17 March 2010

Bargaining with recovery

I have to decide whether I want recovery or death from anorexia. As I wrote earlier, I have been bargaining with recovery. I want to be healthy and live a full life, one filled with love and learning and joy and laughter, and one without fear.

But I also want to be thin; to be the thinnest one around, the one who is pointed to and whispered about, the one people wonder, "How did she get so thin?" I asked my husband the other day if I looked "anorexic" and he answered (honestly) that I do. I was secretly pleased. I also was angry. For me, it's about being thin and then again, it's not about being thin. Being thin is the outward manifestation of my inner pain.

It's like the morning ritual of the scale — the number is never right. If it's lower than the day before, I'm pleased for just a moment (then - what about tomorrow? why isn't it lower by two pounds? three pounds? am I not a good enough anorexic? anybody else would have lost more, damn it!). If the number is higher, the war within starts (should I be glad? upset? I know I need to gain weight. But what if ... what if I ate too much, the wrong thing? what am I supposed to feel?) And if the number is static, I just shake my head, thinking the number will be better tomorrow.

There are moments that should have shocked me into recovery. Times at the store when I start to see black, the ground rising up to meet me, my knees shaking as I sink to the ground, sitting and pretending that I am fascinated by what is on the floor. Days when I have read a page three, four times; finally realizing I didn't understand one word because my brain didn't have the fuel it needed to process the words on the page. I ask myself — since when did it start taking me two hours to read fifty pages? Moments recently when I couldn't pull myself out of bed before noon, all because I remember, hey, I'm still anorexic today and that changes everything.

Then there was Saturday. I had my usual breakfast of yogurt; my heart broken by recent events and unable to eat more. I went to take my morning shower; the hot water always feels like a refuge from my world as long as I don't look at my body closely. Looking is a no-win situation since my relapse. Sometimes my eyes are open like Eve's, and I see the protruding hip bones and prominent clavicle; other times, I see the huge thighs and enormous stomach.

Muscles weakened, dizziness hit me, heart raced. I sank to the ground, shampoo still in my hair. A rare thought — I need more food — crossed my mind, and my husband fed me pieces of a cereal bar as I sat in the bathtub with the water running over me.

Not enough. I stood up, rinsed the shampoo out and quickly rubbed in the conditioner. I continued to feel weak and again sank to the bathtub floor. As I rubbed soap over my body, I reflected that I had to take a shower sitting down at the age of forty-four. Shaking all over, I tried my best to finish my shower as the hot water began to fade and I began to grow cold. The simple joy of the shower was gone, and my hair was damp with conditioner I didn't have the energy to rinse out.

I crawled out of the shower, wrapped a towel around my head and sank to the floor. And for the next hour, I couldn't move without my husband holding my arm. I felt old, older than the oldest person. I felt ashamed. And I felt scared.

I can't continue to bargain with recovery. As I wrote after a recent post, "Recovery isn't failure," on ED Bites, I am becoming more and more tired of anorexia being part of my life. I will fail either way. I can fail at recovery and win at anorexia. I could become the thinnest, but I will lose my soul and my life in the end.

Or I can fail at anorexia and win at recovery. The possibilities both frighten and thrill me. The thought of finally being free of Ana, to be able to eat and breathe and live without fear ... My mind swirls with thoughts of two very different futures ahead of me.

I step forward.

It will take more courage to embrace recovery than anything else I have done in my life. But ... no matter how many times I panic, no matter how many times I rage that recovery is a lie (at least for me), that a return to normal life is an impossible dream painted by my doctor ... no matter what I tell myself, I still believe in dreams.

I step forward ...

(A poem)

 Or the twisted path of Anorexia"

I wake up
Remembering who I was
Knowing who I am

I throw the label
At myself like a dirty bomb
A well-aimed hit

The fallout destroys
Reader, writer, wife
Lover, sister, friend

Human being
No more

I trace the steps
The path through this

Turning in circles
Dazed, confused
Wasted body

Not human


Meaning lost
Not by familiarity
But by contempt

I want to take
My wasted body
Apologize for 
Its pain

Outer pain
Shown through
Fine lines
Dead eyes

Stroke the fine
Blue veins
Protect the
Fragility I have
Both desired

And hated

Soothe the inner
Remembering food
Thrown away

To say
'I'm sorry'
I know others
Hurt you

And then
I did too.


I Hate to Weight said...

"I had my usual breakfast of yogurt; my heart broken by recent events and unable to eat more"

you wrote this in the middle of the blog. i don't know what you mean by "recent events". i wonder if there are things going on in your life that are so painful to look at that the anorexia is....well, almost perhaps easier?

this was such an honest and brave post. i'm so sad that you're in this. you're courageous in every step you take.

i pray,pray that you know there is hope. there is great hope.

take care, angela. you can do this.

Eating Alone said...

I'm listening. Please know that I think your a good person and you deserve to fight for yourself. If you can't find those that will fight for you and let them.

Anonymous said...

A first step towards recovery can be getting rid of your scale. It's scary, but ultimately empowering. Not knowing the number took away so much of the power of the number for me. I learned to live without it, and it weakened the hold the e/d has on me. It's a small step, but an incredibly important one.

Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye.

Lyn said...

I read your latest comment on ED Bites and followed you here. I am even older than you (if you can believe it), at 50. I have struggled with anorexia much of my life, but was only diagnosed at 45. I understand what you are going through. I used to love going into a store knowing that I could try on the smallest pair of jeans there and they would still be too big. I used to think the stares were because people were jealous. I liked it when people asked me for "dieting tips." And then, I didn't. People can't diet because it's only a small part of their life - not the whole thing.

Being anorexic is so easy and the rewards are so dependable. But being successful at anorexia means death.

What got to me, was realizing I have to feel the pain. I use restricting to try to avoid the uncontrollable pain. Being healthy doesn't mean there will be no more pain. The pain in my life won't kill me, but anorexia will.

The other thing is, nobody is going to save me.

Deciding to live means that I eat what my nutritionist tells me to, even when I cried my way through. And then it got easier. It stopped being the most important thing. And gradually, I started to live and face ugly things. And they didn't kill me. And I started to see possibilities beyond ED.

I still struggle, but I want to live. I hope you decide to live too. The rest is just detail.

I'm going to come back and check on how you are doing. Life is unpredictable, but worth the gamble. Even for us.

M. G. N said...

I just stopped by your blog. i hope you're okay! i can fully relate to everything you write. i'm in the middle of the battle myself. "should i chose life or death?". hugs, hugs, hugs!!


Lyn said...

How are you?

Niika said...

"Deciding to live means that I eat what my nutritionist tells me to, even when I cried my way through. And then it got easier. It stopped being the most important thing. And gradually, I started to live and face ugly things. And they didn't kill me. And I started to see possibilities beyond ED."

I completely relate to this. Once I got beyond a certain 'safe' weight when gaining from my lowest, I hated every pound I gained, every morsel of food I put in my mouth, for weeks. Yet I did it, and it became easier as those weeks went on. Just from reading your most recent couple of entries, it seems that you have in the past been able to gain the weight, but the "ugly things" that come later may be a sticking point. I think this is where the treatment you're considering at Renfrew could potentially help you a lot. It could help you to learn to cope with some of the things you don't know how to deal with at the moment. I know that if I hadn't been doing an intensive outpatient group three times a week for the last couple of months, I'm not quite sure where I'd be. And even yet my progress in recovery is very slow. So sometimes those extra supports are necessary.

Hang in there.