26 December 2011

Smoke Rising (A Poem)

Smoke Rising

Pain scrapes against my heart
As I listen...
And no one is there

Inexplicably, smoke rises upward
A life of lies and ruin
I turn and suddenly you are there

It's as if Christ heard
My cries...
But only for one moment

For months cold has seeped
Into my bones
And I curl into a ball

Seeking warmth
Covers wrapped and tucked...
The sudden brush of a thigh

That is not there
Startled awake...
I forget the emptiness

That has invaded
My life
And my soul

Seeking solace
In forbidden places...
And my heart begins

To feel again
Stirrings of emotions
Going places

That I should not go
Unable to stop...
I turn to Christ

But there is no answer
My prayers cry out
To no one

And I long for what
I can never have.

05 December 2011

Three years later...

I started this blog exactly three years ago today. Here is what I wrote:

The enemy - Food

So when did food become the enemy?
I look at my plate each morning, noon and night and think - I must eat, because in order to live, I need food. But when I hear people talk about the pleasure of eating, of the joy of creating a new recipe, I just don't get it. I think, why bother? It's all the same, anyway, and I just want to shovel in the bare minimum and get it over with.
No more not eating for me. No more skipping meals or weaseling out of breakfast or eating half a sandwich and giving the other half away (like I did many times in Haiti). But to eat for fun? No way; that just doesn't make any sense to me.
So why am I writing about this very private matter in this very public forum? Because at some point in life, silence must be broken in order for healing to take place. And this is a start.
But eating for pleasure? That's going to take a very long time.

I find it ironic that in many ways, I still feel the same. I started this blog a few months after my first hospitalization for anorexia. I was still sure I was going to nail recovery within a year, and then move on and eliminate this blog.

And yet here I am, three years later.

Someday, I do hope to write that I am fully recovered and I am moving on. I thought it would be easy, but I really didn't know anything. But I do know that being able to write about how I feel has been a true gift, and so have all of you. I want to thank everyone who reads and comments and holds me up. I am eternally grateful for all of the support and the friends I have found through this blog. I literally wouldn't be here without all of you.

29 November 2011


Hundreds of birds swooped low within the sky, in perfect synchronicity. The dark forms filled the sunlit sky, and the flock flew and swayed rhythmically, as if they heard music from on high. I felt an inexplicable longing to join the flock, to follow these tiny birds to their unknown destination, to be free of all that holds me to this world...

I felt very fortunate to witness this murmuration the other day. I didn't expect to see one in the low-slung skies of Michigan, but God reveals His beauty and grace in the least expected of places.

I think of Judea and Israel, dusty lands that became the cradle of three major religions. I picture Jesus Christ walking amongst the people, on dirt roads, rough with stones and brambles, the air filled with fear as the Romans sought to crush the Israelites. The Romans never succeeded, and instead, Christ rose, triumphant and free and His name became holy and His words worthy to live by.

Lately, I have been thinking about Jesus and his humanity. He walked amongst us and lived as one of us. He had a circle of close friends, as do most of us, that he dined with and spoke with and I imagine him sharing jokes and laughter as they relaxed after a hot day, sharing bread and wine and figs. These were his friends, and he was their friend, and that made them very precious to each other.

Yes, I am drawn to Christ as Lord. But right now, I need to think of Jesus as man, knowing he loved his friends with all their flaws, and forgave them. "Let the first one without sin..." Mary and Martha and Mary Magdalene and the disciples - sinners all, and just like me. And right now that brings me comfort, because it helps me to know that Christ will forgive me all the sins I have committed and those of the future. As someone once said, I am the least of all Christians...

Mumuration. I wonder what happpens if one little starling becomes separated from the group. What happens to the starling that is lost? Does he ever find his way back to the flock? Does that single starling continue to fly, searching for his fellow starlings until his wings are tired and he can't fly anymore?

Sometimes I feel like that lost starling, searching for the murmuration I have been separated from. I remember once I was sitting in church, during a time that I was starving myself. I was tired of anorexia, and I had been begging God for release. I clearly heard, "I don't want you to starve. I don't want my people to starve."

And perhaps God whispers to the lost starling, guiding him back to his flock so the murmuration is complete...

22 November 2011


For Annemarie...May your heart be at peace and your body free of pain, and I will see you someday.
I am dreaming of a new life, a good life completely free from anorexia and in which I am happy and love myself. I asked my eating disorders psychiatrist the other day if he believed that I could *fully* recover, and he said yes. I ask him this question often, not really out of doubt, but perhaps to hear one other person reassure me that yes, I can be free...

One of my friends, Annemarie, died of anorexia on Nov. 11. She was only 34. She was always positive, telling me that I would be one of those with anorexia who did recover. She completely believed in me, but I am not so sure she believed in herself. She seemed to be getting better, but then relapsed and eventually her body just couldn't take any more. My heart is broken that such a young, lively spirit is gone — she sent me a text about a month before she died, saying to always look on the positive side. I don't understand why that wasn't enough to save her, though. I mean, part of me does understand. She battled this illness for more than sixteen years. I have been struggling with it, getting better and then relapsing, for about four years.

Still, it is frightening. I think that when someone dies of an illness you are still struggling with, it makes you think that it could have been you. And there is something that shakes you to your core, and makes you want to deny that you have the illness; no, not me, I am not that sick, I was never that sick. Then you look at pictures or talk to family or friends and the reality comes through, that they also thought that at one time, you were going to die of anorexia, and you realize that they are right.

I say you, but I really mean me; perhaps by use of the third person is a way of protecting myself from the complete terror. Okay, so I remember the slow heart rate and the skips between beats, the fear that my heart might stop in the middle of the night, and the trips to ER in which I was always lectured by the ER physician on duty to do something, to eat, that I needed to get better or one day, my heart could stop and that would have been it. I remember thinking I was too fat, and then my hand would brush against a protruding hip bone or feel my clavicle, and then my heart would race, I would be afraid and yet, at the same time, wonder with the wonder of a child if I would at some point see Christ, and there was hope mixed in with fear because I was so very tired of it.

And I remember last Thanksgiving, when I got up to get ready to go to my family's and instead, I blacked out and fell down the stairs, crashing into the wall, giving myself a migraine and sick feeling in my stomach and spending the holiday curled on the couch, safe from the world in spite of wondering why did I blackout? Of course, in the deep recesses of my mind, I knew why I had blacked out. I was starving myself again, and eventually it will catch you one way or another. I continued to blackout several times through December, and actually did not find the determination to eat and try to be healthier until my husband left me on Dec. 27. On December 28, I fixed myself a full breakfast, knowing the only way to any life was food; no, it is not only about food, but food had to come first and nutrition and weight restoration was the start of recovery. Of course, as most of you know, it did not make a difference  in my marriage and we are now permanently separated, but will not divorce until I am at least finished with graduate school.

So what does this have to do with dreaming? This year has been much better; I eat and have maintained at least a reasonable weight. You would not know, or at least I like to think so, that I have had anorexia to look at me now. I still have a ways to go, but I am proud of the progress I've made.

I finally realized I had two choices: I could continue to go in and out of recovery, abusing my body and getting sicker each time simply because I am 46 and things are harder on me now; or I could eat and tell the voices in my head to shut up and go to hell, that I am going to live, and more than that, I am going to thrive.

I have allowed myself to dream again, after years of believing there were no dreams left for me. But part of that feels like self-pity, and I hate that.

So I am dreaming...I am dreaming of love and a full relationship, someone by my side, sharing life and laughter and love. I am dreaming of actually earning my master's degree, of having it in hand in May 2012, and finding a job I both love and in which I help people. I am dreaming of connections with friends and family, and sharing love and friendship.

I am dreaming...And in those dreams, my friend is now at peace and perhaps she sees these words she helped inspire, and perhaps some day we will live in a world that sees the soul, the spirit within, and not the frame that holds us, because that is just superficial. Each one of us has a spirit that is more beautiful and wondrous than we can even imagine; right now, I live in a world that doesn't help us see the spirit within, the innate goodness and kindness that is part of most people, and the quirky traits and things that make each person unique and interesting and special.

I am dreaming...And I thank God that anorexia did not kill my dreams; there was a time I thought that might happen.

I am dreaming of being free. And when I fully recover, I will be free.

