Why therapy doesn’t work for many binge eaters

I realize now, way too late, that going to therapy for binge eating back when I was 23 was a mistake. I had no way of knowing where it would all head, not back then. I started ED in 1980. Most of you were not alive then, so allow me to explain. We didn’t know what anorexia was. We had no internet to look these things up nor was anorexia very common. No one spoke of it, ever. Bulimia had barely been invented and BED would not enter the DSM until 2013. Most clinicians did not know what binge eating was, and many didn’t know what anorexia was. I remember many of them couldn’t spell anorexia and they couldn’t spell bulimia, either. How was I to get help at all?

I didn’t know what caused it. I never found any clinicians, ever, who fully explained it to me….

After anorexia, your body is still recovering even if you are eating normally and even if your weight is okay. This goes on an average of nine years. During this time you will find that you binge now and then. This is not a disease, it is part of your body’s normal process.

For those who were never anorexic but find themselves binge eating, almost all were starving prior to the onset of bingeing. Either this was due to a diet or due to unavailability of nutritious food. Some were starving and never knew! This can happen at any weight.

Yes, binge eating is extremely uncomfortable and incapacitating. However, overly focusing on it in the form of therapy will likely make it worse. I don’t think therapy that doesn’t deal directly with the behavior is the answer, either. I think therapists that won’t talk about it are avoidant and possibly aren’t comfortable talking about food issues themselves. Or the ones I remember I had were like that. They would talk about anything but!

Overtalking about it will make you obsess about the behavior. It’s just like thinking too much about not sleeping will cause insomnia. Same deal. This is also why keeping a “food diary” can be quite defeating for many people. Never mind the therapists who insist on peeking at your food diary. I always felt violated when they did that. I usually didn’t want to admit this to the nicer therapists, either.

Seeing a competent nutritionist might be the way to go. Expect to shell out big bucks to find one that know his/her stuff. Some of the alternative ones, so-called, might be better, but many of those don’t know anything about ED whatsoever.

I found it helpful to talk to my acupuncturist, just talking helped me immensely. My first one, anyway, the next one I didn’t like as much. I would say my first acupuncturist was a terrific influence on me. I would like to write her a thank you. Back then I remember going and feeling like she was the only one who would listen. It felt hugely relieving to go. I had no social life back then. Acupuncture was it. She didn’t do therapy. She hated traditional medicine as much as I do now.  She would feel my pulses and look at my tongue and then ask me some very basic questions about how things were going. She was incredibly intuitive. She and her supervisor were the ones who recommended I report to the police, after I told them I’d been raped by my neighbor in 2008. They knew I wasn’t lying.

Sadly, my appointment with the cops happened after the acupuncturist graduated. I had no way to get in touch and I couldn’t use her as a validation witness. The police told me my story “sounded fabricated.” And that was that.

We do what we can do. I stopped bingeing after I stopped therapy.  After I stopped all mental health treatment and stopped calling myself a mental patient. It didn’t happen right away, but being free of “them” was a big deal for me, as I realized that after 33 years of therapy, totally wasting my life, I had finally done something right.

After that, I taught myself many things that have helped me. I found I didn’t need a therapist after all and that therapy was holding me back.

I love my life now. I think about other things, not ED. I have many goals and I manage to achieve some of them. I love working and earning money. Paychecks are starting to come in. The next big step will be to get off the disability rolls for good.

Old You-Tube I made two years ago, and discussion

I made this video in June or July 2013. It has been transferred between computers, which is why I don’t know the exact date. The video didn’t upload properly and I never retried. My computer crashed right after that. I was able to recover just about everything.

In the video, you can see in the end I beg anyone who has gotten that far for a phone call. I never got one. Yes, it was that bad back then. I tried so hard to get anyone to speak to me. I was conversationally deprived and after a couple of years of terrible isolation, I began to lose my ability to properly converse. I lost my sense of good manners. I was DYING for conversation and human compassion.

I would grab anyone I could and try to make friends. Nothing worked. I ate less and less. During the last couple of months, I was down to 500 calories a day, then 350, then 300, then…30 calories a day. That’s the equivalent of a couple of slices of apple.  I kept that up for several weeks.  When I finally arrived at the ER, I went into full code.

A couple of days later, I told them, “I starved myself because no one gives a shit about me.”

In my records, apparently when I told them my family barely spoke to me they assumed that was impossible and that I was delusional. I wasn’t at all wrong, though. I told them that my mother lived a couple of towns away and I had not seen her since December of  2010, except for once for about 20 minutes in 2013, not by my choice. That brief meeting sent me into a very bad downward spiral. It is written in my records that I was delusional and that no one could possibly have had that little contact with her own mother. But it was true.

I have one brother who won’t speak to me, and the other gaslights me nonstop whenever I try to talk to him. The hospital personnel assumed I was delusional about that, stating that no family would do that to a person. Yet I was right all along.

