31 December 2010

The Spirit Within

Anorexia nervosa (noun) — A disorder that has caused me to illogically starve myself for four years. A disorder that has stolen the best parts of my personality, that has wreaked havoc on my marriage and friendships, and has almost cost me my life. A disorder that my psychiatrist rightly calls a "love stealer."

I vow that this disorder will not continue its grip upon my spirit and soul in 2011.

The first part of breaking anorexia's grip is creating a new focus for my thoughts and writing. I have renamed this blog, "The Spirit Within." It is my hope that this new name will reflect my growing commitment to full recovery.

I have written "Leaving ED" for two years. When I started this blog, it was my full intention that I would in fact leave my eating disorder behind and eventually write about other things. But instead, "Leaving ED" has often become a trigger for my anorexic behaviors. I'm not exactly sure why. Perhaps it is because I never did leave my eating disorder behind, and the title has taunted me for years.

Now it is time for a change. This coming year will be a pivotal one in my recovery from anorexia for many reasons. I have been told that I must recover; that my body can't take much more of anorexia at 45 and that I could be looking at a very bleak future if I don't turn this around.

Dr. S believes I can fully recover. But he also believes in order for me to fully recover, I need to break this attraction, this almost addictive-like hold that anorexia nervosa has over me. And he believes in order to do that, I must find out who Angela is underneath the layers of anorexia that have been smothering me for years.

In order to do that, I need to change what I write about. I can no longer focus on a relapse, because in doing so, I have found that I have just made it worse. Then I continue the downward spiral until it is too late and I'm either in the hospital or undergoing some other treatment.

For four years, my life has really been nothing but anorexia. I hope to change that. I will still write about my efforts to recover from anorexia on this blog, but my focus will be on recovery. I can no longer focus on urges and symptoms; writing about it has not helped me, but instead has made things worse.

With the new blog name and some changes, I hope to find and show who the real Angela is. The Angela I was before anorexia came and took everything away. Before the darkness enveloped me so fully.

There always is a danger in changing the name and focus of a blog. I value each reader, and I hope all of you will read the new blog, "The Spirit Within" and get to know the person I am and that I will be becoming as I recover. Please pray for me. This will be the hardest work I will ever do, but I believe it will be worth it.

I am doing this for hope. I am doing this for life. I am doing this so 2011 can be a year of health, love, and laughter for me. I wish this for all of you, too.

Yours in Christ,

29 December 2010

Becoming myself

I now know I must recover for myself alone. I must discover who I am under the layers of anorexia, and it will be hard and painful work.
But these are my choices — full recovery or anorexic purgatory. And I refuse to only exist. I refuse to continue with this half-life of anorexia.
I want to know fun and laughter and deep, abiding joy again. Today I felt it is possible. I can do this. I can do this for me. I can learn to love myself and feel worthy of eating and life.
I need to become myself again. This is a new journey of Leaving ED, one that will be filled with tears and pain and happiness and life. I am ready.
I will not be taking this journey alone. I have so much support from my wonderful sister, Samon, my friends, and most importantly, from my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I am blessed and humbly grateful for the things I have in my life.
This does not mean I don't miss David or don't want him to return. I love him very much. But I want him to return to a healthy, strong and recovered woman. He deserves that, and we both deserve a full and rich life free from anorexia. I believe it can happen if I trust in the Lord and do the things I must do.

27 December 2010

Alone again

My husband has left me again. Because of my anorexia. Because as much as I promised to get better, I didn't stick with it. I have been sliding for a while.
He says he still loves me and he took very little with him. That gives me signs of hope that perhaps . . .
But first I must get better. I must recover and stay well. For me. I'm not sure I can do it. But I suppose I will have to try.
I already miss him so much. I just wanted to make him happy. But I have been struggling, and he can't handle it. I don't blame him.
I miss him. I wish he would at least call me...
I probably won't be writing much for a while. I will see. Thank you to everybody who has believed in me and tried to help me.

