After 31 years I am finally realizing what my anorexia is all about

Wow sometimes things happen in my head very, very fast.

I got out of the hospital Monday, that is, the 26th.  Today is Tuesday, so I have been out eight days now.  The first…how many?  Four?  were fine.  Except for lack of sleep…fine.  I slept an hour or two a night but there was so much I had to do and keep track of.  You have to understand that I hadn’t been home for 26 days and my Inbox was full of crap and that crap kind of symbolized the mess I had to take care of…practicalities of being a grown-up and living in the Real World.

Then, Thursday afternoon.  I have discussed this and dissected this with my T.  I came home from my therapy appointment and I had a snack planned.  I ate Snack X instead of Snack Y.

Well, let me back up.  While I was in the hospital….those of you who have been hospitalized for any, any reason are familiar with the way hospital kitchen menus work: you fill out your menu for the next meals ahead of time.  At the hospital where I was staying, you filled out Tuesday’s three meals on Monday, right after Monday breakfast.  Wednesday’s three meals you filled out after Tuesday breakfast.  And so on.  On the menu sheets they give you choices, whatever the kitchen is offering.  You circle whatever you want.  You hope that the kitchen doesn’t goof your order and that you get what you ordered.  If you are on a special diet, which could be any diet you can imagine, such as “allergic to seafood(or eggs or whatever),” “Kosher,” “vegetarian,” and the dreaded “ED” (eating disorder).  Oh, and let’s not forget “paper and plastic only.”  This is for the psych patients.  Plastic utensils only, no ceramic, no glass, no metal, nothing sharp or breakable or throwable on the tray.  On some psych wards, caffeine is not allowed.  On other psych wards, caffeine is heavily restricted.

So every day, in the hospital, I filled out a menu, in the morning, after breakfast, and got in the habit of writing down what I’d ordered.  If there was anything extra I planned to ask for, I made note of this, too.  If I wanted raisins in my oatmeal, I had to ask for these separately from the supply on the floor.  Believe it or not, I needed a doctor’s order to get food from this stock that wasn’t offered by the kitchen.  (This was fairly easy to obtain.  They did, when it all boiled down to it, want me to eat.)  So I would make a note to myself to ask for raisins to put into my oatmeal.  So every day, in my little journal. I’d have a page that listed “Food planned for Tuesday…..” and a page listed “Food eaten Tuesday…..” which listed what I actually ate.  Yes, there were discrepancies.  The kitchen made goofs.  On the ED floor, the staff made sure the kitchen was impeccable.  But on the psych floor, it wasn’t entirely imperative.  I was told that I should adapt and make do and the staff would do what they could to help out.  Actually, they bent over backward for me.   That plus sometimes I’d regress and not eat.

So I continued this when I got home.  I had all my meals and snacks planned out.  I had a list of food that I felt okay about eating.  This was a long list that is in my journal, a list I can turn to if I’m stuck for ideas.  I did at home exactly what I had done in the hospital.  I wrote down my list and followed the list.  It made shopping easy and it looked like I was going to shop wisely with careful planning.  You can really breeze through the grocery store if you have a list and know where everything is.

Are you beginning to catch on?  It’s my anorexia in a nutshell.

So, back to Thursday.  I had gotten out Monday, gone right to therapy, spent Monday night, Tuesday and Wednesday was busy with going to the library, cleaning, and catching up on things, then Thursday had therapy again, came home, and without thinking, ate a half a banana instead of Cheerios (one of those little single-serve thingies) for my snack.  Then I looked at my list and saw that I hadn’t bothered to look at what I had planned.

Was I getting careless?  Overconfident?  I knew that perhaps I had shopped ahead more than I felt comfortable with.  I had bought exactly what was on my list and my list was longer today than it ever had been.  It seemed like I had used up a lot of my food stamps today.  I wasn’t comfortable with some of the quantities I’d purchased.