Most of my friends had given up on me as a lost cause. So many people put up ridiculous boundaries. As if I were a leper.

I wonder if anyone realized how badly this situation of denial of social contact was harming me. I expected to be treated well at the hospital but instead, I was abused while inpatient.  Actually, I expected a warm welcome back into my community and maybe a few apologies. I didn’t get that, either. No, I was told how morally defective I was, over and over, and  people pulled away even more.

I was sick from the kidney failure, barely able to drag myself around in late 2013. I was being denied medical care. Yeah, I had appointments where they went through the motions but truthfully, gave me no care and no hope. They expected me to end up on dialysis soon, and die.

I had one or two friends who would speak to me. If it weren’t for those people I know I wouldn’t be alive now to write this.

I love being alone, and I need to live alone and to spend time by myself. I can’t imagine being married and not  having any solitude. I only  needed occasional human contact. All I was asking was that people pick up the phone when I call, spend time with me now and then, and quit acting like I was some sinner from hell. As a result of denial  of companionship, I nearly died.

You can see in the You-Tube how I was having trouble speaking due to starvation. Lack of nutrition affected my cognitive ability. I understood what was happening around me, but my ability to self-express became limited. I can assure anyone out there that your thinking ability WILL return after you start eating again.

Please, never allow this to happen to a person. Reach out. You will save someone’s life.

PS: I am much better off now since I relocated.  I have friends, too. Again, the video was made in 2013 and now two years have passed.

 

 

Nuts and seeds are terrific for refeeding. So here’s a recipe.

When a person decides to stop restricting and start eating again, it’s important to eat easy-to-digest, nutrient-dense foods. I have heard that nuts and seeds are excellent for this, as are small quantities of citrus fruits. In my opinion it’s very important to eat only things you like. Please do not force yourself to eat foods that you dislike or that make you uncomfortable. Don’t be afraid to try new things, keep an open mind, and make your own decisions. Gaining weight should be something you decide to do, your initiative. You can do this for your family’s sake, for your dog’s sake, for the love of God, whatever is helpful, but no matter the initial reason, this needs to be your decision.

Do you want to think clearly again? Do you desire to stop feeling faint and dizzy? Do you want to feel stronger? Do you want to stop feeling so scared of food and calories?

I heard a long time ago about the virtues of nuts and seeds. You don’t need to eat a lot to start feeling better very quickly!

Here’s a recipe I designed myself.

You will need: A cast iron frying pan (I use a six-inch one) a top for it that isn’t tight, a pair of meat scissors or knife, a spoon for stirring, and a heat source, such as a stove burner, hotplate, or other flame. This recipe isn’t written for a microwave, but maybe it can be adjusted for one.

Food (this can be adjusted to taste): Dry beans, cloves of garlic, a small amount of water, seeds (I use sunflower, in the shell, but if you are refeeding use shelled), and I also use sesame seeds. Almonds would probably be good in this but I have not tried yet to include them.

First of all, put your cast iron pan onto your stove. Turn on the burner. Add some dry beans of your choice, only a spoonful, very little. I use soy or garbanzo. I know soy tends to be GMO these days but I’ve been using the dry beans occasionally since I hear that soy is good for menopause. I figure dry beans are far better than processed soy products. Toast the beans for a bit on medium heat.

Now, take your cloves of garlic and cut them into tiny pieces, allowing the bits to fall into the pan. Lower the heat if your find it too hot while doing this. Stir, and dry toast this for a while, about a minute.

After that, add only enough water to lightly cover the pan. This will begin to boil off immediately. This is the time to stir so that the garlic gets distributed. Yum!

You will see that your beans are already nicely toasted and cooked. This is a very fast way to cook beans that take hours or a full day with the soak and boil method. You don’t really need to add the water but lately I’ve been finding that this extra step makes the mixture more palatable.

Add the sunflower seeds, and stir. Only add a very small amount, a spoonful.  I don’t suggest adding them until your water appears boiled off. I throughly toast these since I use the type in the shell. Again, if you are refeeding you will  most likely find sunflower shells tough on the system, so use the shelled kind. I never use salted ones as they might be coated with all sorts of very bad stuff.

(hint: you can actually use bird seed. I do! Be careful where you buy it, though, because some places that sell animal feed are bug-infested.)

Add a few drops of olive oil or any oil and then stir. This allows heat to distribute. You don’t have to be afraid of “calories” since you are only adding a few drops. I know at first the idea of eating “fat” is scary. For whatever reason, I find the idea of eating seeds far less scary and a very easy way to start eating again.

Sprinkle sesame seeds over everything, a small spoonful of these will do. At this point you will have to adjust the heat and find a good balance point because you won’t want to burn the whole thing! I cover the pot now. The reason is that the seeds will start to snap, and jump out of your pot otherwise. You may want to leave the lid open a bit to allow further steam to escape.

