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.


lisalisa said...

recovery DOES NOT feel as good as anorexia, at least not at first. Recovery is scary, uncomfortable, and painful. You will wonder "if I am doing the right thing, why does it feel so wrong? Why is anorexia the only thing that feels right?". And it might feel that way for awhile. That is just part of the illness. If you take away something that you have been using to numb painful emotions, something that has been sheilding you from the stress and pain of this world, the world will be a scary and painful place.

It DOES get better! Unfortunately, you have to get through the crummy stuff to get to the good. You have to stick it out when the going gets tough and not let the pain and discomfort turn you back. There is no easy way out; no shortcut. The only way OUT is THROUGH!
You were not put on this earth to starve. No one was. GOd has a much greater plan for you! Recovering may well be the hardest thing you ever do in your life, but it will be worth it!
I can only speak from experience. Today I got to celebrate my birthday feeling (relatively) strong and healthy. I got to have a nice dinner with my family and not freak out or count calories. I got to hike with my girls and not worry if I could make it up the hill without passing out. Sure, I'm not crazy about my body. But I wouldn't trade the freedom I have now for the nicest set of collarbones in the world!
I know you feel weak. I know you are caught right now between pain (recovery) and security (ANA). I know this sounds crazy but CHOOSE THE PAIN! CHOOSE THE UNCERTAINTY! Choose the path of most resistance and stay on it because it is the way that will lead you out of this dark place that you have been stuck in! Lean on God/friends/husband/doctor/us because we love you, we want you on this earth, and we believe in you, even when you don't believe in yourself!

I hope this doesn't come off as sounding preachy, and I am the first to admit that I am not the picture of mental health (progress, not perfection). I just started typing what was truly in my heart to tell you. God bless you Angela! I will be praying for you!

AmandaMo said...

Keep fighting for recovery Angela, I loved reading your thoughts and I feel better being able to relate to the feelings that you felt.

Your a wonderful writer! :)

I Hate to Weight said...

"nothing outside the box feels as good or important or safe as what is within."

i wonder if that's true? when david moved out and you weren't sure where he stood in your life, didn't you feel that nothing outside of david felt as good or important or safe? it seemed that you chose David over anorexia as the most important in your life. i don't know the answer - that's just what i saw.

i agree with lisa 100% - God did not put us on this earth to starve. in fact, i agree with everything she wrote.

for me, surrendering to God and accepting that He knows best has been relatively easy with substances. with food, i don't have the same ease. it's so hard for me to realize that I DON'T KNOW BEST. i'm not in control. i've made a mess of it all, i can not be in charge.

as lisa said, progress not perfection.

hang in there, angela. there is great hope.

Mishka said...

I needed someone to connect to, someone who was doing well, better than me.. and I found your blog. I starve, and I purge, and I hurt myself, and I want to stop. How is it your living your life? And Im stuck in limbo. I cant seem to get out no matter how hard I try.