The It Notebook Saturday, January 29, 2011

9am-9:55 55 minutes

Stopped by going to sleep, intending to take a “power nap,” but set the alarm wrong and napped over an hour, so woke up with the next It.

What happened: I went to walk Puzzle, and hadn’t gotten far when I notied the warning signs.  I knew I had about ten minutes before the confusion would begin.  So I had to get Puzzle in fairly quickly.  She went to the bathroom and It, meanwhile, seemed to be fading.  I cane in and the warning signs and even slight confusion seemed to be gone while I was feeding her.  It had held off on account of Puzzle!  Imagine that!  Then shortly after, it was 9am and It started full force.  I knew this because when I decided to boil eggs, I went the closet to find the eggs!  I wondered if it was safe for me to use the stove while I was experiencing It.  I promised myself I would be very, very careful, and it was only eggs, right?  So I did it.  It was so hard to do this and took so much concentration.  I KNOW I did it safely, but it was not worth the intense effort and concentration I put into the task.  I will no longer use the stove while experiencing It.  See notes.

Then, I tried to rest, but felt very restless.  I tried sitting both in my chair and on my couch and neither felt okay.  Finally, I decided to take a “power nap,” at 9:55.  Instead of waking up at 10:15, I woke up at 11:20, becasue I had the alarm set for 10:15pm.

11:20-?

woke up very groggy after a nap, then realized I had woken up with It.  I tried doing the dishes but had to stop when It got too bad, and rested.

Later, I don’t know when, I called 911.  I panicked about the head pressure I experience because It was over but the head pressure wouldn’t quit. I worried about my electrolytes being off.  I was really scared.  I grabbed my things–cell phone, wallet, bus pass, this notebook, a couple of other things including a pencil and clipboard and paper–right before the ambulance arrived.  I plan to write a full report on what happened in the ER in my blog [really, it’s not worth it because I describe enough of it here].

In brief:  I was treated with disrespect because I am a mental patient.  The doctor told me to take Advil for my headache.  I told him I do not have a headache this is head pressure. He said, then take Advil for your head pressure.  I said, it’s not painful, why take Advil?  And so on.  Then checked my blood work: normal.  The nurse, meanwhile, had given me IV fluids, saying I looked dehydrated.  I guess I wasn’t.  [She also asked me why I was so skinny, and I told her exactly why.]  They sent me home, and meanwhile, It was starting up again.  They did not bother showing me where the exit was.  [Nor did they ask me if I had a way to get home, or if I was safe to take the bus, or if I had a ride, or if I could afford a cab, or if I needed a cab voucher.  Nada.  Just set me loose from the cubicle.]  After a number of false starts, I found the correct door to get out of there, and found the lobby.  I have precious little money left this month, not enough, certainly, for a cab, so I realized I would have to take the bus home.  Easier said than done for a person who has It. It was obvious that I had just missed one bus (I saw one pass by) so I decided to use the bathroom, but couldn’t figure out which was the men’s room and which was the ladies’ room.  Finally, I figured it out, peed, and went out.  I flagged down the wrong bus becasue I couldn’t see out of my glasses (this is an ongoing issue, whether I am experiencing It or not).  Finally, the bus came. I stayed on till the end of the line and got off and walked home.  I don’t know when It ended.

Notes: After a while, I felt okay again, but fairly depressed.  I walked Puzzle and fed her.  Feeling a little more energetic, I did some of the multitude of dishes that have piled up in the sink and cleaned up some, then finally unpacked my suitcase from my hospitalization and vacuumed and mopped the floor and did laundry.  I stayed up very, very late.  I love the wee hours these days.

I have decided on a “ten minute safety rule.”  This means, do not begin any potentially dangerous activity while feeling okay that I cannot quickly finish in ten minutes.  This is the time it takes for the confusion to get really bad.  So I will not walk further than Watertown Square. I can boil eggs and cook lentils but I can’t cook rice.  Well, it is because of this that I have purchased a rice cooker/vegetable steamer from ebay.  I already have a water boiler.  Now, I do not have to use the stove at all.  Even if It ends soon, the item is useful to have, and it cost me very little.

[…]

Another thing…my first hospitalization in Vermont, in 1983, I was completely unable to speak at certain times.  Could this be something similar?

I will end here for today.

The It Notebook: Friday, 1/28/11

I am going to copy parts of the It Notebook here.  Where explanations are needed, I will give them.  Occasionally, I will edit things out.

IT NOTEBOOK

Friday, 1/28/2011

10:55-2:55 4 hours

No Haldol because all I have are the crappy generics.

[note: They gave me blue (or was it green?) Haldols in the hospital.  My local pharmacy gave me orange Haldols.  The pharmacy’s Haldols don’t work very well, so I don’t bother taking them.  I had been taking Haldol PRN for It and the Haldol worked very well inpatient.]

What happened: It came just as I was getting ready to leave the house to see my T.  I had been so confident and convinced that It would never return [I hadn’t gotten It for the entire day Thursday] that I had not taken a Haldol at 8am.  It was so hard and confusing to get ready and pack my belongings.  I managed to get to my appointment okay.  The most difficult part was when I couldn’t find the exit from the Red Line train when it arrived at Park Street.  At my T’s waiting room I wrote a quick note explaining that I was experiencing It.  I couldn’t figure out how to fill my water bottle so I left it empty.  Our session was difficult.  It was, at times, hard to tune in to what my T was saying, and at other times I could understand completely.  Either way, her words went by too fast for me.  My thoughts were not right and I could not express myself properly.  I was fully aware of this but could not control my thoughts.  After a while, It began to lessen, and I was able to speak a little.  It is weird how scary it was, but I wasn’t the least bit afraid.