This entire recipe takes me between seven and twelve minutes. Once your mixture starts popping like popcorn, turn the heat off and wait till the popping stops so you can take the lid off without getting seeds everywhere. Poor your mixture into an appetizer bowl and enjoy!

Why drink fake Ensure when you can eat real food that doesn’t taste like fake vitamins and fake processed corn goo? Sure, your “doctor” will tell you you must drink it, but remember, the companies that make Ensure and Boost are marketing their fake foods to hospitals, nursing homes, practitioners, etc, and their reps are no less persuasive than drug reps.

A word about nuts: If you are prone to binge eating, please don’t purchase large quanties of nuts all at once. Buy a very small, non-scary amount for now.

Hope you like this! This is a great way to get non-scary but very much needed fat into yourself and have fun while you are doing it. Remember, try to be the one in control and tell anyone else to keep their comments and policies off your body! It’s yours! Take it back!

 

 

Question: I have just left eating disorders “care.” Why am I now binge eating?

Hello! Wow, I have heard this question so frequently. I can’t necessarily say why this happens to every single person who has asked this question. However, I can suggest a few possible explanations as to why this happens so frequently.

Does eating disorders “care” really address binge eating?

I haven’t run the circuit of treatment centers, but from what I have seen, these places address two thing: 1. They restore weight by forceful means. 2. They try to stop you from throwing up by invading your privacy. That doesn’t exactly sound helpful to me. In fact, it sounds downright awful!

Maybe the whole time you were in there, you wondered if you would go back to binge eating upon leaving. This fear may have loomed in your mind the whole time. Since all discussion of binge eating is discouraged, you keep that fear to yourself. If this is your very first experience in lockup, maybe you are totally convinced you will never binge again, only to be find that big rude awakening following discharge. Sometimes, “staff,” who don’t truly understand eating disorders, might say, “Of course you won’t binge. You are recovered!” This might have totally convinced you that having been in this place magically makes you immune now. However, you know, deep in your mind, that the problem STILL hasn’t been addressed.

So if you purge, and they’ve addressed the throwing up, what’s going to happen when you get out and then binge? You are no longer on a “rewards” system for not purging. I’ll bet many who binge most likely revert right back to purging. Or you restrict all over again, and the ugly cycle comes right back.

Should prevention of purging be the focus, or prevention of bingeing?

Many people who purge tell me that if only they didn’t binge, they’d have no reason to purge. Others have told me that they don’t binge, but when they feel too full, the temptation to purge is very strong. From what I recall of “care,” they filled us up, often via tube feeding, until just about everyone felt bloated, then monitored us to ensure we didn’t throw up our food. This addressed nothing. We had no control over our situation. Many were dying to get that control back, no matter what. Some say that eating disorders are all about control, and there we were, controlled like robots.

Getting out is overwhelming because “treatment” is oppressive.

When you get out, or shall I say when I got out, I felt like I was in a world that had suddenly become too wide. Too bright. Too much space. I’d adjusted to the cramped environment and artificial light of the “unit.” Now, I was in this new thing, Freedom. I usually left dehydrated, so as soon as I could, I’d try to get fluids into myself. However, I also often binged. Was Freedom too much for me? That’s what my therapists claimed, stating that I couldn’t manage and therefore needed long-term lockup. But I knew that wasn’t true.

I binged because I’d been in an oppressive environment, literally a prison. Our bodies react to this. Many studies have been done on both humans and animals that have measured the effects of being behind locked doors. But do we need studies to prove what we already know?

Does the average “staff” even know just how destructive binge eating is?

I used to bite my pride and approach staff as discharge neared. I’d ask, “How do I stop myself from binge eating?” The response was generally to pass the buck, simply because the staff had no real solution to this. So they’d usually say, “Ask the nutritionist.” I’d wait for days to see this person and then finally ask. I asked a number of them. Their response? “Follow your meal plan.” Or, more often, “You should take that up with your outside treatment team.” If I ever said that these tactics never solved the problem in three decades, they’d shrug and say, “Then you aren’t trying hard enough.” Really? I found that remark insulting. I wanted so much to be free of ED!

I have clear memories of that first binge following release from lockup. I remember telling myself all the while, “This shouldn’t be happening. Aren’t I better now?” I’d ask what went wrong. I never came up with an answer. Afterward, I’d feel terribly sick.

Why do we see the “revolving door syndrome”?

I know many run right back to lockup. Have you ever done that? I remember seeing these patients come in. They looked ashamed, often hiding their faces or bodies and not saying much. I felt bad for them, the repeat offenders.  I’d hear things like, “I guess I wasn’t ready to leave before.” Is this true? Maybe. Maybe they were repeat offenders because the lockup joint failed them, again and again.

However, from what I recall, if they had no solution to binge eating, how did these facilities expect anyone to magically stop? This is one of the major ironies of such “care.” If you pick apart their logic, you will find this logic is flawed, to the point of being rather absurd.

Anorexia, jealousy, and inappropriate comments are a major factor.

