What a feeding tube looks like

When I was at the ED hospital last March, I had a feeding tube in me.  Feeding tubes are put in your nose and they extend down into your stomach.  They put “tube feed” into a bag, and the bag has a tube that leads to the feeding tube.  A pump regulates how fast the “tube feed” goes into your stomach.  It sucks.

After nine days of tube feeding, one night at 3am, I woke up in the middle of the night in a rage and pulled my tube out.  I saved the tube.  I’ve photographed it here for you to see:

Why did I save it?  Did I want a souvenir of the hospital? Did I want to remind myself of what I never, never wanted, ever, ever again?  Or did I want to remind myself that I, Julie Greene, am a rebel, that I never wanted to gain the weight, that I had no intention of cooperating, that I wasn’t ready for “recovery,” whatever that is?

Was I aware, back then, of the slippery slope I was on, and would continue to slide down, even now?

When was the turning point?  Did I ever intend to cooperate with the hospital plan?  I don’t know. I don’t think so.  I don’t think the hospital is the answer for me.  If there are any answers, I don’t think we’ve hit upon them yet.

Today in therapy I compared anorexia to a merry-go-round.  Sometime, long ago, I hopped on the merry-go-round, and I haven’t wanted to get off.  Sometimes, people try to pull me off, but can’t.  I stay on.  The merry-g0-round is spinning faster and faster, getting out of control, and soon, it will spin so fast that I may in fact fall off–involuntarily–to a very dark place.

Maybe when I fall off, I’ll be okay.  Sometimes, people will get scared into recovery.  Like when I quit smoking.  I saw what it was doing to my lungs, the wheezing feeling it was giving me, and my dwindling budget, and I quit cold turkey.  You know, it was pretty easy.  Really.  I just stopped one day.  Saved a bundle of money and took up fitness walking.

Hopefully, it won’t take a heart attack or stroke to scare me into recovery.  Maybe this thing with my eyes will do it.  Maybe it will take something said by a specialist such as an ophthalmologist to make me snap to attention: You must eat or you will go blind.

Maybe I’ll jump off on my own.  It takes guts to jump off a moving vehicle. Maybe someday I’ll just get sick of being anorexic, give up this stupid fight, move over to the other side, and eat.  I don’t know if anyone remembers this old TV ad, but maybe that Tareyton commercial is wrong: maybe it’s better to switch than fight.

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My wonderful new book, This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness is now available  from Chipmunkapublishing–click here to access.  To read more about it at my home site, click here.

Double vision

I have double vision.  I see two of you.  I have two dogs named Puzzle so I have two dogs to walk and twice the vet bills.  I have two blogs called http://juliemadblogger.wordpress.com, therefore I must write twice as much.  I have two books out by the same title, both published on the same day.

Seriously, what could be the cause?  I went to my ophthalmologist a while back, who said that it was my thyroid.  That was corrected.  My thyroid levels are back to normal as of maybe six weeks ago.  Still, my vision is double. Maybe I have two heads.

That means two mouths to feed and I have to eat twice as much.  Oy.

I see my ophthalmologist in a couple of weeks for a follow-up.  Meanwhile, I did a web search and read about a horrible disease, myasthenia gravis.  I had never heard of it before, and don’t want to get it.  The first sign of it is double vision, and it is an eye muscle problem, which is what my ophthalmologist said was the cause of my double vision.

I also read–and know–that anorexia nervosa can affect every system of the body, and it weakens and atrophies the muscles.

This is only speculation here.  What do I know?

Here’s something I read about nutritional amblyopia.  Amblyopia is “lazy eye,” which causes double vision:

Nutritional amblyopia is often seen in alcoholics and those with severe nutritional deficiencies, especially in pernicious anemia, which is caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency. Complete recovery is possible with an improvement in diet and nutritional supplementation, but a prolonged deficiency can result in permanent loss of central vision. It is estimated that about two to three percent of children in the US have amblyopia.

I also read this:

Nutritional amblyopia, as the name suggests, occurs as a result of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Lack of vitamin A in the diet leads to blindness. A lack of zinc prevents the body from using adequate amounts of vitamin A stored in the body. Thiamine (B1) and B12 deficiencies may cause optic neuropathy and vision loss. Generally, intensive vitamin therapy and proper nutrition can restore lost vision.

