I feel as though my life is over

I feel as though my life is over.  I have felt this way for a long time, ever since I ended up with refeeding edema at the end of April.

Since the end of April, I have felt that my body is ruined.  I especially feel this way now.

I managed to get into the shower this morning.

My "new life"…without running, without walking….barely eating…depressed….

Well, this is it, I suppose.  My “new life.”  And they expect me to eat?  Eat?????

I got weighed today.  The edema is gone.  Of course.  I starved it away.  The edema is what stopped me from running in the first place, and got me so mad that I walked 14 miles a day and ended up with this injury.  But I am 12 pounds less than what I was the last time I got weighed.  My doctor isn’t pleased.  She said the absence of edema isn’t the only culprit, that my lack of nutrition is the other.  Well, yeah.  I confessed that being injured for a month hasn’t exactly inspired me to chow down.

I came home and took a nap.  When I awoke, I found myself in tears.  Just like that.  Weird.

Not only am I dealing with the inability to walk without a mobility aid (cane or crutches) but I experience pain–just about every day, sometimes for most of the day.  Sometimes, the pain is very bad.  Usually, it isn’t.  I take Aleve daily.  I also took Ibuprofen on top of that, but my doctor told me no to.  So I have stopped.  After another week, I won’t be able to take Aleve anymore at this high dose.  I might still need it. But medically, it won’t be safe to use it, because of potential kidney damage.  Never mind that it could cause stomach bleeding.

The orthopedist with whom I spoke said the pain would clear up in two weeks.  That was a week ago.  I don’t see much improvement….Maybe it will be another two weeks from today….  He also said that riding the exercise bike would be the “best thing for it.”  Well, apparently not.  I am either in pain while riding it, or in really bad pain several hours later.  So I’m not going to ride the damn thing again.  It puts too much pressure on my leg while my knee is in a bent position.  Some of the exercises hurt as well, the ones done with bent knees.  So I’m stopping those as well.  I’m just not ready.

“No pain, no gain” is bullshit.  My therapist says that pain is the body’s stop sign.  There is a difference between the muscle fatigue that you get from a good workout that tells you that you are building strength (and that your muscles need a rest before you go at it again) and joint pain.  I agree with my T about that much.

What I didn’t agree with her about was her statement, “This is a good thing, because it forces you to slow down.”  Well, that is bullshit.  I am only 53 years old, not 85. It is not time to slow down.  It is my body, and my choice when to slow down, not hers.  I am being forced by outside circumstances to stop, not by my own desire, not because I am tired or finished in any way.  After all, I was about to run a race when this whole thing started up!  So I told my T that I was angry about what she said, and she apologized, and acknowledged my opinion.

There is absolutely nothing good about this injury.  Nothing.  Well, one thing: the one upper-body strengthening benefit of using crutches for–yes–it’s been a month now.  Other than that, no, no, nothing good about being injured, being in pain, being unable to get around without a mobility aid, ending my running, long walks with Puzzle, fitness walks, and yes, my laps around the track at sunrise–for good–no, nothing good about this at all, no advantage, no benefit, no money to be won, nada.

It doesn’t even give me more opportunity to write.  I had just as much time to write before.  I am so damned depressed now and writing comes with such difficulty.  It took me hours before I could get up the motivation to write this entry.

I do have one activity that is helping me cope right now.  Knitting.  I have used my knitting to help pass that time that I spend unable to do anything else due to pain or depression.  I find it distracting and it engrosses me.  I am working on a hat for a friend that I e-mail.  I take comfort that I have a few friends left.

Sometimes, I am able to walk the distance to the gym using my cane.  So I walk to the gym, and do mostly strength training for my upper body.  Yesterday, I used the triceps pull, set it at x pounds (just over what I weigh) and pulled up my body, and held myself up off the floor like that, my fists by my ears, elbows by my chest, just hanging there as if I was hanging from the gallows, swinging back and forth a little, and held this pose, just hanging and hanging, then let myself down, and realized that not too many people, even people who work out, can do this.  I couldn’t do that before.  When I came home and it was time to shower, I took off my shirt and examined my shoulder and arm muscles.  Yep, they’re there.

