I took Puzzle to the vet yesterday. She has infected anal glands. I am hoping she will not need surgery and that these antibiotics do the trick. She got a big shot of something very very very strong that was helpful, and now she is on powerful antibiotics. I am giving her warm compresses several times a day. She seems to like this. After the shot, she picked at her infection only a few times more, then stopped. I didn’t want to have to get a cone thingy for her. She had a cone once before. I remember having a hard time getting the cone to stay on her. That plus she just plain didn’t like it.
I try to give her things to do to keep her amused. She is not interested in her toys, so I talk to her. I tell her to sit and stay and watch me. I put on a tie today, not for any occasion, but just to amuse her. I told her to sit and watch me braid my hair. I don’t think it’s particularly exciting watching an old lady braid her hair, get dressed, and put on a tie, but watching all that is probably better than picking at a sore doggie butt.
We met all sorts of other doggies at the vet yesterday, even another Poodle type, and a Schnauzer, too. The Schnauzer was so sweet and friendly. The other Poodle owner agreed that Poodles seem eager to please their owners, almost like they are craving to do something, anything to get that little seal of approval. The little Shi-Tzus sat on their owners’ laps like peaceful royalty reigning over the entire vet office, even though they were about the tiniest creatures there. There was another service dog there that came from far away. I spoke with the owner. There was a camaraderie between us.
Puzzle is resting now. When I gave her her antibiotic pill this morning, I made sure it was doused in lots of yummy chicken juice, so there was no way she would not eat it. I gave it to her in her breakfast. I made sure she didn’t spit it out. She rarely spits out pills. She isn’t sneaky, like people are. I heard that some dogs can be sneaky as well. Maybe when she’s elderly she’ll be on lots of pills and end up being a little sneak.
We have a water ceremony every year. We bring water from where we were over the summer, and share where our journey. We mix the water together. I wrote down what I wanted to say to make sure I wouldn’t bore folks. Here’s what I said:
I learned that we here in UU don’t have this place called Hell.
But if anything was Hell on Earth, it was the four years of relapse I had with my eating disorder.
On August 29th, Puzzle had her Psychiatric Service Dog papers signed,
And she’s legal.
That was when Hell ended. It was done with.
When I gave Puzzle her name, five-and-a-half years ago, I didn’t realize
That she was the missing Puzzle Piece.
If there’s any way I can describe it, going from “pet” to Psychiatric Service Animal,
Maybe it’s like you take on vows,
Such as the vows that a doctor or minister takes on,
My place with Puzzle in the world has forever changed,
Together, we walk on six legs. Or that’s how I like to think about it.
I got better in spite of this thing called treatment.
I hope I never grow out of wanting to change the world.
I am getting stronger, and prouder, and more confident every day.
This water comes from Heathrow Airport.
I came back to the US on Sunday and on Wednesday I got locked up against my will.
I spent sixteen days imprisoned and then left against medical advice on Friday, August 3rd.
Opening the bottle, it’s like the water isn’t even me anymore. I’m so different. I’m so thankful. Amen.
I want to say something to those of you out there who are still struggling. And to those of you who know someone with an eating disorder….
It’s hard, first of all, when no one understands. It’s tough when even your own family (if they’ve stuck around) doesn’t “get it.”
It’s hard when society puts us down for being vain or having skewed values or disorders or labels we don’t actually have. Or they tell us we’re selfish and think of no one but ourselves and the scale. They take away the scale and then they tell us that weight matters but we can’t know what our weight is once we’re “in recovery.” Oh, so much bullshit.
So we try to get this thing “treatment” and find that it isn’t accessible. If we’re male, or over a certain age, it doesn’t exist for us. Treatment is expensive. Treatment is narrow-minded. Treatment means forced care. Treatment follows the Food Pyramid, which is funded by the rich meat and dairy industries. If you want to eat healthy, and stay away from hormones, GMO’s, and pus, you are out of luck. Treatment does work, but for the very few.
For the rest of us, I want you to listen up very carefully: I want you to get better in spite of treatment. Or lack thereof.
There people that say everyone can get better. I will not bullshit you. This is not true. Not everyone can get better. However, there is no way of knowing. I was one of the ones convinced that I would die. I was convinced every night that I would not live to see morning. I could not plan for the future, not even a week ahead of time, because I thought I’d be dead.
