Wise people such as Jesus encouraged two or more to gather. He also said, “In the name of God.” But what, specifically, is the “name of God”?
Perhaps our languages did us a disservice with the creation of “to be.” Elimination of “to be” from thinking and expression would save humanity. In principle this might be true, would it not? Some writing teachers say “is” is passive and tell their students to eliminate all usage of this word. Is “to be” passive, or is it a verb?
Did you know that the Jewish word for God is “is”? It is “to be.” Just that. In some Christian literature, Jews are said to have a god named Yaweh, but actually, that’s a total mispronunciation and misinterpretation. The word for God in Hebrew that’s commonly used is in fact an acronym of “to be,” in the forms past, present, and future. These are sometimes seen as two “yud” letters. “Yud” is a consonant, and when Hebrew is written out without vowels, Yud still stands, silently. “To be,” as name of God, is more like “the active presence of God.” Can we be okay with “is” now?
Can we be in each other’s presence actively? It’s our choice if we choose to share our beliefs. There are as many beliefs as there are humans present, and as many opportunities to change our minds as there are moments in time. Can we hear each other’s voices? Can we really listen?
I might say “is” today. I might not. I believe in Freedom of Speech and saying “is” or “was” isn’t a crime. If the grammar police banging down my door for having written this, I’ll invite them in for a thermos full of maté.
…And I saw a potential new therapist two days ago. I’m not going to say much about that.
I tried to get into a study, not knowing too much about it, but they decided I was not a good candidate for it. I think they were going to give the participants Prozac, anyway. I don’t want Prozac. But the $125 for four hours of interview would have been nice.
I saw my new primary care doctor today. She is a nurse practitioner. So far so good. Except she said if the edema in my ankles (and calves and all over me) gets any worse, I will have to go into the hospital. We shall see.
Then they stuck me a four times trying to get blood out of me. I know the deal. When I’ve been wicked dehydrated, the blood wouldn’t come out. The phlebotomists were super nice. They knew, too, and offered me water. I drank it. Finally, blood came running out into the tube. How nice.
They want me to fill our a Health Care Proxy. Well, gee. Someone who knows my wishes? Surely, my brothers don’t.
No feeding tube.
No feeding tube.
No feeding tube, please.
I haven’t heard from either brother for over a month. How depressing. My mom called me once, asking for help with her computer. My brother said he’d taken her computer offline and disabled it. So how weird. I didn’t call her back.
Of course, this make me a Sinner in the Eyes of God.
Does God actually even have eyes? How the heck should I know?
A couple of hours after I came home, another doctor called me and told me my blood sugar level was 46. And of course I’m dehydrated. I read online that under 60 is considered hypoglycemic. Under 50 and you can get brain damage. Under 40 and you will lose consciousness. How lovely.
I have a very embarrassing and funny story to tell you all. Later.
I just wrote this, and am not sure what to do with it, but here it is. It came to me in a flash, while lying in my bed, which doubles as a couch.
May 28, Memorial Day, 2012
WHAT POVERTY TEACHES ME: A MEDITATION
Poverty teaches me to make do.
Poverty teaches me that the biggest isn’t the best. Poverty teaches me that less is more. Poverty teaches me to think big with my mind.
Poverty teaches me the true meaning of downsizing. I have learned that it’s easy to get rid of what I don’t want by giving it away. Poverty teaches me to take pride that I do not need a manicure, pedicure or haircut, nor do I need to adorn my body with jewelry or fancy clothes. In fact, being poor has taught me that I don’t need new clothes.
Poverty teaches me to laugh and cry when they try to sell me a new TV luxury, such as a satellite dish. I appreciate the thrill of telling them, “Sorry, no TV.” When they try to repair a crack in my car’s windshield, I am overjoyed to say, “Sorry, no car.” Without the car and the TV, I am free.
Poverty teaches me that my little dog is just as needy as I am, and deserves the best. I cherish this creature. She is sacred. I need her as much as she needs me.
Poverty teaches me to say, “Yes, thank you,” and also, “No, thank you.” Mostly, though it teaches me to keep my mouth shut.
Poverty teaches me to accept and love the unwanted, the dented, the scratched, the unbeautiful, and whatever is a little too old, too wrinkled, no longer fashionable, and outdated.
Poverty teaches me to accept and love that which has been cast out by others, that which was used and then tossed aside, and forgotten in the corners of the marketplace.
Poverty teaches me to love the second-hand. I have learned to hold these things that I have adopted and brought into my household as things dear to my heart, and when I dream, I try to trace their roots.
Poverty teaches me to settle for what others consider second best. It teaches me to simplify, and embrace what is plain, compact, and practical.
Poverty gives me freedom because material goods give me nothing unless in my mind I am free.
Poverty teaches me to plan ahead, a skill I never had before. It teaches me to consider priorities and pros and cons, to discern between need and want.
Poverty teaches me to appreciate the government that recognizes that I have a need, but also to question this government, because along with these gifts, I must accept that I will not always be respected.
Because of poverty, I’ve lost friends. Because of poverty, I’ve gained friends. God, my inner strength, has always been by my side, even when I have been angry and bitter.
Poverty unleashes my creativity. How can I get this to last?
In winter, when I struggle in my cold apartment, I love to hear the story of the drop of oil that lasted eight days. I know that even if I’m poor, though not born in a manger, I can, and will change the world.
Poverty teaches me that there time to think about debt, and a time to set those thoughts aside. For all my gripes and complaints, the world can truly be a beautiful place, especially now that I have the time, and occasionally, the inclination to sit back and look at it.
I look at the world and I write. I wring out and extract. If I am painstaking, what comes out is something money cannot buy. It is a river of clarity, born of the divine, a glory to behold.
Julie Greene knows exactly what’s wrong with the world: Dysmorphia…so she taught Jesus to knit: True Story from Inpatient Eating Disorders Treatment
They say God (whoever or whatever that is) fashioned us after whatever was in the bathroom mirror that day, that is, “God’s image,” right? Let’s say for a minute that this is true. Those of you who know, or assume that this is hogwash just hold on.
We aren’t all that happy with our bodies. There is this idea of this “ideal body” and many people see that their body isn’t this ideal, so they strive for this ideal instead.
But in reality, when they got the surveys out, they found that many people who were, say, normal weight, felt that they were overweight. These people didn’t necessarily have eating disorders. They were just unsatisfied with their weight.
This is a form of body dysmorphia. People with anorexia nervosa also have this body dysmorphia, and in this case, it tends to be more pronounced.
There is also a separate illness called body dysmorphia in which the person obsesses on a part or parts of the body and feels extreme dissatisfaction with these parts. The person does not perceive his or her body correctly. It is as if the mirror is lying.
Some are dissatisfied to the point of self-destructive acts such as starvation, or a more subtle form may be called “diet” or “meal plan.” There are other behaviors as well.
Then, there is dissatisfaction with the mind. Perhaps we have this idea of the “ideal mind.” There are many people that are clearly great people in history that we might want to be like. Problem is, we can’t measure these minds with a measuring tape.
So there are a bunch of industries set up that set out to help us figure out how to make our minds more like this ideal toward which we strive. The first step is to convince us that something is wrong with our minds. So the mental health industry made up these illnesses. They made up a few biggies, and captured some people into their net. When they saw that they hadn’t captured enough people, they made up more illnesses. So now everyone gets an illness and everyone has something “wrong” with their mind that needs to be fixed.
And the self-help industry does the exact same thing. Everything is wrong with us and everything, every defect, needs to be fixed. We need to strive to the ideal.
Probably many people suffer from mind dysmorphia as a result of this craze.
I’m guessing that most people don’t perceive their own minds accurately, anyway. How can they, with no measuring tape, and limited maturity? It is easy to be swayed.
If we were made in God’s image, then of course God suffered from both body and mind dysmorphia, just like us. And if this was the case, this metaphorical mirror may have in fact lied.
Yes, in God’s skewed image.
God should have gone to therapy, but I suppose with all the controversy over whether God even exists, how would God get insurance coverage? Isn’t God a little too old for this?
I suppose someone should send the police and arrange for God to get put away for a good long time. “Our Father, who art in locked up in Heaven…”
But I suppose if Heaven is anything like the locked eating disorders unit where I was at, there aren’t any mirrors there. No negative self-talk allowed. Let’s monitor God’s activity in the bathroom. Let’s check the toilet every time God uses it, before God flushes away our sins. Hell on Earth Amen.
God would have come out of there pretty fucked up anyway.
I mean, no one even knows what God’s name is. When I went to Hebrew school, we learned zillions of Hebrew words for God. And then I found out that a bunch of other people used this name Jesus Christ for God. I didn’t learn this one in Hebrew school and we weren’t allowed to say this name in my house growing up.
So what would God have written for a name when God signed in to the eating disorders unit? If he is Jesus, well, then, he’s a guy, and there aren’t too many guys on the unit. Jesus’ last name wasn’t even Christ, for Christ’s sake. I wouldn’t have to worry about being the oldest one there.
When I was at Alcott in March 2010, they still allowed knitting there. They don’t allow knitting on the unit anymore. I think I’d like to teach Jesus to knit. You figure, with all that running around preaching and healing, he probably never had the chance to learn.
Undoubtedly they’ve forced a feeding tube into him. Back then, they had those things running during the daytime as well as at night, so we had to push those poles around with us. His pole is attached to a wheelchair and the feeding tube pump is affixed to the pole. The pump clicks at regular intervals. We all know this click. It is the sound of this place. The feeding tube is a narrow filament of tube that comes out of one of his nostrils and bends upward, and is then taped to one cheek, is draped around his ear, and left to hang, where it is after a number of feet attached to the pump. The tube goes up Jesus’ nostril, into his throat, past his larynx, down his esophagus, all of it, and into his stomach. Above the pump is a sack. The nurses control what goes into the sack.
They might have Jesus in a wheelchair because he is really, really old and can’t walk anymore. On the other hand, his blood pressure might be wicked low and maybe they’re worried that if he tries to stand up, he’ll fall. Or maybe they’re keeping him in the wheelchair to make sure he doesn’t cause trouble.
Jesus and I exchange a wink. I am going to teach him knitting. In exchange, he will teach me how to be a rebel.
It’s a little tough, cuz I found out a while back that Jesus doesn’t speak English. Of course, the nurses haven’t bothered to respect his rights and even try to find a translator. They don’t respect Jesus at all. They don’t respect him cuz he’s old, and to them, old people don’t have real feelings, and don’t matter. He’s poor, and they’ll probably have to make him a ward of the state. There was some murmur of a church out there somewhere, but it sounded like the staff were clueless. That plus being a guy on an eating disorders ward…it’s just plain sad cuz they ignore him and usually he’s been the only guy, no roommate or anything, just Jesus by himself.
