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.