I felt overwhelmed.  I felt like I was drowning in

I felt like I was being smothered by

I felt like I was being poisoned by

I felt forced by

I felt like I was being pushed over and crushed and I had to

I felt like I was being pushed over and crushed and I had to reach out and stomp my foot on the little, weak thing that was left and stomp it out and destroy it once and for all.  It is like when you wipe an insect off your arm and you injure it and you have that moment of deep remorse that you have killed a living creature and you  recall when, as a child, you struck out at an animal–the worst that you can recall were the spiders and their legs, this only a few times, and now you are hoping there were no higher creatures–


Yeah, it’s just like flattening an insect

There is in my memory something about a boy I knew who beat a toad to a pulp

What scares me is that I could have been that child

I am that child now

…and I have been that child since Thursday at 4:45pm.  That’s Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, today.  My body is a pulp.  My ankles are huge.  This is dangerous, people.  I gained 20 pounds in five days.  It’s from edema, which is fluid in body tissues.  I can feel my skin stretched around my calves.

I went to see my primary care doctor today, Dr. K.  I asked her not to weigh me.  There was no need.  I saw the concern on her face right away.  All the baggy clothes in the world can’t hide 20 pounds of excess fluid.  All the baggy clothes in 100 worlds can’t hide the 20 pounds that are stamped in my head and in my shitty outlook on life right now.

I was honest with her.  I admitted that I haven’t taken my medication for a couple of days (why bother?) and had given up on myself.  We talked for a while.  I began to realize that my version of the story had changed its tone from “hopeful” and “looking forward to the life ahead of me” to something else.

Maybe just “beaten.”  By that child.

Before I mixed up Snack X with Snack Y and then the whole ripples of the destroying child, I wouldn’t have dreamed that this would have happened to me.

No, it was buried in my nightmares.  It was buried in dreams that I forget upon waking.

And I wasn’t even sleeping at night.  I wasn’t even allowing myself to have these dreams.  Maybe I was too terrified even to begin to dream for fear of the nightmares.

My anorexia: all that control, all the restricting, the dieting, the purification, the denial, the deprivation, the glory and worship of emptiness–

–it is all about terror of that child–

it is all about tiptoeing around in my hospital room so that I wouldn’t awaken my angry roommate when I got up well before she did

it is all about not tripping off an alarm in the dead of night while the crickets buzz incessantly

it is all about speaking in whispers

it is all about lying

to keep the peace

I have no written record of my first binge.  I have no written record of what I ate.  I know what I ate.  I have it recorded in my memory.  I shocked myself.  I had never done this before.  I was alone in my apartment.  It was August 8, 1980.  Over the years, I have committed this date to memory.

The date of the beginning of my anorexia is July 1st, 1980.  This is well-recorded.  It was planned far in advance.  Today, I will begin my diet.  I will lose…I think I planned to lose less than 10 pounds, certainly no more than 10.  I lost about 30.  My initial weight was within normal range.  Anorexia makes no sense.

I began this entry a number of hours ago and it has taken me a while to write all this.  What I realized was that I lived in fear of bingeing long, long before that behavior played itself out that August.  I think I lived in fear of the emergence of the child for an entire year…or, say, nine months.  This was why I set up the controls in the first place.  To rein her in.  To keep her locked up.

Locked up.

It is written all over my memoir, if you read into it.  I don’t know why I didn’t see it before.

In the book, Jane Eyre, Mr. Rochester locks up his secret wife, who is mad, in his own home.  She ends up burning down that home, and nearly destroying him.

He locked her within himself.

He is bound to her.  She is his secret madness, his secret hunger, his secret rage.  And he is all about control.  He is all about controlling that rage and keeping it secret…from Jane–unknowing, innocence, youth, the future, his new life, purification from the old life, which would be left behind.

Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea is narrated by the child, Bertha.  In fact, she was taken as Rochester’s wife at a very young age.  She uses fire because it is the only power she has remaining to her.

Suddenly, the Biblical story of Samson comes to mind.


I am wondering, if I can tame the child before she destroys me (my ankle swelling, Dr. K tells me, is not the problem–the swelling is an indication of something inner, and this, she says, is the problem) then maybe I won’t need the controls anymore.  Maybe I won’t need to restrict myself to death, keep myself empty, punish myself for fear of getting too satiated, never allow myself a full meal for fear that it will turn into something horrible, never allow myself

never allow myself

never allow myself

My mother uses these three words all the time

Which tells me that all this time, she has been parenting a child far more important to her than any of us three that she raised.

That child in her denied her her menstrual periods for two years when she was a teen.