I’ve wondered what he’s thinking, in the room all by himself. I’ve walked by and peeked in. Most of the time, he lies in bed with the pump clicking, and I guess he’s asleep but it’s a little hard to tell. I don’t want to be nosy or anything. The nurses never go in there and never talk to him. He can’t watch TV cuz it’s all in English and the books are, too. So my reasoning is that if Jesus could knit, he’d have something to do at least.
So I’ve got the needles. I have some picked out especially for Jesus. These are the best ones I could find, and real good yarn, too. I cast on and knit a few rows myself to get him started, and passed him the needles.
He looks at me, and for the first time, I see his eyes.
They are a lot like my dad’s eyes. My dad had twinkly eyes, but if you looked real close, there was this yellowness in them. It wasn’t jaundice. It was just there, like a reminder, but I don’t know what it was supposed to remind anyone of. I am Ashkinazi Jew on both sides, from Eastern Europe. The Jesus of Nazareth in the Bible isn’t Ashkinazi. He’s Middle Eastern.
This Jesus at Alcott might not even be the same one, and it kind of doesn’t matter. Eating disorders are cruel to everyone no matter what your race is or national origin. Famous people get eating disorders. We are hungry. We are thirsty. People view our bodies in wonderment. Now you see us, now you don’t.
He nods at me. He holds the needles, and with hesitation, puts the tip of one needle into the stitch on the other needle. He looks back at me. I nod.
With his free hand, he loops the hanging yarn around the needle he’s inserted. And then he stops.
There is commotion in the room. They are arguing over a TV program. A girl grabs the remote and flips the station. A young girl begins to cry and shake. Another pops up, and then turns her face awkwardly to the side, reaches for the couch arm, and collapses to the floor. The staff are there soon enough with a wheelchair. They bring the crying girl out and soon, everyone is gone but Jesus and me and the TV.
I can see the TV, but it has been muted. This is that bachelor show I saw once. I never learned the name of the show, because I don’t own a TV. The handsome young man is choosing his bride and she is crying. The TV focuses on a gold ring. I assume it’s gold cuz that’s the kind people use when they get married. I can’t really tell, though. The TV is at an angle to Jesus and me. Mostly, we see light reflected off the TV screen surface. We see no gold ring.
The radiator clicks. Above the radiator is the window where the sun rises in the morning. Across the room is the window where I can see the sun set. We are on the fifth floor, but it’s hard to remember this sometimes.
Jesus holds the needle in the loop, with the yarn around the tip of the needle. His lips are dry. He swallows, looks down, then looks back at me.
I put my hands around his. I hold them there for a minute. Then, gently, I guide him. I show his hands what to do with the needles and yarn. I show him how to finish the stitch.
I’d like to think that he bent over and whispered to me, “That was pretty cool,” but he didn’t. The vision ends there, with me and Jesus sitting there, my hands over his, the stitch completed.
I’d like to think that Jesus pulled his feeding tube out, just like I did in the middle of the night in March 2010. Whether or not it was a dumb idea to pull the tube out way back then really doesn’t matter now. Jesus was old but you figure he could do whatever the hell he wanted. And so can I.
I can do whatever the hell I want if I put my mind to it. If I can make up a fantasy about Jesus in an eating disorder ward, then I must be really, really powerful. I taught Jesus to knit and he taught me to be a rebel and here I am.
Some comments on binge eating, starvation, inpatient treatment and my life before and after…this is kind of heavy
While I was in eating disorders treatment, nothing was discussed about bingeing. Nada. Zilch.
We’re talking about state-of-the-art treatment. They do state on their website that they treat binge eating disorder, but they don’t address this behavior in the groups or talk about how to stop this behavior. No one talks about bingeing. Ever. The focus is on purging behavior. The staff go to great lengths to prevent patients from purging in the bathrooms after meals and snacks. Patients are watched during meals and I assume that hoarding behavior is generally prevented, because patients are not allowed to wear garments with pockets in the dining room. To accumulate enough food for a binge, at least a binge that is big enough to qualify as the kind of binge that I would do…it would be impossible. There are no drawers and no space to hide items.
I finally inquired about bingeing after I’d been at the Alcott Unit of Walden Behavioral Care, the inpatient unit where I was staying, for over a week and nobody had even mentioned what the heck I was going to do about bingeing once I got out.
Of course, I have talked to you guys a zillion times on this subject and I had told the doctor why I was on, specifically, Topamax and Imipramine. Actually, I have barely had the opportunity to discuss the whole Imipramine ordeal with you over the past couple of weeks…it was beyond the point of toss-up…let me back up and explain….
I have been on Imipramine since November. It is a fabulous drug for binge eating. This is the original drug used to treat binge eating, believe it or not. This research was done by some shrinks in the early 1980’s and was written up and published in a book calledNew Hope for Binge Eaters. I own this book. It is a very, very important book and I am angered, actually angered on a very deeply personal level that the research was dismissed by so many people…maybe because it put therapists out of business or made binge eating using treatment using Imipramine, as some called, in protest, “male doing to a female behavior” which is very bullshit because of course binge eating is not a female behavior and research on “chemicals” that influence brain activity is not done by only males…(this research and knowledge is something that is passed on not only in the pharmaceutical industry but in traditional “folk” cultures and within family units since the beginning of the species and is written in the earliest recorded history). I latched onto this book and after all these years still buy into the notion that binge eating is a brain response. I know this in my gut of guts.
I say this with tears in my eyes, not tears of sadness or joy or anything judgmental on myself certainly, but feelings of observation only. I also say to you, beg of you not to take this away from me or judge me or conclude that this is a bad thing or a sad thing or tragic. There is nothing tragic about it and I am not dying any more than anyone else is dying. I am getting older. Each minute, I am a minute older. So while I am typing this, each letter passes by. So let me establish that before I say the following about my eating disorder and let me say again do not take this special knowledge and experience and love and ownership in my body and soul of my eating disorder or judge me as immoral for saying this:
I have unique knowledge of my eating disorder that no one else has. I know it better than anyone else. I am the only one who has lived with my eating disorder for 32 years. No one else has lived with it. I have lived with it in secret for just about all of this time.
My eating disorder is not a living entity, does not have a gender, and does not and never has spoken to me and I have never given it a name, such as “Ed” or “Ana,” nor does it have a “voice.” Because of its non-entity as living, I have never been married to it or in any kind of personal or social or sexual or abusive partnership or codependent relationship. I don’t talk to it either lovingly or defiantly, ever, or refer to it as “you.”
As a matter of fact…let me say further that those books out there that tell you to think of your eating disorder as some kind of person called “Ed” are completely lost on me. These books sorely disappoint me. It is so…cliche to call it Ed. I mean, how fucking over-used. Even my therapist disappointed me and called it Ed. I told her that in calling it Ed, in giving it a name, a name normally given to humans, I am giving it way, way too much power.
At the same time, in giving it this name, I am acknowledging that this so-called Ed is actuallynotme, that this Ed isseparatefrom me. However, let me state right here that according to the laws of logic, in which I was trained way, way back in high school math class and I think junior high as well, and yes, I was on the brainy side and loved logic and still love logic in all its forms on all levels and yes I do believe in God I feel God in my heart and know that there is a God and to me this makes all the logical sense in this Universe that I live in as I type these words that pass by, letter by letter….according to the laws of logic, just because I do not call my eating disorder “Ed” and just because I insist on not thinking of “Ed” as a person, because doing so would empower my eating disorder..does not necessarily mean that I am integrated with my eating disorder to the point of it being me and my living as it and doing eating disorder behaviors automatically, not by choice. I don’t know the logic symbols for this equation but trust me I am right. This implies a certain largeness of the eating disorder within me to the point of robotic takeover. I did not state this at all.
There have been times that I have felt taken over by my eating disorder on an emotional or spiritual level. There have been times that I’ve felt that my eating disorder behaviors have taken over so much of my time that I have time for nothing else. There have been times that my eating disorder has rendered me unable to do daily tasks or take care of myself on a very basic level. There have been times when I have struggled to stay alive and have nearly died because of my eating disorder.
There have been times that I have only lived due to sheer luck. Some people may say that that God kept me alive. Some people may say that there was a reason for this. I don’t think there has to be a reason why I am alive. I am alive. Did God play a part in it? Does God “play parts”? Did God want me alive? Does God “want” things? I don’t really think God has a “plan” for me. I can pray and pray and pray to have this “plan” revealed to me. But in so doing, what would I expect? A list? Do this, do that? Adam’s wife Sarah wanted a child. God told her to expect one. She was old and well beyond childbearing age. She laughed at God’s plan for her. She bore a child, Isaak, which means “laughter.” I absolutely love this story and I don’t know why I love it so much.
“Plans,” are up to me at this point. Before I was in the hospital, I knew that I would die. I did not merely plan for death. I knew that I would die without question, so I had no future plans for myself. I knew that this would happen very, very soon…within days…it didn’t happen and didn’t happen. I made it to Sunday…then would go back into the dark of the weekdays and disappear, only to re-emerge on Sunday at church…on time every Sunday.
This was my life and this was how I lived it. I am alive now. I have the memory of having lived the way I did for those months. I have the memory of the sensation of my soul walking away from my body, then returning, on a handful of occasions, possibly three times. Yes, three times, I think. These went unrecorded. I did not physically die. My heart did not stop and I did not stop breathing to my knowledge. To my knowledge. I was not asleep or even close to it and I am absolutely positive that this was happening. In my heart I have no belief in an afterlife or no feeling on a gut level that there is an existence for me after death in any way or consciousness or continuance of “soul” as entity.
I had read about this happening to people who were near death. I read it with fascination, mostly because I have this curiosity about death. Many people are curious about death. As for “body leaving soul briefly,” had I ever thought it would apply to myself, I would have thought it might be a bit of a bullshit notion. But I truly believed that in my soul, the life-ness in me, had died, or was slowly, slowly dying, and might as well be dead, and that my body…it was this useless, dry, pale, flaccid thing.
“God’s plans”? Somebody might tell me to pray for God’s plans. I don’t think it’s anyone”s business what I pray for. What I pray “for,” that is, what is uttered in prayer is between God and me and is not up to another person, though sharing a prayer is awesome…that is not the same thing as religious persecution.
