The pills will make you better. The pills will make you happy. The pills are a lie, they make you feel what is real, even when you aren’t supposed to be able to feel it. The pills will help you get through the next few months. The pills will stop you from killing yourself. The pills will make you want to kill yourself. The pills will make your ears buzz. Your head will feel like it is going to explode. The pills will make you sick to your stomach. The pills will make you hungry. The pills will make you gain weight. The pills will save you. The pills will make you feel like a fraud. The pills will make you feel real again. The pills will make you feel like you are a part of a secret club of other people who take the pills. You won’t be able to sleep. You will sleep too much. The pills taste like shame. The pills are shame. We do not speak about the pills. The pills might make you lose weight. The pills will save you.
I really don’t want to write this post, but at the same time, I know I should. Of course, I journal and share all of my myriad problems there, but something about making public, the things I deal with daily, helps me feel genuine and honest. So, here it goes.
On Sunday I was really craving a burger and fries. I kept thinking I would go get some “if”. If I am hungry later. If I finish this book. If he comes home before 6:00. If he asks if I want to go get something to eat. I did finish the book, but the rest of the things didn’t really happen. What did happen was: I went out and got a burger. And onion rings. Now, I know that onion rings are delicious at first, but after a while the batter starts to get too rich for my stomach, and my taste buds starts to protest. They say “this is so yummmmmy!” and my gut says “gronghgknjg”. Obviously, my intestines are imploring me to stop. So, I ate about half of the onion rings, and a whole burger. I was really wanting fries though. So why didn’t I get fries? Because. Just because.
No, to be honest? I got onion rings because I know they have fewer calories than the fries. Even though the crispy golden french fries sounded better, and probably wouldn’t make me feel sick…I went for thing that had fewer calories. And then. Then…I went home and started to berate myself for what I had just done. I didn’t need that meal. I could have just had a sandwich and chips at home. I could have avoided the guilt and decisions that went into eating those things. Why didn’t I just skip out on what my body was wanting, and eat something at home, where I could find something almost as pleasing and not as scary?
I like to think I went out and got my burger and rings to help me heal. I admit, as I pulled into the parking lot at the fast food restaurant, I spoke aloud to myself…“It’s ok, you can buy a meal for yourself. You can eat a burger and onion rings. You need this. It’s ok” and if anyone were to have heard me, they probably would have thought I was a lunatic. Which is fine, because I know I am. So that’s what happened Sunday. And now on Monday I’m feeling a little better, almost as if yesterday wasn’t real. Is this because I know that today I will be “better” with my food intake? Because I will only eat foods that pass my scrupulous rules? Probably. But I am going to do my best not to restrict in any areas today. After all, according to me, the crazy skinny girl who is afraid of food “you can eat a burger and onion rings. It’s ok”.
When I first realized I had an eating disorder, and depression, I spent a lot of time journaling and reading. I think mostly, I was trying to escape my reality. I am still guilty of doing this. It is so much easier to live a life vicariously than to actually go out and do something. This doesn’t mean that it’s right though. I’m not saying that reading and writing isn’t healing and useful in its own way, but I do think that at some point, it can become excessive. I started to use these things as a way to escape my problems and not deal with them, instead of a way to help me heal. Another tactic I used to help ease my problems was music. I have found that when I am severely depressed, I listen to much more music than I do when I am happy and feeling like I am in a good place.
For the first part of my life, all I heard was classic rock and Christian music. The former coming from the stereo of my dad’s Chevy Blazer. The latter coming from the radio in our kitchen at home. I don’t really remember when I first realized that I could cultivate my own love of music. That I didn’t have to only listen to what my parents were listening to. I think it might have begun when my dad would listen to Christian rock bands ,and I realized I liked some of the songs. I would memorize some of the lyrics, and notice that what the artist was singing about meant something to me (sometimes).
