it’s usually not true. They think I’m too sensitive or too crazy so they place all blame squarely on my shoulders instead of taking responsibility for their part.

I always feel I need to prove myself. I may have a schizophrenic disorder but I’m far from fragile. I have a full life and I can take on a lot. I assume people think I’m not capable. I feel the need to show the world what I can do – even though it’s probably not necessary.

People can be overly concerned and it makes me uncomfortable. I get annoyed when people ask me how I’m doing over and over again. I told you the first time, I’m fine. Don’t ask me about my therapy appointments because it’s none of your goddamn business. If I need help I’ll ask for it.

People see my illness – not me – and assume my feelings are symptoms. What I feel is valid – just as valid as the feelings of someone without a mental illness.

Being open about my mental illness has shown me I can’t depend on everyone – even loved ones. Not everyone has the capacity to be supportive and that really hurts sometimes. I’m learning to be more selective in who I trust.

It’s hard to be around other people who have unresolved issues and are unwilling to get help. I remember what that felt like and I’m not going back to that place. Of course, with everything I’ve been through I have an urge to help but I can’t save everyone. I have to focus on saving myself.

Despite these negative effects, I choose to continue to be open about my mental illness. My mental illness is a part of me and I feel I have a lot to offer the world. Dealing with people in my own life can be painful, but I hope one day my story will help others and that alone is worth it.

An Atheist in Recovery: What Matters and What Doesn’t

Living with a mental illness can be an absolute shit show. I’ve had some serious ups and downs over the years, but I’m going to tell you a few things I’ve learned. Cherish what matters and forget everything else.

What Matters: Having a Voice

From speaking up at appointments to sharing your story with the world, it’s important to make your voice heard.

When it comes to dealing with my treatment team, there have been so many times I wished I would have asked for help sooner. I’d put it off. I’d think maybe it’s not that bad yet. I wouldn’t reach out until it was absolutely unbearable. Once I finally asked for help and started feeling better (such as a med adjustment), I’d kick myself for suffering longer than I needed to. That’s happened more times than I care to admit.

Also, sharing my story is therapeutic. It keeps me grounded, validates my experiences, and sometimes I even have the chance to help someone else. My story and mental health journey are important parts of me. My illness doesn’t define me but it often explains the challenges – and sometimes triumphs – in my life.

What Doesn’t: Other’s Expectations

Trying to live up to others’ expectations has given me a lot of heartache. My mental illness started early in childhood and I always felt misunderstood. My life swings pretty wildly between painfully normal and completely unique. Despite the doubts and anxiety, I have learned to follow my own path. Maybe people think I’m weird but I’ve learned that when you find someone who gets it you hang on to them. If only I could have told myself all this when I was younger…

What Matters: Purpose

Purpose is not just having a reason to get up in the morning but also having something to look forward to.

I look forward to writing. Even when I’m not well – sometimes especially when I’m not well – I always have something to write about. Sometimes it’s healing and other times it stirs the pot. Either way, I have something to say and look forward to putting it down on paper.

What Doesn’t: God

Maybe some people find peace in a little faith in recovery but having worked in mental health for the past fifteen years I’ve seen firsthand the damage religion can do to someone with a mental illness. It’s pouring gasoline on an already raging fire.

 

That’s my list. Now it’s your turn! Let me know what matters and what doesn’t.

Painful Lessons: Setting Boundaries and Toxic People

A common rule for people recovering from an eating disorder is to avoid conversations about dieting, so when I came home from treatment, I politely asked my loved ones to not talk about counting calories or losing weight in front of me. After all, if I was a recovering alcoholic, I doubt they would talk about drinking around me. It was a simple request really…

and they can’t do it. Every time I’m around my family there’s food shaming, body shaming, and general negativity around eating. After everything I’ve been through…and they just can’t keep their mouths shut.

What’s worse is my six-year-old daughter is hearing all of it. Eating disorders are very much a family problem and I am busting my ass to break the cycle.

One of the most difficult things I learned about in treatment was setting boundaries. I’m a bit of a pushover and people pleaser so stating my needs with confidence can be terrifying. It seems like every time I stand up for myself, I piss people off.

When my family makes comments about dieting, it’s not even the comments that bother me anymore but rather the fact that they won’t respect a boundary I set.