I am strong. I am 54 years old and suddenly, suddenly I am so assertive and I have a voice and never in my life have I ever had such power. I am able to speak for myself. I am able to think my own thoughts and think for myself. No one controls my thoughts. I am a writer. Through my writing, I have a voice and I tell my story through written and spoken word. I have a story to tell and my story is worth telling. My story should be told and needs to be told and will not go untold and I will not be forgotten and my story will not be forgotten. I am a person with an eating disorder experience and that experience will be told in words and so that experience will be shared with the world so that others may know what this illness is and is not. I will give other people with eating disorders a voice. I will give people with eating disorders rights and an end to discrimination on all levels and an end to invisibility and an end to ignorance and fear and misconception.
As soon as I entered the hospital, I began to eat. I was surprised that I did this. Or shall I say I was beyond the feeling of surprise and not surprise by anything I said or did, at that point. I consumed a bite of this thing now and then. Please do not judge me. I was not “restricting.” I was not “counting calories.” I was way, way beyond that point. I was extremely weak and at survival level. I was mentally disoriented. All I could do were bites. I focused on what was in front of me. I concentrated very, very hard. I needed to be in the hospital. I say this without question. In the very physical and practical sense, I was completely unable to do this without being in this setting. A person who doesn’t have an eating disorder can argue, “You can do this because you are physically able to put fork to mouth,” but they do not know the actual condition that I was in at this time.
Not only that. I was not “losing my relationship.” I was not “losing my wife and kids.” I was not at risk for “losing my job” or my “reputation.” My problem was not a “feeling of ‘out of control of my life'” and my parents were not kicking me out of the house and therefore I was not knocking on the doors of the hospital out of having no place else to go.
I had no relationship to lose. I had no wife and kids. I had no “job.” I had no reputation at risk. I did not live with my parents and had no family to speak of…my family (mother, two brothers) didn’t and doesn’t give a shit about me anymore, and there was no life left in me to feel out of control of. I called the hospital and asked to be admitted because I had stopped eating altogether and was about to drop dead. I was and am 54 years old.
Somehow, a starving 54-year-old woman got on a bus with barely any luggage, stumbled into a cab, over-tipped the driver, and made her way to the third floor of the Admissions office of Walden Behavioral Care on February 8, 2012, and lived.
I wonder if the cab driver bought a Diet Mountain Dew with the extra money. I wonder if the cab driver double-checked the label to make sure that there are actually zero calories in Diet Mountain Dew. You never know. Sometimes, those labels are weirdly printed, and a zero can look like an eight. When you are 54, you sometimes have to take off your glasses to see how many calories are in things because the print is so small. This can get embarrassing out in public because it looks obvious that you are reading the calorie count on labels. It is a dead giveaway and when I do this in public I worry about strangers suspecting that I have an eating disorder…or thinking “funny” about me or scrutinizing what I buy…like judging me because I don’t buy, for instance, frozen French fries. I can’t believe how many people waste money on frozen French fries. Wow I am having fun with this. On the other hand, maybe the cab driver saved up the extra tip money and put it in a jar, and it went toward paying the bill for his family’s health insurance. Cab drivers have to pay for their own health insurance. I feel sorry for those guys.
So I’m going to swing way, way back in subject matter here. I was talking about Imipramine and bingeing and how well I know and own my eating disorder. I went on to say something that highly relates, and this is that I own the experience of my eating disorder. I own all 32 years. I own the right to tell the story. I own the duty to myself to tell the story. I feel that I am doing others a huge favor by having This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness published in paperback at last. I feel that I am doing other people with eating disorders a huge favor to tell the story of my eating disorder. I feel the need not to tell a “recovery story.” I feel the need to tell an “experience story.” I feel that telling an “I lived happily ever after with wellness” is doing the world a terrible injustice. I did not show up at Walden to recover. Duh. I showed up to live. If you have gleaned anything from this article by now, you know this already. You don’t come out of there recovered. You leave and you’re only at the beginning.
I’m going to be straight with those of you with eating disorders right now. At Walden, they did not want me to be straight with people about this. Well, bullshit. Look up the statistics online. You deserve to know the facts. Statistics vary because each organization collects data a little differently, but they will all tell you a few basics that are the same: Anorexia nervosa is the most fatal of all mental illnesses. A majority of people with anorexia do not, I repeat, do not make full recovery. By this I mean definitely fewer than 50% fully recover and no longer struggle with these issues that people with anorexia nervosa or other eating disorders struggle with. The earlier you start, the lower your chances are of full recovery. The longer you have the disorder, the lower your chances of full recovery are. Relapse is very, very common. I believe the “recovery period,” or shall I say average “rehabilitation period” is nine years. Yes, nine years.
The following statistics I did not read in all sources but did read in several sources regarding adolescents and I’m not certain that I am wording this properly so I’m going to be very cautious about how I say it. Eating disorders and adolescent suicide are highly linked. Bulimia is found…I think in 50% of female adolescent suicide attempts. The figures on males are probably difficult to ascertain and I imagine the data is poorly researched and poorly gathered and inaccurate due to gross ignorance regarding eating disorders in men and boys…but I’ll bet it’s also 50% as well. In adolescent suicide attempts the figure likewise for anorexia and binge eating disorder is 30% equally. The figures were not all the same exactly…don’t quote me…but let me say that all the figures were extreme and they were all shocking and they were all very, very clear.
What these figures do tell me now…now…now…is that these kids…these beautiful, unique kids that I met in the hospital need to speak and live and act and think and be their own person and have rights and have a voice and be listened to. Many of them were stifled by their parents and by their friends and by their schools. Many of them were force-fed by society and told by society how to live, act, and think. Most did not have their own voice. Most had lost that voice along the way. Many spoke in a whisper. Many spoke literally inaudibly. Some spoke in a mumble, not due to malnutrition but out of habit. Many of them had taught themselves to be givers and had given themselves to others and not allowed themselves to be loving to themselves.
But I am getting off track of what these figures do tell me. They tell me that people with eating disorders need to have a voice.
People with eating disorders need to have a voice. When I went into the hospital and realized very shortly afterward that I had a future, this weird thing called future, I vowed that helping people with eating disorders have a voice was something that would be in my future.
I am not saying that I am committed to do this. I am not saying that I plan to do this. I am saying that this will happen. Maybe I should add something to this because nobody can predict the future. Nobody. You can’t and I can’t. This will happen if I live to see it happen. And yet I am doing it right now as I type these words, letter by letter.
And so, I have my new book in the works. I am working on it and I am writing it. I have more plans and these I will get into soon enough.
Again, I have drifted away from Imipramine…I got on it in November…as I said, I know my eating disorder and after 32 years, I know in my heart that this “binge” behavior is brain-based.
If ever I am “taken over” by my eating disorder it is during this behavior. I do not plan this behavior. It is pure reflex. It only happens at certain times and is not a response to hunger. It is not a “coping skill.” It doesn’t seem to be an “addiction.” Sticking to a “meal plan” does not work and never has. It has nothing to do with “crisis” behavior. I don’t do it to “numb emotion.” I do not do it as “self-harm” behavior although the English word “destroy” runs through my head while performing this act. No therapy has helped.
Ignorant people, both ignorant professionals and ignorant lay people, have said, “Don’t do it. You probably are weak-willed and need to go on a diet. Just binge on fruit. Don’t take the first bite. Why don’t you just binge ‘a little’ and not ‘a lot’? I wish I had anorexia…I need to lose weight. You are doing it to control your parents and need years of family therapy and day treatment. You obviously don’t have an eating disorder, but are doing this as a way of manipulating your therapist and are trying to get controlled substances from the psychiatrist. You must be lying because I don’t see any weight gain.” I still do hear quite frequently the line, “I wish I were anorexic.” Don’t jump to conclusions on this one. People say this for many reasons. Many people say this because they want to lose weight and say it for very stupid superficial reasons out of ignorance and think it’s fun to be this way and that it’s a disease of vanity and fashion. But many people who say this already have serious eating disorders and wish to “trade” their eating disorder for anorexia and change their weight. I am not one to judge.
So in November I got on Imipramine. Dr. P didn’t tell me the side effects but I read up. Not good. Not good at all. The Imipramine stopped my bingeing so this was good. But immediately my breasts got huge. No eating disorder thinking here they were huge and only two days ago…I have been completely off the drug for a week now and they are diminishing…finally I am noticing a positive change, some size reduction…finally. It was ridiculous and I was so miserable over it, not to mention hormonal danger. I wasn’t worried about breast cancer, just whatever hormones were possibly messed up, this plus whatever overproduction of breast milk was happening.
This plus ridiculous vital signs. Borderline very high blood pressure, diastolic near and sometimes above 90 ALL the time when normally it is either 80 or 70 or so…completely normal…pulse always running 90, generally above 90…this is ridiculous. Risk of heart attack on Imipramine no question…the insert stated that this is doubled. I am not kidding you…risk of heart attack is doubled. This and 1/3 chance of permanent, I repeat, permanent movement disorder. I did not want to stay on this dangerous medication. Just couldn’t. This plus perpetual dry, dry mouth and perpetual thirst. The headaches started when I got on Imipramine and no doubt it was contributing to increased need for water. I am off Imipramine, by choice. I asked for my Topamax, the other med I’m on to control bingeing, to be increased. Unfortunately, I’m at the maximum dose. I’m on Lamictal. Lamictal increases Topamax availability by 15%. I’m on 350 Topamax and the max is 400 so essentially I’m close to that dose considering I’m on Lamictal. Topamax alone might not help without the Lamictal and this I can’t explain fully it has to do with a long history I have…regarding the effectiveness of Lithium for bingeing…etc etc. I ended up figuring out that taking Lamictal at night is by process of elimination and careful examination of my records THE cause of insomina that I am experiencing, so I am moving it to morning. Technically, I need to divide it up into a split dose and I have no clue why this wasn’t done in the hospital. I hadn’t split it up myself before the hospital because I was taking meds by habit and only did them in such a way that I would most likely not forget them.
They didn’t discuss bingeing in Alcott. Nada. Why? I asked. About five minutes of private discussion with the nutritionist and that was all I got. Nothing in groups. This was all I got. All the help I got. No suggestions. Nothing. I guess treatment for binge eating…where is this treatment? Does it exist?
I don’t really know what to do right now. I asked for help and didn’t get it. I am off Imipramine. I binged. It was automatic. I did everything the nutritionist suggested to “help” the Topamax do its thing by using food to help my meds work well. This did not help.