18 November 2011


I am sick with a strep infection and I am tired and I feel very discouraged right now. I keep waiting for something inspiring and beautiful to enter into my head, but it doesn't. I keep waiting to think about something hopeful and encouraging to write for all of you, but I fail. The truth is that right now I don't feel hopeful or inspiring or any of those positive things I said I would after changing the name of this blog.

Instead, I feel alone and depressed and physically drained, and I can't imagine anyone ever wanting to spend his life with me. I feel like all of this is my fault, and I deserve to suffer...

26 October 2011

On changing my name

I am again Angela Elain Gambrel. What I haven't figured out is who that person is...

I go to write my name, and I become confused about which name to write since the changeover is incomplete.

A feeling of misunderstanding? confusion? unreality? comes over me when I sign the name. What am I supposed to write? And what does it all mean in the end besides some letters strung together meant to indicate who I am? Or is it all a legal falsehood, a lie perpetuated by society? Are we defined by our name?
And I wonder why it ever meant so much to me...

It was supposed to empower me. Return to my birth name; the name I held for thirty years. Wipe the slate clean. The final break between my husband and I without actually divorcing - discarding his name, and taking my former name back.

Instead, I cried the day my Social Security Card arrived with Angela Elain Gambrel clearly printed on it. It was the final break of our 15-year marriage. We no longer share the same name, and instead of feeling empowered by that, I only felt a heavy ache in my heart and I wanted to take it back, take it all back, because I knew that it meant the true beginning of the end, that I will some day no longer be his wife. The dream is truly over and I must move on.

I have spent days drinking wine and pouring over photos of us, happy and smiling and Mr. and Mrs. Lackey. I have prayed at times, God, please return me back to those happier times, before I got sick, before I developed anorexia, before everything imploded and happily ever after became lost. There are wedding photos and vacation photos and photos from this summer when we attempted to reconcile...

And I thought I could erase him, erase all the pain, by a mere name change?
I am grieving right now; the death of my marriage as autumn starts to fade and life itself dies and soon the cold will be here...And I will be so cold without David here.

But in my heart, I know that this is the right thing. We simply aren't able to give each other what we need. David needs his freedom to create his art. I need someone to love and cherish me, to stay by my side no matter what and to share both the joys and troubles of life with me. Simply put, there was nothing left for us to give each other as husband and wife.

I still love David, but more and more I realize it is not David I miss - because I was very anxious around him this summmer, and often felt within me that reconciliation was not going to happen - but companionship; the fun of having someone to do things with and be with.

I'm not sure how any of this happened, for once I believed that we would be together forever. I never expected to change my name again; not for the reasons I did. But there are a few days, I look at my new name and think, I can become who I once was - courageous, curious, strong, independent, often fearless, and someone who loved people and being part of their lives. That a whole new life awaits me, if only I have the courage to live the life that I have instead of mourn forever the life I once lived...

I'm not sure what I am trying to say. I simply know that it is over, and even though my heart is broken, it will mend one day. And I will look back at the pain of the last month and it won't hurt as much.

And then I will be healed, and able to move forward...

01 October 2011

I Am Not Ashamed

I am a chrysalis
Wrapped tightly in golden skin
Until one day the layers will slowly crumble
Revealing the beautiful butterfly of my soul
With delicate gossamer wings
Strong enough to carry me into an unknown future

I am not ashamed that my marriage has failed, and David chose freedom and Florida over more than fifteen years of love, shared experiences, and a real life of meaning and joy. I know that I did everything possible to make my marriage work, but it won't and I must face reality and move forward.

The first step is reclaiming my original name. We won't be filing for divorce until next spring/summer for a number of financial and legal reasons. However, I am his wife in name only, and I want to be my own person. So I will start the proceedings Monday to become who I was fifteen years ago, and know that I will at least experience some sense of closure until we can untangle the web of our two lives next year. I feel somewhat overwhelmed when I think about how meshed our two lives our, so perhaps taking this first step now will make it easier.

I continue to think about what the future holds. I am both excited and frightened. I had expected to grow old with David, and really thought this time that we would reconcile and remain together. We both said we loved each other up until the day he drove away to Florida and what I see as an empty and lonely life for him. I told him that there will be no more chances, no more tries at reconciliation. I am done. 

So now I have to pull myself together, continue to get healthy, and turn to my family and friends instead of isolating myself as I did last winter when we separated for the second time. (This has been one long year!)

Not only do I need to reclaim my name, I need to reclaim myself. That is much harder because I poured so much of myself into my marriage and trying to save it. Between that and the damage done by years of struggling with anorexia - and it is still a struggle; some days I eat like a normal person, while other days I fight to eat enough to keep me alive - I am confused about many things. I am lucky in that I had a life both before David and anorexia became parts of my life.

It really is like a slow peeling off of layers to reveal the person within. These next few months in particular are going to be periods of discovery and learning.

I am not ashamed of anything I've done. There are only two things I might have done differently: first, I wouldn't have ignored the warning signals that David's heart really wasn't into reconciling, and I would have stopped pretending that everything was perfect, that he was perfect.

But I am not ashamed to be alone, and starting over. I still believe in true love, and I know there is someone out there for me. 

And some day, we shall meet...And all of this will just be a painful, yet distant memory.

26 September 2011

Saying goodbye...

David and I said goodbye to each other tonight. There will be no reconciliation. No more attempts to salvage our 15-year-marriage.

No more sharing the love we still feel for each other...No more nights on the couch watching old movies. No more holding hands in church as we sung hymns and recited the Psalms. No more Sunday afternoon lunches at Ruby Tuesday's.

No more.

It is over, and there is no going back.

I thought we would make it this time. It looked so very promising. But in the end, David decided that he doesn't want to be married to anyone. He wants to be single and alone, and has said he will never marry again. He says I am the love of his life, and that he will always love me. But he feels we can't stay together and he still maintain his freedom and his art.

And thus it has ended.

Now I must move forward. I strangely ate more tonight than I have for weeks. It was as if my body was guiding me to the nutrition I needed after being so drained by this.

I will always love him. But I will move forward, and hope some day to have a full and loving relationship with someone who loves me as I am and will stay.

I couldn't compete with a life of freedom and riding motorcycles and hanging out at the bar with his brother's band at 3 a.m. I couldn't compete with a life of no restrictions and being responsible only for himself.

Our love just wasn't strong enough to fight all these forces.

And that is really it for now. I have nothing more to say at this time.

31 August 2011

One year later

As I lean back into your arms/ I am transported to a time/ Where everything was safe/ And nothing could touch the love/ Surrounding us./ Take my hand/ As we revist the dark time/ One last time/ And then what destroyed us/ Will be banished Forever/ And we will move forward...

One year ago today, David and I separated for the first time. The driving wedge, of course, was anorexia nervosa. Our marriage was shaken by years of this illness, in which I illogically starved myself to a wraith-like thinness. I thought I was achieving control and perfection, when in reality my entire life was crumbling at my feet.

I am a Phoenix/ The ashes of anorexia/ Burning through my soul/ And finally blowing away/ Like so much dust/ Never to rise again/ Instead I will rise/ Free from the demonic hold/ of this mean disease

It has been a long road. We briefly reunited, only to be driven apart again in December. Anorexia was the third partner in our marriage, and eliminated all joy and laughter from our lives.

The Dark Time/ Is beginning to pass/ And the light of my soul/ Sings to God/ Grateful for his Grace/ And second chances/ At life and love

For a long time, I believed my marriage was over. Then a miracle occured, and David and I began marriage counseling and the long and painful process of coming back together. This week we discussed how my struggles with anorexia impacted both of us. He was afraid he would wake up and find me dead one morning. That is an awful truth to live with and think about each day.

There were times I hoped I would die in my sleep. I was tired. Tired of fighting this illogical disease. Tired of hoping, only to see each effort at recovery implode as anorexia again wormed its way into my brain.

I am much healthier now. I am at a healthy weight, and interestingly two people mentioned yesterday how much better I look this semester than during the past few years of graduate school.

And I know that soon David and I will be reunited. I am very fortunate. This post one year later could have been one of sorrow and pain, of me still sick and fighting any attempts at recovery.

I have learned much. I don't want anorexia to come back into my life again, because there is no life in anorexia.

And in the end, I want life...