When my brother got his own car, he would give me a ride someplace on occasion. He had started to listen to his own music, mostly hard rock or rap. I first heard Rihanna singing about letting someone stand under her umbrella, ella, ella when I was riding to church with him. I didn’t necessarily process what I was hearing at the time, but I found that I liked the sounds that met my ears. Eventually I began to listen to music on the internet, and radio stations other than the ones my parents were listening to. I got an iPod and loaded some of my favorite bands onto it, including but not limited to: Avril Lavigne, ADTR, Bring Me The Horizon, Mayday Parade and…Rihanna. This is just a sampling of what I would listen to. I couldn’t get enough. These people who were singing all of these words…they felt something, and they were conveying it to whoever would listen. Sometimes if I found a song I really liked, I would share it with a friend through Facebook, and often they would send one back, that they thought I might like. Through this, I discovered music that I never would have found otherwise.
Listening to music, and exploring all the genres became somewhat of a game to me. A hobby. When I found something that I thought was obscure and new, I would keep it for myself and listen to it over and over, until I knew it by heart. Music became a part of my life, like reading and sleeping. I would listen to my iPod when I went to sleep at night, and it often carried me through until morning. On long walks with my dog, my only other companion was Jeremy McKinnon or Regina Spektor. Sometimes if I was having a really rough time, it was Oliver Sykes. I became as attached to “my” songs as I was to anything else in my life that held any sense of importance to me.
Though I no longer listen to music like I used to, I do, on occasion, open up the Spotify app and explore some new bands I have “found”. Most of them are happier, with songs that make me smile. But they remind me of my past, and how at times, I felt like the only thing that I could really understand was a bass line and a steady beat.
Once I was diagnosed with anorexia (or an EDNOS, Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) I began half-heartedly attempting to become “healthy” again. Unfortunately, in my mind, “healthy” translated into low calorie, thin, low fat, exercise…and every move I made had to fit into a category in my mind that was pre-approved. I can only imagine the supreme frustration my mom felt at having to deal with me and my shenanigans. I was frustrated enough with myself, and I was doing this. Frustration abounded. Frustration was all around.
One thing that has stuck with me throughout everything is my sense of feeling full. Some days my stomach feels so huge, like I could eat and eat and still feel hungry. Other mornings I wake up and don’t feel like I need to eat anything. I will eat a little something and my tummy will feel stretched and distended. This is something tough I have to deal with, because of my difficulty of distinguishing feelings from reality. I’m not saying how I feel isn’t real, but sometimes it’s not accurate. Let me explain how this works: I was once out to eat at McDonald’s and saw a large man ordering a meal. I saw his large belly and wondered how he could be so hungry, if he was so fat. This is obviously a really dumb observation and thought. I mean, everyone, no matter what their size, gets hungry. He was probably wondering how a girl my size could eat so little. Anyway, to make my point clear…when I feel full, I feel fat. When I am hungry, I feel skinny. Somehow these feelings have gotten twisted up and contorted into something that is right and wrong. I know this, but it is so hard to fight how I feel. This is the fat-o-meter running full force. It’s my brain trying to tell my body that it doesn’t need fuel, even though it actually does.
Take tonight for example. I was feeling pretty full, but wanted something really yummy to eat. I was debating about having pizza, but I was also sensing that my monsters were on the prowl, and they wouldn’t be letting me go so easily. I fought with myself for an hour or two, and finally decided to go with the pizza. Because life is too short to not eat pizza. And I needed it, to be healthy on the inside and the outside, and in my brain too. I’m dealing with a little bit of backlash from my mind right now. The voices are telling me I’ll have to cut back tomorrow. Tomorrow is a new day though. And tonight, this girl had pizza.
Weeks ago, when I first shared my blog “publicly” (months ago?) I felt on the brink of disaster. Like at any moment, I might fall off of the edge of a cliff, and smash to pieces where I fell thousands of miles below. This feeling of inevitable collapse spurred me on to seek nutrition and healing. Now, a short distance down the road, I have found new habits to become comfortable with. I have become a new version of my ritualistic self. It makes me wonder what it will take to break my mold. I know I may never heal completely. I know that relapse is likely. I will probably never be who I would have been, had I never developed an eating disorder. I mean, how can I become who I “should have been”? A part of me mourns for what I lost. I see girls walking down the sidewalk, legs bare, shoulders golden with sun. I am jealous of their careless abandon. Their fearlessness to reveal their skin. I never thought I was too fat. Now I know I am too skinny. Body shame…it sounds as dirty as it is. I had a sort of epiphany today…that this body is mine. It’s like a book I own, or my favorite pair of jeans. I can treat it how I like, because it is mine and mine alone. And look how I use and abuse it! This shell that I am living in. This home. I am treating it like carp. And I have been for years upon years. I have these thoughts and feelings, and I know I have a looooong way to go.
