Friday, February 25, 2011

A White Flag Waving

Thank you all for the support and encouragement you offered on my last post. It is very, very much appreciated. I've been trying hard this week to get a handle on my emotions, to slow down and breathe, to think rationally, calmly, to nurture myself, to stay positive, to smile. I would be lying if I said that it wasn't challenging. I've been suppressing so many emotions and memories and ill feelings deep inside me now for last few months-- even the last few years-- and I guess they're all finally spilling out, whether I'm ready to cope with them or not.

I've written here before about the terrible rift in my family. I will spare you the details. What is important is that my brother and I almost never speak. My father is dead. My mother is remarried (as of last month) and she doesn't call me anymore. We don't speak unless I call her, which my pride won't let me as often as I want to. My mother and I grew very close after my father's passing. But now that she's remarried, it's like she's a totally different person. I've only met her new husband once. From what I have observed and from what she has told me, he is very controlling. I don't know if he simply won't let her contact me, or if she just doesn't want to. Either way, I feel brokenhearted, betrayed, abandoned, alone.

Maybe it's silly for me to feel that way. I'm not a little girl anymore. I'll be 27 in a few weeks. But I feel utterly abandoned. Orphaned.

A few days ago at work one of my coworkers asked me whether or not I missed living in Las Vegas (it's been almost a year since I moved from there). I told her yes, I missed it very much. She asked if I still had family there. I meant to tell her that I didn't have any family there. But the words that came from my mouth were, "I don't have any family." I didn't even realize what I'd said. She placed her hands on my arm and said, "Honey, what do you mean you don't have any family?" I felt tears rising up in me but I held them back. Talk about the Freudian slip of the century.

I know that I do have family. I know that they love me. And I love them very much. But our relationship is so wounded that none of us communicate with one another. We don't see each other. We don't call each other or speak to each other or e-mail each other or text each other.

I do have family. But we are no longer the family we once were.

All of these negative emotions have been fueling eating disordered thoughts. And I have been using them as an excuse not to eat, to lose weight, to funnel all of my energy into letting myself feel pain instead of forcing myself to fight against it. I know that's not okay. I've been praying very hard for God to mend our broken family, to soften our hearts, especially mine. I've been asking him to help me to not hold grudges, to not be bitter. And I realized that we don't have to stay broken. But we will stay broken until one of us takes the first step forward, a peace offering. A white flag waving.

I've never been one to surrender. I can hold a grudge longer than anyone. But so can my brother and so can my mother. I guess we're more alike than any of us realize.

Someone has to give in.

I don't know if I can do it, but I have to try.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Letting Go

Today marks the 8th anniversary of my father's death.

I don't think I need to explain how I feel today. Or maybe I do. People assume, myself included, that once the grave is dug, the body is buried, the mourning period has passed, and the griever has returned to what appears to be a normal life again, that the pain is over, or that it's less somehow. But that isn't true. I miss my father terribly. I miss him more than I'll ever be able to explain. 8 years seems like a long time. It seems like it should be easier by now to cope with his passing. But each year that goes by, instead of learning to deal with his absence and miss him less and less, I miss him more and more. I am constantly reminded on days like today that he's never coming home. And then I grieve all over again.

I wrote a post a couple of months ago in which I had a major epiphany. I had always assumed my eating disorder was my unintentional way of coping with the death of my father. But I realized while writing that post that my eating disorder was actually my way of not coping with the death of my father. Shortly after he passed away my eating disorder began. I had no time to think of him. I had no time to approach and deal with the emotions that followed his death. I kept myself busy with diet plans and calorie counting and constant weight loss.

So, 8 years later, I still haven't properly dealt with all of this. I still haven't faced the issue head on. Every time I think of my Dad I either smile and then think of something else very quickly, or I feel the knives in my throat and the sensation that I'm going to cry, and then think of something else very quickly.

After my father's funeral, everyone commented on how well I was taking his passing. Considering how close he and I were, I suppose everyone thought I would fall apart. And I did. It just took a few months to manifest itself. Of course I cried at his funeral. I did nothing but cry for days and days and days. And then I went numb. According to those who believe that there are 5 stages of grief (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance) I have never made it past stage 4. The denial, the anger, and the bargaining all happened when he was so sick with cancer he could no longer talk or walk or function, when he became bed-fast and the doctors told us he'd never recover. The depression set in too, but after he died, it skyrocketed. Then the eating disorder kicked in. And the acceptance, well, I suppose I haven't gotten there yet.

