14 April 2010

604 calories

(Warning - This post could be triggering to those in recovery. Please do not read this if numbers or descriptions of restricting would be harmful to you.)
604 calories.
That is what I consumed yesterday. I made sure I got up too late for breakfast. I had my morning coffee sans sugar. I called myself a pig for drinking 230 calories of heaven in the form of an ice-cold McDonald's orange pop for lunch to accompany my four nuggets (trying to ignore the Happy Meal slogan on the box, which reminded me this amount is meant for a child.) I measured exactly one-third cup of rice and one-third cup of peas for dinner.
I went to bed hungry. I felt guilty because millions of people, in particular children, go to bed hungry without choice each night. And I have a choice. Or do I? Who is in control here, anyway - me or anorexia nervosa?

98.2 pounds.
That's what I weighed yesterday morning. The ritual of the scale hasn't stopped for three years. It's always the same: get up, blurry-eyed and sleepy, then go to the bathroom before stepping naked on the innocent-looking white box which decides each day whether I will restrict or eat. I would like to drop kick my scale across the room, set it on fire, smash it with a hammer or hurl it off the tallest building I can find in this small town. (I have many fantasies of revenge for this hated symbol of my descent into anorexia; I've destroyed several over the years, only to go buy another one.)

I am a hypocrite. For weeks, I have been posting on a pro-ana blog deploring the very behaviors I am doing, trying to convince these young girls to stop and think before some of them become sucked into the hell of anorexia. I tell them they don't want to do this; that anorexia can't be ditched as easily as a bad diet. Several others also have posted on this particular site and one woman (Marge of Lake LaBerge) was particularly blunt with them, calling them (freaking) morons and telling them they will look worse than the heroin junkies hanging out in her Vancouver neighborhood.

So why can't I stop doing this to myself? I am the freaking moron. I worked so hard last year to gain weight. I had to consume about 3,000 calories of food and Ensure to reach 110 (which still is too low, but much healthier I was.) It was sheer hell; the whole refeeding process was one of feeling bloated and fat and moody and I could hardly stand myself.

I ended 2009 with the incredibly positive post, "Leaving ED- one year later." "I dream of the future, one filled with love and teaching and writing and learning." I thought I had it all wrapped up. I thought 2010 would be the year I would conquer all my eating disorders fears and behaviors, and put the whole damn thing behind me.

Things starting falling apart by January 2. Happy Freaking New Year's! My words and my hopes make me want to throw up. I try to help others and support them when they are struggling,

I called The Renfrew Centers after my one-week IP stay in February. I tried to eat more after I was discharged, but soon ditched that plan when David went to Florida for two-weeks (Ana was just ecstatic about this, rubbing her hands with glee at the thought of restricting and cutting and oh my!) and haven't stopped restricting since. I am convinced if I don't do something more, my next trip to Beaumont Hospital will be to the morgue.

I have completed my assessment and plan to be admitted to Renfrew's 30-day treatment program (so sorry, insurance doesn't cover residential) the second week of May. The program is designed to help me overcome my fear of food and weight, and then dig a little deeper through various groups and programs. The idea is to teach me healthy coping skills to replace my all-time favorite, restricting.

So if I am doing this (and borrowing thousands of dollars from my father to pay for my living arrangements), why have I been trying to basically destroy myself the month before I go? To prove how sick I am? To make sure I am at a low enough weight so any gain will feel less traumatic? To sabotage any chance at succeeding?

Or because deep down I am a hypocrite who really doesn't want to get better? Am I really pro-recovery? Or has my past associations with pro-ana sites and my current campaign to convince a few pro-ana girls triggered me? Am I falling again for the message that I need to be thin, so thin you can see my ribs and clavicle and protruding spine? So thin that it hurts to sit in most chairs?

So thin that I get sick again? Is that I want? To become so sick I can't go to Renfrew? Why do I try and sabotage any attempts at recovery? (I've done this for years. I continue "Bargaining with Recovery.")

