Turning my back on my eating disorder….Hello, new life!
I want to say something to those of you out there who are still struggling. And to those of you who know someone with an eating disorder….
It’s hard, first of all, when no one understands. It’s tough when even your own family (if they’ve stuck around) doesn’t “get it.”
It’s hard when society puts us down for being vain or having skewed values or disorders or labels we don’t actually have. Or they tell us we’re selfish and think of no one but ourselves and the scale. They take away the scale and then they tell us that weight matters but we can’t know what our weight is once we’re “in recovery.” Oh, so much bullshit.
So we try to get this thing “treatment” and find that it isn’t accessible. If we’re male, or over a certain age, it doesn’t exist for us. Treatment is expensive. Treatment is narrow-minded. Treatment means forced care. Treatment follows the Food Pyramid, which is funded by the rich meat and dairy industries. If you want to eat healthy, and stay away from hormones, GMO’s, and pus, you are out of luck. Treatment does work, but for the very few.
For the rest of us, I want you to listen up very carefully: I want you to get better in spite of treatment. Or lack thereof.
There people that say everyone can get better. I will not bullshit you. This is not true. Not everyone can get better. However, there is no way of knowing. I was one of the ones convinced that I would die. I was convinced every night that I would not live to see morning. I could not plan for the future, not even a week ahead of time, because I thought I’d be dead.
The last bunch of times I was in treatment, or, rather, non-treatment, I witnessed them shaking their heads sadly at me. I saw the look. “She’s chronic.” “She’ll never make it.” They were going to send me to the state hospital a year ago. Last time I left “treatment,” I saw the sad look again. “She’ll be back in no time.” I left and felt a revolving door behind me inviting me back. I did not accept the invitation.
Well, folks, I am not back there. Far from it.
See, you can get better in spite of their low expectations. In spite of their labels. You have abilities and strengths, and your eating disorder did not take these abilities away.
Getting better from an eating disorder does not mean you have to have a BMI of a perfect 20 point oh (or higher). Getting better from an eating disorder has much more to do with feeling good about your body than it does with BMI.
Getting better from an eating disorder does not mean you have thrown out your scale. There is nothing wrong with keeping a scale in the house. Scales don’t bite. If you think they do, you might have an eating disorder. Or you might have a darned weird scale.
Getting better from an eating disorder does not mean you do yoga and no other form of exercise. The idea that yoga is the only acceptable exercise for ex-ED’s is a very narrow-minded viewpoint. I happen to have a pair of wings attached to me. I fly every night when no one is looking. OM is not in my vocabulary.
Getting better from an eating disorder does not necessarily mean you run around touting a puppet figure you call Ed. Or Ana. Or Mia. We don’t need to get down to the level of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood or Captain Kangaroo and use acronyms and do child’s play to understand the basics about this dangerous disease. Cuz once you’re dead, you don’t need toys.
Getting better from an eating disorder means doing what makes sense. It means hanging out with positive, supportive people. It means seeking folks that love you and understand you. It means having a voice. It means self-expression. It means feeling good about yourself.
Here’s what I did to get better….I am listing these in no particular order, mainly because I’m not sure which is most important.
First of all, I fired the therapist I had. She was borderline abusive. No, she indeed was abusive. Now, I am not saying this was easy. You’d think it would be 100% relief to fire an abusive therapist, but it’s not. Why? These people have you wrapped around their fingers. They are manipulative. They are push-me-pull-you people. The whole time I had her for a therapist, I was deceived into thinking she was oh so great. She kept stringing me along. Does this sound like, say, a battered partnership? You bet. I am so, so glad this is over and done with. But it took time to pick up the pieces and shake myself clean of her.
Secondly, I write, and continue to write. Writing is self-expression. Writing is catharsis. Writing saved my life throughout my life. Some people have found this to be the case and have ended up becoming great writers because of it. My publisher, Jason Pegler, talks a lot about writing as catharsis and publishing as empowerment.
And so, I am published and empowered. This, for me, is huge.
Puzzle is my service dog and now we are together and complete in the world. Yes, she was always a pet and she has gradually taken on tasks, but once she crossed the line into the role of service animal, there was a profound switchover that I cannot even begin to describe.