I found it rather difficult to face the outside world because they’d put so much weight on me. Many people I knew that I saw in person gave me that “look,” that up-and-down look, checking out how much I’d gained. I’d hear, “You look so healthy now.”

I felt so ashamed hearing these comments, even if the intent was not to harm. I’d ask what was behind these comments, which frankly, are somewhat rude. I realize now that the jealousy factor is at play at times. Not always. But some people who have issues with their own weight might see you heavier and then take out their frustrations on you. They feel relieved to see you at a higher weight, but why? Are they truly caring about your health? Or do they feel relieved because you are not such a threat to them anymore?

Yes, a threat. Those of us who have been at a low weight become familiar with the envy factor. Some people feel challenged by us, even jealous. They might privately ask themselves, “Why can I not control my eating, while this anorexic person struggles to get every bite down? It’s unfair!”

When many of us leave, we look different, and we are often told to suck it up.

I remember going home from “care” feeling so ashamed. I always hoped the next few weeks were cold, so I could keep my body covered with a coat. I felt bloated and sick from “refeeding.” I wanted to avoid the looks I got, but it was hard because my face was still visible. My self-esteem dropped.

Meanwhile, I was terrified that I would binge. I felt like I was always looking over my shoulder with dread. I’d tried so hard to tell them in “treatment” that it was imperative that I lick the binge eating. I was scared that it would get so bad that I’d get suicidal. If I did binge and ended up back there, they refused to address the cause, simply because they had no clue how.

On and on and on and on.

For the most part, these expensive rehabs don’t really work, despite their claims.

So much of this lockup nonsense doesn’t work. Same with the expensive “residential” programs. They might look nice in their pamphlets and websites, but then you find out you can’t even go outside unsupervised, and the rules are rigid and illogical. You might find yourself STILL locked out of the bathroom, and that your basic human rights are taken away in residential, just like lockup all over again. But you feel guilty because someone is paying an arm and a leg and counting on your “recovery.” Whatever the hell that is.

Why do I binge in the first place?

In part, binge eating comes from stress, a physical body reaction. Another reason people binge is due to malnutrition or even a reaction to the standard water restriction imposed on patients. The diet I had to follow in there wasn’t at all healthy. I was force fed junk food, processed crap, and I was shamed if I didn’t finish everything. The whole time, I was dying to get out just so I could eat plain, healthy, whole, unprocessed delicious food. Never mind tube feed, which is loaded with hydrolyzed blah blah blah, cheap corn products, and other rather unhealthy stuff.

Perhaps we might not ask, “Why have I binged after treatment?” But, “How could it possibly be avoided?” Perhaps you were assured, “Of course, you are bingeing. It’s a sign of healing.” Some doctors and therapists poo-poo binge eating because they don’t know how to treat it. They don’t want to admit this, of course. They blame us, over and over. “You didn’t follow your treatment plan.”

No, the treatment plan was oppressive, and therefore, harmful.

“Mental health” is in fact a human rights issue.

The one thing no one needs is to be railroaded like cattle from group to group. No one needs to be told over and over that they aren’t the authority on their own bodies. No one needs the typical gaslighting you get from staff if you dare to speak out against the regime.  Treatment is a lose-lose situation.

We all deserve basic human rights. We need to find our own path.

These days, I am often asked how I solved my eating disorder rather quickly by ditching the meds and the lies force-fed to me in “therapy.” I can tell you it took a lot of experimentation. I found that no way is binge eating or restricting “poor coping.” It saddens me that so many people latch onto this lie like it is a given. It’s not even true.

We’ve already been through that for years. We’ve tried so, so hard to pinpoint just how poorly we cope. This basic false notion holds people back. Instead, see binge eating as YOUR BODY demanding food. Not just all food, but a particular nutrient, or handful of them. It is crying out to you. Have you listened to your body today?

Sadly, in “treatment,” every time we tune into your bodies, we are told, “That’s Ed speaking.” Well? It’s entirely your choice if you want to believe this, but I personally have never met this Ed. Show me the dude inside my head and I’ll show you mushy-looking brains. Nothing else.

There is no Ed. It’s a marketing ploy, like Santa Claus, designed to deny you what you need. It’s a way they control you. Ditch it.

You are you. All your thoughts are your thoughts. Own them and embrace them. Embrace your body. Your body is crying out for respect, dignity, and privacy that you have been denied for so long. Isn’t it time we demanded these very simple things?

So I am sitting here writing rather spontaneously. I am laughing because this stuff just comes out of me, for whatever reason, and usually, I end up leaving it just as is. For you. Because I truly want the best for you. Be happy. Live.

Why we are far better off not believing in “full recovery”

I have had a sudden shift in my thinking, after reflecting, reading, and discussing this important issue. I used to go along with the “recovered” notion, that there’s this big “recovery” thing in the sky, the Ideal World, Ideal Self, that is perhaps perfectly free of “ED thoughts and behaviors.” I now see things differently. I feel that we are again striving for perfection when we know the perfect human doesn’t and shouldn’t exist.