I might be lame, but I am strong.  Just you wait.

Mouthful! Open Mic Reading in Cambridge, MA tonight–I will be reading!

I received this in my e-mail today reminding people of tonight’s reading.  I plan to be there, reading from The Starvation Transformations.

Hello lovely Mouthful friends!

Just a reminder that tonight, the dynamic Megan Thoma will be the featured reader at the last Mouthful of the season!  Join us at 99 Bishop Allen Drive in our lovely reading space in the Cambridge Community Services Building (it’s the door closest to the corner of Bishop Allen Drive and Essex Street).  You can learn more about Megan by checking out her bio on our Features’ page.

Doors will open at 7 pm, so come by to sign up to read, nosh on delicious snacks and meet our amazing community of writers.  Bring your work to read at the open mic; we’ll need an extra big helping of your wonderful writing to get us through the summer!  A $3 donation is appreciated as your generosity allows us to pay for delicious snacks, our website and we donate all remaining proceeds to the Sudan Reach Women’s Foundation, an organization that helps Sudanese women and girls get access to education, medical care and entrepreneurial opportunities.

So join us for Mouthful’s kick-off to the summer!  We’ll see you tonight!

Best,
The Mouthful Collective
Dawn, Laura, Lisa and Meghan
Mouthfulreadingseries.com

An end to running, but never running out

I received bad news on Wednesday: I have arthritis in my knee.  This is a consequence of my 1999 fracture, and was recently aggravated by overexercising.  The doctor didn’t exactly say it was an “arthritis flare-up,” but I guess you could call it that.  I still choose to call it a sports injury, though.  After all, I did this to myself while doing sports.

The orthopedist showed me the x-ray.  It was obvious once he pointed it out to me.  Why this didn’t show up in the 2005 x-ray I don’t know.  It is the same pain, the same injury.  Or should I put quotation marks around it?  “Injury.”  There.

The doctor prescribed exercises, two Aleve tablets twice daily for two weeks, and ice at night.  The pain should clear up, and I’ll be able to walk fine after that.

Then he said, “No running, no walking.”

I said, “I can’t, right now.  I can’t walk much at all.”

He said, “If you do, you’re looking at a knee replacement.”

“Huh?”

“No running, no walking.  You can walk to the gym and work out like crazy.  You can work out on the elliptical, do the stairmaster, and the exercise bike.  As a matter of fact, the exercise bike is the best thing for this.  But no high-impact sports.  If you run or do lots of walking, your knee isn’t going to last much longer.”

“You mean, until this clears up, right.”

“Even after.  And by the way, you’re not a good candidate for knee replacement surgery, because of your nutritional issues.”

“Ever?”

Thus begins my new life.   Laps around the track with the sun just peeking up on the horizon is a thing of the past.  Victory Field track is past tense now.  I can kiss the treadmill goodbye.  My last run was May 16.  I ran two miles at the gym and walked seven.  Then…my last run was running after a bus.  Imagine that.

I have spent many minutes and hours grieving over this.  It didn’t hit me at first.  Yes, I cried on the bus ride home.  I always cry on buses.  I’ve cried on every bus I’ve ridden since I found out the diagnosis.  And I’m not done crying.

So I’m going to make adjustments.  Life is adjustment.  I’m going to work the hell out of the elliptical as soon as my knee can take it, and pretend that I’m running.  I’m going to climb the eight flights of my building.  I’m going to inflate my fitness ball and do core strengthening at home.  I’m going to work my upper body.  I’m going to strengthen my legs as much as I can, especially my quadriceps, which is the prescribed treatment for this disorder.  If it means showing up at the gym just about every day, well, I will.  So long as I can walk there, I’ll be there.

I have a secret to developing upper body muscles:  It’s not circuit-training or freeweights.  The secret is to get injured and spend about three weeks on crutches.  That is all you need. Get ripped, baby, get ripped.

I am able to walk Puzzle fast now.  My secret to this is to continue to use my cane.  If I place the cane down at the same time as I step with my right leg, I can lessen impact.  I’m going to teach myself to place the cane down a split second before I step, to further lessen impact.  I am going to set a limit at a mile, and this time, stick with it.