NOTE: This post reflects the reality of my life at the time written. Things have drastically changed, and I hope to write a post about these changes when I feel I am able to. I have approved all comments sent to me, because I respect and am touched by anyone who feels moved to comment on the things I have written. But please, no more well-wishes or comments about being happy for me, etc. It is too painful. I hope all of you understand, and I will explain further when I am able to.

13 August 2011

Frozen (Searching For God)

Come to Me when you are weak and weary. Rest snugly in My everlasting arms. I do not despise your weakness, My child. Actually, it draws Me closer to you, because weakness stirs my compassion—My yearning to help. Accept yourself in your weariness, know that I understand how difficult your journey has been. ~ Sarah Young, "Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence"

I am frozen. The words dance at the edge of my brain, but are encased in ice and I feel as if I have to chip away at each tiny sliver to release my thoughts and allow them to fly free...And I still feel frozen.

I am weak and weary. I wish I had more faith, but this body — this vessel in which my soul resides — is sometimes a huge source of frustration for me. Each time I see health and strength within my reach, the wind scatters everything just out of reach and I am left chasing shadows, wondering why I can't remain well for more than several months.

Just when I was beginning to feel strong in my recovery from anorexia...Now I face surgery for polyps and cysts, and a CT scan of my right lung because the pre-op chest X-ray showed a pulmonary nodule. I also am taking a strong antibiotic because the pre-op check showed a raging staph infection.

I've already been struggling with body image issues, trying to accept that I am more than twenty pounds heavier than last year. I know that is a good thing, and that I am still too thin and need to gain several more pounds. But I just wish I believed what I hear other women in recovery from their eating disorders say — that my body is good and wonderful just for the things it can do, not because of what I weigh.

People say I am an inspiration. I don't feel like an inspiration, but instead I would love to sometimes crawl into a hole and hide. I'm tired of waiting for real life to begin....when? Damn it, real life is now! Real life is tied up in the messiness of recovery and doctors and tests and surgery and working on reconciliation with my husband, David.

I asked him last night what he wanted from me and he replied, "a strong, independent woman." I feel like I am becoming that woman again, but it is hard with all these other issues swirling around me, pulling at me and making me feel tired and anxious. I want to return to my true, authentic self; someone who loves people and books and learning and doing new things and singing Christmas carols in July and...I want to have enough energy to ride my bike or take a walk, to go out with a friend for lunch or even read a book or magazine.

And it all frustrates me. I'm frankly tired of all this crap with my body.

But I have been working hard to still eat and maintain my weight, in spite of anxiety and nausea induced by the antibiotics. I also have been working hard to understand and honor David's needs, while still honoring my own needs. We both know we have to seek balance, and work on truly talking to and treating each other with love and gentleness.

I am trying to grow closer to God, allowing His love and grace to see me through my fears and anxieties. But that also is sometimes hard, and I sometimes wonder if He even hears me...

However, I have to believe that God does hear me and is with me and eliminate these oppressive feelings of being frozen, frustrated, and anxious that do not help anything, but only makes things worse. I have to believe everything will turn out all right in the end.

27 July 2011

Weight(ing) For Change — Why Weight Stigma Impacts Us All

First, a little test.
What is the first thing you notice when you first met someone? Most likely you first notice the person's weight. And that is the first thing he or she mostly likely sees when meeting you.

Now I would like you to dig a little deeper. Do you have assumptions about people based upon their weight? Most of us do assume certain things about people solely based on their weight. All the stereotypes are right there in our heads. We assume people who are thin are healthy and fit, and we think that people who are overweight are unhealthy and not fit.

We have been trained since childhood by societal and cultural influences to think this way. But society is wrong, and we have accepted erroneous information based on nothing more than an arbitrary number. We can't tell if someone is fit or not solely based upon his or her weight.

We really don't know anything about a person based upon his or her weight. And often we can't see beyond that depending upon our own assumptions about people and weight. That is sad. We miss out on getting to know people because we have allowed our prejudices to dictate our actions.

Weight stigma goes both ways. I am not fond of a current movement that states, "Real women are not a size [X]." Why does someone get to decide who is a real woman based upon her size and weight? Aren't we all real women (and men)? We were all created different sizes and each one of us fall within a spectrum. That is the beauty of being human — each one of us is unique in shape and size, and we are perfect in God's eyes. We only start questioning our bodies and weight when society interferes and tries to force us to accept its values.

So what does weight stigma mean to me? It can be very dangerous because society continued crushing pressure on all of us to fit its very narrow definition of what is an acceptable weight. Some of us listen to society's voice and develop eating disorders during our quest to meet that narrow ideal. I am not necessarily saying that weight stigma and society's views about weight cause eating disorders. But it certainly doesn't help with either recovering from eating disorders or accepting our bodies.

It personally means that I have been a slave to this machine for years. I developed anorexia nervosa several years ago, and the number on this machine dictated my life for a long time. I am not saying weight stigma and society's extreme ideals about weight caused me to develop anorexia and almost cost me my life. But as I wrote earlier, it certainly didn't help.

I continue to move forward in recovery and am becoming healthier each day. Keeping my scale is one of the last vestiges of my eating disorder, and I still struggle with the numbers I see on it. I continue to work on eliminating weight stigma in my personal life, and I believe awareness is key to both recovery and eliminating weight stigma.

Because no one wins when it comes to weight stigma. The number is never right because none of us can meet the ridiculous standards set by society. Instead, we struggle and become frustrated until we reach a point where we can let go and simply be ourselves.

One last question. What if I had substituted the word race for weight stigma? Because that is what weight stigma is — one of the last acceptable forms of prejudice.

I'm still waiting for change. I hope it comes soon because weight stigma seems to be spreading during this country's obsessive fight against obesity. Perhaps some day we can focus on health and other things that are real and important about people.

This post was written as part of Voice in Recovery's Weight Stigma Blog Carnival. Visit Voice In Recovery's website for links to more posts written by a variety of bloggers on weight stigma and its impact on society and people.

07 July 2011

Day by Day

Living my life day by day . . .

"Day by Day"

Day by Day
Day by Day

Oh, dear Lord, of thee
Three things I pray
To see things more clearly
To love thee more dearly
To follow thee more clearly

Day by Day . . .

(From the musical, "Godspell")

As David sung this song to me this afternoon, I could feel the presence of God surround us. David was practicing the music for Sunday's outdoor Eucharist, and I asked him to sing this song again as it is one of my very favorites.

"To see things more clearly . . ." I want to see and be part of life in all its beauty and glory. I want to see that the Lord does love me, and that love surrounds me daily and is the strength I draw upon when I feel weak. I need to look at things more clearly... Life is beautiful and painful and wonderful and, at times, tremendously trying and it is worth every minute.

I didn't feel that when I was ensnared by anorexia. I didn't feel anything except either an all-consuming numbness or anxiety breaking through. I couldn't see the gifts that surrounded me, and I now see clearly that my life has been one of both beauty and heartbreak, joy and sorrows, and I have survived. I have survived an illness that takes the lives of many women and men, an illness that made me illogically starve myself and want to deprive myself of life.

I have been sick for several days, and have struggled to eat because of nausea and have lost a few pounds. In the past, I would have ignored that and rejoiced in that loss. Not now. I asked David to pick me up several packages of Ensure Plus, something I know I can get down me and that will halt the weight loss and turn it around. I am very proud of myself, and the fact that I clearly see that I have to keep eating to be healthy and have a full life.

"To love thee more dearly . . ." As I sung out these words along with David, I knew I want to draw closer to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I want to be part of making His world a better place, and I can't do that if I am sick. And I want to thank Him and show Him my love, for it was through His grace that I am recovering from anorexia.

"To follow thee more nearly . . . " What more can I say? Christ, I am yours. You have given me another chance at life and I promise not to squander that.

Each day, David and I draw closer together and reconnect with each other. It hasn't been easy. There have been tears and painful moments brought up, but we are still working together and learning about each other after years of illness. We haven't given up, and there are many wonderful and joyful moments, too.

Such as hearing David sing as I relaxed on the couch, recovering from a minor illness. I can't think of anything more beautiful than hearing your husband sing to you. It lifted me up and made all the aches and pains fall away as his soulful voice practiced the hymns for Sunday.