We once strove for perfect thinness, and then found out we could continue to lose weight, on an on, and that ideal could lead to death, but never perfect thinness. What now? Perfect wellness? The perfect pinnacle of health? That’s a tall order, don’t you think?

I have recently been reintroduced to the Buddhist concept of “practice.” I think that’s a terrific way to look at our mission, our path in life. What does practice mean? Here’s an example:

I once played trumpet, and got good at it through practice. This meant a lot of diligent hard work. It mean working daily and striving to improve. It meant getting into a “routine,” which was the word we used in music school. Our instructor taught us to make a habit of spending the first 45 minutes of our daily practice doing this “routine.” The routine wasn’t boring, hardly. We did it daily and worked at each exercise, one after the other till we were done. It was so ingrained into us that we thought of it as automatically as brushing our teeth each day. You just did it. Then, we’d spend another couple of hours working hard at other trumpet practice, perhaps working on the musical literature of trumpet.

I can’t say I enjoyed it 100% of the time, but mostly, I did. I noticed I kept getting better. If at any point any of us reached a plateau or dead end, we’d consult other trumpet players to see what they advised, or at lesson time, consulted our instructor.

Life skills must be practiced. One such skill is kindness. You can’t do kindness in a vacuum. You must continuously use this skill and in your own way, radiate goodness. Are we ever perfectly kind? To think that there’s an actual end to the learning process might not serve us well.

You may graduate from high school or college, but is this the end of learning? You have reached a milestone in your life for sure, which we hope is recognized and celebrated. But life goes on, and we are continuously bombarded with new challenges.

We are not stable creatures. I celebrate this. I celebrate that our bodies change and continuously present challenges for us. While we are children, we grow taller. Then, we don’t get any taller but continue to grow and change. Even late in adulthood, our bodies and lives continue in metamorphosis.

Menopause, for me, is a new challenge. I don’t want to sound “pollyana,” but I’m kinda enjoying the challenge. I like that I can experiment to find out new solutions to live in my changing body. Some of this new life isn’t comfortable at all. They say the majority of women experience “symptoms” of menopause.

Whoa! Hold on there! If there are “symptoms” of menopause, then that’s a misnomer, is it not? Yet I hear this term regularly. I think we can agree that menopause isn’t a disease. We suffer from these menopause-related difficulties, yet we aren’t ill. We are growing and changing and our bodies are telling us something. Some experience these things far worse than others, which is mostly due to individual differences that science says (as of now) it cannot explain.

To me, wellness is a practice. This means adjusting how I live to my changing body. If I suddenly feel very very  hot while I am sitting here writing, I can choose how to deal with it. I can call a doctor, saying, “Help, help, I can’t cope!” I’m awfully glad I’m not doing that, though.

I celebrate choice. I celebrate that I am not looking to medical authority to solve my problems. I celebrate independence and freedom. This means researching my options. This means extensive experimentation. I enjoy this, though. Each time I find something that doesn’t work, I find another thing that might work better.  I often feel like an explorer or traveler. In fact, we all are.

If wellness is considered practice, and not some ideal, we know we are working toward it. While we may rid ourselves completely of “behaviors,” we must still adjust the way we live our lives. We are continuously surprised or shocked or devastated or delighted by life’s events. I’d be bored if life didn’t have these unexpected turns.

We must be in process of radical action, never passive acceptance, meanwhile knowing we pause to rest and replenish.  We must remain true to ourselves, always listening to our bodies, because they are wise. That, to me, is the practice of wellness. How can “full recovery” even exist or have meaning in this context? Why even worry about it? I sure don’t!

Knowing that believing in this ideal is a false hope, a pinnacle that doesn’t even exist, I feel liberated from constant pressure and self-doubt. I welcome new challenges instead of dreading them. I haven’t lowered my standards. No way. I feel as though I am becoming more real.  I enjoy that new real, that person that is uniquely me.

What happened when I tried to drown out my eating disorder with an addicting hallucinogenic drug.

When I was much younger I tried weed and for the most part, it didn’t do much for me. Cigarettes were easy to quit. Drinking seemed disgusting to me. I don’t have much experience with illegal drugs at all. It must be about once every 9 to 12 months that I decide I’ll become an alcoholic or druggie, thinking if only I could do that much, my eating disorder would be put on back burner. I’d rather have cancer than an eating disorder, that for sure! As for addictions to illegal drugs, I’ve never had that problem, so I don’t know what it’s like.

I couldn’t tell you when it was. I have it written down somewhere. I tried a drug. Yep, tried yet one more time to become a druggie. This time, I used something readily available that supposedly is like pot or a hallucinogen. It didn’t get rave reviews, I must admit, but I don’t personally know anyone who has gone this route. I told myself just how stupid this was, but ignored my own advice.

