August 25, 2010


Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

© Max Ehrmann 1927

I admitted it

Yeah, I admitted it.  I told my therapist that I cheated the scale yesterday, that what the scale said was a bit higher than what I really weigh.


But it worried her.  Because there’s been this downward trend.  This trap I’m in that I can’t seem to get myself out of.  I keep telling her, “Well, I’d better eat, then.”  And I don’t.

She knows this.  She knows my promises are fruitless.  She knows I’m not really “engaged in treatment.”  Those are her exact words.  Not engaged in treatment.  Not committed to recovery.  Not making an effort to sustain herself.

She is pushing hospitalization rather than the alternative treatment I have suggested.  It is a choice: there, or the hospital, but she doubts that the alternative will work.  I told her: please, give it a chance.

I have to eat, in the meanwhile.  I’m not sure I can do this.  Or, rather, I’m fairly sure I can’t.  And my therapist knows this.  She’s very, very worried.  I could see it in her face.  I was actually worried about her being worried about me.  It wasn’t a “boundary” thing.  It’s just that she cares deeply.  I think it’s sad when it gets to the point that your therapist is so worried that you start worrying about her emotional state.

I came home from therapy and it was freezing in here.  Fucking freezing.  It was about 67 degrees out and raining, 77 degrees in here.  I switched on the space heater again, and left it on for hours.  I don’t know what I’ll do when winter comes.

Day in the life: Coming Home

I am on my way home from getting weighed at the doctor’s.  The #71 bus leaves me off at Watertown Square.  The walk home is about 12 minutes.  I decide to buy diet cola on my way home.  Tedeschi’s sells their own brand of cola for 99 cents (plus MA bottle deposit 5 cents) so I decide to stop there.

But I am afraid to walk into my apartment building carrying a bottle of diet soda.  I don’t want to be seen with it.  What will people think?  What will people say? That I am too skinny to be drinking it?  That I probably drink it instead of eating?  That I have no “right” to drink diet soda?  That diet soda is bad for you?  That I should drink something with calories in it instead?  That it would “just figure”?

Probably, they won’t say or think anything, but my anorexic mind goes to all sorts of places when it comes to my neighbors and the people in the adjacent housing offices here.

The knapsack I was using was the smaller one that I own that isn’t big enough for a 2-liter bottle, and I curse myself for forgetting a shopping bag.  Plastic bags don’t cut it.  They destroy the environment.  But that’s not the real reason.  The real reason is that they are see-through.  You can see it’s soda.  You can see “diet cola” right through the plastic.

I knew I would have to walk by my neighbors and the people in the housing offices.  What is the worst of the evils?  The front door is the worst.  I have to walk by the people hanging out in the front, the main office, and the people hanging out in the hallway.  That plus the offices in the hall.  Most of my neighbors speak a foreign language and I don’t want to know what they say.  Again, in my mind, I translate what they say, and it’s all about me.

Then there is the elevator entrance. Not so bad, but the people in the hallway still see me, and I still have to walk by the offices.  Then there is cutting through the dining room, where my former neighbors come to join the community lunch sometimes.  I like seeing them and find them friendly, but they are always commenting on my weight.  One of them says I look very “svelt.”  I think she likes the way I look.  Unreal.  So…I can’t go through the dining room, can I?  With a bottle of diet soda?

I must, must, must, buy a shopping bag or something to carry the soda in.  I look in the CVS.  I don’t like any of the bags there.  The handles are too long.  Why do they make these bags for very, very tall people?  I already have two canvas bags.  What do I need a third for?  They should sell canvas bags for 50 cents, not four bucks.  They are for saving the environment, after all.  And hiding diet soda.  I start to leave the store, and nearly bump into someone.  The guy says, loudly, “Jesus Christ!”  I hurry out of there.  Just another obsessed, day-dreaming skinny girl, trying desperately hard to buy diet soda in secret.