Am I a hypocrite? I've always tried to be honest here. But I can't yet write about what is underneath the anorexia. Exposing the roots would be too much, too violating. What's underneath, at least as far as I have explored with my doctor, feels dirty and slimy and too ugly to ever trust telling anyone else. And I can't seem to stop restricting, especially after we talk about what's underneath; what might be the root causes of me developing anorexia.

590 calories.
That's what I consumed today. I want to go lower, but I know I need to go higher.

Who is in control here, anyway? Because right now, I feel out-of-control.


Telstaar said...

Oooh Angela, my heart goes out to you. I wish there was easy answers but there is not. This is a complex tricky, crazy illness. It is not fun, not easy and honestly, would ANY person in their right mind REALLY choose these things? No, they wouldn't. It doesn't matter which side of the coin you're trying to choose from, the COIN is crazy... you need a new coin!!! Am I making any sense??

Hun, I don't usually recommend books and the like but I think maybe if you haven't read this one you might like it, its called "Biting the hand that starves you" by David Epston. It's very good and clever... If you have time... maybe you could give it a go?? Ana will NOT want you to read it, but try to do it for me if you can. I don't expect it to FIX everything and I'm VERY glad that you're going into the treatment program because hopefully it will be enough to at least change the cycle for you, to give YOU, Angela, more of a choice.

I don't think you're doing this, I don't think you're that in control. I think YOUR control comes from being able to recognise that and choosing what to do, things like the treatment program, being honest, reaching out for help. I think that you need to realise that where you DO have control may not be in the area of the eating disorder, but outside of it.

I'm thinking of you. Email if you want to.

Abby said...

To be honest, you aren't in control, as the disorder has completely taken over any sense of rationality that you possess. You don't need me, Dr. S or anyone else to tell you that, you know it. Many times when you know treatment is just around the corner, you feel panicked, like you have to hurry up and do everything you "want" to do before they "force" you to stop.

The thing is, no matter where you go, there you are. You can work with the best treatment team in the world, but they can't do the work for you. You have to find something you want more than the disease, more than being sickly thin. I can't pretend to know your situation, but I have my own and can relate.

You want help, but you don't actually want to give up the life you've created, even if it's miserable (it's what you know, after all). I have never dipped my intake that low, but my weight has been quite similar. At this point, you're not nourished enough to think with any trace of rationality. Trust your team and those who care about you, take a leap and think of the consequences--can it really get worse? Might as well try something different...

Eating Alone said...

Not trying to trigger you but when I was losing weight - medical reasons - I was under a Doctors care, seeing her every week sometimes twice, I was on 800 calories and it was dangerous. I know I'm a guy and bigger but this was ridiculously low. What you are not eating is dangerouse. You need to go that programs.

Will they take you if you are medically compromised? That is where you are heading. You are not a child and a childs meal is not enough.

Also please stop reading pro-ana things. I know that you say your trying to help them, don't it's your ANA wanting to make you restrict. Help yourself first.

Frugalista said...

You are not a hypocrite you simply have lost control to your disorder. Sorry to hear that you are struggling so much. I too hate the darn scale but am a slave to it. I have to wonder why oh why does this all matter so much? I hope you can get better and find your way out of this illness. You deserve more then what you are getting right now. I'd say just eat more but I know that is so much easier said then done and you can't do it unless you are ready and willing.

jessa said...

I think that it isn't so much hypocrisy as it is intense ambivalence. I change my mind about this stuff every day. That ambivalence can be maddening, being pulled so strongly in opposite directions. It is painful. It totally sucks, but I think it is probably a good thing. Sometimes (not always) it helps me to remind myself that when I am further in recovery and feeling better, I will be totally on board with the eating and won't freak out anymore about what I'm eating now. My present self is miserable about this, but my future self will be okay with it.