The last bunch of times I was in treatment, or, rather, non-treatment, I witnessed them shaking their heads sadly at me. I saw the look. “She’s chronic.” “She’ll never make it.” They were going to send me to the state hospital a year ago. Last time I left “treatment,” I saw the sad look again. “She’ll be back in no time.” I left and felt a revolving door behind me inviting me back. I did not accept the invitation.
Well, folks, I am not back there. Far from it.
See, you can get better in spite of their low expectations. In spite of their labels. You have abilities and strengths, and your eating disorder did not take these abilities away.
Getting better from an eating disorder does not mean you have to have a BMI of a perfect 20 point oh (or higher). Getting better from an eating disorder has much more to do with feeling good about your body than it does with BMI.
Getting better from an eating disorder does not mean you have thrown out your scale. There is nothing wrong with keeping a scale in the house. Scales don’t bite. If you think they do, you might have an eating disorder. Or you might have a darned weird scale.
Getting better from an eating disorder does not mean you do yoga and no other form of exercise. The idea that yoga is the only acceptable exercise for ex-ED’s is a very narrow-minded viewpoint. I happen to have a pair of wings attached to me. I fly every night when no one is looking. OM is not in my vocabulary.
Getting better from an eating disorder does not necessarily mean you run around touting a puppet figure you call Ed. Or Ana. Or Mia. We don’t need to get down to the level of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood or Captain Kangaroo and use acronyms and do child’s play to understand the basics about this dangerous disease. Cuz once you’re dead, you don’t need toys.
Getting better from an eating disorder means doing what makes sense. It means hanging out with positive, supportive people. It means seeking folks that love you and understand you. It means having a voice. It means self-expression. It means feeling good about yourself.
Here’s what I did to get better….I am listing these in no particular order, mainly because I’m not sure which is most important.
First of all, I fired the therapist I had. She was borderline abusive. No, she indeed was abusive. Now, I am not saying this was easy. You’d think it would be 100% relief to fire an abusive therapist, but it’s not. Why? These people have you wrapped around their fingers. They are manipulative. They are push-me-pull-you people. The whole time I had her for a therapist, I was deceived into thinking she was oh so great. She kept stringing me along. Does this sound like, say, a battered partnership? You bet. I am so, so glad this is over and done with. But it took time to pick up the pieces and shake myself clean of her.
Secondly, I write, and continue to write. Writing is self-expression. Writing is catharsis. Writing saved my life throughout my life. Some people have found this to be the case and have ended up becoming great writers because of it. My publisher, Jason Pegler, talks a lot about writing as catharsis and publishing as empowerment.
And so, I am published and empowered. This, for me, is huge.
Puzzle is my service dog and now we are together and complete in the world. Yes, she was always a pet and she has gradually taken on tasks, but once she crossed the line into the role of service animal, there was a profound switchover that I cannot even begin to describe.
I have a recovery partner. He is a man I met while in “non-treatment” in July/August last time I was there. He feels in a similar way that I do about many things. We made a pact. We are sticking with it and watching out for each other in every way possible.
I started going to a church a year ago. This is an individual choice but I feel that if you don’t have any family you need to find community somewhere.
I also now belong to a drop-in center for ex-patients. So I have that outlet, too.
I go to acupuncture.
I take a tiny amount of psychiatric medication for paranoia and another for binge eating. I was off all meds for a while and it did not work out, so this has ended up the compromise.
I am doing my own investigation into nutrition. I believe nutrition is a highly individual matter.
I started running again. Running seems to be the natural best exercise for my body but I have to be careful due to past injury. My psychiatrist supports my efforts.
I have licked depression and mania, the whole mood thing. Why? I know it’s a body thing. I know any “mental illness” I have has nothing to do with “poor coping skills.” This was some bullshit someone told me ages ago and they were wrong. Some of what I picked up was learned behavior. Punching walls is a learned behavior and actually I never punched a wall. I put my hand through a glass window once. Binge eating is biological and I did not learn that in a hospital from other patients. Binge eating almost always comes…get this: from a diet. Yep. From vitamin deficiency. So that’s what starts it. Do you think I’m crazy? Go look it up. Just about every eating disorder starts with a diet. And then the diet ends up leading to some other problem, such as getting hooked on starvation cuz it makes you high. Not poor coping skills. Not bad morals. Not gluttony. Not selfishness. Not a skewed value system. Not from looking at a fashion magazine. Not from a personality disorder. Not from the Olympics. And so on.
