Saturday, October 30, 2010

No matter what weight

I've been really frustrated lately because I'm gaining weight. Since I've been so sick for the last few months it has been all but impossible for me to exercise. Sometimes I can manage to do yoga or pilates if I'm really feeling well. Most days, however, I can barely walk the trash out to the dumpster without feeling like I'll faint. Today was one of those days. I tried to do yoga. Coming out of triangle pose, it felt like my head was being sucked straight down through my body and onto the floor. The room got dark. It was like standing up too fast only worse. I closed my eyes and held my head in my hands until it passed.

Later on the phone with my boyfriend, I tried to vent my frustration. I hate not being able to work out. It's not completely because of my eating disorder. I don't want to work out to lose weight; I want to work out because I want to be active. I'm tired of being sick and inactive. I want to do the things I used to do. But now, after these few months of inactivity, I've gained a few pounds. I told my boyfriend how stressed out that made me feel. I kind of snapped. I said something like,

"I REFUSE to gain more weight. It's either work out, or starve."


We both recognized that voice.

After a moment of silence, my boyfriend kind of panicked and went on and on and on about how messed up that was and how I absolutely would not starve. Of course he's right. Of course he is. I know that and I didn't mean to say it. It just spilled out without me even thinking about it.

I don't like feeling this desperate about my body. I hate it. It makes me remember. It makes me uncomfortable. It has to end.

I do know that my health is the most important thing. I want nothing more than to be healthy. Not sick, healthy. Not desperate, healthy. Not skinny, healthy.

Not anorexic.


I'll be honest and admit it. I hate gaining weight. I am at a normal weight now. I'm at a healthy weight. I've been this weight for quite some time without going up or down. Once my weight leveled off, I felt comfortable. After a while my eating disordered thoughts seemed to calm down.

I guess I'm okay being me as long as that me doesn't change.

I guess I want recovery on a conditional basis. Recovery by my rules. Recovery my way.

But guess what? It doesn't work like that.

Loving your body means loving your body no matter what.

Loving yourself means loving yourself no matter what.

Accepting yourself means accepting yourself no matter what.

No matter what size

No matter what shape

No matter what weight.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Why I don't trust doctors

I will be the first to admit that I have a very hard time trusting doctors. It's almost impossible for me to believe or to trust anything they say. How do they know? They're only human. Are they misdiagnosing me? Are they sure this medication won't interact with that one? Are they really doing everything in their power to understand me? Do they want me to get better? Do they care at all?

These questions may seem strange to most people. I may seem completely paranoid, but there is a reason why I have a hard time trusting doctors. It's because I haven't always been under the care of the most competent medical professionals. One experience with a "medical professional" has seriously damaged me.

When I was at the lowest point of my eating disorder, I reached a point of desperation. I had lost 80 lbs. I was barely eating at all. When I did eat, I threw up immediately. I was throwing up 8 or 9 times a day. After long, I began throwing up when I hadn't eaten at all. I threw up coffee, diet soda, water. It became a physical act rather than a mental one. My body was so used to purging, I threw up without even thinking about it. I didn't want to get out of bed. I dropped out of school. I moved back in my mother's house. I didn't want to get a job. I didn't want help. I wanted a familiar place to die.

My mother made several appointments for me to see therapists and eating disorder specialists. I didn't show up for any of them. Finally, she persuaded me to come in and speak with a nurse practitioner that she works with. Granted, the nurse practitioner wasn't an eating disorder specialist, but after hearing my mother talk about me, she decided she could help. I don't know why I decided to talk to this woman. It was a big step for me and I don't think she realized just how big that step was. I was vulnerable. Whether she meant to or not, she made things worse.

She told me when she was in college she had "a touch of anorexia." That alone should have been a red flag to me. It's not like a cold or a flu or a sore throat. Anyway, she admitted that she was very thin and she didn't eat at all sometimes except for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before bed. But she reinforced to me that she had never been anorexic and had never had an eating disorder, though she "came close."

Without expecting to, I began to open up to her. I told her my whole story, tears streaming down my face. She didn't seem concerned at all about me not eating, but she was worried about me throwing up all the time.

"I think we'll put you on a liquid diet," she said.

I remember wiping my eyes and feeling horrified when she said that. As sick as I was, as strong as the grip anorexia had on me was, I knew that wasn't right. A liquid diet? Isn't that a step in the wrong direction?

