Missing:

I have been taken, spirited away like a ghost in the night. Missing. It seems as though I am right there, where I have always been. When did I disappear? He has taken me away, and put me where no one can ever find me. He never leaves, always on the prowl. Ed is a stranger, is that even his name? He says he will protect me from all of the things that cause harm. Lies, all lies. Little does he know that I am my worst enemy.

Chains around my wrists. Shackled to the wall.

Ed is like a cancer, twisting and twining himself into my being. He is a sickness and a death sentence. I try to eradicate him, but he is like a leech, sucking out my life-blood. If I don’t fight him, who will? Ed is not just anorexia or bulimia. Ed is hatred, loathing, and harm. I am not safe when I am with him. I am not alone.

I am haunted.

Ed is hissing and screaming in pain. When I am surrounded by this, I cave. I put a band-aid on his wounds, and tell him I will take care of him. I take my focus off of me, and my hurts and wants. Suddenly it’s all about Ed. There is no room for my thoughts or feelings, barely any room for those who love me. Eds howls drown out the important parts of my life, as he tries to scare away those who care about me. The panic Ed instills in me. The rules and regulations he says I must live by “or else”. That is fear and anxiety. Ed is one and the same. I am Ed. He is me. Or is he?

I catch a glimpse of me. The real me. I almost don’t recognize her.

Who am I? What am I? I no longer know. Ed has taken me, like an abductor. He has padlocked and chained me up. I live in the filth of my own lies and fear. I am so hungry, starving. Because of him. Even when I do escape, I don’t know how to properly take care of myself.  Everything is foreign to me. So much has changed..He has taught me all I now know. I have forgotten my life before. Who am I? What am I? Am I Ed? Is he me?

He steals my hope and joy, taking it all for himself. Should I call this self-sabotage?

I am not Ed. Please tell me I’m not that monster. He gave up for a while, but I can feel his grip tightening on my heart like handcuffs. Please, no. Please. For so long he was my only comfort and companion. I hated him, but what choice did he give me? He became my savior. He told me lies I believed, he hands them out like candy. Tasty little bites and morsels that melt on my tongue like snow.

My heart hurts. My very being wants to disappear. I have taught him the best punishments, and in turn he has taught me how to implement them.

I know that people are out there looking for me. Isn’t that how it always goes?  A missing girl, taken suddenly. Leads and hints to her whereabouts. Will she ever be found, and if so will she ever be the same? I know about the posters and the reward. I bet my picture is being broadcast on all of the websites and TV stations. I want to be free, you have to believe me. I have to believe me. I’m still here.

I’m still here.

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(An open letter) To the one who is afraid

I know how scared you are. I’ve been there too. So many people have, you just might not realize it. I know how you hate to ask for help, or even admit that you need it. You try so hard to keep your head above the water, but I see the waves coming from my vantage point. I see them building momentum and getting ready to crash over you and pull you under. You say no one can help you. Your feet have long ago lost the ability to feel the sandy bottom of this body of water- you’ve been treading for so, so long. There is a raft out there, and it will carry you back to shore. I’m on it. I know. Please, can’t you see?

I know how scary doctors are. We all know they are going to set you on a journey that is long and treacherous. But listen, if you follow the prompts and heed their advice, you will reach a better place. How can I make you see this though? I know in your heart of hearts you believe there is hope, but you don’t see how to get to the point where you can find the strength to fight this beast. You will Google different methods, even look up treatment centers, which set your heart to beating like a bass drum. But in your search history, you know there is still a hit for the nutritional information at that restaurant you went to last week, and you tell yourself you have it all under control, you can stop this silly game whenever you want to.

How many secrets do you hold? What horrors and darkness abides in that soul of yours? Will you ever let anyone in? I see you falling, falling. You go back. Back to the moment you decided to end it all. Back to the razors and fingernails. In your minds eye I know you are seeing the raging water and feeling fearful of the hungry river. I know. But please stop and listen. Hear the voices of those who love you. Stop lying and saying you are “doing better”. Know that within you lays a great strength, and that the will you have to die, is the will you will now use to live.

Hear the stories of hope and recovery, and don’t discount them. Don’t hate me when I say one day that could be you. One day, that could be you. You must believe and hold on to hope, in whatever form that takes. Seek out the help of those who really care. Put down stubbornness, fear, loathing, and self-hatred. Look in the mirror and see the little girl you used to be. Remember how easy it was to be her. You can’t go back, but you can heal. Heal for her, for you. And heal for those who love you. I know you are afraid, but take courage, dear heart. This is not a one-way road. You can begin the journey back to health, one step at a time.

