Sunday, September 26, 2010

"You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it. " - Margaret Thatcher

Today the thoughts of restricting were alarmingly loud and persistent. I haven't (really) restricted in a long time, nor have I had this much of a desire to. Normally, I'm past counting calories. I don't usually give too much thought about what I'm "permitted" to eat. That's because I don't have to ask permission to eat anymore. I just eat whatever I want. Today, however, I didn't want to eat anything. More than that, I wanted precisely to eat nothing.

I went as far, God I don't want to admit this, as to write down everything I ate along with how many calories were in each item. I hadn't done that in YEARS! Nothing good can come of this. Nothing.

I'm left wondering what to do now? Of course, I know restricting is NOT an option. It's never an option. In the end, I won. I ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But the desire the need to restrict, to exercise, to binge, to purge was constant. I managed to overcome, but it was hard. Aren't I too far into recovery to be dealing with these issues? I've been "recovering" for three years now. Sure, I've had slip ups. I've had relapses and set backs. But I've never had this strong of an urge to restrict and to be held accountable for every calorie consumed in years. Not since I first moved to Las Vegas. Living with my boyfriend forced a lot of my eating disordered behaviors to stop. He wouldn't stand for them. I tried to hide them, but he always found out. Eventually I gave up and gave in to him (thankfully). And we've lived happily together ever since. But he's out of town for 10 weeks (2 down, 8 to go) and I'm all alone in this apartment by myself with no one to watch or to notice. No one to tell me to eat and no one to be upset if I don't.

Plus, there's all this added anxiety with my Mom being engaged. It's a lot of pressure. Restricting, counting calories, manic exercising, binging, purging--those are all coping mechanisms--all twisted ways to handle the pressure. And I know that behavior is not okay!

I want to live!

I want to thrive!


I thought I made this all very clear to myself.

Was my eating disorder not listening?

I have no doubt in my mind that I can overcome this. I know I will. I want to. I have to. Recovery is always the right thing. It is the only option. Being sick is not an option. Relapse is not an option. Fighting this is.

It's just that my eating disorder doesn't fight fair.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Food is not the enemy!

While making dinner I felt very stressed out and fat. My eating disorder kept assaulting me. Why should I eat? What do I need food for? Isn't this going to make me fat? Suddenly, I sliced into a tomato and happened upon a little surprise. A much needed reminder:


Love your body.

Feed it.

Take care of it.

Love your food.

Eat it.

Enjoy it.

Love your life.

Cherish it.

Thrive in it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Growing (up)

Let me just preface this post by saying that I'm 26 years old. 26. That's an adult, for all intensive purposes. I can drive. I can vote. I can drink. I can rent a car. I'm old enough to do anything an adult can do short of running for president and signing up for AARP. So why do I feel like such a child?

An infant, even?

I got some weird news today that I expected but didn't necessarily want to hear:

My mother is getting married.


I want to be happy for her. I love my mom very much. I'm just afraid she'll get hurt. She's been engaged twice since my Dad passed away in 2003. The first time it didn't work out. Who knows what will happen this time? I want the best for her. I want to be happy to her. But she's only known this man a month. One month! And she's getting married? I know that she is an adult fully capable of making sound decisions. I trust her. But she is my mother. I want her to be happy. I want her to be safe. I want to protect her. To what extent is that my place? She is the mother and I am the child.

Who knows, he could be a really nice guy. They could be very in love. They could have a happy marriage. It just doesn't feel right to me. Then again, this isn't about me.

I've tried to convince myself for the last seven years that it doesn't bother me when my mom dates a man. My father is gone. I understand that. He isn't coming back. I know he wouldn't want my mother to be alone. I don't want her to be alone either. But part of me doesn't want to share her. How messed up is that? I guess I feel that by marrying someone else, a part of the perfect life and family unit we used to have (she as mother, father as father, me as child, brother as brother) is dashed all to hell when she marries this guy. All I have left are the memories of that perfect home and childhood. I feel like that's being threatened. Then again, this isn't about me.

Besides, there are so many questions.

Will she change her last name?

Will she have to move?

Will she still be buried beside my father?

What if she loves him more than she loved Daddy?

I can't and won't influence her decision. I made mine. I packed everything I owned and moved out west. To Las Vegas. To California. To places so magical and far away they seemed make believe. I left her behind. And I didn't look back. Who am I to be upset if she does the same thing?

I would never tell her these things. I don't want to rain on her proverbial parade. I think part of the reason this bothers me so much is because I don't have any control.

Hello, eating disorder.

I can't control this situation. This is out of my hands. This is not my decision. It makes me want to restrict. I haven't had an appetite since I found out from her about it all this morning.

Why am I being such a baby?

The hardest thing I've ever had to do is grow up.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Coming Clean

Today was the first day in over a month that I simultaneously had no dizziness and no homework. How did I celebrate? By cleaning my apartment, of course. I'm not talking about just tidying up. I gave this entire place a good, thorough scrub down, a real "deep cleaning" as my boyfriend calls it. I swept, vacuumed, and mopped all the floors. I cleaned both bedrooms, both bathrooms, the kitchen, the laundry room, the walls, the floorboards. I washed all the sheets and blankets and laundry. I cleaned every inch of this place. And it feels amazing. It feels like it should. I don't consider myself a neat freak by any means, but I like keeping things clean. Since I've been sick, I've done only surface cleanings in the few, fleeting moments I didn't feel like collapsing. It's so great just to sit down in a nice, clean room, breathe in, and relax. So I started thinking,

Isn't it the same for our bodies?