I made some diagrams about that, I will email them to you, Angela. (Is that super nerdy? It is okay, I am a super-nerd.) The gist is that when life's awfulness is big enough that life with the ED is honestly better, I veer toward the ED; when life without the ED is better, I veer toward recovery. Every week after therapy, recovery is harder because things get dredged up and life feels worse.

Marge of Lake LaBerge said...

I feel a bit bad for being so blunt earlier. I don't know how I stumbled upon that pro-ana blog, but I didn't know a fraction of the scope of issues that surround anorexia nervosa or "wanna-rexia". After reading that blog, and yours, I think I have a bit more understanding.

I don't, however, feel bad about calling them dumb girls. They're morons because they're amazed that exercise makes them hungrier, because they call their mothers "cows" for telling them they're beautiful just the way they are, and the majority of them don't know how to spell. They are clad in the pink and glitter of a spoiled rotten life, probably have an inch of cake-makeup on their faces, and are the types of people who made high school a living hell.

You are not a moron, and you're definitely not a failure. You are courageous (at least as far as I have read on your blog and on that pro-ana blog). I hope that Anonymous turd didn't set you off. He/she was merely a slightly more literate clod, a coward, and really wasn't qualified to make any of those assertions.

I've had a few friends who have struggled with drug addiction, and it is always a long battle. The worst and longest part is always realizing they are in complete control of their lives. This is the slow cognizance of their potential and self-respect. After that, the battle is over.

I believe you know your potential, now you are working on self-respect. I don't need to wish you luck; I believe you will get there.

I Hate to Weight said...

you feel what you feel. i'm the same way. i relate to plus-size women but want my own weight to be small.

i wish, i wish, i wish that i could walk the walk i talk.

but i don't yet. and that's where i am.

be gentle with yourself.

getting underneathe is terrifying beyond words. i so hope you can begin to nourish yourself, even as you cope with what lies around your eating disorder

lisalisa said...

I can totally relate to feeling like you need to get as sick as you can before you can get help. That is actually very common. I think of it as "going for broke". But remember, you need to get to Renfrew ALIVE! Please try to take care of yourself!!!!!!!!!

Thinking of you even if I dont always comment <3

Anonymous said...

How can anyone council or try to help another when you are not in control of yourself. That is like a drug addict or alcoholic trying to be a mentor to other alcoholics or durg addicts. You have to fix yourself before you can try with anyone else. Then and only then when you have won the war. Think of what you can do with what you have learned. Life is what you make it. Do you want life?

Angela E. Gambrel Lackey said...


You make some good points; the reason I posted remarks was to try and help some of these young girls see that size zero is a. not glamorous at all (believe me, you won't look like Nicole Richie or Allegra Versace) and b. the crowning achievement. Counseling is actually an incorrect term (btw, it is counsel; the word "council" refers to a body of people); only those who are licensed can actually counsel people (I know, because I used to be a licensed social worker.) I just thought if they saw the reality, not the pretty media pictures, it might inspire them to think. I do tend to be a dreamer.

However, I'm well aware I am not recovered and I never have said on any site that I am recovered. That would be a lie. I also realize it has become somewhat of a trigger for me, and also I have pretty much said all there is to say. The rest is up to them and most people do not end up with an eating disorder; you do have to have a propensity toward it to develop it.

I think I will use Marge's analogy of drug addiction. There are some people who can try marijuana, coke, whatever once and then never want the drug again. But if the person is prone to addiction, then he/she will want the drug again and again and again ... I've tried marijuana a few times about 20 years, but it didn't do much for me and I have never again had the desire to use it. I have heard meth is the exception and can cause addiction in many people who previously had no addictive tendencies.