I actually think this can be a common problem for people when they come home from treatment. I’ve grown and I’m healthier but I came home to a family that hasn’t changed. How do I stay healthy among people with unhealthy habits?

After the trauma and pain of going through treatment, I am well aware that others are fighting their own battles, but I can’t let that derail my own recovery.

I hate thinking about how confronting family members might affect my daughter, but at the same time, I want to teach her to stand up for herself. We teach others how to treat ourselves so if someone disrespects you it must be addressed — don’t allow it to continue. This is something I was never taught growing up and I’ve paid dearly for it.

I’m in a fragile state so right now I am choosing to surround myself with supportive people and distance myself from those who are not – even with my family.

So, as always I am looking for your input. Do you have any advice on setting clear boundaries? And what do you do when someone disrespects them? How do you deal with unsupportive people – especially family members?

Toxic People

How do you know when a person is toxic enough to remove them from your life?
I have a toxic person in my life who I’ve endured for a few years and the time has come to weigh my options. Do I tolerate this person to keep the peace in my close-knit family? Or do I sacrifice the relationship to keep my recovery intact?

I really want to think about the benefits and consequences because if I choose to cut this person out of my life, it will have a ripple effect on my relationships with several other people.

How will this affect my daughter? What am I teaching her?

This will make family functions difficult. Is it worth it?

How do I find more supportive people?

I keep coming back to the thought that life is too short to be miserable.

Right now it feels selfish to take a stand because I’ve never done it before. It’s painful now but in the long run, I know it’s best for my well-being.

I know you don’t have to forgive and forget. Sometimes it’s best to just move on. I just want peace.

I would love to hear your input on this as well. Have you ever cut a toxic person out of your life? How did it feel? Was it worth it?

 

I want you to know that through it all my husband has been absolutely amazing. I am so grateful for his unwavering love and support. My battles have been relentless since coming home from treatment and he has stayed by my side. While I may struggle with the rest of my family, he has always had my back.

I also want to say thank you. I have written about some difficult topics since coming home from treatment earlier this year and you all have been wonderful.

Eating Disorder Recovery — 12/26/21 Wedding Anniversary in Treatment

I want to share another journal entry with you from my time in treatment in Chicago. It’s the day after Christmas — my wedding anniversary. This was written while doing a virtual partial hospitalization program just a few days before being moved to a residential program which is a higher level of care. Our program was virtual due to a Covid outbreak at the treatment center. I was being treated for symptoms of anorexia, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), and rumination disorder. I kept detailed journals of the whole experience. I was discharged last February.

This entry includes thoughts on meals, body image, values, goals, and even a little poetry.

12/26/21 Day Eleven

I had a dream last night that I did a bike tour again like when I was younger but this time I didn’t finish. I felt defeated and embarrassed.

Every morning I look in the mirror and touch the underside of my belly – especially on the sides closer to my hips. I did this back home, too. Is that body-checking? Because I told them I don’t do that.

I wish I could just be at peace with my body. How do you do that?

I don’t want to be really thin – I like being curvy. Just take some off my belly. That would be enough for me. That’s what bothers me the most.

I’m about to give up (again). I just attempted breakfast. I opened the container and there were two hard-boiled eggs. I started gagging pretty hard just at the sight of them. There was no way I was going to put those things in my mouth. They’ve been sitting in the fridge for two days. I could smell them.

Then there was a bagel with cream cheese which normally I would like, but it was a plain bagel and there was very little cream cheese. It was like eating a plain piece of white bread only thicker and harder. As I chewed it got bigger in my mouth. With my first bite, I chewed and chewed and chewed. Then I gagged so I decided my second bite would be smaller but I still chewed and chewed. Then the bagel ended up in the trash.

The only good thing about breakfast was that I had orange juice to wash that crap down with.

Will I ever get better? Will I always be picky and that’s just how it is? It’s like I’m not even trying but I can’t help it. I have a very physical reaction to food.

The treatment center gave us little gifts for Christmas – a coloring book and a sensory toy. It might seem childish but everyone loves the sensory toy – myself included. It’s a squishy, stretchy centipede with little legs and a bumpy texture. Mine is the color of my favorite Sharpie, “sky”, so it feels kind of special to me.

AM snack was white cheddar popcorn. I tried my best but didn’t get very far.

Lunch was a turkey and cheese sandwich and a cookie. It was okay. Happy to have mayo.

