What if a person with anorexia refuses to eat?
Here is an excellent question from a commenter that I will attempt to answer to the best of my ability:
“What do you suggest as a better approach if a person is refusing to eat and on the verge of death? Surely you don’t let that person just fade away?”
I can only answer from my own experience as a person who has experienced severe starvation, that is, self-imposed starvation, and as a person who has again eaten. And as a person who is alive and able to write these words.
Because this has happened to me, this self-starvation and then eating again, many times, and because I have an exceptionally good memory, I can look back and say, “Gee, what caused me to eat again? What are the more positive ways to get a person to eat again, and which ways are damaging to a person, long and short-term?”
Of course, history will tell us that for one thing, if you starve yourself to extreme and keep going, you are going to die. And if you starve and then eat again and screw that up, you can die in the process of eating again (I rather dislike the word “refeeding”). It’s rather complicated. I hear it mostly depends on the person’s prior medical history and the extent of the starvation as to whether there will be such screw-ups. The more complicated the medical situation is, the more screw-up potential there is, or so I hear.
I do know that our bodies are smarter than our minds. I believe I provided a link a while back, or perhaps I didn’t, to a survival story I saw on weather dot com. These stories on that channel tend to bug me cuz they tend to be sensationalist and tend to have a moral, almost “Christian” twist to them. Like “good guy who prays will prevail” twist. These sensationalist stories that now pervade the media are seeping into our brains the idea that no matter what, the cops, EMT’s, military, government, and medical folks are out for our best interest, which in fact, they aren’t. They are out to make a buck and if we are in their way or are inconvenient to them, they aren’t going to save us. Instead, we’ll get disposed of in some way. That’s in fact the way life is.
Our minds discriminate. Our minds see the different types of uniforms and read people’s name tags. Our bodies know only the warmth of human touch, the expressions on faces, and know what a hug feels like. Our bodies know what it feels like when we hold our dogs and cry.
Our minds read food labels. Our minds think: calories, fat, fiber. Our minds say, “I should. I should not.” Our bodies taste and feel the food in our bellies and feel digestion and the warmth of the food and feel when we eliminate our food. Our bodies say, “I am hungry. I am starving. I am thirsty.”
At any rate, the survival story was about a couple that went for a hike. They got badly lost. The wife became weak and told the husband that it was her choice at that point and she felt she couldn’t go on. She told her husband to try to get help and she would wait where she was to conserve energy. She pleaded with him to leave her, even if it meant only one of them survived.
Yes, he went on. And on and on. He did find a car, eventually, and the person in the car got the husband to some rescue folks. They figured out where the wife had been waiting, and after a search, they all found the wife. She’d been lying there clinging to life. But alive. They got her out. At the end of the story, the clip showed her at home with her kids. Happy ending.
But here’s what I want to focus on: The little survival story showed just how desperate the body can get. Our minds may in fact be unable to think clearly. The couple had run out of food and water. When the woman was alone and waiting, she was seriously dehydrated and as I figure it, this had now ceased being a moral issue that involved upper level human thinking. She wasn’t capable of that right then and there. This is my own opinion because I’ve personally been through it. What did she do? She cut into her hand and attempted to suck out her own blood. That’s how thirsty she was. Her body was determined to get water any way it could.
What I’ve been through wasn’t precisely that situation, of course. Everyone’s situation is different and everyone does, in fact, have choices, but we do have to remember that in starvation, a person isn’t at a level of human morality. It’s gut-level, or, if you wish, animal-level survival. The body is going to take over. The body isn’t rational, but it’s damn smart.
So the actions you see of someone who is starved may in fact look quite irrational if you are watching as an outsider, or you may even wrongly judge that person as psychotic, but no, that’s not true. The person is in survival mode and is in fact conserving every bit of energy he or she has. Every morsel matters and every second counts.
So in my own life, I can recall “good” ways that I began to eat again, and ways that were harmful.
The worst way to eat again, that will cause permanent harm, is the most forceful and shameful and dishonest, with the most restrictions. The best way to eat again is the most loving and affirming and honest, with the most choices.
Most folks with anorexia aren’t, in fact, at that level of being completely unable to think at a human upper level. Most are only partially slowed down or partially impaired and they are barely aware of it, or their thinking gradually erodes over the years so they don’t even notice the whittling away of their cognitive abilities. Of course, should they enter “treatment,” they get coerced into thinking they “need” drugs or have “other” diagnoses and end up taking drugs. The drugs themselves cause complications and mess with cognition, sometimes rather long-term. Withdrawal causes problems and even after these drugs are stopped, years later, the body and mind can show signs of impairment that science is only now discovering. Of course, many take recreational drugs anyway or get disillusioned with poor medical care that they feel they must take all sorts of pills to get relief, whether their doctors order these pills or not.
I can see how anyone can get into the situation of starving themselves and then be unable to make the conscious, mind-driven choice to take in food. I can see how the person might make the mind-driven choice to refuse food. However, the body will prevail if the body is given the choice free of the mind’s interference.
Problem is, the way our psychiatric system insists on taking over and interfering via force, it doesn’t even allow for this. This “eating disorders care” first of all takes away all LOVE from the mix and proves to the patient:
YOU ARE HATED, SHAMEFUL, AND UNLOVED.
This is incentive, above all, to further refuse food if the patient has any mind left. All belongings are taken from the patient and the patient’s bodily privacy is denied. In many cases, a tube, a foreign object, is forcefully driven into an orifice of the patient’s body. How can this be “loving care”? It is rape. No one will have incentive to eat if they are treated with hatred.
Here is a story of a time I chose to eat all on my own. I told the story once here years ago, and I will retell it now, then I’ll paste the story as I told it before when it happened, below today’s version.
It was days before Christmas, 2011…….
I guess I was feeling rather down. I guess I’d met someone around the beginning of November, a new friend. She was full of promises, saying she was my best buddy, but immediately I saw “red flags” and warned myself that this friendship was likely to end badly. I recall telling my therapist this, too. But I kept on with this friendship anyway, not heeding my own warnings.
That’s what happens when you are lonely. You’ll settle for second-best. Dumb? Yeah, I admit it was dumb. I felt like I was investing too much emotionally in her. Sure enough, she dumped me. Not only that, it all coincided with two other “bad luck” events.
