14 August 2010

What if I had . . .? (The myth that anorexia nervosa isn't a real illness)

What if I had cancer?
What if I had suffered from several strokes?
Suppose I was unable to walk because of MS?
Or my hands were so twisted from RA?

Would you then encourage my husband to leave me because I'm sick? That he should abandon me when I need him most? That my rock and anchor should just throw fourteen years of marriage because you said so???

I'm glad you listen to him and allow him to vent and I understand you think dealing with a wife with anorexia is so hard for him.

But did you ever ask how I felt? Were you even concerned that I almost died this past winter, that I am still struggling? Did you ever call me to see how I was doing, or is gossiping like two old women all you are capable of? Are your relationships so dry, so empty (I know at least two of you are in very empty relationships; ones on their deathbeds, as a matter of fact) that you have to interfere with mine? At least next time have the guts to say what you think to me. After all, I don't even weigh 100 pounds; I surely can't hurt you.

Being betrayed by several people close to me won't heal. I must pretend to my husband I am fine. After all, he was very reluctant to tell me that several people have said to him they wouldn't stay with me. I should bury my feelings. I asked and I received, and I wasn't happy with what was there.

A world of disposable vows. Forever means nothing. "Love is patient, love is kind" and all that crap. I am such a dreamer; an idiot to believe love can conquer all.

When do I get to be free of anorexia? When I die? If I recover? Never? And what about my heart, which feels shattered right now . . .

Funny thing is, each one of you call yourself a Christian in some way. But I suppose you would have left the beaten man by the side of the road; after all, you are a Samaritan and he is a Jew and why would you help someone so different from yourself?

Did you know that anorexia nervosa has a 25 percent death rate? The highest rate of any mental illness, and higher than many physical illnesses? Do you know how hard it is to kick? Do you have any idea what it's like to live steeped in anxiety, trying to crawl your way back once more toward recovery? The last thing I need is a Judas or two in my midst.

But you go ahead and smoke your cigarettes and drink your twelve-pack and pontificate about how I can't seem to get rid of anorexia and why would anyone stay with me. But maybe I wonder the same thing about you . . .


Anonymous said...

kicking someone when they are down is perhaps one of the most cowardly of actions you can do. i think this is the worst blog post that I have read from you, I am in tears. i don't even know what to say. this is the most horrible of things one person could do to you. I am hurt for you, my heart hurts for you. You need all the love and support that you can get right now, and I am here to tell you that, your illness is just as real as when I had breast cancer. ugh. I don't even know what to say. Robin

Angela said...

I'm so sorry to hear that you aren't getting support from those closest to you. It makes it even more difficult to recover. People need to understand that anorexia isn't a choice. Who in their right mind would choose this kind of living hell? Can your husband go to therapy with you or something to better understand what you are dealing with. I know that helped my husband. I've also taken him to see my nutritionist. Sometimes it takes professionals to help explain the disease. I'm sending you all of my love and hugs. This sounds so horrible for you, and I pray that you are able to get more support. <3

K8B said...

I am truly sorry that things are so hard for you.

However - you knew there's be one didn't you? - you keep saying 'what about me?'. I'd like you to turn that around - what about David? What about his feelings? What about his life?

I do know how hard it is. I have recovered from anorexia (when much younger) and fight an almost constant battle with thoughts of self harm and suicide. I fight a daily battle with a desire to act out my feelings in all sorts of bizarre and unacceptable ways. What I am able to do, and I pray that you will also be able to, is to put my husband and son's feelings above my own. I love them both so much that I believe that my agony is a small price to pay to protect them from the hell of living with a mother and wife acting out her mental illness. I take my medication, I do what I am told by my therapist and by my husband and I keep myself safe by focusing on them not me. At times it is hellish - but they come first.

It is very hard. But for me it is the price of loving and being loved by my family. I truly wish and pray that you can use your strength to recover. God Bless.

I Hate to Weight said...

angela, this is so painful and so very sad.

have you done counseling together? have you brought him to your treatment team?

how are you doing? i hope you are treating YOURSELF as dearly as you can.

remember that you are a wonderful, so smart,loving and beautiful person. take care. you're in my thoughts.

brokenwords said...

I see both sides.

You are right that in most cases spouses don't leave if you have cancer or some other more acceptable disease. But there is a difference. No one choses anorexia or cancer. However, one can choose to take steps to get better or not. I often compare anorexia treatment to that of chemo for cancer. Cancer patients don't want chemo anymore then we want to eat and gain weight. But you have to go through that painful time to get back to a state of health. But not eating, anorexics are essentially refusing their chemo. It's painful and awful but necessary to recover and return to good health.

