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



Anonymous said...

(((((((angela))))))) One step at a time, and remember, a step is still a step, even if it is a baby step. You are always in my prayers. XXX0000

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry rehab turned out so miserable for you. It has always turned out that way for me, too. Ugh. It makes me so angry to see this happening to other people. I'm so sorry. I wish so much that mental health care did a better job not hurting patients. I don't have magic answers, but I can commiserate.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with notpollyanna...we don't know that rehab was "so miserable" for Angela. Was is hard? Yes. Did it cause some pain? Yes. But today Angela is in a better place because of it. Please don't diminish all her hard work. Just because you didn't have good experiences, don't project that on Angela. I think she did a great job and has grown tremendously because of it. I, for one, want to support and encourage her through her journey.

bananas said...

Why do you think you immediately returned to restricting when you left treatment?
Are you still doing that, or trying to change things on your own now?

Anonymous said...

Oh dear. I didn't at all intend to diminish the work that Angela did at the River Centre, to imply that rehab being hard necessarily means hard in a bad way, to imply that treatment that is bad-hard cannot still have value, or to project my own experiences onto her. I primarily understood her experience as miserable from this : 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. Those sentences sounded, to me, loudest and written with the most resolve within this post. Perhaps I totally misunderstood. Perhaps the "anyone" Angela says she won't let control her body is the eating disorder. I can't be sure. But I do know that I meant no ill. I'm sorry if that wasn't clear.