31 July 2010

Here we go again . . . (anorexia or me - one of us has to go!)

How many times can I screw this up???

I've been in Beaumont Hospital seven times (gee, have they named a wing after me yet???), have had a TPN and a NG feeding tube and left the River Centre Clinic in June after six weeks of treatment for anorexia nervosa.

How many times can I screw this up???

My doctor wants me to go into the hospital. AGAIN. I was just there in February. That was supposed to turn things around.

It didn't.

Then I went to the River Centre Clinic for treatment. That was supposed to be the start of my "journey of recovery."

It wasn't.

How many chances do I have left, anyway???

I told him I would think about it. That I felt just fine. That I wasn't sick enough to need the hospital. That I didn't want to go. I have too much to do. I hate giving up my freedom.

Then my real fear — it won't do any good, anyway.

I know what I have to do. I have to eat. And I have to eat a lot to gain at least ten pounds. I had to eat 2,900 calories while at the RCC to gain about one pound per week.

So why am I so afraid of food?

I have to eat real foods with fats and carbohydrates and calories. I have to drink at least two Ensures daily because I've never been able to sustain eating that many calories. (I am still feel full from today's intake - about 500 calories.)

I'm doing it all over again. Counting calories. Cutting back. Rejoicing with each pound lost.  Planning to lose more.

The only thing different is that I am angry at myself for doing this. Angry that this has controlled me yet again. Angry that I feel trapped by anorexia.

Is the key inside me?
Will I be the person who saves my own life?
And what are my reasons for living?

That is what it comes down to. I need to find reasons to live. This can't go on indefinitely. Eventually something in my body or mind will break, destroyed by anorexia.

I have asked myself many times lately ...

What needs does anorexia serve?
Why is it so hard to let go of this illness?
How do I find my way out?

There will be no brave knight on a fast horse, scooping me up and taking me away to The Land of No Anorexia. There isn't a fairy princess who can wave a magic wand and instantly cure me. There are no spells or potions or secrets that will take it away.

I will have to eat. Eat when it hurts. Eat when it is uncomfortable. Eat many times a day. Eat until I'm sick of food.

I will feel bloated. And fat. My face will probably break out. I will have night sweats from refeeding. I will hate my body as the pounds come back on. And I probably won't always be a very nice person during the process. I will complain to my husband and fight with myself in my head a million times a day.

I will want to stop after the one millionth diet ad that comes across my Facebook page or in my e-mail. I will feel like a freak because everyone else seems to be working on eating healthy and losing weight.

It will be last year all over again.
I cried each day.
Many times I wanted to die.
Sometimes I thought about killing myself.
Then I drank another Ensure.
I knew it was the only way out . . .

I can do it at home or jump-start it at the hospital. No one else is going to be able to do it for me. I will have to make a decision.

Save myself or else live with anorexia until ...

I will lose everything before anorexia actually kills me. That's what will happen. This will drag on for twenty or more years. I will be 65 and getting ready to go to yet another treatment center. Alone.

Is this what I really want for my life?

NO! I want the life I have dreamed of for so long — a loving relationship with my husband, good friends and a meaningful career and life. I don't want anorexia to be my defining trait.

I do not want this on my gravestone or in my obituary:
She died of complications from anorexia.
But hey, she was thin.
The end.

22 July 2010

At the precipice (falling back into the arms of God)

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference." (Robert Frost - 1915)

Two roads stand before me. One leads toward life and health. It is rocky and requires much courage from me to step forward onto this path. The path is strewn with fear and anxiety. A river of uncertainty flows nearby and there will be times I will plunge into that river. However, I can swim and I will not drown, as long as I remain faithful.

This is the road to recovery and I am frightened as I think of stepping forward onto this path. It means I must eat regularly and give up the idea that I am in control. I must trust those who want to help me, and believe what they say without questioning and trying to do it my own way. 

The other road is dark. The woods surrounding this road is filled with voices that try and convince me that eating is bad, it is evil and redemption can be found in becoming empty. I have walked down this road for months now, the snarls of anorexia reaching out to intertwine its tentacles around my soul. Thoughts have swirled about me as I have traveled this path. Thoughts of failure and disappointment. Thoughts of starving myself and letting go of all life.