So why do we start this diet? And, a lot of people start diets and don’t end up with eating disorders. We do know that some people get high on starvation and some don’t. We do know that some people can sustain starvation because their survival instinct response to eat does not work properly. And this combination, that I know of, produces anorexia. It’s very simple.
They say one thing they are trying to do right now is to develop a an “antibuse” drug…I am not kidding on this…that will kill “starvation high.” Oh yeah, like we’re gonna take this drug. But there are some who will do just that and live happily ever after I suppose. And I’ll bet there would be off-label uses for this weird drug. They say Naltrexone, the drug I took for a while for binge eating, did away with starvation high for some people. For me, Naltrexone worked and then stopped working shortly after. I”m back on Topamax and glad of it. I expect it to work for a year or two and I’m thrilled that I’m responding at a much lower dose than I was at before.
I’ve been criticized for “poisoning my body.” To this person I want to say that I cannot wait a year, two years, three years to use “willpower” or some fancy “therapy” or “white knuckling it” to get myself to stop bingeing. If it comes from a vitamin deficiency, I don’t personally know which vitamin or mineral it is. If it’s a food I’m deficient in, I don’t know which food it is. I can experiment, but it will be hit or miss for months. I can’t wait months.
Actually, if you are “white knuckling it,” then you are NOT in recovery! If you are “white knuckling it,” then you are most likely miserable. Misery is NOT recovery! You don’t deserve to suffer like that. Suffering is optional.
I am not suffering. I got past that. I haven’t experienced suffering for a while now. I haven’t experienced angst for a while now. I haven’t experienced depression or any mood problem for a long time. I have not experienced paranoia…I have to medicate that symptom but it is gone now.
I eat, too. Would you believe that? I’m fairly okay with my weight. I can say that not only do I like myself, but I totally dig myself. I even like how I look. I mean, how many folks 54 years old look as absolutely cute as I do? I look doubly cute with Puzzle. Who, after all, would not look cute with a Schnoodle in their lap? One named Puzzle at that!
Do you dig yourself?
One thing that really helps me is to think of things that I like about myself. Now, maybe that sounds very over-simplistic, but you will be surprised at how many things will turn up on your list. At first, you may have trouble thinking of things. You may sit for quite a while trying to think of the first few things beyond the obvious.
Do you have good manners?
Are you considerate of others?
Are you good with animals?
Are you decent with your kids? Are you decent with other people’s kids?
Are you respectful of the planet? Do you pick up after yourself?
Do you have quirky handwriting? Do you have an unusual hobby or talent? Can your body move or bend in an unusual way?
Have you ever had an exceptionally wonderful relationship?
Do you have vivid dreams? Has someone who has died ever sent you a message in a dream? Have you ever helped anyone using your dreams?
Are you a decent writer? Like I am?
Do you dream big? What is your biggest dream?
Does your faith in God or Gods keep you strong?
Does your sense of love and commitment toward others help you participate in your community?
Would you like to take a class and go back to school or college and finish? Yes, you can do it!
Do you like yourself? Cuz that’s what it boils down to. Ask yourself this question. I don’t give a shit what you weigh or what anyone says you should weigh or what the scale says or whether or not you have a scale. If you truly dig yourself, then you are already right where you should be. Take a good hard look at yourself and answer that question right here right now and you will answer everything there is to be answered about “recovery” and nothing else will matter.
You can fly like I can. Pick up your wings and fly with me. Go where Puzzle and I go. I used to go nowhere. Now, together, Puzzle and I go everywhere. After all, we have our six legs and loud music, and if you’ve got that, you’ve got just about everything.
I had to go back onto Facebook. Why? Because the Kindle version of my book is now live and I wanted the world to know. My publisher feels that what’s known as “social media” is important.
But I did something funky. I changed my name. Yep. I’m still Julie Greene. But there are so darned many of us Julie Greenes on the planet that I decided to identify myself. We can indeed add nicknames. So I added Puzzle.
Now I must say, Facebook puts up a stink about such things. Only legal nicknames are allowed, only Kosher nicknames, blessed ones, ones that you grew up with or got Holy watered with. Anyway, I figure since Puzzle is legal now, Puzzle is legally part of me, so the Puzzle piece identifies me.
Isn’t that the whole idea of a name? That which identifies us? The thing we are called? Between us, we have six legs. When someone calls Puzzle, one of the two of us comes running, and that, I must say, will involve most of our legs.
Yep, they all are. My life is getting better and better. Thanks, Puzzle!
