26 November 2010

Tumbling down

On Thanksgiving Day, I took a tumble down our staircase and landed headfirst into the wall. I could almost hear Alanis Morrisette in the background singing, "Isn't it ironic?"

I am tired. Tired in my soul. I don't know whether I should feel grateful I wasn't more seriously hurt or pissed that I had yet another potentially fatal accident AND YET I DIDN'T DIE. Why? It might have made things much easier.

I am trying to kill myself by plunging headfirst back into anorexia and starvation. At least that is what my doctor said today, and he wants to know why I want to diminish myself until I become nothing.

I struggled to answer his question. Not because I don't necessarily have an answer, but it is typically easier for me to write out my feelings.

Do I want to die? On some days, yes. The anxiety is so all-consuming, I feel as if I could crawl the walls and scream at the moon. I can't stand the thought of all I have to do and all the people I have to please. I want to shut myself away into the box of anorexia, slam the lid shut, and tell everyone to leave me alone. (Thank you, Dr. Sackeyfio, for this very apt metaphor.)

Other days, no. I feel I can pull myself through this and turn it around. I just have to do one simple thing: eat. Eat. Eat. Eat. Eat. Eat. Eat.

But I don't want to eat. It's what I need to do to feel better and function more clearly. It is the simplest thing in the world, really. Billions of people lift food to their mouths, insert and then chew daily.

So why do I find this very simple act so very difficult?

Because if I eat, I live. I live and must face life, in all its ugliness and beauty, its pain and joy. I must live my life; read and study, write papers; it is all very simple enough. I must rebuild my relationship with my husband, rediscover love and joy and everything that comes with an intimate relationship.

Is that what I'm afraid of? Perhaps. As we grow closer together, I am haunted still by his actions this summer, when I came back from class and found our home stripped of everything he valued. Except me.  I often dream of that evening, hurtling back into time and seeing the rape of my home, my life; knowing nothing would ever be the same again. I think about it and struggle not to cry.

Maybe that's why I am again starving myself. I don't want to feel what I felt then, and if I block off my emotions by starvation . . .

There it is. The box is there and I crawl into it more and more. I just don't know if I can crawl out of it this time.

18 November 2010

The broken road of anorexia

For almost two months, I have woken up afraid. Something shifted within my brain and I can't seem to get back on track. I struggle with simply being, and yet I have no explanation for this sudden change from when it seemed as if I were, to quote a friend, "traveling the yellow brick road to recovery" from anorexia nervosa.

Now the bricks are broken into sharp little pieces and the yellow paint is faded, and whatever was guiding me down the road to recovery has abandoned me. I don't understand why it is so difficult to simply get up and face the world.

I don't grasp why I have (again) decided that I am not allowed to eat more than 800 to 1,000 calories daily, that I am not worthy of eating enough food to sustain a child. I have lost several pounds over the past few weeks, and now each morning at the scale I pray that the number goes lower, and lower, and lower...

I don't get why each time I am faced with a blank computer screen in order to write an article or paper, I freeze up and need to resort to either extra tranquilizers, a glass of wine or two, or any combination of things before my mind unlocks and my fear begins to subside and I can breathe again.

I feel as if I am now walking the broken road back down to anorexia and each time I try and bring myself back, the voices within my head scream I am not worthy. Not worthy to eat. Not worthy to live.

Not worthy.

I'm again starting to feel tangled in the web of anorexia; its tentacles wrapped around me. I still eat, but I look for ways to restrict. I still rest and try to take care of myself, but increasingly feel guilty about what a lousy graduate student and wife I have become. I still take part in life; however, I am afraid each time I must meet a new person and I always wonder if I have said the wrong thing.

According to my evil anorexic doppelganger, anything I say is wrong and I am a hopeless case who will never recover.

Now I am writing a memoir about my experiences with anorexia for one of my classes, and I cried when I wrote the prologue because it is about when David left me.

I fear each day he will see my struggling as a sign I will not get better, and this time he will leave for good.

I thought all this wasn't noticeable until I really looked at my face in the mirror the other day and realized it is beginning to again take on that gaunt, anorexic look. Then my blood tests came back and my doctor confronted me with my restricting, which he knew about without even asking me. He says my whole demeanor changes when I am restricting.

I think I know what it is. I become sad inside, fearful I will descend further and not find my way back this time. It is hard for me to hide sadness with a smile and some carefully applied makeup. I believe sadness fills our eyes, and nothing can hide it.

I am sad. I am sad that the road to recovery seems broken down to me and I am sad about all I stand to lose if I can't find my way back.

I am sad that I still want to follow the broken road of anorexia. I am sad that I still crave thinness after all this time, that I am addicted to sharp bones and a concave stomach.

Most of all, I am sad that I am beginning to believe that anorexia holy. I am sad that I am trying to convince myself that this is what God wants; that He wants me to eat less to become closer to him. That fasting is a good and right thing to do. I know am subverting God for my own purposes, and deep down I know that is evil.

I can't keep all this sadness out of my eyes or my drained face. I've lost my smile again, my sense of happiness and excitement about the future replaced by fear and anxiety.

I am sad . . .

10 November 2010

Grieving anorexia

I have been struggling yet again with my recovery from anorexia for about a month now. The all-encompassing anxiety has made it so hard to eat, and I have dropped a few pounds and the old voice trying to convince me to lose more weight has awaken from its slumber.

