11 September 2013

11 September 2001

The sky was azure, that kind of heart-aching blue that only comes during the waning days of summer. The day was beautiful, full of promise and hope and just a hint of autumn.

Like most people, my memories of 9/11 continue to be in sharp bas-relief. I remember exactly what I was doing that morning; the morning that change so much for all Americans.

I was in the newsroom, finishing up a news story. It was Monday and most likely, I had been to a school board meeting the night before (that is one part I am unclear about.) Other reporters also were working, and it was the typical, hectic morning of an afternoon paper being put together. The editor, Jack, was laying out pages while the television played in the background.

The first plane hit the World Trade Center tower. Many of us rushed into Jack's office, no doubt thinking about how this new development, this accident, would screw up deadline and possibly make the paper late.

Then the second plane came into sight, calmly flying toward the World Trade Center, until it finally crashed into the building. I said, "That was no accident.)

All hell broke loose.

I was told to get Rep. Dave Camp's Washington office on the phone. I did, after swallowing several Xanax and praying. I remember talking to a woman, and then she suddenly said, "I have to go." She hung up.

The Pentagon had been hit by a third plane.

The next few hours seem to move in fast-forward motion in my head, each activity cramming itself against the next one. Rushing to the airport to talk to people. Teaming up with several other reporters to find and interview the airport's manager. Driving back to Midland, encountering long lines at every gas station.

Looking up at that azure-tinted sky, wondering what had happened.

I got home around 11:30 p.m. I sat in my car, staring up at the black night thick with stars. Something was not quite right with the sky. It was too clear, too empty. Too cold.

Suddenly it occurred to me: the ubiquitous air traffic was gone. Nothing moved in that night sky except for a few faint satellites, slowly circling the earth, devoid of any knowledge of the enormous tragedy that had occurred that day.

The night sky was empty, and so were thousands of families. Moms and dads, sisters and brothers, loved ones and friends — many did not return home that day. They were dead, mingled with the ashes and fire that consumed the Twin Towers and Pentagon and an empty, grassy field in Pennsylvania.

I cried, hurting for all the loss and fearful for the future.

I had no idea what impact these terroristic attacks would have on me, the nation, the world.

07 August 2013

Inspiration Needed (Dear Anonymous)

An anonymous reader left the following message on a recent blog post:
She wrote the following:

"Hi! My name is Morag. I am a fifteen year old girl trying to recover from anorexia.I just discovered your blog.I am scared of dying. I am scared of ruining my relationships. But I'm scared of eating more. I keep saying "this is it, this is the breaking point where I get better" only to go back to panicking about calories the next day. If you have any inspiration for me, please PLEASE share. Thanks..."

I left her the following message after her comment:

Dear Anonymous,

I'm afraid everything I say will sound trite: you're young, you have your whole life ahead of you, you can defeat this because you most likely have not had anorexia for a long time (meaning it has not become chronic, as it is in my case since I'm entering my six year of treatment.)

All of these things might be true, but I'm betting that the eating disorder voice can trash each one and turn it around to make you feel hopeless.

Do you have a therapist? A dietitian? A eating disorders psychiatrist? It's hard to know what to say when I have so little to go on, and also do not know your living situation, i.e. does it contribute to your eating disorder or is your family supportive? Have you looked into ED recovery groups? I know that these groups are limited and it depends upon where you live.

Just know that you can recover, many people do. It takes hard work and understanding that it won't happen overnight. Realize you will sometimes slide back; this happens in recovery.
Finally, you have to WANT to recover. I know that might sound strange and not very helpful, but it's the truth. You have to want to recover, and you have to be willing to give up the anorexia identity and discover who you are and the things you can do.

Please feel free to e-mail me at angelaelackey@gmail.com if you have any questions, etc. I might be off the grid for about a week or so, so don't worry if I don't answer right away; I will answer.

I will keep you in my prayers.

However, I was hoping perhaps some of you might have inspiration, too? If so, please share in the comments.Maybe we can stop one more young person from being sucked into anorexia for life. Maybe we might save her a lot of pain and heartache. I hope so.

Thank you.

05 August 2013

Witnessing a Love Story

I'm sitting here in Starbucks, sipping my skinny vanilla latte and anxiously counting how many calories this adds to my daily allowance. I'm cold. I'm tired. I'm depressed.