Our bodies feel better clean, too. No only is it important to eat and eat regularly, but it's important to eat smart. Eat healthy. Know what you're eating. Love what you're eating. Let it nourish your body.

Take care of your body. Keep it clean.

I consciously buy foods that don't have additives or chemicals or ingredients I can't pronounce. I don't want to put anything artificial into my body. Instead of buying food flavored with unnecessary dyes or weird things like cochineal/carmine/carminic acid (it's ground up bugs!) I opt for foods colored with natural ingredients I understand--like beet juice. Or carrots. I cook 99% of my meals at home. I make things from scratch. It isn't difficult, it's therapeutic. It's more satisfying that way. It makes me love food for the first time in my life. Simple food. Clean food.

I care about my body, and I care about the earth. Since I became vegan a few years ago (though I've been a vegetarian since childhood) I vowed to put nothing in or on my body I didn't understand, trust, or support, or value. Veganism is a cultural dedication that goes far beyond food. As a vegan, I don't wear fur or leather. I don't use any cosmetics, chemicals, or products that were tested on animals or contain animal ingredients. This is obviously a personal choice, but it's one I stand firmly by. There is no room for guilt in my life.

I'm coming clean.

I understand that my body needs food to survive. I am also sorry for the years of calorie restriction and starvation I subjected it to. I want to make it up to myself. I want to nurture myself, to protect myself. To give only the best things to myself. The best ingredients.

I wouldn't do it if I didn't love myself.

If you asked me if I loved myself six years ago, I would have laughed in your face.

All that baggage. All that pain. The guilt, the sorrow, the lies, the mistakes. The shortcomings, the insecurities, the disappointments.

Washed away.

I've come clean.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The robbed that smiles steals something from the thief. - Othello

10 reasons I smiled today:

1. God granted me another day on his beautiful earth.

2. There is breath in my lungs.

3. I made progress on my writing.

4. I wasn't dizzy. I felt like me.

5. The leaves in the forest where I live are turning golden, orange, amber.

6. I talked to my mother on the phone. I heard her laugh.

7. I made dinner and ate it. Better yet, I enjoyed it.

8. I'm stronger than I was yesterday.

9. Somebody loves me.

10. I love myself.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hungry for Life

I've been missing my dad a lot lately, even more so than usual. I've been digging through his medical records in order to write my memoir (a collection of linked personal essays). I'm trying to piece together the time line of each surgery he had, each round of chemotherapy and radiation, so that I can get all of my facts straight and dates accurate. I was so young back then and I can't remember it all. After a while, it just jumbles together into one long strand of memories where the good can't be separated from the bad, like necklaces knotting and interlacing. It's difficult to read his records. There are hundreds and hundreds of pages of doctors' office notes, surgical procedures, lab tests, and hospital evaluations. It's like reading an epic novel where he is the hero in this monumental battle against cancer that spans more than a decade, and eventually takes the life he fought so hard and long to keep. He had such a passion for life, a hunger for it. I miss that.

My eating disorder didn't surface until a year and a half after he passed away. I was twenty. I was at the heaviest weight of my life. I was seeing a grief counselor and taking antidepressants. My first real love had just broken up with me. I didn't eat much even then, but everything I ate was garbage. Candy. Chips. Pizza. Pasta. I didn't care about my body. I didn't care about my health. I stopped taking the antidepressants even though the therapist warned me not to stop without tapering off. I became reckless. I didn't do well in school. I had never received any grade less than an A in my life. Now I was failing one class and suffering in all the rest, except Literature, the only one I cared about. I remember one evening in particular walking back from one of my classes to my dorm room. It was cold and drizzling snow. I felt so alone and depressed I wanted to step off the sidewalk and into oncoming traffic. I saw a car approaching. A girl behind the wheel, no older than I was. Our eyes met. Could she see what I was thinking? I felt my feet veering toward her. I closed my eyes and I visualized the impact, my body collapsing under her tire. Would it kill me? What if it didn't? What would my mother think? I opened my eyes and crossed home through the grass, shaking. That was in November of 2004. By Christmas, I had started a diet. It seemed innocent enough. It didn't begin with the intention to starve myself. I learned to exchange regular soda for diet. I stopped eating bread. I stopped eating cheese. I stopped eating sugar. By the time the spring semester started in January, I'd lost thirty lbs. I stopped eating pasta. I stopped eating flour. I stopped drinking milk. Without even realizing it, I stopped eating everything. I started working out. I counted calories religiously. Each day I ate less calories than the day before, until I was eating no calories at all. No one recognized me. My body didn't look like my body. My face didn't look like my face. By May, I had lost 80 lbs. I was a skeleton. My hair had fallen out. My skin was horrible. I was nothing but cheekbones and dark circles. Everyone told me I looked as though I was dying. Isn't that what I had wanted?

I've said this before about remembering my eating disorder, but looking back now, it really does feel like remembering a dream. It's foggy. It's disorienting. It makes me feel cold. It makes me feel sad. But it makes me remember I don't want to go back there. I know that my Dad wouldn't want me to feel that way. I don't know how he would have responded to my eating disorder if he were still alive, but I don't think he would stand back and watch without interfering like everyone else in my life did. He would have spoken up. We would have fought. He would want me to recover.