I arrive at Tedeschi’s.  I ask the guy, “Do you sell shopping bags?”  Like the gal at the CVS, he offers me a plastic bag.  I say, “No, a bag to save plastic.  A cloth shopping bag.”  He shows me a plastic bag that you spend money on.  These plastic bags are heavy duty and not see through, but are throw-away and cost a whopping 99 cents!  The same price as the soda!  This thick plastic will never biodegrade.  I am tempted, though, because I can easily use the bag to hide the soda, but now, I have an idea….

I get the soda out of the refrigerator, checking over and over that it is “diet” and not regular.  I check again as I bring the soda to the counter, and again as I place it down.  I pay for it.  Do I want a plastic bag or not?  I do.  I wrap the soda in the bag, around and around as best as I can, then carry it by its rim home.

When I arrive at the side door, I turn the bottle so that “diet cola” is facing inward and so that it is not visible to an onlooker.  I double-check that this is the case.  I fold up my umbrella and carry it loosely over the bottle so no one will notice that I am carrying soda.  Surely, my sick mind thinks, they will wonder if I’m drinking “diet” or regular.  Another thought: Will they think I’m hiding a bottle of liquor?  No, it’s not wrapped in paper, but….

Okay, I’m coming in the side door–will it be the elevator, or through the dining room, and up the back stairs?  I peek in the dining room.  It is nearly empty.  Wow!  Opportunity!  I cut through, still keeping my precious bottle hidden.  I slip up the back, and hurry to my apartment.

Unlocking the door, I step in, put down the bottle and my things, take off my jacket, and greet Puzzle.  It’s August and it’s fucking freezing in here.  Sevent7-three degrees.  I switch on the space heater, with intention of running it until it’s up to at least 79.  I check my e-mail.

Then, I open the bottle and pour myself several glasses of Tedeschi brand diet cola.  In one sitting, I consume half the two-liter bottle.

Nobody has to know.

In the background

I spent today obsessing about my lost friends, and about food and calories.  In other words, it was a normal day.  I also feel angry today.  Angry and lonely and lost.

Most of my precious time and energy today was wasted on my eating disorder.  Plotting and scheming new ways to starve myself.  This has been an all-day, all-consuming task, fueled by rage, by grief.

By hunger.

Hunger–for what?  I crave…something…

I got nothing done all day.  Then a few people complained that the background colors I had previously on this blog were hard to view on screen, so I spent some time tonight fiddling with them tonight, and changed them.  It hadn’t occurred to me that a dark background would make text difficult to read, but I guess with some computer monitors, it is.  I thought about to what extent the background color reflected the text content of my blog,  or whether attractiveness and readability should be the most important factor in choosing a color.

It kept me busy for a while, anyway, and I stopped thinking about what I was angry about, and food, and calories, and my weight, and the fact that I have to go to the doctor’s to get weighed tomorrow.  Ugh.

I am afraid to take the “next step”

So I will most likely start this new “treatment” next week…or the beginning of the following week.  I feel like chickening out.  Maybe I will, or maybe I won’t.  I have been told that “The way through fear IS through it.”  I was told to write that down, and I did.  In a notebook.  And I saved it, for some weird reason.

I also wrote a grocery list yesterday and went grocery shopping, for some weird reason.  Just thought I’d throw that out there.

Will this new approach help me?  I don’t know.  Maybe.  Do I want help?  Do people with anorexia want help?  I don’t know.  Am I willing to give up my ED?  Right now, no, I don’t think so.  Someone, somehow, has to convince me to want to want to get better.

Once, I inquired about getting into a once-a-week group for people with eating disorders.  The group met in the evenings at a location near my home.  I asked, “How do I want to want to get better?”  I think it was because I asked this question that I was not admitted to the group, that I was told–or, rather, that my therapist was told–that I was not “recovery oriented” enough to join the group.

I thought groups were for helping people. Anyone who is ill.  I guess I would have poisoned the group.  Maybe that was what she was thinking when she chose not to admit me.  Maybe.

This was, I think, back in December.

I do not believe I am any more “recovery oriented” than I was then.  This sucks.

