I do not want to be seen

As it turn out, yesterday evening, as I was walking Puzzle, I was thinking that I couldn’t be happier, and I was hoping that I would remember October 2010 as the happiest month of this year (unless November and December were happier).  I felt like celebrating.  I walked with a spring in my step.  Puzzle and I walked for about an hour and fifteen minutes.

Okay, okay, I admit I’ve been walking Puzzle an awful lot.  I admit I’ve been exercising compulsively.  I noticed it especially this morning.  After our long walk yesterday afternoon, we walked another hour and fifteen minutes this morning, about all my bad knee can take.  I think in the past week, we’ve covered over 15 miles.  (Twice that if you count the fact that I see double.)

What I mean by exercising compulsively is not the hours walked or distance covered, but how I walked.  Like this morning.  I felt like I had to walk those extra blocks.  When I put on Puzzle’s leash to go out, I felt compelled to walk as far as I could.  I felt that I was walking not to give Puzzle exercise so much as to burn calories.  Nonetheless, we had a blast.

In a way, I know one reason why we did it.  I was kinda pissed.  Over something really, really stupid, some little interpersonal thing that has nothing to do with anything really, just my friends who left me back in early August, a little thing came up that hurt my feelings.  I don’t know why I let it do that.  I should just let them go, but I continue to let these little things bother me.  So I exercised compulsively.  I suppose there could have been worse things I could have done.  Lots worse.  I could have bought a bottle of booze and gone drunk driving, and to make things worse, I don’t have a car, so I would have had to steal one (or a license–so watch out, world).

Okay.  That was one thing.  Then I came home.  Paced.  Couldn’t get that little incident off my mind.  I wanted to work on my Nano outline but I was too distracted.  So then it was time to have breakfast with Frank via Skype, and I told him what had happened.  We both agreed that it would be best to just let it go and not let it affect my eating.

So I did my best.  Meanwhile, I was trying to stop my tongue from coming out of my mouth while I ate.  This, I had thought, was a bad habit.  I had thought I needed to break the habit now that I was eating in front of someone.  Bad habit?  Wrong-o.  It is Tardive Dyskinesia.  If you haven’t heard me talking about Tardive Dyskinesia before or don’t know what it is, look it up.  I tried to stop my tongue from coming out of my mouth while eating and guess what?  I couldn’t stop the “habit.”  It just won’t stay in.  Not only that, but my cheeks feel tense all the time, and I seem to swallow and tense my mouth.  This has just started today, though the tongue-while-eating habit has been going on for a while.  I just thought I was licking my lips to get food goo off of them.

This might be from lowering the Risperdal, and if it is, then it is temporary and will go away.  On the other hand, it could be from having taken Risperdal, a long-term effect, and it could be finally manifesting itself, and it may never go away.  In other words, my dears, this could be permanent.  Here forever.  Lip-smacking, tongue-sticking-out, etc.

I will never, never, never eat in front of my mother again.   Never.  She would come up with the nastiest things to say.  I know her.  Too well.  In fact, I don’t even want to see her ever, ever again.  I don’t want to be seen.

I don’t want to be seen.  I don’t want people to see me smacking my lips and tongue.  I want to cover my mouth the way I want to cover my skinny body.  Maybe I should cover my mouth with a bandanna, just tie it around my head.  Now, there’s a thought.  Or wear one of those masks people wear to keep their germs from spreading.  I am so afraid to eat in public, like at a restaurant.

“It.”  That’s what I’ve been calling it all day since it started.  “It.”

Okay, more bad news.  As they say, adding insult to injury.  I went to my T’s office to tell her all this, and she tells me the clinic where she is working is going to close December 2nd.  Great.  Just great.

Long pause.  Or there would have been a long pause.  But there wasn’t.

My T said that she was applying to work at another clinic, and was expecting to get the job–probably–and that I could see her there.  It is on the bus line, right on the bus line, a different bus, a longer commute, but very accessible to me.

I am truly honored that she chose to continue working with me.  She is “terminating” with almost all of her clients that she presently sees.

Why me, I wonder?  I guess she has her reasons.  I did not ask.

So we’ll see.  She should hear from the new clinic very, very soon.  All I can do is hope that they accept her.  They are waiting for references, and I told her that she could use Puzzle for a reference.  My T said, “But she’s only a dog.”

Only?  Only?

I told my T that Puzzle counted, because she wears handmade sweaters from Yours Truly.  I suppose, then, we’ll be getting some calls soon.  Or at least Puzzle will.