He would be proud to know I'm recovering. That I'm a healthy weight. That I eat meals that will nourish my body. That I care about my body. That I want to live. That I'm hungry, for food and for life.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Learning to breathe

I woke up today with a migraine. Thankfully, my cat let me sleep in. He usually wakes me up at 8:18 a.m. (weird, right?) by meowing and pawing and scratching at the bedroom door. Today I woke up at 10. I don't remember the last time I slept in so late. When I went out into the living room, the cat was just sitting there quietly waiting for breakfast.

As the day went on, my headache faded. I was only mildly dizzy today, so I was able to get a few things accomplished. I went on a long walk alone to clear my head and focus. Where I come from, September is rarely this warm. It felt good to be in the sunshine. I get so tired of being trapped inside my apartment.

I found a spider living on my balcony. I've known she was there for quite sometime. Everyday there are huge, crazy elaborate webs hanging all around. I saw the culprit today. Actually, there were two of them. Both were big and brown and fuzzy with white marks on their abdomens. Naturally, I began to panic. Brown recluse? Wolf spider? I don't know much about spiders except that their venom can cause serious abscesses and damage. When I worked at the hospital, tons of patients came in with spider bites. Some were very serious. One gentleman lost his entire arm because of one. I don't believe in killing any creatures, so I'm going to have to figure out a way to live with these guys. Hopefully they will stay outside and I will stay inside and we'll keep it very civil that way.

I also managed to accomplish quite a bit of writing and revision today for my final manuscript. It has to be 100 pages and I'm holding strong at 75. I had a productive day as far as eating goes, too. I had three square meals. First time I've done that in a few weeks. I am, however, trying to avoid salt. It's so hard because I crave salt all the time. It's bad for the ear condition I have, though that's causing all of this dizziness. Apparently, if you cut out salt, it allows the fluid to subside and the dizziness reduces. We'll see about that. I'd kill for a diet soda right now, but they have quite a bit of sodium. I've been drinking lots of ice tea.

I'm trying to keep a positive attitude. I've found it really does make a difference, in recovery as well as every other aspect of life. It's hard for me to be bubbly and sunny. That's never really been my personality. I've always had a tendency to panic, over-analyze, worry, think the worst, panic, and harbor anxiety. I am learning to breathe. To pause. To relax. To smile. To laugh. To breathe again.

I still have more work to do on the manuscript before I go to sleep. I'm not sure how I'll feel tomorrow. It's up and down at this point. All I can do is hope for the best, and be prepared for the worst just in case.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dedication to Hunger

One of my final requirements before completing my MFA in Creative Writing degree this December is to teach a lecture to fellow students at the grad school I attend in Los Angeles. I am teaching about anorexia, of course. Specifically, anorexia in poetry. The lecture is still a few months away, but I've been looking through my research today and trying to focus my thoughts. One of the poems I am going to ask the group to consider is "Dedication to Hunger" by Louise Gluck. Gluck had her own personal bouts with anorexia when she was a young woman and this poem certainly reflects that, as many of her poems do. She says

It begins quietly
in certain female children:
the fear of death, taking as its form
dedication to hunger
because a woman’s body
is a grave; it will accept

She later identifies the propelling force behind her eating disorder as "the same need to be perfect/ of which death is the mere byproduct."

One of the major goals of this class will be, I hope, to educate and raise awareness for eating disorders, specifically for how serious they are. How deadly they are. How devastating. I want to choose poems that represent anorexic logic accurately, but also drive home a message that will allow people to understand how horrible and unnecessary eating disorders are.

I am also considering the poem by Alice Jones called "Anorexia." I think it enforces the dangerousness and seriousness of anorexia. The poem begins by making anorexia seem artful, an "ancient skill" that requires grace and discipline and control. This is a popular myth (often among anorexics themselves) that couldn't be further from truth. There is nothing beautiful or skillful or artistic about starving yourself. The poet, of course, knows this too. As the poem progresses, the myth unravels. The anorexic in the poem is no longer presented as artful or skillful. The illusion shatters. She becomes animalistic, "a cannibal of self." She loses her power, which was never there in the first place, “her scapulae prepared like/ thin birds to fly away from/ the spine." She is “barely held together/ by silk and liquid and air”. The grace has shifted to sadness, to powerlessness. The realization is that anorexia, in this and in many cases, equals death.

She tries not to be sucked
down by the black cold,
its deadliness pulling
at the nape of her long neck,
biting at her unfeathered heels

Anorexia is that "black cold"; that "deadliness pulling" and "biting." There is nothing beautiful about it. There is nothing glorious about it. Being anorexic doesn't make you elite. It doesn't make you strong. It doesn't make you disciplined. It makes you sick. And dependent. And weak. And broken.

Recovery, on the other hand, offers all of those things anorexia promised and couldn't deliver. Being anorexic doesn't make you strong. Being anorexic and recovering from it does.

Fighting it does.

Overcoming it does.

Dedicating your life to health and happiness does.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Food and Guilt

I am very proud of myself. Why? Because I made dinner. For me. For only me. And I ate it by myself.