For two years, she was freed of rags because she denied herself

purified herself

she is weirdly pure now

of feelings

kinda empty-hearted

it’s very strange

we can’t figure her out.

She was always a little scatterbrained.  Distracted maybe.

She is quite deaf now.  My brother says she always had a listening problem, anyway.

Maybe she was busy listening to someone or something else.  An inner monster, a voice, something she had to hold down

but it never even came close to erupting because it was buried

years years years of cold

she was in the cold and you could only see her arms, flailing around, and hear her sing-song voice

which was supposed to soothe me.

No, Mother, you did not comfort me.

You never held me, never loved me, never nourished me

it’s called Absence of Love

It’s called the Void

I speak from the Void now

I roar from the Void now

I am the daughter that hungers for God

I am the daughter with the churning pain in her side

I am the daughter that cries out for more in the night

I am the daughter that grew to deny herself out of shame

The pain grew and the daughter was proud to endure the pain

I am the daughter that you shamed

You shamed

You shamed into self-denial

The daughter punished herself for hungering

The daughter denied her own cries until they became the cries of a child, another

The daughter chained the destructive child she saw in herself, locked it up when the destruction became so intolerable that it needed to be hidden completely

It’s not hiding now.  Dr. K saw it today.  My ankles are huge, huge, huge.  She asked me if I wanted to go over to the ER to be admitted again.  She heard the hopelessness in my voice.   She also reassured me that as soon as I stopped bingeing, the edema would slowly subside.  Meanwhile, she is very concerned about my physical health.  She asked me to restart my medication at least, before I ended up mentally sick again.  I told her I would take it as soon as I got home.  I didn’t.  I did take a dose tonight, though.  I took some vitamins, too.  She told me to put my feet up.  This will help my ankles get a little less thick, I hope.

That plus I think I’ve stopped bingeing.

I think it’s over.

I think it’s over.

I think it’s over.

The lid is closed for now.  You cannot hear her.  I cannot hear her.  She has left enough mess for me to clean up.  The mess gets worse and worse each time.  My fear of her–the health risk becomes more and more serious–and my controls…this is scary.  But seeing all this, knowing this

After 31 years I am finally realizing what my anorexia is all about

well, that is something indeed.


Coping with my eating disorder as the worst of Hurricane Irene is upon us here in Boston

Must say, it’s bad, bad, bad out there.  I’m not even peeking out at this point, taking advice from what I’ve read online and staying away from windows.  I ended up taping them with packing tape in the shape of an X–I really don’t know if that’s the way to do it–and taping down my shades, not that it’ll do any good.  I no longer trust the trees out there.  I saw a downed tree branch and I’m guessing that it came from tree #2, which has already lost a fair amount of limbs over the past few years and needs to get chopped down, or will, when all this is over with.   It’s not a large tree, not like the one that blocks my neighbor’s view of me during the summer months, so that I can walk around naked in my living room and not be seen.  Of course, in winter, the tree is naked, so it is useless as a coverup and I have to either pull the shade or keep something on.  Well, being skinny and, I’m told, not having much meat on my bones, I find it freezing in here no matter how warm someone else thinks it is, so I’m well dressed, trust me.  Well, I’m rambling here.  The wind, let’s say, sounds real bad, worse than it’s been all day, and if you’ve heard that Irene has been downgraded to a “tropical storm,” well, that doesn’t mean anything really.  It’s closer to us, so it’s worse right now.  Weather dot com says “gusting to  48” but I’m guessing that sometimes it gusts higher.

I’m wrapping things in plastic more and more.  I can’t help but allow my mind to wander and mentally pack a suitcase for evacuation.  I live in elderly housing, so they may evacuate the building to protect the seniors, whose health is compromised to begin with.

How does all this affect my eating?  Something inside me told me I didn’t need much food in the house.  I had some canned food.  Sort of.  Enough for yesterday.  I have juice and V8 and milk.  I thought I’d cook up some rice while we still have power.  It’ll keep a while without refrigeration.  This is Julie’s idea.  The eating disorder’s idea is to forget making rice.

Why am I saying this?  Why am I personifying the ED?  My therapist does this all the time.  I don’t buy the theory, though.  I hate personifying the eating disorder.  I even told her I’d prefer not to, even though many therapists like to do this.  I don’t think of my eating disorder as a person “Ed” that I’m married to or whatever.  I think that’s childish.  The book Life Without Ed is all about the person Ed.  It’s a fabulous book with fabulous ideas in it, but I couldn’t get through it.  I didn’t like the way I was being spoken to in the book.

