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.)


Anonymous said...

(((((angela)))))) xxoo

Zena said...

Anorexia is a horriable deadly disease that steals everything you once knew and loved to be true...It kills your body your mind and your soul, but there is hope, you are not out yet, oyu are still LIVING it may feel like you are just existing but yo still have choices, you can still beat this, and yes I am very sad to say that the older you are the harder it hits your body, Im not sure what is going on with your kidneys and why eating better and not abusing the lax, didnt help fix the kidney situation but that doesnt matter right now what matters is that you ground yourself in what you know to be true, as much as yo feel its to late its NOT, you can still keep fighting and you can still try to save your self, you have soooo much to live for and I know yo are in anguish over what happened in January, but there are other options to fulfill that deam, its not to late you just have to get healthy first, as for the potassium, it falling now, its not nessacarily that unusual as your body refeeds, the more dehydrated you are the more "normal" your K can seem, as you rehydrate and refeed your K gets dialuted, but its really an easy fix, they have supplements you can/should be taking to raise your levels back up to normal range and if you continue to eat/drink properly it should stay up ( I have been on K supplements more times then I can count, it always goes back up...although sometimes it does take some time)and it can lead to cardiac arrest, I been there, but THERE IS HOPE, not to say I am cured but for yrs I hovered just above death, (2 yrs ago...hours from cardiac arrest) but Im hear now, sometimes I still struggle, but Angela, its worth the fight, I know you have it in you, I believe in you, believe in yourself, you CAN and WILL do this...today as I head to church I will be praying hard for you, and Im not sure about how religious you are, but I feel that I must throw this is...you are NEVER alone, because when you feel like you are walking this weary road alone and no one is with you...it is then that he is carrying you, stay strong, have some faith, you will see the day when you are free!!

much love, Tara

Anonymous said...

I was hospitalized for low potassium and your other reader is right - it's an easy fix. Mine was low enough to warrant an IV potassium drip in the ER, but after that we just treated it with oral potassium and it did work. I also had signs of kidney damage that got worse before it got better. It was almost like refeeding was really hard on the body. All my labs tanked during refeeding and then gradually they got better with normal eating. There is still a good chance that your body will turn things around. There is always hope.

Jenn Lynne said...

Wow girl. Sounds like you're going through a lot. You'll be in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

You are such an inspiration. I love reading your posts. Always remember those moments -- what life is really about. You are not dead, you are still very much living. I have great hopes for you. * Prayers, hugs, and warm thoughts to you *

sarahlynn said...

I think I can see where your comments on my last post were rooted: you seem to be trying to hold that fear at bay as well, have the horror of death on your mind.

All I can say is to not give in. Sometimes when we're faced with such scary choices - do all we can to recover and fix what went wrong [physically and mentally] or throw in the towel to fear and just let it get worse - we choose the easier one, the giving up.

Don't give up. It isn't worth it. In time yu become a half-human and by then all is lost and it will take incredible bits of Something Else to climb out of it.

I'll be thinking of you. Keep us posted on the mammogram & kidneys. *hugs tight*

Anonymous said...

It's my experience that there is no "bottom" in anorexia. If you survived, it wasn't bottom, which just enables the illness to push the envelope for a bottom that will bring epiphany. But, then, epiphany never lasts. For me, lasting remission behavior has never been built and maintained on a crisis or epiphany or shock-and-awe realization. I believe this is because you can't "think" your way out of an eating disorder. You can't wait for things to "feel right" or count on feeling better in recovery. Clinicians have often said it's unlikely patients are going to find anything that's as "powerful" as the eating disorder and the functions it fulfills/fulfilled. Even with all the efforts, tools, coping skills, medication, support, structure, specialized treatment, thought-restructuring, you-name-it ... I believe current opinion seems to show the best hope for recovery is in persistence with behavior change and willingness to hate it for a lifetime, if necessary. For some people, the angst and agitation seems to abate after variable periods of time, but for some people it doesn't. I think this is the most difficult thing for patients to accept. We want to be "better," but not just physically or by diagnostic labels or numbers. We want to *feel* better *and* feel good about having undertaken the business of recovery. I vote for preserving your options, medically, as much as possible; distracting yourself from the distress of the emotions that come with change and "leaving ED"; and sticking with it.