I'm sure that doesn't sound like much of an accomplishment for most people, but for me it's major. Since my boyfriend is out of town, I've been living off of soup, and cereal-- things that I get full from without any effort on my part. I love to cook for other people, but my eating disorder has convinced me for years that if I went out of my way to cook a meal just for myself that I was some sort of greedy fat ass. I really had it ingrained in me that eating when no one else is around makes me weak. Oddly enough, eating in front of other people also made me weak. So what did I do? Not eat, of course. When I first started recovery, I ate only because it was forced on me. I ate only when others were looking. I did it all for them. I did it all so they would shut up and leave me alone. I had an understanding with myself that yes, eating was stupid and only weak people did it on their own with no one looking. My God, how wrong and delusional I was! We have to eat in order to live. Pure and simple. Eating is natural. It is as natural as breathing or sleeping or drinking water. Our lives cannot be sustained without food. So there's really only two options-- eat or starve. Live or die. I know some people become life-long anorexics. They eat just enough to get by, but I would by no means call that living. A life with anorexia is not a happy life. It is not the life we were meant to have. It is not the life we deserve to have.

I have to realize that I am just as hungry and eating is just as important whether there are 20 people here or whether it's just me. There is no crime in cooking myself a meal. Period. I refuse to let my eating disorder make me feel guilty!

In the past when my boyfriend has been out of town, I've been known to wrestle with myself, torn over whether to cook or not to cook. More than once I've taken out a cutting board, a knife, thrown a pot on the stove and dropped vegetables into it only to have talked myself out of eating by the time the meal is ready.

Not tonight.

I made a vegan burrito. It sounds simple but I did it all from scratch-- sauteed some peppers and onions, made some rice and black beans with cilantro and lime, a homemade pico de gallo, and guacamole. I also added some nice crunchy lettuce and fresh corn. Oh. My. Goodness. And I ate the entire thing.

And I'm not crying or feeling anxious or beating myself up over it. I don't feel ashamed. I don't feel angry. I don't feel like a failure, or a fat ass, or anything else my eating disorder would have me believe that I am. I'm not sorry I ate. I am a little bummed out, however, about all of these dirty dishes.

If you're reading this, I hope you've eaten something. Or that you're eating something now. Or that you'll eat something after. Something good. Something nutritious. Something satisfying.

Food should not equal guilt.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The woman at the gym

There is a woman who works out at my gym. I see her there everyday though I try not to look. She is obviously anorexic and has been for some time. She eats just enough to keep from dying. She is probably in her late thirties though she looks closer to sixty. She is all bone and hair and teeth and knees. She wears a t-shirt three times too large for her body. She thinks she's fat. She wants to hide beneath her clothes. I want to hug her. I want to tell her that I'm sorry, that she could get better, that she deserves to. But I don't say anything. I just consider how, without recovery, she could have easily been me. She is on the elliptical machine every night, oblivious to everything and everyone around her, burning and burning more calories than she consumed all day. Just like that song by Jill Sobule:

Her little legs are working, she's going somewhere
She's climbing up the stairs
And when she reaches the top her dreams will be there

But they won't.

Maybe it's wrong for me to assume how she feels. Maybe it's wrong for me to cast my own experiences with anorexia onto hers. All I know is that I'm saying a special prayer for her tonight. She has never found the way out. There is a way out. She just never found it. Or if she did, she chose not to take it. She is so skinny she looks as though her legs will break. She keeps panting but she won't stop. There is nothing beautiful or tragic about it. She is nothing but bone. She is starving. She is sick. She is me if I don't get my life back on track.

I don't want to be her.

I'm sorry for her. I hurt for her. I wish and hope and dream for her.

But I don't want to be her.

I don't want her to be her.

I don't want anyone to be her.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Losing it

The only thing I could think about today was that I need to lose weight. I've been flirting with disaster, filling my head with calorie contents and guessing what my BMI might be now. I haven't acted this way in years. I keep telling myself that I am overweight. That I'm not good enough. That I'm never going to be good enough unless I get off my ass and go to the gym.

Ugh. Sound familiar?

Deep in my heart I know that none of these things are true, and I'm not sure why I'm being assaulted with all of these negative thoughts right now after all of this valuable time spent advocating, living, breathing, and rejoicing in recovery. I know that recovery is the right choice. I know that recovery is the only choice. So why am I letting my eating disorder get through to me? For so long, there was a brick wall that I had built between the two of us. Sometimes she'd try to climb over. Sometimes I'd hear her clawing at the other side. But I always ignored her. Now the wall is gone. I'm staring at a pile of fallen bricks and a ghost from my past dying to convince me she knows best. How did this happen?

I didn't even want to write about this because I didn't know if anyone would understand. I don't want to sound phony. I know that there is life after anorexia. And I know that there is life only after anorexia. I know that. I believe that! Anorexia, however, is trying to tell me otherwise.

I think the reason I've been so vulnerable lately is because I've been sick with this dizziness and all of these ear and upper respiratory issues. That illness has lasted for four months and has severely impaired my quality of life. I can't do the things I used to do. I can't be the person I have come to be. So naturally, I've fallen into a bit of a depression. And naturally, my eating disorder sees this as an opportunity to pounce.

I guess this proves that recovery is a long and continuous process. It's not easy. That's why getting rid of an eating disorder is so difficult--because even years after the onset of recovery, symptoms and behaviors indicative of anorexia often resurface. The important thing is that I know that-- that I am ready to handle that. I learned to ignore my eating disorder once and I can do it again.

Recovery is hard but being sick is harder.

Think about it. It's true. I don't want to be the person I was when I was anorexic. I like the person I have become in the years after, and I intend to stay that person.

