Monthly Archives: March 2007
Sorry I’ve been MIA lately. I’m swamped with work. I promise at least a photo soon.
On the plus side…..
I’ve been out of the hospital for a year! The doctor there and the social worker had given me a poor prognosis. I proved them wrong, didn’t I? They said there were no medication changes that would help me. Along came Topamax in July and it changed my life! They recommended a day program, which would have squelched all possibility of my return to graduate school. Well, here I am, and I’m making it! Working my ass off and making it!
Also on the positive side, I have lost 50 pounds.
The piece I’m writing now, in fact, is about my experience at a day program. The piece chronicles one day there. I’ll post it when I’m done changing the names and totally disguising the people–“clients,” staff, locations, specifics. I don’t need a lawsuit right now.
Have a nice day.
Here is the link to Aimee Liu’s book, Gaining, on Amazon.com:
I flipped through the pages using the “surprise me” feature and I was very, very impressed. If you have ever had an eating disorder, you’ll find this book immensely helpful.
A bunch of us at Goddard decided to buy the book because we’d heard that it had made the NYT Bestseller list and we wanted to help it get into the top ten! But now, I feel I’m buying the book not just to help a cause but because I want to learn more about myself and gain perspective on my own history as former anorexic.
I have wanted to meet Aimee since 1981 when I first read her memoir, Solitaire, about surviving anorexia as an adolescent. She wrote the book when she was only 26. Because she teaches at Goddard’s Port Townsend campus, I will have that opportunity. I was very disappointed when I learned that Aimee had taken a leave of absence this semester (to promote her book) so she was not at the February residency.
Looking back over the years, I realize that I never received proper care for my eating disorder. When I first became anorexic, I had never heard of anorexia or eating disorders! I participated in a couple of groups for people with eating problems here and there, including Overeaters Anonymous, some of which turned out grossly inappropriate for me, the emphasis being on losing weight or rigidity in one’s eating. I saw very few “specialists.” My eating disorder was always considered secondary to my mood and thought disorders, and most doctors and therapists ignored my eating problem altogether, even when I complained bitterly about it.
Ironically, I had to gain weight before I received help. After my boyfriend, Joe, died, I gained 100 pounds from the medication Seroquel (if taken in large doses, yes, it causes extreme weight gain) and from the grief I had to bear. I felt like my body wasn’t my own. I joined WeightWatchers Online and in perusing the support boards, decided to start a “mental illness” support thread. It didn’t get off the ground, but a few days later, a courageous woman named Heidi started a “Lexapro” support thread. (Lexapro is an antidepressant.) The thread took off! I decided, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
Today, a year later, our “Antidepressants” thread is still going strong. These wonderful women, many of whom are former anorexics, are my eating disorders support group. They have done more for my eating disorders “treatment” than any therapist or doctor has ever done. I have never met any of these women, but they are as real to me as sisters, and I want to thank them for their love and support over this past year.
I have been out of the hospital a full year as of this coming Tuesday.
<IMG src=”/images/27466-26086/Sun_Maid.JPG”>Yes, raisins are poisonous to dogs! As few as seven can seriously harm the average dog. Puzzle ate one, yes one. I called ASPCA poison control and they recommended taking Puzzle to the Veterinary Emergency Specialty Center of New England (VESCONE), where they induced vomiting, gave her charcoal, tested her kidneys, put her on IV fluids for 48 hours to protect her kidneys, then tested her kidneys again, and weaned her off the fluids. I brought her home Monday night.
That was scary!!!! One raisin can seriously harm Puzzle’s little puppy kidneys!
I owe many thanks to Donna W,who sent me an e-mail only last Friday regarding raisin toxicity in dogs. Prior to that, I had no clue! Since then, I’ve heard many stories about dogs who have had kidney problems following raisin ingestion!
Here’s a funny photo of Puzzle:
Yet, despite my learning, I had many moments of secret shame….I remember vividly the feeling of being wrong in my clothes….I believed that the low quality of my clothing confirmed an indelible quality that was in me….Like a shoddily made, ill-fitting piece of clothing, illness strengthens any idea you may have that you are unworthy. All your waking hours, every feeling, sensation, thought, is filtered through a body that feels wrong to you….You walk as in a second skin, one that marks you, at least in your own mind, as less than others, damaged material.
from What Her Body Thought: A Journey into the Shadows
Check out this blog! Cool poetry! Piper labeled some of her works as prose but I saw them as poetry or prose-poems. A prose-poem is sort of like half prose and half poem. You’ll see. Prose-poem or poetry, Piper’s stuff is amazing.
In her blog entry dated March 5, Piper did a write-up on Paisley Rekdal, my advisor at Goddard!
My therapist, Goldie, said to me the other day, “You mean, her name is Paisley? That’s her name?”
I said, “Yep.”
“Well, then, you’ll probably pass.”
My whole family has this weird idea about illness: that if you’re sick, or injured even, that it’s because you did something wrong. If you catch a cold, it’s because you didn’t eat your vegetables. Maybe you missed a doctor’s appointment. Or maybe didn’t take your Vitamin C. Perhaps you kissed someone with a cold or forgot to wash your hands. Or forgot to spray the telephone receiver with Lysol after someone with a cold used it. You spent too much time with sick people. Maybe you picked your nose, bit your nails. Maybe you smoked. Maybe you drank, or hung out with the wrong crowd. Maybe you watched too much TV, or not enough TV, read the wrong books, didn’t get exercise, had too much sex, worked too hard, slept too much. It gets worse. It becomes a moral issue. You don’t have the right attitude. You don’t know how to take proper care of yourself. You aren’t optimistic enough. You don’t have a youthful spirit. You’re not aging well. You’re not mature. You don’t believe in God. You’re a religious fanatic. You’re a homosexual. You’re weird. You’re weak in character. You’re uncomfortable with yourself. You just don’t have it together. You’re insecure. You’re a sinner, a liar, a cheater, a beggar, a wimp, a whore, a thief, a murderess. That’s about how it went in my family–when you got sick, it was your fault; you were asking for it. But don’t for a moment think that this attitude is only found within the confines of my own family! All of our society blames the ill for their illness. And so, when I became mentally ill, I did what I was trained to do; I blamed myself. I shamed myself. I told no one.