At the same time, I had started Imipramine. You guys know what that drug did to me. If not, I’ll tell you. About ten days after beginning the drug, my blood pressure went soaring, my pulse went up and was never under 90 from then on, and I also felt like I was physically crawling out of my skin. Nonstop. I felt like I was always fighting that feeling. Nonstop. It was that constant fight that is, in fact, the “black box warning” that causes suicide in teens. I’m positive of it. Also, I had enlarged breasts, most likely due to increased milk production. No, I wasn’t pregnant. I assumed that all those side effects were temporary and would go away after a week or two. However, this feeling persisted. And went on and on. It’s over now, though. I asked to be taken off the drug the following February, 2012, and I’d say it took at least six months for the “black box warning” feeling to subside and even for my breasts to get back to normal. I remember having that remnants of that “black box warning” feeling in September 2012 even.
So, anyway, back in 2011 I had just started the drug, and it was December and I was wondering when the heck the “black box warning” feeling was ever going to go away. At that point, I sure was trusting my own shrink less and less and my therapist was turning out to be abusive, too, so I didn’t trust her, either. This friend I thought I could trust had cruelly dumped me.
I ended up discovering, I guess near the end of November 2011, that I could go longer periods than I originally had thought without any food at all. So that’s what I did. I had no clue that my blood sugar was dropping dangerously low. The body can maintain okay blood sugar only for so long. After a while, your mind ends up in this nether world, which was what happened to me. Many people go into a coma, but I didn’t.
My body was desperate to live, and my mind, as I figure it, began to make up fantasies so that my body would survive. So there it was, the end of December, right before Christmas.
My mind invented love. My mind invented that someone actually loved me. Yep. Long-lost love was right there at my doorstep. He was going to sweep me off my feet, pick me up in his arms, and carry me away. And that person was going to show up shortly. Fantasy? Unrealistic? Delusion? Mirage? That pool of water you see floating on the highway right before you while you are driving that’s never really there? The one just out of reach?
I don’t give a shit, folks. Even though I was totally mistaken, I hopped to it. I told myself, “If he’s about to show up, I’d better eat and save myself. I sure don’t want him finding my dead body.”
I was scared, too. My mind wasn’t thinking straight. Treatment? Or no? Did I need a doctor? Maybe I should…911? Or would that be dumb as it always is?
Right before I phoned 911, I drank a tiny amount of juice, most likely no more than an ounce. This was thick banana-kiwi-strawberry stuff. It actually burned going down. Most likely, by the time the EMT’s did a finger stick, my blood sugar was in the safe range and no one had reason to believe I was telling the truth about not having eaten for a long time. I know that’s the kind of thing my body does.
Again, at the cognitive level, I was totally confused about what I was doing and the reasons why I was calling 911. All I knew was that I wanted to live. At the ER, I was told I was wasting the time of the ER personnel. The ER nurse obviously had no clue what anorexia nervosa was.
Here’s the entry, written a day or two later.
“IN CASE I DO DECIDE, AT SOME POINT, TO CALL 911 AGAIN…
but I doubt I will, given the bullshit that happened last time
I AM WRITING THIS ON DECEMBER 26, 2011
I called 911 two days before Christmas and was taken to Mount Auburn Hospital.
The doctor, Dr. Gary Setnik, barely examined me. He did not listen to my heart. He did not listen to my intestines or stomach. He did not test my reflexes. He did not watch me walk. No one checked my orthostatic blood pressure. My temperature was not taken until two minutes before I left the ER. He didn’t do nearly as many tests that I recall doctors doing in emergency rooms. He must have spent two minutes with me. He barely asked any questions. Then I never saw him again. They sent a shrink, a social worker, I think. I was disgusted that they did this. Then they left me alone in the room for TWO AND A HALF HOURS while I was given no water or juice, nor did they ask me how I was feeling. I was tired so I dozed. When someone entered the room, I asked about my tests, but it was only the housekeeping person. I was barely aware of the passage of time.
The nurse entered and told me I could go after I had some lunch. I ended up with a fruit cup which I picked at and then found out it was spoiled. She told me all my tests came out normal. I know, however, that this is bullshit. Why? Because even when I am at my healthiest, one of my kidney levels are always slightly off. Also, the nurse, in the same breath, muttered something about dehydration, and said I should drink more, and that this was the reason my pulse was elevated. I had already explained to the doctor that my normal pulse is elevated (94) because of my medication. This is a common side effect verified by my doctor, the pharmaceutical companies, and any pharmacist.
When I was released, I was not offered a cab voucher. They kept on emphasizing that other patients were much more important than I was. I think they just wanted me out of there. I realized that for the entire time I was there, I had received no actual treatment.
When I got home, after many hours, I looked at the papers they gave me. My instructions consisted of three words: “Take it easy.” There was also a sheet on panic attacks. I have not had a panic attack since 1997.
I have anorexia nervosa, which is a serious disorder with 10-20% mortality rate depending on which study you look at. Apparently, no one listened to me or believed me. From December 14, 2011, sometime in the wee hours, until December 20, at 3:30, I consumed no calories. Between December 20 and the morning of the 23rd I consumed 433 calories. That’s not for each day but the total of all three days combined. I suppose no one thought this had anything to do with my feeling like I was going to faint that morning.
It is obvious to me that emergency people are not adequately educated about eating disorders.
I do monitor my blood pressure and pulse with a meter. I am not stupid. I have a bachelor’s and master’s degree, both earned recently. This statement will eventually appear on my blog. My blog is Googlable, and I have regular readers. Merry Christmas.”
Again, I wrote that last bit December 26, 2011, and am reprinting it today, which is Feb 21, 2014.
Fasting on a hiking trip: 22-year-old Thomas Lang missing in Sedona, search now called off…and my own commentary
Here’s the link:
It’s a USA Today video, so it is also found in other online news sites.
The video was done before the search was called off. No word right now.
When I was 22, I, too, went hiking without food. I believe I also didn’t bring water, but I must have brought a bowl for my dog and food and water enough for him, or expected we’d find enough on the trail. My plan was to be gone 24 hours and then return.
I borrowed a car to get to my destination. No one knew where I’d be hiking, which mountain, only that it was “up north.” I told no one that I wasn’t bringing food with me.
