10 May 2010

What recovery meant to me

I wanted to be free.

I wanted to be free of anorexia. Free of the thoughts. Thoughts that taunted me 24/7, telling me I didn't deserve to eat, didn't deserve food or life or happiness or love. Thoughts that told me I am worthless and useless and ugly and that I don't deserve to live.

I sit here, dreaming of what might have been . . .

I wanted to continue with graduate school, learning and writing and exploring new ideas. I wanted to continue to grow as a writer, and planned someday to use my skills to do all sorts of things: advocate for those whose voices have been silenced by society, people with eating disorders and other mental illness, the poor and those who live on the fringes; write children's books and poetry; teach and help others discover the gift of writing within themselves; and just write for the sheer joy of it.

I wanted to heal my marriage of the damage anorexia has caused it, and rediscover the happiness and love that were ours before I got sick.

I wanted to be able to be there for my family and friends; rediscover relationships that didn't always revolve around how sick or how thin I am.

I wanted to go out and eat and not be afraid, spend time going to the movies and concerts and other events without anxiety nipping at my heels.

I wanted to stop the daily weigh-ins and calorie counting. I wanted to sit down at one meal, just one meal, without being afraid of the food. I wanted to eat one piece of food without knowing or caring about how many calories were contained within it.

I wanted to be free.

I wanted to return fully to myself, not be halfway there and never fully recover. I reached out for help, called Renfrew and was ready to give my total self to the program and begin true recovery.

But recovery costs money. I sit here, fully expecting a final no from the insurance company today. I constantly check my cell phone, waiting for it to ring. It would almost have been kinder if the insurance company would have said no this morning instead of drawing out the agony all day.

Do they not realize what this means to me? That I felt this would start me on the path of recovery. I felt that it would save me.

I was supposed to be on the last leg of my journey to Renfrew today, heading toward hope and help and possible recovery. Instead, I am sitting here filled with anxiety and wonder how I will handle that final no. I'm sorry I ever called Renfrew. I'm sorry I ever gave myself that hope.

Everyone says if this doesn't work out there's something else out there? WHAT??? There are no support groups here, the hospital is only a place for stabilization and if my insurance isn't going to cover this - a 30-day day treatment program - it isn't likely it will cover anything else.

To them, I am just a number. That reality was brought home to me Friday when my doctor said not to take this personally. How in the hell am I supposed to take it?


I am a human. I had a life, and I want it back. But I can't do it by myself. I can't handle the thought of getting better, only to have the fear of another relapse haunting my days and nights.

I wanted to be free. But I guess I'm just wasting my time.


Anonymous said...

Angela, my heart is heavy for you. When things like this happen, it reminds me of why I don't do hope: because hope has not served me well, it has served to provide me with devastating disappointment. I'm so sorry you have to go through this.

We need a real-life Institute of Awesomeness. A community where we can live together and when we are well we can live regular lives while supporting those among us who struggle, and when we struggle we will know that there are others there who can support us. For now, I can only offer the virtual Institute of Awesomeness. Let me know if there is anything I can do from afar.

Amber Rochelle said...

Recovery doesn't cost money. Treatment unfortunately comes with a heafty price...but recovery does not - and it's yours for the taking. I understand how hopeless you feel right now. I've been there.

If you really want all the things you listed, go get them. I know it's not easy...AT ALL. And I also know I'm not a great example. But believe it or not, you can do this, even without Renfrew, and even without an ed specialist in your area. Renfrew would have been a great jump start, but in the end it would be YOU that would have to do the work either way.

I think you have every right to feel the way you do right now. You've taken a huge blow. But, I don't believe for a second that you're not capable of recovery, even without a specialist around.

I know that probably sounds harsh, but I really do wish you the best.

Anonymous said...


just wanted to let you know that you words have a strong impact on me and that I am still praying for you. I am praying for the best possible outcome for you in this situation. You are an incredible writer. You have an incredible gift. I feel like you so much of the time, so I understand-not necessarily the ed but I understand the hating yourself and not feeling like you deserve to live.

But, that is the enemy talking, Satan himself, he comes to kill and destroy, but Jesus came to give you life and life more abundantly! God isn't the author of fear, h doesn't give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and sound mind. I have had so many dark days like you, but I have also read that there are only two things in this life, fear and love. God wants you to love yourself, he loves you, and Angela, I just wish you knew how much God loves you. I care about you, and I know that you have so many friends and family that thing the same exact thing. I don't want to give you a bunch of platitudes, because frankly, I understand the feeling of not wanting to hear about God when you are in your darkest hours. But, that is the enemy and right now he has you exactly where he wants you. Believing that the world would be better and that the people who love you would be in less pain if you weren't here. I know that feeling because i have it so much myself. I won't even dare give you advice about your ed because i know nothing about it,

but. if I have to come here and tell you every single day that God loves you aand remind you about that, I will, until you can believe it. I mean, really know it, not just in your head, but in your heart. God doesn't make junk. You are beautiful, you are worthwhile, and you *deserve* good things in your life. See you tomorrow!