I can remember when I was put on a very calorie dense diet, (the one that ended me up in the hospital) and one day when I was getting out of the shower I thought “I think I’m even skinnier than before I started eating more!”. Of course, I couldn’t really tell that I ha lost weight. I probably hadn’t gained anything or lost anything in the past two days that I had been eating more. But I remember thinking that it might have to get worse before it gets better. Maybe I would go a little backwards before I could move ahead. I don’t know if this is a solid theory or not, but I think this idea applies in more than one place in my life. Sometimes we have to make a shambles of things before we can begin to pick up the pieces.
Lot’s of things have happened in the past that were really hard for me to deal with at the time. In the past few years, whenever I am going through a tough time with food or anxiety; whenever I am worried about how my decisions will affect my life or those around me, I have these horrible nightmares. I’m assuming that these nasty dreams occur because somewhere in my subconscious, I am returning to the past and events that took place there.
Often, the dreams are a sort of flashback to an experience I had. Let me share a few memories that I think these nightmares stem from.
I went through several rounds of attempts at treatment. I say attempts, because none of them gave me a lasting reprieve. For a time, I was seeing a psychologist that seemed to help some, but then she said something that offended me, and I refused to see her again. I was a patient at St. Luke’s in a nearby town for a while, doing some outpatient work. But unfortunately, despite the fact that I got along really well with the nutritionist there that was working with me, she put me on a diet that was too calorie dense for me, and I ended up in the hospital with pancreatitis. I think she was then pulled from my “team” of doctors or something, because I never went back to see her, though I did see a licensed therapist at the hospital out-of-town for a while. I was put on some medication that seemed to be beneficial to me, but I flaked out and talked my parents into letting me try something different. I asked if a doctor in our town couldn’t be just as useful as one out-of-town. They agreed to let me try that, as long as I didn’t lose ground.
Jump forward several years, and I am standing on the back porch talking to my dad. Okay more like sobbing into my own arms. “I won’t go!!” I said. “you have to, you have to get better” said my dad. I knew I was making a scene. I knew my sisters were probably cowering in the living room, rolling their eyes at their big-little sister and her theatrics. I couldn’t stop myself though. My doctor had just told me that she had called a hospital in a nearby town, and though they didn’t have a bed for me, when one opened up, I would be admitted as a severely underweight anorexic. I was on my dinner break from my job at the library. At this point, my eyes were red and puffy and my nose was runny. I had about half an hour before I had to return to work. I was a mess. “I won’t go. I can’t go. If I do. I won’t come back.” I wailed. “What do you mean? You will come back, your job will still be here. We’ll come and visit you. You just have to get better.” Answered my dad firmly, but lovingly. “I don’t want you to visit.” I stated bluntly. And then I started to cry even harder than before, imagining what my life would be like during a stay in the hospital, and after my stay. How would I read? (That was honestly the question that was most important to me, besides what my life in hospital would be like.) During this last bout of sobbing silently, a big, red splotch appeared on my jacket sleeve. Then another, on the floor. All of a sudden the droplets started coming faster and faster, and my bare hand was covering my nose, out of which blood was spurting. I started to feel light-headed. I knew I had to pull myself together so I could return to work, but I just couldn’t. I was being sent away, my nose was bleeding, and I felt like I was dying. What better time to cry?