I have a recovery partner. He is a man I met while in “non-treatment” in July/August last time I was there. He feels in a similar way that I do about many things. We made a pact. We are sticking with it and watching out for each other in every way possible.
I started going to a church a year ago. This is an individual choice but I feel that if you don’t have any family you need to find community somewhere.
I also now belong to a drop-in center for ex-patients. So I have that outlet, too.
I go to acupuncture.
I take a tiny amount of psychiatric medication for paranoia and another for binge eating. I was off all meds for a while and it did not work out, so this has ended up the compromise.
I am doing my own investigation into nutrition. I believe nutrition is a highly individual matter.
I started running again. Running seems to be the natural best exercise for my body but I have to be careful due to past injury. My psychiatrist supports my efforts.
I have licked depression and mania, the whole mood thing. Why? I know it’s a body thing. I know any “mental illness” I have has nothing to do with “poor coping skills.” This was some bullshit someone told me ages ago and they were wrong. Some of what I picked up was learned behavior. Punching walls is a learned behavior and actually I never punched a wall. I put my hand through a glass window once. Binge eating is biological and I did not learn that in a hospital from other patients. Binge eating almost always comes…get this: from a diet. Yep. From vitamin deficiency. So that’s what starts it. Do you think I’m crazy? Go look it up. Just about every eating disorder starts with a diet. And then the diet ends up leading to some other problem, such as getting hooked on starvation cuz it makes you high. Not poor coping skills. Not bad morals. Not gluttony. Not selfishness. Not a skewed value system. Not from looking at a fashion magazine. Not from a personality disorder. Not from the Olympics. And so on.
So why do we start this diet? And, a lot of people start diets and don’t end up with eating disorders. We do know that some people get high on starvation and some don’t. We do know that some people can sustain starvation because their survival instinct response to eat does not work properly. And this combination, that I know of, produces anorexia. It’s very simple.
They say one thing they are trying to do right now is to develop a an “antibuse” drug…I am not kidding on this…that will kill “starvation high.” Oh yeah, like we’re gonna take this drug. But there are some who will do just that and live happily ever after I suppose. And I’ll bet there would be off-label uses for this weird drug. They say Naltrexone, the drug I took for a while for binge eating, did away with starvation high for some people. For me, Naltrexone worked and then stopped working shortly after. I”m back on Topamax and glad of it. I expect it to work for a year or two and I’m thrilled that I’m responding at a much lower dose than I was at before.
I’ve been criticized for “poisoning my body.” To this person I want to say that I cannot wait a year, two years, three years to use “willpower” or some fancy “therapy” or “white knuckling it” to get myself to stop bingeing. If it comes from a vitamin deficiency, I don’t personally know which vitamin or mineral it is. If it’s a food I’m deficient in, I don’t know which food it is. I can experiment, but it will be hit or miss for months. I can’t wait months.
Actually, if you are “white knuckling it,” then you are NOT in recovery! If you are “white knuckling it,” then you are most likely miserable. Misery is NOT recovery! You don’t deserve to suffer like that. Suffering is optional.
I am not suffering. I got past that. I haven’t experienced suffering for a while now. I haven’t experienced angst for a while now. I haven’t experienced depression or any mood problem for a long time. I have not experienced paranoia…I have to medicate that symptom but it is gone now.
I eat, too. Would you believe that? I’m fairly okay with my weight. I can say that not only do I like myself, but I totally dig myself. I even like how I look. I mean, how many folks 54 years old look as absolutely cute as I do? I look doubly cute with Puzzle. Who, after all, would not look cute with a Schnoodle in their lap? One named Puzzle at that!
Do you dig yourself?
One thing that really helps me is to think of things that I like about myself. Now, maybe that sounds very over-simplistic, but you will be surprised at how many things will turn up on your list. At first, you may have trouble thinking of things. You may sit for quite a while trying to think of the first few things beyond the obvious.
Do you have good manners?
Are you considerate of others?
Are you good with animals?
Are you decent with your kids? Are you decent with other people’s kids?
Are you respectful of the planet? Do you pick up after yourself?
Do you have quirky handwriting? Do you have an unusual hobby or talent? Can your body move or bend in an unusual way?
Have you ever had an exceptionally wonderful relationship?
Do you have vivid dreams? Has someone who has died ever sent you a message in a dream? Have you ever helped anyone using your dreams?