I won't be discouraged. There is no room in my life for relapse.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Listen up

I have really struggled with feeding myself since my boyfriend has been out of town. My ED planted all of these twisted thoughts in my head in order to convince me that it would be okay to just starve myself while he is gone.

He won't be home for 65 days. What's the point of cooking when I'm the only person here? What's the point of eating at all? I could lose so much weight in 65 days. I could be thin again. I could do whatever I wanted. I could get back on track.

Back on track? I don't remember being on track during the days anorexia controlled my life. I was way off track, the train busted up and derailed. Still, I'm alarmed at how loud that negative voice has become lately. For so long I was able to keep her quiet. I controlled her the way that she used to control me. I had her so scared she'd barely raise her voice. Now she's screaming at me. Trying to worm her way back into my life.

But guess what?

It's not happening.

I made dinner despite my eating disorder. I made a homemade vegan pizza and ate more than enough of it. I have no guilt or remorse. Why should I feel guilty? For feeding myself? For nurturing myself? For loving my body and taking care of it? For respecting it? For protecting it? For rewarding it?


If my eating disorder thinks I'm the same weak nineteen year old I used to be, she is badly mistaken. I'm not a sad, scared little girl anymore. I am a strong, capable woman who will not be bossed around by some number on a scale.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hard times

I haven't been able to post lately. Unfortunately, I've been sick again. Rather, I'm still sick. I guess it's never gone away. Since May, I've seen four doctors and been in the hospital once. I've taken four rounds of antibiotics, two rounds of steroids, two rounds of ear drops, pills for dizziness, antihistamines, decongestants, and God knows what else. The doctors still can't figure out exactly what is wrong with me. Nothing helps. The symptoms go (almost) away for a few days or for a week or so, and then they are back again. The doctors thought it was a sinus infection at first, but what kind of sinus infection lasts for three and a half months? And is accompanied by utter, life-impairing, incapacitating dizziness? I can't tell which symptoms are from the initial illness and which are coming from the medicine I've been on. Most recently, my hair has started to fall out. This also happened when my anorexia was at its worst a few years ago. It freaked me out then and it freaks me out now.

Worst of all, my boyfriend is in Boston now for the next two months. I knew I'd miss him, but I didn't know I'd miss him like this. It reaffirmed for me within the first day he was gone how much I want to be with him. It's going to be a long, long couple of months, especially if I can't get over this sickness.

I don't mean to whine. I hope it's not coming off that way. I'm just frustrated because I want so badly to be better and as soon as I think I'm better, I'm sick all over again.

I have to stay faithful and positive and strong.

I'm just tired of lying on the couch watching television.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

How to break a promise

As far as my eating disorder goes, tonight was the worst night I've had in a long time. I have been feeling vulnerable for days. I have been feeling fat and disgusting (see yesterday's post). Tonight before dinner, the anxiety I've been dragging around finally exploded. It's silly how it started. My boyfriend and I were making dinner. I had fresh corn on the cob that I was cleaning up. I pulled the husks back from one ear and it was oddly shaped. I said, "Look--it's skinny on top and fat on the bottom." And my boyfriend said, "Yep. Just like you."

W h a t ?

Obviously he didn't mean it like that. He wasn't considering how my eating disorder would twist things around. He doesn't think I'm fat and I know that. My body is smaller on top and larger on the bottom. That's a fact. That's just how God designed me. Even when I was at the lowest and the highest weight of my life, I always had a slim waist and larger hips and thighs. And it's something I have always been self-conscious about. I know that my boyfriend loves the shape of my body. I know he thinks I'm beautiful. But he forget sometimes that it's hard for me to see beauty in myself, especially in the parts of myself I'm uncomfortable with.

After he said it he started backtracking, which made things much worse. My eyes welled up with tears immediately and he looked so scared and sorry. I ran into the bedroom and lay down and cried it all out. I hadn't cried like that in a long time. Of course, he followed me with tissues and kept apologizing, saying over and over again that he didn't mean it like that. I was never mad at him. I was mad at myself, at my eating disorder, at my body, at my heart for being sensitive, at my mind for twisting things around. The last thing I wanted to do was to eat dinner, but I reminded myself that he is leaving Monday for Boston and that I didn't want to ruin the last couple of days we have together before then. But then I did something very bad and disappointing. My eating disorder kept screaming for me not to eat. I told her I had to. I told her that I was fat and I knew it and this confirmed it. I promised I would eat like normal until he went out of town and then I'd stop eating altogether.

And she shut up.

And I ate dinner. All of it.

Of course I am going to break my promise. What about all of those promises my eating disorder made to me only to break them? Of course I am going to keep eating while he is gone. Of course I'm going to fight like hell to stay healthy. But tonight proved to me that it's not going to be easy. It proved to me that even after all of these years in recovery, the bitch isn't dead yet.

But guess what--

Neither am I.

It's frustrating, but I'm not going to let it set me back.

I can be rational.

I can be calm.

I can count on myself to take care of myself.

and I will.

Friday, September 10, 2010

F a t

I hate feeling fat.

I don't want to. I don't mean to. I think happy thoughts. I try to keep a positive attitude. I love my body. I want to do what's right for my body. I feed her. I nourish her. I tell her she's beautiful. But each time I begin to feel happy, content, unafraid-- that familiar little voice creeps in to remind me:

You're fat.