After our session, when I got into the station, the train overshot the platform a little, and I nearly walked over the edge, onto the train tracks.  For some reason, I wasn’t freaked out by this. I just accepted it.  It was completely gone at 2:55 when I got home.

3:30-4:15 45 minutes

I just sat quietly drinking a cup of coffee until It went away.  I sat very still.

5:45-6:30 45 minutes

I decided to try sitting quietly again.  It worked.

Notes: I have decided, based on my last two experiences with It, that I need to be left alone while It is happening.  I plan to make a large DO NOT DISTURB sign that I can hang on my door.  I will call the housing manager and let him know that housing personnel (repair guys, exterminators, etc) should not enter or knock when the sign is displayed. I will give a brief explanation.  He is a very kind man who cares deeply about his tenants.  We are lucky to have him.

IT BREAKS MY HEART TO DO THIS, but I printed out ths application for The Ride [the “handicapped” transportation system–it is a door-to-door service that transports people who can’t take regular public transportation] about an hour ago and filled it out.  My responses were completely honest, and it is obvious that I need this service.  To one question, I responded, “Neither I nor my doctors know what it is at this time.  At times, I am mentally confused and have trouble with my balance.  I cannot stand in a moving bus.  I cannot safely walk to the bus stop.  I cannot safely navigate in a subway station.”

From now on, I will carefully observe PUZZLE.  I will see if she shows any signs (whimpering, sniffing, looking uncomfortable, etc) before It comes.  Today, she jumped on me.  She never does that.  If she can “tell” me, then this would mean a world of difference to me.  I do know know what time it was that she jumped on me, though.

I need to temporarily suspend my gym membership.  I have to find out how to do this.  It is not safe for me to run on a treadmill right now, or be around potentially dangerous equipment.  I HATE NOT RUNNING.

I need to get the flight insurance form to Dr. P.  [I had been planning a trip that I had to cancel because I was in the hsopital, but had insurance on the tickets.]

I will have to do [the online grocery delivery service called Peapod] until I can get The Ride.  I see no other way.  I can also safely use the convenience store, and walk to Watertown Square, and just walk home quickly if I sense It coming.  I’ll have time.

I can’t walk Puzzle anywhere right now because of the snow.  When the snow is gone, there are a variety of routes we can do that allow us a chance to quicly get home if It starts.  I NEVER take Puzzle out when I am experiencing It of course not!

How do I feel about all this?  Why am I not angry?  Why am I so accepting of my fate?  Is this old sickness of 1996-97 so familiar that I have just fallen back into this old pattern?  The truth is, there is no way to fight it.  I have tried walking it off.  I have tried doing tricks in my head to keep my thoughts from jumbling.  It is like trying to put out a house fire with a flyswatter.  It can’t be done.  L says, “Stop embracing your illness.”  Well, fuck you, L.  Tell a cancer patient to stop embracing his tumor.

I must have pushed my feelings deep, deep inside me, because right now I probably have this inner anger that this horrible thing has happened to me.  I do not feel that anger, though, but it must be there.  How could it not be?  Maybe it came out when one day I said “fuck you” to a staff person at the hospital.  Well, she deserved it [for treating me like a child and very condescendingly], but maybe it was a little of this anger inside me that caused me to swear at her instead of just turning away.

The Puzzle Cure Experiment Results

Results:

I found that I was unable to give myself a standing dose of Puzzle.  I was unable to do Intensive Petting while I was not experiencing It.  I am only able to do Intensive Petting while experiencing It, for some reason.  Weird.  Maybe it is only possible while my thoughts are mixed up, or otherwise altered.

I tried–again–using doses of Puzzle PRN.  This did not work to rid myself of It.  Two or three times I tried the Puzzle Cure and all times Intensive Petting did not work.

I did, however, notice that my Puzzle and I were of course in synch while engaged in Intensive Petting, and that my thoughts are aligned with her, and this means that my thoughts are aligned–with something. I tried conversing with her.  “I love you, Puzzle!” I said, again and again.  “I love you, Puzzle!”  I said a bunch of other things but I forget now what I said.  I don’t know if I was making sense but I believe I was.

Then, I tried another experiment.  I picked up the phone–still petting Puzzle–and dialed my T’s number.  I tried to leave her a message regarding our appointment time on Wednesday, but found that the spell was broken and my thoughts were again about as jumbled as they had been before.  I was barely able to get the words out.

Puzzle and I…in synch…I can speculate a lot about this experiment.  What power she has!  No matter what It is, whether It is a seizure or a weird type of depression, I don’t think Dr. P or my T will be all that surprised by this.

Oh wow Puzzle

I may be onto something.  Today I petted Puzzle twice to “cure” It.  The first time, as I may have stated, the “Puzzle Cure” worked almost instantly.  The second time, the “Puzzle Cure” took about 10 minutes.  Now, when you consider that Puzzle doesn’t shed, I’d say there are absolutely no side effects to this medicine.  You won’t get Tardive Dyskinesia.  You won’t get dry mouth or constipation.  You don’t have to fight the insurance companies to get “approval” for her and there’s no “copay.”  Yes, there’s a lot of care you have to do, but isn’t it a joyful thing?  You can’t overdose on a dog, after all.  Hardly.  Ever take a pill to the vet?  Consider the cost of a drug that hasn’t come out in generic yet such as Abilify, and add all the other meds I take, and you’ll see that dog ownership is much, much cheaper.