For those of you who were told that you would never recover from anorexia nervosa (repost)

Hello, I thought I would post this again!

September 24, 2010

For those of you who were told you would never recover from anorexia nervosa, that you would suffer from some sort of eating disorder for the rest of your life, this message is for you:

I was once inhabited by an Evil Being named The Thing.  The Thing ran my life.  This was some sort of psychotic phenomena that no one seemed to understand–including me.  The Thing lived in my head and caused me such misery that I could barely tie my shoes in the morning, or shower, brush my teeth, or wash my hair.  Sometimes, my parents had to care for my dog, Tiger, because I could not safely take care of her.  Much of the time, I could not leave my apartment, and I could not be left alone.  I was so confused that I would throw out valuables and burn things on the stove.  Sometimes, The Thing affected my balance and coordination, and it also caused memory lapses due to the fact that it was always interfering with my thinking process.  Mostly, it “scrambled” my thoughts, jumbling them up so that I could make no sense of them.  The Thing also was not without its human qualities.  It was a sadist, torturing me daily.  Sometimes, it told me to do things I did not want to do.  Sometimes, it told me to kill myself, with step-by-step instructions.

I suffered with The Thing for two solid years, daily.  After the first year of struggle, after constant battling with some of the doctors, who said I was “faking” The Thing, that is, complaining of something that didn’t exist just to get attention, I was exhausted, completely hopeless, and ready to give up.  There were no answers, none at all.

Finally, a brilliant medical student, a man I truly respected, trusted, and liked more than the doctors at that point, took me aside, and we had a talk.  I think his name was Tarik.

“Julie,” he said, “I know you have suffered a long time with The Thing.  I know The Thing lives in your head and I know The Thing is real.  The truth is that The Thing isn’t improving.  We have tried everything.  You have the best doctors here, and we’ve tried the best medications.  You have mentioned before that you suspect you’ve had The Thing for longer than just this past year, is this true?”

“Yes,” I said, “I believe I’ve had some form of it for my entire life.”

“Well, then, what does that tell you?  Think about it.”

“Huh?”

“What do you think?  Look at your history.”

“That I’ll have it for the rest of my life?”

“Yes.  That is what I believe.  I know this is hard for you to hear, Julie.  I can only tell you the truth as I see it.  I know I am only a medical student, but I have observed you very closely, I’ve been in meetings with you, and I have discussed your case with the doctors.  I am telling you that it is now our goal to help you cope with The Thing, to learn to live with it from day to day.  Do you understand what I am saying?”

I began to weep, but did not hesitate to respond.  “I understand,” I said, “that knowing this, this information, which, by the way, does not surprise me, I need to make a switch.”

“Right.  Go on.”

I sobbed, “I don’t have to fight anymore!  I’m free!”

Over the course of the next year, we worked to help me cope with The Thing.  It was tough.  I got worse and worse.  I became despondent.  I could not live with The Thing, and The Thing was making increasing demands on me.  I began engaging in cutting behavior, and became severely suicidal.  For insurance reasons and complications, I was not hospitalized, but put in a “residence” on McLean Hospital grounds, a completely inappropriate setting for me at that time.

How does all this relate to anorexia, you’re wondering?  I’m getting to it.  Be patient.

Finally, when my suicidality became unmanageable at the residence, I was hospitalized for three weeks at a community hospital, and sent to a respite home.  There, I was finally given the individualized care and attention I needed to deal with my multitude of mental problems.  There were maybe three or four staff on during the day, and maybe four patients total living there.  I am not kidding you.  You could sit right in their staff office and talk to them.  I lived there for three weeks and then was sent home, and they cared for me at home for a total of 90 days.  In December, 1997, I still had The Thing and it was just as bad, but I was less suicidal, and that was the goal of the respite program, to help me live on my own again safely.  I was truly grateful to the program and the staff.

Later that month, I bought a computer that had Internet capability.  Remember dial-up?  I got used to that sound, and my phone was tied up for much of the day from then on.  No, I never became an Internet addict, but yes–I did make friends!  Through e-mail correspondence, I learned that I was capable of relating to other people in spite of The Thing.  I learned to make friends.  I learned to share.  I learned closeness.  I learned give and take.  I learned that I was capable of helping and supporting others.  And I allowed others to help me.

On my 40th birthday, January 8, 1998, The Thing left me, suddenly and unexpectedly, and never returned.