Holy shit.

This should scare the crap out of me.  Just the suggestion–that this is at all possible–that this may be what is causing my double vision–should get me to eat, right?

Okay, so I ate two eggs tonight.  Or maybe it was one egg that looked like two.

This is not enough.  Get serious.  Snap out of it.

Seeing double, I step on two scales each week when I go for weigh-in, and I weigh double what I weigh now, right?  That should please them plenty.

Is it “okay” to make a joke about this?  I am joking to you now.  Is there any humor in my situation?  Is this a laughing matter?

You go to AA meetings and you hear laughter.  I’ve been to AA meetings.  I am not an alcoholic but I used to go to their meetings and found comfort–and humor–in the camaraderie and spirituality I found there.  Alcoholics joked about their past.  They called it “drunkalogues.”  They shared their mishaps with alcohol, their common experiences with and without the bottle, in and out of the bars, the alleyways, the rehabs and hospitals and meetings and homes of other alcoholics, and they shared and continue to share their hope and experience–and laughter.  Laughter is an essential part of AA.  It even brings in new members because it makes the meetings appeal to them and makes the meetings more interesting–fascinating, in fact.  It helps members relate to each other, which is essential.

Anorexia is also an addiction, as deadly as alcoholism. It is an addiction to hunger.  It is an addiction to starvation.  So why can’t we, too, laugh about our condition?  So why can’t we find relief, hope, strength, vision, connection–through humor?

Perhaps someday I will abandon starvation.  Just like that.  Perhaps someday I will just give it up.  Perhaps someday I will stop dieting, counting, craving thinness, loving the emptiness, the hunger, the desperation–perhaps someday I will just say, “enough.”  Maybe I will give it up, and walk away, and never look back.  Never look back.  Not once.  Not even halfway.  I will face forward, and never, never see double again.

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My wonderful new book, This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness is now available  from Chipmunkapublishing–click here to access.  To read more about it at my home site, click here.

About Chipmunkapublishing (my publisher)

Chipmunkapublishing is the Mental Health Publisher.  Their mental health books give a voice to writers with mental illness around the world. Most of their mental health books are written by people with mental health issues. They also give a voice to family members of people with mental health issues and other disabilities. Titles include autobiographies/memoirs, fiction, poetry, anthologies, stories written by carers, self help books, academic works and much more.

Chipmunkapublishers is a unique social enterprise focused on publishing both factual and creative literature. They  want to reduce the humiliation that people with “mental illness” feel. Chipmunkapublishers gives people with mental illness a voice so that they can have the opportunity and positive mindset to lead better lives and hopefully full recoveries. Do not let your children grow up not understanding people with mental health issues. Let’s improve society so that mental health artists can empower people with mental health issues and be equal in society. Then they can shape their future and help others.

Chipmunkapublishers works with the government, health services, the media, mental health organisations, charities and private businesses to successfully publish and promote literature that brings a positive attitude towards mental health issues. Chipmunkapublishing aims to break down the stigma on mental illness once and for all.

Chipmunkapublishing gratefully acknowledges the support of Arts Council England.

Chipmunkapublishing is creating a new genre of literature to empower the service user and break down the last taboo.

Adding value to people with mental illness helps economies. Enabling them to empower themselves saves lives. That means that by logging on now and purchasing their books or donating, you may have just been able to save a life. Support the humanitarian rights of the “mentally ill” and you will save the lives of people today and even future generations.

–from www.chipmunka.com

You can access my book, This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness at Chipmunka’s website here.

Note: This information can be accessed at one of my regular “pages” (off to the right near the top of the page) anytime.

On the bus–again

I went grocery shopping and bought some food at the co-op.  Today is the monthly discount day.  But that’s not what I want to talk to you about….

After grocery shopping, I caught the bus just as it was passing by. Luckily, I was able to find a window seat, which is my preference.  After a few stops, a skinny man got on.  He walked past me, then must have turned around, because he came back and sat right beside me.  Then, I began to wonder.

