03 October 2010

Survivor's guilt (living with anorexia)

She was thirty-three years old and died of anorexia. My therapist told me this almost as an aside, near the end of Friday's therapy session. Our talk had centered on who I am besides anorexia, and how I continue to hold onto strong anorexic thoughts and tendencies in spite of working so hard to regain weight and health.

I said I had been struggling for the past week, bombarded with urges to restrict and feelings that I did not deserve to eat. I have been restricting; missing Ensures and eating lighter meals when I can get away with it. I also have been using other means to stave off the ever-increasing anxiety; extra tranquilizers sometime combined with pain killers make me feel calmer; a glass of wine added also helps.

Anything not to feel. Anything to forget how strong I was, how well I have done, only to have it start falling apart for no apparent reason. I am not an inspiration. I am a failure, heading for a relapse if I don't find a way to stop it.

Dr. S. said it was because part of me still wanted to hide; hide from life and a relationship with my husband and obtaining my master's degree. Hide from all the responsibilities that come with being healthy and recovered.

He is right. There are times I want to dive right back into anorexia.

I said I miss my uber-thinness, the feeling of my bones and concave stomach. I sometimes crave to be that small again; it is unlike any other feeling in the world, the world of anorexia. It is so damn seductive, so alluring sometimes I can't think over the still-loud, screaming voices that try to urge me on to the impossibility of being thin, so thin I am just a whisper . . .

I also know what I stand to lose if I chose this path. My husband. Writing. Any hope of getting my master's degree or having a successful and fulfilling career. Friendship.


(But I would be with God.)

Strangely, I never have really believed that I could die of this illness. There are a few times awareness has tried to trickle in, but then my heart beats and my mind thinks, and the thought of anorexia killing me seems so remote.

I cried yesterday when I realized how close I was to my goal weight. I felt both happy and bitter, the two feelings intermingling until I just felt overwhelmed and exploded into tears and self-recriminations. I looked down and hated my body and what it has become; rounder, feminine and softer.

But I want to get better.  I ate the foods and drank the Ensure Plus necessary to gain weight starting in September, and I was so determined to do it after my husband left, to prove I could recover and we could still have a life together. I moved forward in faith each day, and felt the promises of tomorrow whisper, you can do this.

But then there is guilt.

Why do I deserve to live when so many others have died from anorexia?

The guilt eats at me, tells me I haven't suffered enough and I don't deserve to eat nor recover. Why is anorexia like this? Why is it the only disease that tries to entice you back to it? Why does it make you feel guilty for becoming better?

Today I decided to eat less. And I have. Is that supposed to be the great accomplishment of my day?

I can still move forward. I must move forward. But right now I am frozen.

Frozen by guilt. 

Frozen by fear.

Frozen by anxiety.

Frozen by anorexia. 

Frozen by the thought relief could come soon.

(But what type of relief? Which will I chose? I have thought about the woman who died of anorexia all day. What were her hopes and dreams? Was she surrounded by loved ones at the moment of her death? Did she once dream of recovery? When did it become too late? What does all this mean to me?)

The part of me that wanted to die, that developed anorexia in the first place, thinks why not?

Survivor's guilt (living with anorexia)

Guilt fills me

The thought of
young woman

By anorexia.

I ask myself
Why do
continue to live?

While others die?

Feeling cheated
of the
meant for



EmilyH said...

Hi there,

I think I know what you mean. My friend died about a year ago, and he was a wonderful, caring person. When someone like that is not here anymore, then why the heck am I here? What's so great about me? I know that this is ED talking, though, and that a confident version of myself would be able to confirm that I touch and help a lot of people. I relate a lot to what you said. I think that we should just be reaching out to people and living while we're here instead of wondering why we're here in the the first place.

Thank you for sharing.


lisalisa said...

I used to think things like "I have to get down to X pounds before I can allow myself to eat and recover" or "I just want to reach that certain goal weight and then I will be satisfied enough to let go of anorexia for good". I still have those thoughts sometimes. But then I get real. Sure, I COULD go back to anorexia, but do I really want to start that all over again? Painfully starving myself down to nothing, and then just as painfully struggling to recover? No way. I'm just so tired of it.
Instead of just seeing what anorexia wants you to see, follow those thoughts through to their logical conclusion. I'm not necessarily talking about death. I'm talking about the next 10 (20, 30) years spent on the rollercoaster of sickness and recovery.
Every person who recovers from an eating disorder gives hope to those still struggling. I know you can't save everyone from dying, but I have a feeling that some day you will be able to share your story and touch others lives for good. Give yourself a chance to get there!

I Hate to Weight said...

it's good that you're writing about this.

i think resistance is part of recovery. and there are very hard times. a big part of recovery, i think, is learning to sit with the resistance, to ride through all the extreme discomfort, staying in there as you move toward the other end.

i know what it means to have no idea who you are outside of ED (drinking and drugs too for me.) and it's TERRIFYING. but very doable, i believe. Hope is everything.

i also think that LIVING is the best hope for everyone. live for the girl who died. do not let anorexia win.

i agree with everything Lisalisa says.

again, so great that you shared this. you are not alone.

much love,

Susu Paris Chic said...

Hello dear,

I have read your blog for a while now. I didn't dare to comment earlier since I do not talk about eating issues on my fashion blog.

But this is my life too. My struggle, just like yours. I too am trying to beat anorexia thoughts. I have found comfort and encouragement in what you have shared. Thank you. Dearly.

I just wanted you to know.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it is so much a question of why you deserve to live when so many others died, but a sadness that so many did die when they deserved to live. You deserve just as much life as anyone else who lives or who has survived an eating disorder, as does anyone who died from an eating disorder. People don't die because they don't deserve to live, people die because it is a necessity of life. Personally, I am astounded at how many people manage to survive. There are so many ways to die! How do so many people manage to evade death for so long?!

Anonymous said...

Im incredibly moved by this...so much so that I have little words.
In your heart you KNOW that the angels up there UNDERSTAND and want nothing more for you than the recovery they missed.

Almost one year ago my brother died. He had everything...including a one-year old little boy. I have nothing, at 32, but this stupid disease. It shuld have been me. Survivor's guilt...I know the feeling.
Let's use it to fuel our recovery.
I'm trying.

Anonymous said...

One of the things that I have to think of when I start feeling that resistance: Okay, so I could go back to restricting and losing - but what, EXACTLY, would that prove?

It would, in essence, prove my weakness - it is SO MUCH HARDER to eat even when you don't want to, to gain weight when you REALLY don't want to, to sit in feelings and fears that you've avoided for years. It is strong and courageous to follow the path of the recovery. It is also the best way to honor those who have lost their lives in this battle.

Missy states it SO well when she says that they are looking down and want so much for you (for all of us!) the recovery that they couldn't achieve on earth.

Stay strong. You are inspiring. And you have much to fight for.


Anonymous said...

i just did a huge post on acceptance and i think you may benft from reading it if your interested. i recently went thru a similar realization.

Anonymous said...

A tree is known by its fruit.