Now that I am following the doctor’s advice, I am in a lot less pain.  I don’t need crutches at this point.  I use one crutch if I’m carrying a heavy load on my back.  I am going to take my cane on the bus tonight just to make sure I get a seat.  I should just be able to ask for one, anyway.  There’s a sign that says that no one can deny a seat to a passenger, or reserve a seat.  Except for once, I have always easily gotten a seat in the front “accessible” row of the bus.  I will only need to do to sit up front for the next couple of weeks.  I guess for now I’ll be special.

I don’t feel very special, though.  The high point of my day, my run, has been taken from me.  I am grieving.  Arthritis…an old ladies’ disease.  I feel ashamed.  Of course, I got it from a fracture I had at 41, not from being “old,” but still, arthritis is arthritis, and it is not going to get better.

I hope I don’t write about it all that much, but I fear that I will, only because it’s such an issue for me not to be running.  Exercising has taken on a whole new meaning now.  It serves a different purpose.

I told my therapist today that like my leg in 1999, I feel broken.  I feel broken by my eating disorder, which is responsible for giving me osteoporosis (thinned bones), which is the reason my femur broke in the first place.  My therapist said that my eating disorder is responsible for the arthritis pain I feel in my knee, because it was caused by compulsive overexercising.  My eating disorder has broken my life.

Well, Sunday I’m going to the gym.  I’m going to work out as much as my  a____ knee will allow.  Soon, I’ll be able to do more, after the pain clears up.  But Sunday, I’m going to find a bar somewhere, and, using my newfound upper body and arm muscles, I’m going to lift myself up off the floor.

Imagine that.

 

My second 5k–reflections on a race not run

I woke up this morning, race day, to face a record-low temperature of 44 degrees here in Boston, meaning perfect weather for the Larry Kessler 5k race for AIDS at 9:50 at the Hatch Shell.  My alarm had sounded at 4am.  I was getting ready.  I had everything planned out for today, everything written down.  I dressed, laced up my running shoes, and got ready to walk Puzzle, my dog.  Surely, this was her day, too.  We would take one of her usual routes, though.  I didn’t want to disturb her routine too much, even though today was different.

Yes, today was different.  Every day had been different for the past several weeks–since the injury.  As we rounded White Street, passing the condo complex, and headed up Main Street, I began to weep.  I was walking with a cane, barely able to sustain a half mile’s distance before experiencing problems with my injured knee.  I placed the cane carefully along with my right leg, to ensure that I kept weight off of the problem side.  I wondered if anyone would pass by and see me crying.  But no one did, not even anyone in a car, because it was so early.

Not only was I sidelined with an injury, but I was suffering from infected sores in my mouth, edema, and morning vertigo.  All of these medical problems had appeared over the past month or so.  Surely, I was not in good shape to be running a race.  This was compounded by the fact that I had taken time off over the winter, slowing my pace considerably.  I had expected, after the first of these medical problems–edema–appeared, to finish this race in 38 minutes.  I finished my first 5k in 34.

The edema I have is called “refeeding edema.”  It results from long-term self-starvation from my eating disorder.  While my first 5k was a celebration of feeding myself, my second 5k–or, rather, not running my second 5k–is the acknowledgement that I am not feeding myself or treating my body with the love and healthy respect it deserves.  Yes, I am abusing my body.  Yes, I starve myself.   I still have this edema.  I starved it away, but it came back after two binges.  I am currently starving it away again.  Yes, I have an eating disorder.

The sores in my mouth come from cuts in my gums.  The cuts come from bingeing on raw vegetables.  I can’t eat raw vegetables really fast, because I have missing molars.  If I do eat raw veggies fast, my gums get cut up.  They even bleed in my mouth.  One of my molars is missing because I split it in half bingeing on dog food last winter.  It had to get pulled as a result.   Yes, I have an eating disorder.

I get morning vertigo after I eat the first bite of food, or sustenance, in the morning.  I go brush my teeth and 1o minutes after I’ve eaten, or had a bit of milk, I have the vertigo.  It lasts several hours.  Several hours of my head spinning.  The vertigo following eating is most likely from malnutrition.  Yes, I have an eating disorder.