Actually, after having petted Puzzle twice today, about two hours apart, I feel clearer than I have felt in a number of days now.  That says a lot.

Okay.  This is not regular petting.  I already have a name for it: Intensive Petting.  You do it a certain way.  I have already learned it instinctively out of dire necessity.  I need this dog.  Always have.  She needs me, too.

So tomorrow, this is what I will try: Because there are no side-effects, I can be on a “standing dose” of Puzzle.  That is, I can get as much Puzzle as I want with no ill effects.  I plan to pet Puzzle before her walk tomorrow for as long as it takes to clear my head.  This will be very frustrating for her, so I don’t know how well it will work.  We’ll see.  Then I will set the “Puzzle timer” on my watch, that will ring every two hours.  I plan to pet Puzzle every two hours.  That should hold me for the day.  Let’s see how that works.

Wish us the best.

Regarding “It”

I went into McLean Hospital with the diagnosis of depression, and of course, anorexia.  I left the hospital more concerned about It, which seemed to be some kind of psychosis, than anything else.  In the hospital I was treated with medication that helped me with depression, my ridiculous constant crying, and binge urges.  However, I still had the mental confusion that started two days after I ran the 5k.  It was there only a tiny bit then, and I hardly noticed it, but it has gotten worse and worse.  Here are the notes I have written for my T and my Dr. P.  I actually wrote these last Tuesday and added to them just now:

INFO FOR DR. P AND MY T (WRITTEN WHILE I WAS FEELING OKAY)

Added to (in boldface) 1/30/11

I used to call it The Thing when I was 38-39.  I think that I should have a new name for it now because I am older, and hopefully, wiser.  I turned 53 in the hospital. My new name for it is “It.”

This is what happens, as I described to the social worker at the hospital, my doctor at the hospital, and my T:

First of all, I get pressure in my head.  Kind of a gooey feeling.  Not exactly a headache.  It is not painful at all.  In 1996 and 1997, this feeling ended up lasting for a fair portion of the day.  Lately, this has occasionally been the case.

Secondly, I get unsteadiness on my feet.  I rock back and forth as I stand.  Not dizziness at all, just rocking.  Lately, the rocking has started way before the head pressure starts.  Correction: The rocking is something else entirely I think.  This dizzy spell hits me suddenly and is much, much more intense.  It lasts 10 to 15 minutes.  It is kind of a spinning around feeling–sometimes.  Sometimes it is an up and down feeling.  Music makes it worse.

I get tingling around my lips, and occasionally my entire lips and jaw area.  Lately, I’ve been getting tingling around my upper arms as well.

Then, confusion.  My thoughts are all jumbled.  They make no sense to me.  Still, I am able to speak and communicate with others, but barely.  At this point, I am completely uncertain as to whether I am making any sense at all.

It gets worse.  I can no longer speak in sentences and don’t make much sense.  It is interesting that I am generally aware of this but can’t control it.  It’s like my thoughts aren’t right so I can’t get the right words out.  Once, when I was in this state, I was given a PRN, and spilled the water all over myself while trying to drink it.

Sometimes, I have heard people whisper about me saying that I am fat.  I thought these whisperings were real until a staff person said that they were not.  Once, I heard someone say aloud that I had gained weight, and after that, everything was said aloud about how much weight I’d gained.  Again, I was pretty sure this was real and am still reasonably certain that it happened.  This has stopped.

If this problem is allowed to continue, at its worst, I sit down, and cannot get back up to a standing position.  This has not happened since the hospital.

In 1997, I had a problem I called “torture,” which was a phase of The Thing in which The Thing performed mental torture on me, but I was able to verbally communicate with others.  This returned as of today 1/30/11.  It seems to be progressing rapidly, and I find this concerning.

In the hospital, Haldol stopped this problem in 15-30 minutes, 45 on rare occasions.  So I know now to take Haldol when I know it has started.  The generic Haldols I received from the pharmacy take way too long to kick in, so I do not use them.  They are a different brand.

Petting Puzzle works amazingly well.  Once, she stopped It immediately.  The next time I tried, she stopped It in 10 minutes.

It generally lasts for 45 minutes to four hours.

NOTES:

It is interesting that while this is going on, even when I cannot make sense of my thoughts, I am able to write in pencil and make a fair amount of sense in my writing.  I do not write in pen for a variety of reasons, mostly because I need to erase.  While this is happening, typing on a keyboard, I learned, is next to impossible.  Although I am able to operate a mouse without any difficulty, I cannot touch-type.  I can only use my right index finger and look at the keyboard, and then look at the screen, and I do this ridiculously slowly.

While this is going on, I do not feel hunger, nor do I feel the urge to urinate.  I am generally unable to eat, but I am able to force myself to drink water.

In 1996 and 1997 I had every test in the book done: MRI, EEG, EEG telemetry, even hormone testing, and they found nothing wrong.  Actually, they thought I was faking The Thing.  They didn’t believe a word I said, and treated me for Borderline Personality Disorder instead.  This was at McLean Hospital, believe it or not.  At one point, they took me off my antipsychotic medication, saying there was no need for it.  That didn’t work out too well, so they put me back on it.  I am thankful that this is 2011 and now people are taking me seriously.

