Tuesday, August 17, 2010

safely walk to school without a sound

For the first time in a couple of semesters, I feel eager and confident about starting classes. I'm taking Principles and Methods of Psychology (okay, not so excited about that one), Psychology of Crime and Violence, Clinical Psychology (!!!), and History of Modern France. Game time: which one of these things is not like the others because it's a requirement for graduation? I'm still looking forward to that one too.

I also have an interview to work in a research lab on campus, on a study researching mothers' psychological adjustment and father involvement. I have my fingers crossed. One of my least favorite things about interviews is that I'm sometimes asked about the lull in my grades and in my experience -- a lull that, super coincidentally!, happens to coincide with uncontrolled bulimia.

My rock bottom occurred during the spring semester of sophomore year. It was a hellish time period where bulimia finally, after three years of admirable effort, succeeded in taking over my life. I was occupied by the sickness. It was as though I was simply an eating disorder embodied: no longer Kelly the Friend or Kelly the Comedienne or Kelly the Writer, but simply Kelly the Walking Eating Disorder. Of particular importance during that semester was loss of "Kelly the Student".

Obvious physiological fact of the day: your body and your brain need food to function. And that's just the bottom line. When you throw in unmedicated depression that renders you inert and half-dead, and, perhaps most cuttingly, a sense that you no longer even have a future so why bother, reading and writing and caring about things becomes very difficult. I think my body and my brain were too focused on surviving, and so my ability to read for more than five minutes at a time went right out the window. Oh god, was that a terrible day, when I realized I couldn't read anymore. Horrifying. Obviously this all had an impact on my grades as well.

To this day I sometimes feel guilty that I wasn't able to stick it out, to really dig in my heels and power through. I get angry, sometimes, when I think about my History and Systems of Psychology class. I entered finals with a 98% average. . . and then came the final paper, worth 20% of the total grade. And I couldn't do it. I remember crying in my room at home (I had gotten an extension from the professor and left campus before completing it) because I could not think, could not for the life of me make thoughts cohere. My brain was decimated from exhaustion and malnutrition and the looming reality of inpatient treatment. So I emailed like three sentences to the professor and said I simply couldn't do it. That lowered my grade from a very high A+ to a B in one fell swoop. I sometimes think of girls from treatment who managed to pull out great semesters and get into grad programs before entering residential, and the crazy bullshit eating disorder competitiveness sets in. And I have to laugh at that: beating myself up for not being a good enough perfectionist, for succumbing to a silly thing like a life-threatening eating disorder. And then I tell myself that my GPA is still a 3.6 and I think, good Lord, I'm insufferable.

But on most days, I can accept that it's over and done. I still have two semesters, and I'm really excited for both of them. It's been a year since I've exited treatment and I finally feel like my brain is settling back into my body, back to its old self. I can sleep, and I can eat relatively well most of the time. I'm ready to go back to my old nerdy self and it feels fantastic.

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