Yes, it’s official, Puzzle’s papers are all set and Puzzle is not a “pet” anymore. I guess she wanted to hold off for a few seconds. Normally, she does not protest putting on her vest…we’ve tried it on a few times of course before…but today, in Dr. P’s office, she backed up when I tried to put it on her.
This surprised me. Puzzle likes any type of “clothes.” But now that I think of it, perhaps she wanted to stall for a few seconds, just so that she could remember her last few idle moments as pet. Then, quickly enough, these last seconds were gone. Just a memory. I slid her little red vest over her head and fastened the clasp, then I re-fastened her leash, the fancy purple web lead I have that attaches to a loop around my waist. We trotted out of Dr. P’s office and into the world, Puzzle now a working dog.
But let me back up. This has been in the works for…how long? When did it begin? I’d say it was one of the residencies at Goddard, but which one? Maybe it was July 2008, around the time my eating disorder began. I was taking lithium at the time and falling asleep in the workshops, which was not a good thing. There were several residencies where I had trouble participating due to technical trouble such as this. Once, I had a bad cold. I also had a bad cold when I went to the reunion in 2010. Just bad luck. But in 2008 it was the Lithium that made me so sleepy I could not stay awake. I managed to glean what was necessary, and would go back to my room for a snooze whenever I could. I wasn’t yet aware that I was suffering from rape trauma or that the lithium was the culprit.
One of the faculty members, Aimee Liu (you may know her, she wrote Gaining) approached me and suggested that I bring Puzzle next time. She said that maybe Puzzle could be my service dog. Instinctively, she knew that Puzzle does a lot for me. We had talked about Puzzle. What she didn’t know was that Puzzle was so young and both of us needed to do a lot of work that I was not capable of doing. I could not handle Puzzle in public at the time. She pointed out some of the service dog laws. Our director, Paul Selig, has a service dog named Darla, a Silky Terrier. She is darned cute. She is so tiny that she fits into a little briefcase type thingy.
So I looked into it. One of the things I did was to go to a few psychiatric service dog websites. I researched quite a bit. I went to messages boards. Some of the folks on these message boards weren’t so nice. I was rather shocked. You’d figure folks would be open-minded and kind. So I went away.
But still, it was all in the works. As you know, Puzzle was very friendly and outgoing in 2007 and 2008…and then I moved and we had that little incident with the shopping cart lady here at our new residence. Let me explain for those of you who don’t know….
I moved here September 3, 2008. Now my eating disorder was just starting to take hold of me, which I didn’t know, not at all. And I was petrified. I had recently been raped and was moving here to get away from the guy. It was wicked hot that weekend. I came here with my boxes and the neighbors…I dunno, they were immediately hostile. I had no living room shades and they were out there on the balcony, and they could easily peek in on me anytime they wanted with no shades on my windows. It took a couple of months to get my big shade. The smaller shade I got months after that but I didn’t want to wait. I had covered that window with photos of Puzzle. Those photos are still up there. They finally came to bring the shade and I said, “Hey, I didn’t want to wait…someone else can have the shade.”
For the first week in the shadeless apartment I cried. There were boxes everywhere and I had no air conditioner. It was over 90 outside every day and it didn’t get under 70 at night. Inside, it was over 85. If you’re unpacking and crying at the same time, I guess your body heat goes way up. Yeah, it was unbearable. I begged my family for money for an air conditioner, and got it. Delivered.
Meanwhile, the shopping cart lady freaked one night over Puzzle. The shopping cart lady is a lady who uses a shopping cart instead of a walker and that’s why I call her that. She shoved the shopping cart at Puzzle. That did it. Puzzle’s personality changed as far as the neighbors were concerned. My personality changed as far as the neighbors were concerned. Maybe it was for the better and maybe it was for the worse. We will never know.
All that is beyond us now. The shopping cart is not part of our life. Puzzle has replaced that memory with better memories and experiences, and so have I. Puzzle is now a working dog and I am now the owner of a working dog and we have put that behind us. We have to. A working dog cannot be a skittish dog afraid of being nudged by a shopping cart.
Puzzle is the missing puzzle piece, the piece that fell into place. In the winter of 2011, I experienced It. You may recall It and how Puzzle helped me with It, but I could not handle a service dog at the time. Now, I can. See, I couldn’t manage a service dog on the bus and subway. I couldn’t manage myself on the bus and subway. Now, I can manage Puzzle. I can manage myself. I can be in the world a whole lot better if Puzzle and I are together because of how she helps me.