Thank you, dear Lord, for this afternoon's beauty and for all the grace you have shown me each day.

"Day by day . . ." I plan to try to live my life more day by day. I think I will heed Christ's advice not to worry about tomorrow.

Day by day... I grow and learn and love and become more myself. Life is good.

29 June 2011

Guest article - "15 Alarming Facts About Eating Disorders In College"

I was recently e-mailed by Kaitlyn Cole of OnlineUniversities.com regarding a recent article the website had published — "15 Alarming Facts About Eating Disorders In College." Don't let the title fool you — the article contains valuable information about eating disorders for people of any age. It also takes on several stereotypes about eating disorders. For example, the article points out that eating disorders strikes both men and women.

One of the most interesting things pointed out in the article is how nutritional information on food can be triggering. As someone recovering from anorexia, I sometimes do feel a twinge of guilt or worry when ordering out in restaurants and the calories are laid out there for me to see, and I have to tell myself it is okay to enjoy higher calorie foods. I remember when I was actively anorexic and I would count every calorie I ingested. The nutritional information provided by so many restaurants and packages of food were a great help for restricting.

The article also addresses other important issues, including the pro-anorexia movement and the fact that eating disorders do kill.

Therefore, I highly recommend you read "15 Alarming Facts About Eating Disorders In College". I would love to hear what you think about the article.

(Note: I do plan to write a personal post very soon. Graduate school is keeping me really busy right now, but soon I will have time for personal writing. I wish everyone a happy and safe Fourth of July holiday!)

14 June 2011

Happy Anniversary!!!

Last week, David and I celebrated our 15th anniversary (June 8). We had a lovely time strolling through the Toledo Zoo and Aquarium and finishing the day with a great meal at Applebee's. We then spent the evening at our hotel room talking, reconnecting, and looking through our wedding album and wondering at how young and hopeful we looked on that day.

I was proud then to marry the love of my life, and I am still proud to be David's wife. We have gone through so much and are still working to come back to each other. It is confusing at times. We love each other very much, and yet still live apart. We attend church together each Sunday, and see each other often during the week. I am learning to "live in the moment" and just enjoy the time we have together. We are both learning to understand and be more gentle with each other. We also sometimes dream of a future together; the house we might live in, the things we might do together, the life we could build.

What does this all mean? I don't know. Today David will decide if he wants to continue with marriage counseling. I have asked if if it means its over if we don't, and he said no. I pray that we do continue, because I think we are just starting to learn some important things that can strengthen our marriage. But I shall see, and I pray for strength to accept whatever direction we take next.

For now, we still love each other and are still working together. There have been a few arguments and tears (on my part - I tend to cry easily), but I feel we have worked through them and realize no couple has a perfect relationship.

I still believe in "happily ever after" and I still have faith . . .

David and me on our 15th wedding anniversary - 8 June 2011

18 May 2011

Love, Hope and (Un)bearable Uncertainties

And thus the story continues...

I thought I was ready to move on and accept that my marriage was over, and that there was nothing I could do about it. Then David returned to Michigan about one month ago. We have seen each other often, and these have been wonderful, intimate times together for the most part. Each moment with him feels precious because I am not certain of the future.

I know that he loves me, and I love him. Neither one of us can imagine being with anyone else. And David says he will always love me, and wants me in his life forever. I know I will always love him, he is too deep in my heart.

But will our life be as husband and wife? I do not know. We are undergoing marriage counseling right now, and it seems to help both of us. We are learning to listen to each other, and some of the things we have talked about surprised me.

One of the things David wanted me to hear is that I am very intelligent, accomplished, and a wonderful writer and it puzzles him that I am so lacking in self-confidence. Another thing he mentioned is that I am so worried about the future that I fail to "live in the moment."

I've been thinking about those two things a lot lately, and realize he is right on both counts. I struggle to be confident, and I do often worry about the future. I often later find out that those worries were unfounded, and a waste of valuable energy and time.

Why? Knowing I have a tendency toward self-sabotaging behavior does help me understand a bit more how I developed anorexia at 42. But I have so much to learn in order to grow and completely heal.

But I believe I can overcome these traits, and live a joyful life free from anorexia and overwhelming anxiety. And I still believe that life can be lived with David. Right now he needs time and he needs to see me healthy. I pray his heart will remain open to the possibility of us being together, of the beautiful life we can still build together.

I know he's afraid. I am afraid. But I refuse to give into fear, and truly believe I can do "all things through Christ who strengthens me."

I have so much hope for the future. Hope for myself. Hope for us. Hope that this will be "happily ever after." After all the pain of the past four years, I believe we deserve it.

But sometimes I feel as if God keeps throwing lessons at me. First there is the uncertainty of my marriage. Graduate school also has some uncertainties, as the chair of my thesis committee is leaving the university and now I need to find someone new to work with. I am planning on going on a mission trip in June, and I feel some uncertainity about how I can serve Christ while there.

However, that isn't the biggest uncertainty right now. I went for my yearly check-up yesterday. I was very proud because I have reached and maintained my goal weight for months. The last time my family doctor saw me, I weighed about 25 pounds less and I was getting ready to go into PHP as a last-ditch effort to conquer anorexia.

My family doctor did notice, and was quite happy. She knew I was relatively healthy because of my monthly blood tests ordered by my eating disorders doctor.

Then the check-up began...and she found some lesions that could possibly be cancerous. I am being sent to the gynecologist to be checked. I didn't take it seriously at first, and asked if it could wait until after the July mission trip because I have so many other things I'd rather do than go see another doctor. No. I have to go in the next few weeks.

Somewhere, I hear Alanis Morrisette singing, "Isn't it ironic??...."

24 April 2011

Vows meant truly (a poem)

Vows meant truly

Shattered pieces of my soul
Gathered in my hands
Leaking, draining
Spilling over
Like rain
Falling on the dry, hard soil.

I struggle to hold the shards
Inside my palms
Cutting, ripping
Like glass
Falling all around me.

Heart-words swirling
Within my brain
Love, commitment
Lies told
Falling apart in an instant.

I fight to keep dreams alive
Inside my shattered soul
But my hands are
Like a sieve
And everything pours out.

Vows meant truly.

14 April 2011

The legacy of family

"I must write it all out, at any cost. Writing is more than living, for it is being conscious of living." Anne Morrow Lindburgh

So many memories have been dancing at the edges of my brain this week. I am being pushed to remember and think about the past, and I'm not sure I like it. Old songs and pictures and writing memoir essays have opened the Pandora's box that I have struggled all my life to keep firmly shut and locked.

So why does the past feel so close, so much more real than today?...Growing up in a volatile family; misplaced Southerners who never completely adapted to life in the cold North, but moved here in search of better opportunities...Traveling down to visit my maternal grandmother, married seven, eight times, and yet dying alone in Section 8 housing...Visits to Kentucky and my grandfather and step-grandmother; happy, and yet Grandpa still dreaming of his beautiful, yet troubled first wife, my grandmother, until the day he died...My father's family; his mother, part Cherokee but passing as white; his father, first an alcoholic and then a die-hard member of a snake-handling church in the hills of Kentucky...my mother dropping out of high school after the eleventh grade, my father only making it through the eighth grade...

And the family's legacy reverberates through the next generations...I look at the picture of my beautiful grandmother, who struggled as she aged and her stunning beauty faded...I glance at the picture of my other grandmother, whom I never knew, and can see the Cherokee in her long, dark hair and eyes, haunted and tired, wearing a dress made out of sack cloth...I wonder about all these people, related to me and yet distant and disconnected from my life. Does any of this really effect who I am as a person?

Then there's my own life....As I wrap up my graduate nonfiction writing class, I think about the things I've written, the truths I've unveiled and the truths I couldn't bring myself to write about because some things are still too painful to put into words. My struggles with anorexia and its impact on my marriage...my husband leaving because, I believe, he couldn't take it anymore...my hopes and dreams for reconciliation, shattered...traveling down to Florida in one last ditch effort to save my marriage and failing...and yet...

I'm not sure what I'm trying to say... except that I am confused and my mind is swirling with all the mistakes I've made in my life, wondering where did I go wrong and how to move forward...wondering about the possibilities and if I can start over...and find a measure of peace and happiness in my life.