That’s one of the times that I think carry over into my dreams. Another is the night after I was rescued from my impending doom. That night after my bloody nose, and returning to work, I sat in my car and wondered who I could reach out to, who might rescue me. I reached out to my husband (he wasn’t my husband then of course) and told him what was going on. I think my situation was really scary for everyone involved. All of the people around me knew that I was at a very low weight. I had also just started on a new medicine, and it was giving me hell as far as side effects go. I wasn’t stable, mentally or physically. I don’t remember how things panned out exactly. I’m sure I am quoting people out of context ,and that my timeline isn’t perfect. But somehow, after several talks with my parents, I was no longer headed to inpatient treatment. On the night of the “good news” my dad said he had a surprise. We were going out to est to celebrate. I was immediately nervous, as anything to do with food made my anxiety flare up. I asked my dad if I had to go? He said yes, we were all going to go out to eat somewhere special. Unfortunately, he had chosen a restaurant other than Subway, which was pretty muck the only place I could eat at and not feel like killing myself afterward out of guilt. When we got to the restaurant, I became like a moody five-year old. Even though there were hamburgers and chicken strips on the menu, I refused to order. My parents and sisters ordered their food, and I didn’t even order a soda (which is totally unlike me. I am addicted to diet Pepsi). My mom and dad exchanged uncomfortable looks. I think one of them told me I needed to order something. I shook ,y head vehemently. I was not backing down. This last week had been enough, I couldn’t take any more hard work on my part. I was done. My mom suggested I at least drink some of my water. “What are you going to eat?” she asked. “Nothing. I’ll eat when I get home.” Once the food came and my parents realized I really wasn’t going to eat, my dad had had enough. Looking back, I can totally see where he was coming . This man who enjoyed a good, hearty meal just could not understand what his daughter was doing to herself. His frustration had probably been manifesting for hours, if not days or weeks. But to my mind that was sick and bent and scared of what I needed most, the words he said cut like a knife to my already bleeding heart. I can’t remember what he said word for word so I won’t even try to relay the words here. I stared at him for a second, not quite believing what I had just heard. Then I pushed back my chair from the table, and walked out of that dining room, and navigated my way into the bathroom, tears streaming down my face.
These are the things that from my night-time terrors. I’ll wake from a dream of me shouting at my parents, or my parents yelling at me. I don’t ever remember what the fight was really about, but I know it was about food, and that I was worried they would be disappointed in me. Obviously, I know I have some deep-seated issues with food. This just drives the point home further. When these dreams visit me, even sleep isn’t a safe haven.
I read a heartbreaking story today. I honestly don’t know where I even “found” it. My computer found dit, because all of a sudden, there was this story in a new window, and it caught my eye before I closed the tab. Read it here: http://espn.go.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/12833146/instagram-account-university-pennsylvania-runner-showed-only-part-story
Okay, now let me tell you something…I might seem all timid and gentle, but there have been times in my life where I have done things that scared me. Not like, made me uncomfortable scary. No, like made my heart race and give me a panic attack kind of scary. A few years ago, I was in a really bad place. I was turning a year older, and I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. So on my birthday, I made a plan. I’m not sure where exactly it came from, and I haven’t shared this story very openly before, so if you are reading it, that means I finally decided to open up my ugly brain and spew this memory out into the universe. I’m not sharing this to shock anyone, or impress readers. I’m sharing it because it’s my story to share, and I have want to.
Without digging into my journals, I want to say this was when I was 19. I hadn’t met my best friend, and husband yet. I was starving and walking to work each day. I was exhausted. On my birthday, I was walking home from work, and a bird pooped on my head. Then other things happened that just made my mood go from bad to worse. My plan was to go to work, go to dinner at Subway and buy myself a meal deal, and then go to the park by the river. The night before, I was feeling really upset. I didn’t sleep well, and I wasn’t looking forward to my birthday at all. Another year had gone by, and I was going nowhere. I was all alone (or at least I felt like it) and I didn’t see much value in my life, if any. So, on my birthday, I snapped at my parents when they asked what I wanted to do to make my day special. It’s a sort of tradition to let the birthday person choose a meal they would like, and have their choice of cake before present opening. My grandma also asked what my plan was. I just said I was planning on going to work and treating myself to Subway.
My mom, ever my voice of reason, said “why don’t you let us join you?” I just mumbled “maybe” and got ready for work. Right before I left, I said “if you guys really want to join me for dinner, can you pick me up around 5:30?” my mom smiled and said yes. She doesn’t know what she did for me with that one word. She saved my life. How? Well, let me tell you. She saved my life by being there for me, and making me feel like I mattered. She also performed an intervention. Because she didn’t know it, but the night before, I had woken up and decided, with a rapidly beating heart, that I wouldn’t be coming home from work on my birthday. My plan was to go to Dairy Queen after Subway, and buy the largest Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard they could make me. I would take that Blizzard to the park by the river, and let the cold ice cream slide down my throat, as bits of peanut butter cup got caught in my teeth. I would savor that last luxury, something I had not eaten since before I got sick. And then (and I really hadn’t planned this part out, but I was going to do it anyway) I would probably fill my pockets with some heavy rocks, and walk into the river á la Virginia Woolf. I cried, thinking about it. How pathetic. But that was my plan. I’ll admit that it felt romantic and dark to be planning this “way out”. Finally, people would see. See how hurt and sad I was.