I've always thought of the depression and anxiety I feel due to losing my father as something completely separate from the anxiety and depression I feel due to my eating disorder. But I'm learning very quickly that perhaps they're related. And perhaps I can never recover from one until I'm ready to recover from both.

I have to admit my food intake has been low for the last two weeks. I've been anticipating today for a long time. I've been thinking about Dad a lot. I've been thinking about the collapse of our entire family structure. I've been thinking about lots of sad things. I haven't been thinking of recovery. I've also been working a lot. I've worked 7 shifts in a row, many of which were doubles. Most days I returned home from work about 10 or 11 pm. I've eaten breakfast every day but that's it. No lunch, no dinner. I justify this by telling myself that I don't have time.

But that's not true.

I don't think that this is a relapse. And I know that my behavior is not okay. I know I need to eat. I know how vitally important it is. I know all of those things. But I'm so overwhelmingly sad that I don't even have an appetite. I also know that's no excuse. Like I've said before, recovery has to be a conscious effort. You have to actively think about it and pursue it if you want to accomplish it. Unfortunately for me, I haven't been, at least not lately.

I have a lot of work to do to get myself healthy. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. I have a lot of work to do, but I still know I can do it. I don't know how, but I have faith.

Each year on the anniversary of my father's death I can think of nothing but the Emily Dickinson poem "After great pain a formal feeling comes." In the final stanza, she says

This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived,
As freezing persons recollect the snow--
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.

Here's to letting go.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Nutrition Talk

I cannot stress enough the damage improper nutrition/self-starvation has on our bodies. I know that many people with anorexia simply don't care about poor nutrition or poor health--I know I certainly didn't. When anorexic, I didn't take multivitamins. I didn't take Calcium supplements. I didn't care whether I lived or died. Obviously I was able to overcome that deranged thinking and am able to think with clarity now. And I am left now, older and wiser, trying to mend the damage years of malnutrition has had on my body.

I went to the doctor yesterday to get the results of my last round of blood testing. I've known for years now that I am anemic (low iron) and Vitamin B-12 deficient. However, I learned yesterday that I am critically low on Vitamin D. A normal range of Vitamin D present in the body is somewhere near 50. Mine is 5. The doctor stressed the importance of returning my Vitamin D to a healthy level. Without it, I could face serious, serious issues such as osteoporosis, osteomalacia (soft bones), heart problems, etc. Proper amounts of Vitamin D are crucial for maintaining Calcium and Phosphorous levels in your body. Unfortunately for me, an irresponsible vegan who doesn't take her multivitamins, I know that my diet is the reason I'm vitamin deficient. Vitamin D is found in egg yolks, fish, meat, dairy-- all things I strictly avoid. It's also found in sunshine, so I'm going to make an effort to spend more time outdoors. Plus, the doctor gave me a prescription to slowly raise my Vitamin D level over a 12-week period (she said raising it too quickly can cause kidney stones). I try to manage my protein levels and iron levels by making smart food choices, but obviously I've neglected to take the importance of vitamins seriously. I had no idea how bad it was.

So I started thinking about all of my lovely readers. Do you know if you're getting the proper amounts of vitamins? Do you take multivitamins regularly? Do you care or know anything at all about nutrition? I understand that many of you see nutritionists and dietitians regularly, or have seen them in the past. I never have. As I've said in previous posts, I have avoided proper treatment for years, to my own detriment (mostly because I've had no medical insurance, but also due to the lack of trust I have in doctors).

I took a nutrition class when I was an undergrad during the height of my anorexia. I told everyone, including the instructor, that I signed up for the class to help get over my eating disorder. In reality, I was only looking for ways to better starve myself. I thought somehow learning the ins and outs of the human body would give me some sort of advantage, a way to further manipulate and control it. It turned out to be the hardest class I had ever taken. Not because the material was difficult to understand, but because in my eating disordered state, I couldn't accept anything the instructor said as true. On tests, she asked questions like, "How many calories should the average woman eat per day?" My brain wouldn't let me write down a rational answer. And for our final project, we had to record everything we ate over a three day period then calculate the calories, fat grams, protein, vitamins and minerals for those days and compare them to the numbers the book said were healthy based on age. As I said, at the height of my eating disorder, I was eating between 0-800 calories a day. Needless to say, all of my levels were lower than they were supposed to be and my grade suffered. At the time, I was offended the instructor didn't take my eating disorder into consideration, appreciate my honesty, and give me a good grade. But now I see I should have been offended that I didn't stand up for myself and feed my body the nutrients it needed. Even now, this far into recovery, I'm realizing I'm not as healthy as I thought I was. I still have a lot of work to do as far as a healthy diet goes. My body is no longer the enemy. I want to nurture it, to heal it, and to make peace with it. Today is the day for change.