I have tried to put a finger on it with no luck.  First, I thought it was from bingeing.  Back then, it only lasted for very brief periods, and I was more distressed over the bingeing and depression, and just thought that this new thing was a result of bingeing.  Then, I thought it was from depression.  I blamed the Trileptal, and had the entire dose moved to the nighttime, no luck.  Then I blamed the Abilify and had that moved to nighttime, no luck.  Then I thought it was caffeine.  I did a day without caffeine–no luck.  The nurse suggested it may be increased stimulation.  Well, it is happening at home where there are no people to bother me.  I give up.  I cannot put a finger on any cause.

I called 911 yesterday.  I called 911 many times in 1996 and 1997 because of The Thing.  I do not know why I pushed the panic button yesterday and thought I was going to die.  I was not having a panic attack.  Maybe it was the confusion that did it.

This is probably unrelated:   Suddenly, I no longer have double vision.  This is weird because I had double vision, vertical diplopia, for ages.  But I have had significant vision change and need to see the eye doctor right away because I can’t see out of my glasses.   I saw the eye doctor last month and he said I needed new glasses, but I know there have been more changes since then.  He referred me to an eye muscle specialist to see about the double vision.  Guess I don’t need to make the appointment.

It took me 45 minutes to get dressed this morning.  I think that it was just starting up then.

This tends to apply only to getting dressed and nothing else.  I don’t know why getting dressed is so difficult for me.

I keep asking myself: How am I going to manage?  In 1996-1997, I had Joe to help me out.  It was really taxing on him, actually.   He was literally picking me up from the floor sometimes.  He drove me to appointments, took me grocery shopping, stayed with me overnight when I needed him, called doctors for me, even came with me to the emergency room a couple of times.  Of course, those things–ending up on the floor, and having to go to the ER–aren’t going to happen, because now I have the Haldol, or whatever medication I use, but still, it is next to impossible to manage day-to-day things.

My priority, of course, is Puzzle.  I seem to be able to do everything for her okay.  It must be the human-dog bonding that enables this.  See above.  This is why it is essential that I stay out of the hospital, because I really need Puzzle, and she needs me.

There is so, so much more that I want to say, but I will leave off here.

I have been keeping an “It notebook,” which I will copy into my blog here (maybe I’ll edit a bit, not sure).  I write it in pencil in an olive green 7×5 notebook.  I write quite a bit about It.

Dr. P wants me to get a full neurological workup.  She say It might be some form of simple partial seizure.  She has also said it might be some weird form of depression.  We don’t know yet.  I’m seeing my primary care doctor Tuesday, and she will refer me to the staff neurologist.  I will probably have an EEG.  If it is a sleep-deprived EEG, then I am not looking forward to it.

I feel as though my life has really gone downhill because of It.  I can no longer safely ride public transit (in Boston, we call it the “T”).  I spend much of my days fighting this thing off.  I can’t get anything done.  I only discovered the “Puzzle cure” today.  It took me from Monday, when I got out of the hospital, till yesterday, Saturday, before I was able to do laundry, vacuum, and even unpack my suitcase.  I can no longer navigate in an airport, so airplane travel is impossible.  I can’t walk more than ten minutes from home.  Why?  Because if It starts, I’ve got ten minutes before confusion sets in.  I can’t walk Puzzle until It is over.  I can’t use the stove to cook anything that takes more than ten minutes.  That means lentils and eggs.  Rice isn’t okay.  I put in a bid for a rice cooker/vegetable steamer on ebay.  Let’s see if I get it.  And face my mother?  Forget it.  I can’t go grocery shopping right now until I get the handicapped transportation, which won’t be for another three weeks.  I’ll have to use the local online delivery service.  And sadly, I can no longer go to the gym–or run.  At least I experienced the joy of one 5k.

It is identical to The Thing, which I experienced in 1996 and 1997.  I called The Thing and Evil Being that lived in my head.  No one believed me about The Thing.  At least they believe me now about It, and are taking me seriously.

I do not know how long this will last.  But I have this weird feeling that I’m in it for the long haul.

A week of post-race blues wiped me out…and gave me a new idea

Sunday the 19th: the race.  I was tired afterward.  A little sore.  Overwhelmed.  Flooded with emotion.  I certainly didn’t have the words to describe, here, what I felt, so I waited a while before writing to you and telling you the whole story.  Monday came.  Then Tuesday.  And I crashed.

I didn’t tell you the whole story, and now I will: I started bingeing again.  I’ve stopped now, but it lasted a full week.  By the end of it, I was utterly despondent, and in my desperation, wished myself dead.  That’s what bingeing does to me.  In a mere week.

The first time, my body was overwhelmed.  I became dizzy and nearly fainted.  My heart pounded, too.   For the past several days, my ankles have swelled up very badly.  Only in the past several hours have they come down to almost normal size.  It is a good thing that I didn’t binge on sugar.  Nope.  Nothing sugary.  Otherwise, I do not know what would have happened to me.  Seriously.

As Frank and I always say, “We are too old for this.”  But trust me, eating disorders are dangerous at any age.

Meanwhile, I was very depressed.  My T suggested that this may have been the cause of the bingeing.  I also spoke with Dr. P during this time, and we all agreed that post-race blues had a lot to do with it, as well as losing my old T, the fact that my foot was hurting and I had to take a couple of days off from running, the fact that it is winter, and cold out, and my new T being on vacation, and the “holidays,” which I always spend alone, but this year have been blessed to spend, via skype, with Frank.