I look around at the other people here. I am curious. Of course, the first thing I focus on is their weight. The young lady to my right is slender and gorgeous, and I immediately focus on my thighs. She is eating a sandwich, while I settle for my XXX-calorie meal bar. Did I mention that I was hungry?

In line are more slim women; women wearing leggings and close-fitting tops; fearlessly order frozen drinks laden with sugar and fat. I am envious, and I do not like the feeling.

I notice another young lady, also slender and possessing smooth skin and perfect make-up. I realize that everyone is able to pull themselves together except me, and I stand out with all my fat. I think.

There are several men here, but I do not care about them or their weights. They are average; forgettable.

An older man walks in with a bouquet of red roses. He is middle-aged, perhaps in his fifties, and balding. He sits down next to a Hispanic woman. I had noticed her earlier — also middle-aged, heavy-set, much bigger than me. This made me feel safe.

I had dismissed her as yet another overweight American, one of many who eats too much and just doesn't care.

She breaks out in a smile. A stunning smile, full of joy and life. She takes the roses, and gently grins at the gentleman.

They talk. I watch. I wonder about their relationship. Are they lovers? Married? Is he going to ask her to marry him?

It is almost too intimate to watch.

Now she is showing him some pictures on her phone. Their heads bend together, brushing against each other.

Now she laughs at something he has said, bringing her hand up to her chest.

I do not know this woman. I do not know if she has ever starved herself, or purged her food, or been on one of a million diets out there. I admire that she seems okay with her curves and bulges; indeed, she seems very comfortable in her own skin.

I envy that.

But I doubt that she has starved or purged or desired to slice the flesh off of her bones. She is full of life, obviously in love with this balding man and herself. I bet she doesn't know or care how many calories are in her latte or cappuccino or macchiato. I am sure she didn't anxiously plug the numbers in her phone's calculator, hoping that she didn't go over the self-imposed limit.

There are still here. She is sipping the last of her drink, and I can almost taste the full-fat milk and chocolate. I can almost remember what it felt like to have that cold sensation on my tongue, swirling it about my mouth, no thought of calories or carbs or fat grams.

She tosses her dark curly hair, leaning forward as the man speaks. He also leans forward, and I am sure that he loves her for all of curves, that she draws him in with that smile and the life that shines within.

03 August 2013

Walking on Water

I am
Walking on Water

Skirting the Edges
Trying to not let
The fear

Consume me.


I have done
Whatever I could
To Please you.


I am Not
The Evil One

I have
Been Walking
On Eggshells


When I was born,
Did I ask
For this

I have
Been Able to

Walk on Water

But does that

I try
This pain...

No Matter What

I am
Walk on Water

And therefore

@11:34 a.m.  - 334
@ 12:48 p.m. - 534
@1:52 p.m. - 542
@ 2:33 p.m. - 550
@ 3:53 p.m. - 558
@4:09 p.m. - 566

Each number represents failure.

As I continue
To try and fight this
The Chaos
In my Life
Threatens to take control.

Each number represents success.

As I continue
To try and suppress
This is the only thing
That I can control.

I will never be able to
Walk on Water.

01 August 2013

What happens when an ED recovery-minded blogger starts to slip?
Does she go out and create chaos?
Or quietly struggle, afraid to hurt others?

Does she internalizes her fears,
Or does she find a way to release them?

Does she write her way out the pain,
Trying to awaken from the nightmare?

What happens when she slips?

Does she pretend,
Or rediscover her soul?

29 July 2013

XXXXXXXXXXX — Insert Awesome Post Title HERE

Don't dictate to me
Don't tell me what I feel/should wear/should look like/should be like...

Don't tell me ...
I should gain/lose/maintain
I should.............................

I refuse to maintain an unhealthy weight solely so YOU don't feel guilty/worried/pissed/uncomfortable

Your feelings are your concern, not mine

What you feel/do/say/think/dream is unrelated to me

They are a good thing

Get it?

I am learning some truths that, perhaps, I'd rather not face.

I don't have to love anyone solely on the basis that we share genes and biological makeup.

I don't have to allow anyone to treat me viciously solely on shared ancestry.

I have discovered that hundreds of miles of distance are necessary for my health, well-being, and sanity.