I binged yesterday afternoon. I am bloated still. My ankles and calves are huge from it. My wrists are enlarged and my hands also have edema in them though they are not bubbling or anything scary like that. My stomach is enlarged quite a bit still and will remain so for a long time. Never mind my face…I touched it once for less than a second…that was enough. I am so embarrassed by this that I cancelled therapy. Or shall I say that this is one of the reasons. I don’t want my therapist to know that I binged. She will say, “Told you so.” She will say that I should not have left the hospital, that she was right and that I was wrong and that I am the sick one, etc. I refuse to show up for an appointment with my primary care doctor like this even if it means waiting for a week for the resulting edema and stomach enlargement to go away.
No. I typed something and then deleted it because I thought you would think, “How tragic it is that Julie has not”…I say this with disgust in my heart…”How tragic it is that Julie has not recovered.” Well, fuck you. If I have to fast for a week…yes, I did type, “a week” and I will not apologize for having typed this, I will do so to rid myself of the horrible edema and swelling that has resulted from this binge. I refuse to show up at my primary care physician’s office looking like this and I refuse to show up for therapy looking like this. I am not going to show up if I have to cancel appointments for the next month and a half. And no, I am not planning to fast for a week, simply because I don’t think it’s going to take a week.
No one, no one no one no one no one at Walden told me what to do if I binge. Not one person. So yesterday I was in the kitchen and it came over me. I boiled up maybe six or seven cups of dry dog food and gulped it down. Then I went out and bought food. While I made this trip I was in a complete trance and gobbled up food while I was traveling on foot. I kept the food in my pocket secretly. Well, you have read in my blog many times about these binges and you know how I have lived and lived and lived with this misery.
Not one person told me what to do after a binge. I feared stomach rupture. What is the thing to do? What is the safest thing to do? Should I lie down? On my stomach or on my back? Is it really safe to allow myself to sleep? I generally pass out…I honestly don’t know how much is known about the combination of long-term severe starvation, underweight, and severe, chronic, difficult-to-treat bingeing combined with complete inability to vomit and suppression of gag reflex. How many cases of this do they really run across?
When I was in my thirties, they told me this bullshit, “Go right back to your meal plan.” I immediately canned this idea. They deemed me uncooperative. Obviously, they completely lacked understanding of my disorder and thought that what I was doing was overeating. I was not overeating. I was bingeing. You can’t eat three gallons of ice cream and two large pizzas and finish them at 4pm and then at 5pm get out your freaking fork and knife and eat three proteins, one starch, eight ounces of milk, etc etc etc…it is fucking stupid and illogical and they expected me to do this?
What I need to do after I binge I need to teach myself. Walden provided no answers whatsoever. They did not tell me how to handle it emotionally or on an eating level. I do know that if I resume eating way too soon, I will automatically trigger another binge. It is a brain thing and it can’t be helped. So I know to stay clear of food, any food, for a certain amount of time. Actually, this is not so much an amount of time but an amount of fullness. I have to wait until my stomach is emptied a certain amount so I have to wait before resuming eating. Try to explain this to a therapist. Well, fuck you. I know my body and I know my brain after 32 years of dealing with this. I have learned to save myself from yet another Hell.
But…I do need nourishment. I have to evaluate this situation. I have some serious thinking to do. I am not going to show up at my primary care doctor’s like this no way, even if it means canceling for a month. Even if it means canceling for six fucking months. I refuse to show up at therapy like this. I refuse to be weighed like this.
I refuse to be weighed at a weight that is elevated due to bingeing. I will tell you exactly why. The time I went to see my primary care doctor…this I explained to you out loud but I will tell you again. I had just binged the night before. She weighed me. She said, “I want you to stay at this weight.” I was at the time ten pounds heavier than usual due to the binge. Well, fuck you. I fasted and within an extremely short period, like about 24 to 36 hours or maybe 48 hours, I lost all the weight. I told her in the office, “What you are weighing is the food in my stomach, the crap in my intestines, and water weight.” She said, “I can’t believe you have ten pounds of that.” I said, “After 32 years, I know my body.”
After 32 years, I know my body.
I know my body more than you do. I know my body better than any doctor or hospital. I know my mind and my eating disorder better than my therapist does. I have lived with this disorder, this unique disorder that I don’t think these treatment centers see very often, and no one else has lived with my disorder in my body for these 32 years so no one knows is and knows what it feels like to be me better than I do.
It is not your place to judge me or make conclusions based on my eating behaviors as to the extent of my so-called “recovery.” It is not your place to pass moral judgment on me. I made a stern statement while in the hospital that how and how much people were eating in the dining room said nothing about how hard they were trying or what their attitude was or why they were there. This hit hard but I had to say it. Please, dear readers, do like they did in the dining room. Keep your eyes on your own tray and I will keep my eyes on mine. I will write in here about my life, though, and give you a window, a peephole, into it. I hope you enjoy my peepholes. I enjoy pecking them out.
As I have previously stated, my brain doesn’t work properly. This is going to impede my ability to write this article, but I will do my best. I have been sitting here a while, in fact, knowing exactly what I wanted to write, but somehow, I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to do. Then, I figured it out: Write.
I plan to be specific, detailed, and graphic. I may use numbers that specify my weight or pounds lost or gained, calories, and other things people count and measure. I will mention specific foods. I will describe in detail some very sick and dangerous things that I have done. I will talk about body parts. I will quote some of my negative self-talk. I think a lot of readers, whether they have an eating disorder or not, will find this article disturbing. I am not writing this for the purpose of disturbing people. Actually, I hope you read this. I am writing it for two purposes: first of all, as always, to tell the world just how insidious this illness can be, and also to share my story because I know now that I am not the only one who engages in these insane behaviors. I know that there are others, and I know that perhaps some folks reading this may recognize that they experience some of the same things that I do. No, you are not alone! I am right here with you. I guess you could say I have a third purpose in writing this, and that is the simple joy of getting something written.
I suspect that my blog upsets people. I have an upsetting life, and this is why people don’t want to be friends with me. It’s too painful to be around me. I cry all the time and don’t eat, and a lot of the time, I talk nonsense. But I’m happy that I don’t have a political blog. There are so many political blogs out there, angry political blogs, and others that are not so angry. I am a child of the 60’s when everyone was angry and political. Some grew out of it and some never did. I never got into it in the first place. If you read here in my blog about my childhood, perhaps you can understand why, and perhaps this explains why I have a minimal amount of political material here in my blog. The only way that I get political is when I get revved up about the way society treats people with mental illnesses, and the general ignorance in society about eating disorders. In sharing my upsetting life here in this upsetting blog, I hope to break down some of that ignorance. I am a real, 54-year-old woman and I really do experience these things. See me. Hear me. Believe me.
Maybe I’ll start with last Saturday, the 21st of January. I woke up exhausted and the first thing in my head was, “Ugliest fat stomach you can imagine.” I hadn’t eaten for a couple of days. Today was going to be another. I peed, then weighed myself. Upon seeing the number, I said to myself, “Gross.” All day, I was in a bad, bad bitchy-headache mood so intense and angry that I found myself unable to write. Believe it or not, this bitchy-headache mood is unusual. I was turning into an anger machine. I didn’t realize it, but I was very quickly becoming depressed.
I came home from the library having produced nothing. Out of curiosity, I took my vital signs. Because of this antidepressant I take, my pulse runs high, around 94, and my blood pressure runs a little high as well, the diastolic around 85. Now that I think of it, my antidepressant has probably saved my life by keeping my pulse from dropping super low like it was last summer, although I got readings in the 40’s a month ago. Saturday night it was 54, but my blood pressure was as usual. I kept my fingers crossed that I would feel okay tomorrow, okay enough to get myself to church. I hoped, also, that I wouldn’t feel faint in church.
Sunday morning I awoke at 4:30. Before weighing myself, I guessed my weight. I was right on the mark. I had lost three and a half pounds since yesterday. But within minutes, I was in that same bitchy-headache mood…again. I returned to bed to try to shake this awful feeling. Sleep helped. I was able to get to church, and that, too, helped a great deal. I find that church calms me in a way that nothing else can. Church is also exhilarating and energizing. My headache was gone afterward. As I walked home, I still felt like I was a walking clenched fist, but I said to myself that at least I recognized that fist. If only I could rid myself of this anger! I stole off to the library as quickly as I could and got a bit done on my book, then came home.
By now I’m sure I recognized that the anger in me was the same non-stop anger that I felt in October, the feeling I had that both preceded and accompanied the severe depression I went through at that time. I couldn’t tell you how long the depression lasted. The eating binges that went along with the depression were horrific. At that time, the answer was indeed a pill. I’m still taking that pill. Has it stopped working? Or am I so malnutritioned that whatever pill I take won’t make a difference anyway?
I think it was around 8pm, Sunday night. My memory is a little spotty. I’m kind of blanked out on the vegetables. I hadn’t eaten for several days. I had some lettuce, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts in the fridge. I told myself that lettuce was very high in calories and that it would be better to eat cabbage if I were to eat solid food at all. I measured a little in a measuring cup, and wrote down the calories. I did this again. Then I broke into the entire bag, sat down leaning over it, and threw handfuls of shredded cabbage into my mouth. The dog ate what fell onto the floor.
Either it took several hours to eat all these vegetables, or I lost time and went into a confused state for a while. I’m sure it was past 11 when I went wandering into the hall. No one was out there. No one saw. I had with me a small empty opaque bag and a small bag of miscellaneous trash to throw out. I tried the second floor trash room first. The trash room door is heavy, and the overhead lights make a tell-tale squeal as soon as you turn them on. The barrels were just about empty. Just cigarette boxes in a plastic bag. I exited and closed the door behind me as quietly as I could. There had been no elevator activity during the past few minutes. I pressed the “Up” button, hoping no one was awake on the third floor. What excuse could I make for being up there? But the third floor was as dead as the second. Nothing had been left on the table in the hallway for scroungers. In the trash room I spotted a small bag with two small, heavy, rectangular boxes inside. Candy. Chocolate, probably. Uneaten. My treasure. One of the boxes had been broken into by mice. The cardboard box had been chiseled into sawdust by tiny teeth in spots, revealing the candies, and they were indeed chocolate. I would have to be careful not to let the sawdust spill in transport. I tossed out my actual trash, which I was carrying just as an excuse to venture into a trash room, and placed the bag of candy into my empty opaque bag. No one saw me return to my apartment.
