Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lessons from Grandma

My grandmother, Elizabeth, is well into her eighties. She is one of the most beautiful, most humble, most wise and most spiritual women I have ever met. (She also happens to share my birthday). She has undoubtedly seen many things in her lifetime. She has birthed 9 children and buried one of them. She has lost her husband of nearly sixty years. But what about the little things? She has watched herself grow from child to woman, from woman to wife, mother, grandmother. Great-grandmother. Her hair is gray. Her body is wrinkled. And it has been for all of my life, yet I've never thought of her as anything less than beautiful. How have I never considered she might not feel the same way about herself?

I learned an interesting bit of information about my grandmother yesterday that should have been obvious or expected somehow, but wasn't. She too has insecurities about her body, she, the one woman in my life I've always viewed as a pillar of strength and wisdom and faith isn't always happy with the reflection she sees in the mirror. But she, unlike many of us, sees the deeper beauty that lies beneath the wrinkles, past the gray hair, the aging body. She sees the radiant beauty inside.

She says, "Sometimes I wake up and look in the mirror and think, Oh God, look at me. Look at this face." Then she sighs. "But I am a child of the King. Good morning, St. Elizabeth." And then she laughs. That long, heart-felt laugh.

She is a child of the King.

How beautiful is that? I share many things with my grandmother-- her hips, her thighs, her good heart, her birthday. I only wish I shared her positive outlook.

Why am I at war with my body?


What has it ever done to me?

What has it ever done but need nourishment, love?

What has it ever asked for except only to be accepted--- as it is.

The way it was made.

A child of the King.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Another Year

Since my last post (thank you all for the advice and support!) I decided to quit my job. My decision factored in many things. It wasn't just about my eating disorder. It was a bad situation and I decided it was best for me to move on. So that's what I did. And I don't regret it. In fact, I feel empowered by my ability to stand up for myself.

Wednesday was my 27th birthday, though it didn't exactly feel like a day for celebration. My eating disorder ruined the entire evening. My boyfriend was taking me out for dinner after work. When he came home to pick me up I was putting on my makeup and doing my hair. I was in a good mood, a normal mood. So was he. But that all changed once it came time for me to get dressed. None of my clothes seemed to fit me correctly. I felt uncomfortable and large and everything felt tight. I became really anxious. My mood plummeted. I changed jeans three times. I kept dissecting myself in front of the mirror and mumbling to myself. My boyfriend sort of stood back in horror. It had been months since he'd seen me like this, but he knew what the problem was. He tried to tell me I looked beautiful no matter what I wore but I told him I looked humongous. He disagreed. He said, "I don't know what you see when you look in the mirror. You have nothing to compare yourself against. I know you think you're fat, but if there were an actual fat person standing next to you, you'd see that you're nowhere near it."

I just blew past him into the bedroom and changed clothes again. I was so anxious I didn't even want to leave the house. My throat felt tight and I started to cry, but I held it in. I grabbed my purse and we left. The entire way to the restaurant, eating disordered thoughts ran wild. My boyfriend's mood had dropped too because I was in such a bad mood it had affected him. Neither of us spoke. I sat there thinking things like, "I'm never going to eat again. I have to lose 10 lbs. 20 lbs. I am an animal. I am disgusting. I am not eating dinner. I'm not eating anything. Not today, not tomorrow. Not ever."

By the time we got to the restaurant, I decided to have a salad and a margarita. I don't normally drink, except on my birthday or other special occasions. But this occasion didn't feel special at all. We barely spoke all through dinner. I barely ate. We went to have coffee afterward and things started to look up slightly. I got a phone call from my nieces which made me feel better. But then we went home again and my boyfriend went to bed. I started crying again because I felt alone and not good enough. I don't know where all of these feelings were coming from but they overwhelmed me. I went to bed miserable, thinking it's the worst birthday I've had in years.

Then I remembered, at least I'm here another year. At least I'm alive. I should be thankful for each new year spent upon God's earth, for each new day.