26 December 2010

I am not always strong

Today I did something I've never purposely done since developing anorexia.
I threw up my food.
I had tried to unsuccessfully several times before, but for one reason or another, it never worked. Then I read how other people do it. And this time it did work. My stupidity never ceases to amaze me.
I was feeling very desperate because I had ate some Christmas treats — two cookies and a small snack bar.
Little things, really. But all of the sudden the food felt dirty inside me and I knew I was not worthy of eating. So I threw it up and then called for my husband, crying about what I had done.
I am very ashamed of myself. I didn't want to admit to anyone that I did this. But I promised I would always be honest on this blog.
This has to be one of the worst things I've done since developing anorexia nervosa. I feel like a hypocrite, writing about recovery and about being positive and forgiving oneself. I even underwent the anointing of the sick on Thursday. So many people are trying to help me fully recover, and then I go and do something like this?
Why do I keep learning new ways to hurt myself? Why do I keep learning new ways to keep myself from recovering? Why can't I forgive myself?
I am feeling a lot of pressure. To gain weight and recover. To write honest and helpful posts on my new blog at HealthyPlace.com. To finish up an incomplete class. To complete some freelance articles.
I think part of me doesn't want to recover. I've thought of that before. It is a hard thing to admit. Who would I be if I weren't anorexic? As each year passes, the memory of who I was fades and the person I have been becomes stronger. Sometimes it feels as if I will some day become trapped for good, and that will be the end.
Some people have accused me of romanticizing anorexia. Well, there was nothing romantic about puking up Christmas cookies into the toilet. There is nothing romantic about starving yourself until it hurts to eat, and the food makes you feel dirty inside. I cried and prayed constantly for all this to be over. I just don't understand why recovery seems to be so hard. It's not like I've been afraid of hard work before.
But each time I try to make a step forward, I find a way to shove myself three feet backwards.
There is definitely nothing romantic about any of this.

24 December 2010

A silent and holy night

"A silent and holy night"

My heart awaits the peace
The Christ child brings

The world is silent,

Holy is she
Opening heart and soul
To the Lord

Bringing the Christ child
Forth into the world.

Knowing one day,
He will die
For me.

My mind barely
Such a gift

Heaven above
The dark

Filling with angels
Singing to God
Made man.

It is quiet.
But soon,
He will come

And He brings,
Justice and mercy.

If only I am worthy.
Then I realize,
I am already


21 December 2010

To Anonymous (Eating disorders are real illnesses)

To @Anonymous,
I accept your apology because apparently something is going on with you. But you need to know just one thing. I also have a life threatening illness — it's called anorexia nervosa. My doctor has spent years trying to get me to take this illness seriously and to realize it can kill me. You see, for years I didn't really think it was a big deal. I was just thin, so what? I truly believed nothing was wrong with me.

Now I am finally listening to him, and I hope it is not too late. The sore spot you hit is the fact I was told Friday that my body is not handling this very well and that I am at risk for a stroke at 45, in addition to ongoing liver and kidney problems. It also tends to make me cranky to blackout and hit my head against the wall and the nightstand, and then deal with a headache and overall soreness for days.

What I think you — and you are not alone — don't realize is that this is not always a choice. Yes, I do believe we choose recovery. But sometimes — at least for me — my mind knows that recovery is a logical and rational choice, but for some reason it won't allow me to do what I know I need to. That is to eat and eat and eat ... The fear and anxiety of food takes over the fear and anxiety of possible permanent damage. It is like a war within my brain and believe me, I wish it would stop.

I write this blog for several reasons. One reason is to bring some sort of understanding to the outside world of what it is like to have anorexia. It is not fun. It is not glamorous in spite of what the media would have you believe. And it is not a choice, although pro-anorexia sites say otherwise. Why would I chose to live this way? Why would anyone chose to live this way? It is destroying my life and apparently my body. I have so many dreams. I want to finish my master's degree and use my talents to help people in someway. I want to live a full life with my husband, and travel to places like Ireland and Alaska. I want to read and write and know joy again.

I want to be normal. I once was normal, you know. That's what started this whole thing, when I started remembering life before anorexia and my writing was a mixture of nostalgia and sadness.