Throughout my recovery, I have learned to ignore this voice for the most part. But when it says that word, so cold and cruel and piercing, it's hard not to listen. More than that, it's hard not to believe.

F a t.

When I was getting ready to go out with my boyfriend tonight for dinner, everything I put on my body made me look and feel fat. It was so discouraging. My eating disorder kept reminding me how skinny I used to be. My rational self would argue that I wasn't skinny then, I was sick then. But my rational self surfaced a little too late.

I let my eating disorder make me feel bad about all of the hard work I've done to restore myself back to health. It was a reasonably warm day and I felt the need to wear a tank top, a long sleeved shirt, and a long sleeved cardigan over that. Somehow, in my head, it looked better. I tried to make myself look skinny but it didn't work. Instead, I tried to cover up to hide the fat. The guilt. The shame. The gluttony. All of those lies my eating disorder tries to pass for truth.

I am disappointed in myself for feeling this way, and I know my eating disorder is wrong. I didn't let it ruin dinner. I ate an appetizer and a salad. I felt full and properly nourished. I still won. But it's so frustrating when those negative thoughts pop into my head. I'm learning how to (mostly) ignore them. I'm learning how to react to them. Now I want to know how to stop them.

I will not let my eating disorder come back into my life.
There is no room for relapse.
I've come too far.
I've made too much progress.
I'm not that weak anymore.
I will not be controlled.
I will not be made to feel worthless.
I will fight and I will win.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Yoga Therapy for Eating Disorders

Though I first began practicing yoga a few years ago (when my eating disorder was first beginning), I never considered it a form of therapy. I stopped practicing yoga once I became so obsessed with weight loss. I spent my time running and jogging and doing other more strenuous forms of cardio that would yield the quickest results. I was most interested in pilates (which I still adore). Though it is grounded in yogic principles, pilates satisfied the burn yoga didn't. By the time I was very ill, I barely did yoga at all. When I did, it was when I was too weak or tired or dizzy or sick to do anything else, and even then, I didn't put all of my heart, mind, or ability into it. Consequently, I stopped practicing yoga as my eating disorder progressed.

Since I have been in recovery, I have fallen in love with yoga in a way I never thought I would. It's calming yet strangely energizing. It's positive. It allows you connect, listen to, and understand your body. It reinforces the importance of having a strong, sound body as well as a strong, sound mind that work in connection to one another. These are all staples of recovery, though I never thought to make the connection between yoga and recovery from an eating disorder. I know there has been tons of research conducted and articles written about yoga's positive effects on the recovery from anorexia in particular and I've read many of them. At first, I didn't buy into it. Like anything else, I didn't think yoga would help me recover because I didn't think I could recover. I didn't want to recover. I know now that nothing will work unless you make it. You can't *fully* recover until you want it, until you put just as much energy into being well as you used to put into being sick.

Now I integrate yoga into my daily life. When I practice yoga now, not only do I try to understand my body, I try to heal my body. One article on states that anorexia and other eating disorders are viewed as "a dysfunction of the first chakra in the yogic energetic system." A different article appearing on the same website says:

"Yoga practitioners reported less self-objectification, greater satisfaction with physical appearance, and fewer disordered eating attitudes compared to non-yoga practitioners. Through yoga, this study suggests that women may have intuitively discovered a way to buffer themselves against messages that tell them that only a thin and 'beautiful' body will lead to happiness and success."

And later:

"Yoga, highly therapeutic and relatively non-threatening, is the ideal therapy: a gentle reawakening of the mind and a soft embrace of the body, all helping to get patients back into the land of healthy living."

This is the kind of therapy I prefer. I don't like doctors. I don't like nurses or hospitals or weigh-ins or therapists or nutritionists. I'm not saying those methods don't work because they certainly do. They are vital and necessary, at least at first. Of course all of those things played a part in my initial short-term recovery. As far as long-term recovery goes, I'm finding things like yoga, meditation, and just plain soul searching have been the most helpful and therapeutic. I don't think yoga alone can rid me of my eating disorder. I also don't think it was as effective in the earliest stages of my recovery when I was still unable to separate disordered thinking from normal thinking. But, combined with other means of recovery, it has been very effective, rewarding, and worthwhile.

Here are the links to two interesting articles with some images and descriptions of the yoga poses that are thought to aid in the recovery of eating disorders.

Yoga Therapy

Ten Yogasanas for Anorexia

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"To be free, one must give up a part of oneself." Hedwig and the Angry Inch

I want to be free.

My eating disorder keeps me a PRISONER.

What do I have to give up to be free?

I have to give up the lies.

I have to give up the panic.

I have to give up the fear.

I want to be healthy.

My eating disorder keeps me SICK.

What do I have to give up to be healthy?

I have to give up the obsession.

I have to give up the pain.

I have to give up the bones.

I want to be strong.

My eating disorder keeps me WEAK.

What do I have to give up to be strong?

I have to give up the dependence.

I have to give up the doubt.

I have to give up the excuses.

To be free, I have to give up part of myself, but only the bad part.

What I have to lose is not worth keeping.