Thankfully I've been able to come back to my senses and not act on the negative thoughts I had in the car that evening. I apologized to my boyfriend. He apologized too, though he really did nothing wrong. He said he was scared that I was going to break up with him that day which really surprised me. We've been together four years. The thought never entered my mind. In fact, we first became a couple on my birthday four years ago. So my birthday is also our anniversary. Then I started thinking about my last several birthdays. I realized, again, how far I've come:

March 16th, 2010: Turning 26
I still lived in Las Vegas. I worked the night of my birthday. When I came home around 9 pm, my boyfriend had prepared for me a vegan chocolate tofu cake with vegan chocolate tofu frosting and 26 candles. There is a creepy picture of me blowing the candles out. The next day we booked a hotel room at The Palms for a proper birthday celebration. We had dinner at Simon. Later (like 10 or 11 pm) we had chips and salsa and drinks at Gardunos. Then we went over to Palms Place and had drinks at Rojo Lounge. It was sort of dead and there were lots of really old men hitting on really young girls. After that we went back up to our room and drank champagne, no, Prosecco, on our balcony looking out over the city. We knew then that we would be moving in two months. It was sort of my "Goodbye, Las Vegas" moment.

My boyfriend lighting the candles on my tofu cake.

March 16th, 2009: Turning 25
We lived in Las Vegas, though we escaped to San Diego for my birthday celebration. We went to our usual spot, the dog beach in Del Mar (one of my favorite places on earth) and then to dinner in La Jolla at Trattoria Acqua. I wasn't throwing up anymore. After dinner we went to Seal Rock and watched the wild harbor seals diving into the ocean. We stayed at The Ivy. We went to some stupid night club inside. I hate night clubs. We didn't stay long.

Me in Del Mar

March 16th, 2008: Turning 24
This birthday was also spent in San Diego. We went to Sea World. I pet a donkey. I pet a dolphin. We saw the orca whales. We were in town during the Shamrock festival in the Gaslamp district (since my birthday is the day before St. Patty's day). My eating disorder was still very out of control. I was throwing up 8 or 9 times daily. We stayed at a hotel on the waterfront. We sat at a lounge inside the hotel. I had a blueberry martini. It was way too sweet. My boyfriend had a beer.

In Del Mar again, one year younger

March 16th, 2007: Turning 23
I was still an undergrad. This was at the height of my eating disorder. I was so sick I'd dropped out of school for a semester, though by this date I was taking three online classes: Appalachian Literature, Introduction to Nutrition, and The Literature of John Milton. I was working full time at the hospital. My boyfriend flew in to visit me. At that point we were only friends (we've known each other since 2004). He took me to dinner at a local Italian restaurant. I didn't eat much. Afterwards I went in the bathroom to throw up, as customary, but I didn't. Something was different. I told myself, "He bought me this lovely birthday meal. How can I throw it up?" So I made the decision, possibly for the first time ever, to fight against my eating disorder. We spent the night playing Scrabble and eating popcorn. He kissed me. I guess nothing has been the same since.

Can't believe my hair was ever this short. Then again, most of it had fallen out by then.

Birthday Lesson: Be grateful for every year, every month, every day, every moment of life. It's too short to be miserable. It's too short to be sick, scared, unhappy. Afraid.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


I think I mentioned in an earlier post that I got a new job recently. But I don't think I mentioned how bad it's been for me. The people (okay, some of them) are horrible. The pay is horrible. The hours are horrible. The job itself is horrible. Basically, there are no redeeming qualities to this position except that it is in fact a position and, not to mention, the only position that has been offered to me in response to the countless applications and resumes I've sent off out into the darkness. I know this job is only temporary. My boyfriend and I are moving again in November because of his job. This time the destination is unknown. It could be any state in the country. We won't find out where exactly until May. But even if the job is temporary, I'm not sure it's worth it. It has added so much extra stress and pressure when I already had my share of troubles to begin with. I hate complaining, but I feel like I want to quit. And I am definitely not a quitter. I'm a tolerant person. It takes a lot to push me over the edge. I've never really resigned from anything. I've always had the attitude that I can do anything. I can endure anything. Now I'm having doubts.