I told no one, and tried to cure myself on my own, in secret. It was all my fault. I had gotten myself into the mess I was in, so I would get myself out of it. I was too fat (I was so thin that I no longer menstruated), Martians were trying to run my life, I was terrified of other humans, and about twice a week I stuffed myself with whatever I could eat–sometimes it wasn’t even food–until I was so full I passed out on my bed, still clothed, until morning. And I was deeply depressed. And I was lonely in a weird way: I was afraid of humans yet craved companionship; it was a catch-22 that I still deal with even today. I tried every diet I could think of, including restricting myself to 300 calories a day. I restricted myself in all sorts of ways, for instance, drastically limiting monetary spending and telephone use, to rid myself of the Martians, but none of these methods worked. No one knew. Only a handful of people commented that I had lost too much weight, but nothing came of it.
So when word got out in my family that I was “having problems,” I was sorely blamed for these “problems” I’d gotten myself into. I was weak, I didn’t have the right attitude, I didn’t like myself, I wasn’t likeable anyway, I didn’t wear a bra, didn’t stay in touch with the family enough, didn’t have enough goddamned respect. This “problem” wasn’t referred to as “illness” until well after I was hospitalized, three years later, and in the meantime, we’d had some family therapy, during which the therapists tried to blame my parents for my “problems” (the therapists, too, avoided “illness”–how could it happen to a Bennington College high achiever whose parents were paying fifty dollars a day for her to come to their program?). My parents later joined NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) where they learned that mental illness was a physical problem, that they were off the hook and I was back on the hook for having a brain disorder. I picked my nose, smoked, hung out with scummy people, watched the wrong TV shows, didn’t read books, didn’t exercise, had too much sex, was lazy, slept too much, and yes, it’s a moral issue–I didn’t have the right attitude, couldn’t take proper care of myself, was a pessimist, shaky, immature, weird, weak, a sinner, liar, cheater, wimp, a filthy, pimply, smoking, coffee-drinking, diseased whore.
Today’s society both hates and glorifies the ill. We hate the guy on the bus who smells and talks to himself but we love the learning-disabled boy who, against all odds, is able to complete his high school education. We hate the welfare mother of six who begs on the street every day for money to heat her home but we love the paralyzed child who overcomes her disability and learns to walk again. Disabilities generally aren’t overcome. They are endured. I take seventeen pills a day (not including vitamins). That’s the easy part. I deal with Evil Beings sometimes. I deal with depression sometimes; sometimes I have to put up with side effects of my medication. I have a plethora of physical complaints from having the illness itself and taking medications long-term. But the toughest part is the shame. Crazy. Off her rocker. Bonkers. Lights on, nobody home. Whacked. Psycho.
Society loves those disabled people who achieve in spite of their disabilities, not along with their disabilities. But I am lucky. I am achieving because I am writing about my illness, using it to express myself; I am using writing and writing about my illness to reach other people. I am writing about what has consumed my life for the past 28 years. I feel that I know it very, very well. I no longer blame myself for it. It is not anyone’s fault that I became ill and that I still am ill. It simply is so.
Aimee Liu, who is on the faculty at Goddard College, recently came out with another book about her eating disorder, called Gaining, which is about life after eating disorders. On Wednesday, she and her book were featured on The Today Show:
Although I have never met Aimee, she is very special to me. In 1981, when I was 23, I wandered into a bookstore and found Aimee’s book, Solitaire, which she wrote when she was 26, about her experience with anorexia nervosa. I had never heard of anorexia. I had been wondering what was wrong with me over the past year, and now, I knew….
I still have my copy of Solitaire, though it is yellowed and the pages are brittle. Aimee is on leave this term, promoting her new book, but when she returns next term I will be right there, asking her to sign my old copy of Solitaire, the book that opened my eyes.
Today I purchased a quart bottle of flavored seltzer, and brought it home. Here is one of life’s little treats I enjoy every now and then that isn’t expensive but tastes as though it is, and is available at any supermarket. I refrigerated the seltzer for a time, then decided I would drink some of it, because I was thirsty; my medication certainly more thirsty than I was without medication, when I could endure entire days without even a sip of water; in fact, in those days I didn’t drink water at all–I drank milk and OJ in the morning, maybe a glass of diet soda at night, but now I drink water literally by the gallon. And here I was with my luxury: flavored Seltzer. Cold. Fizzy. To be opened with care, I remembered. And it’s a good thing I remembered, because seltzer, of all beverages, packs a wallop if opened carelessly. One can even sustain injury from such mishaps. A bottle of selzer is potential unrealized. There’s a lot locked up in it that hasn’t come out. So I opened it. Carefully. One crack at a time. One iota. A little more. A little more. A little more–as the bubbles gradually rose and exited to the surface of the water like a caged, screaming fetus finally allowed out of the womb–until finally, I was able to unscrew the cap and remove it–and drink, right out of the bottle. Thorazine is like that; it acts as a buffer. It slows down the release so there won’t be an explosion of fizz. It ensures that there won’t be any dangerous messes. It cradles the bubbles gently and gradually, so I can drink, drink, drink. Without Thorazine, I’d have seltzer on the floor, as disorganized as my mind, and an empty bottle, without life, without hope.