Coping with my eating disorder as the worst of Hurricane Irene is upon us here in Boston

Must say, it’s bad, bad, bad out there.  I’m not even peeking out at this point, taking advice from what I’ve read online and staying away from windows.  I ended up taping them with packing tape in the shape of an X–I really don’t know if that’s the way to do it–and taping down my shades, not that it’ll do any good.  I no longer trust the trees out there.  I saw a downed tree branch and I’m guessing that it came from tree #2, which has already lost a fair amount of limbs over the past few years and needs to get chopped down, or will, when all this is over with.   It’s not a large tree, not like the one that blocks my neighbor’s view of me during the summer months, so that I can walk around naked in my living room and not be seen.  Of course, in winter, the tree is naked, so it is useless as a coverup and I have to either pull the shade or keep something on.  Well, being skinny and, I’m told, not having much meat on my bones, I find it freezing in here no matter how warm someone else thinks it is, so I’m well dressed, trust me.  Well, I’m rambling here.  The wind, let’s say, sounds real bad, worse than it’s been all day, and if you’ve heard that Irene has been downgraded to a “tropical storm,” well, that doesn’t mean anything really.  It’s closer to us, so it’s worse right now.  Weather dot com says “gusting to  48” but I’m guessing that sometimes it gusts higher.

I’m wrapping things in plastic more and more.  I can’t help but allow my mind to wander and mentally pack a suitcase for evacuation.  I live in elderly housing, so they may evacuate the building to protect the seniors, whose health is compromised to begin with.

How does all this affect my eating?  Something inside me told me I didn’t need much food in the house.  I had some canned food.  Sort of.  Enough for yesterday.  I have juice and V8 and milk.  I thought I’d cook up some rice while we still have power.  It’ll keep a while without refrigeration.  This is Julie’s idea.  The eating disorder’s idea is to forget making rice.

Why am I saying this?  Why am I personifying the ED?  My therapist does this all the time.  I don’t buy the theory, though.  I hate personifying the eating disorder.  I even told her I’d prefer not to, even though many therapists like to do this.  I don’t think of my eating disorder as a person “Ed” that I’m married to or whatever.  I think that’s childish.  The book Life Without Ed is all about the person Ed.  It’s a fabulous book with fabulous ideas in it, but I couldn’t get through it.  I didn’t like the way I was being spoken to in the book.

I have met Jenni Schaefer in person, and she’s nothing like she is in her books.  It’s hard to explain.  I saw her speak at a MEDA location in Newton, Massachusetts.  She’s a powerful speaker, and she didn’t speak to us like we were kindergarten kids.  She explained why she wrote the book the way she did, with short chapters structured in a specific way.  I didn’t buy her explanation, but I highly respect her decision to do the book the way she did.  At the end of her talk, she sang and played the guitar an original song.  (She lives in Nashville and, like many living there, is an aspiring country singer and has a “day job” to support herself in the meanwhile).  As it turned out, the entire, I mean entire audience–and I haven’t any clue who was eating disordered and who wasn’t and don’t care–couldn’t hold back the tears as she sang.  Wow.  I wished I had tissues because I really couldn’t hold it together.  Then there was a long book-signing line and I joined it near the end of the line.  I had Life Without Ed and Goodbye Ed, Hello Me  ready for her to sign.  I was wearing a beanie cap that I had knit myself (I was cold), and when it was my turn in line, she asked me if I had knitted the hat, and there was a bit of discussion about how knitting seems to be a meaningful hobby for people with anorexia.  I was in tears when she signed the books.

I write in short chapters, too.  I like being “to the point.”  I find short chapters annoying except in certain situations, ironically.  In This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness, just about every chapter is brief.  I did this because I was inspired to write my book the way Kenny Fries wrote The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin’s Theory, which is the most brilliant book I have read in recent times.  After I read Kenny’s memoir, I went on to read some essays on writing using this “braided” structure (read Kenny’s book or my book and you’ll know what I’m talking about) that were very, very helpful.  Switching over to this structure was a brave move on my part.

Am I brave now?  Probably not.  If I were brave, I would break out of the bad pattern I have with my anorexia.  My special friend refers to this as a “loop.”  You can’t get out of it unless you really work at it.  You get stuck in it unless you can take charge and use all your strength to break free.

Right now, Hurricane Irene is breaking loose, unleashing her power, and sending tree limbs flying onto power lines and into buildings, into the middle of streets and blocking them, all over people’s yards, and even on top of cars and squashing them.  Irene is blowing stuff over and sending it all flying.  You can see the destruction everywhere.  Wind and rain is out of its usual pattern of sunrise and sunset, reasonable weather (considering this is New England), and scaring the pants off of us.  Irene is showing us her strength.  She is not kidding.  She is a force to behold.  She will not let us forget her.

My eating disorder has the power over me that Irene now has over the East Coast.  My anorexia has the power to destroy me, and has recently nearly done so.  It didn’t, though.  I survived.  You could say that I was rescued.  You could say that I lucked out.  You could say that I took shelter in a hospital just in time, that the hospital was structurally safer than my home.

Maybe someday, I will be like a mountain, and Irene won’t be able to blow me over.  You know, this is something I don’t truly believe will ever happen, but it’s a nice metaphor to consider right now that I hear the wind howling outside and I am taking shelter in here and getting a bit of writing done.  But when I was kept in my shelter of the hospital, right after my eating disorder, as powerful as those gusts of wind outside, almost blew me down, the chaplain, who made a surprise visit maybe an hour prior to my discharge from the hospital, helped me, for a small moment, see myself as that mountain, and I felt a calm come over me that I haven’t felt for a long, long time.  I can’t say when I felt the peak of that calm, because I only felt it for a short time, but it was genuine, and real, and right, and I knew in my heart that I truly deserved every bit of that calm, peaceful moment.  And then the storm came back, but I didn’t forget what had happened.

They say the eye of the storm is deceptive.  They say not to go out in it.  They say if you do, you’ll get knocked over after the eye passes.  No, this wasn’t me as a weakling before the Eye.  There are times when my eating disorder offers me the calm of the Eye, and then I fall back into the destructiveness of the storm–very quickly.  When I almost died, it was  because I had stepped into the calm of the Eye, knowing I was approaching death and rushing to prepare for my demise, realizing that I didn’t have much time, but I felt a strange peace, accepting what would happen as inevitable.  I didn’t question it.

At that time, there were many, many things that I kept secret from everyone.  You could say that at that time, I had more secrets in me than I ever did at any other time in my life.  It’s something I’m working on right now.  I still have many,  many secrets.  The chaplain knew, without asking, that I had this tendency, and asked me about it.  She said that you can’t keep a secret from God, that God sees everything.

If I were to talk to God right now, and I don’t–I don’t pray–what would I say to someone–or perhaps God is an “it”–from whom I can hide nothing?  Do I need to say anything at all?  Actually, I think that maybe, when I’m ready, I will have some things to say to God.  And for sure, I will pray for Puzzle.

Whenever I met with one of the chaplains at the hospital, I requested that they pray for Puzzle.  Not one of them thought that praying for my little dog was an unreasonable or silly request.

Maybe it is a God who is keeping Puzzle completely calm during this storm.  She hasn’t a clue what’s going on outside.  She has had no reaction whatsoever.  She is incredibly strong in the face of a force as powerful as my eating disorder.

May we all be so brilliantly equipped.

Feedback and comments welcome!