09 April 2011

I am not alone

Hope is the dream of a soul awake. ~ French proverb

I am not alone. Christ surrounds me every minute with His love and grace. I am forever grateful for His mercy during these times of struggle and change.

I am learning to live again. Being alone for long periods of time have shown me that I have only been half alive for years. Why?

Sickness, a disintegrating marriage, a slew of changes and losses during the past five years....first, the loss of myself as I became entangled with the illogical illness of anorexia. Then frantic attempts to become what I felt David wanted as I slowly recovered and grew stronger both in body and mind, and yet he drew further and further away. Leaving my career as a journalist to attend graduate school, and the subsequent adjustments to academia and trying to fit in to that world.

I am learning to trust that my intelligence and strength will see me through wherever God takes me. I never thought my marriage would end, but it has and I accept that and continue to move forward. I have hope for the future, and its infinite possibilities. I know I will never be alone no matter what happens, and to finally feel Christ's presence so fully is a joy that is indescribable.

Not that it has been easy. I have cried many times during the past three months, and prayed for God to lift the depression and anxiety as I contemplate unraveling fifteen years of dreams and hopes. As I look around my house and the tangle of possessions — David's paintings, my books; a life built that now must be torn down — I sometimes feel overwhelmed. I want to just give everything away, pack my clothes, and go somewhere were I am not known as David's wife or a former reporter or a recovering anorexic or all the other roles I have filled that I now must leave behind...A place where I can be free.

I am not alone. Christ is with me throughout all this. He is with me when I wake up in the middle of the night, still confused about all that has happened in the past year. He is with me each time I must tell one more person about the break-up of my marriage, that David is never coming back to Michigan and he has left it to me to tell all of our friends. He is with me when I still sometimes ask myself if I am a failure, if something is wrong with me and if I am an awful person who drove away her husband because she was so stupid to develop anorexia in her forties. I don't always believe these things of myself; they are just unbidden thoughts.

Christ was with me when I decided on December 28, 2010 that I would overcome anorexia and live a full life, one filled with joy and happiness. He was with me when I kept eating and gaining weight, and when I struggled with that and had to tell myself that health and freedom were worth the pain of recovery. I have told myself I will not settle for anything less than full freedom from anorexia. I become more free every day, and anorexia is beginning to seem like a distant memory.

I am not alone.

27 March 2011

It is time to move on...

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." Anais Nin

It is time for me to move forward in life. In each one of our lives reality shifts and changes. Nothing remains static. I can face the future with hope and courage, or I can face it with fear. I choose the first, and to accept that the dreams and hopes that I might have held at one time are no more.

For I do not want my life to shrink, become nothing more than waiting and dreaming for what will not happen. It has been three months — to the day — that David left, and there will be no reconciliation. Nothing can change that.

So I can choose to cry and rail against God or fate or whatever you want to call it. Or I can choose to move forward. The life I lead really depends upon me. I am now healthy and I am free. I feel strong in my recovery from anorexia, and thus those fears are not there anymore. I am proud of myself and I am fine with my body. I rarely think about being thinner or restricting or all the other things that came with the illness.

I am not saying things are perfect. Once in a while, I will get glimpse into the mirror or pull out the scale and weigh myself and I will feel an old, familiar twinge from days past. I just push it aside and think about what I stand to lose.


This might not be the life that I originally dreamed of when I started focusing on gaining weight and health three months ago. But as I wrote, realities change and you either accept it and move on or become bitter and stuck forever.

I think about the possibilities. I could move to Ireland after I finish graduate school. Or move south, away from Michigan's cold winters. I could do just about anything. I have far more blessings than many people. I am intelligent and educated. I have a variety of experiences in different fields. I have been told — although I still struggle to believe this about myself — that I am strong and courageous and beautiful.

Beautiful. There is such power in that word. Of course I like it when people say I am beautiful. Who doesn't? But I want to tell them to dig a little deeper, that perhaps real beauty can be found within people, including me. For I never again want to be trapped by anorexia, and part of me is afraid that one simple word is part of the trap.

You would be beautiful if only you were thinner...

This is one of the many thoughts I had before I became healthier. What nonsense! I can look at the pictures and see that at my thinnest, I was far from beautiful. I was emaciated and looked old and drained.

I would rather be thought of as strong and courageous and kind. These are the traits that open my world and allow others to be in it.

I am ready...It is scary because so much of the future is unknown. But in the end, isn't that really true of all of us? Can any one of us really say with complete certainty that this person or that job will be in our life tomorrow? Christ has taught me to not trust the things of this earth, for surely they will rust and decay and finally, disappear.

Make no mistake. I still believe in love and romance and the possibilities that exist. I am not bitter nor do I have a hatred of all men because of what David did. I am sometimes still angry and feel abandoned by him. But I am slowly moving through the stages of grief, and I am finally beginning to accept what has happened.

I am becoming myself, and I don't plan to lose that ever again.

And now, I step forward into the unknown...

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Phillippians 4:13

14 March 2011


For the love of God, I need a break. I feel as if everything is crashing down upon me and I am going to be buried and suffocating under the deluge.
I want to run away from all these responsibilities. The house. The bills. The damn cat and her litter box. The betta fish that barely moves and yet requires clean distilled water in his tank each week. My graduate studies in which I can barely stir an interest in — do I really care about multigenre or segmented essays? My anxieties and depression. The still-cold Michigan weather and the fact that I still see SNOW on the damn ground. The fact that in fact, I am alone. The loneliness and fear that this is all my life will be EVER.
Did I mention the bills? I am afraid to check the mail, because oops, there's another bill.
I can't wait for spring, to get out there and shoot a few dozen arrows at some choice imaginary targets.
The one good thing — I haven't stopped eating. The last thing I need is to starve and feel like crap again. No way. Not ever.
Okay, my rant is over. (So I can't remain Pollyanna positive all the time. The title of this post was stolen from another blog written by someone who sounds more overwhelmed than I do.)

10 March 2011

This Crazy Love

I know it might seem as if I have fallen off the face of the earth. It's just that a few things changed and I've needed some time to adjust . . .

David has decided to stay in Florida for now. I was heartbroken, and drove down there to see him. It was a good thing because we reconnected and for the most part, had a lovely and intimate time together. It was a bad thing because it makes me miss him worse than ever.

But it did create hope within him to see me looking healthy. Hope he did not have before.

This I know: we still love each other very much. We plan to continue to talk regularly and work on reconciling. The door is still open and neither one of us is ready to close it. We also will definitely be married at least until I am done with graduate school because he wants me to finish and said he would support me through it.

But I told him I won't wait forever. I want a life partner, someone by my side who will be there through the good and bad times. I am sometimes terrified we won't come back together and I will be alone for life. I don't think I can bear that thought, especially after the five days spent with him in Florida.

So I am very confused right now. I long for my husband and I don't know how any of this will turn out. It feels very crazy at times to me. I also have cried a lot of tears and this morning (almost) felt like giving up. But I won't because no matter what, the way to a better and happy life is to be healthy. Diving back into anorexia would only kill me.

And that is what I have been up to the past week . . . Now I need to find the strength to endure a long-distance marriage, and continue to recover from anorexia and complete graduate school. I've allowed myself today to just rest and do nothing. By the weekend, I must start my work again.

I still believe all of this will have a happy ending. But I know I have to trust in God and have faith.

Believe and it will be true . . .

26 February 2011

Freedom (One month)

One month ago I reached my healthy goal weight.

One month ago I really began to believe that full recovery from anorexia was possible.
One month ago I was so proud of myself I called my psychiatrist to tell him the good news. Dr. S later said that was when he first heard a change in my voice. He heard freedom in my voice. And although there have been ups and downs during the past month, that sense of freedom is becoming stronger each day.

That is my ultimate goal. Complete freedom from anorexia.

And I believe it can happen.

I remember when Pam weighed me at her office (I have put away the scale and my therapist monitors my weight.) I was fairly certain I had reached my goal weight because I could feel my body changing as I gained. My hips were becoming rounder and my breasts were fuller. My stomach - and this is the only part I struggled with - curved out a bit. I would look in the mirror at my slender, yet womanly figure and I was fine with it.

I didn't hate my body. I didn't feel any urges to restrict or lose weight. I wasn't disgusted by what I saw. I didn't argue with my doctor about the weight he said I needed to be at as I had in the past.

I felt free.