Anorexia is one of the few illnesses that I know of where the patient does not want to recover.  Where the patient hangs onto his/her illness.  With other severe illnesses, the patient wants–perhaps with desperation–to recover.

See, I want to stay thin,and I want to get thinner.  I am terrified of gaining weight.  I worry about every bite I put in my mouth.  I only crave starvation.  I have these thoughts and feelings on a very deep level.   It’s a simple as that.

Maybe someday–I don’t know when–I will say “fuck you” to my eating disorder.  Maybe someday I will simply get sick of it, give it the boot, and be done with it.

The “treatment” part of it is already getting old, in particular the weekly weigh-ins.  I am so tired of paying for the cab to the doctor’s, getting into a johnny, making note of whether the johnny is a heavy or lightweight one, stepping on the scale, and finding out the “verdict” for the week, the number that judges me “good” or “bad.”

Being grilled on whether I have eaten is getting old.  It is none of anyone’s business what and whether I have eaten.  Eating is a personal matter, and yet I have to answer this question all the time, when someone on my treatment team asks. And they ask all the time.  “How is eating going?”  Every time.  I have to answer.  And when I say it’s going well, and I’m lying, they know.

The constant threat of hospitalization is getting old.  I am always looking over my shoulder, especially the past month.  I struggled every time I saw my therapist to  convince her that I didn’t need hospitalization.  I was always on the edge.  Last therapy session was just another one of those sessions.

Sometimes I wonder if this constant hounding is making me worse.    Or make me seem worse than I am.

We’ll see.

Today I miss my friends so much

Today I miss my friends so much.  I walked Puzzle and cried.  I came home and took off her leash and fed her and cried.  I folded up my futon bed and took my meds and cried.  And now, I’m having my coffee and writing to you.  And my coffee is good.  Not as good as Mocha Joe’s Yirgacheffe, but good.

I do make good coffee.  Strong.

So here I sit, grieving.  I have nothing to say to my friends.   I wish I did.

I recall in the 1980s, when I was at various mental institutions, the usual question, “When you got sick, did you lose all your friends?”  The answer–ALWAYS–was “Yes.”  Always.  Everyone I met had lost all their friends when they became mentally ill.  Some had even lost a family member’s support, or had lost communication with their entire family when they became ill.

I believe that this happened because of the gross misunderstandings and “stigma” around mental illness at the time.  I have been informed that there is much more knowledge now about mental illness, and people who become ill are less likely to lose all of their friends–maybe some of them, though.

People freak out.  People see that you are not the person you once were.  Often, the change is dramatic, and appears to some to happen almost overnight.  People see that you are less capable than you used to be.

Suicide is common among people with mental illness.  So often, a person with mental illness is “marked” by a suicide attempt.  Friends–and sometimes family–usually run in the opposite direction–fast–when a person attempts suicide.  They cannot bear to be friends with someone who might die.

Starvation is a form of slow suicide.

I wonder how many people with illnesses like cancer lose their friends because of the possibility, whether slim or likely, that they may die of that illness.   I know cancer patients may get a lot of support when they go through chemo the first time, but what if it’s the fifth time?  What if the “prognosis” isn’t what it used to be?  Do their friends get scared?  I’m just grasping at straws here.

I know when my father had cancer, and my mother cared for him, there didn’t seem to be anyone else around outside of the family.  But I was very sick then, so what would I know?

I am still nursing this cup of coffee as we speak.

Believe it or not

I have some goals for myself today.  My friend (yes, I still have a couple of friends) says I seem brighter and more positive.

I want to be strong enough to do National Novel Writing Month this year.  NaNoWriMo, as it is called, which I did last year, involves writing an entire book in the month of November.  It begins November first and ends the 30th.  The NaNoWriMo requirement is 50,000 words–arbitrarily.  Last year, my book, a memoir, was 86,000 words, and I completed it in about three weeks.  My book was about my hitch-hiking trip across the country that I did in 1979.  It was also about my anorexia that I was experiencing while writing the book.  I chronicled my NaNoWriMo experience here in my blog.  Just click on National Novel Writing Month over on the left to read about it.  My entries are rather brief.  I was busy.  I worked maybe six to seven hours a day, seven days a week.  I wrote the equivalent of a term paper a day, maybe 20 pages.