Angela E. Gambrel Lackey said...

Oh, Robin - how can you be so kind to me and not even know me? If I could see you and everyone else who has posted words of support here, I would hug you all (and then probably cry on your shoulders).'

I am blessed because of all of you

Anonymous said...

Forgive me for being so blunt here, but I want you to listen. I want you to listen, because I care.

Have you ever seen the documentary, "Thin"? It followed four women through treatment at Renfrew. Every one of them went right back to the e/d. Renfrew only "cures" those who want to be cured *and* are willing to work for it. Recovery is just as hard whether one is at Renfrew or at home. I feel such empathy for you as a person who has also struggled much of my life with an e/d, but part of me wants to grab you and shake you and get you to let go of the victim mentality and allow yourself to see that you have strength within you that you don't even realize. You are giving away all your power to an insurance company. Why? Why do that? Why let an insurance company decide whether you can recover or not?

I wish you could let go of the romantic and dramatic parts of the e/d. You write about it as if its poetry, giving it an identity and a personality. It's not a person. It's not a god. It's an illness, that CAN be cured if a person is willing to work very hard to get better. Recovery is first and foremost learning to eat again. Once the brain is settled down and no longer starved, then a person can do work/therapy on trauma and other issues. They may be connected, but they are two separate things in many ways.

You seem to think Renfrew can fix you. I strongly challenge you to re-think that. YOU can save you. No one else. Renfrew won't make you eat. You will pick up a fork and put it in your mouth.

If you truly want to recover as badly as you say you do, then find a local therapist who has some experience with e/d and start working. This is not about Renfrew or the insurance company - it's about YOU. Empower yourself - reclaim your identity and let go of thinking "ana" rules your life. Ana isn't real. YOU are real. Life is real. Death is real. Ana - that's just a romantic idea that people get caught up in.

If you want to get better, if you want to have a better life, start taking small steps every day. Get rid of your scale. It's hard to obsess on a weight you don't know. Let go of the pictures with the NG tube. It gives power to the e/d. Stop letting it give you a sick identity.

Find people who can eat with you. See if your eating disorder specialist has a nutritionist he works with that you can see on the same days you drive to see him. Stop giving the power of your recovery to the insurance company and own it.

You have so many people that love and care for you. Not everyone has that. Most people do not have access to places like Renfrew. I never did. Does that mean I can't recover? Heck no! It just means I have to find a different way.

Don't let yourself get lost in self pity. You are stronger then that. Accept the loss, and move on. And let go of all the excuses as to why you can't recover. Instead of saying what you can't do, why not write about what you can do - what you are willing to do. How hard are you willing to work for that freedom?

Is is possible. I've lived it. So can you.

Take your power back. It's like in the Wizard of Oz - you already have it. You just need to realize it.

Angela E. Gambrel Lackey said...

@anonymous 2

Yes, I've seen the documentary "Thin." And yes, I have a 'local' - two-hour one way drive; there is no one closer - ED therapist. I've been working with him for almost two years. The nearest nutritionist is 45 minutes away; the rest are also about two hours away. I live in a pretty isolated part of my state.

You clearly don't understand my issues; I need more than weekly therapy. I have a lot of trauma-based issues that my anorexia is based upon that needs to be addressed, and I have been recovered - only to relapse so badly I ended up in the hospital with an NG tube. The whole idea of Renfrew was to help prevent future relapse, not 'cure' me.

Besides, this is a benefit my insurance offers and has no right to deny me. I was told I was covered until the day before I was to leave. It's great that other people can recover on their own; I'm sorry I'm not as strong as those people.

Finally, I DO NOT ROMANTICIZE this illness; clearly you haven't read all my blog posts. That comment frankly pisses me off.

Anonymous said...

Oh but I do understand. I have a long history of trauma and abuse. I suffered from anorexia even before I was a teenager. I struggled with it most of my teenage and adult life. And I learned to eat and gain weight, and work on not using anorexia to numb the bad feelings of trauma. And I never went to Renfrew. I have also relapsed time and time again and I've been on NG tubes and other forms of extreme feeding, several times over. I do understand. Today I am at a healthy weight. I continue therapy with a non-e/d specialist, and she is still very helpful. Relapse is always a possibility. Whether one goes to Renfrew or not. Recovery is not always finite. Sometimes it's taking it day by day.

As you've seen in Thin, Renfrew did not prevent relapse.

I get what you are saying - I'm not suggesting anyone recover on their own (though I think some can, and some do.) What I'm suggesting is that the e/d isn't a persona - it's a disease. In the end, we are each on our own. The others (Renfrew, doctors, therapists, nutritionists) can guide us, but we do the real work.

In an ideal world, we'd all have access to many months of residential care, but sadly, it doesn't work that way. Even if we all had 30 days of Renfrew, there would still be tons of trauma work still to do upon release for a great many of us. A huge amount of those with e/d have been abused and suffer from trauma. You are in no way alone in that.

I'm not a super power. I didn't have a cake life. But my family (I have children now) could not afford places like Renfrew so I had to find another way. I'm offering the possibility that recovery is still possible. Don't throw it away because of insurance.

