Despite being out of “full time treatment” for several months now, I still spend a lot of time in Towson. I have regular therapy on Tuesdays and see my dietician and art therapist on Wednesdays. Plus my psychiatrist once a month-ish. When it comes up in conversation, people sound surprised. I’ll admit it’s annoying. Some days I just want to go home after work. Being stuck in rush hour traffic drives me crazy. And I’m just straight up “over it” at times. Recovery is exhausting. But it sure beats the alternative. I’d rather spend 2 afternoons a week in therapy than be stuck in the hospital all day for months on end. Even IOP would have me traveling to and from Towson 4 nights a week. 2 afternoons is worth it.
They say recovery is a process. It doesn’t end after a course of inpatient, partial, and intensive outpatient treatment. It is ongoing. You have to be vigilant. Things slip much too quickly to be anything but aware. To have accountability. To be dedicated to the process. One day I won’t have to follow a meal plan. And perhaps what is now a weekly routine will fade into a biweekly commitment. Maybe one day I’ll get more than a month’s supply of medication at a time. But right now that is not my reality. And I’m ok with it. I’m committed to doing what needs to be done. The price otherwise is much too high. I’m not gambling with life anymore.
Sometimes people ask me how it’s going. I usually give a short “it’s going well” kind of an answer. Most people don’t want the details; they’re just being nice. But I’m not lying. Things are going well. Things are actually kind of boring (which can be a bit of a dangerous place for me to be). But boring is better than dramatic. Or sick. So I’ll take it.
But I see progress. Progress means seeing a less than desirable BMI but eating dinner anyway. There may still be a meltdown, but recovery is not hindered because of a number. Progress means going shopping and buying clothes that actually fit rather than oversized pieces of fabric to hide in. But today we’ll be talking about the kind of validating external progress: trust.
You see, my weekly trips to Towson are important, but my treatment team sees their purpose. The purpose that sometimes get lost in the routine. The purpose is for me to lead a fulfilling life. So when things came up, boy was I surprised by their reaction. Skylar’s chorus concert was on a Wednesday, which meant missing my dietician and art therapy sessions one week. They gave me the week off without a question. Then Skylar’s bridging ceremony for Girl Scouts was changed from a Saturday to the following Wednesday. I was worried my treatment team would put up a fight and say I really shouldn’t miss 2 weeks in a row. But you know what they said? They said that being there for my daughter was important and that I needed to be a mom. I was able to see my dietician on another day, but my art therapy session got cancelled. Which was really saying something, because Bri is on vacation this next week. So I’m going 4 weeks between art therapy sessions.
Some people might see art therapy as a frivolous extra, but it’s played an important role in my recovery. And I believe it will continue to do so. One day I’ll go into it, but today I have some other points to make. Right now we’re talking about progress and trust. The point is that my treatment team trusts enough in my progress to let me skip a few weeks of sessions so that I can participate in the life I’ve worked so hard to obtain. Now that’s the kind of progress I’m talking about!
But this doesn’t mean things fall to the wayside. My dietician still expects me to fill out food logs and my art therapist sent me away with homework. That’s right. She left some art supplies with my therapist and emailed me some prompts to work on over the next few weeks. One of the reasons I love her.
We’ve been working a lot on mindfulness. I was struggling a fair amount with anxiety. Especially in the mornings before work. My psychiatrist asked me if I had tried mindfulness. Usually I would roll my eyes. But about 2 months ago, I decided that maybe it was worth a try. So I did. I started getting to work 10-15 minutes early so that I could sit in my car and do a meditation. And I think I’ve seen a difference. It’s hard to tell with so many variables changing. In addition to trying the mindfulness, they’ve also been playing with my medication. But I believe my morning meditation really does set the tone for the day.
Mindfulness. It’s much more than the nap time we often made it out to be while laying on mats in inpatient treatment. It’s intentionally sitting in the present without ruminating on the past or fantasizing about the future (both things that I’m practically an expert in). It’s HARD. But it’s worth it.
So anyway, my art therapist sent me away with some mindfulness homework and art supplies. She wanted me to spend 15 minutes painting with watercolors using my left hand. In addition to practicing mindfulness, she wanted me to challenge my perfectionism. Watercolors are difficult to control, as is painting with your non dominant hand. You have to be present. Mindful. So that’s what I did. I flipped through my art journal and found an image I liked, and I tried to copy it using watercolors and my left hand. She then asked me to reflect on it. Here is my reflection:
I actually like this exercise. Painting with my left hand gives me freedom from perfection. I know it won’t be perfect, so I’m more willing to give it a try. The watercolors were frustrating. I couldn’t get the lines to be thin enough. I needed brown and there was no brown. Things blended together when I wanted them more defined. I wasn’t able to get the sky to fade the way I wanted it to. Painting with my left hand meant things were kind of shaky. But part of mindfulness involves non judgement. Which is hard. Turns out I’m a very judgmental person. Especially when it comes to myself. So I kept coming back to the present and just focused on painting. I didn’t have brain space for that other nonsense. My image does not match the one I tore from the magazine. And I know I’m not supposed to judge, but I think it turned out ok. It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s not a disaster. It just is. My expectations were lowered because I knew it wouldn’t be perfect.
Perfect. Now there’s a funny word. And so my mindfulness practice comes full circle. I use an app called Calm to do my morning meditations and they have a “daily calm” session that lasts about 10 minutes and changes every day. Thursday’s meditation ended in a quote that I rather fell in love with regarding perfection. And here it is:
“Come to me whole: with your flaws, your scars and everything you consider imperfect. Then let me show you what I see. I see galaxies in your eyes and fire in your hair. I see journeys in your palms and adventure waiting in your smile. I see what you cannot: you are absolutely, maddeningly, irrevocably perfect.” -Ariana Reines
See perfection all depends on your point of view. It isn’t always bad. What do you view as perfect? What one person sees as flawed, another see sees as maddeningly perfect. So don’t focus on the scars. Focus on the fire. The galaxies. The journeys and adventures. For you are absolutely, maddeningly, irrevocably perfect.