Hoofy and I arrived at a place called Griffith Lake. I left my thick glasses on a rock and swam, alone, unable to see anything in front of me, nor, by the time I swam out to the middle of the lake, could I even see the shore. It occurred to me, while swimming, that should I drown and not return, no one would have any clue where to find me, or Hoofy.
I’m lucky to be alive to tell you this story. Yes, I was a young person seeking God. Some have stated that starvation will bring you closer to God. Others say that when you die, you meet your maker head-on. I don’t know why, but I recall an that in many books, a person’s final journey seems to be upward, up some mountain or hill. The dying person leaves those still living behind in the valleys, and climbs higher, where the air is thinner, more scarce, and perhaps considered pure. The elements are stark and bright.
Or perhaps the journey is into deep water. The dying person finally reaches a place where the water is thicker, higher and higher, covering his body. His feet are lifted from the floor of the ocean. Pure, glistening water carries him onward, into the darkest depths, alone.
Glory, glory, glory. How the wonder fills us. Praise God with abandon.
Or so I truly believed, as a young girl, at 22.
Survival story I found on the Weather Channel, and my commentary
Here’s the link:
And yet…been there, done that, though the circumstances that caused it all were quite different. Yes, I nearly died of dehydration, kidney failure, and starvation.
And no, I sure didn’t get any “Welcome Home” sign. I got hostility. I got lied to. I got accusations. I got threats. I got locked up and abused. I lost even more friends and spent a month crying and hugging Puzzle all alone for a month, having been traumatized not so much by what happened to my body, but by the societal rejection that followed.
I am so glad I have walked away from those of YOU out there, anyone reading this, that denied me human dignity, that treated me with gross disrespect, that called me a liar when I was not lying, that attempted to rob me of the freedom that every person deserves.
If you don’t get that, well, then, try listening.
Not too many have been there. My body has been there. Go sit for a while in that eerie place, when you are very close to death for an extended period, then come tell me about it.
Wonderful principles to live by
First of all, Rule Number One: Break every rule! Don’t listen to me, for godsakes! Do whatever the hell you want. You might want to learn the rules first so that you can break a whole bunch of them and be a decent rebel, just like me and Puzzle. Be cute at it, and have twice as much fun.
Rule number two: Spend the least amount of money as possible. Don’t buy stupid expensive shit. It’s not worth it. Yes, go for quality, but not at a price. Common sense….. Chances are, you’re gonna throw the crap out anyway. Think about it.
Rule #3: Listen to your body. Your body is smart. Your mind will try to override what your body wants. Common sense is a great idea, but your body might ask for something strange. Sometimes, you gotta juggle between what makes sense and what your body demands.
Rule #4: Listen very well. But advice is just that, advice. No one knows better than you about you. You know yourself better than anyone.
Rule #5: Stand on your own two feet. That is, self-reliance…it is golden. There is no magic human. No one that can save you except you.
Rule #6: Cultivate a good relationship with animals and plants. It won’t hurt to have an animal in your life, such as a pet or to care for plants and nature. An animal in your life won’t let you down the way people do.
Rule #7: Stay away from gossip.
Rule #8: Priorities…know what ‘s important in your life and stick to that. Everything else can wait. Don’t lose what’s important. Keep it in a safe place. So if it’s your house keys, keep them in the same pocket all the time so you won’t lose them. Carry a flashlight if you have to with fresh batteries in it and plastic bags in your pocket to pick up after your dog, and you won’t need much else.
Rule #9: Be strong. Develop and keep your body fit, with good endurance and keep your muscles as toned as possible. You’ll live longer, you won’t fall down, and if by chance the winds knock you over, you’ll bounce back. No one can put you anywhere you don’t want to be unless you are knocked down and stay down.
Rule #10: Be clean. Keep your life free of clutter and sweep your floor often. Take a shower or a bath and enjoy your daydream.
Rule #11: Dress for the weather. Don’t be stupid or impractical, and wear shoes that will carry you far.
We have a long journey ahead of us, folks. Get ready.
In a coffee shop
This is a foreign land, this coffee shop. The place is called Panera. I have never been to such a place in many months. I purchased a cup of coffee and it felt odd to hold the paper cup in my hands. I had forgotten what to do with it. A stranger in a strange land.
I felt as though I was some unwanted idiot trying to find a table, carrying my coffee cup in this country here that I don’t even know anymore. Okay, the stares. I’m used to this. The whispers. Yeah, I know. I know who I am. Gimme a break.
I sat. I logged onto free WiFi. Had I forgotten how to do this?
I want to tell all my readers I love all of you. I guess I don’t want to say much more.
There are things you have to do in this world. There are basic truths. Like picking up after your dog. Common sense. Certain lawns, I can’t let her even step foot on cuz the homeowners scream at me. You do what you have to do to survive this life.
Our bodies are smart. We avoid what we fear. When we are scared, we run. We protect ourselves.
I will see you later. I’m going to be home in a bit.
What should I do? The hot water in my apartment often doesn’t work
This is a chronic problem. I live in public housing and I’ve been a tenant with the same housing authority for roughly 20 years. I’ve lived in this building for five years. It’s an eight-story building. I’d say this past year has been the worst as far as lack of keeping up with repairs goes. But let me focus on the hot water problem.
Or, rather, lack thereof. The first year I was here, a lady whom I’d barely ever spoken to moved out in disgust, kind of slamming things around in the process, yelling about this and that, and I do recall her ranting about the lack of hot water, the hot water seeming to go dead on her during those crucial times that she really needed it. This event, her leaving in such a storm, stuck in my mind. She was also pissed off about a particular neighbor who I guess was harassing her but I have no clue if this was true. I don’t talk to anyone and he still lives here. But that year I don’t recall much of a problem with the hot water on my end. I remember the hot water not working one day and that lady having a fit in the hall, but this was a long time ago.
Well, back to the present. This past winter was the pits. I’d say more often than not, maybe five days out of the seven days of the week, I was unable to take a morning shower because there was no hot water. In winter, you can’t take a cold shower. So it would be freezing in my apartment and I’d say to myself, “Gee, I’d love a shower so I could warm myself up,” but I had no way of taking one.
