29 March 2010

Fighting anorexia

Dreams of recovery and freedom continue to haunt me. I see a life without anorexia just within grasp. My fingers brush against it and I try to grab hold tight, only to have this shadow dream life spirit itself away. It hides from me, glancing back mockingly while tears flow and I beg to be release,  God please release me from anorexia; I am so tired.

Ana ... ED ... The Evil One ... The enemy has many names. And it has many tricks, tricks thrown at me each time I try to move toward recovery. This journey started out as simple restricting. I didn't eat and I lost weight. End of story.

Then the illness grew and new manifestations entered my life. First Ana whispered that I should purge my food, and helpfully suggested laxatives. I didn't do it every day; just when I needed to assuage the guilt of indulging in too much food. What was too much food? Anything that resembled what a normal person would eat. Ana said I wasn't to be normal; I was to be light and delicate, beyond mere human needs of eating normal meals and the companionship that often comes with that.

Christmas 2008. It was a few months since I left a two-week IP stay at Beaumont Hospital. This stay was meant to nourish my depleted, 92-pound via a tube (called a TPN) running through my vein and set just above my heart. For ten days, I often thought about those nutrients feeding my heart, taking care of it when I wasn't able to. It was a comforting image.

But I struggled after leaving Beaumont that first time. I didn't know it then, but I would return to IP six more times between September 2008 and February 2010. I hadn't gained any weight during the months after my discharge; I was still hovering under the 100-pound mark. I was struggling and beginning to think anorexia would be with me longer than I had originally expected. ED had become a persona, and I created this blog to vent some of my feelings.

One night, I was looking at the Christmas tree with its lights of blues and greens and purples and reds. The angel ornaments hung serenely, gold and silver intermixing and glinting upon the lights. Suddenly I became very angry, so angry at myself. I decided I hated myself for having anorexia. I felt I was spoiling yet another Christmas for myself and my husband, David. I got off the couch, went to the bathroom and took a small razor, slashing it against my skin several times until I finally felt the anger leave me.

It wasn't a suicide attempt. It wasn't even an attempt to hurt myself. To this day, all I know is I felt angry at myself, I despised myself and I needed to release that anger. Why cutting? I do not know.

It never has become a regular practice, and I didn't really cut myself except once or twice throughout the years after that first incident. Then my husband left for a two-week trip to Florida in February. The trip was less than a week after I got out of my seventh stay in IP, this time for refeeding via a NG tube.

Dr. Sacekyfio told us the trip was a bad idea, but we did not to listen. Ana was overcome and dancing with glee; the freedom to restrict and indulge in all sorts of harmful behaviors was an opportunity too rich to pass up. I told him to go, that he needed a break. I felt like such a virtuous wife; so selfless and giving, when in reality I wanted him to go because I couldn't wait to stop eating again.

But that's not all I did. Ana thought of all kinds of new ideas, and no, I am not going to list them here because of the fear it could be too triggering and dangerous for some people. The only thing I will write about — and that's because cutting is so common among anorexics; another manifestation of our hatred of our bodies? — is that one night, I found myself carving, "Hate me," in my upper right arm.

As I watched the blood seep to the surface, I couldn't believe I did that. I felt faint. It seemed like it was someone else's my arm; that couldn't be my arm, I couldn't have done that. I still can't believe I did that, although the marks are still there and I am still too embarrassed to wear short-sleeve shirts.

I thought to myself, I started out restricting food and now it comes down to this? What was happening to me?

When I started treatment with Dr. Sackeyfio in August 2008, I promised him two things — I would never lie to him and I would always be upfront about what I did. I would always be honest; otherwise, I thought I would be wasting his time and mine and what would be the point in going to a therapist only to lie to him?

I have sometimes regretted that promise, but I'm proud to say I have kept it. Sometimes I have spent a 45-minute session dancing around what I know I have to say, then blurting it out with two minutes to finish up. Sometimes I have had to write down what I needed to admit I had done to myself, or about what was too painful to talk about. There have been times I have had to shut my eyes and block out everything as I talk, particularly recently as we delve into the likely causes of my anorexia.