My knee injury is an overuse injury.  I used to run and walk a total of 10 miles a day, and I did this for a month.  Fine.  Then, I increased to 14.  Not fine.  My body gave out.  Hence, this injury.  And every time I think I’ve licked it, I overdo it, and pain and regression in healing result.   I tend to overexercise.  Why?  Don’t let me fool myself.  I do it to lose weight.

Yes, I have an eating disorder.  I have anorexia nervosa.  I was eating okay since I got off the psychiatric unit in March, but started actively starving myself again May 1st.  I have not eaten normally for one day since then.  I have generally restricted, but have binge/fasted a bunch of times as well.  I am in no shape to be running this race.

And now I sit here, hungry.  What am I hungry for?  What is missing in my life?  What are my desires, hopes, wishes, and dreams?  Do I even know?  Am I so starved that I have lost touch with what my body and soul need?

What did I dream of when I signed up for this 5k?  Did I dream of strength, power, and speed?  Did I dream of winning, in my own way?  Did I dream of feeling proud of myself for accomplishing yet another goal among the many I have accomplished over the past few years in spite of my eating disorder–graduation, National Novel Writing Month (twice), getting published, and my first 5k?  Or did I dream of the race process itself, of concentrating on the road, keeping my eyes ahead, pushing myself, pushing myself, pushing onward, onward, onward, thinking of nothing else?

Perhaps it is in my resignation that I am not running this race that I acknowledge that I am indeed smothered by my anorexia symptoms right now, pulled under, defeated.  I cannot run 5k.  I cannot even run.  I am only now beginning to walk without a mobility aid such as a cane or crutches.  But eventually, I will be able to walk a mile again, then a mile and a half, then two–without setting myself back–because I will be healed.  Eventually, I will be running.  But it will take time.  A long time.  I know now that I must not attempt to do what I am not ready to do until I am fully healed.

And that goes for my anorexia itself right now, too.  I cannot even begin to be expected to gain weight until, in my mind, I am ready to do so–otherwise it will backfire.  This has happened time and time again.  It is happening now.  This is why I am restricting–because I was expected to gain weight way, way before I was ready.  Yes, it backfired.  I must be ready.

Maybe this analogy won’t work.  I know my injury will heal.  Of this, I am certain.  But I am not certain that my anorexia will heal.  Sure, I go up and down in mind and weight, but overall, I am not really getting better.  To add insult to injury (sorry!) I had this same injury in 2005, and it improves when I lose weight!  So there is a problem here.

Maybe my attitude will change, though.  I cannot predict the future.  There are other races, lots of them, coming up.   November, December…maybe I’ll be running by then.  Maybe I’ll be fit enough to race then, which means eating right, taking care of myself, and treating my body lovingly and with respect.  That is the key.

So today, as I sit here and write these words, and gaze over at my dog, sleeping beside me, I wonder what she is thinking, her mama laid up…probably nothing at all.  Because to Puzzle, it doesn’t matter if Mama raced or not.  What matters is that Mama is staying alive to be Puzzle’s mama.  Well, I plan to do just that.  Not only that, but I’ll sign up for my next 5k as soon as I’m completely ready to race–and not sooner.  Promise.

Passion and my knee injury

I have always had a tendency to go overboard.  Always.  I take everything to the extreme.  When I set my mind to doing a project, I ultimately put passion into it.  This is probably one reason why I developed an eating disorder.  I put passion into my dieting and went overboard with it.  (I no longer put passion into my restricting because restricting is no longer a project.  It is my life.)  I didn’t just make one dog sweater.  I have made 17, maybe more.  When I was a kid, I got on my bike one day and rode 100 miles just for the heck of it.  When I participated in National Novel Writing Month this year, I didn’t pace myself; instead, I finished my novel in 17 days.    I have worked 14-hour writing days.   I have pulled many, many all-nighters.  When I collected stuffed animals (this embarrasses me no end) I had over 100, and had their names memorized.  (Needless to say, I got rid of all but three.)  I invented not one but a dozen muffin recipes.  The list goes on….

