You’ve got to get this book. Paul Selig is an incredible writer, speaker, and medium. Just read the testimonials on his website. I have been to his Writers’ Healing Circle and it is amazing. If you are a writer, or if you are anyone, you need this book.
I received the following just now in my e-mail inbox:
In light of the recent controversy over the “Eat Less” Urban Outfitters womens t-shirt, MEDA sent the following response to Urban Outfitters demanding the item no longer be sold.
“To Whom It May Concern:
This letter is in response to Urban Outfitters’ “Eat Less V-neck tee” which is being sold online under the category “Women’s Tops/Tees/Graphic Tees & Tanks.”
On behalf of the 11 million individuals in the United States who struggle with Anorexia Nervosa and/or Bulimia Nervosa, as well as the 16.7 million children who live in food insecure households, we write this letter to express our extreme outrage.
The message on this shirt is insensitive and quite honestly undoes much of the excellent eating disorder prevention work that takes place in this country each day. Anorexia Nervosa is characterized by caloric restriction, weight loss and obsessive thoughts around food, body and weight. For females ages 15-24 (a prime demographic of your clothing store), the mortality rate associated with Anorexia Nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate for all other causes of death. In fact, Anorexia Nervosa has the highest premature fatality rate of any mental illness.
The statistics above are not meant to scare you and by no means are we stating that the media is solely to blame for the increasing rates of Eating Disorders in our country. However, you have a responsibility as an organization that caters to a vulnerable population (teenage and young adult females) to think before choosing to sell a product like this. Would you ever sell a t-shirt with the words “Binge Drink More” or “Less Condoms”?
We ask that you stop selling this product immediately.”
Many professionals like their patients to personify the ED and call it/him “Ed.” They actually have their patients talk to Ed, and talk about Ed as if he were a person. My therapist has Ed talk to her. I play the role of Ed, and tell my therapist why I, as Ed, am enslaving Julie.
Well, no more.
By personifying Ed, I am giving the ED more power than it deserves. By continuing to relate to the ED as a living, speaking Being with an actual personality, I am assuming, and telling others, such as my therapist, that “Ed” is my “master” and I am his “slave,” and that I do whatever “he” tells me to do.
But the ED is not a “he.” The ED is an illness, not a person. Yes, eating disorders are very powerful. My eating disorder has a lot of power over me, and I have been in its grips for a long time now. I have been delusional because of it. I have done things that don’t make the least bit of sense because of it. I have harmed my body because of it. I have put my life at incredible risk because of it. I have lied and cheated because of it. I have rendered my treatment team useless because of my dishonesty. My ED has affected all areas of my life.
My friends have been incredibly worried about me. I have not always been honest with them, and they knew this. I did not know that they knew this. It turned into a sticky mess. There were some pleading e-mails. There were some e-mails that I did not like. There was a lot of sobbing, screaming, pacing, and pillow-punching on my end.
The ED is powerful all right. But I will no longer call it “Ed.” I will no longer talk to my therapist and tell her whether “Ed” is in the room or not. The ED is not a person. The ED is with me whether I like it or not. Right now, it’s a part of me and it is in me. I do speak with an “ED voice” sometimes. This is a small, girlish voice. I don’t know where this comes from, but maybe it’s just an offshoot of my mental patient days and has nothing to do with the ED.
I am becoming increasingly honest in my day-to-day affairs. I cringe when I lie. I am more honest with my friends. Sometimes, I withhold the truth, though. But it comes out when I’m ready to tell it and when/if it’s appropriate to tell it. This is brand new.
Well, a new life. Onward.
Hello! An update….
The book contract went into the mail as planned….postage cost…surprise surprise…only $3 to the UK.
When I discovered how rapidly I am gaining weight (I have an accurate scale) I panicked. Obviously, I don’t need to eat as much as I had been. I cut back. My therapist said no exercise, because this would prevent weight gain. Clearly, this is not the case! I have increased the length of Puzzle’s walks, and am doing a little freeweight stuff in my apartment. I am eating enough to support exercise now, and I have lots of energy! I would go stir-crazy, like I did in the hospital, and feel awful in my body otherwise. It just isn’t natural to be sedentary.
Of course, I did make a deal with my treatment team, and I plan to keep up my end of the bargain: weight gain every week. Period.