Brandy-filled chocolate, expensive type, real booze, alcohol included. Only a couple of pieces had been completely devoured by mice. Three or four had been partially bitten into. These I tossed out, hoping that I wouldn’t dig into the trash later on and retrieve them. There were easily forty pieces in the box that I ate. I found the brandy repulsive. The chocolate was chocolate like any other. The smaller box was outdated and the inner brandy had completely evaporated. The chocolate was discolored, stale, and brittle. Some was so hard that it cut into my mouth as I tried to chew it. I tried not to think about my unsuspecting third-floor neighbor who had tossed out these chocolates. I never even knew who lived on the third floor. Now, I really didn’t want to know. I wrapped up the empty boxes and threw them out in the second floor trash room, put on my coat, and went out. Frozen pizza, bread, peanut butter, a pound of cheese, sour cream, chocolate-covered raisins, cookies, I don’t remember what else. I ate. I collapsed on the bed.
In the middle of the night sometime, something happened that even now slips in and out of memory. I experienced severe leg and foot cramps. I have heard that cramps of this sort arise out of nutritional issues. At the time, I thought that the cramping would never, ever end, that I would be permanently in a state of immobility and pain, lying on my bed, trying to work out the knots and kinks that deep down I knew had been caused by my own inability to feed myself reasonably like everyone else.
Yes, I was fully aware that I was overwhelming my body in more ways than the binge itself. My digestive system hadn’t seen food, or any calories, for days and couldn’t handle anything solid. I should have had spoonfuls of vegetable juice to start off with, every few hours or so, awakening my body. There is indeed such thing as being in a starvation state. It’s no myth. Because I hadn’t eaten, ingesting anything more than the tiniest amounts of nutrients to start with was putting a strain on my heart and my entire body.
That night, I awoke, stuffed myself, and collapsed again, several times. It was somewhere during this process, probably during the brief moment before losing consciousness, that I realized, each time, that it was unlikely that I’d wake up again.
Monday morning. Therapy today. I can’t do this. I canceled both appointments last week and I feel pressured to go in. Just can’t imagine going in like this. I e-mailed my T, not knowing what to say. I went back to bed.
I dragged myself to my appointment. I dragged myself home. I went back to bed.
If anything happened food-wise Monday, it went unrecorded and forgotten. Or maybe I can’t even think about it all.
I awoke at 4 or 4:30am or so Tuesday, and found my browser pointed to dunkindonuts dot com to find out which shop opened first. Mount Auburn Street opened at 5, Main Street at 5:30. Mount Auburn Street was farther away. The route back was all back roads, dimly lit, so I wouldn’t be seen. The only other time I’d been there was late at night, so the chances of being recognized by an employee were next to nil. But Main Street was so much closer. I had to walk on a main road and cross at a major intersection, but very few people were out to begin with. Most of the customers at Dunkin Donuts at this time of morning are in a hurry to get to work, and the chances of seeing someone I knew, such as a former neighbor, weren’t too great. If I did, I would scoot out of there fast. I brought with me two large bags.
Dunkin Donuts has packaging for a dozen donuts that’s about as idiotic as you can imagine. It’s a flat box. The dozen donuts lie flat out next to each other, face up, on display, instead of nestled side-by-side sensibly in a brick-shaped box. This flat box will pop open unless you ask the employee to put “stickers” on it. They have to use stickers because they have no tape. Undoubtedly, the employee will only put on one sticker, or will put the stickers on incorrectly, and the box will pop open anyway if you don’t instruct the employee properly. In the past, I have had the box pop open and donuts have fallen on the floor. I ate them anyway.
But the main problem with this idiotic box is not that it pops open. It’s that you have to walk around with it. There’s nothing to cover it. Sure, Dunkin Donuts has a big bag for it every now and then that they might offer you, but it says “Dunkin Donuts” on it, so what’s the use? If you’re carrying the box, everyone knows. If you’re carrying something in a huge Dunkin Donuts bag, everyone knows. If you’re walking around with anything resembling a flat box and carrying it flat, by god it’s either pizza or Dunkin Donuts and I don’t want my neighbors seeing me walk into my apartment with either of these. Especially the dozen donuts.
That’s where the two bags came in handy. One bag for the stupid flat box. The box fit perfectly. The other bag for the four pumpkin muffins. The employee hardly paid attention to me, just did her job. She wasn’t even awake yet.
I don’t know how long it took me to devour all this. The donuts were gone in one sitting, but I slowed down on the muffins. I was in bed for the rest of the day, seriously depressed.
It must have been after the rest of the East Coast had finished supper that I began to consider hospitalization. Of course, the hospital would do nothing for me. But at least I’d get a break from this. Maybe a couple of days. At most hospitals, they just put you down, call you “chronic,” misdiagnose you, laugh at you behind your back, shake their heads, and when they send you along your way, they say, “See you next time.” Well, fuck them. I could try to get into the place I was in in September. They didn’t once laugh at me. They were so kind to me that I cried because I felt like I didn’t deserve it.
I must have picked up the phone, stared at it, or dialed it and then hung up, or dialed wrong, maybe twenty times, and then gave up. I fell asleep. I woke up and called the crisis team. I always question myself when I call them. They are a funny bunch. I’ve had varying experiences calling them. The service used to be run by another company, and before that, yet another company was running it, but I’m not exactly certain. There was a point at which pretty much anyone who answered the phone would give me the same answer. This was several years ago. “We don’t know anything about eating disorders. That is a medical issue. Go to the emergency room.” That was basically what I’d get. Then there was a time that I’d call them, and the minute I’d open my mouth and say half a word, I mean half, not a whole word even, they’d say, “This is not an emergency.” They’d give me the number of this patient-run “warm-line” to call. No way am I going to call this number and talk to someone that I might know out of my past life as a mental patient from, say, twenty years ago. They were just as fucked up as I was and I don’t want to remember them or associate with them. So if I call the crisis team, I risk the “We don’t know about ED” or “This is not an emergency” responses, but recently I did get a very amusing response from a crisis team person. At the time, though, I didn’t find it funny. Starvation has its way of slowing down my thinking and my speech. Sometimes, my speech is a little slurred, and that combined with the occasional difficulty I have pronouncing some consonants due to missing molars…well you guessed it. The crisis person told me to call back when I was sober, and hung up. So I sat there with the phone in my hand for a long time, but that night I did call, and someone useful answered the phone. Not only that, she wrote down my stats, so the next person I speak with will know a few things before calling me a drunkard and hanging up on me. We worked out a plan, just some simple things I’d try to get done in the next hour or two, and then I’d call them back.
I never got even the simplest thing on the list done. I felt like the depression alone would make me drop dead. But the phone rang. Late. I assumed it was a telemarketer. But my called ID said that it was my therapist. Really? No human being had called me in ages. It was late and I could almost see the lifeline, from me, to her voice.
My therapist and I haven’t communicated, or shall I say I have been pulling away from her, since maybe October, or November, or maybe I should say starting in October, then a little more in November when I went to London, then in mid-December you could say there was this complete split. She went on vacation and I thought I’d be dead by the time she came back. I still don’t know what to do about the split. But there she was, on the phone. I told her I was surprised that she was calling because I thought she only cared about the patients who were motivated to do well and get better.
She said she cares very much about me.
I knew, right then, that she was telling the truth.
As I write these words I remember that last summer when I was at Mass General (the “Prestigious Boston Hospital”) and in such a weakened state that I couldn’t even get out of bed, weighing eighty pounds, dehydrated and malnourished, my brain slowed and confused, refusing to eat, my heart rate at times dipping under thirty beats per minute….She was there. She came every day. This is my therapist.
We talked for several minutes. She asked me not to cancel my appointment with my PCP, Dr. K, tomorrow, Wednesday, even though it had been my plan to cancel everything that week. I normally have therapy on Thursday, but this week, my T is in New York for a training or conference or something like that. I agreed to show up for my appointment with Dr. K, whom I see weekly. Or at least I’m supposed to see her weekly.
I awoke Wednesday and promised myself cross my heart hope to die stick a needle in my eye that I wouldn’t eat today. I peed and weighed myself. I had gained nine and a half pounds in three days.
Then I looked in the mirror at my fat face. Perhaps there was a quarter inch of added flesh on my cheeks. I could feel it when I moved my mouth and bit down and smiled. Chubby face. A couple of days of not eating, or eating next to nothing, and the fat cheeks would be gone. I tried getting myself showered and dressed, but my mind slipped into starvation madness. I repeatedly begged myself to stay sane, but it wasn’t within my control. It took hours to get ready to see Dr. K, just to get dressed, get Puzzle out, brush my teeth.
In the cab, I knew I was useless for conversation. I usually try to talk about things. The traffic, the weather, previous customers. Do you think I should have brought my umbrella? We’ve been lucky this January. But I was silent. It didn’t matter because my mind was talking up a storm.
I tipped the driver generously, and got out at my doctor’s office. They were having some kind of pizza or burritos or something at the office for someone’s birthday. Not only that, but they were eating these huge pieces of pizza and burritos. I told my doctor that I had turned 54, much to my surprise. She gave me a hospital gown to put on once I’d taken my clothes off. If your mind doesn’t work right, this undressing and dressing process can be long and involved and experimental and fascinating and have lots of stuff in it worth writing down.
Dr. K checked everything and asked a lot of questions. She weighed me even though I didn’t want her to. Of course I hadn’t eaten all day, but I’d had a heck of a lot of water to drink, and I admitted this to her. Apparently I drank a half gallon that morning. For me, that’s not particularly extreme or much to be concerned about. I’m not supposed to do that before getting weighed, though. I told Dr. K that I had been incredibly thirsty. She said that’s okay. I think she was more worried about other stuff. Like my overall deterioration. She asked me if I was going to be okay going home. I said I would. I went to the lab to have my blood drawn. They remember me at that lab, or at least they remember the good vein I have in my left arm. I am always polite and kind to them. It’s important to be polite and kind to people.
Much later, I was in the library, finishing my writing. I had been there a few hours. I don’t think it was yet closing time, but I decided to leave because I didn’t want to dig into a different project. I was satisfied with what I had written and decided it was okay enough to leave alone for now. I started to pack up. I stood. I immediately felt faint, but this wasn’t postural hypotension, which is the sudden lowering of blood pressure upon rising. I know this feeling and I’m generally not prone to it. Then, all at once, confusion, and fear because I didn’t even know where I was! Was I in a hospital? Where was Puzzle? Where were my glasses? I knew I had to get out of there.