What I have to gain is everything.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Weight and Wellness

Though weight is a subject constantly on my mind, I've been thinking about it more and more as I've been sick the last few weeks. I've been on such a mix of antibiotics, steroids, pills for dizziness, decongestants, ear drops, and supplements. I hate taking medicine to begin with, and I certainly hate taking this much of it. I believe in being as natural as possible so this entire course of treatment has been difficult for me, especially when I stop to consider the effect all of this medicine could have on my weight. I've read the ins and outs of all the side effects and one pill in particular says that weight gain is very common. How am I supposed to handle that? Most people reporting weight gain have taken the pill as part of long-term therapy while I'm on it only for seven days. Regardless, the last thing I want to do is gain weight. I've been too sick to work out. Starving myself is no longer (and never should be!) an option. So where does that leave me? Do I stop taking the pills in an attempt to maintain my weight or do I concentrate on clearing up the dizziness, the infections, the fluid in my ears? Do I choose weight or wellness?

Of course I know that the answer should be to choose wellness, but it's not so easy. I'd be lying if I said the thought of weight gain didn't terrify me, even to this day. I have gained weight since I began recovering from my eating disorder, but I am finally at a size I've been learning to feel good about. Suddenly I have to consider what I would do if that size changed? I am all about love and acceptance of the way that I am now, but if I were suddenly much larger, would that change? What if I actually became obese? Could I still love myself, or is that love conditional?

The point is that it shouldn't be conditional. It should be unconditional. Whether or not I gain weight from this medicine or for any other reason should have no bearing on my ability to love myself. It should have no bearing on my self-worth. I always talk about how much the outward appearance doesn't matter. But does it? I want to say no. But if the answer is really no, then why am I still so afraid of gaining weight?

I guess even after all of this time spent in recovery, I still have a lot of ground to break. Discovering my weaknesses is the first step toward correcting them. Better yet, it's the first step toward letting go of them.

Maybe I still have a lot more self-discovery to do before I can fully move on to self-acceptance.

Monday, September 6, 2010


What a horrible weekend. I drove to Ky with my boyfriend on Saturday morning so that I could see the doctor. He was having chest pains and saw the doctor too. They did an EKG and some blood work and discovered he had a very low pulse and should see a cardiologist as soon as possible. We came back home yesterday (or at least we tried). We made it about 4 hours into our drive and I started feeling the worst abdominal pain I've ever felt. It was like the worst menstrual cramps you could imagine magnified by a hundred. It's not even time for my period so I didn't know what was going on. It became so painful I was crying and sweating and squirming in the car seat. My boyfriend stopped the car at a gas station/travel plaza. As soon as I stepped out of the car I began to feel very hot and dizzy. We walked in the door and my boyfriend was talking to me and my hearing went away completely. It was like my ears closed up and I couldn't hear anything. And then everything went dark and I got so nauseous and dizzy. And then I collapsed.

The next thing I knew, someone was holding ice on my back and neck and I was lying on the ground. I was sweating like crazy and my shirt and hair were soaking wet. I heard people talking and asking my boyfriend if I was okay but I couldn't speak and I was too sleepy to open my eyes. Then an ambulance came. The medic was asking me questions but I only wanted to sleep. They put me on a stretcher and into the ambulance to go to the emergency room. They gave me IVs and took blood and did a CT scan of my abdomen and a urine test and an EKG. The doctor gave me Valium and I slept for a long time. When I woke up, the pain was subsiding. She told me that my blood work was normal except for anemia. She said there were white blood cells and red blood cells in my urine. She thought it might be kidney stones, but none were present on the CT scan. She thought it may be my appendix but later ruled it out. She thinks that it was an ovarian cyst that ruptured, hence the severe abdominal pain and the blood in the urine. I've had ovarian cysts in the past but they were nothing compared to this. This was indescribable. She released me after 7 or 8 hours and told us to get a hotel nearby the hospital and rest. So we did.

We woke up this morning and drove the final four hours back to our house. I'm still having a lot of abdominal pain but not like I did yesterday. I haven't passed out anymore. I never want to do that again. I passed out once or twice when I was younger but it was nothing like this. I was so scared when my hearing went away. It's hard to describe. It's like my body was shutting down. I remember thinking, "Okay, this is it. I'm freaking going to die." Thank God it wasn't that serious.

I also felt guilty (even though it was beyond my control) because my boyfriend was so scared and worried, which isn't good if he's having heart trouble. He's going to see a cardiologist one day this week.

I'm going to bed early.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Back to the doctor

Just when I thought I was finally starting to get better, I woke up with a migraine today. I get them from time to time, but this was seriously the single worst headache I've ever had. I couldn't do anything but lie in bed with the lights off. It finally subsided, but I'm so so dizzy. I thought I was over this. I was finally starting to feel better. It's a three day weekend so I'm driving with my boyfriend to my Mom's house one state over so I can see my family doctor. It seems like a long way to drive just for one night, but I've finished the antibiotics the doctor here prescribed me and I'm still dizzy. I'm going to have x-rays done to see what's up. I have to get this taken care of once and for all. Ugh.

As for the eating disorder, I've been really weight conscious for the last week or so. More than usual, I mean. I feel like I've gained a ton of weight. All of my clothes fit, but I don't look good in any of them. I look fat and bloated and disgusting. I can't tell if that's how I actually look or if that's how my eating disorder wants me to think that I look. Of course, my eating disorder speaks up and tells me I have to go on a diet. It sounds so tempting but I know it's not an option. I can be rational. I understand it's unreasonable and dangerous. I don't want to be sick anymore.

I love myself. I refuse to mistreat myself. I'm not turning back.