She told me that the most important thing was for me to stop throwing up, so starving myself wasn't really a big deal. She said it didn't really matter if I lost a few more pounds, as long as I stopped purging.

"If you don't eat, you won't want to throw up," she said. "And if you lose a little more weight, well, that will only make you feel better about yourself, so you won't want to throw up anymore."

She wasn't getting it. I wasn't eating to begin with and I was still throwing up. Hadn't she been listening at all?

She told me to get some low-carb, high protein shakes that wouldn't make me gain weight and drink two three of those a day. They only had about a hundred calories each, so I listened. I felt like I was doing something dirty. She had just given me permission not to eat, to starve myself further. To lose more weight.

Had I heard her correctly?

The next time I went to see her I had lost a couple of pounds and she seemed almost happy. It was almost like she was experimenting on me. As sick as I was, I realized that. I stopped seeing her. I didn't want to see anyone else either. Instead, I decided I would beat it on my own.

And I did. Or, I am.

I know now that I can' t let one bad medical experience shape the way I feel about doctors and medical professionals in general. Deep down, I think she wanted to help. I just think that she knew absolutely nothing about the treatment of eating disorders. I should have just seen an eating disorder specialist like my mother asked me to, but I didn't want to back then. Somehow the path I chose seemed safer, but I regret it all the time.

I'm not saying you can't recover on your own. You can do anything you set your mind to. But it's best to find a group of individuals who care about you, who know what they're doing, and who have the knowledge and ability to help and support you. Recovery takes a long time, but it takes even longer when you're too scared, stubborn, or ashamed to ask for help.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Take a breath

I haven't written in quite some time because nothing happened worth writing about. I'm still sick, up and down, though the days are getting better than they were. I did get some great news today, though. I have finally been approved for the hospital's medical assistance program because I'm a student, so I'll hopefully be seeing a doctor very, very soon. I've forgotten what it's like to be normal. I look back at old photographs of myself (taken not that long ago actually) and it's hard to imagine I was ever well enough to do the things I once did. If nothing else, this entire experience has taught me to love and appreciate life. I'm not just saying that. It's really true. I have never been so thankful for each and every breath in my lungs.

My eating disorder has taken a bit of a back-burner lately, which is a good thing. I've been too busy worried about other things to think too much about food. I just learned my uncle has cancer in basically his entire body. Me feeling dizzy and sick and sad about how I look has never felt more insignificant. I know I've gained some weight these last couple of weeks because I've been too sick to exercise. But so what? I'm still alive. That's what really matters.

I have been reading a lot of Tolstoy lately. I'm a sucker for Russian literature. (Okay, all literature, actually), but Tolstoy in particular. I find his life as interesting as his work. He was a vegetarian/vegan! Who knew? He gave up eating meat in the 1890s, and in 1894 admitted his health had improved since giving up meat, eggs, and dairy. He also advocated animal rights, though maybe that term would have seemed strange back then. He believed in showing compassion to animals and treating them humanely. He advocated using machines to take the place of animal labor. He even thought it was better to go on foot than to ride a horse. Very interesting. He says:

"A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite."

I was an English Literature major when I was an undergrad and I'm graduating with an MFA in Creative Writing in two months. As an undergrad, Victorian Literature was my least favorite. But now it's all I read. Isn't it strange how those things happen? I've been seriously considering pursuing my PhD after I'm done with my MFA. I know it seems silly because an MFA is a terminal degree and I'll still be able to teach college classes with an MFA. But I want to continue to learn. I also worry that going for a PhD would take away from my creative endeavors. Ultimately I want to write the books that people analyze instead of being the person who analyzes other books. But I also feel like the best way to deepen my own writing is by reading. I'm not sure what I want to do, but it's a definite possibility. Who knows?

My goal is to stop worrying.

I worry about everything. I always have, ever since I was a child. I've finally realized that worrying changes nothing. It's impossible to plan too much. You can't see too far into the future to make out the shapes of things.

I'm going to learn to relax and let everything fall in place. My battle with my eating disorder has taught me that it's impossible to be in control of everything. Some things are larger than I am. No, many things are larger than I am. Many things are out of my hands. And that's okay.

I'm learning to relax.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

To get better

Six years ago I wanted to die. Today I want nothing more than to live.