My friends love me, in spite of the fact that I can be difficult, moody, and sometimes negative.
It's those shared genetics that bite me each time.

When does my obligations cease, and I am allowed to be my own person?

I refuse to wait
Another decade
Another year
Another minute....

I'm sometimes afraid that I will suddenly wake up, realizing that I have allowed my life to be dictated by genetics and shared ancestry, choking and smothering me until nothing is left.

Without getting into specifics, each time drama rears it's ugly head, I turn to eating disorder behavior to cope.
I'm not blaming.
It just is, you know?
It is

No blame is definitely not an excuse, however.
At some point, I have to keep myself safe.

Explosive anger scares me.
It sends me hurtling back
Places I don't want to go
Places I thought I forgot

Exploding angry
Exploding worlds
Explosions and then

I can't figure out why some people behave this way.
Don't they realize how frightening they seem?

Of the four freedoms, freedom from fear is the most important one to me.



I will continue to blog, but perhaps I will save my most personal thoughts for my new, anonymous blog on Wordpress. I'm not ready to share this blog with anyone who knows me; perhaps I will be someday.

Writing is my release. I can't live without it.
Writing is how I process things.
It restores me to a measure of sanity.


I ask —
Who is using whom?

The End.

23 July 2013

An Acceptable Number?

I no longer can pretend that I am recovered from my eating disorder, if I ever was. The thoughts, the actions, the pattern of behaviors - all point to the fact that I am still struggling with anorexia.
People look at me and think, "She's at a healthy weight, so she must be better." Scratch that. People probably look at me and think, "She's fat, poor thing; she really has let herself go."
I asked Dr. S the other day if he thought I needed to lose weight. I waited to hear the hesitation in his voice, the pity that I was now at the other end of the spectrum. He answered with an emphatic, "No."
Who am I to believe? What he says or what I see with my own two eyes? The thing is, I don't know if I can trust my own eyes; they have lied to me so much during the past six years.
And what about the number on the scale? The scale does not lie, it is an impersonal  machine that really doesn't care what I or anyone else weighs. The bar slides forward and back, speaking to the fears of hundreds of women who watch, silently, praying that it would stop on an acceptable number.
What is an acceptable number? During the past six years, I've hit a low of 91 and a high of 168. My body has gained and lost the equivalent of a toddler, except the only life that was lost was mine.
I remember sitting in McDonald's a few weeks ago. It was hot, so very hot. A couple in their 60s or early 70s stopped in, ordering cold drinks. He order a chocolate shake, topped with whipped cream and a cherry. She ordered an iced coffee, and I'm sure it was either unflavored or flavored with sugar-free syrup.
The message was this: men can order whatever they like, the world of food and its flavors are completely open to them, they don't have to restrict their lives. 
Women, on the other hand, must rein in their appetites, and instead delicately sip on low-caloried beverages and pretend that they really don't want the milkshakes and other treats that are out there.
Of course, this is changing with a new generation, and men are also increasingly taught that they must deny themselves.
This is just a little vignette, something to highlight the increasing rage I feel toward the eating disorder voice that taunts me.
I also thought this: will I be her when I'm in my 70s, still restricting myself from all that the world offers? That is, of course, if I am still here.

17 July 2013

Bad News — Especially for an anorexic

TRIGGER WARNING — Numbers are in this post.

I found out today that I am at least 10 pounds overweight, and most likely, because I am small-framed, about 30 pounds.

I need to lose 30 pounds.

I am speechless.

I knew I was heading in this direction, but of course no one wanted to say anything to me. Who wants to say to a recovering anorexic — the eating disorder voice is still very strong — that she needs to lose weight. I wouldn't.

But weight does effect health, and now I am in the position that I need to lose instead of gain.

I had hoped that I might be able to move past weight. I had hoped that this, all of this, wouldn't be a focal point of my life.

I had hoped to achieve recovery, but right now it feels as out of grasped as when I was at my thinnest.

I can't believe this.

I am so upset.

15 July 2013

Is complete recovery from an eating disorder even possible?

In 2007, an inexplicably irrational and frightening disease entered my life — anorexia nervosa. I was familiar with it, of course, although I did not have any close friends who struggled with anorexia or any other eating disorder, at least that I knew of.