Each trick Ana has thrown at me has been exposed and tonight I had to rip the lid off another one. 

I was at a small party to welcome home my nephew, and I just wanted to be a normal person, just like anyone else who went to a party and grazed a bit and maybe became somewhat stuffed. I also ate because I was hungry; I still eat so little, I've been restricting for days and I'm not sure why.

But for the first time since I've developed anorexia, I tried to make myself throw up my food. This wasn't just a fleeting thought or a quick, halfway attempt. This was 25-minutes bent over the toilet sticking my fingers down my throat as far down as I could. I was desperate; I felt so full, I was so angry with myself for drinking four glasses of wine and eating chips and salsa and homemade brownies made by my sister-in-law.

I couldn't get the food up. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't make myself throw up. I got up, disgusted with myself and immediately called my doctor and left him a message about what I tried to do. I didn't wait until our appointment on Wednesday. I'm sure he was thrilled to get a drunken message from me on a Sunday night, but I knew I would dance around it and I knew I had to expose this latest trick as soon as possible.

To quote my husband, "This is bad." (I told him during what I tried to do during the drive home; no bathroom stops for me and he made sure every laxative I had thrown away this morning - in an attempt to renew my promise to God; another story - was mixed in with the garbage so I couldn't get to the pills.) My husband sounded frightened of this latest manifestation of my illness. He reminded me that throwing up had been taboo; I hated to throw up and this attempt spoke of increasing desperation.

But this also is recovery. I step forward, filled with hope. I step backward, frightened and filled with anxiety. And I continue to dream and hope and work toward recovery, making sure the steps forward are more than those taken backward. Ana ... ED ... The Evil One ... can throw every trick possible at me. I remind myself I have weapons to fight, too. I have my friends, my doctor, my husband and my family.

Above all, I have my God.

This is the start of Holy Week, when we remember the Passion of Christ and the ultimate sacrifice He made for us out of the love the Lord holds for us. For me. As I move forward to Good Friday and reflect on those horrific hours of His dying and death, His descent into hell and freeing of souls; I pray that He can free me from anorexia. I remember that Easter morning is coming, and He will rise, reminding us of God's power and love.

And when he had entered, He said to them, "Why do you make a tumult and weep? "The child is not dead but sleeping. . . .Taking her by the hand he said to her, "Tal'itha cu'mi"; which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise. Mark 39, 40-41

I am not dead, and I too shall arise to life.

                                     "Breaking With Midnight" Photo courtesy of Nasa.gov


lisalisa said...

Angela, you are so brave. You will get through this darkness and see the sun! Ana is strong, but you are stronger, otherwise you would not still be alive. You will beat this!

Jessie said...

You are such a strong and brave person and you will get through this. You will leave anorexia behind forever. I hate the way that it manages to change and morph into hundreds of different manifestations but the fact that you can recognize these for what they are--ED--is a huge step in the right direction. I too am feeling hopeful this Holy Week, and I am hoping that it will be a time of renewed strength for us both.

Eating Alone said...

I'm glad you told your doc. That's important. I too dance around the issue for 40 and then spurt it out and run out the door. Not fair at all.

Glad your H threw out the lax. Those are bad new's!

samtin said...

Honestly, I didn't read your blog... I just got curious about who you are after reading your comments from the blog of "size 0"...

I'm sooooooooo happy for you! Don't worry, I know you'll get through with this. :D because I did! Though, I wasn't really that worst though since i wasn't that stick thin... Many people are walking on this earth undiagnosed anyway because they aren't too thin to meet the criteria.

Anyway, I know you'll make it. Stay healthy!!!

tracy said...

i wish i had half of your strenght and beauty.
i understand about the cutting and the throwing up.
Blessings to you.

les jeune fille à les oiseaux said...

your story is amazing and you are a very strong, positive and inspirational woman! i applaud you for facing your ED head on and wish you the best of luck on this path to recovery! hoping to read more of your writings soon!