Mental Health Awareness week was 12 days ago.
It's been a month of mental health for me. I started blogging again. I've been writing quotes and short recounts of pain. I went to a forum yesterday called "Breaking the Silence." It was nice to hear stories from others and to hear the enthusiasm for gaining understa5fnding on mental health.
I have come to accept two more disorders. I still have to talk to my doctors but I can pretty safely say I have Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder and Nightmare Disorder.
I avoid eating. I tell myself I can eat later. I restrict the foods I eat. I have about 50 safe foods so I'm better off than most people with the disorder. I have foods I have trouble looking at, even think about. My throat will start closing up and I get anxious.
But I make myself get food when I can. I force myself to eat just a little more. I'm trying to figure out what foods I can always eat. 100% safe foods. My physician told me not to go under 120. I don't know what's going to happen if I do. Right now that's 1 pound away. A 1 pound buffer, if you will. Can I keep from losing that safety net?
I was really worried about my weight from 6-9 y/o. I was in the 60s for about 2.5 years. I was terrified I'd never gain weight. That I would look gross. That I wouldn't grow correctly. That I wouldn't be average height or weight. I was used to being average.
I remember going shopping with my mom. I would choose foods that looked good to me. She'd ask about things I usually ate and I'd say no.
One memory from 2nd grade haunts me.
Mom: Purple Owl, get your backpack and come to the dining room.
Purple Owl looks at her backpack and sighs. School, again.
Purple Owl: Here I am. Do I have to go?
Mom: Yes. Here's your lunch.
Purple Owl takes the bag and opens it. Ew, a sandwich, fruit, and juice box.
Purple Owl: I don't want this.
Mom: Purple Owl, you need to eat.
Purple Owl: But I can't eat this.
Mom: Do you have your lunch ticket?
Purple Owl nods.
Mom: You can take the lunch and then you'll have two choices.
Purple Owl: But what if I don't want either?
Sisters: Mom, we're ready.
Mom, packing her bag: Okay girls. We'll be right there. Purple Owl, you have to eat something. We talked about this. You want to gain weight. You promised you'd eat lunch everyday.
Purple Owl's eyes light up.
Purple Owl: I want a Slim Fast.
Mom: They’re for weight loss or management. It's for adults. You don't need it.
Purple Owl: You've let me have some before. And if the serving size is for adults, it's different for children.
Mom: You promise to drink it?
Purple Owl bobs her head up and down.
Purple Owl: Yes. It's yummy.
Mom: And you're not taking it just to be like me?
Purple Owl shakes her head and entire body.
Purple Owl: No. It makes me hungry but it's also filling. I want to drink it.
Mom: Okay you can take it. Put the lunch bag in the fridge. Maybe you'll have it as a snack.
Purple Owl opens the pantry and chooses a chocolate Slim Fast. She makes room for it in her school bag. Purple Owl puts the lunch in the fridge. She wrinkles her nose. Not eating that today.
She skips to the living room and joins her family.
The lunch lady asked me three times if that's all I had for lunch. I think she thought my mom was neglectful, forcing me to diet, or unaware of dietary needs. She didn't know that my mom just wanted me to eat something, anything. She didn't know that I fought for the Slim Fast.
As for Nightmare Disorder, I thought everyone had nightmares, especially children. I blamed it on an overactive imagination and any intense movie or story. I didn't know that 1 to 3 bad dreams a night was a problem. I didn't know that remembering dreams for years was odd.
I have about 6 recurring dreams that started at some point in childhood or adolescence. A few years will go by between them. And each time they come back, it's like I'm welcoming an old friend. As I squeeze myself into a ball and wrap up in my blankets, I feel slightly comforted recalling the details. At least my dreams always have my back. They always want to visit.
Is that a normal way to relax from nightmares? Well it's my way. And it's not like I can go talk to someone about my bad dream in the middle of the night. Talk about my fear of going back to bed. Talk about my fear of what my brain is going to think up next.
I know about these disorders now. I'll work to get more information on them. I'll work to understand what they mean for me. And I can work with my doctors and others to find ways to face them head on. And that's a better place than I was in before.