Let me digress for a moment:  It is difficult hearing about how others decorate their trees, and have their friends and family visiting, and photograph their grandchildren with Santa.  It is difficult to hear Christmas Carols blasting in the stores when I am Jewish and don’t care to hear them, and Christmas decorations that mean only sadness to me and sad associations.  But most of all, and I say this with immense anger and grief, it is very difficult for me, knowing that my brothers spend every Christmas with their in-laws and have not once invited me to join them, even though they know I am alone for the holiday.  There, I said it.

Okay, back to subject: Frank was immensely helpful to me during this horrible time.  It is such an amazing thing to know someone who has been through the same things that I have, who I can relate to, and say, “Yes, that’s happened to me, too!”  So many times, we are in synch, we have this understanding, we “get it” in a way that no one else can.  We even have our own code words for things.  When you’re in a special relationship, you tend to get this way.

Frank was very patient with me and always is.  I can’t believe he put up with me the whole time.  I cried a whole lot.  I was scared.  I was needy.  I depended on him too much.  He gave me a good talking-to, and made a number of suggestions.  And I took him very, very seriously, listened carefully, and heeded all his advice.

As I said, it took a week.  Finally, I’m out of it and doing okay.  I am no longer depressed and I have stopped bingeing, and dare to eat solid food today.   I am still bracing myself for the worst, but this is diminishing.  I must say, though, that I no longer live in constant terror.

You know something, though?  I’m crazy as a loon with this ED.  Today at the gym I was running and did something real dumb.  There is a fine line between exercising for fitness and exercising to burn off calories and lose weight when I don’t need to (overexercising).  Well, today it was the latter, I admit.  I was running on the treadmill and last week’s bingeing kinda got the better of my body and I had to move my bowels.  Did I stop running?  No!  I felt the urge around .3 miles, and kept going.  Around .5 miles I was getting worried that I would lose control of myself.  Around one mile, I was reasonably certain that I was indeed letting loose.  A mile and a half went by, then two miles, and I was convinced that I had gone to the bathroom in my underwear.  Did I stop?  No!  This is the insanity of my ED.  Finally, I stopped the treadmill at 2.3, walked quickly to the bathroom, and checked myself out.  I was fine… no accident whatsoever.  Good.  Then: back on the treadmill for another mile.   I must have been really desperate to burn some serious calories.

Let me back up, though: One thing that helped me during that tough week was my decision…drum roll…I AM DOING ANOTHER NANO IN FEBRUARY!  end of drum roll.  I am doing this one on my own because February is not National Novel Writing Month.  November is.  I will spend January writing the outline and February doing the actual writing, just like I did for Nano 2010.  I made this decision a few days ago, and it has helped me knowing that I am going to have some grand purpose, some reason to go on after all, some project to keep me going.

Agreeably, I have one heck of a lot of revision to do at this point.  The heck with it.  I will leave the revision for another time, and write something new.  I am doing this for my sanity, after all.

I have no title.  I do have ideas.  The book will be about running.  About someone who runs.  There will be a race involved.  The book will be sad.  Sorry.  I am determined to write a sad book, because you’d assume a book about running a race would end up with the guy, or gal, winning the race.  Well, not mine.  You’ll see.

My T suggested that I begin working on this book immediately, and not necessarily on January 1st.  So I started today.  Yeah, today.  I got out of the house and went to the library, sat down with Book in a Month by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, and jotted down some story ideas in a notebook.  Also, I put in requests at the library for some books on running to use as references.  I’ll let you know which of these I find useful, and why.

I am not going to tell you much about what will happen in this book.  No, not yet.  I hope to get a title soon, though.  It is helpful to have a title to “frame” the work.  Or a “working title.”  I learned this from Bea Gates, one of my advisors at Goddard.

On your mark, get set, GO!

Comments on the book, “Skinny Bitch” on Amazon – Check out this link

I found the following comments on the book, Skinny Bitch on Amazon.  I do not plan to support these authors by buying their book!  I would like to see a copy to see if I can add to the discussion somehow, but not by making a purchase of any kind.  But would I, skinny bitch, dare be seen checking this book out of the library?  (More anorexic paranoia, I suppose.)

Here’s the link:

http://www.amazon.com/review/R2LVT0WBBC3RU3/ref=cm_cr_dp_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=0762424931&nodeID=283155&tag=&linkCode=#wasThisHelpful

This Hunger Is Secret is now available for the Kindle!

My memoir, This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness is now available for instant download for the Kindle.

Click here:

http://www.amazon.com/This-Hunger-Secret-Journeys-ebook/dp/B004APA4DY/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1293212634&sr=8-3

For information about my book, go to:

http://www.juliegreene.name/This_Hunger_Is_Secret.html

My First 5k–Ever: The Winter Classic 5k, an account by Julie Greene

Tonight, I felt like giving up.  I was at wit’s end with myself, my eating disorder, and the world.  I wanted to hide and never be seen again.  I had to shower, but did not want to take off my clothes and have to see my ugly body.  So I kept my clothes on.  I cried some.  I felt very, very cold.  Eventually, I called Frank.

“Julie,” he said, “you just ran a 5k.  You didn’t give up then.  You didn’t stop running, did you?”

“Uh, no.”

“Well, you just have to keep going on.”

“I’m cold.”

“Then put something warm on.”

I did.  I sat at the computer a while, feeling lonely, just thinking, feeling like a complete failure.  How could I feel this way, when I had accomplished so much?