My assumption was that this was a building-wide problem. Usually, I could wait an hour or two, and the hot water would start working okay. But by then I’d already walked Puzzle and I was already dressed. So I’d get undressed and I’d shower.
On church days, that is, Sundays, this of course sucked. It would mean I kind of faced going to church dirty or not going to church at all. I mean, it ended up being one of my many excuses not to go to church. The hot water wouldn’t come on at all until 10:30am, which was the time that services started.
I really want to go to church tomorrow. So, since we do what we have to do to survive, I’m plotting ahead. I’ve been hoping for a shower tonight. I’ve been washing my dishes with a combination of hand sanitizer and soap. It’s a little tough with the water being barely above cold.
Well, the hot water hasn’t been working, folks, all day today. That is, today is freaking Saturday, it’s hot as Hades out there, and I’ve been out twice. Do I take a cold shower? I can’t go to church without a shower. I’m no kid anymore and I know I used to take cold showers, suck it up and all, but I’m not like that anymore. What’s everyone else in this building doing? Don’t they take showers? They must shower. They don’t stink, for godsakes. Why isn’t anyone else complaining?
I hear no banging downstairs and I am wondering if our maintenance department is even working on the problem. If I call them, I get charged $25 just for calling on off-hours. What do I do? Wait for it to fix itself? That’s what I’ve always done.
Really,no hot water, all day long?
I phoned the town about the “beeping” problem, and something got done. The housing authority went to all the apartments in the building, and replaced all the detectors with new detectors with fresh batteries. Guess what? Mission accomplished. I was the squeaky wheel who actually did a favor for everyone here in the building. We no longer live with this constant, horrible “beeping” sound, the sound of carbon monoxide detectors with dead batteries, which frankly was inexcusable.
I wrote to a town politician about recycling here in the building. Recycling is the law in Massachusetts and our building wasn’t providing recycling bins that residents can use. The town politician agreed that it was inexcusable that we had no recycling bins, especially since this building is run by the state of Massachusetts. Well, lickity-split, there you had it, the recycling bins appeared not long after I wrote the e-mail. I wrote about something inexcusable, and something got done.
No hot water? Is this, too, inexcusable?
I’ve been sick ever since my stupid very loud mom was here. She was here on the 24th. I think the worst of it was last Monday the 29th, and then Tuesday and Wednesday were sort of blanked out to me. I think I slept those days away. Thursday morning I went out and ran some errands, so I couldn’t have been feeling too bad. I also went out tonight and picked up some stuff I needed.
I’ve canceled everything I possibly can cancel, lying when I’ve had to. Like when my CBFS worker was supposed to show last Monday. I said I had a doctor’s appointment. I didn’t. I guess I said I slammed my finger in the door. Well, that’s true, and for a while I thought I might lose my fingernail, too, but it’s not something I’m going to the doctor for. I’m expecting she might show up next Monday but I’m going to tell her I’m on my way to New Jersey to go to some writer thing with some friends. Say what? What friends? Anyway, she’ll believe me. I’ll say that cell phone coverage there is spotty, just to leave a message or something. Then I won’t have to worry about CBFS for a while. I also plan to cancel my appointment with Dr. P Wednesday, but forgot to do that today so I’ll do that Monday. Then I can see her whenever. I really don’t give a shit.
I was supposed to see that primary care doc at Boston Medical Center for a one-month follow-up visit, but I canceled that cuz I don’t want to see him anymore. I also canceled the “orientation” session I had signed up for there for a therapist, since I decided I don’t really want a therapist. So get this: today in the mail I found out someone scheduled me to see some psychiatrist over there on the 16th of May. How annoying to have someone make an appointment that you don’t ask for and don’t want. I had to call them and cancel the appointment. Not sure what will happen with all that next. I had been under the impression that they didn’t really want to deal with me, anyway. Hopefully, now they will leave me alone.
Why therapy does not work for binge eating, and in fact may be harmful to some people
Okay, I’m going to go way off on a limb here, and say some wild stuff.
First of all, I am a person who has dealt with anorexia nervosa and binge eating since 1980, that is, before Karen Carpenter died, and when I first got this disease, I had certainly never, ever in my life heard of eating disorders. Why did I go on a diet? I did it because I thought losing weight (yes, losing is spelled with one “O,” all you folks out there in WeightWatchers land, I do get very tired of the typos, in fact, you will never lose weight if you spell it wrong) would make me closer to God. Yes, 22-year old me, quite secretly went on a diet and really never told anyone. It’s only in my journal. And in my memory of being very, very cold and alone with my dog, Hoofy, on this very secret mission. I got what I wanted, covered myself in winter clothes, my periods stopped, and no one even knew.
I was terribly malnutritioned. And yes, I do recall the day the binge eating started. Some binge eaters do not recall their first binge. I do. Afterward, I said to myself, “Hey, what was this?” It was like something animal had come over me, something Other. It was not my head that had done this, but my body’s desperation. No, not hunger, but specific nutrients that my body was craving, right at that moment.
Most binge eaters do not start binge eating just off the bat. There is a prelude to it. There is some diet first. Their bodies are initially lacking in nutrients. This, my friends, is key. You binge because your body is telling you something. Binge eating is a body thing, not a mind thing.
Have you heard of the disease pica? Binge eating is just like it. I’d like to propose, in fact, that it is very, very much like pica. Only binge eaters eat real food, and folks with pica eat stuff that I guess doesn’t fall into the food category, such as pieces of the wall, or stones, or chalk. I guess there are the classic stories of pregnant women who are starved for calcium and doctors wonder why they are eating non-food items like animals. Is it a good idea to therapize these unfortunate pregnant women? Or rather, perhaps they are better off with maybe some financial and practical assistance if they need it, some help managing their other children if they need that, and most importantly, some immediate help getting calcium to themselves and so they can bear healthy children when the time comes.
So say you are a binge eater. I would like to propose that you are just like this starved, pregnant woman. Yes, you are starved. I don’t care if you weigh 90 pounds like I weighed in my teensy apartment back in August of 1980, or maybe if you now weigh 300 pounds and you have been on a binge for the past three days. You are starved.