And now this post will come full circle, and hopefully you will see my point. No one would have suspected this from me. Keep your eyes and hearts open, people. And one more thing? The book “Reconstructing Amelia”? I’m not sure if it was implied to have assisted in this girl’s suicide, but let me tell you…books, to me? They are a healing balm to my soul. Thirteen Reasons Why (if you haven’t read it, do me a favor…read it.) was a book that I read right before I made my decision. It didn’t make me feel hopeless. It didn’t give me any ideas. It made me realize what I would be doing to those I would be leaving behind, it gave me a guilty conscience…but it didn’t sway my opinion. I would like to think that Madison did not use “Reconstructing Amelia” as a game plan for her suicide, but rather a way of comforting herself before the fact. She knew what she would be doing, and found an understanding friend in the most unlikeliest place. She saw no way out. She didn’t get the convenient diversion I did. She jumped. She became free. What if my mom hadn’t pushed me like she did that day? Sure, I didn’t have a plan in place that was solid and leak proof, but I was determined to do something. I am so thankful that my mother was there for me that day. No one really wants to get to the point that Madison did, but sometimes there aren’t answers. Depression is a horrible, black beast that tempts you and tells you that death is superior to life. Though it takes determination and courage to take a life, I think sometimes it takes more courage and determination to keep on living.
The first rule of eating disorders is: you do not talk about eating disorders. The second rule of eating disorders is: you do not talk about eating disorders. The third rule of eatin—you get the idea. I got the title for this post from one of my favorite movies, Fight Club. In the movie, there’s this thing, this secret, that I can’t talk about because that’s the first rule. And that reminded me of the first rule of eating disorders. A rule I am breaking, and am going to continue to break. Every. Single. Day. Why? Because I have to keep the channels open. The thoughts and feelings must continue to flow, because if they don’t, then I start to regress. I become this person that has so many secrets, she almost isn’t a genuine person anymore. People begin to hate me, and stop wanting to hang out with me. Okay, maybe not so much anymore (I don’t hang out with anyone, haha!) but when I was younger…I didn’t talk to anyone except therapists and my parents about my eating disorder, anxiety, or depression. My problems were this huge secret to me…ones that everyone knew about, but that I was so ashamed of, so scared of revealing, that I would just push people away.
It wasn’t worth it to me to look like a freak to people around me, so I just gave up. They didn’t really give up on me though. I had friends that would ask me to hang out with them, I’d usually blow them off. My sisters would ask me, a bit timidly, if I wanted to do such and such an activity with them. I usually said no, simply because I was pretty sure that they hated me and wouldn’t want me around anyway. The funny thing is, I was only making things worse. The more I pushed people away, the more they started to realize something was wrong, that I wasn’t my usual self. And then they started to worry, and talk about me behind my back with my mom (don’t get me wrong, this was a good thing mostly. If not for certain people in my life at that time, I probably would not be where I am today) and things started to get messy. All of the little rituals and rules I had established started to seem like something way beyond what they were to me. They became an illness, something that was afflicting me and killing me. And I didn’t want to talk about it. Because the first rule of eating disorders is: (say it with me now) you do not talk about eating disorders.