I didn’t give a shit how stupid, how damaging, how whatever it was going to be. All I wanted was to drown out my eating disorder with something else. It didn’t work, though. This is what happened:

I decided to try the drug. I told myself “This is stupid,” but did it anyway. I was disgusted and hated having an eating disorder. All I wanted was for it to go away.

The “reviews” I found stated that it has an unpleasant taste. That part didn’t bother me at all. After a while I really did get a “high.” I can’t say there was anything at all pleasant about it. But all at once, I told myself, “I don’t ever want to be *not high* again!” That makes no sense, of course.  However, when you are high you don’t make much sense anyway. 

That lasted a while, longer than was safe really. I was high for over a week straight, oh, ten days I guess, and then suddenly I was bored with it all. I wondered what would happen if I stopped cold turkey. That’s what I did, and nothing bad happened except I felt a LOT better not taking it!

It gave me embarrassing flatulence and almost immediately constipated me. I began to swell up, I assume because my kidneys had to work too hard to excrete various toxins. I started to feel terrible. I didn’t want to go out nor did I have motivation to do anything. I heard you can end up with a weird look in your eyes from it, but thankfully, my glasses are plenty thick and hide most irregularities. I was more tired than ever. I didn’t want to get out of bed. 

One day, it dawned on me: “This is why I feel like crap. I need to stop.” And so, I made the decision to stop. I had no further interest in making myself more tired and more sick. To add insult to injury, I found that the drug also caused unwanted weight gain. I was so unhappy about that bit that I believe it was the deciding factor.

So for sure, I didn’t accomplish what I wanted. I wanted to get rid of my eating disorder, but trying to become a drug addict has failed the few times I’ve tried. I ended up furious about the weight gain, more upset and preoccupied with my weight than when I started. So instead of distracting me from my eating disorder, the drug made me sick and even more unhappy with my body. 

The weight had come on fast and noticeable, so I felt embarrassed and self-conscious.After I got off the drug, I felt better within a day and the excess weight gradually came off. I’d say it took at least twice as long to come off as it took coming on,

I kept telling myself that this substance was dangerous except now and then, and there I was doing it nonstop for over a week. How dumb was that? The high protected me from being scared. I kept telling myself I didn’t care if I died. Everyone would quickly forget about me and maybe no one would ever know what really killed me. 

Starvation protects a person, too. You know you could die, but you see yourself as only floating around in the world, just passing through. I remember going to bed every night wondering if I’d die in my sleep. I’m damn lucky I didn’t. The thing was, most of me was too far gone to care. I’d say a tiny bit of me was left that was desperately clinging to life.

What does it mean, to not even care if you live or die?  If you are in an altered state you can’t think straight anyway. It’s not a good state to be in to make a major life decision.  When you get out of “altered,” you look back and wonder what ever possessed you.

They call it “Ed.” Oh, hogwash.

I had never heard of Ed. I had never heard of eating disorders, either, not for a long time. I ended up in therapy and my first therapist didn’t seem to know anything about eating disorders. Nor did anyone at the day treatment center I went to. By then, I knew I had an eating disorder. I knew that word. I didn’t know any of the vocabulary that is now used. Why? Because it didn’t exist.

Bulimia had just recently been invented, or, discovered, or, rather, they decided to acknowledge that people were secretly throwing up their food and maybe this wasn’t medically safe. In fact, people were dropping dead of it, and I heard it was possible to drop dead of anorexia, too. But I was told it was “highly unlikely.” I was told I had a “very minor problem.” I was told that other people suffered far more than I did. I was told I was ungrateful, undeserving, and spoiled. Being Jewish didn’t help. All it meant was more money for the therapists.  Did I hear the word “princess” muttered under their breaths?

That’s how it all started. No talk of Ed. That’s because the therapists hadn’t invented Ed yet. That must have started decades later. I had no Ed. When I met others in the 1980’s and 1990’s, they, too, certainly didn’t have an Ed nor spoke of some imaginary husband. What hogwash was created to make even more money!

The concept of Ed is great as a teaching tool to teach self-policing. They call it thought regulation. Thought regulation means you censor your thoughts. So every time a “bad thought” happens, you banish it. When you have a good thought, you reinforce it so you have more of the same.

All we like sheep!

Sounds great to get people to comply, right? So you tell a bunch of young people (I used to hear this all the time and laugh my ass off) “Don’t listen to Ed.” So there would be an entire group on how to stop “The voice of Ed.”

I would like to share a secret with you: There is no voice of Ed. It’s their imagination. They invented Ed as a way to control you and manipulate you. So, they divide “bad thoughts” and “good thoughts” but they no longer have to call it that because they have this handy “Ed” to do the work for them.

Now, any time you say something they dislike, they say, “Oh, that’s Ed talking. Don’t listen to him.”

Imagine the power and control they now have over vulnerable patients who only wanted help with their eating problems.

