Merry, merry– it’s Christmas, and for the second year in a row, I am away from family. But it’s ok. And I am more than ok. Last year, I was in eating disorder treatment– I went to the beach in Malibu for the first time & later cried into my Thai food because food and feelings and distress. I felt sad & anxious & dysregulated. This year, I’m back in SoCal, this time for trauma treatment, and this time without tears (at least for today). And today, I spent my second California Christmas at a friend’s mom’s house with said friend, wife, and his family. I met this friend earlier this year in eating disorder treatment, and I am grateful for so many reasons– for the laughing until I can’t breathe & might involuntarily vomit from laughing so hard to the tears and real talk and accountability and calling me out on my shit.
Today, I got to spend Christmas with a member of my chosen family. And, yes, there was a dog with whom I spent a large part of the evening because we all know I love a good boy at a party.
I haven’t been vocal about this, nor do I feel the need to be, but as I stated earlier, I’m currently in a trauma treatment program. It’s been less than two weeks, but I’m already noticing some differences. Unlike most programs (and any other program I’ve been to), there’s no group therapy. For 6 hours a day, M-F, there’s individual therapy with various clinicians. It’s a lot. It’s exhausting. But it’s also worth it. It’s worth it because I couldn’t keep going the way I was going. Sure, I’d been stable in my ED recovery, but with that came a rollercoaster of emotions as I tried to cope with literally 31 years of unresolved trauma without throwing up. The anxiety was so bad that some nights I went without sleep, which in turn had a detrimental impact on my mood & overall functioning. And so at some point enough was enough and long story short, after looking seriously at a handful of PTSD treatment programs, I ended up in Malibu.
I recognize the inherent privilege in my situation– I have a salaried job that I can take leave from, parents who can help me financially in the meantime, insurance, and an outpatient treatment team to guide me– and for all of it I have immense gratitude. So many people don’t have access to treatment, can’t afford treatment, can’t get off from work, etc., not to mention the fact that the healthcare system is fucked and breaks the bank for so many. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m making the most of this experience because who knows if this is the only time the stars will align in such a way, so to speak.
It’s not a perfect treatment program (there isn’t such a thing), but it’s far more than a “good enough” program. It’s different. It’s something new for me. And it’s fucking intense. I don’t know what kind of fucking sorcery brainspotting therapy is (I’ll write more about it later), but I always end up in tears and ultimately feeling better 2 hours later.
While trauma is subjective, I’ve often struggled to label mine as such. To call my experiences traumatic felt like a minimization of the real traumas other people endure, like as if to say that my having trauma somehow took away from others’ experiences. And I didn’t want to do that. On my first or second day, I told one of the therapists that I didn’t think I really had trauma, to which she responded, “Actually, you have the worst kind of trauma, the chronic kind that happens over and over again and isn’t just a one-time thing.” People have said similar shit to me over the years, but for whatever reason, this particular wording from this particular individual really resonated with me.
I had to complete a trauma timeline the other day, and it was like “wow, okay, maybe I do have PTSD and am not just depressed and anxious.” To some that may seem like a trivial “duh” but to me, it’s radically important and feels like the beginning of something new.