Again I will stress that those of us with eating disorders also have life threatening diseases. Eating disorders are misunderstood by the vast majority of the population. But eating disorders are illnesses and can be fatal. Many, many people have died of anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. Many are dying of these diseases right now. And yet the world blames us. The world would not if we had cancer or ALS or MS or another disease.

That is the sore spot you touched. People who are struggling and trying to recover from their eating disorders. Some people with eating disorders are praying that this time treatment will work and they will be free of this imprisonment of the mind. Others are praying they can recover without treatment because yet again their insurance refuses to pay. Finally, some feel as if they will never recover. All of them are hurting, and your words hurt them further. But I do understand you are hurting, too.

I will ask again — who would chose to have an eating disorder? Who would chose years of fighting and struggling with illogical illnesses that take so many lives and ruin so many others? Who would chose to enter eating disorder prison? Because that's what it feels like at times. A prison, and there is no get out of jail free card available.

Some people might wonder why I have spent so much time addressing your comments. I am hoping that God will open your heart and allow compassion and understanding for people with eating disorders enter. Perhaps I am a fool or a dreamer, but I believe maybe this is time well-spent if it changes the thinking of one person toward eating disorders and those who suffer from them. I can always hope.

17 December 2010

The (mis)adventures of the brave Victorian lady

Ah, if only it were that easy to rid oneself of anorexia . . .

"You are not some brave Victorian heroine, sighing and weeping and fainting on a couch. You have simply found a powerful way to manipulate others and get attention. In someone of your age, class and intelligence it is truly a disgrace. say it how it is. You have wasted a good life and that is criminal." Anonymous

This comment was left by yet another brave anonymous poster. Someone who thinks anorexia is just a creation of my craven attention-seeking nature. Someone who believes that eating disorders are not real illnesses, but instead something each one of us has control over and can overcome if we would just stop being so silly and selfish. Someone without the guts to leave her real name. Pardonnez moi while I swoon onto my divan and call one of the servants over to fan my prostrate body.

Oh yes, anonymous, I've enjoyed these years of anorexia tremendously. I loved it when I had to spend two weeks in the hospital with a line running through my vein to my heart because I was so malnourished. It was great to go in and out of the hospital five more times two years ago when anxiety over eating and weight had me crawling the walls and literally pulling my hair out. I thought it wonderful when mere restricting wasn't enough and one evening I found myself slashing my skin, so angry at myself for having anorexia, so full of self-hatred I couldn't stop myself. The insertion of the NG feeding tube through my nose in February didn't bother me at all; I enjoyed choking on my own bile as the technician poked the tube down my throat and into my stomach for more than forty-five minutes.

Oh yes, anonymous, all this fainting and swooning has been a real blast. Do you know what happened to me yesterday? I woke up and reached for my robe, only to blackout and crash face-first into my nightstand, hitting it so hard that everything on it scattered throughout my bedroom and the contents inside all slid back. I ended up with a bump on my head, and spent the day with a headache and nauseated so bad I couldn't eat much even if my mind would have let me. I guess I just don't know how to swoon gracefully, which is strange because I've been practicing so hard, with all the recent dizziness and lightheadedness.

I'm sure while you enjoyed Thanksgiving Day you never gave a thought about those of us who struggle not only with either not being able to eat or binging and purging, but also that those of us with eating disorders realize that many people believe it is all our fault and we aren't struggling with a real illness at all. That was the first day I blacked out and fell head-first down our staircase, and spent Thanksgiving Day on the couch thankful I hadn't broken any bones or didn't have a concussion.

Oh, but wait. Why didn't I go to the hospital? After all, the emergency room is the ultimate for those seeking attention. The nurse spends lots of time asking you questions and showing concern, and most of the doctors are kind and attentive. Damn, I missed the perfect opportunity! (And I didn't go yesterday. Do you want to know why? Because I didn't want to bother the ER with my minor issues, feeling they have more important things to treat than just a woman crashing into her nightstand.)

Anonymous, you imply you have a physical illness that is possibly fatal and untreatable. Let's see — anorexia and other eating disorders also are illnesses that can be fatal and treatment often fails. Ever heard of Karen Carpenter? Christy Henrich? Margaux Hemingway? Each one of these gifted women died too soon of an eating disorder.