So when it came to my recent extreme, exercise, yes, I went overboard.  Of course I did.  Exercise means not only staying in shape, but burning calories.  Right up my alley.  I do have an eating disorder, right?  I walked or ran 10 miles a day for a month.  This worked out okay–I guess.  Maybe.  Then, suddenly, I increased to 14.  No, no no no no no.  Three days later, I ran after a bus, the “straw that broke the camel’s back.”  That did it.  My knee gave out.  I was injured.  I was injured.  I was injured.  No more running.  Not for a long, long time.

No more walking, either.  I was on crutches for about 10 days, then gradually moved off of crutches and was able to walk okay, a little at first, using the crutches when I needed to carry something, and then, finally, off crutches entirely.  Improvement was rapid.  I was careful.  And a bit wiser about overdoing it.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha.  Yesterday morning, I walked my dog a mile and a half.  This was a half mile further than I had promised myself I’d walk.  This morning–two miles.  Three hours later–pain.  As the minutes passed, the pain got worse and worse.  Now, I’m off it completely, hopping around the apartment.  Boy, do I feel like an idiot.  And that’s exactly what I am.  An idiot.  I overdid it yet one more time.  When, oh when, will I learn?

I don’t even know if I’ll be able to walk without crutches later today.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to walk without crutches tomorrow.  I might be back to square one with this injury.  On the other hand, a bit of rest might do the trick.  I’m icing it and resting it.  Still, pain.

Shit.

There are people who are intense about everything, and there are people who are laid back.  They say there is such thing as “Type A” personality, which is the anxious, rushed kind.  Intensity isn’t the same thing.  Being overachieving isn’t the same thing.  Drive isn’t the same thing.   Problem is, I am on overdrive.  I am burning.  I desire…intensely.  I write in this notebook passionately.  The title of this notebook, The Starvation Transformations: how hunger befriends me, nourishes me, and betrays me, is passionate.  I write, I write, I write.  And I hunger.

A binge: May 31, 2011

I have been suffering from eating binges since the age of 22 and am now 53 years old.  I have gone through long periods that I have not binged, but it keeps coming back.  These eating binges can be massive.  I do not throw up.  I am not able to throw up.  I would throw up if I could.  My therapist attributes my inability to vomit to the fact that I was force-fed as a child.  She, and many people, tell me that I am very, very fortunate that I never learned to regurgitate.  To me, it is a curse to have to hold food in, as I had to hold my food in as a toddler, against my will.

I do not choose to binge.  It is rare that I say, “I am going to binge today,” and go binge.  It is generally something that comes over me, something Other, some Force.  I cannot control it.  My therapist says I can, but she is not in my shoes.

I’m not going to talk about my first binge.  I’m not in the mood.  I’m going to talk about last night’s binge:

It was late.  I had already taken my meds.  I was getting ready for bed.  I decided to have some skim milk and a hard boiled egg before bed.  I didn’t need skim milk and a hard boiled egg.  I don’t know what I was thinking, but that was what set me off.

It was automatic.  I grabbed a sac of potatoes and cut up half of them and put them in my steamer.  I knew these would take a while to cook, so I cooked some potatoes in the meanwhile in the microwave.  I cooked one and then ran cold water over it to cool it.

I held the potato in my hand and ate it whole.  It wasn’t cool enough.  It burned my mouth.  My mouth was already ripped up from a binge Friday night on raw vegetables.  Despite the fact that I was burning my mouth I kept on eating the potato.

There was a time in my  life that I did cutting.  I didn’t know why I was doing the cutting.  Some say that cutting is a way to relieve bad feelings.  I say that it was to see just how much I could take.  Sometimes, I think that’s why I stayed in abusive relationships, rather than getting out of them when I had the chance–to see how much more abuse I could tolerate before I snapped.  And you know, I never snapped.  Not unless you count having developed an eating disorder.

I ate the cut-up potatoes, too.  There were a lot.  These, too, burned my mouth.  They didn’t fill me up all that much, not really.  I didn’t want to eat all the carefully prepared food that I had set aside for myself in the refrigerator, so I decided to go out.

