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.