Are you a decent writer? Like I am?
Do you dream big? What is your biggest dream?
Does your faith in God or Gods keep you strong?
Does your sense of love and commitment toward others help you participate in your community?
Would you like to take a class and go back to school or college and finish? Yes, you can do it!
Do you like yourself? Cuz that’s what it boils down to. Ask yourself this question. I don’t give a shit what you weigh or what anyone says you should weigh or what the scale says or whether or not you have a scale. If you truly dig yourself, then you are already right where you should be. Take a good hard look at yourself and answer that question right here right now and you will answer everything there is to be answered about “recovery” and nothing else will matter.
You can fly like I can. Pick up your wings and fly with me. Go where Puzzle and I go. I used to go nowhere. Now, together, Puzzle and I go everywhere. After all, we have our six legs and loud music, and if you’ve got that, you’ve got just about everything.
Amazing new way
So I wrote another new piece in my notebook after walking Puzzle. Something I figured out. I will share this by copying it over here, but not right away. I need a breather.
In brief: Okay, I was told that I’m different. I’m far out there. There are people who are different, right?
Some people who are different seclude themselves for a time. Like Moses, for instance. He went up onto a mountain by himself and then did something that no human witnessed, and then showed up with two tablets. There are many figures who seclude themselves for long periods and then come up with the Key.
Writers seclude themselves in order to get their writing done. This is the beauty of writers’ retreats. They are quiet places to be in a little space by yourself, such as a cabin in a place in, say, the woods, and write and write.
So I’ve been secluded all this time. And came up with something incredible. An answer. Not for everyone, but just for me.
I fear going into therapy and having this Key shot down as hogwash. I ended up on this path. There is nothing I can do to reverse the passage of time. I can look back but I cannot step there. I choose my goals. No one will force-feed me, ever. I picked up the fork because I saw a wrong in the world and realized I had ability to change it. Today I discovered another reason why I did this. The fact that I stand out in a crowd and am singled out as Other, a situation for which I did not ask, gives me Power, inner strength, and amazing ability.
Changing myself and the world
On one hand, I wrote this today:
“March 10, 2012
Disgusted with waist size increase ___ and only ___ weight loss. Just so gross. Legs are disgusting. So ashamed of my fat chubby face. I feel dead inside.”
Here in my blog, I tell it like it is, and this is what I wrote, like it or not. This is how I live my life from day to day. I can and will change this but right now, this is the reality of what I live with and right now these are my feelings.
On the other hand, I am making some very positive changes in my life. I decided to change therapists. I have an excellent therapist for whom I have a lot of admiration but this is not working. I went sharply downhill when I started seeing her (the end of November 2010, right after National Novel Writing Month) and life has been shit this whole time.
My feelings are mixed about the future of therapy. Quitting entirely is the route I had originally thought I would go, but decided to try someone else. I have decided, though, not to drag things on and on with my current therapist and to end as quickly as possible. Of course I have no one lined up to replace her next week but as of today am sending out e-mails, and will be phoning people Monday. I am taking advantage of free introductory sessions. I am looking into anything out of the ordinary. One of these is acupuncture. I am contacting a couple of nutritionists as well, but I am not interested in nutritionists who talk out of textbooks and prescribe traditional “meal plans” that I am supposed to follow like a mindless robot that has no brain. I am flat out doing away with these weekly “weight-checks” and will no longer tolerate this outright humiliation. I have tried 12-step four times. I have mixed feelings about it all. Just mixed. I will look into it and will also look into Smart Recovery and get a bunch of books on different approaches. I have a list of books I want to read.
I am anything but a mindless robot with no brain.
I now see through my T’s reasoning in getting me hooked up with DMH. It was not for the purpose of “help” like I had originally thought. My T was actually thinking ahead and in her mind (so I speculate) thinking that if I had DMH, it would be easier on the paperwork to force me to give up my apartment and move into a group home! This would mean losing Puzzle! Right now, actually, during Thursday’s session, she again threatened that if I starve myself again, she’d send me to the state hospital. DMH involvement makes it a lot easier for this hospital admission to take place. This was her plan all along! Oh my god! Now I’m stuck with this useless, irresponsible DMH person who is a complete appendage to me, and an “easy in” to the state hospital system. Oh, shit.