I am reminded of many of the times when I had accomplished great things in my life.  Depression had frequently followed.  Often, when a writer such as myself completes a major project, he or she becomes depressed.  It is like letting a baby out into the world.  You just have to let the child go and make her way into the larger universe.

So I went back and opened the file that Frank had sent me.  He had so cleverly created this document: It was a listing of the 5k race results, with my name highlighted, with ribbons around it, and my photo next to it–the photo of me, crossing the finish line.  And whenever I opened the document, I heard the theme from Chariots of Fire.  I keep on going back to it, and opening it, and scrolling down to my name, and listening to the music, and crying, and crying, and crying.

I feel a great sense of loss now that it is over.  An intense feeling of sadness.  Over a month of building up my guts to do this, and a month of running 5k daily to get ready, and a week of a bad case of “nerves.”  And then, 34 minutes, and it was over.

I am reminded of the stories about 16-year-old boys who go out on their first dates.  Only theirs lasts less than 34 minutes.

I remember when I first decided to do this race.  I first Googled, “How many miles is 5k?”  I came up with roughly 3.1.  The Winter Classic 5k was 3.12, so when I practiced on the treadmill, that was how much I ran.  On the track, I ran 3.25, or 13 laps.  But when I realized that I could actually run 5k, 3.1 miles, I Googled “5k races in Boston” and came up with the Winter Classic 5k in Cambridge, Massachusetts (which is right near Boston and one bus ride away from where I live) on December 19, 2010 at 10:30am.  Perfect, I thought.  Frank thought it was perfect, too.

I told a few people.  Some were skeptical.  “Are you sure you’re eating enough to do this?” they asked.

Yes, they had reason to be concerned.  It had been only a few months since I had started eating again after a long period of self-starvation called anorexia nervosa.  Surely, they thought, wasn’t I just finding another way to keep from gaining weight?  But yes, I was eating enough, and gaining.  Slowly.  Bite by bite.

My therapist, too, was less than thrilled.  She wanted to discourage me from doing this race.  I had to reassure her that I would eat, eat, eat and that I was not “overexercising.”  As therapy proceeded, she forgot about the race, and I stopped talking about it, only because I didn’t want her to bum me out about it anymore.

You see, I run for many reasons:  I run because I find that I enjoy it.  I run because running is being kind to your body.  I run because running helps you live longer and gives you strong bones and builds your muscles and cardiovascular system, and every system of your body.  I run because it improves my mood and my self-esteem.  I run because it helps me feel better about my body, this vessel that I have treated so badly for so long.

For you see, I have had this eating disorder for 30 years.  Sometimes, it has been very bad and other times it has been only there a little bit.  But always, there has been this relentless desire to be ridiculously thin.  It simply does not go away.  I can choose to strive for thinness, or I can fight the urge to starve myself.  At different times, it has gone either way.  But the desire never stops.  It is like running a race with someone following you–close behind.

Last summer, I only wanted to starve myself to death.  I had no will to live.  Then, I found Frank.  Suddenly, I didn’t want to die. Frank and I started eating together via Skype.  I gained back some strength.  Whereas in August I was struggling just to walk across the apartment from room to room due to starvation, by October I was walking the dog for miles and miles, and my heart was filled with joy.

Frank encouraged me to try running, something I had done in my 40’s (I’ll be 53 in a couple of weeks) so I did.  I found that because of all the walking I was doing, running came easily.  Right away, I could run a mile.  The next attempt I made at running, I ran a mile and a half, and then two and a half miles.  The next time, I ran 5k, and have been running 5k ever since.

So when I found out about the Winter Classic, I made a point of running 5k daily.  Even now that the race is over, I plan to run 5k daily, possibly increasing my mileage now that I am faster.  I found that as I ran, my speed increased once every couple of days.  It was amazing that this was happening.  I kept turning the treadmill up a notch.  On the track, my speed would increase on the third mile.  I have logs of my daily progress in my journal.  Sometimes, I timed myself.  Other times, I didn’t.  I tried out different music, and wrote about some of my runs.

Race day was rapidly approaching.  I began to get very, very nervous.  I practiced everything.  I watched the weather obsessively.  I wrote down what clothes I wore at what temperatures, and what worked best.  I tried to pretend it was race day, and ran at 10:30 on the nose, waking up a the exact same time, eating the exact same foods I would be eating, and drinking coffee at the exact same time.  It worked.  I had it down.  I knew exactly what to do.

I received an e-mail instructing me to go to the Asgard, a bar in Central Square, Cambridge, to pick up race materials, on Saturday, December 18th.  Great.  This would be my practice run.  The commute over there.  I took the same bus in there that I would be taking in on race day, the #71, and transferred onto the subway.  Once I got off the subway, I found that I was walking in the wrong direction somehow, but got headed the right way, and found the Asgard okay.  Fifty minutes.  A bunch of drunken Santas walked out of the Asgard as I arrived.

The race folks were very nice.  They handed me an envelope, a bag, and a white race shirt, size small.  In the envelope is a hat that says “Winter Classic 5k” on it.  Inside the envelope, I would find out later, are a bib with the number 167 on it, and a computer chip, which looks like an arm band.  I assumed this was supposed to be worn on my arm.  The computer chip is used to measure the time it takes to run the race.  They also gave me some pins to attach the bib to my jacket.  The envelope even had my name on it!  It was official!

The night before, I had one last skype with Frank before the race the next day.  He gave me his last words of advice, then we had a skype hug goodnight.  We made plans that I would call him on my cell phone as soon as the race was over.