Love it or hate it, this is my life. My new life. Hello, world.
I got weighed and gained the one required pound. Actually, I gained a pound and a half. So I don’t have to go to the ED hospital, not this week, anyway.
I’m getting more used to eating. I still don’t like it. I managed to get to the library today, though, to work on my manuscript.
I can’t really write. I can pretend to write, but I don’t really write. It sucks. Eating takes up all my writing energy. But I can’t write if I’m dead, either.
I have been told that the writing will come back. I told my therapist that maybe I’d been relying on starvation to get my creative juices flowing. She said she didn’t think it worked that way. I don’t think it’s like telling an alcoholic that they don’t need booze to write. I guess she was trying to tell me that starvation doesn’t enhance one’s creativity. I wonder if maybe she’s wrong about this.
Whatever you do, don’t try it. Please.
I’m signing the book contract tonight, and I’m going to put it in the mail tomorrow. I wonder how long it will take to get to the UK.
It’s the weekend, and I’m tired of eating.
I am not saying that I am going to stop, only that this is wearing on me. It is harder to do this than it is to restrict. It would be so easy to just give it all up and go back to not eating.
All this eating, cooking, shopping, doing dishes, planning…it is tiring. I can’t concentrate on my life. I am taking a class and I can’t concentrate on the work I’m doing for it. I haven’t a clue how I’m going to even make it to the next class at the rate I’m going.
And I’ve got my manuscript to worry about! The manuscript, for godsakes! I’d been working on it the day the ball was dropped on me last week, then abandoned it and started eating, eating, eating.
This sucks. I wish I didn’t have to gain all this weight.
I wish just eating once would satisfy them, instead of having to eat day in day out, for the rest of my life. What a waste of time, money, and energy. It’s just like sleeping. A waste of time. I wish I could just write and not be bothered.
I found out earlier that all I have to gain this week is a pound. I am so relieved, given that it is so hard to eat and gain weight. What I had planned to eat today turned out to be way too ambitious! I was overwhelmed by lunch. It was mostly vegetables, actually. It was delicious and I ate it all, but way too much for me. I was still full when it came time for snack, so I skipped it. So having such a big lunch wasn’t the best idea. I’ve cut back on everything for the rest of the day, figuring that I was getting way too far ahead of myself, too far too soon, maybe pressing the panic button about the hospital. I still have three more days to gain this pound.
After this week, they will be easier on me than they were at the hospital. I have to gain .5 to 1 pound per week. That’s not so scary. At the hospital, it was 2-3 pounds per week. Unreal. No wonder my back and knees hurt.
Surely, this is the better way! I am not “disappearing” for several weeks to a month, and then “reappearing” a totally different, “healthier-looking” person! How embarrassing is that? I had always wondered how I would explain sudden weight gain to my neighbors and acquaintances who didn’t know I had an eating disorder, and just thought I was skinny.
There is nothing worse than telling someone with an ED, once they gain weight, “Oh, you look so healthy now!” Because that actually translates in our sick minds as, “You gained weight and I notice it and you look fat!” In fact, if you know someone with an ED or have a family member with an ED, it’s best not to comment on that person’s body or clothes at all. Don’t even comment on the person’s “healthy-looking” face, because this translates to “fat face.” There is a fine line between saying, “That’s a nice manicure you got!” and saying, “Wow, you got great new jeans!” The latter is definitely a no-no, because what it translates to is, “I notice you had to buy a larger size because you gained weight!” Because most people haven’t got a clue what’s okay to say and what isn’t, it’s best to stay away from commenting about the person’s body or clothes. Just my opinion for what it’s worth.
Okay, I’ll shut up now.
I am trying to gain three pounds by Monday. You wouldn’t believe how incredibly difficult this is. I increased my food, which was a good thing, then weighed myself and found that I’d dropped half a pound. Damn. I need to weigh 92 pounds without clothes at 11am Monday to meet this goal. I weighed 87 yesterday morning, without clothes, 88.5 later in the day. I couldn’t get an accurate reading this morning for various reasons. I will weigh myself at 11am today. I think I gained.
Here’s what I ate yesterday:
Breakfast: thick-cut rolled oats cooked with milk, with raisins and sunflower seeds.
Snack: Egg salad on Ak-Mak crackers.