Positive: My contact person at Chipmunkapublishing has written to me to tell me that he’ll be sending me a big file, the proof of my paperback, on Tuesday. I’m sure he’ll be e-mailing me with more information on this as well. I was so pleased to meet him when I was in London in November.
Positive: After a lengthy search, I finally found a decent deal on plane tix to London in July. I booked flight and lodgings both and will again be seeing my publisher.
I will be flat out broke and in serious debt for a long time. It will get paid off. It will get paid off. It will get paid off. And debt cannot harm me physically so long as I have a roof over my head and food on the table. I do have low-income housing and I do have food stamps and there are food pantries.
I have a lot to do today. I feel positive. I am looking toward the future. My eyes are placed on my head in such a way that they face forward, not back, always looking in the direction that my body is headed. I think this is telling me something.
Audio Post – February 17, 2012 – mostly read from my journal
I am just going to let this post speak for itself. I am reviewing it today March 5 and I am in awe of what I hear…a strong, empowered woman….Just have a listen.
Most likely I will bookmark this page and listen when I am feeling down in the dumps, and remember the way I felt when I was reading all this stuff to you over the phone. Just hearing this brings it all back for me.
My mind is made up…a promise I am making to myself
If because of “insurance” and “policy” and “availability of beds” I end up on the eating disorders side, that is, Alcott, where all they do is fatten you up, where the patients are much, much younger than me and I don’t stand a chance at getting better…
instead of “faking it” and lying in order to get out of there faster (so that they won’t make me gain any more weight, in other words)
every day, I will put in a request to get on the psych side, that is, Thoreau. I will state my reasons for this request in writing clearly, until I get my needs met.
Because really, I do want to save my own life. Dying is wearing me out.
Plodding along today
I have really had a positive day so far considering it’s the day before I’m to show up at the hospital. I didn’t make a list of everything I needed to do, but so far, I’ve done a fair amount, and I’ve gotten the daytime stuff done. My brain is working better than it was earlier, surprisingly.
Puzzle had a nice walk this morning. It was warm out. She was especially energetic and ill-mannered, which was fine with me. I listened to Phil Carrack on our walk. Or is it Paul Carrack? I forget. I guess it’s the last time I’ll be listening to headphones for a while. They don’t allow them at the hospital.
Last night I e-mailed the crisis team and told them they should educate their people about eating disorders. I wasn’t sure the e-mail got through. It did! I got a call this morning from one of the higher-ups. We spoke for a while and I was satisfied with our conversation. We decided that we should work out some sort of plan for me. Maybe work it out at the hospital with the social worker. I thought this was a good idea. I told this person that the current company that runs the crisis team is much, much better than the previous company. So it was a productive conversation.
Pooch Palace called this morning, returning my call from last night, and I made arrangements for Puzzle. She is now safely at Pooch Palace. We arrived on time for her appointment, bringing her food and bowl. Puzzle was very well-behaved in the cab. The cab driver was impressed with her, and said he liked her name. He said he’d never forget that Puzzle lives in my building, because he likes her name so much. He asked if she was going to get groomed while she was visiting Pooch Palace, and I said yes, she is certainly due for a groom! The timing seems to be just right.
I ran a few errands as well. Given that this hospital doesn’t allow spiral notebooks, I had to replace a small notebook I use with one that wasn’t spiral. This was easy enough. I purchased some erasers and sample size shampoo and toothpaste. Suddenly, I felt the need to leave the place. I needed a regular-sized toothpaste as well, but got flustered trying to find the right kind. So many different types…different brands…I paid for my stuff I already had and bolted out of there without the toothpaste. I can get it some other time.
A dear friend called. I suddenly realized that this friend was overly enmneshed in my medical affairs. I decided that this obsession was her problem and that she needs to work it out on her own. I need to focus on my own needs right now.
I decided to “fire” my DMH person and the entire program I’m in. That is, I do not want to see her again. She does not do her job and never has. I am tired of wasting my Saturday mornings. I will discuss this with the people at the hospital.
I did a little reading on aftercare, that is, what I would be doing after I get out of the hospital, that is, what they would expect me to do. I have very few options that would be covered by my insurance. Correction: one option. A “partial” in a nearby location accessible by local bus, kind of a pain in the ass commute, though. I wasn’t fond of the program. I went for one day. If you don’t show up, they call your emergency contact, or the police, I am not kidding you! This is fucked.