I don’t know what it was about the opening of the automatic sliding doors and the cold, fresh air on my face that awakened me and brought me back a bit closer to sanity and away from the disorientation that I had felt. At least I had found my way out of the library. But when I got to the sidewalk, instead of turning right to go home, I turned left, to the CVS. Using my CVS coupon, I purchased two frozen pizzas (I was rather fussy about which brand frozen pizza to get) and an 8-oz bag of candy. These I carried in a large canvas shopping bag. I often see people I know in CVS, neighbors, frequently. I make a habit of “casing the joint” upon entering that store, going up and down the aisles looking for familiar faces. If I see one, I bolt out of there and buy nothing. This includes if I’m just going there for toothpaste. But I saw no familiar faces this time. I closed the canvas bag tightly in my hand when I left the store so no one would see the pizzas. As soon as I was at a safe distance, I removed the bag of candy from the canvas bag, ripped off the top, opened the zip-lock, and placed it in my jacket pocket. It fit perfectly, with no tell-tale wrapper showing. The candy was “for the road.” It was ideal for this purpose. No melting on my hands. No embarrassing brown chocolate on my lips. Soft enough not to rip up my gums. And no crumbs.
I stopped at Tedeschi’s, too. Thankfully, the cashier was one that I didn’t think had me pinned as a binge eater…yet, anyway. I purchased foods that are totally non-suspect: a loaf of 12-grain bread, peanut butter (18-oz, bargain brand, smooth, can’t stand crunchy), a pound of sour cream, a pound of elbow pasta. Basically the same as Monday.
Several hours later, it is clear to me that my stomach is filled about as full as it ever has been, ever. We’re talking about not only a thirty-two-year history of this bingeing behavior, but a gradual weakening of the stomach wall due to stomach cell necrosis. The reason that the stomach cells die is because the stomach has been stretched to the limit so many times, and this causes cutting off of the blood supply to stomach cells, so they die. Dead cells don’t stretch. They are brittle. They break instead. This is why each time my stomach is stretched, the risk of stomach rupture is greater.
Yes, I knew the risk, and I knew I was in danger. So what did I do? I drank a couple of glasses of water. Yes, I filled my stomach further. Stupid? I suppose. I was thirsty. Extremely thirsty.
I knew damned well that all it would take would be an involuntary yawn and it would be all over.
I lay down. Within thirty seconds, I was asleep.
You see, I don’t want to die of a stomach rupture. I don’t want to die with a wicked huge belly. I don’t want to die in a binge. I don’t want to die with binge food all over my kitchen counter. I don’t want to be remembered as one who died from pigging out.
That was a lot, lot, lot of food I bought Wednesday evening. I didn’t finish it until Thursday at around 4pm. I spent Thursday in bed.
All day Thursday, my stomach remained stretched to the limit. Let me describe it to you. I am talking about a round belly, sticking out on three of four sides, a little different from nine months pregnant but definitely just as big or bigger than pregnant considering it was on the sides as well. The pressure was very uncomfortable. That’s not exactly the word for it…I’d say the pressure was unbearable, as was the stretching feeling. If I could have thrown up everything that was inside my stomach I surely would have, for comfort’s sake, but I’ve never been able to do this. Probably sometime when I was a child, I trained myself to suppress the reflex to vomit. Not only that, I’ve suppressed the memory of why I’ve suppressed the reflex. I’ve even tried Ipacac and was miserable for hours and hours and hours…then a little spittle, nothing more….I only did that once. But back to my stomach….I would have taken a photo, but posting it would have been in poor taste and would have shown parts of my body I’d rather not have posted online.
The rest of my body was not nearly as shocking, or at least not to the ordinary eye, or so I would imagine, but still, I found it disturbing enough in my own eyes. My arms were still skinny skinny skinny anorexic, the last remaining holdouts. I found it extremely disturbing that my ribs were rapidly disappearing, both in front and over my entire back. My collarbones didn’t protrude as much as I wanted; in fact, there was quite a bit of change in this area. Thankfully, there wasn’t much change in my hands or wrists…yet. And my legs were downright awful. The chronic edema I have is bad enough and follows no pattern, not really. I can starve for ages and consume no salt and still have edema. Today, my ankles didn’t bulge over my shoes, but my socks made huge ugly dents in my calves. Edema doesn’t hurt at all but it does ruin my self-esteem. My entire legs were thick with it. My thighs were an added two or three inches in thickness. That’s a lot on a short skinny person.
Ultimately, it was because of my huge stomach that I couldn’t wear clothes Thursday. Nothing fit. I would have had to wear nine months pregnant maternity clothes, and I’m not certain that those would have fit because the bulging was on three sides, not just in front. I couldn’t go out in pajamas and I couldn’t go out looking like this. I ended up putting a long coat over pajamas to take Puzzle out. This was the only reason I would need to leave the apartment, and surely, I wouldn’t leave the apartment for any other reason! I had pajama bottoms sort of hung under my huge belly and over my butt and hoped for the best. On top I wore one of my large, large shirts that I’ve kept over the years. Many of these I threw out because I couldn’t tolerate the memories of being nearly two hundred pounds. Those shirts…it was too painful to look at them…I couldn’t stand it. But there were others that I kept that are huge but I don’t have the same association for whatever reason. I sleep in them many nights. I made a quick exit out the back door, and entered back into the building as quickly as possible with Puzzle, looking at no one. If it were summer, I don’t know what I would have done. I couldn’t have hidden a belly like that.
I believe I slept for a period of four hours, from 9pm Thursday until 1am Friday, and awoke feeling that something had changed. What was this? I had weighed myself Wednesday morning, chastised myself for my fat face, and vowed that I would not eat all day. Then, of course, I broke this vow. Fell flat on that fat face I hated so much. Why, now, did I want to go through all this again and weigh myself and find some body part to criticize, again? Wasn’t this what my mother did to me all my life? Even after I left “home” for good, she always picked a body part of mine, heck, any body part she could think of, and beat it to bits with her commentary. What is the point of this? Why play her game?
Fuck the scale. It didn’t matter if I stepped on it or not, after all. I decided to step on it. Between Sunday at 4:30am and Friday at 1am, that is, Thursday night late, I had gained eighteen pounds.
I was now a reasonable weight for my height. Hah! Did I feel reasonable? I felt absolutely miserable physically. My stomach felt pressure all around and stretched to the limit, my back was killing me from pressure, my bowels felt stuffed, my whole body stuffed with crap, I had a headache, and was miserably carbed 0ut, overheated from metabolism overdrive, and depressed. I wasn’t even thinking about the eighteen pounds. This was a given.
It was 1am and something had changed. Even before stepping on the scale, I knew I had reached a point of turnaround. I felt it in the air around me and inside me. Not only that, but I was going to talk about what had happened to me this week. I felt that by sharing my story, I might help someone feel less alone. I began this blog entry. For four hours or so, I wrote. It was rather tough and slow going. I daydreamed a lot and got distracted and deleted stuff. Eventually, I got tired and slept.
I awoke much later and weighed three pounds less. I knew I needed more sleep. Several hours later I awoke and had lost another pound and a half. Another hour later I’d lost another pound and a half. Somewhere in there, my mind went. Despite this, I was able to write at the library, that is, work on this blog entry for four hours at the library. I had hoped to work on it more at home, but ended up goofing off instead. I weighed myself before bed. In roughly twenty-four hours, I’d lost nine pounds.
Saturday morning, I was clinically skinny. I was also no longer depressed. I determined that this depression “phase,” if you will, was most likely over. Good riddance! Today would be the second day that I would be up and out of bed!
Ah, the joy of starvation….It does indeed feel good….
Today is Sunday, the 29th of January. I have been to church and now I’m at the library. I feel really terrific. I’m still working out the kinks in my sleep, because I was asleep all week 24/7, and switching to “normal” hours, that is, awake all day, asleep at night is certainly a switch for me. In less than three days I have taken off sixteen pounds of the eighteen I gained between Sunday and Thursday, from massive bingeing.
Yes, I warned you readers that I was going to get technical and use “numbers” in this entry. I was going to get real and show you exactly how I think. I think about these numbers. I think about these numbers all the time. I know at eating disorders sites they don’t let contributors use numbers and that posts are “edited” and the numbers are either taken out or the posts with numbers are completely deleted. This is my blog. I run the show here. And no, this is not a pro whatever blog. I am just being me. This has been my world for thirty-two years. Sometimes things have been a lot, lot better, but since sometime in 2008, I relapsed, and haven’t been able to get out of this nightmare. We, that is, you and I, don’t know what will happen next. I have heard some awesome miracle stories, absolutely amazing stories, people nanoseconds before being placed into their graves rising up, defying all odds and attaining what seems like the impossible. Not just with anorexia nervosa necessarily or mental illnesses in general, but any illness, I have read amazing stories of regaining health. I’m not sure what the real pattern is to it, what the unifying factor is….Money? Good insurance? Supportive family or partner? Faith? Something else? I’m sure some of you are positive that you know the answer to this…think again. It is not so simple, because everyone is different.
If we were all alike, we could get our miracle cure instructions from vending machines. There would be a one-size-fits-all religion. There would be no need for political arguments because we would all think alike. We wouldn’t even need to vote because we’d all agree on everything. There wouldn’t be a 1% and we’d all be occupying Wal-Mart. Eeks! I don’t even know what Wal-Mart looks like! I’ve never been to one! Maybe that’s my problem….
Today the minister’s sermon was called “Occupy Watertown.” It was about the wealthy and the rest of us in the community, and how disturbing it is that the split seems to be increasing. I think one of the most moving parts of the sermon was when the minister talked about how disturbing it was when you keep finding babies in the river, more and more, and maybe it is good that you are rescuing them, but what’s really important is finding whoever is upstream putting the babies in the river, and likewise, building shelters for homeless people is one thing, but what’s more important is getting homes for homeless people. He talked about how in our church we are all together no matter what our economic standing, and we take care of each other, and our sense of community is more important than how much money individuals have or don’t have. The sermon hung together incredibly well, and I hope that I communicated to the minister that I was quite moved and impressed by it.
Sometimes I drop in on our minister, and it so happened that on Friday, two days ago, I did just that. I was on my way to the library, where I am now, to write this entry, and work on my new memoir. I only stayed a couple of minutes. It so happened that he was in the middle of writing his sermon. I could tell that the sermon was cooking along, and I didn’t want to take up too much of his time.