As many of you know, I have been sick since May of this year and it has greatly impacted my quality of life. In fact, I'd argue it has totally destroyed it. I can't do a fraction of the things I used to do. I can't do the things I want to do. While doctors have been pointing me in the direction of a possible diagnosis, whatever it is that I have is still unconfirmed. That means I sit here all day long, scared and depressed, vulnerable and alone, thinking over my list of symptoms (that seems to be growing and growing) wondering things like, "What if it's not Meniere's Disease after all? My mom's house had all that mold upstairs. Is it mold exposure? What are those symptoms? Oh crap, I have all of those! Is it meningitis? Lead poisoning? Chinese Drywall? Diabetes?"

The list goes on and on and I'm terrified. I want nothing more than to get better. To be healthy again. That's all I want. I will never take my health for granted again. My eating disorder has taken a back burner. Is this the lesson I have to learn to kick my ED for once and for all? Do I have to get really sick and really scared just to discover how much life means to me? How precious it is? How unpredictable?

How beautiful.

How fleeting.

This is all really depressing. I've tried to stay in positive spirits, but I know this is all wearing me down. I am depressed. Who wouldn't be? I can't get off the couch some days. I can't drive or go to the grocery store. It's not a matter of feeling sorry for myself. It's a matter of being scared for myself. I might be lucky and whatever is wrong with me could be an easy fix, but it's been five months and no relief. No answers. I think about my Dad when he first found out he had cancer. I know that whatever I have doesn't even compare to that, but I wish I had been more careful and more understanding when he was sick and scared. I tried to be compassionate, as much as a twelve year old could be. I can't even imagine how terrified he must have been, but he never really let anyone see that.

Suddenly my eating disorder means nothing. It's powerless. I don't care about weight. I don't care about the size written on the tag inside my jeans. I don't care about how thick my thighs are or how many calories are in salad dressing or how many pounds I can lose before Christmas.

I just want to get better.

That's all.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Enjoying the moment

So, my boyfriend is back and Boston and it's just me and the cat again. While he was in town, I still felt as sick and dizzy as ever. I decided that if I'm going to be dizzy no matter what, I may as well be dizzy inside his car or at restaurant instead of being dizzy on my couch. So we went out to dinner at my favorite vegan/vegetarian restaurant like we planned. My boyfriend isn't vegan or vegetarian, but he respects that I always have been and always will be, so he makes an effort to eat veggie meals with me. At the restaurant, we split a salad AND some delicious focaacia with marinara. For my entree I had bowtie pasta with mushrooms, snow-peas, and cauliflower. He had salmon (this restaurant always has one fish dish to cater to non-veggie eaters) with mashed potatoes and beans. We were both really full but I remembered how delicious their homemade soy ice cream is, and he really wanted a some pie, so we split a slice of vegan apple-berry pie with two scoops of soy ice cream. We were both full beyond belief, but it was so good to see him and spend time with him, not to mention getting out of this apartment for a while. Plus, the food was delicious. I didn't worry about calories or fat grams or anything else that would stifle the moment. I just enjoyed it. I'm learning to enjoy every moment.

My eating disorder cannot take that from me. Not anymore.

I've been feeling horribly dizzy again, but I'm making progress towards seeing an ENT. Since I don't have insurance and I'm a full time grad student, I'm eligible for medical assistance but there's lots of paperwork and red-tape to get through. I'm in the process of submitting an application. After that, it has to go into the review stages, and then finally (hopefully) I can get in to see the ENT. Without this medical assistance, it would cost thousands of dollars. I can't pay for that because I don't have a job. I don't have a job because I'm too dizzy to drive or to work or to do anything at all. It's all a horrible cycle. The condition they think I have is Meniere's Disease. It hasn't been confirmed yet (because I would need to have MRIs and lots of expensive tests done to confirm it that aren't possible until this application is accepted), but it's the only disease I've read about that perfectly describes all of my symptoms. I read today that not eating enough can really agitate the disease. For the last few weeks I've been struggling with food intake and I've gotten noticeably dizzier. I'm not sure if there is any correlation, but it seems like this is just one more reason to eat.

Which is what I'm going to do right now. Even though I have zero appetite. It's the right thing to do on so many levels.

On all levels, actually.

It's necessary.

I think I'll have a salad and some black-bean soup.


