Off Limits

Here is a rough draft–something I wrote today.  I hesitate to post something in rough form, but here it is anyway.  Hopefully it will format properly.

1961
Off Limits

She cooks while I play.  “Roast beef! Corn-on-the-cob! Brussels sprouts!” she cries.  I play with my truck.  I long for my other toy, my orange ball, but it rolled away, down the hill, and onto the Forbidden Road, so I cannot have it anymore.

“Look, watch me shake up the milk!” she shouts.  She demonstrates holding the paper cup tight on the glass bottle, shaking vigorously until the cream cannot be distinguished from the rest of the milk, and I am saddened by this mixing of elements; it seems unfair that I cannot see the different facets of milk anymore.

“Now, I will water the plants!”  She seems to be singing.  “Full measure for this spider plant!”  I dump a load of bricks off the back of my truck.  I vroom the truck around the chair legs and toward the garbage pail.

“Quarter measure for the snake plant!”

She had warned me that the Forbidden Road was Off Limits.  She said, “Only grownups can go down that road.”  I figure the road has secrets, the secret to life, something one must catch onto to live well and not get teased by others.

“A bit for the Christmas cactus!” she says with a flourish.  I can no longer hear the yellow plastic clock on the wall.  She says, “Oh, this damned table!”  My truck leaps to the windowsill.  The curtain, slightly ripped at the hem, makes way for my excavation.

I long to ride to my orange ball, down, down the Forbidden Road.

She waters the African violet, the aloe, the Chinese evergreen, the jade.  She switches on the classical station, loud.  It is time for the news.  She sorts through the mail.  President Kennedy is talking about sending a man to the moon.  “Temple Sisterhood.  They are having a meeting.  I must put it on my calendar.  The corn!”

My truck climbs up the crack in the window.  Commercial for luxury lighting fixures.

Rushing to tend to the corn, she grabs a pot-holder, and picks up the pot-top.  Steam rises, like steam from the bathroom when they take showers.  She is back to her mail.  “United Way–okay.  Town public works–what could this be about?”  She is not expecting an answer from me; I do not give her one.  Mozart piano concerto on the radio.  She turns it up louder.  I swish my truck to the dishwasher, which she has moved near the sink.

“No!  No!  Julie!  No!  Bad girl!  Those dishes will break!”  She goes back to her mail.  “American Cancer Society, League of Women Voters–”

The door slams.  “What’s for supper?”  His voice.  She quickly turns the radio off.

“Oh, Honey, we must get a round table, I just can’t stand this rectangular one!”

“What’s for supper?”

“How was work?”

“Norm’s father died.  I’ve got the evening paper.  What’s for dessert?”

“Norm who?  Roast beef!  Corn-on-the-cob–Oh, the meat!”  She rushes to the oven.  He sits, opens the paper, reads.  She says, “The meat is a little ‘well done’!  The Brussels sprouts are nice and soft!  You’ve got mail!  I tried to sort it.”

“Norm Kapenski.  There was a march in Tennessee against segregation.”

“We gave to the NAACP last month.  Julie!  Stay away from that dishwasher!  The Temple is having a rummage sale.  I’ve got hermit cookies for dessert!  Your favorite!  Remember, they’re Off Limits until you eat all your main course and your fruit!  Julie!  Sit for supper!  Julie!  Now!”

I vroom my truck to my chair.

“Julie, sit!”

I sit on the floor.  I want my ball back.   Down the Forbidden Road is the secret to life, something special–for me, that they keep hidden from me.  They say: “Beware the Forbidden Road!”  What is so scary about it, and why is it forbidden?  I remember watching the ball roll down the hill, over the bumps in our street, past the next door neighbor’s–I ran and ran–but then it rolled past the stop sign, further, further, under a kid’s bike and then onto the Forbidden Road.  Somehow, I know now that the secret of the Forbidden Road is one that I will never, ever learn.

“Julie, sit!  Come on!”

I do not budge.  She serves him his roast beef, corn-on-the-cob, Brussels sprouts, and some for herself.  “Easy on the butter!” she says to him.  “We don’t want any fatties around here!  Julie, I’ve cut yours up very, very small.  Sit on the chair, not the floor!”

I do not move.  She kneels beside me and places the plate on my chair. Cupping my head in her right hand, she spoons the food into my mouth with her left, piece by piece.  “Eat your food,” she says.  “Eat.  Children are starving in other parts of the world.  You don’t know how awful it is.  Eat.”

surprenant-african_violet

My Dream Last Night

Last night I was unusual because I slept through the night without waking once, which was unusual.  I generally wake up once to pee, but I guess I drank less before bed or whatever.