I have met Jenni Schaefer in person, and she’s nothing like she is in her books.  It’s hard to explain.  I saw her speak at a MEDA location in Newton, Massachusetts.  She’s a powerful speaker, and she didn’t speak to us like we were kindergarten kids.  She explained why she wrote the book the way she did, with short chapters structured in a specific way.  I didn’t buy her explanation, but I highly respect her decision to do the book the way she did.  At the end of her talk, she sang and played the guitar an original song.  (She lives in Nashville and, like many living there, is an aspiring country singer and has a “day job” to support herself in the meanwhile).  As it turned out, the entire, I mean entire audience–and I haven’t any clue who was eating disordered and who wasn’t and don’t care–couldn’t hold back the tears as she sang.  Wow.  I wished I had tissues because I really couldn’t hold it together.  Then there was a long book-signing line and I joined it near the end of the line.  I had Life Without Ed and Goodbye Ed, Hello Me  ready for her to sign.  I was wearing a beanie cap that I had knit myself (I was cold), and when it was my turn in line, she asked me if I had knitted the hat, and there was a bit of discussion about how knitting seems to be a meaningful hobby for people with anorexia.  I was in tears when she signed the books.

I write in short chapters, too.  I like being “to the point.”  I find short chapters annoying except in certain situations, ironically.  In This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness, just about every chapter is brief.  I did this because I was inspired to write my book the way Kenny Fries wrote The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin’s Theory, which is the most brilliant book I have read in recent times.  After I read Kenny’s memoir, I went on to read some essays on writing using this “braided” structure (read Kenny’s book or my book and you’ll know what I’m talking about) that were very, very helpful.  Switching over to this structure was a brave move on my part.

Am I brave now?  Probably not.  If I were brave, I would break out of the bad pattern I have with my anorexia.  My special friend refers to this as a “loop.”  You can’t get out of it unless you really work at it.  You get stuck in it unless you can take charge and use all your strength to break free.

Right now, Hurricane Irene is breaking loose, unleashing her power, and sending tree limbs flying onto power lines and into buildings, into the middle of streets and blocking them, all over people’s yards, and even on top of cars and squashing them.  Irene is blowing stuff over and sending it all flying.  You can see the destruction everywhere.  Wind and rain is out of its usual pattern of sunrise and sunset, reasonable weather (considering this is New England), and scaring the pants off of us.  Irene is showing us her strength.  She is not kidding.  She is a force to behold.  She will not let us forget her.

My eating disorder has the power over me that Irene now has over the East Coast.  My anorexia has the power to destroy me, and has recently nearly done so.  It didn’t, though.  I survived.  You could say that I was rescued.  You could say that I lucked out.  You could say that I took shelter in a hospital just in time, that the hospital was structurally safer than my home.

Maybe someday, I will be like a mountain, and Irene won’t be able to blow me over.  You know, this is something I don’t truly believe will ever happen, but it’s a nice metaphor to consider right now that I hear the wind howling outside and I am taking shelter in here and getting a bit of writing done.  But when I was kept in my shelter of the hospital, right after my eating disorder, as powerful as those gusts of wind outside, almost blew me down, the chaplain, who made a surprise visit maybe an hour prior to my discharge from the hospital, helped me, for a small moment, see myself as that mountain, and I felt a calm come over me that I haven’t felt for a long, long time.  I can’t say when I felt the peak of that calm, because I only felt it for a short time, but it was genuine, and real, and right, and I knew in my heart that I truly deserved every bit of that calm, peaceful moment.  And then the storm came back, but I didn’t forget what had happened.

They say the eye of the storm is deceptive.  They say not to go out in it.  They say if you do, you’ll get knocked over after the eye passes.  No, this wasn’t me as a weakling before the Eye.  There are times when my eating disorder offers me the calm of the Eye, and then I fall back into the destructiveness of the storm–very quickly.  When I almost died, it was  because I had stepped into the calm of the Eye, knowing I was approaching death and rushing to prepare for my demise, realizing that I didn’t have much time, but I felt a strange peace, accepting what would happen as inevitable.  I didn’t question it.