Your body, not your mind, is talking to you, crying out to you. The pregnant woman has no clue why she turns into an animal and goes after the wall and grabs it and shoves pieces of it into her mouth. It is knee-jerk behavior. It is her body crying out to her. Of course, we binge eaters know this behavior very, very well. We ourselves turn into animals. We try so hard to stop it, but we can’t. It simply happens to us, often late at night. We have the best of intentions. We aren’t even hungry. We have followed our meal plans or been on our best behavior, but we snap all the sudden and bam! We’re off.
Yes, we’re off. Maybe it’s that extra bite of something, or we’re in a store and we see something. Or, “Okay, I’ll put on my other coat now,” and off we go. Or we eat what we have at home, we eat the house out. There’s the whole ordeal with the cashiers, and if you drive, there’s the driving nightmare. Yes, you hide the trash, I’ve been through that, too. You hide the food, you hide the evidence, you hide the fact that you are eating, you hide all the evidence.
See, I know. I’ve been through it, and I myself know how it goes. And yes, I’ve had all sorts of therapists try to “help” me with it and therapy has been the least helpful solution of anything I’ve tried.
If your insurance will pay for it, I would suggest trying a nutritional approach. Problem is, just about every nutritionist on the planet has no clue about binge eating. They only know the very, very basics about the food pyramid or diabetes or something. Find one that does not put you on the exact same stock meal plan as they put everyone else on, the one they learned in school or copied off the Internet or ripped a page out of their textbooks. You might even find one who was inspired to go into the field because they themselves used to have an eating disorder and got better. Be very careful because some of these folks charge gigantic fees and ask first how much the charge is and make sure they are totally upfront about future charges and how much you will have to pay out-of-pocket. Really lay it on the line with these people. I went to one person and had to cancel the initial appointment at the last minute because suddenly I found out the fee…$300! For one session? And yes, it would be charged to my credit card. I was so stupid, I had given them the credit card number, and had to make sure that it was perfectly clear over and over that I was not coming I had given plenty of notice, I am a low-income person, this is totally ridiculous and there would be absolutely no charge on my card. I guess you live and learn. I was not charged, and breathed a sigh of relief. Anyway, if you can find someone like this, go to them, but not for an arm and a leg.
I told you that binge eating is, in fact, a form of pica. So your body is talking to you, forcing you to do something you don’t ordinarily do and don’t want to do in a million years because it desperately needs a nutrient or group of nutrients. This nutrient might be anything. Who knows what you have, over the years, deprived yourself of. It might be a longstanding nutritional issue. You might be dehydrated. Dehydration means your body is deprived of a nutrient: water. There are so many things it could be and the body is immensely complicated. You might have a food allergy. As a matter of fact, you may be binge eating on a food that you are allergic to and making yourself miserable.
I’ll tell you a very, very funny story. It happened a long time ago and it only goes to show how silly folks can be. My dad was an only child, and for a while, he kept getting sick. His mom kept him home from school and gave him chocolate milk, thinking this would make him well. She wondered why he got sicker and sicker. So she took him to the doctor. The doctor made scratch marks on my dad’s arm, and a few days later, said to my dad’s mom, “Your son is allergic to chocolate and peas. If you keep giving him chocolate milk, he will get sicker, not well. Stop giving him chocolate milk, and he will get well.” Sure enough, this was the case, and my dad was back in school within days.
Of course, this happens all over the world. We do stuff that doesn’t work, and in fact does the opposite, and we keep doing it, and we get sicker, and wonder why. Not that it was my grandmother’s fault. Of course it wasn’t, and it wasn’t a moral issue. She didn’t know. She thought she was doing the right thing. But of course looking from the outside in, we can see that what she was doing, giving my dad chocolate milk was not going to work and once her eyes were opened, it was a non-issue once again and everyone was happy.
So, you, too, want and need your eyes to be opened, so just like my grandmother, this binge eating problem can be put behind you once and for all, and it can be a non-issue in your life and you can, yes, move on. Just like my dad and his chocolate allergy, you won’t be sick anymore and you can go back to school and actually have a life. My dad graduated top of his high school class and I’m damned proud of my dad.
I have been in therapy and had, get this: a total of 20 therapists. Of these, I’d say three, or maybe four have been decent, but two of the four were temporary ones. None of these were “eating disorders specialists.” My very best therapist told me one day that she felt she wished she knew more about eating disorders and felt that someone else might be a better person for me. At that point, I told her that she was the best therapist I’d ever had, and in no way had she ever been inadequate. This was so long ago. Unfortunately, this excellent therapist was being laid off. She then handed me over to an “eating disorders specialist” who I swear knew not a thing about eating disorders, and the next five years were a complete joke. I’ve had one good one briefly, but a lot of horrible ones too, and I’m happy to be therapy-free right now.
Okay, here’s where I go off on a limb. They tried to therapize gay people to make them not gay anymore. Or do this moral thing, throw (pardon me) Jesus at them. Tell them Jesus will turn them into straight people and convince them to be straight and make them stop “sinning.” Now we all know that this in fact is an absolutely horrible thing. Therapizing a gay person will not make them not be gay anymore. This is 2013 and fact is, therapists and preachers are still doing this all over the world. This, to me…I don’t know, it’s genocide. It kills people. It kills their spirit. And it leads to massive suicides. We don’t even know the numbers over the many years that these practices have been done. I am bisexual I am quite surprised that I have escaped it all, but then again, I live in Massachusetts, not the Bible Belt.
So where is my parallel? Can you therapize a binge eater out of binge eating when the cause is physical and not mental, not, in fact, “poor coping,” but the binge eater’s body’s desperate nutritional need, a form of pica? Of course not. So the binge eater continues to be told, over and over, “You need to learn better ways to cope. Hold onto a frozen orange!” and the binge eater, of course, binges on the frozen orange instead one late, late night, and then goes on to buy a tub or two of ice cream. Do frozen oranges work? Do they solve your body’s need for, say, calcium? No. Do they solve your body’s need for water? No. You will feel rotten and no coping skill will work, and that therapist will tell you how poorly you are coping, and how badly you followed their advice. Maybe they will tell you you have a personality disorder, or that you are binge eating to manipulate others. Wow, that will really make you feel great. If you lose a friend, they will tell you you have terrible social skills, that you need to go to day treatment, and now you are stuck in some “program.” Oh lordy, you will get more addicted.