TO THOSE OF YOU WHO WERE TOLD YOU WOULD NEVER RECOVER FROM ANOREXIA NERVOSA:

It is 2010 and most clinicians believe that full recovery is possible for ANYONE.  Many who recover do not recover fully, this is true.  But this does not mean that anorexia is life in prison.

Anorexia is an addiction to starvation.  The theory of addiction is that you have it for life.  But look at it this way: I quit smoking cigarettes.  I don’t smoke.  Period.  It’s a simple as that.  I don’t suffer from being a non-smoker.  As a matter of fact, I enjoy not smoking.  I can walk fast without getting out of breath.  My lungs feel great.  I don’t stink of smoke.  My coffee table doesn’t have ashes all over it.  I’m not shelling out all kinds of bucks for packs of smokes.  And I’m going to live a lot, lot longer because I’m a non-smoker.  No, I don’t suffer from being an ex-smoker.  But am I “recovered” from the addiction?  What do YOU think?

IF YOU WERE TOLD YOU WOULD NEVER RECOVER FROM ANOREXIA NERVOSA, think again.  I was told I would never recover from The Thing.  It was a relief to me to hear this because I knew I no longer had to fight.  Have you quit fighting because of what you were told?  Have you been allowing yourself to slide deeper into your disease because you were told you would never recover?  Have you given up?

Yes, I was told that I would always have symptoms of eating disorders.  I was told that I would never fully recover.  Do I believe them?  You bet.  It is absolutely necessary that I believe them.  Believing that I will never recover gives me a sense of security. I can stop fighting.  I can get comfortable.  I can relax into Anorexia Heaven.

I believed that I would always want to die of starvation.  I believed that that part of my anorexia would never go away.  I believed that if I wanted death, then I would die–soon.  But you know something?  It suddenly went away.  I suddenly stopped wanting to starve myself and suddenly didn’t want to die anymore.

I have hope in my heart.

IF YOU WERE TOLD YOU WOULD NEVER RECOVER FROM ANOREXIA, MAYBE, JUST MAYBE, THEY WERE WRONG.

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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.

Nano, continued

I am continuing to work on the outline for I am so Cold, and Hungry in My Soul. Most of what I’ve done over the past couple of days has been to further develop the plot.  By the next couple of weeks, I want to have a complete plan of exactly what I am going to write each day of the month of November, which is National Novel Writing Month.

As you can imagine, it hasn’t been that difficult for me to develop my main character, Megan, who is anorexic.  I know how people with anorexia think, seeing as I am afflicted with the illness myself.  A lot of the plot centers around what Megan would do if I put her in various situations.  Knowing the eating-disordered brain, I might easily guess how she might act, for instance, in a restaurant, supermarket, convenience store, or on a bus, because I know how I act in these situations.

But Megan is not me, and I am not Megan.  When people read novels, they sometimes think that the novelist is writing about him/herself, especially if the subject matter is close to home.  But this isn’t necessarily the case.  In my case, yeah, Megan is a lot like me. They say when you’re writing a Nano book, for the sake of time, you should write about a character who is first of all the same sex that you are, and also maybe the same age, in a setting with which you are familiar (the town where I live, in this case), and select a familiar topic as well, one that does not require a lot of research, because during Nano you only have 30 days to write and no time to run to the library, or even the Web, to look up a lot of stuff.

So Megan is a lot like me.  She thinks like me.  Actually, she thinks like a lot of people with eating disorders think.  She fears becoming fat.  She wants to lose weight even though she is already dangerously underweight.  She eats very little.  She is not scared by the health dangers of being extremely thin.

In the beginning of the book, and throughout the book, Megan continues to starve herself, and toward the end, she wants to completely starve herself to death.  She has no will to live.  She returns again and again to a man who abuses her.  She turns her back on those who love her, or allows them to leave her.  She closes every door to hope.  Almost.

My therapist once told me that an eating disorder is like a partner who abuses you that you return to over and over.  It is an addictive relationship.  My T asked me why my ED was so abusive to me, and I could not answer this question.  Although I do not believe I should personify my eating disorder, I can fairly say that I do have a relationship with my ED, and that it is abusive and that it is definitely seductive and therefore addictive as well.  So my T was right about that much.

The world of the deadly diet is indeed very seductive.  You go into your own diet universe with it, and it is a very private diet, your own secret.  You tell no one.  You stow away every pound you lose.  You step on the scale in secret.  What ultimately becomes starvation for you has a rhythm only you can feel, and you feel it all the time, even in your sleep.  And it’s damn hard to give it up.