At that time, there were many, many things that I kept secret from everyone.  You could say that at that time, I had more secrets in me than I ever did at any other time in my life.  It’s something I’m working on right now.  I still have many,  many secrets.  The chaplain knew, without asking, that I had this tendency, and asked me about it.  She said that you can’t keep a secret from God, that God sees everything.

If I were to talk to God right now, and I don’t–I don’t pray–what would I say to someone–or perhaps God is an “it”–from whom I can hide nothing?  Do I need to say anything at all?  Actually, I think that maybe, when I’m ready, I will have some things to say to God.  And for sure, I will pray for Puzzle.

Whenever I met with one of the chaplains at the hospital, I requested that they pray for Puzzle.  Not one of them thought that praying for my little dog was an unreasonable or silly request.

Maybe it is a God who is keeping Puzzle completely calm during this storm.  She hasn’t a clue what’s going on outside.  She has had no reaction whatsoever.  She is incredibly strong in the face of a force as powerful as my eating disorder.

May we all be so brilliantly equipped.

I'm back!

Yes, I’m back from my second trip to _____11 at the Prestigious Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.  I left before the recommended discharge date, on my insistence.  Inpatient eating disorders treatment doesn’t jive with me.  This is the fourth time I’ve done it, and each time, it hasn’t worked, and in a way, it is a worse experience.

My T says that I merely panicked, thinking that the treatment at ____11 was going to make me put weight on.  Maybe so.  I simply don’t think that inpatient is the answer for me.

The first two times were at W Behavioral Care, in a nearby town.  The first time, I was in for five days and hated it.  I faked my way through the program.  I don’t know what I hated most.  Was it that I was the oldest there, and everyone else there was in their teens?  Was it that the girls called me “Grandma” sometimes, behind my back?  (That, I must say, was uncalled for, though perhaps I was their grandmothers’ age.)  I was of course overwhelmed by the place.  I hated that I couldn’t tell my friends anything about my treatment over the phone, or talk to any of the other patients about eating disorders issues; it simply wasn’t allowed except in their very structured groups.  All along, I told myself that I would lose the weight I had gained as soon as I got out.  I never wavered from this promise.  What disgusted me most was that while there, I was working on knitting a hat.  I completed the hat, and wore it home.  The nurse said to me, “Call it your recovery hat!”  Since then, I have despised the word recovery.  I also would have thrown the hat into the trash.  But I didn’t, because it matches one of Puzzle’s sweaters.

My second inpatient eating disorders treatment was at the same place, W Behavioral Care.  It is said to be the best place in New England.  I was tube-fed this time.  I despised tube-feeding.  It is like rape (no, I’m not being extreme when I say this).  It is an object forcefully inserted into an orifice of the body against one’s will.  Agreeably, I didn’t use the word, “No,” but in my heart, after it went in, I felt truly violated.  I ended up pulling the damned tube out myself eventually, in the middle of the night.  No one attempted–or dared–to insert it again.  Lord knows they’d fattened me up enough.  I felt horrible on the tube.  The “tube feed” goes right into your stomach just like food, plus we also had to eat.  It put weight on me way, way too fast, and my stomach hurt and all I did was fart all day long.  My knees were killing me, as was my back.  This misery wasn’t recovery.  This inpatient stay certainly didn’t help me any.  I was incredibly uncomfortable at my new weight, and took it off as quickly as I could once I left the hospital.

My third inpatient stay was my recent stay at ____11 at the Prestigious Hospital in Boston.  This is not an eating disorders unit.  It is a psychiatric unit that has an “eating disorders protocol.”  This was the first of two stays at ____11.  This stay was a nightmare to me.   I have told you much of it.  Much of it I haven’t told you.  I was treated poorly and came home extremely traumatized.  I haven’t been this traumatized since I was raped in 2008.  I woke up in the middle of the night thinking I was still there.  This happened over and over.  I had nightmares about the place.  I had replays of what happened to me, like videos playing over and over in my mind that I couldn’t stop.