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A day in the life

Wake from a night full of vivid dreams. Usually something along the lines of someone you love leaving you, or a nightmare about your previous place of employment. Lay in bed and check in with your stomach. Are you hungry? Breakfast is coming either way. If it’s a morning when you have to work, you usually stay in bed until the last possible minute, soaking up the warmth and comfort of your bed.

Get up and shuffle to the bathroom. Look in the mirror and groan at the state of your hair. It’s a tangled mess, sticking up every which way. Brush your hair, use the toilet. Pick up your beauty blender sponge and your make up compact and swirl it around. Find your trusty eyeliner and make a quick, efficient sweep around your sleepy eyes.

Peek into your closet and choose a shirt. Probably something with long sleeves, just in case you get chilly. Maybe choose a new pair of jeans or leggings and socks. Change, and put on your glasses. By this time you have turned on your iPod and begun listening to a podcast. It keeps your mind churning with ideas for recovery. Gallop downstairs and gather your purse, book, Kindle, keys (breakfast, if you’re working). Sweep a look around to make sure you have everything.

Walk out the door, pull it shut behind you, rattling the windows. Compulsively check the mailbox. You never know when a piece of mail might appear. What magazine might show up today? Maybe it will only be bills and junk mail. Or maybe a letter!

Walk to your car, hitting the unlock button constantly, over and over. Get inside and start it up, noting that you will need to go get gas soon. Sigh. Gas. You keep putting it off, but you know when you do finally go get some, you will pull up beside pump 6, what has become “your pump” in a way. Back up, turn up your podcast, switch to “drive” and pull out of the driveway. Today you could be on your way to work, or your parents house for breakfast. If you go to your parents, you will greet your family and dog, and set about making French toast. If you go to work, you will…go to work! After eating breakfast, think about lunch.Then try to steer your thoughts somewhere else for a while. And then debate about having coffee, though it sounds good coffee usually makes you feel sick. Not worth the risk today.

Early afternoon now. Get home, sometimes after running errands. Check the mailbox again. Sometimes you get nothing in the mail, which is always disappointing. You love mail. Go inside and take off your coat and shoes. Time for lunch. What will you have? Lunch is always the hardest for you. Your fridge has options, but ed has opinions. Lately you’ve been eating a lot of the same stuff. You pour out some ranch dip and grab some baby carrots. You reach to the top of the fridge and pull down a bag of pita chips (so good!). You decide to have some crackers and cheese also. M&M ‘s will be your “fun food”. Try not to think about calories. If you do, tel yourself calories are irrelevant. You sit down and eat, usually while looking at a magazine or reading a book. You try to be mindful, but sometimes that hurts you more than it helps.

Lunch is over, so you pick up the book you’re reading and read and read and read. If you get sleepy sometimes you start to drift off as you read. If you’re tired enough, you’ll fall asleep for a while. Sometimes in the afternoons you take care of your plants and terrariums. Other times you organize and clean. Sometimes you intentionally take a nap. If it’s a nice day, you can be found reading outside. Wonder what you will have for dinner.

Dinner is usually with your husband, but sometimes your parents. Either way, you know you will be eating enough, and ed won’t be quite as loud. There’s always a little anxiety around food, but usually not as intense as it used to be. And every night you have dessert, which is always delicious. In the evenings you watch TV, read, browse Instagram and Pinterest. Sometimes you do yoga for a 20 minute session. You find that being mindful of your breathing is so very calming. Honestly though? You’re already thinking of your bedtime snack.

It’s almost 11:00 and time for bed. Sometime before this you have had a snack of some kind. Usually a granola bar (or two!). You brush your teeth and wash your face, lamenting over a pimple or two. Take your pills. Remember that iron supplement you always forget. Get in bed and read for an hour or so, or whenever you start to drift off. Turn over and fall asleep.

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The food myth

Conversation is important. Especially when it comes to tough topics. I’ve found that simply talking about a problem instead of holding it all in and stewing over it helps me immensely, both mentally and emotionally. When I write about eating disorders, what is the first thought you have about someone who has one? Even I will admit that I automatically think: food. They have issues eating too little or eating too much. But underneath those food insecurities lies so much more.