So the therapist will tell you, and now, of course, it’s therapists plural, a whole group of them hammering it into you, that you need to sit around talking about your problems day in day out. But you don’t. I am telling you, you are starving. Go get off the merry-go-round. Go feed yourself.
Meds do help, and I’m telling you why they help. Binge eating is a body thing, but the brain tells the body to do the pica behavior. There is a necessary link. Something has to be there so that the body will do this necessary knee-jerk behavior, so that the pregnant woman will get the wall or chalk material into herself and the necessary calcium she desperately seeks. Of course, science hasn’t caught up with all this yet, and they don’t really know which meds to use on people yet. Honestly, the research is so new. They were doing stuff in the 1980’s and everyone poo-pooed it and knocked it down. I honestly can’t remember her name who said using meds was anti-feminist. That exercise yoga lady who supposedly “recovered.” Anyway, be careful, ask questions, and know what you are getting yourself into. Meds can be a lifesaver.
Yes, I am going to go out on a limb again and suggest that not only you get tested for allergies but look into brain allergies. Yes, brain allergies. This wacko, crazy research done at the Brain Bio Center and other places like it. Folks think these guys are nuts but I am telling you, they are not. They are dead-on. A simple dietary change can radically fix a behavioral problem or “mental illness” better than “meds” if the cause is a brain allergy. All you have to do is go to their site and read what they have to say. Do just this, and that enlightenment alone may help you radically. It did for me.
So anyway, you are not “not listening to your therapist well enough” or “not following Jesus well enough” or “not being a good enough wife” or any of that. You are plenty good enough. You have tried and tried and tried and trust me, you are doing those things just fine but they won’t help binge eating. They will tell you how awful you are and you will only feel guilty and horrible about yourself. It’s time to get free. Find the key, and open the door.
A telephone message
I have just woken from an awesome 45-minute nap with Puzzle, awake and alive and remembering the phone message I left for someone right before I went to sleep. Wow, I wonder when she will pick it up and how she will feel. When you leave a message on an office messaging system, you are never sure the message will get through, but something tells me this one will get through okay. In fact, for whatever reason, it took three tries to get connected to the correct extension. But on the third try, I got connected just fine. I mentioned this in my message, jokingly, that it had taken three tries. I suppose that’s the way it is in baseball, too, you get three tries and then you give up. I do not give up so easily. I guess that’s why I am alive.
I’m going to tell you what I said in my message to the director of the Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association, otherwise known as MEDA. Her name is L.B. and we have been speaking now and then. Often, she wants to know how I am doing. I like her. Now, granted, the NEDA walk is tomorrow, and MEDA of course is putting it all on, so L.B. is probably quite busy with all the organizing stuff right now as we speak. I do plan on showing up. But never mind all that.
I didn’t really think about what I would tell her beforehand or anything, and I knew she wouldn’t be picking up the phone, so I knew I’d be leaving a voicemail and not actually speaking with her directly. But here’s roughly what I said:
“I am happy to say that I am very glad that I chose not to submit myself to the path of hospitalization going back into the merry-go-round of institutionalization and the mental health system, because I would have been stuck forever in it and it would have crushed me. I am happy that I chose the other path, the path of inner strength, the path of self-care, of following my gut. For sure, I have done the right thing, because the only one who can save you is yourself. We are all alone here. For several weeks I have not done any eating disorders behaviors. I have not abused laxatives or done any other nasty purging behaviors I had been doing, nor have I skipped days and days of eating, in fact, I have rarely skipped a meal. I have begun to enjoy sit-down meals and use and try different recipes. Puzzle and I enjoy our long walks together once again. I broke down and agreed to take a pill to help me sleep, and I’m quite happy that this pill is not a “psych med” per se, and that sleep has returned to my life. Now, I sleep at night and am awake at day. People are saying, “Julie, I enjoyed talking to you,” and I have not heard this in a long time, because most of the time, folks are turned off by me. I feel like I have my life back. Julie Greene has her shit together.”
I felt like I was about done with the message, and was about finished, but then, before I hung up, I added the following,
“And L, guess what: For several weeks now, I have not woken up with the word “fat” screaming itself at me. All that is out of my life.”
I felt wicked decent about the message. I guess anyone with an eating disorder knows what I mean about that last part. I hope I made her day. I would love to make anyone’s day.
Julie, you are wicked awesome.
Having fun cooking for myself and Puzzle
I had no clue what to title this entry, but if I forget to give my entries a title when I start out, I end up messing up somehow, so that’s the title I ended up with. Let’s face it: People and dogs like food.
If you’re curious as to how I’ve been doing, or even if you’re not, I’m going to clue you in: I’ve been doing awesome lately. Now of course I still have to be a bit careful when I go see Dr. P Wednesday (I’ve decided I might as well show up) NOT to use the well-known buzz-words, “I’m on top of the world, Dr. P!”
See, shrinks are well-trained to listen for these exact words. Shrink’s translation: mania. However, I am not manic. Fact is, we all live on the earth’s surface. Humans have yet to make a home within the core of the earth or anywhere near underground. Yeah, there are basement apartments and you can spend many, many hours, I suppose, working underground in a mine. Now when I was a kid, we were all thinking we could dig a hole from my backyard to China, and we occasionally tried but never did quite reach China. Good thing, cuz even now, I don’t know a word of Chinese and would never get by over there. So we are all on the earth’s surface, on top of the world, which is just plain fact. But when your shrink asks how you are doing, do NOT say your are on top of the world, not in those exact words. You will be handed pills. Or even sectioned.
But guess what? The shrink has been indoors “working” (in other words, pushing pills) all day in an office with no windows. The shrink has no clue that the weather is the best it’s been in weeks. No wonder you might feel so damned good. A lot of “normals” feel damned good today and they are not handed pills. Why? They didn’t end up with a label so they didn’t have to go to a shrink.
I think one reason I feel good, actually, is that I stopped taking the Abilify I was taking mid-February. It was a bit hard at first cuz for a few days, I went through a small amount of withdrawal. Yes, I went off cold turkey. 10 mgs to zero in a flash. They say this is inadvisable, however, at 5mgs, I was barely sleeping, and at 10mgs, not sleeping at all. I think I’ve already explained the whole half-life thingy and my thinking on it and how it took a week to get out of my system entirely. The withdrawal was barely noticeable. I guess if I worked a job or had to drive a car, it would have been more risky, but these are non-applicable. At its worst, my sentences were a little jumbled. I suffered no jitters, no flu-like symptoms, no sweats, nothing like that. It took ages, but finally, I began to sleep a tiny bit.