But I haven't been able to put into words what was really bothering me until my friend, Carrie at ED Bites asked me if there was something she could do. That opened the floodgates and I cried as I wrote her the following:

I just can't seem to get past the all-encompassing anxiety to continue to eat enough to get to my healthy goal weight. Dr. Sackeyfio assure me once I reach that weight, eventually the ED thoughts and behaviors (i.e. restricting, self-harm, etc.) will stop. But I can't seem to take that final leap, and I think I allow myself to be triggered by a number of friends who either have relapsed or given up on recovery altogether, and the fact that it seems like so few people I know can't seem to stay in recovery.

The frustrating part is that I was so close, and still could make my goal weight if I pulled it together. Also, since I am so close, everyone around me (except my husband) seems to think things are fine - I don't look emaciated like in the winter and spring, so I'm all better, right? But I wake up every morning scared to death to face the day, I burst into tears for no reason at the weirdest times (like right now while writing this) and I can't seem to stop restricting, but I of course I'm eating something, so it's not like a full-blown relapse, right? (I'm being sarcastic.)

I need people to hear me and maybe I'm not saying the right words. I'm grieving. Grieving the loss of my too-thin body. Grieving the fact I am 45 and most likely will never have a child. Grieving for the person I was pre-anorexia. Grieving. And everyone wants to see happy smiles and recovery full-speed ahead, and I am failing them. And I can't get the voices in my head to shut up and let me eat; instead I hear that I don't deserve to eat, I'm a fat pig, etc., etc.

I'm afraid I will be one of those who don't [recover], and it makes the future look very empty. I'm tired of weighing myself and counting calories and worrying about every bite . . .

03 November 2010

Reflections on life and anorexia while driving through the Minnesota prairie

Right now we are driving through southwest Minnesota, about twenty miles from South Dakota. The sky is a huge bowl cupping the earth; the land is flat and as endless as the Atlantic Ocean. Dotting the landscape are huge white windmills. These windmills give the landscape an alien feel, as if the structures were towers from another land or planet. The sun shines brightly over the land, a few trees here and there dotting the landscape. The road looks as it would drive straight off the earth.

Now fog has descended and the sun is watery, diffused; a small yellow circle surrounded by streams of white. The fog does not diminish the sun's power, however, and my eyes burn each time I stare up at the sky. The miles home seem endless. Not just the literal miles, but also the miles home to myself. I take several steps forward in recovery from anorexia, only to balk and pull back, feeling as if I don't deserve recovery or happiness or life. The desire to go back, to become so thin that the bones are sharp again, aches within in me. It is an ache that I am afraid I will not be able to resist. An ache that is inhuman. The ache of Ana.

Why? I can't ever seem to answer that question. What is the allure, the seductiveness of being emaciated? It truly is an addiction that continues to grip my soul. I think: I can go back. I can go back even further. I was almost there once; so close to the eighties. What can I do? Allow myself to fall back into the addiction of anorexia or continue to fight? But I am so tired, and the recovery doesn't seem to hold the same allure, the same seduction, as anorexia.

So should I just accept that this is part of my personality? Should I just let go and live my life with anorexia, accepting that this mental illness is part of me and I can't excise it out, can't cut it out with a knife, can't write it out of me? That nothing will really heal me? Perhaps I am not meant to be healed. Perhaps I am meant to continue on the path of anorexia. Perhaps I am meant to be like the medieval nuns and become a holy anorexic, fasting and praying to become closer to God. Perhaps food really is the enemy, the enemy that keeps me separate from true spiritual growth and truth?

We continue traveling down I-90. The land is still flat and covered with diffused light, although it is fading as the fog breaks up and the enormous sky returns; white clouds feathering the sky, broken up once in a while by the crisscross of electrical wires.

Narrowing my blue eyes, I can almost see the land as it once was. Flat, covered with grass and just a tree here and there to break up the aching loneliness of the land. There were bison and Native tribes who moved with the seasons; people were connected to the earth and sky and the changing of the seasons. They would be preparing for winter right now. How did they prepare for the brutal winters that sweep across this land, nothing to break the icy wind and snows?

They turned to each other and worked together to survive each winter. They were connected to one another as much as they were connected to the land, and the ideas of individualism and self-sufficiency were laughable in the face of reality; the reality of either work together to survive or die.
We have lost many connections in our colonization of the land. Connection to people. Connection to the land and the sky and the vast clouds and the ever-changing sun.

Instead, we tell ourselves we can each make it on our own. That individualism and self-sufficiency are virtues, part of the Grand Narrative of America that has destroyed souls and left many people feeling lonely and depressed in their separate apartments and homes and mansions and other boxes we build to keep out the cold and rain and snow, not realizing we also keep out people and laughter and togetherness because we hide in these boxes.

I also was in a box at my thinnest. The box of Ana, anorexia; whatever word you want to use. I was very comfortable in my box, and I resent being made to open the lid and crawl out. I want to go back into my box, separate myself from others and from myself. This box is small and cramped, cold and empty, but it defines me. I feel myself drawn to this box, because nothing outside the box feels as good or important or safe as what is within. The outside world created by man is not one I want to be part of; I do not feel drawn to it. So how do I live and yet not become trapped by a world that I mostly reject?

For anorexia is a world I understand and trust. The rest of the world I do not.

Written 31 October 2010 while driving through the Minnesota prairie about twenty miles north of South Dakota. These words were written stream-of-consciousness and reflect my thoughts at the time. When I wrote that I "trust" anorexia, I meant that I have become used to it through the years and can predict how it will make me feel and act. Please don't misconstrue this as me saying anorexia is a good thing or something someone should put her/his trust in. Anorexia is a dangerous and often life-threatening illness and I would not want anyone to think that I believe otherwise.