I can fairly say I no longer want to die.  This has been a big step for me.  I am very lucky.  I feel like my life turned around just in time.  Like if I hadn’t found Frank, I would surely have continued down a very, very bad path.

I feel lucky that I am not in the hospital or dead.  I was surely headed in one of those directions, and wouldn’t have been able to do what I am doing today if my life hadn’t’ turned around the way it did.  When I think about Nano, I realize that if I hadn’t found Frank, I wouldn’t be even coming close to doing Nano this year, or next year, or the next.  Because you can’t write when you’re dead.  Period.

So as November approaches, and while I work on this outline, I ponder these things, and I ponder Megan’s fate.  I am lucky that her fate is not my own.  I can torture her, I can manipulate her, I can abuse her, I can kill her off.  I can do these things because that’s what writers do.  But I am not Megan.  And I am rather certain at this point that unlike Megan, I will eat, and I will keep on eating.  So there.

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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.

Cold Apartment Saga Continued–WHA Computer Glitch Does it Again

I live in subsidized housing.  The Watertown Housing Authority keeps our heat regulated by computer.  We can lower the heat, but we cannot raise it over 73 degrees.  Sure, it says 75 degrees, but it’s really 73, because there’s a “two-degree offset” they don’t tell you about before you move in.

I was too cold in my apartment.  Still am, actually. I complained and complained.  I wore, and still wear, a fleece jacket and hat indoors.  I still wear it when I go out in the hall, and I wear it to the housing office, just to demonstrate how cold I am.  However, I don’t need it in their office.  It’s plenty warm there.

Finally, the manager said to me, “Julie, if you get a doctor’s note, we will raise the heat for you.”  I got a note.  From Dr. P.  She wrote one on the spot, saying it was ridiculous that I should suffer in the cold.  They raised the heat.  I was overjoyed.

Now, I thought that this was the end of the story.  The saga continued, though.  Last year, it was the ordeal with the air conditioners.  They didn’t take mine out till nearly the end of December.  Some serious air was leaking under my AC and I was freezing to death.  My heat couldn’t keep up with the leak.  You’d think with all the money they wanted to save, they’d have taken out the AC in October the latest.  Like this time last year.

Meanwhile, I was having this problem with the thermostats, and this is what I wanted to mention now.  There is a computer glitch that makes the thermostats “jump” back from 78 to 75.  This happens all the time now.  So I call the housing authority maintenance lady, and ask her to fix my heat, and put it back to 78, and she does.  This can only be done on weekdays, as first of all, the maintenance staff on weekends doesn’t have access to the computer, and secondly, a “jump” from 78 to 75 isn’t an “emergency” that has to be dealt with on weekends.  So I freeze until Monday.  As you can guess, one of my big worries is that the “jump” will occur Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving, and I’ll be freezing for the next five days.

Today, I called maintenance to fix my heat yet one more time.  I waited for the heat to go back to 78.  I waited.  And waited.  Finally, I called again.  Did you forget about me?  No.  Something’s wrong with the computer.  We can’t do it today.  We’ll do it tomorrow.

Uh oh.  Uh oh.  Uh oh.  You know what I’m thinking.  That this  problem won’t ever be solved.  That their computers won’t ever be fixed right.  Because they haven’t fixed them yet, after two winters, going into a third.  What next?

You may know what I’m thinking, but I know what you’re thinking, too.  That I need to gain weight and put meat on my bones, and then I won’t be so cold, right?

Sometimes, when I’m videoconferencing (Skyping) with Frank, I don’t feel so cold inside.  Sometimes, I even take off my hat and fleece jacket, and wonder why it suddenly got so warm in here.  I don’t know if it’s so much that we eat together, or that we are special friends that does it for me.  But when Frank is around, I feel a little warmer.

Yeah, Frank got me to eat, but he says I got me to eat.  Today, I added milk to my diet.  I decided that since my periods have pretty much stopped, probably from my low weight, I’d better get more calcium pronto.  I had two  glasses of skim milk today, plus the milk I used to make my oatmeal.  I encouraged Frank to drink two glasses a day, and to my surprise, he said he likes almond milk and soy milk.  I didn’t think he was that kind of guy.