I'm sorry you are mad, but I'm not. I want to see you get mad and fight back. Fight back at the insurance company. Fight back against the e/d. Fight back for yourself. Fight back for the people who love you. It is possible. It may not feel like it, but it is.

I wish you well. My thoughts and prayers are with you, even if my challenges pissed you off.

-anon 2

Jessie said...

I'm so, so sorry that you are going through this. I hate insurance. I hate our system of medical care that means people without money can't get treatment. But please don't let this take away that dream of recovery that you see. You can get there even if you can't get to Renfrew. I didn't have any kind of help in my recovery and I did get weight restored and almost free of ed behaviors. Not to say that just because I did anyone can, but it is possible. I know other people have done it too and I really believe that you will be able to. You are such a wonderful person and have so much to live for. So please don't let this take that away.


Anonymous said...

I agree that the way you write about anorexia glamourizes it. Even if you don't mean to. You need to separate yourself from it.

What about Forest View in MI? They treat EDs, I know someone who went there and got better.


lisalisa said...


I know this is lame. It's all I got right now. But I care and I'm thinking of you.

Angela E. Gambrel Lackey said...

Well, Trish, I don't happen to agree with you. Where have I written that having anorexia is such a great thing to have? Where have I glamorized it? And I'm so glad you have the clinical qualifications to tell me I need to separate myself from it? I think my doctor - who is an ED specialist - is better qualified to give me advice. Hell, I'm a former social worker and I'm better qualified to give myself advice.

I wish people who don't know the whole situation would keep their comments to themselves. This post was in reaction to being told my insurance (who initially agreed to this treatment) was not going to cover it less than ONE DAY before I was due to leave. It was quite a blow, and I think I have the right to be angry at my insurance for denying me a benefit I have (and we pay for, I might add - our insurance is not free) but have never used, plus it is being called "essential" by my doctor that I do this.

Why don't you back and read few more posts, both you and anon 2? Read some of the journal entries about my last attempt at recovery and how painful it was and how suicidal it was? Or the post abotu how I felt anorexia has destroyed my marriage? Or how about a recent one, when I was horrified when I suddenly realized I was so thin?

Not once have I EVER EVER glamorized anorexia or other EDs; eating disorders are hell on earth and I have tried to portray that in an honest way by using writing, which happens to be something I'm good at.

Both of you want to see some places that glamorizes anorexia and other eating disorders, why don't you go look at the millions of pro-ana/mia sites out there.

(Jeez, I can't believe I have to defend what I write on my own damn blog!)

Tia said...

I don't think you glamorize AN... (I saw your comment on lisa's blog). I think you're very down to earth and matter of fact. I'm so sad reading your entries and feeling the pain you are going through. Thank you for challenging me on my blog and challenging my mindset. Take care hon.

xoxo Tia

lisalisa said...

in response to your comment on my blog, no, I do not think that you glamourize eating disorders. I think that you write about your experiences beautifully and honestly. You do not portray ED's as anything desirable or fun. Your writing reminds me of the hell I am leaving behind every time I take a bite. For example, there have been several times recently when I have been caught in the grip of restricting for a day or two, and then your description of sitting on the floor in the shower while your husband fed you cereal bars has come to my mind. It reminded me of my own experiences like that and what it is like to feel so weak and scared and given me incentive to start eating again. So, thank you. I only wish you didn't have to go through it in order to help others. I wish you were writing about it in the past tense. Someday you will be.

XO Lisa

Anonymous said...

how could I care about you? you are a beautiful human being who deserves to be cared about! And you are Kellys friend, which makes you a friend of mine, because i know Kelly wouldn't be friends with someone who wasn't cool. :)

Have you ever seen 'Touched by an Angel'? If you haven't, Roma Downey plays this angel, and on almost every episode she says in her Irish brogue 'God loves you' and I just melt every time I hear that voice saying it, because it is true! Can I recommend a book? I have heard you speak about your faith before, which is why I talk about my faith with you, I wouldn't push any of it on you anyway, but I figure since you are a believer...it is a book called 'Redeeming Love' by Francine Rivers. I adore this book and I want to give you my copy of it, it helped me see my worth in Gods eyes. I am not trying to give you a song and dance, it didn't cure all my depression, but I read it when I need to be reminded that God loves me and why he does! Let me know how I can get it to you!


Angela E. Gambrel Lackey said...

@Trish - P.S. I'm sure the pic with the NG feeding tube looks real glamorous. Did it capture my good side?

@Robin - I'm not sure, because I'm not sure how to find you (although I sent a FB message to a friend of Kelly's on FB, guessing it was you - was I right?)
You also could e-mail me and I could send you my address. (My e-mail is posted on my profile). Thanks again for all your support!

Tori said...

I can definitely relate to your post. I know so many people who struggle everyday from an eating disorder. Silver Hill Hospital’s adolescent residential treatment has clinicians trained in evaluation, diagnosis and treatment and provides hope for people who may be looking for the right care.