I do not like such programs, as a general rule. You sit around all day in groups with people you can’t relate to talking about your problems and feeling sorry for yourself. I have always found that this makes me feel worse, especially if the people surrounding me feel more sorry for themselves than I do of myself, and whine even more loudly than I do. It gets especially boring, as it did the day I was at that program, when one person goes on and on about something, and you have no clue what they’re talking about, and everyone else is saying, “Oh, I feel for you, how simply awful that must be!” and then there’s this metaphorical group hug, meaning that touching, of course, in any form, is not allowed, so there’s this pretend group hug, and everyone gives support to each other.
In the words of an ex-friend, whom I deeply admired, SUPPORT IS OVERRATED. Or at least that kind is.
Anyway, I would rather talk to a complete stranger at a bus stop than sit in a group for forty-five minutes any day. At least, after I talk to the stranger, the bus comes, I get on the bus, sit for only twenty minutes, and get someplace.
On the other hand, the hospital may want me to shell out bucks for “residential” treatment. In other words, they would expect my family to pay for this treatment but my mom won’t and she’s sick besides, and my brothers are putting their kids through college and don’t have a dime to spare. You have to be like in the One Percent to pay for those residential programs, that plus pay for Puzzle’s boarding.
What is this “residential” treatment? It means living in a house with other people and having meals together, I guess you prepare the meals and shop for these meals and go on “group outings.” It sounds like a nightmare to me, especially considering that a lot of these “residents” would be a fraction of my age, just giggly, gossiping girls. Ugh. I suppose the TV would be blasting night and day, or the stereo, some teen rock group or something. Painting their toes, make-up and jewelry, screaming all the time….No thanks.
Really, there have got to be better answers than what they have offered me so far.
I do not want to go in there and get fattened up and feel like shit. I remember the first couple of times I was there when that happened. I went in and they made me eat, eat, eat. It was like ridiculous. All I did was fart 24/7 and feel miserable physically and emotionally. All I could think of was how badly I wanted to lose the weight as soon as I got out of there. This was anti-recovery. And I’m not kidding about the farting. So you can imagine how miserable I was. After I lost the weight, I was worse off than before.
The other time I was there, in September, it wasn’t like that. The focus was different. I refused to follow their meal plan and fart all day. They took an addictions approach because I was on the psych side and a lot of the patients, who were closer to my age, were alcoholics. The staff were gentle with me and let me take my time. I actually wanted to get better, for maybe the first time. I actually stood a chance. I went through an incredible transformation. When something like this happens to you, you don’t forget it.
A new year
It will soon be 2012. I don’t know what the new year will bring. You don’t know what the new year will bring, either. It is a leap year, a little longer than most years.
It is hard to believe that four years have passed since 2008. A lot of the people who were my friends four years ago aren’t my friends anymore.
I have given away just about all the clothes I had four years ago to charity. Or I threw them out.
I don’t live in the same location.
Prices have gone up. At least that’s something that isn’t surprising.
I have fewer teeth.
In a week, I’ll be 54 years old. I may or may not have mentioned this, but I’d like to spend all of 54 out of the loony bin. It’s a lofty goal. A year is a long, long time when they say you’re supposed to take things one day at a time.
To tell you the truth, I’ll be totally relieved when 53 is over and done with. Right now, I feel like I’m tiptoeing around very, very scared, still very much in 53. I am trying not to count the days. Counting is kinda dumb. I’m really that my birthday falls on a Sunday, so I get to be in church that day.
Tomorrow, I get to light the chalice at church, to bring in the New Year. I get to do this because nobody had signed up for it. So I signed my name in the blank. Julie Greene. That’s me.
I will be reading the Epilogue from Kenny Fries’ book, The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin’s Theory. I get to read from a book that has a long title because 2012 is leap year, a longer year than most.
I guess here on the East Coast in a half hour it will be 2012. Happy New Year, East Coast.
It seems to be a new day, and….
At the moment that I am writing these words, I have not binged for about sixteen hours.
This has not been “by the skin of my teeth.” This has not been “by sheer willpower.” Over and over I walked into the kitchen and looked at the food. I stared at each item. I noticed how it smelled. I imagined its flavor. I imagined stuffing it into me.