I have mentioned how I spent a month hiding in my bed just laying there, withdrawn from the world entirely. Much of this was cuz I was trying to get my sleep back, and a lot was of course because of the bogus therapist I unfortunately crossed paths with. Yes, I will indeed file a complaint and I hope he is plenty surprised and I hope I feel empowered because of it and I hope this prevents him from doing further harm to patients who end up duped by him the way I was duped.
So what about the sleep problem? Dr. P gave me more pills, of course, as I told you, and kinda shrugged when I asked for a therapist. I have tried the benzos but refused to even fill the prescription for the antipsychotic, Latuda, which, according to documentation, causes breast enlargement, increases blood pressure, and does indeed cause weight gain.
Why was I put on the Abilify, back last fall, in the first place? The symptom I described to Dr. P was my “anger machine.” Constant anger. Well, gee, if you’d been subject to an abusive therapist, M, whom I’d endured from Thanksgiving 2010 till March 2012, who every single session threatened to put you in the state hospital, and constantly manipulated you and accused you of things you didn’t do, you’d turn into an anger machine by the end of all that, too. Not only that, I’d gone through withdrawal from Imipramine. Antidepressant withdrawal sucks. (I hear that some people are doomed to stay on Effexor, for instance, forever only because withdrawal is so intolerable.) I’d been treated like an animal by the “sitters” and in the psych ward at Mass General, and badly deprived of water for no medical reason, and to make things worse, I got out and nobody believed me. Anyone would turn into an anger machine after that. Even a “normal.” It would be kinda normal, actually, to feel distrust of the world after all that, wouldn’t it?
I’m over my anger machine phase. I no longer feel constant rage. Yes, even off Abilify. Especially now that I experience sleep, so being off Abilify is helpful in fact.
Sleep is still a huge problem. One of the pills she gave me was 2mgs Klonopin. This might keep me asleep about 2-1/2 hours or so. The other pill I have is Ambien 10 mgs, which only keeps me asleep an hour. Neither is good sleep. I only use the Ambien for a nap, not at night. Neither is really worth taking. I’m always just plain exhausted. Often, I have to cancel what I’ve got planned, and just lay down all day, I’m too tired.
I tried Somnapure, which I think is how it is spelled. Here’s a hint: I read the reviews, and one reviewer said you can go to their website and sign up for a free bottle of samples. Then you are put on automatic subscription. Just call the number and cancel before you are put on automatic subscription and there is no penalty. They will connect you to a “sleep technician” or whatever. Sleep technician? Well, who are these folks? I guess they are like those folks who work in mattress and bed stores. They are selling you a product. They will tell you you have to keep on taking it so it will “build up in your system.” This sounds like baloney to me if it is “non habit forming.” But get this: they will mail you another bottle, no delivery charge, entirely free. That’s what I found out. Then call them by the deadline and be sure to cancel, cuz if it works for you, you can buy it cheaper in a store on sale.
Do observe the ingredients: mostly valerian root, 500 mgs per tablet, and you’re supposed to take two tablets. I can buy valerian root, loose powder form, in bulk, at my food coop and I think last time I bought it, food stamps paid for it, but that didn’t matter even cuz all you really want is a little, little bag. Seal the bag, keep it dry, and put the little bag in a dark, air-tight bottle, such as an old pill bottle.
The other ingredients of Somnapure are as follows: Lemon balm extract 300 mgs (never tried), L-Theonine 200 mgs (never tried), hops extract 120 mgs (this is supposed to be real good), Chamomile flower extract 50 mgs (this is one that works real well for some people, but I’ve heard you can be allergic to it), Passion flower extract 50 mgs (never tried), and melatonin 3 mgs. Regarding melatonin, I need at least 20 mgs to sleep at all, so I’m sure the 6 mgs in two tablets of Somnapure does nothing.
Now they will tell you never, never take more than two tablets. Not that I took this stuff very much, I didn’t, just tried a few times and gave up. But one night I got all frustrated, took four, and actually slept. Not a whole lot, not real good deep sleep, but sleep nonetheless. Meanwhile, I had had very good results from the powder Valerian root I’d purchased and still have quite a bit of. I plan to purchase a small amount more next time the coop has its discount day.
I do have to take a whopping dose of it, far more than the 1,000 mgs that would be in those two Somnapure tablets. A thousand mgs sure won’t cut it for me. This valerian root I get is total powder, like baby powder. Here’s how I measure it. I’ll bet herbs come in varying strengths and grades, which complicates the matter, but I weigh it with a jewelry scale, for better or worse. You can purchase a simple pocket jewelry scale from Amazon. Then I mix it with water and drink it. There are various teas that contain Valerian root but these appear to contain very, very little and are very expensive teas. Or you can buy a bottle of tablets or capsules of the stuff, and there are tinctures and the like. This is all in the experimental stages for me, and please don’t take my word for it on how to measure the stuff. Or if it’s bad for you or good for you. Think of all the crap you put in your body. We can obsess forever on this. I honestly don’t know.
The absolute best thing is sleeping with Puzzle. She gets practically comatose when she’s asleep. I can’t imagine sleeping with a human. The whole idea of sleeping with a human, and all the complications, broken promises, and long-term consequences that go along with it kinda grosses me out. Does this mean there’s something “wrong” with me? Am I deprived? Naw, it means my life is someplace else, someplace far better right now. I’m enjoying myself plenty.
I guess I’ll get to the recipe part now. I made a recipe the other night, and had a blast. First, I had to go out and get the ingredients. I did this because I absolutely had to get food for Puzzle anyway, so I figured I might as well pick up a few things for myself. I had a recipe tucked away in my computer that a while back I’d stolen off the web, so I decided I would cook it up.