My first contact with anorexia was with a two-sentence entry in my Abnormal Psychology textbook. It was the 1980s, and eating disorders just weren't getting a lot of attention. My next encounter with anorexia was in the early 1990s, when I was hospitalized at the University of Michigan Hospitals after a particularly bad bout with depression and anxiety. There was a young woman there, very thin and pale, who was on complete bed rest. I later found out that she had anorexia. I scoffed, eating my bacon eggs, that anyone would willingly starve herself.

Little did I know that years later, that woman would be me.

I developed anorexia after a bout with another frightening disease, hypoparathyroidism, caused me to lose a significant amount of weight. I found that I liked being that thin, and thus was kicked into anorexia and five years of utter hell.

There have been many fits and starts during my recovery, when I would go so far, only to jerk back and start clinging to anorexia like it was my best friend. I became a serial patient at my ED doctor's hospital, being admitted eight times between 2008 and 2012.

I still sometimes ask myself, will there be a ninth admission?

I started working seriously on recovery after my last hospitalization. I was discharged on 1 January 2012, and days later, I slammed my scale against the trash can and tossed it out. I have not owned a scale since.

But eating disorder thoughts still come and go, some fleetingly, others taking hold until I feel as if I am smothering.

Fat. Not so fat. Cellulite. Dimples............fatttttttttttttt.....oh so fat!!!!!!!! I wouldn't be caught.dead.in.a.bikini, said in a clinched tone. FAT FAT FAT FAT FAT, SCREAMING AT ME, GOD PLEASE STOP THESE THOUGHT NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Of course, anorexia isn't really about weight and food and body image. And yet it is. My life is pretty stressful right now. I'm looking for full-time work after finishing graduate school. My living situation isn't idea. I feel like a failure after the twin disasters in December and June.

It is characteristic of me to turn inward, churning up self-hatred, berating myself for actually nourishing myself as a normal human being, hating myself for no longer being a size XX.

But all of this leads me to think, will I ever be completely recovered?

I mean, the truth is, I am at the high end of the acceptable weight for my age and height. I do need to lose some weight. I am risking my health, or I was, with all the sugar and simple carbs I've been ingesting.

So how does a recovered anorexic — if I am truly recovered — address possible health issues and the need to lose weight? How do I do it safely, or is it simply not possible?

Or will this simply trigger another relapse? Can I safely maintain my healthy, get to a healthy weight, without inviting anorexia back in?

Does anyone ever really recover from an eating disorder?

06 July 2013

An Open Letter to Sen. John Moolenaar, R-Midland

One of an ongoing series of letters I am writing to Michigan legislators about the lack of suitable employment in the state. When I receive an answer from one of the legislators, I will post it here.

Hi John,

I hope this finds you doing well. I wanted to share with my experiences since I left the Daily News, and hopefully help you understand some of the issues currently facing college graduates in this state.

After I left the Midland Daily News in 2009, I attended graduate school and completed my master's degree in English Composition and Communication in August 2012. Cheryl Wade — I'm sure you remember her — also left the paper to go to graduate school, and she received her master's in rehabilitation counseling.

Both Cheryl and myself have years of experience in journalism, and I have five more years experience as a social worker. We both are intelligent, talented, and known to be very hard workers.

And we both are unemployed. Cheryl is currently working full-time without pay as a counselor for a women's center in Lansing, where she did her internship. I am freelancing for the paper while I look for full-time work.

Next week, Cheryl will fly to Kentucky to interview for a position as a rehabilitation counselor there. You see, she has applied to numerous positions, but nothing has stuck. She has tried to find a job in Michigan — she loves Michigan and has family and friends here. But she thinks one year is enough, as I'm sure you will agree.

Today I applied for a job in Kentucky. I also want to stay in Michigan — it is my home state, and I also have family and friends here. But I did not earn my graduate degree to simply live on unemployment and whatever freelance or low-paying options I might be able to find.

My question to you and all state legislators is what are all of you going to do to stop this "brain drain" from continuing in Michigan?

Some day, the economy will stabilize here in Michigan. Some day, professionals will retire and positions will open up. What will this state do when it turns around to hire new people, only to find the best and the brightest gone, employing their talents and skills in other states, because their state had nothing for them?