For some, it is sexual abuse. For others it is fear of sexuality. One person might have a few wires crossed in their brain, or connections that are disconnected. But what if you were told that there is hardly ever a simple answer? I remember being very engrossed in my eating habits,and what was and was not going in my mouth, and yet my parents talked to me about my emotional state. They had noticed I wasn’t my usual happy self. In fact I was often irritable, and never seemed to want to participate in family outings or the like. The truth is, I was restricting. I started to lower my caloric intake and exercise more, and in turn my mood plummeted. I was depressed. And down the road, I became anxious, even more introverted than I normally was, and terribly afraid of social interactions. The simplest tasks seemed like a nightmare to me.

Sometimes those who have an eating disorder are told to “just eat more” or that they could benefit from “eating more ice cream”. Trust me, I had these thoughts too. If I could only eat more, if I could stop my obsessive exercising, if I could just be happy. It’s not that simple and it’s not just “about the food”. It’s really not about shoving calories down your throat and trying to be OK with it. No, someone with a mental illness; any kind of mental illness, must put in the work and effort. It’s not easy. It is often a full-time job that leaves you exhausted at the end of the day…but if you want to live a life that is “normal” and “healthy”, you have to put in the time. For yourself. And if you can’t only do it for yourself, do it for those who love you. I have found that seeking out healthy habits and recovery can’t happen for me if I’m not actively doing it for myself. I can feel guilty and horrible about making my family miserable for me, but it’s not enough. I have to want it for myself. I have to value myself enough to work on the hard stuff. Because at the end of the day, I am the one who has to be all right with who I am, and what I am doing. These are the reasons why I resisted inpatient. I was seeking out treatment and the doctor told me I had to go inpatient. In her notes, I believe her words were “we will not let her slip through the cracks again”. I told her no, I wouldn’t go. I know part of my reasoning was fear and ed, but lots of it was me. Knowing that if I wasn’t choosing inpatient, I wouldn’t put in the work. I’d eat the food, because I’d have to. But once I reached the weight that their little charts and scales approved, I would be released and go right back to old habits. Mentally I just wouldn’t be there. Nevertheless, this doctor was sure that I wasn’t able to do this alone. I think she thought there was some weird family dynamic going on (of course she would think that, obviously if a mother lets her child starve almost to death, she’s not a fit parent. Um hmmm.). But I was an adult at this point, so things got a little sticky. Oh, did I say a little? I meant a lot. Anyway- I still think I made the right decision at that juncture to fight authority and speak up for what I thought would benefit me. And look at me now. Look. At. Me. Now.

My point is- food is not the issue. Not the whole issue. It’s love, control, fear, insecurity, anxiety, hatred, guilt, shame. There is almost always an underlying issue, even if you don’t want to acknowledge it, or can’t acknowledge it. I know I didn’t realize how all of my problems were related. For example: I used to have horrible back pain. I would lay in bed and I couldn’t get comfortable. That’s gone now. I don’t know what I thought it was. (Hello! Anybody home? Obviously if you’re dying your body is going to hurt.) As is my social anxiety (am I really going to have a mental breakdown if I talk to that person?). Control is often a huge issue for those with an eating disorder. I was in denial about this for a long time, but I see now it’s true. I wanted control. If I couldn’t control what was going into my body, then I would hate myself and want to die. Fact. So I learned my limits and put up safety nets and became so fearful of anything that threatened those. I’m still learning to give up control, but it’s coming along. Anxiety also played an enormous role in my eating problems. If you’re anxious about everything, and especially food, how are you going to make smart, rational decisions? You’re not. I still think of my anxiety as a shameful thing, because it presented itself in the most immature and weird ways. Racing thoughts was only one of the symptoms I experienced as an anxious person. Having anxiety around the thing that you have to face all the time in recovery isn’t helpful, but medicine is. A medicine that agrees with you and helps slow down those parts of your anxious mind is sometimes key to a successful mind change. I know antidepressants have helped me immensely.