But there is another reason why I think this job is bad for me. Since I started working there, I've stopped eating. At least I've stopped eating the amount of food that I should be eating. I know. It's wrong. But it's time to come clean. I eat breakfast everyday. And then I skip lunch everyday. There are several days (at least two per week) in which I skip dinner too. The only days I eat what I should are my days off. Even then, I've been scheming of ways to slice off unnecessary calories. Ugh. I feel so disgusting for admitting it, but it's true. At first I blamed it on my hours. Some days I leave for work around 10 am and I don't return home until after 10 pm. Those are the days I skip dinner. Because it's too late, I tell myself. It's too late. The calories will sink right in. Can't go to sleep on a belly full of food. Sound familiar? I'd recognize that skewed perspective anywhere. Unfortunately, I've still been listening to it.

I've also been feeling very depressed lately. I understand this is all cyclical. I know it's related to not eating. When I'm sad, I don't eat. When I don't eat, I'm sad. I've also been dealing with all this family drama lately that has me heartbroken. Unfortunately, I've allowed all my negative emotions to fuel my eating disorder. And I've stood back watching my eating disorder creep back into my life without doing anything to stop it.

Wednesday morning before leaving for work I sent my boyfriend a series of texts. I said:

I can't force myself to go to work today.

It's not worth being miserable. And depressed. And ruining my body. And my mind.

Life is too short and too precious.

I went to work anyway but I was near tears all day.

Until that point my boyfriend hadn't realized I wasn't eating and the texts caught him off guard. When I get home from work at night he's already asleep. He assumes I'm eating the leftovers in the refrigerator because, well, why wouldn't I? I'm starving. But it's not that simple. Now he's worried and he thinks I should quit. Even though me quitting would mean we're broke. Again. Which terrifies me. He will be receiving a substantial pay raise in June. If I can only hang on until then.

I don't normally write posts like this. I try to be positive and uplifting. I try to see the good in everything. And I know there is good in this situation. There is a way out somehow. I'm just not sure what I'm supposed to do.

Quit and be healthy but broke?

Work and be sick and miserable but have extra money?

I think I know what I need to do. I spelled it out for myself pretty clearly in the text I sent.

So why is it so hard to quit?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Today's Ten: Ten Reasons to Keep Fighting

I've been struggling more than usual with eating disordered thoughts for the last few weeks. As I've said many times, recovery from an eating disorder is only possible when you are actively thinking about and pursuing recovery. It isn't going to just happen to you. You aren't going to wake up one morning with your eating disorder magically cured. If you want to get better you have to fight for it. Here are my personal top 10 reasons for fighting (in no particular order).

1.) Anorexia is a thief.

My life pre-eating disorder is frighteningly different than the life I have now. In the past I was happier. I was healthier. I wasn't so antisocial. I didn't second guess myself. I had more friends. I went out more. I didn't feel the need to withdraw into myself and sit at home all the time. I didn't feel like crap all the time. I wasn't always tired and drained. I could focus on tasks without getting distracted. Before my anorexia, I was a better me. My eating disorder stole everything I had. I'm just now beginning to get it all back.

2.) Anorexia is a destroyer.

Let's get straight to the facts. Eating disorders are serious business. They aren't fad diets or lifestyle choices. They are potentially fatal mental illnesses. According to NEDA:

" Between 0.5–1% of American women suffer from anorexia nervosa. "

" Anorexia nervosa has one of the highest death rates of any mental illness. "

" Between 5-20% of individuals struggling with anorexia nervosa will die. The probabilities of death increases within that range depending on the length of the condition. "

I refuse to be in that unfortunate 5-20%. I will not die from this. We will all die from something someday. But I will not die from this.

3.) I want a future.

Anorexia may own my past, but there is no place for an eating disorder in my future. I'm only 26. God willing, I will have a number of years of life ahead of me. My past may be troubled, but my future doesn't have to be. My future is unspoiled and uncomplicated. It's full of potential, of innocence. It's expansive. It's limitless. I can do anything and be anything. I can start over.

4.) The world is too beautiful. Life is too beautiful.

I am deeply touched and inspired by nature and by the world around me. I'm a stargazer. I'm wishy-washy. I stare at birds and trees and flower petals. Maybe it's because I'm sensitive, maybe it's because I'm a poet, but I see the beauty in every living thing. I'm learning now to see the beauty within myself.

5.) I have dreams.