On Friday when I went out, I risked exacerbating my injury by walking to the convenience store and back, which was a bit too far at the time, to get binge food.  That was how desperate I was.  Tonight, I would again take a risk.  My injury has improved and I could go further, a lot further, and even carry stuff on my back, without using my cane.  This would enable me to free up two hands, so that I could eat while walking home.

Yes, I take risks.  Yes, I am that desperate.  I am on a mission.

I grabbed a knapsack and my wallet.  I made sure I had enough cash.  Quickly, I changed into baggy clothing, and put on a jacket to hide my thinness.  Surely, appearing thin would be a dead giveaway.  What extremely thin woman eats goodies, unless she’s on a binge?  Let’s not be obvious here.  I put on a baseball cap, too.  My MP3 player so that I could hide from the world.  My keys.

I decided to divide up my trip.  I haven’t done this lately, but I didn’t want to get “caught.”  I have been “caught” at Tedeschi’s too many times lately.  I decided to buy a loaf of raisin bread there.  Innocent enough.  They would never suspect, and the guy didn’t.  I am positive.   My plan was to get something to put on the bread at CVS, sour cream most likely.  At CVS, where I can be anonymous at 1:30am, I purchased a large tub of chocolate ice cream, sour cream, and a huge bag of milk chocolate M&M’s to eat on the way home.  Over 12 dollars.  The raisin bread was maybe $3.  This was an expensive binge.

I asked for a bag at CVS.  I was in such a hurry that I left without the sales slip, but the guy said, “Don’t you want the coupon?”  I said, “Oh,” and grabbed the sales slip and left.  Once safely at a hideaway, I separated everything.  I took the bread out of my knapsack and put the ice cream and sour cream on the bottom, then put the bread on top.  Then I had the M&M’s in a bag to eat.  I quickly ripped open the bag, put a bunch in my hand, and tossed them into my mouth.

I had thought M&M’s would be soft enough for my already damaged gums.  I was wrong.  With every bite, I could feel my gums get more and more ripped apart.  I tried chewing with my front teeth. The candy practically fell out of my mouth, so I went back to molar-chewing.

Suddenly, the bag ripped.  M&M’s went everywhere!  All over the sidewalk! All I could think of was that I wanted to bend down and pick up every single one of them, and claim it as mine.  I even thought about how many I’d wasted.  But I didn’t pick them up.  I quickly snatched up the bag and allowed the candies to flow into my pocket, all of them, so I had a pocket full of M&M’s, a huge pocket full of them.  This was the reason for the jacket with pockets in the first place.  I kept walking, pulling handfuls of candies out of my pocket and eating them even though they continued to rip apart my mouth.

I thought, for a moment, what a fool I was, walking down the street spilling M&M’s all over the sidewalk, how obvious it must look to an onlooker.  I thought about the people across the street.  I was now passing Tedeschi’s, and folks were coming out of the store with their supplies.  Had they seen me, the fool, the skinny one out on a binge, the one who has been binge eating for 31–I repeat, 31 years?  Did they see my suffering?  Probably not.

Even as I was coming into the building, I still ate.  Even as I came into the apartment, I was still finishing up the M&M’s, but just the last couple of bites.  I have my timing down just right.  I set the ice cream on the counter and broke into the bread and sour cream.  I got a knife and spread gobs of sour cream on top of each slice of bread.  But what’s this?  As I took each bite, I could see red blood clearly on the sour cream.  My whole mouth was bleeding.  I could even taste the blood.  The sour cream soothed me, but I knew I had done quite a bit of damage.  I wiped my mouth periodically on a towel, and each time, I saw blood.  Partway through the loaf of bread, I ate the ice cream, also soothing.  It was messy.  I finished it all, then went back to the bread and sour cream, and nearly polished that off.  Finally, I doused the remainder in water, and flushed the last of the sour cream down the sink.  I was done.

I have written all this very matter-of-factly, without emotion.  Why?  Perhaps because the mechanics of eating overshadowed whatever I was feeling at the moment.  I think the blood in my mouth must have scared me, but the push and drive to get food in me, the destructiveness of an eating binge overshadowed my concern over the worsening condition of my gums.  And when I was finished, I was finished.  I went to bed.