Lunch: Veggie burger cut up with vegetables sauteed in garlic-flavored olive oil, over brown rice. Vitamins.
Snack: A slice of cheese and raisins.
Snack: All-Bran cereal with milk. A spoonful of peanut butter.
Dinner: Broccoli soup with bacon, walnuts, scallion, and cheese, all mixed in. Milk.
Snack: A smoothie made of milk, walnuts, raisins, and banana.
Total calories: about 1600
I am still full from yesterday. Or so I think. Breakfast will be difficult to eat, for sure. Today will be a long day with class, but I will be busy. I generally try not to repeat days, but tomorrow I’m having about the same thing as yesterday, except I’m adding to it–a lot. I’m adding butter and juice to breakfast. I’m adding more oil to lunch, substituting hulled barley for the rice and adding milk. For snack, I’m having cheese and crackers, and pina colada juice. Dinner will be the same as yesterday, because it’s quick, and I’ve got to rush to class. At class I’m eating a bit of gorp I mixed up for the occasion: raisins, chopped organic dried apricots, and sunflower seeds, washing it down with Gatorade, then when I get home from class I’m just going to have a spoonful of peanut butter and going to bed. Total calories, believe it or not, 1865.
I can’t believe I’m actually going to eat all this. I’m accustomed to 600 calories a day. I know I will feel very, very full. But I won’t feel the way I felt at the ED hospital, no way, because I’m eating healthy food at my own pace, not rushed, no pressure to finish if I really can’t, and I can put off what I can’t eat until later. I can split meals into two, or just eat a bite at a time. At the hospital, you had to wolf down your meal in a half hour, and if you couldn’t finish your meal, you had to drink Boost. All I did was fart there. The food wasn’t all that good, and they made you eat stuff like Oreo cookies and Doritos and other junk food. You already read what it was like for me there.
After this week, I will have to keep on gaining, and definitely not lose, to stay out of the hospital. My goal is three pounds for this week, but I doubt I’ll make it. I’m sure they’ll accept two for this week. At any rate, I have to keep on eating. I accept this. It sucks. It’s my new life. But the alternative is much, much worse.
Here is the proposal I wrote to my therapist. I’ve “edited” it a bit to keep names out of it.
June 7, 2010
As you know, Dr. K was alarmed about what I weighed today, so she called Dr. P immediately, and then Dr. P called you immediately and left a message or something, and then she called me immediately and left a totally inappropriate message on my machine (as anyone could have been in my apartment at the time–maintenance men as well as management personnel are frequently in my apartment even when I am not home, with or without my prior knowledge) stating that I was at an unhealthy weight and malnourished, and should go to the ED hospital immediately. She left the ED hospital number, with instructions to call them. I was at the library all day, and then went to my knitting group, and returned home after 8pm. I picked up the message then.
I refuse to go to the ED hospital. My decision is final. What they do there is cruel and unusual punishment and an assault on my body. It is an assault worse than what the Seroquel did to me and an assault worse than having broken my leg in 1999 and an assault worse than having been raped, and I have been raped more than once. Like rape, it is a physical assault, but because I have an eating disorder, it is, like rape, also a mental and emotional assault. I choose to not undergo this horrific trauma again.
I choose not to be treated like a child. I choose not to be in a prison-like environment. I choose not to have my rights taken away from me. I choose not to have my privacy taken away from me. I choose not to have every bodily function monitored by authorities. I choose not to be constantly watched. I choose to have access to my belongings and not have them taken away from me. I choose freedom.
What is the difference between the ED hospital and being on the outside, then, given that I plan to eat? Even if I did go to the ED hospital, I would definitely refuse the tube. So all they would do would be to feed me. So eat there, or eat at home? Honestly, which is better? Which makes more logical sense?
Going to the ED hospital would totally ruin all the progress I have made here at home. I have added prunes, ham, bacon, veggie burgers, All-Bran cereal, green pepper, minute white rice, quick brown rice, low fat cottage cheese, celery, mushrooms, radishes, garlic-flavored olive oil, walnuts, and scallions. In addition, as of tonight (June 7, 2010) I have purchased, and plan to eat, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, thick rolled oats (I plan to eat oatmeal tomorrow before I see you), hulled (whole) barley, Kashi pilaf, creamy broccoli soup, Ak-Mak crackers, split pea soup, bananas, and cheddar cheese. That is, I have added 25 new foods! Many of these I am storing in my refrigerator, and they will go bad if I end up in the ED hospital. This is no trivial matter. Think of what spoiling all this good food will mean to me! I have created new recipes of my own using the foods I have purchased in quantities that I can tolerate. I season my food to my liking. I actually cook foods that I like. I sit at my table and eat. This is something new. I used to eat standing up, if I ate at all. I do my dishes every night, also something new. I used to not have dishes to do. I keep my kitchen clean. Surely, an interruption in my new-found routine will ruin all this progress I’ve made.