I named my centipede Fred.

Cheez-Its are disgusting. I only ate one cracker and I don’t think I’ll ever get the taste out of my mouth. Unfortunately, they smell how they taste. Now I can’t stand to be around them. They’re like rotting vegetables.

Now I’m smelling something my roommate made. I feel like my olfactory sense is really sensitive right now.

I’m organizing my pills like my psychiatrist suggested. Going to CVS to buy the pill minders was the first time I left the apartment in five days.

I don’t like going outside. The city kind of scares me.

I was finally able to see the results of my Covid test from the 21st – negative. However, since then I’ve developed a cough, runny nose, and dull headache. Hopefully, it is just a cold. It’s just quite a coincidence that it happened right when so many people I was around have covid. I mean, within just a couple of days. I have to do a test tomorrow, and then another one later in the week. Hopefully, we can get back to in-person programming on the 3rd, but I kind of doubt it.

Just Door Dashed Jimmy John’s and got a turkey sandwich. I gagged and spit it out twice. Most of it ended up in the trash. It’s so stupid. I could have made a turkey sandwich here. Why didn’t I get something different? I didn’t think it was possible, but I think I’m actually sick of turkey sandwiches. That’s one less safe food. I don’t have much left.

I am really struggling with meals and snacks. I’m clearly not equipped to handle virtual PHP. I mean, this all went down on my fifth day here. I still hope they move me to residential.

I’m a little scared because during process group today many people said they would never go back to residential or they will do everything they can to stay out of residential. I really didn’t think they should be allowed to talk like that during group. I think residential is the best move for my recovery but now I’m pretty nervous.

I hope I hear from my case manager tomorrow.

I really haven’t eaten much today. This is getting really difficult and I’m struggling. I want to eat but I can’t. I need some serious help. It’s too easy to have behaviors sitting in this apartment all day. At this time, it’s too much freedom.

One of my favorite motivational phrases is, “move forward from here”. It’s hard to say that when I’m slipping backward every day.

I thought it was really interesting during ACT group when our pro-T said values can change – like when we get older or meet new people.

 

Values important to me when I was young –

Freedom

Loyalty

Creativity

Values important to me now –

Loyalty 

Family

Security

Humanity

I think becoming a mom is what changed my values the most.

I haven’t learned too much about values yet at the treatment center, so I referred to a list of values I Googled. I’m really looking forward to doing the value sort activity in the next week or two. I think it will be interesting.

My Goals as a Mom –

Color more with my daughter

Help her with homework/popcorn words

Make a strong recovery, be a good role model

Be honest with her

Make sure she bathes every day

Teach her to be kind and to respect others – even if they are different than you

Teach her to love, respect, and take care of her body and mind

Make sure she gets enough sleep

Make sure she has clothes that fit

Make a safe, nonjudgmental space for her to talk and express herself

Let her be her own person

Support and encourage her passions and interests

Let her decide her own post-high school plans

Teach her about money and be realistic

Teach her you don’t have to smile

I’ve been here a week and a half and I have yet to shave anything. Today I finally plucked my eyebrows but that was only because I noticed a few hairs in the middle and growing down my nose. I don’t do much to my hair but I still wear a little makeup every day. I don’t dress up. I don’t go out. This is about as casual as I’ll ever be. I think it’s the same for many others here.

My husband seems to have this fantasy that this place is filled with cute, high-maintenance skinny bitches and that I’ll have my first lesbian experience here.

Well, I’m sorry to burst his bubble.

There’s a little bit of everybody here – fat, skinny, all genders, LGBT, straight, etc. And I’m not thinking a lot about sex right now.

I have yet to meet one “high-maintenance” person here. Honestly, I might be the most high-maintenance person here.

 

Tripping over my feet
while trying to reach
for the stars.
The floor is only
six inches beneath me
but I bruise
just the same.

It’s the middle of the night and I’m up worrying about how I’m going to get my stuff to residential. I have two suitcases. Do I make two trips? Do I ask for help? What about getting an Uber? I’ve never done that before.

My anxiety is killing me.

Also, the apartment still smells like whatever my roommate made for lunch yesterday and it’s making me gag.

Now I’m up crying because my family is having another holiday gathering when I get home because I was sick on Thanksgiving and in treatment on Christmas. My family is amazing. I already miss them so much. I’m so lucky.