29 June 2013

An Open Letter to the Democratic Party

In response to the many e-mails soliciting my financial support.

Dear Democratic Party,

I have been a staunch supporter of the Democratic Party since I was 18. I have supported the party on several occasions, but I now am unable to. Why, you ask? Because in spite of having three degrees and 14 years experience in my field, I am unemployed and now anxiously awaiting whether my unemployment will be approved. I am part of a generation - or perhaps two generations - of Americans who bought into the hype that having an education meant having a better life, when in reality many of us are struggling worse than our person who had either a high school diploma or less. Where do we fit into the grand scheme of things? How can we build any kind of life? Why has our government failed to recognize an entire group of people -educated, literate, and hard working - that are languishing, either unemployed or underemployed and working at jobs that require little or no training.

Why is the DCC concerned about this? Does the party not realize what a horrible, tragic waste of intelligence and talent this is?

Angela E. Gambrel

27 June 2013

An Open Letter to Employers

We're smart, well-read, irreverent, funny, hard workers, and highly educated.

And we are unemployed.

Ever since the economic bubble bursted in 2008, this country has experienced a level of unemployment previously unknown. Yes, I know that there have been periods in which more people have been unemployed — the Great Depression of the 1930s and the Reagan Era of the 1980s come to mind — but I would venture to say that there has never been a time period when so many highly intelligent, well-educated people have struggled to find gainful employment.

There was a time when having an education was key to a better life. But that is no more.

Now the key to having a better life, or at least to being gainfully employed, is ... well, I'm not sure what the key is. Somebody please tell me if you know.

Myself and others did everything right. We graduated from high school. We went onto college or university. We worked hard and earned a degree, and some of us even went back and earned a master's degree. For all intents and purposes, we should be at least somewhere near the middle of the economic strata.

This from the National Center for Education Statistics: "For young adults ages 25-34 who worked full time throughout a full year, higher educational attainment was associated with higher median earnings."

This from the United States Census Bureau: "Workers 18 and over sporting bachelors degrees earn an average of $51,206, while those with a high school diploma earn $27,915. But wait, there's more. Workers with an advanced degree make an average of $74,602, and those without a high school diploma average $18,734."

Really? Really!?! Let's see. In 1991, I graduated with a bachelor's degree in Psychology. I was hired as a mental health therapist/case manager — a position that required at the minimum a bachelor's degree — at a yearly salary of $25,500.

Okay, so that was more than 20 years ago. Let's move forward. I went back to school to pursue my dream of being a writer, and graduated with my second bachelor's degree, this one in English/Imaginative Writing, in 1998. I was hired as an intern reporter/staff writer in 1999 — also a position that required at least a bachelor's degree — at $11 an hour, or $19,800 yearly.

Clearly I was not playing the game right, as I was going down the economic ladder with each subsequent degree.

I so loved being a journalist — the writing, meeting people, feeling that I was doing something that really mattered — that I ignored the fact that people out of high school were making more than me.

Then I got sick, as long-term readers of this blog know, with anorexia. I had to take a three-month sick leave due to the affects of starving myself, and I wondered if I would ever work again. I ate and ate and ate some more, and was able to return to work, only to be faced with a buyout offer upon my return.

I looked at this as an opportunity, a chance to pursue my dream of earning my master's degree and furthering my career. I took the buyout and returned to school, and was awarded my master's in English Composition and Communication.

This was in August 2012. And my income? $0

Okay, now I have to admit that I haven't spent all of my time since graduating searching for full-time work. I took the entire summer off last year and did some other things this past fall. At the end of February, I relocated in hopes of finding more opportunities.

Job hunting has turned out to be an eye-opening, soul-crushing experience. It is a game with no clear winners, because when I get a job, that means one, two, three, or more people lose out. It is a game that causes you to suppress the best parts of yourself, while bringing to light some of your worst traits. Traits such as competitiveness and jealousy and plain old back-stabbing.

Because everyone else is playing the game, and by God, you better figure out how to play it or be crushed and thrown to the side.

It seems like something mean-spirited and ugly has been set loose, like the life of each one of us has been diminished, and that we are only here to interface and produce and perform.

And I'm afraid for this society, at what it means for all of us.