This path is the road to death. There have been times when it has felt so dark, I couldn't see my way out. Times when I thought I should just keep walking along this path, as if I have no other choice. I felt as if I had lost my way forever, and like Hansel and Gretel, there was no way to lead me home. I know the further I walk down this path, the closer I come to losing myself.

Then the other day I asked a friend how she found the way out. She has been recovered from anorexia and bulimia for at least fifteen years, and her strength and courage has always been an inspiration to me. She said she had to let go of all illusions that she had control and that her first step was to get down on her knees and pray to God.

I was in the shower this morning when I started crying, wondering when I lost faith in both myself and God. I go through the motions, attending church and taking part in the Eucharist each Sunday. I often think about God, and I do pray to Him.

But do I really pray to Him? Do I really trust Him enough to let go and fall back into His arms, trusting Him to catch me and not allow me to fall?

The water ran over me as I knelt down this morning and begged Him to help me find faith in myself again. Begged Him to see I was stripped down to nothing, baring my soul before Him and finally realizing that I could do nothing by myself.

Begged Him to set me free.

Now I am at the precipice. I don't want to fall off, tumbling down and becoming fully entangled in anorexia ... I don't know if I have the strength to climb my way back up to the right path.

I am calmer now. I believe God will catch me before I hit bottom. Perhaps He has caught me many times and I just didn't feel His hand reaching out.

There are two roads. I will choose the path of light. I just have to follow and then ... let go.

17 July 2010

Discovery (anorexia and lost dreams)

I have thrown away my life.
Each day I struggle to get out of bed. I try to find meaning to my life. I wonder why I am here and why I should eat and recover from anorexia?

I cried this morning - as I have cried many mornings since January as I have tried to release the grip this illness has had on me. But today it hit me I am grieving. I am grieving the fact that I have never had children; I thoughtlessly threw away a gift of God's, I rejected the life I could have given to another and never gave it a second thought.

Until now. At age 45. How stupid can I be?

I remember the hopes of last fall. I knew God would answer my prayers and give us a child. I knew that at 44, a miracle could still happen. I closed my eyes to stories of failed attempts and miscarriages, and dreamed of the child my husband and I would create. I was convinced in December I was pregnant - I had several symptoms, and besides, God would listen to my prayers and grant me a Christmas miracle, wouldn't he.

Then came January. An unusual period dubbed "a possible miscarriage." Hope died. No longer did I have any reason to keep eating and continue with recovery; I was 44 and reality slapped me in the face. I might have once been fertile and been able to bear children, but that was no more as my weight once again dropped into the 90s.
Prayer. Does God even hear me?

I realized this morning I am still grieving for that lost dream. I brought it up while I was in PHP and was told to forget about it, tell myself I didn't have a miscarriage and move on. How can you move on when you continuously wonder if life slide out of you? How can you heal when you attempt to bury feelings that you can't even name?

But I tried to last winter. I tried to bury it by restricting and cutting. I tried to forget the lovely dreams of the fall, which brought my husband and I closer together as we both hoped that it wasn't too late.

But of course it was. Even if I was pregnant - and the uncertainty continues to haunt me - I was most likely too low in weight to sustain a healthy pregnancy and child.

I think God knew what he was doing. First He prevent or stopped a pregnancy, and then made sure that I spiraled downward until there was no chance I could become pregnant.

I know that might sound sacrilegious. But I can't help my thoughts. And right now I am angry with both myself and God.
Then this morning I realized why I continue to struggle to eat. Because I have lost all hope in having a child.
It is a dream denied. A dream that is dead. A dream killed by ambition and selfishness and anorexia.

Dead. Just like the dreams of recovery seem to be dead for so many with eating disorders.

I visited a friend in the hospital yesterday. She had been in a treatment center for six months and came home full of hope and passion about recovery. She has lost all the weight she gained during treatment, but the worst thing is she said she lost faith in herself.

This is how I feel. I have lost faith in myself to recover from anorexia. My blood tests continue to show damage, now to both my kidneys and possibly my colon.
I remember one author's theory of thirds regarding anorexia. She states one-third of anorexics will fully recover. One-third will partially recover. And one-third will never recover.

Today I decided the hell with it. I took my 2 p.m. Ativan with a Lortab, and then had two glasses of wine.

Anything to feel numb. Anything to not feel the pain of loss. Anything to not remember when hope was real and dreams seemed possible. Anything to not care anymore.