Eating disorders have mostly been investigated within the female population. To a large extent this is because of the apparent prevalence of eating disorders in women. On closer inspection however gender distributions of eating disorders show about 10 per cent of people with anorexia are men.

He wasn’t emaciated, just unusually skinny.  It showed not only in his physique, but in his face as well.  From his face I guessed that he was about my age.  He looked tired, and not particularly anxious.

There are a few occupations in which the demand for low body weights can lead to anorexia or bulimia; among them are horse racing, modelling, dancing, distance running and driving.

He was absorbed in his electronic device–an iphone I think.  He was wearing earbuds, so I knew he wasn’t paying complete attention to his surroundings, and definitely not focused on me–unless.  Unless he knew who I was.  Unless he was who I am.

In part, the hidden problem of eating disorders in men is cultural. Women tend to discuss emotions and psychological problems more than men. Anorexia and bulimia are perceived as a woman’s problems. Discussion of weight issues, weight control, linking thinness with beauty are common features in women’s magazines and so are eating disorders. Young women can therefore adopt the same behavior without it being seen as too socially unacceptable.

I then decided I needed to know.  I needed to know if he knew.  I needed to know if he was kin.  So I decided to catch his eye.  How was I going to do this without being rude?  Because if he wasn’t, and I stared at him, this was going to be very, very awkward.

To date the evidence suggests that the gender bias of clinicians mean that diagnosing either bulimia or anorexia in men is less likely despite identical behavior. Men are more likely to be diagnosed as suffering depression with associated appetite changes than receive a primary diagnosis of an eating disorder.

Suddenly, I saw my opportunity.  A man came on who recognized the skinny man beside me.  They shook hands, and the man who had come on sat behind us.  Slyly, I turned around and smiled at the new man.  Then, I caught the suspect’s eye.

Our eyes met.

He turned away.  I turned away.  There was no spark of recognition, no holding of eye contact for any extended period, no smile, no nod, no feeling in our brief encounter.  No, he was not one of us. Maybe he just doesn’t like to cook.

Maybe, though, my instinct is completely off here.

A large US study of adolescents reported in 1995 does show that significant numbers of young males experiencing problem weight control behavior.

  • 2%-3% of males diet all the time or more than ten times a year
  • 5%-14% of males deliberately vomit after eating
  • 12%-21% had a history of binge eating

It was time to get off the bus.  I asked the man to let me out of the seat.  I had to ask him twice, because he was so absorbed in his iphone.  I slipped through the rear door of the bus and onto the sidewalk, and headed home with the groceries I probably won’t eat.

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Quotes from about.com

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To download my book This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness in .pdf form from Chipmunkapublishing click here.

I’ve made some changes to www.juliegreene.name – check it out!

I’ve made some changes to www.juliegreene.name!  I want to make more.  Mostly, I updated the pages, stating that the book was currently available, and provided more links to the Chipmunka website where you can download the book.  It was a lot of work to do this.  Here’s the book download link again:

http://chipmunkapublishing.co.uk/shop/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=1709

Have a nice day!

Excerpt from This Hunger Is Secret – Book Available Now!

This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness is available now!  It has been published!

To download the book in .pdf form, click here.  The paperback will be coming out in May 2011.

Here’s an excerpt. Read about my funny parents here:

Family Therapy

“Julie’s not right with herself,” my mother put it during our first family session with Diana.  I’d been at Crossroads Day Treatment for about a month.

Diana asked, “Mrs. Greene, could you clarify?”

My mother waved her arms around dramatically.  “She doesn’t like herself, that’s all!”

“Erna,” said my father, “let the therapist talk.”

My mother went on, “Julie screams at us!  Throws things!  She raids the cookie bin when nobody’s around!”  My mother set her arms back into her lap and said quietly, “You know, I’ve had to lock up the hermit cookies, giant oatmeal-raisin cookies, and lemon squares in the liquor cabinet to keep her from eating them all!”

My father said, “What’s with all this eating, anyway?  Why can’t she just stop it?  Erna lets us each have one or two cookies with dinner, that’s all.”