So you see, food isn’t the be all and end all. It is a part of an eating disorder, obviously, but it is not a cure. Yes, mom I see now. It is medicine. It is. But it won’t completely take away the disease. There are many components to recovery, most of them mental. So be compassionate with yourself, and those around you. You never know what they are going through.
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Resources and such

Lately I’ve felt as though I am living in a fog. It’s difficult for me to put words to my exact feelings, but one word that kind of pins everything down is uncomfortable. I was just sitting here thinking about last weekend, when I turned down a road trip to stay home and relax. But I also decided not to go because I wasn’t feeling 100%. And unfortunately, that reminded me of how I used to feel all the time. I used to stress and lose sleep over a day trip. Or even a short drive to a town fifteen minutes away. Why? Because my head was filled with fear and lies. Anxiety would build up slowly but surely. About food, social interactions that may or may not happen, eating around others, being hungry. Being hungry. I am so afraid of hunger. I think that is why it’s hard for me to eat meals at a “normal” time. I’m always wondering how long the fuel I’m consuming now will last. What if I get hungry before my next meal? Will I be able to allow myself to eat? This feeding myself thing, man…it’s tough.  

Ed has been so annoying lately…not necessarily loud…more like a persistent salesman knocking at your door. Annoying and hard to get rid of. Just when I think he’s gone, there he is peeking in the window or stomping around on the roof. Sometimes silence is too quiet. I can’t just think my words at ed, I have to speak them. So I do. I’ve also been listening religiously to the Recovery Warriors podcast. So much wisdom there. So much for me to learn from. Most of the guests on the show seem to really “get” this whole recovery thing. And it’s also heartening to hear so many wonderful testimonies from women who have recovered, in their interpretation of the term. There are just so many resources out there now. I remember back when I was first diagnosed, that I often felt so alone. I thought I was one of maybe, 100 cases if anorexia in the world. Hah! I think that was simply because I didn’t have the resources or knowledge I do now. Today I am overwhelmed by the information out there for those who seek it. And seeking it I have been.

I may hit on this more in a future post, but I was recently asked to share my favorite/most helpful recovery resources. So here they are:

Podcasts

Recovery Warriors
Food Psych
Well Aware
Savor

Books

Brave Girl Eating by Harriet Brown
Life Without Ed by Jennifer Schaefer
Full by Kimber Simpkins
An Apple a Day by Emma Woolf

Websites

ED bites
Your Eatopia
Recovery Warriors
NEDA

These are only some of my favorites, but there is so much out there to explore and discover! And many of the resources listed aren’t only something that people with eating issues should look at. There are all kinds of encouraging and educational things for pretty much everyone. And now, it comes to you. What do you want to see on my blog? Sometimes I run out of ideas, or don’t know what to write. Sometimes I get worried that my writing will offend someone (but not often, I mean this is my blog.) Comment with your opinions or ideas and I will probably do a post with my view on it.

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Shark week…month

Yes, I’m going there. Why? Because one of the reasons why I write this blog is the hope that someday, my experiences can help someone else, and it’s also very therapeutic for me to vent. Maybe this isn’t relevant, maybe you’re disgusted by my bluntness. Sorry, not sorry, but it’s time for me, personally, to end the silence. Because really, I caused much of my own grief. By not asking questions. By being ashamed of my own body and it’s needs. By being afraid. I’m still afraid. So afraid. But reality causes me to face my problems. So here goes.

I have been bleeding for the past month. It sucks. It really does. Thankfully, I haven’t been cramping until recently. So, you might already know that one of the reasons why I started exercising more, and ultimately why I fell into the hole that is an eating disorder, is because I hated my period. I thought “hey, I’ve read about athletes who exercise so much they lose their menstrual cycle, that sounds amazing”. In theory, yes. In practice…well, let’s just say it worked and I was happy on that front, but my life was ruined in the process. I got depressed, lost way too much weight, lost my friends, lost the trust of my family. I lost so much for this one thing. It’s so silly looking back, at how much I was willing to sacrifice just so I wouldn’t have a period. 

Granted, my period was a nightmare. It was painful and heavy and horrible and I felt all alone, mostly because of my own stupidity. I’m not placing the blame on anyone…I just didn’t know how to deal with myself. I felt dirty. 

In my family, it wasn’t typical to go to the doctor. I can recall several instances when my younger sisters went; strep throat, stitches, oh, and then that time my eardrum ruptured. There was that. I also ended up in the hospital around the time I was 11 or 12 with Ecoli-157. But the point is, even though no one ever said anything, I picked up the cue that for the most part, we dealt with things ourselves and just waited them out. So I was prepared to have to do this in my current situation. I couldn’t take it though. And then you know what happened.