I've been reading a lot this morning about the thirteen essential vitamins we need to be healthy. Here is a description of each of them that I copied and pasted from Medline Plus (here's the link) in case anyone is interested. Please try and understand the horrible things your eating disorder is doing/has done to your body. Maybe you don't care now, but one of these days, you'll wish you'd been kinder to yourself. There's no time like the present.

Each vitamin has specific functions. You can develop health problems (deficiency disease) if you do not get enough of a particular vitamin.

Vitamin A helps form and maintain healthy teeth, bones, soft tissue, mucous membranes, and skin.

Vitamin B6 is also called pyridoxine. The more protein you eat, the more vitamin B6 is needed to help the body use protein. Vitamin B6 helps form red blood cells and maintain brain function, among other things.

Vitamin B12, like the other B vitamins, is important for metabolism. It also helps form red blood cells and maintain the central nervous system.

Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is an antioxidant that promotes healthy teeth and gums. It helps the body absorb iron and maintain healthy tissue. It also promotes wound healing.

Vitamin D is also known as the "sunshine vitamin," since it is made by the body after being in the sun. Ten to 15 minutes of sunshine 3 times a week is enough to produce the body's requirement of vitamin D. However, many people living in sunny climates still do not make enough vitamin D and need more from their diet or supplements. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which you need for the normal development and maintenance of healthy teeth and bones. It also helps maintain proper blood levels of calcium and phosphorus.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant also known as tocopherol. It plays a role in the formation of red blood cells and helps the body use vitamin K.

Vitamin K is not listed among the essential vitamins, but without it blood would not stick together (coagulate). Some studies suggest that it helps promote strong bones in the elderly.

Biotin is essential for the metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates, and in the production of hormones and cholesterol.

Niacin is a B vitamin that helps maintain healthy skin and nerves. It is also has cholesterol-lowering effects.

Folate works with vitamin B12 to help form red blood cells. It is necessary for the production of DNA, which controls tissue growth and cell function. Any woman who is pregnant should be sure to get enough folate. Low levels of folate are linked to birth defects such as spina bifida. Many foods are now fortified with folic acid.

Pantothenic acid is essential for the metabolism of food. It is also plays a role in the production of hormones and cholesterol.

Riboflavin (B2) works with the other B vitamins. It is important for body growth and the production of red blood cells.

Thiamine (B1) helps the body cells change carbohydrates into energy. It is also essential for heart function and healthy nerve cells.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Self-Worth 101

It has been far too long since my last post. I recently got a new job and adjusting to my new schedule has been difficult. Those of you who joined the virtual recovery group I talked about in my last post have already heard this (thank you, by the way! Anyone else interested in joining, the offer still stands. Just let me know!) Trying to eat properly during all of these changes has been particularly challenging. Some days I've been working doubles (two shifts in one day) and it would have been easy for me to skip lunch, skip dinner, restrict like crazy. It would have been easy, but it would have been wrong. I've had to make a conscious effort to find time to eat and eat correctly. Being busy is no excuse to go without food. Anorexia says it is, but anorexia lies. Today is my first day off after working 10 days straight. Needless to say I'm exhausted.

I had originally intended to write about something completely different today, but I received an e-mail from one of my dear friends that really struck a chord in me. She forwarded a quote by David Foster Wallace that says,

"If you can, think of times in your life that you've treated people with extraordinary decency and love, and pure uninterested concern, just because they were valuable as human beings. The ability to do that with ourselves. To treat ourselves the way we would treat a really good, precious friend. Or a tiny child of ours that we absolutely loved more than life itself. And I think it's probably possible to achieve that. I think part of the job we're here for is to learn how to do it."

Sometimes I just need to be reminded of that. Sometimes we all do.

We are all valuable as human beings.

We all have something special and good, something uniquely our own to offer the world.

We are all imperfect, but we are all important.

We have value.

We have worth.

We are too good to be wasted.

It's easy to remember those things when we've done something good, or when something good has been done to us. But it's hard to remember our worth when times are bad. But we are just as worthy. For so many years, my eating disorder held me down an tricked me into believing I wasn't worth anything, that I didn't matter, that no one cared, that the world wouldn't miss me if I was gone. But, like I said, anorexia lies.

Please remember that.

Be good to yourselves.