The one piece of advice I remember that just about everyone gave me was, “Enjoy yourself.”  But this is something you can’t plan on. It just has to happen.  I slept that night better than I have in a long, long time.

I awoke 40 minutes before my normal wake-up time, at 3:50am, not realizing what day it was.  Suddenly, I knew.  I am running the race today!  I am running the race today!  I am running the race today!  I got up and got dressed.  Brushed my teeth very, very well.  Decided, contrary to plan, to have a morning cup of coffee.  I took some aspirin.  This was planned.  At 6, I had a banana, an egg, and a glass of milk, and my vitamins.  I checked the weather obsessively.  At 6:30, I got ready to walk the dog, Puzzle.  I brushed her teeth.  We were out the door at precisely 6:45, and we walked our planned 35-minute walk, listening to the music that I had planned for that morning.  I was wearing two layers of longjohns under leggings, legwarmers, silk socks under cotton socks, my race shirt, and the usual jackets I wear while walking Puzzle.  For the race, I had planned to wear only the long-sleeve T and a windbreaker over it.

I came back in with Puzzle, fed her, and did the rest of our morning routine.  My friend skyped me to wish me good luck.  We spoke briefly.  Then at 8 I had some yogurt with wheat germ and brewer’s yeast.  There was a lot of waiting around and time to get nervous, but everything was so well-planned that I felt secure and reasonably confident that things would go okay.

I had my checklist, and went over it a number of times.  Keys.  Check.  Kleenex.  Check.  Cell phone.  Check.  I had to make sure that whatever pocket I put my cell phone in, it wouldn’t bounce around while I was running.  I tested this out and worked it out okay.  Bus schedules.  Check.  Bus pass, called, here in Boston, the “Charlie Card.”  Check.  I checked and double-checked, and refreshed the weather.com screen obsessively.  It was going to be about 36 degrees out at race time, or so I thought, 38 degrees at the warmest part of the day.  Supposedly.  But it was due to be a good bit colder than that at the time I’d be walking to the bus, so I made a trash bag with holes in it, and I decided that I’d wear this to the bus stop.  Smart thinking: it worked perfectly.

At around 8:45, I got ready.  I had to work fast.  I pinned the bib to my jacket, then pulled the plastic bag over me, and I was off.  I walked–fast–to the bus stop, arriving at 9:03.  The bus was due to leave at 9:10, but I knew it would leave a minute early.  This was planned.  It did.

As soon as I got on the bus, I took off the plastic bag.  I unzipped my jacket’s armpits, and took the caffeine pill I’d packed for myself, and at my race food: a half peanut butter sandwich, a banana, and a small amount of orange juice.  All planned.  All written down.  I even had a reminder beep on my watch tell me to do these things.  The bus was nearly empty, and arrived in Harvard Square four minutes ahead of schedule.  I disembarked, and headed for the subway.  Here, a street musician was playing, but I had no time to give him money, because the train arrived just as I got there.  One stop, and I exited the train, and had arrived in Central Square.

Wow, it was colder than expected!  Jeez!  I was wondering if perhaps I should have put on more clothes.  Perhaps it would warm up, though.  Weather, especially in New England, is very, very hard to predict.  Apparently, the other racers were surprised by the weather as well, or so I found out when I reached the Asgard.  People were shivering and rubbing their hands together.  But everyone was in good spirits.  I tried to talk to people.  But nobody wanted to talk to me.  People knew each other.  Everyone had someone–a friend, a fellow racer, a spouse–someone else to hang out with, and didn’t want to bother with me.  So I just hung around and picked up bits and pieces of information when I could.  Mostly, I wanted to know where the bathrooms were, and if there were lines for them.  I learned that there was a heated tent at the start/finish line.  So I wandered over there, and found the tent to be cozy enough.  I used the latrine.  I had brought my own toilet paper, just in case they had run out of it.  I figured I’d think of all possibilities.  My major concern was that I didn’t throw my gloves into the latrine by accident.

Announcements on the loudspeaker indicated that the race would start in ten minutes.  People seemed to ignore this and mill about.  I knew where the start line was, but I didn’t know where to go.  Some of the people didn’t know, either.  I would have followed everyone else, but no one was going anywhere.  At the last minute, I tightened my shoelaces, and tested them out, adjusted them again, tested them, and was satisfied.  Another announcement indicated that the race would begin in five minutes.  Finally, a formation was beginning.  I figured out where the end of the line was.  I wanted to be near the end of the pack, where the slower runners were lining up.

How would the race begin?  How would I know to start running?  I stood there, jogged in place, stopped, jogged in place again, and waited.  Then, suddenly, people started running!  A horn honked!  We were off!  At some point, I crossed the start line.  I was racing!  I was racing!  I was racing!

The race starts and ends on Sidney Street, but most of it is on Massachusetts Avenue, between Sidney Street and Harvard Square, Cambridge, and back.    I think I had to run about a quarter mile before getting onto Mass Ave.  At this point, I was beginning to warm up and get into a rhythm.  I am familiar with this “warming up” phase from my frequent track runs, when I run awkwardly for the first lap, and gradually gain confidence over the course of the next few laps.  But this was a race.  This was different.  I wasn’t listening to music.  All I heard was the slap of the other runners’ shoes on pavement, and the honking of horns, and panting breath, and occasional conversation.  This was a race.