Jump forward about ten years and here I am, muddling through recovery with the knowledge that sooner or later, my body would pick up where I forced it to leave off. It did, in January. I was (barely) excited, because I knew this meant I was getting better and healthier on the inside, but I am so fearful. It’s literally like a phobia for me. So I called my doctor up and told her nurse what was going on. I got an appointment and went to see my doctor a few days later.

My doctor told me my options, and warned me I would have to be patient, and let my body do its thing. Ok, I could do that. So here I am, about a month and a half later, and I’m on birth control to get my hormones and bleeding under control. And here is the venting part…

Guys. I have been bleeding for a month. I have a phobia. This is like someone being afraid of spiders, and then being forced to carry a spider with them everywhere they go for a month. I’m not being dramatic here. (Ok, maybe just a tidge, but seriously.) 

So where do I go from here? I keep living. I find things to laugh about, such as the pharmacist who is male, and counseled me on taking the pill. I sleep a lot, because I’m so tired. I keep eating, even though I know how to make this stop. And I hope I get a short break before it is time for the placebo.

Is there anyone else out there that wants to vent about their trials and tribulations in the messy world of womanhood? Obviously you’re not alone. And hey, here’s your opportunity to share and be anonymous if you like! Oh! And one more thing, menophobia is real. I’m not totally crazy…yet.

 

Something worthy, if imperfect

There were many things I worried about when I moved away from home. I worried about every little thing. But something looming bigger than all of the more important things, was exercise. Mostly, afraid of the reality that it would be more difficult to fit it in. When I turned thirteen, I slowly became obsessive about walking or running, along with restrictive eating. Before and after meals. Early and late. Any time I could fit it in. My family planned a trip out of town for a few days, so I exercised even more, so I wouldn’t feel too guilty missing out on so many workouts. If we were having a busy day, I would wake up early or stay up late to get a walk in. I preferred the outdoors, but the treadmill would also do. Until we had flooding in the basement and the motor in our treadmill died. Then I panicked and began only walking or running or riding my bike outside. Rain or shine. Day after day.

This wasn’t discipline. This wasn’t a healthy routine for someone who needs an exercise regimen. This wasn’t something that lifted my spirits or made me feel better. Sure, I would feel relieved after I exercised, because it was all about the calories for me. Calories burned versus calories ingested. So many days my mom would mention my excessive exercise. I began doing it “in secret”. It was so shameful. I knew it was wrong. By ed told me it felt so right. This went off and on for years. It was exhausting and grueling and I hate thinking about it. It was me fearing for my life, but not putting a stop to the exercise. I remember crying to my mom that I was so afraid. Afraid I would drop dead some day. I couldn’t help myself though.

My mom was always “healthy” about exercise. It was never “I ate this, so I need to exercise now” with her, or anyone in my family. My dad was a great role model, eating whatever he wanted and always seeming so comfortable in his body. Everyone in my family is naturally on the slim side. Exercise for me wasn’t because of a fear of becoming fat. It wasn’t. Or was it? I tell myself and others, that it’s not like that. I’m not the typical eating disorder case who looks in the mirror and sees her emaciated skeleton looking back at her as someone ten times larger. But when I talk about it, the story always turns to “I didn’t eat, because I was afraid of getting fat.” I was though. But my logical side of my brain always knew that wasn’t something to be worried about. Ed somehow twisted the situation, and made me believe it just enough to say it and not know where else to turn.

One huge part of the success of my recovery this time was cutting out all exercise. My dietitian mentioned the other day, when it was so nice out, that I could go for a walk if I wanted. I laughingly admitted to her that I didn’t want to go on a walk. Not because I’m afraid of becoming addicted to it again, but because I just don’t feel like moving my body in a repetitive way right now. Some day I would like to begin to use exercise as a tool to keep me strong and agile. And yoga is so relaxed for me that it isn’t something I feel causes me to get into the mindset of “I must exercise”. I’m no expert, but I think way too many people use exercise as something they feel guilted into. It’s so popular to be a health nut. To be someone who works out at the gym five times a week. To be someone who polices what does and doesn’t pass their lips. Let’s rethink exercise. Let’s take it back to working hard and enjoying and praising our bodies for what they can do, instead of berating ourselves for what we can’t do, such as run a mile, or bike up that steep hill. Take a break, and see how it feels. Stop pushing your body to be something you envision, and start seeing yourself as something worthy, if imperfect.

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