It’s extremely hard to explain. And maybe it’s the fact that it can’t be explained that’s the beauty of it. Or maybe that it’s late in the day, that we’ve been so busy, that we’ve done so much and taken in so many experiences today that I’ve worn myself out now and need to rest. I do know that suddenly Puzzle is a different dog, and I am a different person, from here on in.
It all goes back to why I began using Facebook to begin with. I resisted. A couple of years ago I was invited to Facebook and I took one look and decided I wasn’t interested. What on earth was it for? A public place to post photos? Show off where you’d vacationed? Tell everyone you showered that day? It seemed, in a word, stupid. I opened an account and never used it.
I called it “Fucking Facebook” because it seemed to take up way too much of everyone else’s time, especially those games, which served no purpose except to waste time. Did the games cost money? I never did find out.
There was this “farming” game that seemed very, very addicting and I thanked God (or whomever) every day that I was not addicted to this farming game. I never played it and it always seemed stupid to me. Absolutely idiotic. Like child’s play.
So then I realized that a whole bunch of Goddard students were on Facebook, and maybe it was a good way to keep in touch. I was in touch with my Goddard friends via phone, after all, and this was a way of keeping us all together.
Or so I thought.
Gradually, Fucking Facebook began to replace those precious e-mails and phone calls. It totally sucked. Instead of meaningful conversations, we had one-liners, such as, “I agree!” or, “I am keeping you in my thoughts,” or, “Yay!”
I mean, honestly. I don’t even hear laughter anymore. Hardly any complete sentences.
If I see one more quote from God I am going to scream.
I started posting my blog posts up on my wall, and this may or may have been a mistake. I got very few comments. All this fed into my paranoia.
Then, one day, I phoned a friend and decided to go check Facebook to see when she was leaving town. Perhaps she was out of town already. She is a non-Goddard person.
Then I saw it: No posts. Nothing. And this: ADD FRIEND.
Yeah, she unfriended me. And her partner as well.
Jaw drop. My heart actually skipped a bunch of beats. Or so it felt.
Was this really necessary? I didn’t think these people were that immature. Also, they are tech savvy and know how to “hide” people. But yeah, I’d been unfriended.
How did I react? I immediately felt extremely sleepy. I fell asleep for several hours. I woke up and thought it through rationally. Should I say something? Should I ask them why? Clearly, they chose not to approach me and chose not to say anything to me. So I decided to pretend I hadn’t noticed.
Then, later, I made the decision to get off Facebook entirely. I decided that if folks find (or, rather, found) me that unpleasant to be around, then I should bow out. And I did.
I have the diagnosis of paranoia, and it’s not good to hang around Facebook if you have paranoia, medicated or not. Paranoia can be paranoid schiz or paranoid personality disorder, and I have neither, just paranoia. I looked it up and it fits me to a “T.”
There is no cure…yet…that I have discovered from looking online. There are a bunch of things that can cause it including dementia. A lot of folks with dementia have it.
I had to concede to taking meds for it, unfortunately. And I feel one heck of a lot better. I am taking the minimum lowest dose to keep the paranoia at bay and I am watching for TD. I am not taking a med that will make me gain weight. It does not dope me up.
I searched and searched for alternatives to meds. They say B vitamins for voices…or live with the voices…but for paranoia, nothing…just meds.
The missing Puzzle piece: Tomorrow I am going to see Dr. P, bringing with me papers to sign….Puzzle will be officially Service Dog In Training! Yay!
Yes, I believe assistive animals can be key for people with illnesses such as paranoia. There are a lot of folks with schizophrenia who are helped by service animals. Puzzle helped get me out of the house while I was going through really bad body dysmorphia. I believe that body dysmorphic disorder is an illness that is so misunderstood and so underresearched that there is much to be discovered in the use of service animals for these sufferers.
It has been a few weeks now, and we have pretty much already made the “transition.” It is incredibly hard to describe this pet-to-SDIT transition to someone who has never been through it. I guess you can liken the depth of it to transitioning from one gender to another.
Looking back, no, it didn’t happen overnight. I think it started in May. The seed was planted when I started cooking for her.
I cannot begin to tell you how everything is now falling into place. I have had a rash of good luck. Or maybe it’s just how I see things.
No, I don’t miss Facebook. And no, no one has contacted me asking me where I’ve been. I don’t feel hurt by this. If I do go back, it will be as the This Hunger Is Secret fan page, in professional capacity. Well, maybe.
PS: No, I’m not going to stop the meds.