And you don't know a damn thing about me. I am a former social worker and journalist who has won numerous awards, including the Distinguished Service Medal (the highest civilian honor given by the military) for my work in covering the local military's deployment, and I am currently a freelance writer and graduate student in English Communication and Composition carrying a 3.8 GPA in spite of the fact I haven't been well for the past year. I have a wonderful husband and great, caring friends and family, and I hope some day to recover and use my writing and other skills to help others. Sounds like a wasted life to me.

But probably none of that matters to you. I think your real problem is envy. As I wrote, I will pray for you.

Anonymous, you remain wrapped in your protective cocoon of self-righteousness and continue to pass judgement on people and illnesses that you obviously don't have the capability to understand. But the next time you post on my damn blog, at least have the guts to leave your real name. Otherwise don't bother.

Now, excusez moi while I try to recover while surrounded by ignorant, uncaring people like you. 

12 December 2010

Remembering the life before

Remembering the life before . . .
Before anorexia nervosa came, snatching away my smile and leaving me with a hollow shell of empty fake laughter.

Before anorexia came, stealing my spirit in exchange for the gift of anxiety; a gift that keeps me second-guessing day or night whether I have done.said.eaten something wrong, a gift that makes me worry about that small cheese biscuit that accompanied my plate filled with lettuce.carrots.dicedtomatoes.greenpeppers.mushrooms, all safe foods of few calories and no salad dressing, not even a dribble. 

But sometimes I want to eat something warm and comforting, like cream of potato soup or mashed potatoes or hot chocolate with whipped cream, but NO, I am not allowed, I would be a GLUTTON and that is a sin and I pay for my occasional indulgences, knowing the scale won't start its inevitable slip and slide downward, and then of course I would no longer be me, or am I no longer myself now? I am confused.

Before anorexia came, teaching me to fear food and people and fun social events in which I would casually chat with someone, and I would occasionally stop talking to take a bit of cheese and crackers, stuffed mushrooms, perhaps nibble on a cookie or two without any fear.

Remembering the life before when I believed that love could overcome anything and love was the greatest gift of all, and people and vows could be trusted and my mind didn't constantly turn against me, the voices in my head rubbing me like a hairshirt of old; always reminding me that there will be consequences if I eat too much and who defines too much? Well of course, anorexia defines how much is too much food, just as anorexia defines every aspect of my life and right now we are fighting to me to hang onto six lousy damn pounds, because once those pounds are gone, I'm back into the double-digit and then anorexia will be in total control; there will be no small, inner voice to whisper recover. Try and eat; try to recover. That whisper will be lost, and this time I fear forever.

Sometimes it feels as if life has changed irrevocably, and to even hope of returning to who I was is an impossible dream, like wishing upon a star; the star has imploded and isn't taking any more wishes, at least not from me.

There is much sorrow remembering the life before. It was a time of freedom and love and feeling cherished and not crying for three days straight because I feel I have failed as a wife, I am failing at recovery, and sometimes my greatest wish is that anorexia would just kill me so it can all end, because I am definitely sick of this drama, but I can't change the station nor find the key to turn it around; each time I think I have, it crumbles in my hand.

So right now I'm in anorexia purgatory, fighting to not lose, but perhaps not fighting hard enough. Meanwhile, my body is starting to go haywire with all this starving.notstarving.starving.notstarving, ad nauseum. My doctor told me there are certain liver enzymes that are acting weird, and the kidney functioning is typically bad, and the potassium can't make up its mind whether to stay in my body or not. I figure it is a crap shoot - cardiac arrest, kidney failure, or liver failure.

For me, it is when he reminds me that anorexia does kill people do I realize what I have done to myself, and then he can't truly predict which one of these things will implode within this body I have abused so long, he can only keep an eye on things for right now.

Back to to the life before . . . one of freedom from fear and anxiety, filled with interesting work and the love of my husband, when food wasn't an issue . . .

Did I dream this past life? Because I'm beginning to believe it never happened, that I've always been on this rollercoaster.horrorhouseride.suicideplan called by the innocuous term of anorexia nervosa.