Friday, October 8, 2010


For the last two days I have been insatiably hungry. Of course everyone gets hungry. Hunger is normal. But I have been unusually hungry. In fact, I haven't had these intense urges since my bulimic days. I've had the desire to just binge, binge, binge. I have been ignoring it for the most part. Counter to that, I also have this extreme desire to restrict. It's like I'm at war with myself. Part of me wants to eat everything in sight. Part of me wants to eat nothing.

What happened to my rational self?

I know that the chances of stress triggering all of these buried eating-disordered habits are high. I've been under more stress than usual. I've been calorie counting again for the first time in three years. I started weighing myself for the first time in three years. What gives? Why now? I am still eating enough.

Today I had:

Breakfast: Coffee, Oatmeal, and a banana

Lunch: "Taco" Salad with black beans, rice, and homemade salsa.

Dinner: Vegan Mushroom Lasagna, Roasted squash, and spinach

Snack: Apples and Grapes

I'm breaking all the rules. I don't like to be specific enough to post exactly what I have eaten. I know sometimes that triggers people. Sometimes it triggers me too. I guess maybe I'm trying to convince myself that everything is okay. But it's not okay. Even if I am eating regularly, thinking this way is not okay. I don't know why I'm so concerned with food lately. It's all I'm able to think about. Normally when that happens, it's because I'm restricting and my body is really missing something. That's not the case here. I'm eating as much as I always do. Maybe I'm giving this too much thought, but I find it alarming. It's like, without realizing it, I am flirting with disaster. I'm walking a paper thin line. My eating disorder wants to push me over the edge. She wants to get through to me again. She wants to own me again. She wants to devour me again.

But there's one thing she is underestimating.


I'm not the same weak kid she destroyed six years ago.

I recognize her voice.

I know all her tricks.

I know the pain she inflicts.

Never again.

My boyfriend is flying in from Boston tomorrow. He'll only be in town a couple of days, but it will be good to see him. He's already promised to take me out to my favorite Vegetarian/Vegan restaurant tomorrow night. Last time we went I even ordered dessert. And I'm ordering it tomorrow too.

And I won't feel guilty.

My eating disorder can whine all she wants.

It's mind over matter.

I don't mind so it doesn't matter.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Little things

My boyfriend's family flew back to Minnesota today and I am alone again. I thought I had gotten used to it, but having them around all week made me think otherwise. I enjoyed their company. Plus, they were distracting (in a good way). I didn't have time to think about being sick. I didn't have time to worry about my eating disorder. I didn't have time to worry about anything really. Now, against all of this silence, I can hear my thoughts swirling about. Not to mention the incessant buzzing in my left ear. The doctor told me, "That's the sound of you losing your hearing." I have to get to see that ENT quickly or this is never going away.

I am so ready to be healthy. I don't just mean as far as my eating disorder/recovery is concerned. I am ready to be healthy on all fronts. I took for granted my health and I've only realized it the last few months since I've had this extreme dizziness and inner ear trouble. I can't even do a fraction of the things I used to to, things I did even when my eating disorder was at its worst. Being dizzy sucks. I'm tired of lying on the couch. I"m tired of not being able to drive. I'm tired of the buzzing in my ears. I'm tired of always feeling like I'm on the Tilt-A-Whirl at the county fair. Most of all, I'm tired of complaining.

My boyfriend's mother bought me some potted mums. I already have some miniature parade roses that my boyfriend gave me at the beginning of summer. I never thought I'd be much of a gardener. In fact, I don't know the first thing about it. But having those flowers and my cat to take care of has really helped me during all of this sickness. It's given me a reason to get up and get out of bed. If I lie in bed all day, it's not fair to the cat. He needs food. He needs fresh water. He needs someone to play with, someone to take him on the balcony and brush him while he looks at the blue jays and cardinals that fly from tree to tree. And those roses, I have to water them. Yes, they are only roses, but I'm responsible for them. Without me, they wither and die. I can't let that happen. So far they've been hanging in there since June, hanging in there as long as I have. I can't do much when I'm dizzy, but I can water the flowers. And I can appreciate them.

I can find joy in the little things-- the outline of Canadian geese shadowed against the sky in the evening, the sound of cardinals chirping from the black fence post, and my cat deciding he'd rather sit on my lap than anywhere else in this apartment.

Little things.