I think it's also important for us to look at anorexia behavoir as being similar to drug addicted behavior. I clearly acknowledge that I am addicted to starving. Anorexia is my crack. It wrecks havoc on my mind and my health and my relationships. Would anyone doubt that a spouse might want to leave a crack head wife? I think not. Anorexia is not so different from a drug addiction - it's closer to that than it is a true "disease." You can't kill anorexia with chemo or antibiotics. You kill it by getting a meal plan and sticking to it, no matter how painful. Anorexia is never a choice. Recovery is always a choice (even though it so,so, so does not feel like one!) Food is our medicine. It doesn't cure everything, but it's the first and foremost step to recovery.

I readily admit that anorexia is my crack and that when I chose not to eat, I am in essence choosing anorexia over my family. I am chosing the comfort I get from it. I am choosing anorexia so I can be more numb, more free of self loathing and anxiety (which I get from eating.) It's damn hard to give up any addiction whether its an addiction to anorexic or bulimic behavoirs, or that of alcohol or drugs. Anorexia is a vice, and a very alluring, seductive one. Alcoholism is always a "disease" but one can make the choice to put down the bottle. For anorexics it means we have to put down all the vices - the pills/laxatives, the scale, the pro-ana sites, etc.

If we see anorexia as only a disease that we have no control over, then we never get better. No matter how painful, we have to make a conscious choice to let go of the behaviors and vices. If like an alcholic choosing to say, "Yes, I have an addiction, but I'm going to put down the bottle no matter how painful that is to do so," then we can make progress.

You have the power within you to do this, it's just really damn hard. Like drug addicts it might be years while we still crave the behaviors, but that doesn't mean we have to give into them. It's hard as hell to let go, but it is possible. Painful, but possible. To our spouses, anorexia is the "crack" in the house.

Still, people should keep their judgments to themselves. I'm sorry people treated you so badly. You deserve better. You are trying, it just takes time and total willingness and commitment.

I agree with anon - kicking someone while they are down is cruel and unfair. People don't realize how hard it is to get over this. With a drug addiction people can be in intense treatment for a year in rehab. We get a month if we are lucky, and then have to deal with the rest on limited outpatient treatment. It's not easy, but I still believe recovery is possible for all of us. I pray you find the strength to keep trying, and never give up.

Anonymous said...

Oh. Oh. I don't know anything to say that would make it better. I do know that some of those so-called legitimate illnesses do destroy marriages sometimes because there is so much stress and awfulness. Still, that doesn't change the fact that most people would think leaving someone because of one of those illnesses is a really cruel thing to do. I understand that it is frustrating for someone watching you struggle, but I don't understand how frustrating it is. I'm not sure how to find a middle ground between the struggle on your side and the frustration with the struggle for those around you. Perhaps a therapy session with your husband is a place to start, where you can both lay out the difficulties you face in this regard. I don't know that that will resolve it, but I'm having a hard time thinking of anything else that might.

K8B said...

brokenwords is so right. We don't choose our thoughts and feelings when we have an illness like anorexia; but we do chooose our behaviour.

Being afraid to eat, wanting to lose weight, being obsessed by food and weight are not chosen. However, whether we eat or not is a choice, and what we eat is a choice. Of course, anorexia is more than those things, but alongside therapy for underlying emotional issues these facts have to be acknowledged.

TBH, I am terrified of spiders. But if someone told me that harm would come to my husband or son if I didn't pick one up in my hands three times a day, I would do it. Maybe I am lucky having the strength and clarity of mind to know that and to act on it. But you strike me as a very strong woman, with a fine and intelligent mind.

Whether you eat or not and maintain or not a healthy weight is your choice. That is what every single 'recovered' anorexic knows.

Silly Girl said...

When I read this, it broke my heart. Some people don't understand. i am sorry those closest aren't being supportive. It is so sad that loved ones would hurt you when you're down. Stay strong and continue to fight ED. You have a lot to give this world.

Anonymous said...

Angela, try to remember that those who judge us don't understand. It doesn't make it right, but it determines how we should react.

As a Christin man, your husband should seek only the advice 1) from God, and 2) from fellow Christians...true Christians who understand God's word and understand that ONLY God can judge. Not them, not your husband, not you.

There is nothing greater than hope, and I am filled with hope for you.