Then, I was repulsed, and turned away.
The food has been sitting there untouched. Most of it I had stashed in the refrigerator, because those maintenance guys were going to show up and I didn’t want them seeing any food sitting around on the counter. Granted, they wouldn’t have suspected a thing. But paranoia had told me to hide it. It’s still sitting on the refrigerator shelf.
It’ll sit there and in a bit, I’ll take the stuff I deem as useless, unhealthy “junk food” out into the hall for the neighbors to take for themselves. What remains is food that’s healthy to eat.
The nutritionists at the eating disorders hospital tried to convince me that there are no “bad foods,” that is, I should get the term “junk food” out of my head. I don’t agree with this. Some foods have no nutritional value. Why eat a piece of candy when you can just as easily eat a piece of fruit?
But I’m getting off-topic here. Let me tell you this: I have not been bingeing. While I was writing what I have written so far of this article, another half hour passed. Sixteen and a half hours now.
I went to bed, tired. The new medication, Desipramine, makes me more sleepy at night than I used to be. I have been taking Desipramine for three nights. Tonight will be the fourth night, and I will be doubling the dose. Ever since I started taking it, I’ve been sleeping well. Actually, that’s pretty amazing considering that for a month, I slept two or three hours a night. Tonight, tomorrow night, and Monday night, I’ll be taking 50 mg. Then Tuesday night and from then on, I’ll take 100 mg and that will be my dose I assume. Desipramine, in my case, is supposed to be helping with three of my problems: sleep, depression, and bingeing. Dr. P explained that even after the first dose, my sleep would be improved. Then, after about ten days, the medication would help my depression and bingeing. She said, as she was writing out the prescription, “This medication tends to work.”
For reasons unknown to anyone, I have always responded to medications much, much faster than most people. Some doctors have told me, “No, this did not happen to you because nobody responds to x medication that fast.” Please, asshole doctor, do not take my miracle away from me.
After one night of good sleep, of course I felt better mood-wise, and felt that I had come out of a fog, though the bingeing was just as bad. That was Thursday, the day before yesterday. Thursday is my day to go to therapy, so I went. My therapy session went okay I guess. We did DBT, which, I must say, isn’t really helping me much. I’m going along with it because my therapist insists.
She let me cry some. This is a horrible disease. I don’t understand how anyone can have binge eating disorder and hold down a job or go to school. I have only had it for a couple of weeks and already I am completely non-functional and not doing my ADL’s (showering, brushing my teeth, getting undressed at night, wearing clean clothes in the daytime, laundry, cleaning house, brushing my hair–none of these). That’s what I told her.
That’s what I told my primary care physician, Dr. K, yesterday. She examined me, took my blood pressure and other vital signs, listened to my heart and felt around and listened to my intestines. She asked me a bunch of questions and asked me if perhaps I wanted to go to the psych ER to be evaluated for hospitalization. I said no. She sent me to the lab for blood work and said I could contact her anytime I needed to over the weekend if I had concerns. She said she would contact me right away if anything urgent showed up in my blood. I didn’t hear from her so I assume there was nothing urgent. I came home.
I was coming to dead ends trying to find eating disorders groups. I was coming to dead ends trying to find nutritionists. It was getting frustrating. But I realized one thing: I really couldn’t be at home. I wasn’t coping. I needed to go somewhere and get some intensive eating disorders treatment. I needed to find someone who could take care of Puzzle while I spent 60 to 90 days in an intensive program. I had a few ideas as to where I could find such a person (long story).
I’m not sure what time of day it was that I began my search. I may have gone to bed and then woken up or napped or whatever. I went to EDReferral dot com and went down the list of places. I went state by state starting with Alabama. These are ritsy, ritsy places that take insurance. Well, yeah, they accept everyone unless you’re on public assistance. I called one place that used to offer some kind of sliding scale or (supposedly) free care, but I guess I was mistaken. The cost of 30 days of care was $14,000. Even if you’re rich you don’t have that kind of money, because you’ve already spent it on your kid’s college education. I kept trying. I e-mailed places, offering $40 a day. I can’t even afford that, but the part of it I can’t afford will go on my credit card.