Wow, it is cool getting to know each other.  We talk about everything.  We talk into the night.  We get on Skype, with all its wonders, and it is like we are sitting across from each other, eating together and laughing.  Sometimes, we get disconnected.  Yeah, there are glitches in cyberspace.  But we spend hours talking about how on earth we ended up with the curse of this eating disorder, and how we are going to deal with it…together.

***************

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.

My Nano book is making me cry

I have now written out the basic plot to I am so Cold, and Hungry in My Soul. The main character’s name is Megan.  She has anorexia.  I haven’t given her an age yet.  The evil male character is named Calhoun.  He lives not too far away from Megan.  They live in a town not too different from my own, with streets like the ones in my town.   She keeps going back to him, sadly.  Her three sisters leave her early on, saying they cannot deal with her eating disorder anymore.  Her best friend, Nina, is on her way to recovery from anorexia, and they can no longer be friends.  Megan chooses to end her relationships with her therapist and nutritionist after a brief hospitalization.  Her mother was never there for her and never will be.  Even Megan’s pet rat dies.  Megan resolves to starve herself to death, and in the end, only the abusive Calhoun remains.

That is basically it in a nutshell.  I have it in more detail written out–events, etc.  As I flip through the scenes, I weep.  I get teary-eyed reading about how the sisters leave Megan.  I cry because I hate Calhoun and the person I’m modeling him after.  I cry about the breakup between Nina and Megan, and I cry thinking about how “Rain,” believe it or not, is going to be a character in my book, because the imagery is going to be so strong (hopefully).  I am devoting an entire chapter to a description of the rain.

It did not rain today.  We have had enough rain.  Last night, it was raining so hard that the water soaked through my rain jacket and onto my shirt.  Puzzle soaked up two hand-knit sweaters.  I wore my boots and my feet didn’t get wet, but the rest of me did.

I bought that rain jacket in 2005.  It didn’t fit.  I couldn’t zip it up.  It was an XL, or maybe XXL, the largest size I could order from the online store I got it from (don’t recall which one).  Now, it looks silly on me, but I wear it because I have nothing else.  You could fit two of me in it.  (Maybe my double vision is useful after all.)

How do I feel about this?  Changing sizes…like trading one body for another…shrinking…like going through some sort of Grand Transformation.  It is a bigger change than dyeing your hair or cutting it.  It is a bigger change than gaining or losing 15 pounds–I lost 110.  It is not as big a change as being transgendered.  Given what I’ve been through, I am in awe of anyone who has the courage to go through a sex change.

So when I put on my rain jacket yesterday, and every time I put on my rain jacket, I think of this, how I used to be so large that I could not zip it up, and how much I’ve changed.  I don’t know if I should be sad or happy about this.

Yesterday, I showed my therapist two photos.  One was of me at my lowest weight.  The other photo was of me ten pounds heavier, right after my hair was cut in April.  The difference is astounding.  Now, how is it that they didn’t notice?  Incidentally, the day before the April photo was taken, I got weighed at the nutritionist’s with my pockets loaded, wearing two jackets that she never asked me to remove, and never mind what other tricks I pulled, and the scale read ten pounds more than I actually weighed.  Imagine that.  They believed her scale over my face.

So I looked at my face in the mirror today, just to see what it looked like.  I don’t look too good.  I look ugly.  I don’t know how to describe it.  Maybe it’s just low self-esteem that’s saying I’m ugly.  More likely, I wasn’t smiling when I looked at myself.  I don’t look at myself often.

But what shocked me, yet another time, was that my lips were blue.  Again, the thermometer at my desk read 79 degrees.  I knew I was cold, but blue?  I felt my hands and they felt icy, same with my nose.  I turned and sat on the toilet and it was like sitting on ice.  My body is in revolt.

I am so Cold, and Hungry in My Soul is a tragic book.  I can feel it already.  There is going to be so much loss in the book, so much sadness, so much heaviness.  I feel like Brahms’ First Symphony, First Movement should be the background music throughout, with the ever-present bass drum, and strings pulling torturously apart from each other.

But the sound of rain is music enough.  Rain does so much more than “pitter-patter.”  It does so much more than “come down in sheets.”  It plays.  It wanders.  It screams.  And it doesn’t let up.

****************

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.

Nano plans forming

In November, I plan to participate in National Novel Writing Month.  The goal of Nano, as it is called, is to write a book in a month.  I have decided on a tentative title for my novel.  I am going to use the title from a recent blog entry: “I am So Cold, and Hungry in My Soul.”  Here is the entry:  click here.  The entry was inspired by the fact that I felt cold in my apartment, and it was 79 degrees in here, and my lips were blue.

