24 August 2010

Anorexia, the old woman and me

I travel each week two hours one-way to see my eating disorders specialist. Rarely do I see other patients coming or going. (I suspect it is set up that way.)

But last week, I did my usually sprint into the office to grab the bathroom key before my appointment and was stopped short. By a very old woman, leaning against a walker and talking with Dr. S's secretary/office manager/all-around wonderful person.

I was a bit flustered by her being there. Is she a patient? Is she someone's grandmother, paying a bill or arranging for an appointment? Dear God, don't let her be a patient! She must be 80; she should be home surrounded by her loving grandchildren and great grandchildren, baking pies and cookies — NOT battling an eating disorder!

I did not ask Dr. S about her (and I know he wouldn't be able to tell me anything.) BUT had I even mentioned her age, I know he would have said, Of course people in their 70s and 80s battle eating disorders. Or something like that. Since I also knew this deep down, but did not want my knowledge confirmed, I didn't say anything.

I don't want to face the reality that an elderly woman could be battling anorexia or bulimia. I don't want to know that on so many different levels . . .

I haven't been able to get the stooped, elderly woman out of my mind. Was she a patient? No, that's not possible. She was too old. WAS she anorexic? Bulimic? Was she still fighting her demons? WHO WAS SHE???

I know I'll never know.

Sometimes I think of my own situation. I am 45 and still struggling with anorexia nervosa. I am still trying to climb my way out of a relapse. After gaining some weight at a PHP this summer, I've lost most of it and am only maintaining.

Each day I try to eat more to gain weight. This past week has been back and forth. I'll eat well and then panic, swallowing a bunch of laxatives and watching all my efforts go down the drain. Other days, I try to eat what feels a little safer and only add a few hundred extra calories.

Then the war starts in my head. You are getting TOO FAT! See that huge stomach and thighs? Feel that pudgy waist? You are a BIG FAT LOSER?

Get some laxatives and cleanse yourself of all this dirty food. Then go back to the basics. Eat as little food as possible. YOU ARE FAT FAT FAT! Everyone around you thinks that. They just won't tell you — yet.

You don't need food and you don't deserve food.

But eating less is not healthy. I need to be healthy in order to complete my graduate classes and have some sort of a future. To have a life with my husband. To enjoy the fullness of living.

To be less afraid and less anxious.

My mind is constantly this war zone. I sometimes feel as if I am going to shatter in a million different pieces, literally implode upon myself until I'm nothing but a pile of broken dreams and promises. No future.

Then I think of the old woman. I imagine I am her . . .

The year 2050. I am 85. Hopes of recovery are long gone. Counting calories and losing weight has defined me for decades. I am told I am too thin, but I don't believe it. I still could stand to lose a few more pounds. My gaunt face looks at the doctor's face and I laugh.


This is the most important thing about me. Everything else has faded, sucked into the black hole of anorexia. There is nothing left. I never finished graduate school. I became too weak and had to drop out. I've been living on odd jobs and finally, at some point, disability. My husband has left me and I have few friends.

I am alone.

Dear God, please let her be somebody's grandmother. She can't have an eating disorder. She doesn't have anorexia or bulimia. Maybe she was friends with Dr. S's secretary and just stopped by. Maybe she was there to thank Dr. S for the recovery of her granddaughter or grandson.

Can she?


Inside the Mind of a... said...

You can do it. The fact that you realized this and realized you didn't want the ED to be with you for so long. just realizing that can help stop it.

stay strong

Silly Girl said...

Your post tells me you want to defeat ED and you have the drive and determination to do it. I know you can do it. Just take it one meal at a time. You can do it. I believe in you.

Zena said...

Angela, "LIVE"

whether that elderly women was a patient or someones mother or grandmaother or friend it doesnt matter, if you thinking she IS a patient let serve as a motivation NOT to be her, do not become that crippled women ina walker who still sees dr.S, I am not going to say this to scare you, but she may not have been as old as you think, ED.s take a very large toll ona persons health and yes thier looks, that women could have been 60 crippled by osterporis, skin sagging because she is so depleated...she very well have been suffering wih an eating disorder..BUT you are not her and you do not have to become her, you can fight and choose the road less followed, the hard road, the road to recovery, Anorexia is NOT a choice, but Recovery is! Are you ready?? lay it all down for god, let him comfort you in the fears and feeling that recovery brings, you can do this angela, I know you can...I as well as (youA) are not so young anymore, it takes more and more out of to continue to live like this...and Iam only throwing this is because if it gives you any hope at all then it is worth it, I am recovering durning the horrific time of my life. Why?? I hit rock bottom, things could not have possiablly ( I pray) have gotten any worse. I will not be a statistic and niether will you!! you want more I want more..Anorexia is not more of anything its less...of everything...less food, less feeling and yes less of your soul everyday...I see how good your heart is, dont let AN destroy it, do what ever you have to, you need to LIVE, flourish and see all your dreams come true...I know you can do this, I beleive in you as do so many others. Now go fight, fight like hell and dont stop to you have won, I will be here as will others to pick you back up when you start to fall, but if your already on the ground..its goingto be so much harded to get up ( think of the "old" women in the walker...YOU WILL NOT BE HER!!!


Love, Tara

flaweddesign said...

i could have written this post. i have seen women at the clinic i go to with canes and walkers and in wheelchairs from 20-65ish. i don't think many make it past 65 in that shape. one wheechair bound woman who i thought was def in her 40's passed away last year during refeeding and she was only 32...wheechair bound with dentures, living at her parent's. it's not fair. you don't have to be that woman. you won't be.

i'm 27 (nearly) and am already the woman i said i wouldn't become - anorexic into my 20's (and now looking at my 30's).

you can do it....ups and downs are inevitable but you ARE doing it. try not to downplay your victories by your struggles. they are very separate things. :)

Jenn Lynne said...

I hope you remember this Angela! Sounds like God was throwing an image at you to show you what you needed to see. I pray that you can hold onto this and realize how much of a life you can have later in life without Ed!

Anonymous said...

I tend to agree with Zena. Years ago I was in a therapist's office and a stooped over woman walked out of my therapists' office with a walker. After my therapist called me our session started with my typical denial and excuses. Frustrated she said to me, "Did you see that woman leave my office?" I nodded. "Do you know how old she is?" I guessed maybe 70. "She's 52" she said sharply. "That's what anorexia does to a person." It was a wake up call that I have never forgotten.

loverofdc said...

yes you are right to fear that.....and the others are probably right, she wasnt as old as she looked. My grandmother had her eating disorder all her life and it took her finally. I have been struggling for almost 30 years, god that sounds horrible. I have had years where I was "healthy" enough to maintain a pregnancy but barely, however now am right back down. I feel disgusted with myself and hope and pray I am not going to watch my daughter do this. I am almost 45 and fighting for my life, while I feel like I am destroying my kids, it is not pretty. Fight for yours and get well. We all deserve it, good luck

K8B said...

What a great post Angela. You can do this.