I know what it’s like to be on a roll with one’s writing. It’s got to be one of the most exciting feelings I’ve ever experienced. You don’t even have to be a writer, and you don’t even have to write to know this feeling. It is the feeling you get at the track, maybe in December, the feeling you get during the ninth lap at sunrise, the feeling that your legs are no longer there and it’s just you and the track and the sun and you are floating and the music is carrying you. It’s the feeling you get when you hear Joni Mitchell’s voice, her voice that you remembered some thirty years ago, and find yourself weeping. It’s the feeling that you get when you and your dog are walking and there’s so little traffic that you don’t need to stop for anything, you’re zooming together, and the dog may have no obedience training and be zooming this way and that, and though the two of you aren’t touching each other, you’re totally in synch, and in synch with the sidewalk and the earth. It’s the feeling you get when you’re in church, and as the minister extinguishes the chalice, he asks that we hold what we’ve experienced this Sunday in our hearts until we meet again next Sunday, and as you’re sitting there, you feel the chair cushion under you, your hands in your lap, and at once the piano accompanist begins the same Bartok Chorale that he plays every Sunday. You had known this piece, and forgotten it, until you came to church only a few months ago, and now, it is here again. You knew this piece as an adolescent, a secret oasis, listening alone with the turntable at night while the others danced at their loud parties. Now, the Chorale plays in the sanctuary, and the diamond needle rests gently on the record and floats through not only your memory, but the present time, because you know that at this very moment, in this chair in the church sanctuary, where you sit weeping, is right where you belong.
And it has passed from Sunday into Monday. I have experienced being awake during the day, rather than sleeping all day, for four days now. Last night I attended a “dress rehearsal” for a recital to be given by our church accompanist later this week. It was so wonderful that this concert was held at our church, so close to my home that I could easily walk. Hearing a night full of piano music from the Romantic period awakened a part of me from my distant past, the part of me that existed just prior to the onset of my eating disorder. Electricity! Magic! Such was the beauty and fascination of learning and excelling at everything I did with my music. It was like walking through a pristine garden where everything was sacred and and glistened with dew.
Just don’t get too close. Once you touch a flower, it will crumble and disintegrate at your fingertips.
I cried last night. You could say that I cried myself to sleep, only I really didn’t sleep too well last night at all. It’s nearly 5pm right now Monday evening. I cried because I realized, suddenly, that although I am no longer depressed, I am no further away from death than I was before. I am, in fact, eating nothing at all because it is easier to eat nothing than it is to eat just a bit and try to decide what to eat and when, that is, to make these very complex decisions. Nothing is absolute, and very simple. Nothing is perfect. Absolute is perfect. You don’t have to weigh and measure nothing.
Starvation is the only way I know, the way I’ve learned, in my sick way, to keep away from dying in a binge. Of course logic tells me that this is untrue. I cried last night because what I am doing, in fact, is substituting one death, the more desirable one, for the other. To avoid death while bingeing, I am substituting death by starvation. That’s the bottom line.
Why, I ask, you ask, my therapist asks, any logical person asks, don’t I have “life” in there as an option? Why don’t I just eat like everyone else? And why do I think about death all the time?
There is someone in my life who talks about taking time to smell the roses. I hear this expression all too often. What if I don’t like the smell of roses? I can’t say if I do or I don’t. The smell of roses doesn’t impress me one way or another. Or maybe I haven’t smelled a wicked good rose yet. Something tells me that roses aren’t the only awesome thing out there.
In a bit, I’m going to leave the library and go home. I’ll have to bundle up because it’s rather cold out there right now. It’s so windy out that I might get chilled right through me, but once I get home, I’ll put ice on the thermostat and make myself a cup of Roastaroma herbal tea in the new mug that the church gave me when I became an official member. But by far, the best part of coming home is the look of excitement and wonder in Puzzle’s eyes when she greets me as I let her out of her crate. Her little back end wiggles to and fro; in fact, her entire torso wiggles and twists this way and that, and she trots into the kitchen to see if there are any morsels on the floor that she can snatch up. This evening, she’ll find nothing. She’ll return to me, her bright eyes full of expectation.
How can I let this creature down? How can I let anyone down? How can I leave those that love and care about me? Much as I gripe about the world, it is mostly filled with goodness. I may say that I do my best to be rude and hostile, but this is generally the exception, because I truly believe in the importance of being polite as much as possible, and kind to other people. If God is good, how could the world be bad? If God is good, how could I be bad? If people are good, and people are all different, then how could any size, or shape, be at all distasteful or unsightly? And who am I to judge? Am I the scale-keeper?
Of course, I do judge a lot of people. I jump to conclusions about a lot of people. I say swear words sometimes about people and situations that I don’t like. Sometimes I get pissed off. Sometimes I get fed up with situations. Sometimes, I go on writing rants and probably drive you readers up a tree.
You can climb down now, because I’m ending this entry soon. But be sure that you know where the nearest tree is, because you can be certain that I’ll drive you straight up it very swiftly…next time…because I have this tendency, when I go to bed, somehow, to make it through the night, and be alive and ticking the next morning.
I haven’t weighed myself since my birthday, January 8. Today is January 16. This is the longest I’ve gone without weighing myself for a long, long time. If I were the average person watching their weight, this would be no big deal. But I have anorexia nervosa, which is an illness that involves an intense obsession with one’s weight, size, and shape. Most people who have this illness weigh themselves a ridiculous number of times a day. Actually, I know a lot, lot, lot of people who have eating and weight “issues” who weigh themselves twice, three times, four or more times a day.
Listen. Let me tell you why weighing yourself trillions of times over and over is really a waste of time, something that shouldn’t be on your worry list, and is taking up needless brain space. But I am only me so I will tell it from my point of view, from the point of view of someone 54 years old, always the shortest kid in the class growing up, and I’d probably be super healthy if I didn’t have anorexia, which, by the way, doesn’t just mean you’re skinny. It’s a medical and psychiatric illness that I have had for 32 years, and I have accumulated a lengthy list of colorful adjectives for it.
I have kept my scale in various places in my apartment, but finally settled for this closet because it’s easy to get it in and out and no one will walk in here and see it. In my closet, it is hidden among my coats. It’s an excellent scale, very accurate. I lucked out when I bought it. I used to think that I’d fall apart if it ever broke. Right now as I write these words I am realizing that should my scale break, and replacing the batteries does no good, I will just toss it out in the trash room, and wrap it up really well so no one knows what I am throwing out. And I realize, too, that because of what I have come to know about my body and my weight, I am not going to go to pieces over a broken scale.
I weighed 87 pounds on my 54th birthday. I wasn’t particularly happy about it. I put the scale back into its hiding place and wrote down the number in my little notebook. I didn’t realize that this would be the last time that I would weigh myself for a long time. It was January 8th and I wasn’t thinking about January 9th. Today was my birthday. I had made it to 54. I was going to wear something really nice today, take the dog for her special Sunday walk, and be on time for church.
For weeks, months, really for a long time, things have been happening, I mean bad things. Not just weakness and fainting and falling-out hair. That’s the kind of thing you hear about. I mean like losing my mind. This whole cognitive thing. No pill will help it because it comes from lack of nutrients to the brain. None of my body has gotten any nutrition and my brain is a body organ just like the rest of them. It is a top priority organ as is the heart. Maybe six weeks ago my toes turned blue. My body had started feeding them a whole lot less because toes are lower priority. A few days ago I took off my boots and saw blue feet.
So yes, I feel sick. I felt a little sick at first, and only for a day maybe, then I’d feel all right again for a good while until I got sick again. But now I’m sick all the time. It is getting more and more suspenseful wondering just how much I’m going to be able to carry on with the basic essentials from one day to the next.
It’s a matter of priorities.
The scale has stayed in the closet for a week now. On the surface, this may make it seem that I have made some kind of progress with my anorexia, but among other things, I have come to realize that all these petty fluctuations are nothing but that: petty. It really makes me laugh when I see that someone was something like 0.3 pounds short of getting a gold star at a weight watchers meeting. Point three pounds? That’s like, you know, don’t wear so many hair clips and you’ll get your freaking gold star. Just don’t put the star on your forehead until after you’re weighed.
First of all, I don’t know if this is true, but probably it is, that the average intestine might have about ten pounds of waste crap in it. It’s nothing to be alarmed about. This is what intestines are for. They are digesting this crap and extracting what they can from it that the body might be able to use. The rest, the stuff the body can’t use, will find the exit eventually.
Now the stomach. When the average stomach is comfortably full, it holds maybe two pounds of food, but is capable of holding six pounds of food.
Bladder. A full bladder holds about 800 milliliters of urine, sometimes more, sometimes less. At 300 milliliters, you will have the urge to pee. So if you really, really, really have to go, two pounds of your weight are in fact the pee in your bladder.
Now I total that to be ten pounds intestines (small and large), up to six pounds stomach, and up to two pounds bladder. So when you get weighed, thirteen, fourteen, up to eighteen pounds of whatever pounds you weigh are in fact the weight of the food you ate that’s waiting to be digested, and waste material that hasn’t come out yet. All of this stuff, this food and waste, is going to vary. If you pee, there is less in your bladder. If you eat, there is more in your stomach. There is all this…this stuff. Our bodies are not unaccompanied.
Okay. My body. People who chronically starve themselves get what is known as slowed peristalsis. This means that my stomach doesn’t churn and gurgle and crack jokes like other people’s, and doesn’t do what it has to do to get food moving into my intestines the way it should. The food just sits there. And sits there. What normally takes maybe an hour and a half can take…I don’t know if there’s any way I can prove it or want to go into detailed description, but trust me, food I ate well over 24 hours ago is still in my stomach. It hasn’t moved. Trust me. It’s there. Same with my intestines. Like they are in slo-mo. The whole system is on standby. This slowed peristalsis is well documented in medical journals on anorexia.
My body. People with anorexia can get edema. Edema is excess tissue fluid. It is not normal and it is not healthy. Edema can happen for many reasons and I imagine each person’s situation is a little different. For me, my ankles swell up and my legs can look very thick in proportion to the rest of me. I can also get edema all over my entire body, including my face. Some people who have anorexia can gain up to 25 pounds of weight from excess fluid in their tissues. This weight generally comes on very fast. This is not “fat cells” or any of that baloney. When I first got edema, I was horrified at my jump in weight, true, but with my elephant legs, these legs that were not mine, I can fairly say that this ended my life as a runner, and I began to have the perpetual feeling that my body had been “ruined.” I get edema from eating certain foods. I can get edema from bingeing. I get edema from having a cold. I get edema every time I have diarrhea or if my intestines are in the least bit grumpy. If I take a laxative, whether it works or not, I get edema. (And no, I don’t abuse them, haven’t for years.) Starving myself gives me edema, too. When I get it, my weight might jump up maybe six pounds, sometimes up to ten.
And then there’s my eating. Or shall I say, not. After a while, I don’t think there’s anything to speak of in my digestive tract, though I don’t know for sure, not having an MRI machine at my disposal. I went through this kind of intermediate phase, where I was eating sort of, and pooping sort of, but when I pooped it was weird. One day when I hadn’t eaten for quite some time, I was thirsty and drank down a couple of glasses of cold water, and I had this strange experience. I felt the entire two glasses of cold, cold water flow right through my esophagus, into my stomach, and straight down, no delay, into my small and then large intestines, where it was still cold, and I shivered. I knew, right then, that I was fucked up.