“And they’re not allowed cookies until after their fruit!”  My mother crossed her arms emphatically.

“It’s a rule in our family.

Diana interjected, “Mr. and Mrs. Greene, you both seem very–”

“We’re not angry,” my mother wailed, “we’re just concerned!”  She threw her arms in the air. “She doesn’t get any exercise!  She’s getting to be a fattie!”

“Exercise is very important!”

“And she drinks coffee all day long!  Coffee!  Bad for you!”

My father cleared his throat.  “Since she left school and moved in with us, she’s completely abandoned her studies.”

My mother said, “She hasn’t touched a piece of  music  composition paper–“

“–or her trumpet.”  My parents nodded in agreement.

“Julie,” demanded my father, “when are you going to quit smoking?”  He turned to Diana, who had already held her hands out in a “T”–“time out.”  He ignored her.  “And she’s friends with this Irene!”

“My God!  Irene!”

“Irene’s not a proper girl.  Uneducated.”

“Irene’s not a good influence on Julie,” said my mother, her hands on her hips.  “She smokes!  My God!”

“Very bad influence!”

“Julie says Irene is a light smoker, but–”

“Smoking is smoking, dammit!”

There was a pause, and then Diana said, “There is no reason to raise our voices here, Mr. Greene.”

”No, and I don’t think she’s Jewish, either,” my father muttered.

“Julie’s old enough to choose her own friends,” said my mother.  “Why Irene?”

My father said, “Why can’t she be friends with Sandra Bach, who used to come here to Crossroads?  Sandra studies at Brandeis University, and she goes to our Temple–”

“Alan, we can’t choose Julie’s friends for her, can we?”

“And if we don’t?” my father said loudly.  “Look what happened to–”

“Phil and Ned are adults Alan!”

“They’re dating shiksas!”

I had long since buried my face in my hands.  At last, Diana turned to me and said, “Julie, what would you like to say to your parents?”

I shook my head, and did not look up.

“Julie, you have this opportunity,” said Diana.  “What would you like to tell them?”

“Nothing,” I said.  “Nothing at all.”

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To download This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness in .pdf form click here.

THIS HUNGER IS SECRET is now available!

Click here to download the .pdf file!  You can download it RIGHT NOW!

This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness will be available in paperback form in about nine months.

The publisher is Chipmunkapublishing.  Their website is www.chipmunka.com

Something I just learned that’s in the DSM-IV regarding Bulimia

I got this off of medicinenet.com:

The actual criteria for bulimia nervosa are found in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV). There are five basic criteria in the diagnosis of bulimia:

  1. Recurrent episodes of binge eating. This is characterized by eating within a two-hour period an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat during a similar period of time and under similar circumstances.
  2. A sense of lack of control over the eating during the episode, or a feeling that one cannot stop eating.
  3. In addition to the binge eating, there is an inappropriate compensatory behavior in order to prevent weight gain. These behaviors can include self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, diuretics, enemas or other medications, fasting, or excessive exercise.
  4. Both the binge eating and the compensatory behaviors must occur at least two times per week for three months and must not occur exclusively during episodes of anorexia.
  5. Finally, there is dissatisfaction with body shape and/or weight.

The DSM-IV also identifies two subtypes of bulimia nervosa. The purging type regularly engages in self-induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas. The nonpurging type engages in other inappropriate compensatory behaviors, such as fasting or excessive exercise, rather than purging methods.

I was not aware of the non-purging type of bulimia.  What’s in the media and most books you read are descriptions of bulimics who typically binge and then vomit.

In 1981 I was diagnosed with bulimia because there was no such diagnosis as binge eating disorder.  According to the DSM-III, which was the definitive text then I believe, I did not fit the criteria for bulimia, not exactly, because I did not throw up.  Following every binge, though, I fasted for a long, long time.  If the DSM-IV had been around back then, the diagnosis would have been correct; I would have been categorized as bulimic.  Interesting.

In 1982 I attended a group for people with eating disorders.  It was like a pioneer group, because there were very few such opportunities around.  I was lucky to get in.  Most of the women in the group had at one point been anorexic, and were currently bulimic.  They all threw up.  Except me.  You know something?  I felt like I wasn’t a “good enough” bulimic, that I was inferior, that I didn’t deserve to be in the group even though the bingeing was devastating to me.  I never told anyone in the group that I felt this way.