Because that's what I want. To not care anymore. Eat when I can. Don't when I can't. And stop trying to force recovery, that state which seems to elude all but the strongest.

I need to learn how to dream again. Otherwise, I will be lost.

10 July 2010

Now is now (The fallout of anorexia nervosa)

Even the word scares me. The thought that I might need dialysis in the future scares me even more. But the functioning level of my kidneys has significantly declined in the past few months. My blatant mistreatment of my body through anorexia and laxative abuse has taken its toll.

The first hint something might going wrong came up several months ago. I was badly relapsing and using multiple dosages of different kinds of laxatives to purge myself of even minute quantities of food. I craved emptiness and felt so clean after all food was cleared from my body. (Or so I thought. I've since learned it does not work that way and some of the food stays in your body. That was very clever of God to design our bodies to work that way, and it probably has saved me from worse problems.)

That was in February. I was hospitalized for a week with a NG feeding tube and this should have been my wake-up call. I thought I had hit rock bottom with my eating disorder, but I soon learned I was wrong.

Tests results showed minor problems with my kidneys just before I left for the PHP at River Centre Clinic. My doctor thought the problem would correct itself once I was eating properly again. No worries. The rest of my tests were fine and I was medically cleared to go to RCC.

I am tested weekly for all sorts of things via my blood and urine. I resumed both treatment with Dr. Sackeyfio and his tests after I left PHP. (I didn't receive any physical tests, except blood pressure and temperature checks, while at RCC.)

Then two weeks ago I went to see Dr. Sackeyfio. He pulled out the test results the minute I walked in — NOT a good sign — and told me my kidneys' functioning had "significantly declined" since the last tests two months prior. It really is a puzzle. RCC had me eating almost 3,000 calories daily for weight restoration and I have not once used laxatives in almost three months.

The bad news got worse this week. The damage is starting to show in my blood as my potassium levels have dropped. Low potassium levels can put me at risk of cardiac arrest, a leading cause of death amongst anorexics.

What's going on?

Damage from anorexia and laxative abuse. Damage that might not be reversible through conventional means, i.e. eating healthy. Damage which I feel I caused.

I am scared. Right now we are going to see if eating properly will reverse it. But ... I looked at Dr. Sackeyfio on Friday and asked if I could need dialysis in the future. He said yes.

Then there is food ... I have struggled with eating since leaving RCC. Eat well. Eat but not too much. Eat but avoid fattening foods. Eat but restrict a little. Eat but restrict a lot. Eat as little as possible.

Lose weight. Gain weight. Stay at the same weight. Fat. Not fat. Fat stomach and thighs. Not really hearing people when they say I am still too thin. Not seeing it myself. Nope. Nothing wrong with me. I'm just fine.

Looking at my gaunt face in the mirror. Feeling some days as if I have no future. Then becoming angry and declaring that anorexia WILL NOT WIN. Not this time. Then I plot how to eat less food each day ... Back and forth it goes.

My mind continues to swirl and I wonder why this doesn't shock me out of my complacency. I mean, dialysis for God's sake! Even the fact that it is just a possibility frightens me. And yet ... This should be rock bottom for me. What am I waiting for? Dialysis to fail and then need a transplant? Being rejected for a transplant? What then?

I feel as if I have squandered my future. I have so many dreams, and anorexia seems bent on killing them one way or another.

I try to tell myself that anorexia is an illness and I did not chose to have it. Something in my brain snapped about four years ago. I keep waiting for it to snap back, for something to click back into place and finally, finally give me the strength to let go of this and LIVE.

Many mornings, I wake up just as dawn is rising. I see the hint of the still blue-black sky and hear the small noises of birds readying for the morning. I look over at my husband, sleeping peacefully. I think about how much he loves me and how much he has believed in me through the past fourteen years.

I think about the friends and family who love and support me and the times we have spent together and the things we have shared. I think about graduate school and everything I have discovered there, from a love of children's literature to the pride I feel by finally understanding just a little about literary theory and criticism.

Sometimes I remember my days as a journalist. I remember when I flew in a hot air balloon and felt as if I could touch the clouds, that I could just leave the balloon and fly all alone. I remember the dips and shakes as I rode in a four-seater airplane, feeling scared and excited at the same time on that cold winter day. I remember the grief on the faces of family members who laid to rest a young soldier who lost his life in this inexplicable war in Iraq.