This is connected to #3 I guess. Not only do I want a future, but I have dreams that I want to come true. I want to teach at a university. I want to get married. I want to have a family. I want to travel, to see the world. I want to make a difference. I want to plant a garden. I want to sit on the front porch somewhere in a little house tucked away in the woods and watch the world unfold around me. I want to sing. I want to write. I have a laundry lists of positive things to accomplish. My eating disorder has no place in any of them. My eating disorder is an interference. It steals the spotlight, the focus. It distracts me from doing the things I want to do and being the person I want to be. I've wasted too many years thinking about calories and fat grams and pounds and the size on the tag inside my jeans. I've wasted too many years feeling not good enough and out of place. No more. It stops now.

6.) I want to have better relationships.

Like many other people with eating disorders, my ability to form lasting relationships is less than desirable. I don't have many friends. I barely speak to the friends I used to have. We've grown apart for a number of reasons, my eating disorder being one of them. I push people away. I don't know how but it always happens. I feel them getting to close and I put my armor on. I'm impenetrable. But I don't want to be anymore. When I meet new people, I want to let them in. Here's to letting my guard down.

7.) I'm tired of being sad.

Depression is nothing new to me. I've experienced it for years, since I was a child. In fact, I can hardly remember not being depressed. There were a few years when I was very very young in which I was truly happy. I remember feeling sad and ashamed of my body at age 7 or 8. I suppose that's when I first started drawing into myself. My father fell ill with cancer when I was 12. That is when the depression really started to take flight. Throughout the years it picked up speed. When I was 19 and he passed away, it skyrocketed. And then the eating disorder came. I understand that all of these things are connected and that, over the years, they have fed off of one another. But I'm tired of being sad. We all deserve to be happy. I know that getting rid of my eating disorder will bring me one step closer to happiness.

8.) I'm ready to relinquish control.

Control is a tricky, tricky word for those with an eating disorder. I will admit firsthand that I am a major control freak. I wasn't like this before my eating disorder. I used to be very easy going and nonchalant. Now, I have to control everything. Every single thing. I can't do anything without planning it out first, and I make very detailed plans. Then I make several back-up plans. I'm meticulous, a perfectionist. I'm a nervous, neurotic mess. I can't give up control in any situation. I micromanage everything. It drives my boyfriend crazy. He's a chef and I refuse to let him cook dinner. Why? He might not do it correctly. I don't like to work as part of a team. I'd rather do it on my own so I'm certain it's done the right way. I never realized my issues with control were problematic until recently. I realize now that it, well, has gotten out of control. I think if I can manage to relax and give up control that it would take a lot of pressure and stress from me. I have to stop worrying about things. I have to learn to be easy going like I used to be. But it stresses me out just thinking about it...

9.) I have people who love me.

I know that I'm not as close to my family I used to be, but I still love them and I know they still love me. My boyfriend loves me. My mother loves me. My grandmother loves me. My nieces love me. My brother loves me. My sister in law loves me. My aunts and uncles love me. Deep down I know this. I have people in my corner even if it doesn't feel like it. I have people who depend on me, who need me. While I know that we can't recover for an eating disorder just for the sake of others, I do know that getting rid of my eating disorder would improve my family relationships. I have to be healthy for myself, but I want to be healthy for those who love me too. I want to stick around to see my nieces grow up. I want to grow old with my boyfriend. Even though an eating disorder is a very personal disease, it impacts all of the people around me. I can't change the damage it's done in the past, but, as I said, I can stop it from doing further damage in the future.

10.) My Dad wouldn't want this for me.

There. I said it. Someone I know said a couple years ago that my Dad would be ashamed of me if he knew I was starving myself. It ripped my heart out. I've never been able to forgive her for that. I don't think my Dad would be ashamed of me. I know that's not true. He would, however, hurt for me. He wouldn't want me to be sick or sad or miserable. He wouldn't want me to torture my body. When he was dying, all he wanted was another shot at life. He saw his body failing and deteriorating. He wanted nothing more than to live and I have life and I'm not even living it. I have a perfectly capable body and I'm destroying it. He wouldn't want me to hate myself or beat myself up or doubt myself or put myself down. He would want me to be happy because he loved me. Because he loves me. He would want me to love myself.

What are your reasons for fighting?