P.S. Thank you all for your prayers and well-wishes in response to my last few posts. I appreciate that, too. <3

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How to break free

Autumn is unwinding. The colors of the leaves are changing. There is a certain stillness inside of me that is just now waking, a certain peacefulness. A need to breathe in the air and just be still.

I forgot what it feels like to feel.

I've been buried under the weight of my eating disorder for so many years. I've learned to become numb. I've learned to avoid people, to avoid putting myself into any situation in which I might get hurt. I've learned not to laugh or to smile.

Now I'm learning how to undo it all.

How to unravel it.

How to break free.

What is the point of life if your days are spent in misery?

It can get better. It will get better.

There is more to life than calories and fat grams.

There is more to life than being thin.

I look out at the trees and the birds and the clouds and the flowers and am reminded there are more important things than my own personal struggle.

The world does not revolve around my eating disorder.

Within the context of the world around me, my eating disorder has no power.

Whether I am fat or thin, the birds continue to fly. The flowers continue to bloom. The leaves continue to fade yellow, orange, amber. The clouds continue to sweep in. The sun continues to break through.

My eating disorder rules nothing.

I refuse to let it rule me.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Back in the Emergency Room

I have been unable to write for a while because I've been really sick again. All of the dizziness and trouble I've had since May finally proved too much. I was so incredibly dizzy and my head was filled with air. It felt like I was a walking balloon. I managed to drive myself to the doctor on Tuesday morning, though it felt like I was driving under the influence. I told her the dizziness and headaches were getting worse and worse and worse. After asking some questions, she looked really worried. Then she said what I've been secretly fearing for the past five months:

"I'm just going to level with you. I think you have a brain tumor."

I almost fell off the examination table. My father and my father's father both died of brain tumors, though theirs were caused from cancer that had originated in other body parts and metastasized in their brain. She didn't do any CT scans or MRIs because I don't have medical insurance. Instead, she referred me to a different hospital that has financial assistance for those who are uninsured. She told me to go straight to the emergency room. I couldn't because I can't drive. I felt like I was risking my life to get to her office in the first place and it's only three miles from my apartment. The hospital she referred me to is downtown, which is 20 minutes away, plus I'd have to take the interstate. In the middle of rush hour. Cars whizzing by at 80 mph in all directions. I'm too dizzy for that. I'd crash immediately.

Instead, I came back to my apartment completely nervous and scared and stressed. I needed to go to the ER but had no way of getting there. I haven't lived in this city very long, and I've been sick since I moved here, so there's no one in town that I know. So my boyfriend, who is in Boston on business for the next 6 weeks, flew his brother and his mom in from Minneapolis to take care of me. They got here Wednesday night and drove me to the ER. I explained my symptoms to a host of doctors and nurses and interns and medical students. I was so dizzy and there was so much pressure built up in my ears it was unbelievable. They did a CT scan. Luckily, it did not show a brain tumor! It did, however, put me back at square one wondering where all of these symptoms are coming from. The head doctor of the ER came over and talked to me for a long time. He examined my ears and made me do all of these crazy tests. I had to walk up and down the hallway on my tip toes, on my heels. I had to stand still and close my eyes and hold my arms straight out in front of me. After a few seconds I fell over and he caught me. He thinks I have Meniere's Disease (which I'd been told for weeks that I might have) or some other severe, vertigo-related oddity of the inner/middle ear. He referred me to an ENT, which I've been trying to get an appointment with for weeks but can't because of the lack of insurance. Through this program, if I qualify, I'll be able to see the ENT for up to a year if needed. I have to complete all of the paperwork, which is being mailed to me hopefully today or Monday. After that, we wait. They said it could take up to three weeks before the application review is complete. That seems like an awfully long time to wait to see the ENT, but I guess if I've dealt with this dizziness for 5 months I can wait a few more weeks.


So that's where I've been. Though I enjoy their company, it's been particularly challenging having my boyfriend's family staying here with me. His mother has been cooking all the meals and pressuring me to eat. She says I'm not eating enough. She doesn't know anything about my ED. It's nice though that they are here. I just wish it were under better circumstances. I feel bad because I can't show them around town or spend any quality time with them because I'm too dizzy to leave this apartment. They went to see the ocean today. I wish I could have gone. I haven't been in months. It's so relaxing. So soothing. So calm.