Meanwhile, something weird was happening to me. I hadn’t binged. Time went on and I still didn’t binge. Two, three, four hours passed. I slept. I got up. I wrote some more e-mails. Six hours, eight hours. I slept until I’d had enough sleep and felt rested.
I got up. Not only was the urge to binge completely lifted from me, but I actually wanted to take a shower. Last time I took a shower, two days ago, I stopped partway through undressing, ran into the kitchen suddenly, and binged. Today, I took a shower just as I have all my life.
I ran the water, got it to the right temperature, and stepped in. I started bawling while I was washing my hair. I let the tears come, and they mixed with the shower water and the shampoo. I suddenly realized I was talking out loud. I suddenly realized that I was praying, thanking God. I haven’t had the ability to pray since my relapse began and I was convinced that I had lost my faith and completely lost my belief in God. Well, it was happening.
I kept on praying and talking to God long after my shower ended. I wanted to go to church, and just sit there for a while, and I called over there, but no one was there and I assumed that the building wasn’t open. That’s okay. Tomorrow’s Sunday.
The search through EDReferral dot com is over. I had gotten as far as California and I don’t need to go any further. None of the places called or e-mailed me back. I’m not surprised, actually.
I assume that I’ll be on that plane to London on November 14th. I had thought I was going to have to call the trip off. But it’s actually going to happen. Of this I am certain.
London, I’ll see you soon.
I may not have hope, but for now, I can spice up my life. I can wear a different shirt every day. I can rearrange my tiny apartment to suit me. I can write many e-mails to people around the world. I can write to my dog. I can write to God. I can write to myself. One of these people might write back.
Although I eat very little, I can season my food differently each time I eat it. My food is colorful. I arrange it pleasingly on my plate. I garnish it. I eat with a fancy napkin. I have several tables in my apartment, and I can eat at a different table at each meal. I can choose to heat my food, or I can eat it ice cold.
Though it is a very small town, only four square miles, there are many streets here to explore. I have lived here nearly 25 years and I have yet to see all the nooks and crannies of the neighborhoods here. But every day, my dog and I take the same route. Why? Why not spice it up? Well, I am a person who likes regularity, and they say that dogs like to do the exact same thing every day for some reason. So we take the same route.
But I listen to different music each time we walk. The weather is always different. My thoughts are always different. Whether I am feeling hopeful, sad, depressed, or full of anticipation for the day ahead, each walk is vastly different from the other. Yes, our walks are spiced up.
Although I do not have hope, I can do things to spice up my life. I can knit using colorful yarns with varying textures. I can make dog sweaters. I can make hats for myself to match. My dog and I can go in style.
And going in style we do. Because every day, when we walk down the street, I say to myself, “This is my dog. This is my creature, that I care for, that I love and cherish, that each day greets me with a wag and a sniff awaiting a treat. And I brush this dog’s teeth twice a day every day and she’s got the most shining smile in town.
I may not have a shining smile to match hers, but we go in style. I may not smile at all. I may not have a drop of happiness in me. But I know how to spice up my life. So I do so. And this simple task is a comfort to me.
My second 5k–reflections on a race not run
I woke up this morning, race day, to face a record-low temperature of 44 degrees here in Boston, meaning perfect weather for the Larry Kessler 5k race for AIDS at 9:50 at the Hatch Shell. My alarm had sounded at 4am. I was getting ready. I had everything planned out for today, everything written down. I dressed, laced up my running shoes, and got ready to walk Puzzle, my dog. Surely, this was her day, too. We would take one of her usual routes, though. I didn’t want to disturb her routine too much, even though today was different.
Yes, today was different. Every day had been different for the past several weeks–since the injury. As we rounded White Street, passing the condo complex, and headed up Main Street, I began to weep. I was walking with a cane, barely able to sustain a half mile’s distance before experiencing problems with my injured knee. I placed the cane carefully along with my right leg, to ensure that I kept weight off of the problem side. I wondered if anyone would pass by and see me crying. But no one did, not even anyone in a car, because it was so early.
Not only was I sidelined with an injury, but I was suffering from infected sores in my mouth, edema, and morning vertigo. All of these medical problems had appeared over the past month or so. Surely, I was not in good shape to be running a race. This was compounded by the fact that I had taken time off over the winter, slowing my pace considerably. I had expected, after the first of these medical problems–edema–appeared, to finish this race in 38 minutes. I finished my first 5k in 34.