It is raining today, and cold.  I have decided, therefore, to use rain as a persistent imagery in my Nano novel.  There is nothing worse than cold rain.  It is cold outside now.

I am using the book, Book in a Month: The fool-proof system for writing a novel in 30 days by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, PhD to write my novel outline in October.  I hope to get a complete outline done in time for Nano, so that I can write the book smoothly during that month.  Book in a Month is written in workbook form, and is spiral bound.  I will give you all updates on how my outline is progressing.

Meanwhile, it keeps raining….

Climbing the Ladder

The other day, I had to get onto a ladder to put up a new shower curtain.  I was thrilled to get this curtain.  The other one had a broken hole, so it didn’t reach all the way across, meaning that there was a gap between it and the wall.  Of course, this meant cold air coming in.  You know, dear readers, that I do not like anything cold.  So I got a new shower curtain, and this was a very good thing.

I bought the new curtain and liner from a dollar store in Cambridge called Jax.  I think I must have paid $3.50 for the liner and maybe $3 for the curtain.  The curtain has a nice blue floral design on it and is machine washable; the liner is heavy duty clear plastic with metal rings for hanging.  I already had rings at home.  My bathroom is an ugly blue but the curtain is a good match.  It actually makes the bathroom tile look a little nicer than it really is.

So my task was first of all to take down the old curtain.  This made me very sad, because the old curtain I had bought because it matched one that Joe had in his apartment.  The seven-year anniversary of Joe’s death was August 19, not that long ago, and it seems like he died just yesterday.  I remember his shower very well.  It was the walk-in type, a “handicapped” shower.  The water pressure was never strong enough, and you had to turn the shower up all the way to get it hot enough.  Some of the tiles were coming off.  But he seemed to think the shower was great, and liked it just the way it was, or so he said.  His mother bought that curtain for him, a clear curtain with a map of the world on it.  You can get them at Target or even on Amazon.com.  So when I replaced my shower curtain after he died, years ago, I got the map of the world, too.

To take down this curtain, I realized I would need a ladder to reach the shower rod.  I do have a three-step ladder, which I carefully set up on the bathroom floor.  I thought: I am going to have to be very careful on this ladder.  One wrong step and I will fall three feet to the floor.  I have missed a period because of my eating disorder.  Who knows how screwed up my hormones might be, and whether I have developed osteoporosis, thinning of the bones.  I could break something if I fall off this ladder.  Even without thinned bones, I could easily get hurt falling off a ladder.  Be careful.  Be careful.

I stepped up one step.  And another.  And another.  I was at the top of the ladder.  I did not look down.  I used the shower rod to keep my perspective, then realized that I should not expect the shower rod to hold me up; it would collapse if I pulled it too hard, should I begin to fall.  I could not fall.  Do not fall.  Do not fall.  Do not step to the side because nothing is there.  Nothing.  You are on a ladder.  Remember that.

I wanted to work quickly, but not so quickly that I broke the rings.  It was sad removing the old curtain.  I watched it slowly droop to the floor of the tub, then finally, finally die in a heap.

Later, I bagged the shower curtain in a CVS bag that once held a dozen rolls of toilet paper, and brought it to the trash room, as if I were toting small coffin.  I tossed it into the bin and tried to stop thinking about it.  Tried.

I climbed the ladder again, and attempted to install the new shower curtain and liner.  This was a challenge because I had to install two things at once.  Then, it dawned on me: I could not be doing this if I were still eating as little as I had been eating in August.  I was eating about 600-700 calories a day then.  I could not have kept my balance on a ladder.  I could barely keep my balance walking.  I would not have dared even take the ladder out of the closet in August.  I would have barely been able to lift the ladder without teetering.  And now, I was taking on the challenge, and succeeding.

Today, I will be climbing the ladder again, this time to get Puzzle’s heartworm medication out of the pantry.  It is hidden under the pots and pans I have used, for cooking food, since September 20th when I turned my life around.  The box of heartworm medication, along with other dog supplies, is up there on the same shelf as some Swiffer stuff and the pizza pan I used for the pizza party with Frank last Friday night, and other pans I’ve actually been using over the past 11 days.  And yes, I do eat what I cook.  Not a lot of it, but a heck of a lot more than I used to eat.

