16 October 2010

In the borderland of anorexia recovery

I thought anorexia had been torn from me body and soul forever after David left.
Now he is back.
And so is anorexia.
Anorexia nervosa started creeping back a few weeks ago.
Taunting me with anxieties and fears; driving me to seek solace in dangerous places.
I look in the mirror and wonder who I am with this newly gained flesh.
I step on the scale, the relentless pursuit of thinness hovering in the back of my mind.
I know the numbers are a lie, and mean nothing without the power I give to them.
I know the path I have been on has been one of health and recovery and life.
I think of the future, and there are two alternative paths.
One is the path of anorexia and self-destruction. I fight to face the feelings stirred by recovery, but sometimes fail and use medication or alcohol to dull the inner pain. I don't want to become the victim of an accidental overdose. I want to learn how to handle anxiety so powerful it feels as if it could kill me.
The other path is one of healing and hope. It is a scary path, filled with anxieties that must be faced and food that must be eaten and weight that must gained. For I know until I reach my healthy goal weight, the anorexic thoughts will continue to nip at me and I will not be free. But I am so close to being free...
From 3-7 October 2010 journal entries.

This is the borderland of recovery. The word borderland implies a middle state of not belonging to any place or group. You are the "other." I am not yet recovered. I still sometime restrict and count calories and fight the thoughts of anorexia. I still weigh myself every day, and that number still means something to me.

Yet, I am not emaciated nor in physical danger, except for a persistent low potassium level which could impact my heart function (I also have potential heart problems from having scarlet fever. Typical for me, I try not to think about it.) But I am overall healthy and my mind is more clear than it has been for months. I know I must continue on the path of recovery. Neither my mind nor soul could handle failing this time.

Perhaps I am not failing. As I traverse the borderland of recovery, I see both many obstacles and many sources of help scattered throughout. The main obstacle is my mind and the still-obsessive drive to lose weight and become unimaginably thin again.

I am trying to discern why this thought remain pervasive. My therapist believes I am still afraid of life, and this is my way of staying safe. But the question is why am I afraid of life? I'm not sure. Sometimes life is beautiful and wonderful; the sun shines through my study window and caresses me and the brilliant leaves of orange and yellow and red fill my yard. It is a dying time, and yet reminds me that everything God creates is beautiful and life will come again.

Things are going wonderful for me in many ways. My husband and I are reconciled and are working hard to reestablish the intimacy we shared before anorexia nervosa decided to join us as a third partner in our marriage. I am working hard toward fulfilling my dream to obtain my master's degree, and I was recently admitted to the English department's writing program. This means I can pursue writing as my career, and use my skills as a writer and journalist to help people with eating disorders and mental illnesses. This means so much to me, and I am gratified in particular by one comment made by a professor reviewing my portfolio: "You have a rare gift." (She added that means she will push me hard to cultivate and hone that gift, and I might not always like what she says or wants me to do.)

I have a wonderful group of readers of this blog and recently it caught the attention of Ladies Home Journal. I am now working on a piece about my experiences with anorexia. I also will present my graduate paper on this topic at an English conference later this month, and will be interviewed by an Internet show by HealthyPlace.org next week. Finally, I am working on a presentation on eating disorders to present to students at the university, fulfilling another dream to begin to create a ministry to both present my story as a warning and help young people realize that we all different and beautiful in God's eyes and that is good.

But I'm not recovered. I am still walking through the borderland of recovery and know I can cross into either territory. At times, I feel as if I am on a very thin line and I am teetering either way. Cross one line and I am embrace life and all it has to offer. Step over the other line and I am looking at a lonely future with little hope and dreams destroyed.

My protection in this in-between state is my Lord and Savior Christ Jesus, and He guides me through the harrowing journey of recovery. He tells me I am beautiful and wondrous in His eyes when I look at my body and see fat that I want to carve out. He assures me that I am His child when I doubt myself and listen to my anxieties and fears that come of this world. He reminds me that my body is His gift and I am responsible for its care and love while I am on this earth.

I often wonder how long I will be on this earth. There are times I don't feel as if I belong here; the borderland is a lonely place and I haven't yet met anyone else wandering there, fighting for strength and recovery and wondering if s/he is the only one there. If you too feel as if you are in the borderland of recovery; if it is hard and you need an encouraging word or prayer, contact me via my e-mail on my profile.

I dream of a world where we all help each other; that not one of us becomes the Good Samaritan left forgotten by the side of the road. We all have wounds inflicted by our eating disorders and I believe we can help each other heal.

Christ Jesus is my guide through the borderland and will lead me to safety. Without him, I could not make it. But He also requires me to work hard on my own recovery. He will be there to guide me but I have to do the work, whether it means picking up the fork and eating the food or hiding from my feelings through unhealthy means.

The choice is mine. Choose to move forward and cross into the land of recovery. Or not.


Silly Girl said...

Wow! Your post brought tears to my eyes. I admire your honesty. I understand what you mean about the borderland of recovery. I think you know deep down inside that you want to cross into recovery land. It just takes time. I'll keep you in my prayers. And thanks for all of the encouragement during the last few months.

Anonymous said...

I don't have any thing in particularly special to post just wanted you to know--which you already do, that you are in my daily prayers. I am freaking fracking proud of you though about your writing and what your prof said to you about it!!!

Jess said...

You write beautifully, Angela!
I can really relate to your post... For a very long time, I was scared of really living, too- I am only recently starting to move past that fear. Congratulations though on your many strides in both your recovery and professional and personal life- you're working so hard and having wonderful successes! I feel like as you cultivate these aspects of life that make you happy, living- really living- perhaps won't feel so scary. That is what I have found, anyway.
Have you ever considered ditching the scale? Having your husband throw it out or hide it if you can't bring yourself to get rid of it yourself? I found not knowing my weight and leaving that to my treatment team to be very liberating, Scary to not know what I weighed- but liberating and helpful to my recovery all the same. Just a suggestion!
Keep fighting and staying strong!

Anonymous said...

Hi angela,
I guess we are neighbors...fellow citizens.

I relate so much to that post ... your words put a lot of perspective to my feelings so thanks for sharing.


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