Patient: I’m concerned about the side effects of this pill you are giving me. This is causing discomfort. I notice my legs move. Why am I taking it and how does it help my eating disorder?
Staff: So you are overly concerned about a part of your body. It sounds like you are obsessing. Maybe you need to take a few deep breaths.
Patient: I wasn’t asking for that. I would like to see a full listing of the side effects of this drug.
Staff: We don’t have Internet access here. That’s a special request. You will have to ask the doctor.
Patient: I asked the doctor. He didn’t answer my question. The problem with my legs is getting worse. I’m afraid to take any more of these pills.
Staff: Your obsession with your body is part of your eating disorder. You should not think these thoughts. Tell Ed to go away.

So you have an entire population of patients banishing their Ed thoughts. Whatever staff sees as dissent is called an Ed thought. Asking for human rights laws to be followed is an Ed thought. Asking for respect, that, too, is an Ed thought. Demanding that you are allowed to celebrate a religious holiday instead of going to all-holy group, that, too, is an Ed thought.

Of course, an Ed thought might also be looking at a thin person and saying to yourself, “Gee, I wish I could look like that.”

Let’s examine this. First of all, is there a guy named Ed that lives in you and is forcing you to think this? I don’t think so, or shall I say, I cannot detect a person named Ed inside me.

Hey, Ed, yoo-hoo!

No response. I don’t detect any Ed inside. I have never seen one on an x-ray. If a tiny dude name Ed showed up on my latest ultrasound, I would think the technician doing it might have freaked, don’t you?

Eeeks! This woman’s preggers! At 56? No wonder you don’t feel well……

Maybe, when he’s ready to pop out the hatch, I’ll name him Eduardo, eh?

All kidding aside, I choose to be free of self-policing. If I see a woman beating her child, I will try to do something about it. Wouldn’t you? If you see human rights violations on a psych ward, would you speak up, or would you buy into “That’s your eating disorder talking”?

Any thought I think is my thought and I can choose to share it or not. Say I got out and see a very thin woman and I decide, “Wow, I think I’ll go on a diet and lose a bunch of weight and look just as thin as she is.”

I proudly own that thought. It’s a thought. I have these thoughts now and then. Thinking something isn’t a crime. It won’t hurt me. In fact, shaming myself for allowing these thoughts to creep into my mind is probably more harmful. I don’t like shaming myself. I’ll bet you don’t like feeling ashamed of what you think, either.

Staff use Ed language as a way to shame patients. Don’t buy into it. Be proud of what you think and who you are. Just thinking, “I wish I were thinner” won’t harm you. It’ll harm you more to allow others to control what you think.

I do indeed think those thoughts. Sometimes, I even enjoy them. Sometimes, I don’t. Does it matter? I don’t make an issue of it. That’s because I threw Ed and policing out the window. You can, too.

Looking back on an eating disorder

Have you ever….

….left a store with a bottle of soda, then after taking it out of the bag, suddenly found you’d accidentally bought Pepsi instead of Diet Pepsi? You either panic and give it away, or go six miles back to the store to return it?

Have you ever….

…been inside a store and suddenly discovered you’ve spent the past 45 minutes reading food labels, unable to decide what on earth to buy that won’t make you fat?

Have you ever….

….in the produce aisle, held up apple after apple, trying to figure out which one weighs the least, without letting on that that’s what you are up to?

Have you ever….

…been scared to death to bring home any food at all, for fear that you will devour it all at once?

Have you ever….

…gotten through all your grocery shopping and you are just about done. You are so proud that you haven’t overspent. Then, right by the registers, you pass by Gourmet Cheeses. Uh oh. Camebert. Swiss. Guyere. Bleu. Edam. Goat cheese. Don’t they have any really small ones that don’t cost a fortune? How about those little itty bitty ones? Famous last words.

Have you ever…

…lied and said, “My coworkers are gonna love having these tomorrow morning with our coffee.” And rushed out of there fast, before the cops came in for their shift break. (Hint: to make that one more believable, buy coffee, too.)

Have you ever….

….fended off nosy questions about all the lettuce and radishes you are buying by saying, “Oh that’s for salad for the potluck I’m going to.”

Have you ever…

…left a therapy or doctor session utterly overwhelmed or frustrated, telling yourself, “Wow, was I ever not listened to!” or, “That doctor has no clue what it’s like!”

Have you ever…

…left an appointment in tears?

Have you ever…

…known that you live and breathe each day through these colored lenses that darken your world according to how you are going to keep yourself thin and make yourself thinner. You’re aware of that narrow viewpoint, but you cannot rid yourself of the blinders. If only anyone knew what it was like to live this way. It isn’t just at mealtime. When it’s your life, it’s everything.

Know something? I’ve been through all that, too. Even thirty years ago I went through those same things. Even now, there are remnants of it all. Just remnants, though. It’s cool that mostly, what remains are the stories from the past. It doesn’t bother me to look back, no, not at all. I’m rather thrilled to be able to remember, laugh, and know that I am still alive.