And I still binge every now and then. But it’s different. Not like in my 20’s, of course. Not even like October when I had a bad case of it. But I still do it sometimes, and now there is something incredibly sad about it. When I’m done, I hide the evidence. I have been hiding the evidence for 32 years. I don’t throw up. I never have. It just sits there now.
So I was writing about why I have stopped weighing myself. I talked about how I am questioning my ability to survive, and wondering where I am going to go from here, how I must, at this point and always, prioritize, as my body is doing, at this point, given that I am underfeeding it. I have explained this whole thing about food stuff, fluid, water, and waste in my body. I can weigh myself twenty, thirty times a day. But fuck it, what am I really weighing? Am I really gaining anything from this? Or am I losing everything?
So the scale has stayed in the closet. And my illness, anorexia nervosa? It needs to be out of the closet more. I have to write down stuff like I’m writing now, get people to open their eyes and think. Is that star on your forehead really worth its weight in gold? Do you really want to be skinny? If you are beautiful in your heart then you don’t need a star on your forehead to prove it.
Yes, I hunger. I have been hungry all my life. But I will not wear gold. It will not bring me any closer to God. I thought when I was 22 if I lost weight God would love me more, but 32 years have passed and a week ago I turned 54 and the scale stayed in the closet because I know now you cannot weigh God’s love.
God never made any promises to me, any guarantees. Until a day or so ago I was convinced that I would die in my sleep. I figured I’d go to bed and never wake up. I now realize that there’s no guarantee it’ll be this easy. People die incredibly difficult, tortured deaths whether they are young or old, sick or well. I was convinced that anorexia would kill me. But maybe not. Maybe I will be murdered by a criminal.
Catholics believe that when people die the Archangel Michael weighs their souls using balanced scales. I assume that like the rest of us, Catholics die and leave their gold behind so the scales won’t get tipped. I figure that there is no scale, not even a fancy one, that will weigh your soul. But maybe the Archangel Michael keeps an extra scale stowed away, and before any of the other angels are up, he secretly takes it out, tucks in his heavenly wings, and steps up, careful not to make a sound.
Next time you think about weighing yourself, think about this scale in the closet, about any scale in any closet, and think about your closet, and your life, and what you want to stay in the closet because it doesn’t really matter anymore, and what you want to bring out. Really think hard about what you want to bring out. I want you to bring it out now. Today. Put down your gold stars if you have them. Life is not to be lived for stars. People love you. You might think it’s not true, but it is. Look around and you will find them. Reach out and love them back.
When you’re ready, close the closet door. The scale, and all its myth, ritual, and seduction, will still be in there, waiting. Just think about what I have said, and carry it with you today, instead of carrying around with you some arbitrary number that represented today’s weight.
It is late and I have spent a long time writing this. I will go to bed soon. I am sick and don’t feel well and need rest. It feels good to get all this down in words and I think it helped me to write all this. I really hope that someone reads this and that I can help someone. It is all that I can do.
Last night I joked with myself, figuring that
If I live another month
Within that month
Surely I’ll lose a tooth.
It’ll come out by itself
And hopefully this won’t happen in church.
Maybe more than one tooth. Maybe several.
I felt each of my teeth, wiggling each
With my fingers, trying to guess
Which one of them would come out
But none seemed to give me any answer
Any peek into the future.
I bent over and picked up Puzzle’s poops
With a flip-top Baggie.
This I did twice on our walk.
I am thankful for such simple tasks.
Where does this surge of energy come from?
Not a calorie in sight.
The sky, the moment.
This morning, I know
I must try to keep my mind sane.
My insanity protects me.
But today I am going to send an e-mail
To my favorite undergrad instructor
Whom I went to hear read
Not long ago.
I’ll tell him how much I cherish his words
The influence he had on me
Just thank him
And tell him that whatever happens
Well, you know, mixed
There will always be mixed
But basically I am okay with it.
Before leaving on our walk
I checked weather dot com
Power lines may be down
Well, so be it.
I brushed her teeth.
I brush her teeth every day.
I hooked up her leash.
I had a thought. A fleeting notion. I knew
There doesn’t need to be any logic to it
It doesn’t need to make intellectual sense.
I put on my headphones.
Just for old times’ sake, Bruce Springsteen
Louder than I could stand.
Down the hallway.
Puzzle is eager to get out and sniff.
She tugs on the leash.
The front door opens and I pass through.
I step into the strong, strong wind
And at that moment I know for certain
That my feet still carry me
That although I thought that I had lost my faith
God has been in my heart
And held me tightly
Because I am not the religious zealot type, I do not hold some claim to special knowledge of the nature of God or anything of spiritual nature. The only exception to this is that my late boyfriend, Joe, has appeared to me a few times in dreams telling me that Heaven is a rather decent place. He spoke of it enthusiastically, saying I had to see it for myself, and said the food was “terrific.” To see that boyish smile on his face I knew so well, and his voice as if he were describing the highest point of a baseball game, convinces me that every meal every meal is truly delicious, served on the best dishes. Is there an afterlife? I’m going to butt out of it and stick to things that are a bit more concerning to me, but I do know that Joe right now is really doing okay. Is this is a delusion my inner mind has created to comfort me? I don’t care. Delusions, after all, are correct in the heart. Boy, have I learned this over the past couple of weeks and months. Maybe I have always known it. Maybe I should also add that I do like to think that there is a Doggy Heaven in my tears.
But this is all. I grew up Jewish. We were told there was a God. Sometimes, yeah, God. Sometimes, the existence of a God made no logical sense to me. It didn’t add up scientifically. It never, never, never made any sense to me to assume that God was male. This was a resentment that began in me as a sudden jolt when I was booted out of my brother Ned’s bris simply because I was a girl and not a boy. It made no logical sense in my six-year-old mind that a bunch of old guys wearing scarves would sing Holy songs in a language I didn’t understand to an invisible Holy Male God in the sky, and these old guys in scarves were crowded around the crib of my baby brother, whom I owned and was given by my parents so that I could personally protect and care for, and these guys–these men–in scarves were going to seriously harm my brother. Yes, I was only six, but I knew from that very moment on that the world was male-dominated. Especially in my given religion. So, like I said, I have, at this point in my life, no real right to make any real claims about the existence or non-existence of God as any entity or being whatsoever, or to instruct you as to what you should think in such matters.
However, I do know what I truly believe in my heart right here right now.
Tonight, I do not know what time, I noticed that I was developing a fever. It began kind of in my jaw area, and then spread around to my eye sockets, and then to every single tooth, and my entire mouth. My head had that all-around ache you get when you have a fever. My body had that bone-ache, but not a lot, not to the point of discomfort. I decided to have a bit of water, not a lot, and then head off to bed. Who knows. I had a flu shot. The flu, though, you can get anyway. On the other hand, it could have been some result of malnutrition. I often feel kind of weirdly sick. It comes and goes. Sometimes, I feel this overall crappiness and want nothing but to stay in bed. I headed off to the sack as quickly as possible.
I lay in bed. I found that I wasn’t all that tired. This sometimes happens. I had a lot on my mind. I have mentioned someone I fancy, in my craziness, hanging out here in my apartment that I have named Michael the Man with Wings, to whom I carry on a one-sided conversation at times. Well, I began one such lively conversation while I lay in bed. It went on and on. I began to laugh. It was getting hilarious. I imagined developing Compulsive Square-dancing Disorder temporarily, burning shitloads of calories, going to bed, waking up, and then weighing myself only to discover I’d lost a whole bunch of weight. I began to completely crack up. Then I settled into a deep satisfaction and warmth of feeling, a natural curve of smile on my face.
Then it hit me. I had a fever. Laughter. True joy like a rare gift I had not felt in a long time. Even an effortless smile. So many people would give anything to die like this. Laughing and with a smile, just simple joy. It could happen. I felt thankful that this moment had now come to me, almost like a gift. It could be a few hours, and I was very aware of the possibility that I could be way, way off base. But I felt close to prayer. Fever. Hot waves rose from my forehead, almost like I could see them, though my eyes at this point were closed, a smile still on my face. And I knew now that if I uttered a prayer, whether silent or aloud, I would ask God to take my life from me.
I began to weep. Just a bit at first. Then, sobbing. How can I do this? There are people I would hurt. I want to be in church on Sunday. It’s only Thursday night. Only today, I reached out to my college friends on Facebook. They wrote back. What am I doing?
Then I thought of one specific person who had written: my final semester advisor, Darrah. Dang. I had worked just so hard that last semester. I remembered all the hours at the library, toiling over my thesis. I remembered the trek to the post office, wondering if all those thesis pages would fit into a flat rate envelope. Every packet I received back was like a birthday gift I opened with the suspense I felt as if I were a little kid untying magic ribbon. Then I remembered: Darrah always called me “Kiddo.” That made me feel so wanted. Darrah, of all people…How on earth could I do this to Darrah?
I cried for a long time. Fleeting thoughts and emotions mixed with my tears and wrapped around and around me. Mostly, I was sad. I asked myself if everyone who was dying, in their knowledge of their own impending death, was saddened by it.
I felt something, a change just then, an urge in me, to kick off my blanket. I was still weeping, crying aloud. I was lifted, or rather, was helped to lift myself, from the bed, and stood. The fever was gone.
A bunch of hours have passed since then. I didn’t know what I was going to do with what had happened. I didn’t know if I would tell anyone. I didn’t know if I was going to record what happened, but then I decided that it needed to be told. I am telling you now. Maybe it all sounds like it was written by a very deluded soul in a feverish, starved state. This is in fact true. But it is written.
I thought I hadn’t prayed at all. But you know, I think that in fact, at that moment, I did. When God is in my heart, God is in my heart, right there. I was answered. I was put where I needed to be. Maybe not for much longer. Maybe just for a few more hours. But I didn’t die in bed. I’m one step closer to tomorrow, one bit nearer to staying right alongside those that care that I stay right here with them.
You can’t predict when you’re going to die. Some die with a smile on their face but most probably don’t. After all, it’s not scientifically likely. You’re not born smiling, or so they say. As to whether I smile in Heaven, like I said, I don’t really believe in any afterlife, and it’s not what I’m worried about right now. I guess I am thinking that I want to write one word after the other, keep on writing, and not write too much about God. Rather, I’d like to keep God very quietly and passionately in my heart.