Message to anorexics, bulimics, binge eaters, anyone with any kind of eating disorder: You cannot be “better” at your eating disorder.  Your eating disorder will get the better of you.  It will steal your life from you.  Do not go down its path.  Turn away now.

I am told that it is never too late to give it up.  I wonder what it’s like to just let it go the way one would release a captured snake into the forest, and watch it slink away between the trees.

You know, it takes a lot of effort to keep a wild snake alive.  I must be working pretty hard at it.  When I was a kid I captured a snake, and secretly kept it in a box, hidden from my parents.  I felt guilty,  but I felt like the snake was something special that was mine and mine only.

Was I sad when the snake died, or relieved that I didn’t have to keep a secret anymore?  I remember having a secret burial in the backyard, just me and the special snake.  It was hard making the hole.  I think I cried, grieved for the secret part of myself that had died and was now being sent to the earth.

I am told that when people truly give up their eating disorders, they grieve.  I felt some of this in June when they made me give up starvation (for a little while) and eat.  I ate a lot and cried.  I missed starvation, I craved it, wanted it back, and when I couldn’t stand the craving anymore, returned to it and embraced it.  Now, I am trapped, and I don’t know what to do.

I want to get back–to what?  I want to get back to me, but I don’t even know what me is anymore.  I can’t remember when the last time was that I was me.  I look back…I don’t know.  I don’t know anymore.  I really don’t.

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My wonderful new book, This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness is now available in e-book form from Chipmunkapublishing.  Click here to download the .pdf file.  To read excerpts at my home site, click here.  The book will be available in paperback form in May 2011.

On Stinking Properties

Sometimes, when Puzzle and I go out for walks, we encounter these odors.  I don’t know the source, but I don’t think it’s dog poop, and I don’t think it’s dripping from trash trucks.  I think it goes deeper than that.  Maybe it’s in the soil or the ground water.  The stink seems intrinsic to the environment.  It seems to be just in certain places, and it doesn’t move around; that is, it’s located right in front of particular homes or businesses–permanently.

You’d think that the stench, this horrible smell, this garbage-shit odor that seems to be peppered all over Watertown– the quiet suburb of Watertown, MA, where you’d never suspect this would occur–would surely lower property values where it occurred, wouldn’t you?  I mean, surely, when real estate agents sold these homes, they probably lied to the buyers about the odor:  “Yeah, there’s something in the air tonight, occasionally somebody puts down fertilizer,” or, “Someone must have spilled their garbage.”  Yeah, sure.  Little does the unsuspecting buyer know that the odor is permanent….

Then, they find out.  It’s too late.  They’ve bought the home.  They live with the stench, day in, day out.  They smell it when they rise in the morning and when the retire at night.  They smell it when they leave for work and when they return.  They smell it at mealtimes, three times a day.  Their children smell it.  They have to apologize to guests.  And when they finally decide to sell the fucking house, it won’t sell.

I often feel like I am like this home.  I have this permanent stink.  I am damaged goods that nobody wants.   And if you come near me, my stink might rub off on you, and you might stink, too.

It started when I first got sick.  It started when I first started worrying about my weight, when I started obsessing over it.  It started when I started my first diet in 1980.  It started when I stopped being me. When me got replaced by my eating disorder, and me generally didn’t peek its head back to the surface.  And the stink that started in 1980–trust me–has been with me ever since.

Can anything be done?  Perhaps.  It would take a zillion dollars on the part of the town to rid the soil of its odor.  Maybe it would have to be sifted or replaced or rinsed–heck, I wouldn’t know.  But obviously, the town would come to the conclusion that any town would come to, and besides, the money isn’t there–in Watertown, or in any town, no matter how rich.

The property, they would say, ain’t worth it anyway.

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My wonderful new book, This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness is now available in e-book form from Chipmunkapublishing.  Click here to download the .pdf file.  To read excerpts at my home site, click here.  The book will be available in paperback form in May 2011.