I slept a few hours, then got up.  I felt no better than last night, still impossibly stuffed, as if I couldn’t get another bit of food or drink into me, or even air into me.  But Puzzle needed her walk.  Devoted mom that I am, I mustered up the strength to take her a mile and a half around the neighborhood, feeling miserable, wearing baggy clothing, the same clothes I wore last night.   We came home.  I took my meds and went back to bed.  I slept till noon.

I still feel very, very stuffed.  I haven’t been able to take in fluids.  I did make myself a cup of coffee.  It stung my mouth but I managed to drink it after it cooled some.  I haven’t passed a stool, nothing substantial anyway.  This is the first time that I’ve been able to sit in a chair without substantial discomfort.

So I am sitting here, writing in The Starvation Transformations notebook.  This incident that I have just described is one of the many ways that my eating disorder has transformed my life.

While I wrote those words, when I wrote “transformed” I also wrote, “ruined,” and then deleted it.  I don’t know why.

Seeing myself as….

Today, I saw myself in the mirror while at the gym.  I was doing the chest fly.  It came easier to me than it used to.  I chalk this up to the fact that I used crutches for a couple of weeks.  I was able to put the chest fly up at a higher weight than I ever had before.

I should have been proud of myself.  But instead, I was distracted by my image in the mirror.  What I saw gazing back at me was a very tiny woman.  Or maybe she was a girl, just a skinny, skinny girl, frightfully thin.  She was so thin that you could see many, many veins under her flesh, both in her arms and legs.  She didn’t look at all attractive.  She didn’t look happy.  She looked as distracted as I was.  With every movement I made, she moved as well.  She looked weak in spirit and heart.  She was so skinny that she looked like a freak.  Yes, a freak.  Perhaps she was ill.

In fact, this woman is ill.  She has an illness called anorexia nervosa.  It makes you skinny.  It is a fatal illness, meaning that you die of it.  If you have never heard of it or don’t know about it, look it up on the Internet.  That’s A.N.O.R.E.X.I.A. N.E.R.V.O.S.A.  Teenage girls get it and I am a freak because I’m 53.

The problem is, that I saw myself as frightfully thin, and wanted, at that very moment, to lose more weight.  That, I guess, is anorexia defined.

Tomorrow, when I hop into the shower, I will forget that moment at the gym, because while washing myself, I will not see the thin woman anymore.  I will see a fat woman.  I will feel the flesh on my body, and hate my body, and hate the fleshy parts, and the protruding fat, and puffiness, and swelling.  I will wash my armpits, which are so concave that I can barely get into them to soap them up,  and feel the flesh around them, and chastise myself for the few pounds I may or may not have gained.  I will feel my ribs and think that there is too much flesh between them.  I will feel my neck area and it will feel as though I have several double chins.  My face will have cheeks I don’t have.  Whatever I see is bad enough; what I don’t see is ten times worse.  And to compound the problem, I see very little without my glasses, which I don’t wear while showering.  Fat!  Fat!  Fat!

Is this why I want to lose weight?  Is it because of the fat woman I know and have grown to hate?  Or is it because of the lure of something else, something dangling just before me, always out of reach, the next pound lower….Is it the process that is such a temptation for me?

Yes, I think it is the latter.  Starvation is like stepping down a staircase.  You do it one step at a time.  Lower, lower, lower….

I do know what is at the bottom of the staircase, the place where you end up when you can step down no further.  It is called Death and any anorexic who goes all the way down the staircase ends up dead.

I think somewhere going down the staircase you reach sea level.  You can go under the ocean or stay above it.  You can tread water.  You can tiptoe around the ocean.  You can put your toes into it.  You can splash in it.  You can tell yourself you’re afraid of the water and its creatures, turn around, get into your car, and drive the hell home from the beach.

Sadly, I think stepped down the stairs too far, and am underwater now.

But just about every staircase has a railing somewhere.  If I could tell myself something right here, right now, I’d tell myself to hold onto the railing.  There is a powerful undercurrent going on here, the temptations of starvation, and I will get dragged to the bottom if I don’t hold onto something.  What is this railing, this something?  What one thing can I count on to keep me from sinking any further into the undertow than I already am?  What, what, will turn me back…to life?

The first entry of my new yet untitled notebook!