I don’t count calories anymore.  Frank taught me to stop doing this.  I don’t measure my food.  I do measure a few things but I don’t measure the way I used to.  I have stopped writing down my food, or obsessively planning meals.  It’s unnecessary to plan out exactly what you’re going to eat way, way ahead of time.  As my brother said, “Just cook food and eat it.”

“Just cook food and eat it.”  That was my brother’s answer to eating disorders.  I wish it was that simple.  I struggle daily to do this.  I screw up all the time.  But at least the Grand Starvation is over.  At least I climbed the ladder.  At least I trust myself to climb a ladder again today.  And again and again, I hope.

My wish is that everyone could climb this ladder.  Because once you step up, you can reach things you couldn’t reach before, and do stuff you couldn’t do had you not made this climb.  It’s only three steps, and you don’t need to be on the ladder all the time, just for a couple of minutes.  Peek up and see what it’s like.  Dare to do it.  Eat.  Because once you take a look, it will change the way you see everything else in your life, and you will keep on climbing, again and 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.

National Novel Writing Month is approaching!

National Novel Writing Month, or Nanowrimo, begins November 1st.  The official Nano site is nanowrimo.org.  If you wish to participate, you can sign up anytime, but to play fair, you should not start the actual writing of your novel until kick-off on November 1st.  The main requirement is that you write a 50,000-word book in 30 days.  And you have to be crazy to embark on this project.  Absolutely crazy.

I do, however, plan to outline my novel first.  This is an okay thing to do.  I plan to spend a fair chunk of October doing this.  Making an outline will speed up the actual writing, and make the November part of the project a heck of a lot easier.

In order to keep up with eating, my budding social life, and general sane living, I plan to be sane about Nano as well.  Last year, I wrote for six or seven hours a day at least and produced an 86,000 word book in 21 days.  Now, that’s insane.  This year, I will strive toward moderation, and my goal will be closer to 50,000 words in 30 days.  That’s 1,667 words a day.  Not difficult at all.  Not really.

Last year, I wrote Summer in November, a memoir about my hitch-hiking journey across the country with my dog, Hoofy.  Parallel to this was my concurring journey with anorexia that was going on while I wrote the book.  I reported everything in real time as it happened.  I was going downhill.  Summer in November is a record of decline.  It is also about how I fell into my eating disorder at the age of 22, right after my hitch-hiking trip.  Yet I found God on that trip.  It is not a tragic book.  I believe it is in fact full of joy.  Ironic.

This year, I plan to write a novel, that is, it won’t be a true story at all.  It will be about an anorexic woman who isn’t me, yet she will be like me.  She will be in her 40’s or 50’s (I am 52).  She will live with no one else except a dog.  I have only Puzzle.  Beyond that, I don’t know what the similarities and differences will be.  I haven’t planned them out yet.  The nano site suggests that to save time, we should write about someone like ourselves.  For instance, how could I write about a male pilot with a missing arm if first of all I have no idea what it’s like to be male, secondly I have no idea what it’s like to be an airline pilot, and thirdly, I have no idea what it’s like to have only one arm?  I’d spend the whole month interviewing pilots with physical disabilities to gather information, and no time writing.

So my character will be like me.  She will have a life like mine.  She will face challenges like mine.  She will go through experiences, some of them, that I have gone through, and some that I haven’t gone through, of course.  I may put her through tortures.  I may allow her some joys.  This is the “power of the pen.”  I can control her.  I can do anything to her.  I may even love her and care about her–hopefully, I will.

But the ending will not be a happy one.  Why?  There are too many “recovery stories” out there.  Stories about people who overcome adversity.  Stories about people who get well despite all odds.  People who almost drown and then pull out of the water.  Maybe they find God.  Maybe they find the right doctor or the right treatment.  Or maybe they get well in the hospital.  The latter is a very common theme.  That and finding God.  There are a fair amount of “Christian” publishers out there that publish books about people finding Jesus Christ and suddenly getting well.  I do not want to write a story about someone who recovers and gains weight and lives happily ever after.  There are too many books out there (and websites) like this.

I want to write a book that does not end happily.  I am not saying I want a tragic ending, though it may come to that.  I simply want to avoid sugar-coating.  This is a fatal illness that has devastating effects on the body and also effects on family, friends, and oneself.  Anorexia breaks the heart and soul of everyone involved, especially the sufferer.  I know this.

People I know who know I am going to write a book with a not-so-happy ending are disturbed that I am not writing a “recovery story.”  They are disturbed that I have been talking about possibly even “killing off” my character, that is, letting her die in the end.  Let me tell you that my character is not me. This is a common misunderstanding that readers have.  When a novelist writes, she is not writing about herself.  No way.  She may be like me in more ways than not, but she is not me.