22 June 2013

Thank you (Again)

I am humbled and honored that my blog has been named one of The Best Eating Disorder Health Blogs of 2013 by Healthline. This is the second year that The Spirit Within has been named, and it still amazes me that what started out as an attempt to write my way out of anorexia nervosa has inspired and helped others struggling with an eating disorder.

The Best Eating Disorders Blogs

This is what Healthline wrote about The Spirit Within:

"The Spirit Within, created by Angela Elain Gambrel, takes a biblical approach to helping readers overcome eating disorders.
Forty-seven-year-old Gambrel describes herself as “in recovery from anorexia,” yet she refuses to let that label define her. Instead, she uses her blog to provide regular doses of inspiration to others who are suffering from eating disorders."
I am forever grateful that I could use my writing skills to help others, and also to help myself.

17 June 2013


In many ways, the past six years have been very difficult. First I almost died from lithium poisoning. Then I developed horrible migraines and high blood pressure, coupled with unexplainable weight loss, only to find out - nearly a year later - that these and other symptoms were caused by hyperparathyroidism...

I remember that day. It was hot, and I was struggling to get through work. My doctor told me she suspected hyperparathyroidism, based upon my symptoms and  PTH levels. My first thought was, "What they hell is that?"

I had become thin, so thin, thinner than I had been since I was a teenager. At the time, I didn't like being that thin. I thought, "I hope David doesn't expect me to diet in order to maintain this ridiculously low weight."

Why didn't I just hold onto that thought? What would the past six years have been like, if only?

I'm tired. Depressed. Aggravated. And did I mention tired?

I've been thinking what a soul-sucking activity it is to look for a job. That the past four years have been soul-sucking. I almost died of ______. Fill in the blank. Lithium poisoning. Hyperparathyroidism.

Anorexia nervosa.

I mean, come on! Who in the hell develops anorexia in her forties? I do.

I could dissect the past six years into tiny little pieces, and still not get it.

But for all my depression and struggles, for all my fears and anxieties, I still have it pretty good.

This was on my Facebook newsfeed this morning: A Syrian Refugee Wedding. An article about a 15-year-old girl in a Syrian refugee camp getting married. To avoid prostitution and rape. To make her life better.

Marriage at 15? Really? Is this the world we live in?

And she was considered old; the story states that many of the refugee girls are married off at the age of ten or younger.

I confess that my perspective has been somewhat narrow, and selfish. I want to work. Being unemployed sucks, especially for a Type-A personality such as myself. (The joke used to be that I didn't know how to vacation, or relax. I'm working on it.)

But I'm 47, and I'm free. I'm able to make my own choices, albeit some of them have been stupid. But they are mine.

My family did not have to marry me off at 15 or 10 or 8  in order to protect me from rape and a possible life of prostitution. I did not have to leave school at the age of 9. I am able to read and learn, and just be.

This is my vow: I dig myself out of this hole I'm in, and then do whatever is in my power to help others. It could be as simple as creating awareness, or as profound as writing pieces that shine the light on the atrocities of the world.

If I lose my ability to care, I've lost everything.

29 March 2013

Maundy Thursday

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16

I knelt down and slowly, gently, poured the water on her feet. I thought of Jesus and his disciples, and how our Lord humbled himself to show His love, even to the one who would betray him.

What were his thoughts as he washed the dusty feet of his followers? Did his heart break, knowing that one would soon betray him? Did his heart swell with love?

Did he know that one day, thousands of years later, I would humble myself and wash the feet of a stranger?

I imagined Jesus and the Twelve Disciples traveling the dusty roads of Israel. It was hot and dry, but they walked with purpose and they walked with love.

It is Holy Week. A time when the veil between God and man is torn, a time in which I often can feel God's presence both in and around me.

And yet, at times, doubts plague me. Why?

The last three months have been both a time of turmoil and a time of reflection. What place do I have in this world? Where do I fit into the whole picture? How do I live my life for the glory of God, to the purpose He has for me?

And what about pain?

I know these are not unique thoughts. But these thought hammer me at night.

Sometimes I'm frightened. I pray for strength. I pray to know all the answers.

Of course, that is impossible. I will not know until the day I die. And maybe not even then.

I think about placing my feet into the basin. The lady — whose name I do not recall — pouring warm water over them. How relaxing. How humbling that another human being did that for me.

And Jesus was there.