My anxieties about food and life began to dissipate and I felt as if I could finally breathe because I was no longer trapped by anorexia. Its hold had finally been broken.

It has been an emotional month. There are times that anxiety broke through, and I was disappointed to have lost that strong feeling of freedom. Then I realized that I had added too much sugar to my diet and as a hypoglycemic, I was crashing every time I had too much. So I re-worked things to include more protein and natural sugars, and less of the high fructose processed variety. I learned how different foods could make me feel better or worse, and how to eat properly while still including an occasional treat that I enjoyed.

This whole recovery has been a work in process.

I expected to have significant body image issues, but I haven't. I look at my body and I am still fine with it. I look at pictures of me at my thinnest; emaciated and looking like I could die at any moment and it is like looking at someone else.

I felt the same way when I read blog posts from last year. I wonder why I would ever think that remaining anorexic was a viable goal?  (I actually suggested this was what I wanted to do many times last year. No wonder my husband became frustrated and hopeless. He was dealing with someone who was completely illogical, but I didn't see that I was and nothing got through to me. I felt that the idea of living with anorexia was a perfectly good one. Unbelievable.

My body continues to move and shape as I enter my second month of recovery. I am told things aren't completely settled yet, and that could take some time. 

I have had to learn patience through this journey, and that has been hard. I never have been a very patient person. I believe God is trying to teach me ...

I am still emotional, and my doctor says that is normal at this stage of recovery. I know I am also emotional because of the uncertainties of life, including the relationship between David and I. This I know: we love each other very much and miss each other like crazy. We both have fears, and will need to work through them. Anorexia has left scars on both of us.

And we will see each other next Saturday for the first time in two months. I think about seeing my beloved's face again, and my breathe catches in my throat my anticipation is so great. I know I will cry, and then . . . It has been a long two months. I pray for this new beginning for us, and firmly believe we will be reconciled and able to put this behind us.

Because I will never go back. I will never re-enter that prison that is anorexia. It would kill me. Recovery  tastes too sweet to want to go back. 

Freedom. That is what I am aiming for — complete and total freedom from anorexia. A full life with David, growing old together in love and joy. An interesting and useful career using my writing and other talents. Becoming closer to my God so that it is His light that shines through me, and people will know He allowed me to be set free.


Believe and it will happen . . .

18 February 2011

Shedding the ED Identity

I am Angela.
I am not anorexic.
I am not a bad person.
I refuse to place labels on myself anymore.
I no longer hate my body.
I am learning to love myself.
I turn to my God in times of need and blessings.
I am in love with my husband and my friends and my family and all that life has to offer.
I am shedding the eating disorder identity.
I am no longer the woman who felt the most important thing about her was her weight and body size. I refuse to be that person. The only way to full recovery is to believe it can happen, and then go through the process.
Anything less than believing this is selling myself short.

Several people have questioned what they see as a dramatic change in me within only a few weeks. One person wrote, "How can it be that easy?"

No, it wasn't easy. It was hard and full of pain and tears. I often got down on my hands and knees and begged God to take away the anxiety and pain of recovery, of being separated from my husband, of the loneliness I felt as I ate most meals by myself.

But I have chosen to be positive. I have many blessings. My husband and I are talking and growing closer again, and we both acknowledge our love for each other. I have no idea about the future, but I do believe love will prevail in the end. I am determined to live a life of joy and happiness, free of anorexia and all its fallout. I feel one way to do this is to envision the type of life I want.

I remember my last attempt at recovery in the fall. At first I was very positive. But then I slowly slid back into anxiety and depression, and of course I used that to start restricting and losing weight. Before I knew it, I was again enmeshed in anorexia.

You see, I did have a rather romantic view of anorexia. Several people accused me of romanticizing anorexia, and of course I vehemently denied these accusations.

But I was wrong. My malnourished brain didn't realize that I was addicted to anorexia and the whole eating disorder identity.

This time around, I knew I had to do something different or recovery would always remain just out of grasp. I also knew that if I didn't recovery that I could die of anorexia. It was no longer romantic and airy-fairy, floating through life as a feather. It was about pain and suffering and death. And that death would most likely be slow and painful, not the quick heart attack I had imagined.

So I decided that this time I would stay as positive as possible. I would focus on the positive aspects of recovery — the lessening of anxiety and depression, being able to think clearer, the fact that I could focus better on writing and studying.

But it wasn't easy. I cried at many meals, and in the beginning I struggled with eating and drinking about five times more calories than what I was used to.

But I never stopped eating. Not once. Even when I felt so much emotional pain that I asked myself if giving up anorexia was what I really wanted to do. The answer was always, "Yes!"

This is because I simply decided I wanted a real life. Not a life of counting calories and worrying about every bite I put in my mouth and being constantly hammered by the eating disorder voice within my brain that I shouldn't eat, that I didn't deserve to eat.

I wanted out.

I don't have those thoughts anymore. I don't call myself anorexic. I say I am recovering from anorexia. I have reached my goal weight, and I look at my new figure and I rather like it. I look like a woman, not a starving person on the edge of a breakdown.

I am not that person anymore. And I never want to be again.

10 February 2011

The Circle of Recovery

Sometimes I will be walking across campus to class or through the local mall, I will see someone who reminds me of myself as I was about a year ago. She is emaciated and often seems hyperactive, as if she can't stop moving and she's running towards somewhere she can never find. She will have a fleeting look of despair in her eyes, and I always wish there was something I could do or say to help her. If I could, I would take her hand and lead her toward a private place where we could talk and I would say, "You can get better. You don't have to live your life of fear and anxiety anymore."

But of course in this world, we don't take strangers by the hand and start talking to them about healing and recovery. That is too bad, because I wish somebody would have taken me by the hand last year and said, "You can recover." Of course, both Dr. S and my husband did say those type of things to me many times. So what makes me think I would have listened to a stranger? But perhaps I would have listened to a stranger who had been through the same things I was feeling. I will never know, just as I can't make that final step to reach out to a total stranger.

However, I did reach out in a way. Last year, I wrote several posts about the dangers of anorexia on a pro-anorexia site. I was completely trashed by the site's author and many of her readers, and I felt that my posts were probably just empty echos into cyperspace. But sometimes a word or two can fall upon the right person and just maybe you can make a difference. I recently found out that my warnings did make a difference to a young woman who had recently had a baby. She had gained weight and was desperate to take it off, and started looking to pro-anorexia sites for tips to lose weight more rapidly. She began to get sucked into the whole mindset of becoming a size 0, and it seemed as if she would soon become trapped into the whole anorexic mindset.

Then she came across my posts, which basically stated that being a size 0 wasn't all it seemed, and that indulging in anorexic behaviors was like playing with fire. I wrote about how anorexia was destroying me mind and soul, and this was even before things really started to fall apart. My posts led her to this blog, and this is what she recently wrote in part: "I think I was borderline of developing a problem, but it was your posts (and) then reading your blog that showed me I was playing a nasty game." She talked with her doctor and started losing weight the healthy way, and a potential crisis was averted.

I've been thinking about this because I have been thinking about all of you who read my blog and have left me encouraging and kind comments when I was at my worst and now that I am getting better. It is like you are the stranger who reached across and took my hand, saying "Yes, you can do it. You can get better."

I want to thank all of you for your support. I have cherished it, and it has made these difficult days just a little easier knowing so many people are praying and hoping for my complete recovery.

I won't let all of you down. I have no desire to return to anorexia. In the past, when I would look at these women, I felt a twinge of envy. Now all I feel is pity. Recovery is almost like I died and was resurrected. I feel like I am becoming a better person, one ready to face the future and is excited about it. It doesn't mean I don't still get anxious or depressed. It means that I face life, deal with it in the best ways I can, and continue to eat no matter what.

And it also means a life of love and joy and happiness, and I pray this includes my husband, David. I believe in the end our love will see us through, and I believe we both have so much hope. I just have to be patient, and patient with recovery as I discover new and exciting things about myself. None of this can be rushed, and I will enjoy all of it; returning to life, reconnecting with my husband and friends, learning and growing in graduate school, everything that I missed for so long.

Freedom...It tastes so sweet, and it has been so long in coming. Perhaps it is sweeter because it has taken me so long to want full recovery, to really work at it like I mean it.