Check out this poem….anorexia story…and my commentary

This is a poem I first heard in 2003. I cannot copy and paste it here due to copyright laws, so you’ll have to see the linked page yourself, which will open separately:

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/177900

The poem is so sensitively written that I am awed. I read this poem during the time between undergrad graduation and the beginning of grad school, not long after Joe’s death.

Right before Joe died, I asked him his opinion about my weight. I told him I had no clue why I continued to gain weight no matter what I did.

I asked him, “Do you think it could be the meds?”

He said, “I don’t know. Maybe.” He knew I was deeply disturbed about what was happening.

January 2004 was an unusually cold winter in northern Vermont, where I attended my first residency. My weight was increasing rapidly at that time. As a result of rapid weight gain, I was always overheated. It had something to do with estrogen fluctuation.  I didn’t even bring a winter jacket with me and didn’t need one. It got down to -25F one night. Still, I wasn’t cold.

At my third residency, in January 2005, my weight had reached its peak at close to 200 pounds. I am only five foot one inch tall.

Soon after, one knee gave out and I spent three months using a wheelchair, barely able to stand up.

My psychiatrist, Dr. Kimberly Pearson, returned from maternity leave. She had no apparent “baby fat” and in fact, appeared to have been working out daily at the gym. I was then a “cripple.”

I recall exactly what occurred when I saw her. She came out to tell me she was ready for our appointment. She said, nonchalantly, words I’ll never forget:

“Julie, I didn’t know you use a walker now.”

So she saw my condition as permanent.  Inevitable. Consequence of much-needed  drugging. It didn’t matter, so long as I was compliant. I’m sure she figured I’d die young anyway. Statistics supported that those of us on psych meds die 25 years before the rest of the population. Just another mental patient.

I was livid. I tried to retain my composure. She didn’t even help me carry my stuff into her office.  I dropped a paper and struggled to pick it off the floor. I nearly fell. I grabbed onto my walker, and steadied myself.

I’m not sure at which point I finally figured out that the drug Seroquel had caused the weight gain. I was scared, but finally I demanded that Dr. Pearson take me off that drug. She balked at the idea. She said I’d be “unstable.”

Over the next few years, she said that every time I begged to get off a drug that was harming me. Even Trileptal, which caused me to be unsteady on my feet, and Lamictal, which caused double vision, and finally, complete physical collapse.

“But you’ll be unstable.” Yeah, of course, one is stable six feet under, am I not? I won’t move again. Stable as can be.

Once off Seroquel, my weight dropped. I know now that I am not the only one whose  return of anorexia nervosa was an act of revenge against weight-gaining antipsychotics. I was around 50 years old and this was the worst the anorexia had ever been.

I’m now 56 and have narrowly escaped death a number of times since. No, not due to lack of Seroquel, nor withdrawal, but simply because the drug had wrecked my body. Anorexia was the great Fuck You.

Over the last few years of our “work” together, Dr. Pearson harped on how “happy” I’d been on Seroquel. Had she and my ignorant “therapist” that I had at the time, Dr. Louise Ryder, even been listening? I hated being overweight. Despised it. I wanted to cut the fat off my body every waking moment. Is that happy?

Maybe I was too drugged to speak out. At the worst of it all, I was on 900 mgs a day of that shit. For no real reason than the fact that I “tolerated” it. Or appeared to. Or maybe I wasn’t complaining.

Anorexia was a great way to complain. It made a statement. Don’t mess with my body, bitch.

I was coerced into eating disorders “treatment.” It did more harm than good. Every time they forced me to gain, I left feeling devastated, and even more worthless than before.

My weight’s okay now. But that’s in spite of “treatment.” I think in the end they wouldn’t have cared if I’d committed suicide. I wonder now if I had, if anyone would have understood why.

Following summer of 2013, I kept asking, “Why did they abuse me?” The question was never answered.  It wasn’t the weight that upset me, but the fact that I had been stripped of my dignity. But I wouldn’t satisfy them with my death nor would I stop writing and speaking out.

My revenge is that I am alive and doing fine. I see no shrink and take no psych meds. I am doing better and better. I am getting stronger the further away I am from “treatment.” I had the idea to leave the oppressive situation in which I was trapped.  Clearly, my “crazy” notion to ditch them all saved my life.

I’m glad those shrinks didn’t quite drive me to suicide. I was hanging in the precipice for a while, though, due to their abuse. I’m glad I waited it out until I could escape that horrendous nightmare.

I want to remind anyone out there that while so-called “mental illness” is claimed to be “for life,” many realize this isn’t necessarily true. Likewise the consequences of psychiatric abuse don’t have to be forever, either.

True, my kidneys are at about 1/3 functioning, but the rest of me has only grown stronger to compensate for the loss. I even like myself. A lot. I especially like my rebellious spirit, which I suppose I always had. It was buried all those decades.

I’m okay now.

I love you all, Julie and Puzzle