But deep down inside, do I see a “happy ending” for myself?  Of course not.  Who with this illness has a happy ending?  What is an ending, anyway?  Life goes on.  You live, you die.  If I die it could be for any reason.  I may die of anorexia or I may die in a plane crash–who knows?  I may die while writing to YOU.  I do hope that I die happy, though.  I very likely will.

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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.

My double vision–as it turns out

As it turns out, my double vision problem isn’t serious, and it doesn’t come from malnutrition.  Rather, it is a consequence of having a high degree of myopia (nearsightedness).  I have what’s known as vertical diplopia.  This means that I see one image on top of the other.  Sometimes people who are very nearsighted, as I am, experience their eyes turning outward.  It is a weird muscle thing.  This is what’s causing the double vision.  My eye doctor said it’s not dangerous because it isn’t happening all the time, just some of the time, and not when I’m out walking.  I don’t drive or have a driver’s license or ride a road bicycle.  I told him that if I had to drive, I would certainly be unable to do so because of this problem.  One thing he said he could do would be to give me glasses with prisms in them to correct the double vision, but this, he felt, was not a good idea.  Why?  He said that my eyes would adjust, and turn outward again, and I would need more and more prisms.

So I see double sometimes.  A lot of the time.  When I was in therapy today, I had two therapists.  Imagine that.  I was being observed by a team.   Two people both talking at once.  Not only that, but they both had the same name.  Try going through psychological testing with double vision, and you’ll get twice the diagnoses, and then some.

When I go to therapy, I am required to bring a snack and eat it there.  Today, I did something different: I brought lunch with me.  Well, a small lunch.  Or should I say, it appeared to be two lunches, so I guess it was an awful lot of food, with two spoons in fact.  I ate it all.   Twice.   I’m sure both my therapists were equally thrilled.  Actually, if one had been thrilled and one hadn’t been, it would have been one hell of an optical illusion.

I am so cold, and hungry in my soul

Today I was wearing a winter hat and jacket indoors.  It was 79 degrees here at my desk, yet I was cold.  I went to look at myself in the mirror.  I noticed that my lips were blue.  Blue.  It has never been this bad.

I am so cold now.  I have the space heater running.  I am wearing fleece pajamas, writing to you.  My hands are icy.

I sat on the toilet seat and wondered if I would freeze to it.  I’m guessing my body temperature is low these days.  Maybe I should buy an accurate thermometer (not the ear kind–the mouth kind) and check.  I wonder how I can possibly make it through the winter.  Even the extra two pounds on me seem to have made no difference: I am colder than ever.

It was 60 degrees out today and when I went out, I had to wear a winter hat.  Was it the rain that caused this shift? What will keep me warm in December, January, February?  What will keep me warm in October, even?  Will I be shivering through National Novel Writing Month, which is the month of November?

I know what is causing this.  I cannot fool myself.  I need to gain weight. But is it too late?  Am I permanently cold?  Am I so cold in my soul that this is irreversible?  Will my heart ever be warm again to life, to living fully, to loving God and appreciating all that is around me, and getting involved in the world again, instead of drowning in my eating disorder?

Frank asked me tonight if I recognize myself as being thin, if I can see it, and how I feel about it deep down.  He asked me to ask myself if there is a part of me that desperately wants to lose weight, because this is a part of our illness, that we have this desire to waste away, to become, essentially, nothing, nobody, a mere line.

When I started out, I believed that I was special, that I was the exception, that I didn’t need to be “on the charts” of what was considered normal weight for my height. In fact, I used a chart that I knew to be incorrect.  It was from an insurance company.  Most charts stated that normal weight for my height was over 100.  This chart stated under 100.  I chose to follow this one instead.  At the same time, I believed my own sense of what was right for me. Under 90 for sure.  I was different.  I needed my thinness and the scale to tell me that I was special and almost, almost perfect–if only I could get a few pounds thinner.  My music, my compositions, my dog, the heaps of praise I received from the music faculty were not enough.

Today, I love that I am skinny.  Truly.  Deep down inside.  I hate that I now have missed a second period, and what it means.  I worry that I am so very cold, and what this, too, means.  I keep two aspirins at my bedside, and the phone, in case I have symptoms of a heart attack.  I keep wondering if I will die.  Scary stuff.

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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.