In order to do National Novel Writing Month, I must get an outline ready.  I must be able to concentrate.  I must have physical strength.  I must have drive.  I must have ambition.  I must be able to have goals and follow through with them.  I must be able to care about myself.  I must get over this depression.  I must have energy.  I must want to live.  And I must eat to stay alive.

Yes, I admit I must eat.

This is going to be incredibly difficult to pull together by November.  I do not want to eat.  I do not, do not, do not want to eat.

I think I will go out and buy some eggs today.

She said yes

My therapist said yes to the program, and said that she will not hospitalize me.

I am so relieved.  That was truly a close call, because I would have had to go in had I not come up with this suggestion.

I do think my idea took her by surprise.  But she’s getting the ball rolling.  It looks like I will be accepted.  I guess generally this is the case–if the need is there.

A “day program” is an alternative to hospitalization, or a place where you go after the hospital, or a transition from the hospital to a job, or a more supportive environment than just being at home.  It is generally Monday through Friday, usually five or six hours a day, with a lunch break.  It is a group program, in other words, there are groups that you attend during the day, and this is the main structure.

I am hoping to attend part-time, either a three days a week, or part days, or to bring Puzzle in with me, because I don’t want to leave her alone all day five days a week.

Once I am in the program, dear readers, it will be my choice and obligation to remain silent about my experience there.  I will not tell you anything about it, about the name of the program, its location, the people in it, the staff, the groups, nothing, only that I am attending the program.  I will talk about other things here.  I have plenty else to talk about.

Meanwhile, I must, must keep it together.  I promised my therapist that I would do this.  I am not entirely certain that I can.   I am barely eating. I told her I would eat but I know I cannot eat right now.  She wants me to go grocery shopping but I have no strength to do so.  Somehow, though, I will make it through.

My next appointment is Tuesday.  We should get the paperwork done then.

Today is the anniversary

Today is the anniversary of Joe’s death.  He was born on February 26, 1958 and died August 19, 2003.

The last time I saw him was two hours before he died. It was Tuesday.   He dropped me off at home.  I got out of the van.  He said, “I might go play the drums later.  I might not.  I haven’t decided yet.”  Joe had a little practice room in a nearby town where he had his drums set up.

I explained that I was going off to the UMass/Boston campus the next day to sign up for the course I had just gotten into.  A poetry class.

We were planning to get together later on Wednesday.  And Thursday, we had tickets for a baseball game, the Lowell Spinners, a Red Sox farm team.  You see, we saw each other every day.

As I left the van, we didn’t tell each other “I love you.”  We didn’t need to.  It was a given.

Joe and I had known each other for 17 years and dated for 13 of those years.  I dedicated This Hunger Is Secret to his memory.

Yet he is barely mentioned in the memoir.  Why?  Why did I leave him out of it?  It is because it hurt too much to write about him.  It was because I couldn’t bear the sadness.  It was because I was avoiding the sadness.  It was because I didn’t want to feel it.

The whole time I was in graduate school, I avoided it.  Even when I had to leave temporarily and was hospitalized.  I knew, then, that I had relapsed because I was in shock over Joe’s death, and my whole being–my body, my soul, were reacting so strongly that I could not bear it.  But the people at the hospital denied this, saying, “Grieving?  How could this be?  You were not married.  Come off it.  Grow up.  You need a day program.”

I ignored their bogus advice, got on the right medication, and returned to graduate school.

And now, seven years later, I still don’t want to feel the sadness.  They said when I started eating again I would feel my feelings.  I guess I wasn’t ready to feel them.  Because now, I starve myself so that I will feel nothing.

I will be seeing my therapist today at 1pm.  I have to eat something so that I have the strength to get to her office in one piece.  One fear I have is that I’ll collapse before getting there.  Or that I’ll walk into her office, sit down, and miss the chair, or fall off the chair.  This cannot happen.

Eat, eat.