There is something about anorexia that is so foreign and scary. Something that when I was 11 years old, and read a book that mentioned a girl intentionally starving herself, I thought “how could a person even do that?”. It’s not normal, people. It’s like if a person would suddenly decide that they don’t want to use their hands anymore, simply because they’re afraid of what their hands might do to them (maybe not the best way to explain is, but you get my gist.). Even I think it’s a weird disease, and I kinda gave it to myself/chose it for myself. Not really, because I have to be in some sort of denial, right? But I didn’t stop it before it got so bad I couldn’t go back. I didn’t ask my mom what the hell was wrong with me, why was I so sad, so tired, so mad at myself? Why didn’t I like to be around people anymore, why was this sandwich so scary, why did pizza make me want to bash my head against the wall? I didn’t ever ask for help. Even when I knew that I needed it. Thankfully, my mom was there to step in and try to take the reigns…I say try, because I wouldn’t let her help me. I saw her coming, and I jumped off of that wagon seat and snapped those reigns right off. I ran and ran until I was so tired and defeated, that I cried and cried and held out those tattered pieces of leather to my mother. I showed her where they were cracked and worn, and she said she would help me repair those reigns so they weren’t so tight and restricting. But I didn’t trust her. Again, it comes back to me. Me, me, me. And sometimes I would talk about my eating disorder, when I felt like the listener was in my ultra secret “club.” But it cringed when I broke those rules. The first, second, third, fourth…
It’s funny, for so many years I was this girl who wanted to be tough on the outside, and the inside, but was neither. I was tough when it came to food and not eating, but when it was something emotional or, well, pretty much anything…I was kind of a mess. I was timid and shy. I was afraid to voice my opinions or thoughts, for fear of someone cutting me down. But as I get older, I have realized that I don’t have to rely on other people to tell me who I should be. Or, maybe I finally looked at myself, saw show I was, and thought “I’m already weird, why not be weirder?”. I’m not sure.
What I do know for sure is; I am no longer afraid to talk to people. I can carry on a conversation with patrons who come into the library, just like a normal person. Where before, the prospect of asking someone if they liked a book made me want to cower in a corner, now, I actually enjoy it. If they don’t want to talk about their experience with Jodi Picoult, or Chris Bohjalian, they don’t have to. But if they do, I want to hear it. I’m not so afraid to put myself into social situations where I could have to speak one-on-one for an extended period of time to someone I know, or used to know. I almost welcome it. If I had to take a driving test now, and I failed? I would not let it phase me. I wouldn’t cry endlessly about what a failure I was, and worry that I would never pass my driving test. Maybe it’s just age. Maybe it’s a change in me that has happened slowly as I grew up, and usually happens to other people sooner. I don’t know really. I’m just glad I became me, even though most days, I don’t really like who I am. I guess I have come to the conclusion that I am stuck with what I am, unless I want to be like Bruce Jenner and get a whole entire makeover and become someone I most definitely am not.
I was thinking today, about how I have always craved a feeling of safety. I’ve never wanted anyone to come right out and say “I’m protecting you!” but the need for someone to be a fortress and a shelter from the storm has been really obvious for most of my life. I get anxious about things, I get controlling, and I think I have to do everything for myself, or something will go terribly wrong. I guess you could say I have trust issues. Major trust issues (in other areas too, maybe I’ll touch on those at another time).
I’ve always wanted to be that free-spirited person who just does what they want, and their life is fulfilling and happy. If they want to get out of town for a day, they do it. If a movie sounds good, they go to the theater and see it. Oh, ice cream sure sounds delicious…they make a trip to Dairy Queen. I can’t do that (or maybe a better way of saying it is I don’t). See, there is all of this guilt inside me. I’m not sure where it came from, or why it stays around. If I decide to go somewhere, I have to earn it, or have a really good reason to go there in the first place. Even trips to Wal-Mart have a little bit of the guilt in them. Anything that is out of my way, that I am doing for myself triggers it. It’s annoying, to say the least.
I can remember being at home when I was younger, and using up the last drop of my face wash…and acknowledging that I wouldn’t bother to buy more, I’d use that other brand that my sister had discarded last week, due to the fact that it made her skin itch. I’d look longingly at the yogurt at the grocery store, lined up perfectly in their neat little containers, but pass them by, figuring I didn’t need them. I’d buy maybe one new bra every year and a half. Same with my socks (actually, I tried to darn my socks when they got holes…seriously, I was that bad). It was like anything I could deny myself, I would.
Part if it, I think, was not wanting to spend my parents money. Not all of it though. I knew my parents would be more than happy to be me new socks. I just didn’t feel deserving. And I think that has definitely carried over into my eating disorder. I’m slowly trying to get over these little things. These habits that are ingrained into me…but it’s tough. I have to be very patient with myself. Guilt is a powerful master. I’m going to try to start challenging myself to be kind to me, and others. Be generous to myself. I think this is all part of the healing process, and that in the end, all of my struggles will only make me stronger.