I am going to make it. I just know it.

I am going to be free. And someday, I hope to reach out my hand to someone else and whisper, "You can be free, too."

06 February 2011

Today I am free

Today I am free. Free to love and laugh and rediscover all that life has to offer.

Free to live. It hasn't always been this way.

Achieving freedom has been hard work. It has meant eating and gaining weight, and sticking with the process no matter how mentally or physically uncomfortable it has felt. It is still hard work. It means feeling emotions I haven't felt in years. It means really feeling, instead of being numb from starvation. There are days I am down on my knees, praying to God to take away the pain I am feeling. There are other days that I feel as if I can achieve anything I want. No two days are alike, and it certainly hasn't been boring.

However, it has been rewarding. I will never again go back to that half-life state called anorexia nervosa.

I am free.

Free from weighing myself everyday. Free from being afraid of every bite I put into my mouth. Free to think and write and learn.

I think I realized I was free on Friday, when first I joked with Dr. S, making him laugh, and then I took a handful of M&Ms out of the office jar and ate them. I didn't carefully count the candies. I didn't think about grabbing a handful. I just did it because I wanted some nibbles of chocolate. That was the first time. And I didn't berate myself afterward, or try to figure out the calorie count or want to get rid of them. It was only M&Ms. So what?

My soul relishes this freedom, and I will never give it up for the prison of anorexia.

Lately I notice I often refer to anorexia as a prison, and myself as having been imprisoned by anorexia. I look back and realize that is exactly how it felt. I was in a prison; a dark, dank, and dirty box. Locked away from love and life. Unable to think clearly. Anxiety often made me feel as if I was going to explode. Now I can look at what is making me anxious, and calmly tell myself that everything is going to be okay.

I still have much work to do, including figuring out why I developed anorexia in the first place. I'm not sure if I will completely answer that question, and perhaps it isn't that important.

I also hope it isn't too late to repair my marriage, and have a joyful and loving relationship with my husband. He is still in Florida, and I miss him like crazy. I want to share this newfound sense of freedom with him, to laugh together and reconnect. I want us to love each other, and do fun and exciting things together that we have missed out on because of my illness. We are both hopeful, although I still have no idea what will happen and that sometimes causes me anxiety.

This I know: we both still love each other and miss each other. We both are trying. We both have fears to work through, and we are doing that. We talk often, and my heart just sort of melts every time I hear his voice. (I almost feel like a teenager falling in love, or like someone who is just being awoken by the handsome prince!)

Did I say we both still love each other? :)  In the end, I believe anorexia can't kill that love.

Believe and it will be true...

I am free.

26 January 2011

Mission accomplished

I found out today that I have reached my healthy goal weight as set by my doctor. I was weighed by my therapist Pam because I banished the scale to the closet a while ago (I only peeked two or three times!)

And now I move onto the next stage of recovery. I am already doing some things that I think are healthy for my recovery. I have stopped my incessant reading of articles about anorexia and all things related. I have left some Facebook groups that posted articles and other items of information that I still find triggering.

I am slowly extracting myself from the world of anorexia.

It was my whole world for a long time. I am now thinking clearer and feeling more positive than I have for years. I thought this fall I was done with anorexia, but I had a few more months to wrestle with it. I am determined that this time I will continue on the path to health, knowing it will lead to a joyful life filled with love and happiness. I am beginning to believe I deserve that, and I know all of you out there do too.

So what does this mean? I believe it means I am still in recovery from anorexia? To say I am recovered would be premature. I still have thoughts and fears, although not as many as I thought I would at this stage. I am not experiencing any significant body image issues. Of course, it has helped that I have banished People and other magazines like it from my life. It also helps that I no longer look at pro-anorexia sites. Yes, I know super skinny women will always be part of life, but now I just feel sorry for them and what they are missing out on.


I was missing out on life for so long. Now I can think clearer and I find the anxiety is lessening. I am still nervous about many things. I miss my husband, and I still pray constantly that we will eventually reconcile. We are having some really great, fun conversations and right now we just plan to have fun with each other and get to know each other now that the fog of anorexia is lifting and I am becoming healthier. I am going to be dating my husband - how many women can say that!?! LOL!

I am looking forward to getting to know myself again. These things I know: I am a loving and caring person with a good sense of humor (hard to have when you are starving) that can be borderline sarcastic. I am intelligent and interested in many things, and feeling better has made graduate school less stressful and more fun (I have had great online discussions about technology and its effects on learning and literacy, and the whole idea of the ownership of text.) I am beginning to think I am beautiful, but that my beauty inside is what is most important. Most importantly, I feel closer to God and am forever grateful for His grace and love.

Oh, and I am sooo looking forward to the day I don't have to drink another damn Ensure Plus and can just enjoy food.

21 January 2011

"I am strong..."

"I can do anything. I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman!" Helen Reddy, 1972.
My strength continues to grow as I realize I am strong and can do anything if I really want to. I am determined to leave the unhappiness of anorexia behind forever, and live my life with joy and happiness and love.

The week did not start out this way. I was very depressed by Sunday evening and I didn't leave the house until Wednesday. My darkest moment came on Tuesday night when I decided that my life wasn't worth living, and unbidden thoughts taunted me to just get this sorry excuse for a life over with already.

All my past mistakes, my failures at recovery and the uncertain future of my marriage hammered in my brain. I hated myself for again relapsing and driving David away, hurting him because I was just not able to sustain recovery and I didn't have an answer to why I couldn't.

Then I called several friends and after hours on the phone, I felt as if I could breathe again. I was still sad and anxious and depressed, but I felt a tiny flame of hope that I might someday have a life worth living.

I was calm enough to do some homework on Wednesday, and I left the house that afternoon to go see my therapist. Then I went grocery shopping and bought exactly the types of foods that Dr. S has told me to eat. (I can't afford a nutritionist, so my psychiatrist is taking on that role.)

I proceeded to carry my bags loaded with healthy foods (including Stouffer's, and yes, I know I said I would never eat those foods again, but whatever Dr. S says goes and he told me to ditch the Healthy Cuisine and buy something with more calories.) Then two of the bags ripped apart and my food scattered  all over the snowy walk.

I screamed out my rage. My rage at anorexia. My rage at David leaving. My rage at what a mess my life seemed like. My rage and fear of the future. I'm surprised my neighbors didn't call the police. (I think I screamed quietly until I was in the house.)

Of course, it was at this moment that David returned my call and I was crying about the dropped groceries. Then I poured my heart out to him. I said I was going to beat anorexia and put it behind me, and that we would get back together and have love and laughter in our lives again and grow old together and ... and then he said, "I've always loved you."

I'm not sure what prompted him to say that. I don't remember what I said before he said that. But I do remember he said earlier in the day that I had hurt him by relapsing after he returned home, and I told him I was very sorry and that I had not meant to hurt him. I realize how hard it must have been for him to admit I had hurt him so much, and I am sorry.

On Thursday, I decided no more depression and anxiety. I worked on my schoolwork and managed to have a calm day. I went to bed early enough to get a decent night sleep, and said my usual prayers to God for healing of myself and my marriage.

Today I woke up to the bright, cold Michigan sunshine and got up to make my two-hour trek to see Dr. S. I plugged in my iPod and started playing some new Christian contemporary songs. I found myself singing along, and realized it was the first time I had really sung - sung from my heart - since David left. Dr. S smiled as I told him that I was playing music and singing on my way to see him.

Then I asked him if he thinks I will recover from anorexia. Think? I don't think you will. I know you will recover from anorexia this year.

As I shook his hand goodbye for the week, I felt hope rising as I realized this kind, gentle psychiatrist believes in me. And I thought, Yes, I will recover from anorexia this year. Driving back north, I again began singing to the music, the sun streaming through my sun roof, as David and I chatted for awhile.

It was then that I had my epiphany. I am a strong woman. And that's what I need to be, both for myself and my marriage. I thought about it all the way home, and remembered this song by Helen Reddy about being strong. I have been listening to it every since...

"Oh yes, I am wise. But it's wisdom born of pain. Yes, I've paid the price. But look at how much I've gained..."

Dr. S says I am gaining myself and freedom. I will be free. I will break out of the prison of anorexia, and I will peel back the layers and find myself.

"You can bend but never break me, 'cause it only serves to make me, more determined to achieve my final goal..."