Would I finish last?  At first, many people were passing me, and I worried a little that this would be the case.  I stepped up my pace a little.  Soon, I was passing others.  Eventually, I passed more people than passed me.  By the end of the race, many people whom I had passed were alternating running with walking.  But it didn’t take long before I stopped thinking about whether I would come in last or not.

No, I wasn’t thinking about that.  I wasn’t thinking about anything but what was ahead of me: the road.   I wasn’t thinking about my dog, Puzzle.  I wasn’t thinking about Frank.  I wasn’t thinking about food, or calories, or how much I weighed.  I wasn’t worrying about my eating disorder, that silently follows me everywhere I go.

I did, in a fleeting moment, remember, that there was a time that I wanted to die, and now I am running this race, running to celebrate living.

But the road was ahead of me, and I had to concentrate on it.  Every bump.  Every crack.  Every little nuance.  Because tripping could mean falling.  Falling could mean getting injured, breaking a bone, even.  Concentrate, concentrate.

And at once, I was only thinking of that.  I had no body.  I had no legs.  I had no arms.  I had no feet.  I did not feel them.  There was only the road ahead of me.  I was totally focused.  Zoned in.  My eyes were fixed on one spot ahead of me all the time.  I never looked back.

And I knew I was speeding up.  It was early on that I felt this.  I began to feel my body zooming, the way I race around when I walk Puzzle, faster than I knew I should be running ordinarily…but this is a race, I kept telling myself, this is a race!  It’s okay to go fast!  I felt the ground go by underneath me the way it has never moved before.  I felt my muscles propel me the way they have never done in the past.  This is a race!  It’s okay!  And as the race moved on, I moved faster and faster.

I began to recognize the streets.  We were coming back to Central Square and near the end of the third mile.   The race was almost over.

I didn’t speed up when I realized this.  Not at first.  I kept telling myself that I wouldn’t, that it wouldn’t make much difference if I sped up or not.  But this is a race, and people speed up at the finish line, just to get to the end faster, I suppose, and because they get caught up in the excitement.  As it was, I was caught up in excitement tenfold.  So I sped up along with the others.

As I neared the end of the race, people along the sidelines were clapping and cheering!  For me!  I could hear them!  Step by step, I bounded down the road toward the markers, and crossed the finish line.

And that was it.  They asked us to hand in our computer chips.  I took mine off my arm and put it in the bucket.  I went and tried to stretch, but there was really no place to lean on.  Then I noticed how tired my muscles were.  This was no ordinary run!  I realized that I had run fast, possibly the fastest I’d ever run 5k.  Not knowing what to do next, I wandered into the celebration area, where people were already lining up for beer.

Beer?  After a run?  Really?  The eating disorder in me thought about the calories in beer.  I tried to find water, but couldn’t find it.  A woman offered me a sports drink I’d never heard of.  “Try it,” she said.  “It replenishes.”

“Huh?”

“It’s made of pear juice.  It’s like Gatorade.”

Really like Gatorade?”

“Yes, really.”

What I meant was…well, you can guess.  I took the can, reluctantly.  And at once, when no one was looking, I glanced at the label, and looked at the calorie count.  Yes, I admit it, I did just that.  And then I drank the stuff.

I was thirsty.

I began to ask around about race times.  Apparently, there was a list posted.  After a lengthy attempt to find the list, I finally did find it, and searched, and searched, and searched for my name everywhere, and not finding it, began to suspect that something had gone wrong with my computer chip.  So I located the van where they were tallying the times, and inquired.

“Are you sure you had your chip attached?” the guy asked.

“Yep, I’m sure,” I said.

“Where did you have it attached?  It apparently didn’t register.”

“I had it on my arm.”

“Oh, you were supposed to have it on your ankle. The reader only goes up to your knee.  Anything above that doesn’t register.”

“My ankle?  My ankle!  No one told me!  There were no instructions!  I thought it was supposed to go on your arm!”

“Sorry.  But do you know your time?  Did you time yourself?”

“No.  But I’ve got a good idea.  Thirty-four minutes.  Can you write that down?  Can you write me in?  Can you?  Please?”

So as it turned out, I got written in.  I will never know what my actual time was, but I’m certain that it was around 34 minutes.  That’s just under 11 minutes per mile.  Not bad, considering I’m almost 53 years old.  I’m sure Puzzle is proud of me.

I phoned Frank, but I couldn’t reach him.  I guess he had stepped away from the phone at that moment.  But I left a message letting him know that I had finished the race, and how happy I was.

I checked the bus schedule.  I had only a couple of minutes to get to the bus, so I ran for it.  And made it to the bus stop just in time.  I called my brother while I was on the bus home.  He races, and he was very proud of me.  I told him that I was very surprised at how fast I ran.  “Julie, no one runs slowly in a race,” he said.  “So, when are you doing your next one?”

And now, a few days have passed.  I have run a couple of times since the race.  My legs feel good and my body feels strong.  I feel that I can now run for longer periods and longer distances.  I feel confident about my running and the soreness has worn off.

Perhaps now, as I write these words, and relive the experience, I realize what it all means now.  The first 5k for me meant more than just my first race, but a celebration of all the things I can do.  After all, I earned my master’s degree, didn’t I?  And how many books have I written?  Aren’t I also a mental illness survivor?  Haven’t I knitted 17, yes, 17 sweaters for Puzzle, and I love her oh so much?

But mostly, I eat, and eat enough, and care for my body, and honor and cherish it and celebrate all it can do.  And this is why I run this race.

And yes, I’m thinking about my next 5k.