The edema I have is called “refeeding edema.” It results from long-term self-starvation from my eating disorder. While my first 5k was a celebration of feeding myself, my second 5k–or, rather, not running my second 5k–is the acknowledgement that I am not feeding myself or treating my body with the love and healthy respect it deserves. Yes, I am abusing my body. Yes, I starve myself. I still have this edema. I starved it away, but it came back after two binges. I am currently starving it away again. Yes, I have an eating disorder.
The sores in my mouth come from cuts in my gums. The cuts come from bingeing on raw vegetables. I can’t eat raw vegetables really fast, because I have missing molars. If I do eat raw veggies fast, my gums get cut up. They even bleed in my mouth. One of my molars is missing because I split it in half bingeing on dog food last winter. It had to get pulled as a result. Yes, I have an eating disorder.
I get morning vertigo after I eat the first bite of food, or sustenance, in the morning. I go brush my teeth and 1o minutes after I’ve eaten, or had a bit of milk, I have the vertigo. It lasts several hours. Several hours of my head spinning. The vertigo following eating is most likely from malnutrition. Yes, I have an eating disorder.
My knee injury is an overuse injury. I used to run and walk a total of 10 miles a day, and I did this for a month. Fine. Then, I increased to 14. Not fine. My body gave out. Hence, this injury. And every time I think I’ve licked it, I overdo it, and pain and regression in healing result. I tend to overexercise. Why? Don’t let me fool myself. I do it to lose weight.
Yes, I have an eating disorder. I have anorexia nervosa. I was eating okay since I got off the psychiatric unit in March, but started actively starving myself again May 1st. I have not eaten normally for one day since then. I have generally restricted, but have binge/fasted a bunch of times as well. I am in no shape to be running this race.
And now I sit here, hungry. What am I hungry for? What is missing in my life? What are my desires, hopes, wishes, and dreams? Do I even know? Am I so starved that I have lost touch with what my body and soul need?
What did I dream of when I signed up for this 5k? Did I dream of strength, power, and speed? Did I dream of winning, in my own way? Did I dream of feeling proud of myself for accomplishing yet another goal among the many I have accomplished over the past few years in spite of my eating disorder–graduation, National Novel Writing Month (twice), getting published, and my first 5k? Or did I dream of the race process itself, of concentrating on the road, keeping my eyes ahead, pushing myself, pushing myself, pushing onward, onward, onward, thinking of nothing else?
Perhaps it is in my resignation that I am not running this race that I acknowledge that I am indeed smothered by my anorexia symptoms right now, pulled under, defeated. I cannot run 5k. I cannot even run. I am only now beginning to walk without a mobility aid such as a cane or crutches. But eventually, I will be able to walk a mile again, then a mile and a half, then two–without setting myself back–because I will be healed. Eventually, I will be running. But it will take time. A long time. I know now that I must not attempt to do what I am not ready to do until I am fully healed.
And that goes for my anorexia itself right now, too. I cannot even begin to be expected to gain weight until, in my mind, I am ready to do so–otherwise it will backfire. This has happened time and time again. It is happening now. This is why I am restricting–because I was expected to gain weight way, way before I was ready. Yes, it backfired. I must be ready.
Maybe this analogy won’t work. I know my injury will heal. Of this, I am certain. But I am not certain that my anorexia will heal. Sure, I go up and down in mind and weight, but overall, I am not really getting better. To add insult to injury (sorry!) I had this same injury in 2005, and it improves when I lose weight! So there is a problem here.
Maybe my attitude will change, though. I cannot predict the future. There are other races, lots of them, coming up. November, December…maybe I’ll be running by then. Maybe I’ll be fit enough to race then, which means eating right, taking care of myself, and treating my body lovingly and with respect. That is the key.
So today, as I sit here and write these words, and gaze over at my dog, sleeping beside me, I wonder what she is thinking, her mama laid up…probably nothing at all. Because to Puzzle, it doesn’t matter if Mama raced or not. What matters is that Mama is staying alive to be Puzzle’s mama. Well, I plan to do just that. Not only that, but I’ll sign up for my next 5k as soon as I’m completely ready to race–and not sooner. Promise.