@Marge - I don't think you were harsh; you were blunt and sometimes that's all that gets through to people. My doctor can be very blunt about my illness, and I'm glad he is, because sometimes that's all that gets through to me.
And your description of some of those girls were right on and they did make high school hell. It was really hard not to make comments about the atrocious grammar, the horrible spelling and the overall illiteracy of some of the posters. The anonymous turd didn't get to me at all; anon was just an asshole who thought he/she knew everything and came off as sounding very ignorant. The only thing that person knows about me is my illness; I am so much more and some day I will have a blog which will reflect that (i.e. I will write about many topics which interest me and not just about eating disorders or my recovery, although I think I will always try to be a strong voice in trying to dispel the myths and stigma surround eating disorders.)

jessa said...

Anonymous --

I think there is a difference between counseling someone and warning someone based on your experiences. From what Angela has said here, it sounds like she gave warning more than counsel, but I have not read what she wrote in that community. I think there is value in saying, "I hear that you want to starve and exercise and purge to be skinny. I even hear the other reasons for wanting to do this. I was in the same place, I wanted to do those things and I did them. But this is what it got me: more depression, more anxiety, hospital admissions, feeding tubes. The ED may have made me skinny, but now I can't appreciate that. I thought it would solve my problems, some of the same problems that you say you think it will solve, but it made those problems worse and it gave me an extra problem to deal with, the addiction to the ED. I can no longer enjoy spending time with my friends, I fear that they will want to eat together, I secretly hide my food from them and live in shame. I can't enjoy my hobbies because I feel the need to spend that time exercising, and when I am not exercising, I still can't enjoy those things because I am consumed in ED related thoughts. I, too, thought this sounded like a really good idea, but after I engaged in the ED for a while, I found out how bad of an idea it really was. I say this not because I want you to be fat, although I know that's what I would have thought someone who warned me against the ED was trying to do. I say this because life with an ED is hell and it saddens me to see you heading that way, as I did, expecting something else." I doubt anyone said it in those words, but from what I gather, that is how Angela approached the people in the pro-ana venues.

I'm sure there are people who try to counsel others in their EDs without having conquered their own ED. I expect those people do that for reasons related to the issues behind their ED and they do need to be confronted about that so that they can get on with their own recovery. I do not think that fits Angela because she is very open about her struggles and her ambivalence. She appears very sincere in her desire that people not fall into the same sort of addiction she is in even while she caves in, conflictedly, to the desires of that addiction, not wanting others to feel as she does right now.

Angela --

I'm sorry if I have stepped on your toes. I hope not. What you have written and how you have shared on your blog is quite moving to me, sincere and genuinely well-intentioned. You are fantastic. I got a little bit broken-hearted over what seemed so clearly to be a misunderstanding of your motivations. I hope I have not muddled things further by misunderstanding.

Angela E. Gambrel Lackey said...

No, Jessa, you haven't stepped on my toes.:) And your description is pretty much what I said on the pro-ana boards and that's pretty much what it's like living with an eating disorder. You described it succinctly and reading the words makes me feel very sad, remembering what life was before.

My ambivalence is one of the reasons I called Renfrew and decided to go there. I plan to write more on this, but I know that I can't be ambivalent forever; anorexia will continue to tear down my body and mind until it kills me. I've woken up many mornings crying and saying I don't want to have this disease and then turned around and restricted for the day.

And deep down has always, always been the hope for recovery. What I am learning is that I will have to dig really deep down to achieve that recovery; it's not the quick fix I had hoped for when it first starting manifesting itself about four years ago. I'm finding out the reasons for my anorexia are complex and traumatic, and doing that work scares me.

But I will be 45 in July; I feel as if I simply don't have 10, 20 years to live and fight with this. I don't want to be a 65-year-old anorexic; the thought horrifies me, I look at women like Donnatella Versace and I am terrified.

No, never worry about stepping on my toes or anything with anything you write. You are always honest and thoughtful, plus considerate of others; and you have a lot of important things to say.

David Annis said...

If you can't manage to increase your caloric intake at least try to eat foods that are more nutritious than pop and McNuggets. That first step will help keep you healthier and might help you take the next step and eat more.