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.