The shitty thing about this was that I couldn’t get anyone to believe me.  I couldn’t even get my own T to believe me.  I couldn’t get my friends (with the exception of Frank) to believe me.  Everyone assumed that since I had an eating disorder, and this was the Prestigious Hospital, it must have been just the thing I needed, and surely I was exaggerating, or complaining because I didn’t want to get better, or complaining for the sake of complaining.  When my T came to visit me just yesterday, the first thing she said was how “nice” the place looked.  Well, fuck.  Architecture means shit.  People mean everything.

And the point is not so much what went on there, but my reaction to what went on there.  When I left, I was in a state of terror and shock.   I needed to talk about what happened.  I needed to process it.  I needed to be believed and validated.  I didn’t need ____11’s actions justified, or for anyone to blame me for having had a negative experience there, as my T had done.  And as I replayed and replayed everything, I relapsed in a really bad way, for eight days, until I brought myself into the emergency room–at the Prestigious Hospital–figuring that there wasn’t a chance in hell that there would be an opening at ____11.  There never is.  I figured I’d be sent elsewhere.

I spent over 24 hours in a little “secure” room at the psych emergency room.  This little room had nothing but a bed and four walls.  I was stripped of my regular clothes and shoes, and required to wear hospital clothes.  I knew there was a possibility I’d spend the entire weekend there, and it was now midday on Friday.  It’s sometimes hard to find a hospital bed for people on public assistance.

At first, I freaked.  But what ended up happening in that little, empty room was amazing.  I asked to speak with the chaplain.  I don’t remember her name.  It doesn’t matter what religion she subscribed to.  We spoke for perhaps an hour.  I cried.  I always cry when I talk with the chaplains.  I cry when I even think about God.  No, we didn’t talk only about God.  We talked about other things, too, many things.

You know, you don’t have to believe in God, in fact, you don’t have to have any notion whatsoever that there is anything that controls the universe, or any kind of spirit or supernatural power, or an afterlife (now that I don’t believe in), or judgement, or reason to behave well other than behaving well is simply a good idea to know that the medical profession and pills aren’t a cure-all for illness.  You may believe in the power of humor, or the power of thinking positively.  Many people pray and find this very therapeutic and relaxing and fulfilling–and for some, it is an essential part of daily life.

Let me tell you this: My talk with the chaplain, in that little room with nothing but four walls and a bed equipped with hookups for leather restraints, was the most helpful and amazing part of my hospitalization.  In fact, my entire stay in that little room was amazing.  At one point, they hooked up a telephone in there.  I used it a lot.  Then I slept a lot.  The ceiling in the first room developed a leak, and I had to be moved to another little room that was identical to the first, except the phone jack didn’t work.

So I was alone, no phone except for my phone line to God.  No, I didn’t talk on this phone, and God didn’t talk to me.  The chaplain had taught me that if God was anywhere, God was in these rooms, right beside me.  God is like air.  God is everywhere.  You breathe every day.  Feel it.  I breathed, as I do every day, all day long, and fell asleep.

I’m not sure when it was on the second day, after I awoke, that I realized all this stuff about ___11, that the whole reason for my eight-day relapse had to do with my stay there.  What I didn’t know was that by being sent to ____11, I would have the opportunity to deal with unfinished business with the unit and the personnel there.

I ended up being transferred on Saturday.  I had the weekend to make myself clear.  And I did.  I made my demands.  I told the nurses that I wanted to be treated better this time.  I told them how I reacted to my first stay.  I told them that I wanted to be treated like a human being and not like an animal.  I told them that in no way did I want to have that nurse that had been so cruel to me last time.  I wanted help from them, help with my relapse.  I had come voluntarily, boarded Puzzle and brought myself to the hospital first thing Friday morning.  It was my hope that all my demands would be met.  Many were.  Many weren’t.

The weekend was okay.  Monday was okay.  Then mid-Monday the “eating disorders protocol” began, and my progress ended there.  I had expressed myself already, though.  My unfinished business had been taken care of.  My mission was complete.

As I said, inpatient eating disorders programs and I don’t jive.  The worst of it was the limit on how much water I could drink.  This rendered me desperately thirsty.  I was truly suffering.  I’m not talking about dry mouth.  This is physical thirst.  Finally, at 6:30 yesterday morning, I stole a cup, and drank water in the bathroom.  This was the beginning of my breaking protocol, and the end of my meaningful use of “treatment,” that really wasn’t useful to me in the first place.  Later yesterday, I asked to be discharged that afternoon.  It was pointless to stay.