I dreamed that some mental health professional, I don’t know who, “sent” me to a “day treatment program.”  For those of you who don’t know, I will explain: A day treament program is a program that is sort of like intensive group therapy.  It is a program that you go to everyweekday, generally from 9am till 3pm (most programs work this way).  The “client”–that is usually what the patient is called–goes to groups all day during this time, with a break for lunch.  There are a handful of staff, maybe seven or so, who run the groups, and there are often two or three groups running simultaneously.  The groups vary, and it really depends on the program, but you might see groups like art therapy, coping skills, cognitive behavioral therapy, cooking group, interpersonal skills, and so on.

Naturally, when this mental health professional, probably a social worker, sent me to the day program, I was mortified.  “How will I find time to do my school work?” I argued.

“What school work?” the social worker responded.  “You have no classes.  You need structure!”

“I attend Goddard College,” I said proudly.  “It’s a low residency program.  I work something like five to seven hours a day on my manuscript.  I go to the library every day.  I have assignments. I have an advisor.  I have deadlines. And if I have to go to a program, I will never be able to meet those deadlines!”

In my dream, I must have panicked.  My heart began to race.

Change of scene.  In the dream, I was with some guy, I don’t know who.  We were smoking marijuana.  I haven’t smoked marijuana in decades, but there I was, getting stoned.  We took the marijuana, and formed it into some sort of bubbles.  I put the bubbles into my pocket.  I was reminded of the little “baggies” that I put in my pocket every day, that I use to pick up Puzzle’s poops (we have a pooper-scooper law).  I put more and more of these marijuana bubbles into my pockets.  Then I said to the guy, “You know, I’m supposed to be at that program right now, but I totally forgot about it.”

“What program?” he asked.

“It’s Monday,” I said.  “I’m supposed to be there.  Or I think I am.”

Then I went outside, to the guy’s mailbox.  In the mailbox was a big fat envelope that contained my assigment, which my advisor had mailed to me: my manuscript with all her comments and corrections in it, and her feedback letter.  In the dream, I panicked, because I feared that I was too stoned to work on the manuscript.  And that’s about when I woke up.

Fragment

Here is a fragment of what I wrote in my journal last night.  It seems that I’ve been writing more than usual in my journal lately.  I don’t know why:

“I wanted to call Dr. P today [and leave a message] but I sat on my couch with the phone in my hand, without the energy to dial the number; I was so hungry, and distracted by emptiness.  I sat there for a long time, staring at one phone key, then the other, then the other, then I closed my eyes and lay the phone beside me.”

069

An entry in my journal from last night

I feel unmotivated…kind of depressed.  The starvation is really bad right now.  Four days in a row of really bad starvation.  How much longer will I keep this up?

I feel so empty, in so many ways.  My stomach is empty.  My heart is devoid of feeling.  My life is empty–no, not that–it’s full of wonderful things but it feels empty and meaningless right now.

I don’t feel lonely.  I do have friends, wonderful friends.  I do care about them and they care about me.  But sometimes I feel that there’s this wall of food that’s between me and the rest of humanity.  I am stuck behind the wall, in some sort of a pit that I must eat my way out of, but I cannot, and in all honesty, I need someone to help dig me out!  I can’t do it alone.  No one could.

But is it really a wall of food?  Is it the food itself that separates me from others?  Because food is “other;” food is not “me,” and I think it is something within me that keeps me apart,that keeps me from feeling my feelings.

I feel like a stone right now.  Lifeless.  A starvation machine.  As if  starvation was something I owned. As if it was my identity.  I cannot let it own me, the way I owned “craziness,” back in the mid-1980’s.  I remember that well.  Crazy became my identity.  I was mental illness incarnate.  It was written upon me.  Starvation will not thus rule me now.  I will not let it.

But it won’t.  I keep this all secret.  I don’t want to be seen.  I hide from people.  I am ashamed of the weight loss and i don’t want others to notice.   When they do (and I can tell when they do) I cringe and feel like hiding behind my clothes.  I don’t like walking in my hallway.

My face is sunken in.  My mouth feels different.  My whole body–different.  My weight has dropped again.  Iam not underweight, but approaching that range.  I am weak.  My head feels airy.  And I am always hungry, hungry, hungry.

I hunger for–for what?  For food?  For what else?  What is it that I am trying to achieve by starving myself?  Certainly not a thin body.  What do I really want?  To disappear?  To fail at the one thing–achieving my one goal of earning my degree–that I have worked so hard for all these years–why?  What could be more stupid?  The ED made me drop school once before, in 1981.  I will not let history repeat itself.  I am wiser now.  It will not beat me now.  I have knowledge.  I have skills.  I have strength.  I have friends.  I have courage.  I have Puzzle.  I have mental health care.  I have my brothers.  I have writing.  I have my history of eight residencies and six semesters experience at school behind me.  I have a heck of a lot of work to do on my thesis still, and you bet I’m going to get it done!  So ED be gone!  Be gone!  Be gone!  I have too much going on to give in to you!  Be gone now!

wallace_diary

Tired

Last Friday I complained to Dr. P that I wasn’t sleeping very well at night, and so she suggested that I take 1 mg extra Risperdal at night to straighten out my sleep, to make sure I don’t get hypomanic.