18 January 2011

Recovering Through The Loneliness

I have to be honest. Recovering from anorexia would be so much easier if I didn't feel so alone at times.
And I hate to admit that.  I hate to admit I am feeling anything other than positive.

I would love to write I am handling all this with grace and dignity. But there are hours spent crying, begging God to restore me to health and restore my marriage. There are many times I panic and am afraid I will be alone the rest of my life. I often become angry at anorexia for all the havoc it has brought to my life. I sometimes wish my husband would just believe I am going to stick with recovery and come home already.
I sometimes don't understand why
isn't enough right now. Why can't we
Be Together?
However, I have learned some important things. That meals shared mean more than just food, even if you are sometimes afraid of the food. That I can turn to my friends and ask them for help and they won't turn me away or abandon me. That God is always there, even it is only a whisper or a hint that I carefully have to listen to.

That I need people — real relationships that involve connection through talking and/or seeing the other person.

And I learned I never let go of my eating disorder, I never let go of control, until now. I am now doing exactly what my doctor says. I don't like it, particularly the amount of calories he wants me to eat. But I tell my eating disorder voice to shut up and do it anyway.
My way was not working
My body and life are in the hands of Dr. S and God. My weight is being monitored by Pam. And I am dreaming of a future of freedom, complete with love and joy and happiness. And that dream still includes David.

We both speak of hope tentatively, fearfully at times. It has been a rough road for both of us. We have vowed when we do reconcile, we are going to put all this behind us and live.

I just wish I could talk with the future Angela and ask her how she got through this incredibly tough and lonely time. Where did she find the inner strength? What were some of the things she did to quiet the anxiety about the future that buzzed around in her mind? How did she calm her fears?

(Perhaps, dear Angela, you could give me a hint?)

Everyone tells me there is light at the end of this tunnel, there is hope for the future and dreams to still be lived. I try to believe, and live as though I do believe. I keep saying to myself: Believe and it will be true. Believe...

12 January 2011

Spirit Rising (Today I Put Away The Scale)

After almost two weeks of unrelenting depression and anxiety, I finally felt today the first stirrings of my spirit rising to the challenge of living. I have no doubts I will recover from anorexia in 2011. I must in order to have any kind of life.

Today I put away the scale, that hated instrument that
I have been a slave to for at least a decade.

 I will no longer be defined by a number (one of my therapists is going to keep track of my weight to make sure I am going in the right direction and not losing weight or leveling off until I reach my healthy goal weight as set by my doctor, not me.)  

I am finding it difficult to put down in words what I am feeling right now. There is a strong sense of loneliness since my husband and I separated. I struggle with ongoing anxiety about the future. I am in the beginning stages of refeeding my body, and it is a time of feeling bloated and constantly full. I am writing and thinking and praying, and constantly learning ways to recover. I have an odd sense that this is my last time at recovery, that I must recover this time.

I am different this time. I refuse to even consider a relapse in my future. As far as I am concerned, I will fully recover from anorexia and then put all the pain and hurt caused by it behind me.

My moods have been swinging from anxiety and fear about the future to raging anger at anorexia for every coming into my life. I am working my way through "Life Without Ed," a recovery book by Jenni Schaefer that has many exercises in it to help people overcome their eating disorders. I find it very helpful to read and work with a book that focuses on recovery. However, I am stubborn about one exercise that has you in one chair and your eating disorder seating in another chair, then you talk back and forth as both yourself and as your eating disorder.

I look at the chair each night, give it the finger, and tell my eating disorder it has had a voice for four years and now it is time to listen to me. I then proceed to tell my eating disorder — no more name for you, as I have finally decided that gives you too much power — how much I hate it for entering my life and almost totally destroying it.

Right now, I am so very angry at anorexia it is almost frightening. Anorexia would already be dead if it was a person. Too bad I can't just put a knife through the evil heart of anorexia.

I wish I didn't have to do this alone. I have learned that having David here made this house a home, and while it still is my home . . . the emptiness sometimes becomes so hard to bear I break down crying.

My husband and I talk frequently. At first our conversations were pretty depressing, and he finally told me that. I was feeling the same way — crying during each phone call — and was grateful for his honesty. It is just I am not sure where our relationship stands right now, it all feels very strange and new and difficult to negotiate.

This is I what I know: we both still love each other very much. He has said he does not want to sit here and watch me slowly kill myself through starvation. I know that I hurt him by almost immediately restricting my eating when he returned home. I have assured him that it is not his fault. Instead, anxiety and depression came roaring back and I struggled to talk about the things that were bothering me.

I was feeling isolated and lonely because I was in the process of joining the Catholic Church and I didn't realize how much I would miss being with my husband at worship each Sunday. But I felt trapped; trapped by the work done to get David's first marriage annulled. I felt trapped by what I thought I wanted, not realizing how lonely it would make me feel. I felt trapped and like I had to continue the process even though my heart ached to be at church with my husband.

I finally told them last week I can't go through with it. I will remain at our church, which is the Episcopal Church and the one thing that was driving me toward the Catholic Church — the belief in the true presence of Christ Jesus in the body and blood of the Eucharist — is shared by both churches. David sounded...well, actually happy that I would be staying there. He said he felt that by joining the Catholic Church, I was isolating myself further from him.

Anyway, that is the past. I must learn to embrace the now. I wish I could be certain . . . well, certain of many things. But I have learned that I can't change the past nor control the future. I also have learned I can only control my own actions. And finally, I have learned that God is in all this and any illusion of control is just that — an illusion.

I must trust in God. I must go to Him whenever I am frightened and lonely, and I must thank him for His grace and mercy. Most of all, I must build the foundation of my recovery on Christ Jesus. Before, the seeds of my recovery were strewn on rocky soil and thus did not take deep root. I must allow the seeds of recovery to land within the soil of my heart, creating strong roots that stay with me the rest of my life. This will create the healthy me, and I will become the person I was and will be able to live a full and joyful life. I will be free!

Beyond that, I pray for this painful period to past; painful for many reasons. I pray that springtime comes to my soul and I become less angry and anxious, and more the healthy me I was before anorexia took over.

I pray, and each day do something toward recovery. I continue to work through "Life Without Ed." I write and ask myself what does loving myself really mean? I am trying to discover who is this person underneath the layers of anorexia? I sure I will find lots of surprises. It does feel strange to be 45 and doing this work, but if not now, when?

I pray, and I repeat to myself often: Believe and it will come true.

04 January 2011

There will never be another me...

 Sometimes it takes a child to voice the truth that needs to heard. As I watched little Sophia speak her words, I thought of myself as a little girl much like her and bawled. I was a little girl with long dark hair and light blue eyes, and I loved reading and writing and books and chocolate and kittens. I loved to go to school and sitting in the front row, eager to learn. But as life unfolded, I learned to dislike myself. And one day, I grew up to hate my body and did everything in my power to look and be like someone else.
Anybody but me.

I have been trying to recreate myself almost since I was born. I never thought I was beautiful enough. I never thought I was smart enough. And when I got married, I never thought I was good enough for my husband. But the harder I tried to become someone else, the worse things became.
Until I was lost.

Anorexia nervosa knew just when to strike. And I then embarked on a new mission to remold my body to society's idea, and I was so successful that I lost sight of everything else. The love of my husband. The friendship of others. Joy and laughter and love became buried by layers of anorexia until I couldn't breathe anymore.
It wasn't just my body that became smaller, my soul became smaller.

But as little Sophia says, I am unique and there will never will be another me in all the history of the world. So why in the world would I try to look or be like someone else? I am rediscovering myself; my love of writing and reading, of the joy of Celtic music and classic Elton John, of cuddling with my cat and crying because this little girl's message moves me so much I can't hold it back. I have dark curly hair and light blue eyes, and my body once was strong and beautiful and it can become that again.  I am opinionated and believe strongly in justice for those who can't speak for themselves. I love to study English and poetry and history and the Bible and religion. I am passionately loyal to my friends and would do anything for them. I am stubborn, and my therapist says one of my greatest strengths is that
I never give up.

I believe in miracles, and the power of love and hope. I know I can recover from anorexia. I'm just starting to unravel the layers of this cloak of anorexia, but unravel it I will. I have finally learned the key is within me.
I just have to unlock the door.