The ED hospital will ruin my progress because the place breaks my spirit. The ED hospital makes me want to restrict. The ED hospital makes me want to lose all the weight they make me gain, and more. The ED hospital, because of their strict rules, makes me want to break out and rebel against them. I refuse to give in. I refuse to sign myself in this time. I refuse the tube. I refuse to eat their horrible, unhealthy, institutional, badly cooked food. The ED hospital is for children. Indeed, most of their patients are children, and the unit is designed for them. I refuse to go there.
I hope that you are convinced by what I am writing here that my going to The ED hospital is a poor choice, especially now of all times. I hope you can convince Dr. P and Dr. K likewise. I know Dr. P will be very stubborn about this. I know my lab work may have irregularities, and I will have to deal with some consequence of this, but I’m sure whatever needs doing can be done outpatient. Perhaps nothing will be wrong after all. I hope that you and Dr. P and Dr. K will agree to continue working with me. I’m sure you will.
Eating is eating, after all, and it’s better and easier done in freedom, in one’s own environment, in a natural environment, not forced upon one, don’t you think? That is just like the concept behind low-residency colleges: that one is writing at home throughout one’s schooling, which is no different from one’s life after graduation. That is why graduates of low-residency schools are more likely to keep on writing than those in regular MFA programs. See what I mean? It is more natural to learn to eat at home.
Furthermore, there are a lot of girls at the ED hospital who have given up on themselves, who have accepted the fact that they are going to die. I honestly can say that I feel this myself. The ED hospital will not help me with this. Those girls rub off on me too much. Almost all of them are into the routine. Many are repeat offenders. I have already told you that you are a very good therapist for me who can help me out of this. In a way, both the maddening phone call from Dr. P and the actual writing of this proposal are helping me to want to live again.
So, what do you say? Will you work with me? Or will you give up on me?
I got weighed at my primary care physician’s office yesterday–in a gown. I guess she was alarmed, because she called my psychiatrist, Dr. P, immediately, who called my therapist immediately, and then called my answering machine, all within only a couple of minutes. At the time that she was leaving the message, I was still putting my clothes back on at my PCP’s office!
The message said something like this: You don’t weigh enough and you are extremely malnourished, so you have to go back to the ED hospital. I want you to call the admissions office immediately and arrange to be admitted. Here’s the number. I will allow you to see your therapist tomorrow before going in, to tie up loose ends. You can resume working with her after your stay at the hospital.
I didn’t receive this message until after 8pm, when I came home from the library, even though Dr. P left the message at 1:08pm. At first, I was very upset. I called my friend, but she wasn’t home. Then I called my brothers, very upset, and talked to both of them. They helped calm me down. Then I decided that since I was seeing my therapist today, I would write her a proposal letter, in attempt to convince her that the ED hospital was not the answer.
The letter took about three hours to write. I was up till midnight writing it! By the time I was finished, I was rather pleased with the result. I thought I had something that was convincing. I have a million reasons to stay out of there that I am too tired to go into now. You have already heard many of them; there are more. Perhaps I will share the letter at some point. I happen to think that it’s pretty decent. I’ll have to “edit” it to get the particulars out of it, but I could conceivably share it with all of you.
The result: I shared the proposal letter with my therapist today. It must have had some effect on her, because we were able to work out a compromise: I have one week to get my act together. I have to gain weight in a week. I have to eat up to quota all week. And hopefully, by eating right and gaining weight, my blood levels will improve. She said she didn’t know if the other two–my primary and Dr. P–would agree to this, but she said she would call them, and if I didn’t hear from them it would be good news. I haven’t heard from them. If I still haven’t heard from them by tomorrow noon, I’ll assume I’m free for now. My appointment to get weighed next week is Monday at 11. The verdict.