I won't have a good future if I allow it to be ruined by my past.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A dose of independence

I used to be terribly independent but that has changed a lot over the last few years. I like to blame it on my eating disorder, but I know it's because of my boyfriend. Don't get me wrong, he's wonderful. He has been so helpful in my recovery. He was the first person to understand and the first person to encourage me to make peace with food. I know that he supports me no matter what. We've been together for three and a half years now. I'm terrified to realize I've blended into him. By the same token, he has blended into me. I can't make a decision without first running it by him. This isn't something he requires of me. I don't know why I feel the need have his approval on every single thing. He urges me to be more independent and I want to be. I can be in this relationship with him and still be myself. That's something I'm really trying to work on lately.

He will be spending some time in Boston due to work. Actually, he will be there for ten weeks. Ten! And I will be here. We will talk on the phone daily. We will fly back and forth to see each other when we can. But, for the most part, I will be here. Alone.

Am I strong enough to make the right decisions while he's gone?

He is the one who gives me a reason to eat everyday. Whenever I'm left to my own devices, my eating disorder tends to overwhelm me. I know that I am strong. I know that I have it in me. But it's going to be so hard without him here. It's more than missing him. It's a 10 week Jessica vs. The Eating Disorder boxing match extravaganza.

Part of me knows that being alone will be good for me in some ways. It will give me a chance to find myself again. It will give me a chance to take a much needed dose of independence. I will miss him like crazy, but maybe this time apart can strengthen our relationship. Since we've lived together for almost three years, a little space might remind us what it was we loved about each other in the first place.

He is a good influence and a healthy, stable voice of reason in my life. But an eating disorder is a very personal experience. As much as I value his love and appreciation, ultimately, he can't fight this thing for me. No one can. Support and encouragement are crucial, but it's terribly personal. I'm the one who lives with this thing. And I will be the one to put an end to it.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Life after bulimia

I am at a point in my recovery where I have no problem talking about my eating disorder to most people. There are still members of my family who pretend my eating disorder never happened. Within the context of my family, it's a taboo subject that no one wants to acknowledge. I'm not sure if it's because acknowledging makes it real and they want to project the illusion that our family is perfect, or if it's just that they've never been able to understand the seriousness of it all.

Regardless, for the most part, I am open to talking about my anorexia. I am obviously open to writing about it. I am (God willing) teaching a 50-minute lecture about anorexia in poetry in December at the graduate school I attend in Los Angeles. I'm not scared for people to know I was anorexic. I don't mind talking about it. I want to create awareness. I want to admit that though my eating disorder is something I still struggle with, I've made progress and progress is possible.

But I've realized that my bulimia, well, that's an issue I'm not so comfortable opening up about. But why? Bulimia is just as serious as anorexia. It's just as frightening. It's just as devastating and damaging. I think the reason I have trouble owning up to my bulimia is that anorexics tend to think of bulimics as weak. Starving oneself becomes an act of skill and restraint, so binging and purging represent those instances of corporeality that the anorexic tries to suppress. If the anorexic wants control, bulimia is the loss of that control. At least, that's how it goes with my own experience. Certainly I no longer feel this way. I know that both anorexic and bulimic behavior is dangerous, deadly, and weak. Neither behavior signals strength. There is only strength in recovery, and I have recovered (and am still recovering) from both.

So why can't I talk about bulimia?

Why do I try so hard to forget?

Is it the physical act? Because it's so gross? Who wants to hear about vomit?

It's so much more than that. I'm not going to pretend that society understands eating disorders because I know that society does not. But even within the context of society, anorexia is typically glamorized whether directly or indirectly. Thinness prevails. It is to be aspired to. People make fun of bulimia, in my experience, far more so than anorexia. It's thrown around as an insult like it's something stupid, vapid girls do. I guess it's just harder for people to see bulimia as a legitimate eating disorder. It's about more than just throwing up after you've eaten. When I was bulimic, not throwing up after a meal was not an option. I had to throw up. I had no choice in the matter. I was throwing up 7 or 8 times a day when I was at my sickest. By that time, it was almost purely a physical reaction. I threw up without thinking about it. It's something my body learned to expect. It's like getting an itch and automatically reaching to scratch it without being fully cognizant of the action.

Only now can I see how horrifying it is.

How dangerous.

How could I have ever done that to myself?

Starving myself was bad enough. But then to give my body the food it needed so much only to take it away again? How badly I've mistreated myself. Maybe that's why I can't talk about my bulimia--because I'm ashamed.

I try to forget all of the time I spent bulimic. That entire segment of my life was chaotic and miserable. Part of not wanting to talk about being bulimic is inevitably my way of not wanting to remember those painful moments in my past. That was my rock bottom.

My God.

Whenever I feel like relapsing I think of those moments spent in agony crying on the bathroom floor. Sick from puking. Sick from laxatives. I remember the time I took NyQuil on an empty stomach because I felt so guilty and so ashamed of myself that I just wanted to sleep. I didn't care if I woke up again. I hadn't eaten in days. My body couldn't handle the medicine. I was falling asleep and throwing up at the same time. My mother found me passed out on the bathroom floor.

It seems like a dream.

It wasn't.

I feel so guilty for even remembering it.

That was four years ago. How did I ever make it back from that dark place? When I think that recovery is impossible I remember how far I have come.

I always tell people that there is most certainly life after anorexia. But that's only half of my story.

There is life after bulimia too.