But let me diverge for a sec to say that another really, really good thing that’s happening to me is that stopped doing dairy. Now, what did they tell us at what my brother called “the food hospital”? That if you leave out a food group, you have an eating disorder? I think the Brain Bio Center at Princeton has been around a lot longer than the “food hospital” has, and folks of course still think these Princeton scientists are a bit nuts. I know a lot of “mental patients” who got dragged to the Brain Bio Center by their parents and did, indeed, find Princeton’s Brain Bio Center’s scientists a bit on the kooky side. They talk about “brain allergies.” People still think it’s nonsense. But I do know this: When I do dairy, I get depressed. Like very. Every pseudo-dairy, such as soy milk is a downer for me, for whatever reason. Or I just plain (to be politically incorrect) go off my rocker. So I very deliberately stopped dairy.
Maybe dairy is sort of like a very, very bad trip for me. Once someone who is alcoholic learns that alcohol is no good for them and it does bad things for them, learns that it makes them act in bad ways, they get educated. They learn that “non alcoholic beer” is not going to do them any good, either. This Joe explained to me one day when we were at a restaurant, at least so it was in his case. This was of course eons ago. He said it wouldn’t bug him in the least if I ordered non-alcoholic beer, but he would choose not to give me a kiss later on. He wanted no reminders, not a taste of his past, a long, long time ago, which was even before we had met.
I remember last fall when I was feeling real good for a while, I had stopped dairy, too. So there you have it. I have stopped binge eating. What a blessing. You can imagine what chowing down on a pound of cheese would do to me, and has done to me. Been there, done that. People have allergies and the like. Maybe they are allergic to almonds. They eat almonds and get then get sick. So then once they learn, they know not to do it again.
Well, anyway, the recipe. It calls for the use of a wok. My stove is plain impossible and won’t do a wok. Only two of the four burners work at all. I substituted quinoa for rice because I had it in my head that rice automatically sticks to everything and is difficult to clean up, and quinoa is a bit more practical. The recipe called for fresh peas. I gasped at the price and no way was I gonna buy them. I wasn’t gonna even walk down the frozen food aisle, either, just wasn’t in the mood. I figured I had enough veggies at home, all bought on sale and cheaply, and I’d find some colorful, nutritious substitution that would work as well as fresh peas. Cilantro wasn’t too expensive, so I purchased a small bunch. Of course, if you live alone, you are doomed to live and breathe fresh cilantro for the next few days and be very creative with it, just like everyone is with turkey right after thanksgiving. Or it will go bad and you can throw it out. I bought the smallest piece of fresh ginger I could find in the basket, trying real hard not to appear like I was touching stuff and getting everything germy. I knew I already had ginger at home but I wasn’t sure if it was still in decent shape.
I bought Brussels sprouts, these being on sale for the second week in a row at Stop & Shop, kinda rare. I like Brussels sprouts mainly because they are almost as cute as Puzzle.
Of course, I went to what I call the “dented can aisle,” this being the rejects, the throw-aways. You know my analogies. “On the fringe of society.” That’s where occasionally I find a real steal, but not always. This past week I found a bag of barley marked half price and a lot, lot, lot of legumes, but I only bought the barley and decided I have plenty of legumes at home already. Last week, I purchased a lot of produce in the “dented can aisle” including yams marked way down, but this week, I didn’t see anything I needed.
The day before Easter turns out to be an awesome day for shopping for meat for your dog. Of course, I had no clue that this would be the case until I arrived at the supermarket. I found lots of stuff marked down, lots of organ meat most humans don’t want, all sorts of stuff, and yes, red meat marked down too, so Puzzle is a very, very happy camper right now.
My food total this week was I think $20. Or maybe more. I also replaced the dish that got busted in the microwave and I got a roll of paper towels.
So anyway, this recipe, I’ve made it twice now. My stove is rather useless and always has been, but I made do. I used my veggie steamer to cook the quinoa. The recipe says, “tofu, cubed.” It doesn’t say what size cubes. So both times I did the recipe, I made little sticks. I figured there was no harm in making little sticks of tofu, and indeed, they were as cute as Brussels sprouts, no harm at all. I put the little sticks on top of the quinoa once the quinoa was finished cooking. It all heated up very, very fast. Meanwhile, I had chosen a veggie, broccoli, to substitute for peas, just for the heck of it, and steamed that as well in the veggie steamer. I made sure it didn’t overcook.
But while this was all happening, I had to do the flavoring. This was on the crucial, rather tricky side, but much easier than I thought it would be. I used my old cast-iron pan, the one I’ve had since I was 17 years old and lived in a college dorm. I can’t use my large cast-iron pan because my large burner is completely non-functional. I cut an onion in half, peeled it, chopped it up, and put the pieces in a dish. I minced a chunk of ginger. Sure enough, all the minced ginger immediately dumped onto the floor. The only good thing about that was that I had plenty more ginger, the container that the ginger was in was plastic and not glass, and now my floor was kinda ginger-smelling which may be a good thing considering my microwave exploded and the fire department was in here the other night. Of course, I swept it all up, minced more ginger, and laughed my fool head off. Next time, I kept all my stuff far away from the edge of the counter.
The recipe says to grate the ginger, but both times I have minced it, and it seems that I am very much still alive and well.
The recipe says you’re supposed to stir-fry the garlic, ginger, and onion (or scallion) in the wok with a small amount of olive oil. I was using pre-minced garlic out of a squeeze bottle, so I knew to add this late in the game or it would burn and get gross. Of course, I was also using a cast-iron pan and not a wok. Meanwhile, I had chopped up some cilantro and set it aside. Every recipe I’ve got that has fresh cilantro in it says to add the fresh cilantro at the very, very end. This recipe states that as well.
As soon as all these flavorings were nicely browned, I turned off my burner and transferred all this stuff into a large pot. I took the quinoa and tofu (these were in different amounts the two times I did the recipe, and the second time I’d thrown in a lentil or two for the heck of it) carefully out of my steamer and added them to the pot. Then the veggies. The first time it was broccoli only, but the second time I did the recipe I added different, more varied and colorful veggies. I quickly cut the cooked veggies into smaller pieces while they were still hot. Luckily, they were not at all overcooked. Last but not least I tossed in a very, very tiny amount of Ponzu sauce (the recipe calls for “low sodium soy sauce,” which I didn’t want to purchase, but I already had Ponzu sauce), and a very small amount of toasted sesame oil. And the fresh cilantro. I mixed everything up, and it was ready to eat.
All this was quite thrilling to me.
And no, this food was not for Puzzle. It was food I cooked for myself.