During these brief moments, my heart often races and I wonder if this time it will happen ... I lie still and try to calm my mind, but often my last thought before going back to sleep is that real life is behind me. I feel as if I am lost, lost in a demented fairy tale in which there is no cure from the evil witch's curse and I will forever be under her spell.

I wonder if I ever really appreciate how full and wonderful my life was before anorexia? Did I ever have even a hint of what was to come? Did I ever stop to think of the beauty in the ordinary? Did I know what was coming in the recesses in my mind? Or was I oblivious to the fact that the life I was living was soon going to fly off its tracks?

Did I ever tell the people in my life what they meant to me, what they still mean to me to this day? Do the people in my life really know how much I love them and that the thought of maybe not seeing their faces someday ... Why did it take anorexia to realize how important love and friendship and everyday, ordinary life is?

Each night, I lean against the back of my husband as I struggle to sleep. He already is sleeping; the peaceful look on his face makes me happy. I think of the future, in which anorexia is just a bad dream and recovery is so strong nothing can break it. The darkness begins to falls and I struggle not to let it ensnare me. I drift off thinking about possibilities ...

Then dialysis floats in my mind. But I try to let it go for the night, and bring myself back to the present. Now is now. I have no control over the past nor the future.

I tell myself I can still turn this around. That it isn't too late. I can return to health and life. That I have a future. I lean further into David's warmth, wrap my fingers through his thick wavy hair and then drift off.

(Postscript - Today I received word my mammogram showed "several abnormalities" in the right breast. I go see the radiologist tomorrow (July 13). I feel as if God is trying to teach me something ... Hopefully I will hear Him and follow His will.)

07 July 2010

Lessons from anorexia rehab

It has been several weeks since I left the River Centre Clinic. I immediately dropped into a deep depression and started restricting the day I returned home. I still struggle to write about it, and I'm not completely sure why. But I know I need to get all the verbiage out of my head and then move on in order to heal.

It will be the last time I will allow anyone to have that much control over my body and soul. I now realize that all the answers and healing are ultimately within myself. I will never again deny that inner voice; sometimes stifled by the roaring of anorexia and anxiety, but always there if I am still and just listen ...

What I learned in anorexia rehab:
Being lonely aches more than I ever could imagine.
The bed is cold and empty without my husband next to me.
A hug can heal pain and a smile can make the day easier.
Eating disorders and the people who have them are sometimes misunderstood even by those trained to treat them.
I would never have chosen to have anorexia nervosa, but my struggles with it have made me a better and more compassionate person.
Kindness means everything when you are away from everyone and everything you know.
The sun does shine in Toledo once in a while after all. :)
I am stronger than I ever thought; you might bend me, but you can't break me.
My core values - love, kindness, compassion, and the passion to write - remain within me and can never be destroyed.

Recovery is still difficult to understand and harder to obtain. I still struggle to eat and the idea of eating for pleasure remains a foreign concept to me. One day I was sitting in the center's common room, watching someone prepare her breakfast when I thought, "I am afraid to enjoy food."

Once I did enjoy food. I liked stadium hot dogs from the Pontiac Silverdome and chocolate bars from the ice cream truck. I used to dip Oreos in cold skim milk, the mixture of chocolate and cream a delight. My mother's cornbread, slathered with butter, tasted great with a bowl of bean soup on a cold winter's evening.

But as anorexia moved in, pleasure moved out. Pleasure in anything. Reading. Embroidery. Making love. Taking a walk. Creating snow angels while looking up at a crisp winter sky. Swimming. Walking in my bare feet, the summer's sweet grass tickling between my toes.

Anorexia sucked me dry; counting calories and fat grams and worrying about how much food I consumed took so much energy.

But the worst thing anorexia has done is try and steal people and relationships away from me. I still have the love of my wonderful husband and family. I still have many caring friends whose support and prayers have sustained me through the years. But often anorexia colors my mood and thus my relationships and I have had to fight against this.

So this is what I learned in anorexia rehab: people matter most.

Free falling

Free falling into
The abyss,
I am a bird beating its wings against a golden cage.
Trapped and clipped
Unable to fly
Knowing my life is

A crumbled leaf
Brown in the fading
Silver light
gently caresses it,

Until the wind screams.
The leaf ...
swirling upward
Lands on soft dead grass,
dreaming of spring.

But it is hidden
underneath the snow,
Its true worth buried