I am starting a new notebook.  It is time.  I am writing it on the changes that have occurred in my body, mind, and spirit as a result of starvation over the years.  If I were to list these, how long would it take to read this list aloud?  I cannot imagine.  To write this list will take longer than I plan to spend writing this first entry.

The initial effect of starvation occurred on July 1st, 1980, the day of my first diet.  What I experienced was Starvation High, a phenomenon that every anorexic knows, or so I assume.  Yes, starvation does produce a high.  Not only that, but I was thrilled to start my new diet.  I had been waiting for this moment, counting down the days.  You see, I started the Diet to End All Diets–not that I called it that–when I moved to my own place, all by myself, for the first time ever, after living with a family, working as a nanny, a job I wanted very much to leave–why?  Because…I wanted to lose weight so badly, and felt that I could only do this if I could break free of this family.  How stupid…and yet….

And the most recent effect of starvation to date (I am writing this May 29, 2011) occurred during a binge.  I binged–no, not on chocolate cake–but on raw vegetables.  I have missing molars (this I will discuss at a future time), so I should be chewing raw vegetables very, very carefully.  Better yet, I should be cooking them!  Instead, I ate them very, very quickly.  The effect: I ripped up my gums pretty badly.  I don’t know if I’m going to have to call the dentist or not.  Probably I will, if they don’t heal or get infected.

Of all the mental illnesses, eating disorders are the most illogical.  Perhaps anorexia is the least logical of all.  Who, in their right mind, would starve themselves to death just because they want to be thin?  What kind of sense does it make when an emaciated person looks in the mirror and sees a fat person?  Why would anyone want to be ridiculously thin, and wish to be even thinner?   Why would a person still starve him/herself, thinking the mounting health concerns simply didn’t apply in his/her case?  Why would anyone who lives for thinness slowly kill her/himself?  Why am I writing this, and still starving myself even though I am fully aware of all of these contradictions?

Perhaps this notebook will be about all of these contradictions.  Because over the years, I have watched my body change.  I have watched the alterations that resulted from starvation and other behaviors related to my eating disorder, and still, I didn’t stop the behaviors.  I have tried, at times–actually, much of the time–to stop.  Now, I don’t think I am even trying.  Now, I don’t think I really care or want to stop.  I feel like I am at the end of the line.

I have had this eating disorder for 31 years.  Maybe it’s time to call it quits.  Maybe it’s just too late for me.  I don’t know.  I know this condition isn’t going to magically go away, and it isn’t going to go away completely–ever.  Even if many of my symptoms disappear, by some wild chance, I will always be looking over my shoulder, because it–my eating disorder–follows me everywhere.

At this point, the physical changes are happening rapidly.  The changes seem to be varied and fairly severe symptoms that have required medical attention.  I have been hospitalized.  I have to get weighed and get my vitals signs taken, and occasional blood work done.  I see my primary care physician once a week to get weighed, and each time, some issue related to a medical condition comes up, some question I have to ask her, some body part I must show her.  I am shocked and dismayed and angry and ashamed and have a host of other extreme emotions about all of these medical conditions resulting from long-term starvation over the years.

Mostly, I am deeply, deeply depressed.  I feel that I am failing and that my life is over.  It is hard to believe that starvation, that once caused elation and a “high,” now causes me so much grief and despair.  This is another contradiction.  Or maybe it is a way that starvation has betrayed me.  Tricked me.  Fooled me.  Broken its promise to me.  Lured me into a trap that I cannot escape.

Can I free myself from this trap, pry open the claws and pull myself out?  Surely, I will be terribly cut up and wounded from its jaws.  Will someone or something free me?  Will I be able to reach my cell phone and “phone home”?

Where, oh where, is home, anyway?  Is it near or far?  Is it a place of comfort?  Is it  inviting? Does it lure me?  Does the earth envelop me there, cool and moist, soft and deep?

I don’t think so.  I live, I live, I am alive.  I want to live–ridiculously thin.  This is my life as I know it, as I have known it for a long, long time–a given.  I have been enveloped in my current relapse for three years now, and whether my life will go on as it has been unfolding for three years, or if it will change…well, time will tell.