I hardly think I was on the verge of hypomania, but I did follow her instructions, and I took an extra 1 mg of Risperdal that night.

The following day, and ever since then, that is, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and so far today, I have felt sluggish, dopey, and exhausted.  I have had little desire to get much writing done, but I have done some.  I managed to finish my assignments, and mail them off, and then yesterday I took a three-hour nap.  As soon as I wake up in the morning, I want to go back to bed again.  Coffee does not help.

Am I depressed, or reacting to the extra medication, or exhausted from working so hard, or tired from not eating enough?  I don’t know.

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Walking with Puzzle

I discovered something while walking with Puzzle yesterday.

I had been having a particularly difficult time with a bad habit of hers: pulling on the leash.  I had tried many solutions including different training methods–reversing, moving off to the side, giving her “corrections,” using a different collar, and so on, all of which didn’t work very well.  After a while I had given up and decided to wait until spring, when it would be easier to train her, because I wouldn’t be wearing a bulky jacket and mittens, so I’d have an easier time with the leash.

Well, now it’s spring.  I can’t put it off much longer.  I don’t need the bulky jacket and I don’t need mittens, so I have no excuse: it’s time to train her.

This is what I discovered yesterday: Puzzle knows she’s got six feet of leash.  If I try to hold her in, and give her, say, only three feet, she pulls.  If I let her have all six feet, she doesn’t pull.

She knows her limits.  She knows, after walking with me for so long, that six feet are what she’s got available to her, no more.  She has tested me, and she has learned.   What she needs is consistency, and the leash is a consistent six feet.

A relationship is a lot stronger with consistent, clearly defined limits and boundaries.

4x6-pz-toy-munch

Breakfast this morning

The other assignment from my therapist was to “eat three square meals a day,” which is harder than it sounds, especially for someone who is accustomed to eating very little.

I decided to try to eat a bit more.  I decided to eat breakfast.   Every time I eat breakfast, I don’t feel hungry for the rest of the day.  I ate breakfast three days in a row, and my weight jumped up three pounds.  I was really, really scared, and didn’t want to eat breakfast anymore.  So today, I decided to skip it.

Sure enough, I received some feedback from my advisor this morning via e-mail regarding my manuscript.  I have my work cut out for me.  I have LOTS of writing to do.  And I found I couldn’t concentrate on the manuscript or focus on any task because I was so hungry.  My thoughts were jumbled in my head.  And like many mornings, I was dizzy and lightheaded.

So I ate breakfast again.  And although I felt an uncomfortable, full feeling, I was able to concentrate, and write, and focus on the writing I needed to do.

peanutbutterbread

A Writing Assignment from My Therapist

Good morning!

Yesterday, during my regular therapy appointment, my therapist gave me a writing assignment: “List negative ways the ED has affected your life”

I did the assignment right away.  I might add to the list.  Here it is:

Negative ways that the ED has affected my life

I had to drop out of school because the bingeing was so bad
I ended up with osteoporosis and broke my leg
I wasted a lot of money on binge food
I spent a lot of money on clothes of different sizes
I fell down a flight of stairs
I fainted a number of times
I tried to kill myself because of the ED
I injured my knee and spent three months in a wheelchair
The ED made me believe I’d been taken away from God
The ED made me believe I was Evil
I suffered the medical consequences of being overweight
I got winded just from walking at a normal pace when I was overweight
The ED made me shy and I was afraid to let anyone near me or into my home
The ED made me very isolated
I was in the hospital because of it
I lost all my friends and I had low self-esteem
My mother belittled me because of it both when I was too thin and too heavy, called me “rotund,” even when I was not overweight, among other things, and she had an ED when she was a teen!
My parents didn’t understand
My doctors and therapists didn’t understand (many lied and said they did, most flat out admitted they did not understand, one did not even know what eating disorders were!)
My friends didn’t understand
My brothers didn’t understand (they at least tried)
My teachers didn’t understand
The only thing that stopped the bingeing was meds, and the meds had side-effects
Some meds caused bingeing
I wasted years of my life because of the ED

My body is ugly
I am not very strong
My muscles hurt and I get tired doing ordinary physical tasks such as vacuuming or laundry
I get dizzy and shaky and feel like I will faint
I can’t concentrate very well and I get mentally confused
I’ve come very close to fainting on a number of occasions
I would be a better dog mama if I didn’t have the ED
I am afraid to see my mother and my family
I am ashamed to walk down my hallway and I don’t want to be seen, especially by certain people who I know will make comments or have commented in the past on my weight or appearance
I don’t like to take off my hat or my jacket
I don’t want people to notice that I’ve lost weight
I lie and tell them I was “ill” when they do notice
I notice changes to my body that scare me and I am afraid of medical consequences of restricting
I weigh myself all the time, even in the middle of the night
I’m afraid of gaining weight
I’m terrified that I may start bingeing again

The ED caused my mental illness
My mental illness caused the ED