The good thing was that I got what I came for: I broke the cycle that I had been stuck in from my eating disorder.  I no longer felt the physical discomfort and subsequent despair that I felt when I came in.  So I truly didn’t need to be in the hospital anymore.  The doctor agreed.  So here I am.

I feel pretty decent now.

I will do anything to end it

After four horrible days of bingeing following my hospitalization for dehydration, malnutrition, and severe anorexia nervosa, I have reverted to starvation as a desperate measure to prevent another nightmare bingeing episode.

I left the hospital as soon as my Section 12 ran out.  I left last Thursday.  My doctors there had strongly urged me to stay the weekend.  But when I was handed a conditional voluntary form, I realized that they would then have the legal right to hold me there for as long as they damned please.  And if I wanted out, I would not be able to get out immediately, but would have to wait three long, grueling days in that “prison.”  For indeed, that was how it seemed to me.  They had taken away my privacy in the bathroom and shower, my telephone rights, 75% of my belongings, and severely rationed my fluid intake to the point where I was suffering constant thirst.  My therapist supported my decision so long as I was planning to eat properly when I got out of the hospital.  I said that I intended to.  This was a lie.  This wasn’t a tiny lie.  This was 100% a lie.

I was devastated, and taken by shock, by the first binge.  I was devastated by the second.  I was devastated by the third, and fairly certain that this series of them was over.  And when I binged the fourth time, I was, as they say, hanging by a string.  I came into my therapist’s office desperate to make the bingeing stop, and would do anything at that point.  But it had to stop immediately.  I could bear it no longer.  I am 53 years old.  I am not 20. I just got out of the hospital for malnutrition and extreme reduction in caloric intake that had been gradually increased. I have edema that is getting worse and worse.  My heart pounds when I binge and my heart rate increases.  My stomach sticks out on one side.  I eat to the point that I load myself until the food reaches the top of my throat, or so it feels.  I eat so fast that I risk choking.  I risk infection because the inside of my mouth is so bitten up and damaged.  In the past, I have passed out from extreme exhaustion.  And the emotional and mental effect?  That’s the very worst of it.

I told my T about all this.  And I told my T about the behaviors–what I do, what I eat, what happens to me…a lot of what I go through, a lot that I have never told anyone.  She asked a lot of questions.  I cried and cried and cried.  If anyone has ever believed me, if anyone has ever understood me at all, it was my T.  I am so, so alone with this, and have been for most of my life.  Anorexia?  Many people understand anorexia.  No one understands what an anorexic person who does not/cannot throw up goes through, because this is such a rarity…that I know of.

What we ended up doing was working out a great plan to stop the bingeing in its tracks.  Immediately.  The plan is tailored specifically for me and my behaviors and no one else.

Upon leaving her office, my eating disorder took over.  I got on the Red Line subway and then ended up at a drugstore after a while and gazed at all the goodies.  But I didn’t buy any?  Why I didn’t buy any…I do not understand the complexity of my thought processes at that point.  But I do know that at the drugstore across the street, the prices were ridiculous and I turned down the junk food for that reason.  That plus the bus was arriving shortly.  I came home.  I was terrified that I would binge.  So I got in touch with my T.  S.O.S.  She never got the message until late night.  I ate a few things that I shouldn’t have eaten, but it didn’t trigger a binge–why?  I think I was simply binged out.  From then on until I went to bed, I followed the plan we had set out.  Meanwhile, my T got the message and said she’d call me in the morning.

I woke in the night hysterical.  Crying over the bingeing, though I hadn’t binged for a while.  I woke up in a desperate, distraught, panicked state this morning as well, weeping, and it took a while to calm down.

Since then, I’ve been starving myself.  I have eaten…nothing.  I looked at the food I’d promised my T I was going to eat, though.  I looked at the package.  Nothing.

Very soon, I felt…nothing.  No emotion.  No panic.  No more crying.  Just sitting here writing to You. I ran a few errands and did some very much needed cleaning around the house.

I started the starvation last June…or I think it was June…and the more intense starvation in July, and the structured daily activities, specifically to end the bingeing.  Don’t tell me this is happening again.  I want it…but I don’t.

Why have I made so many secret promises to myself?  Why do I lie so much?  Why do I hold back?  Isn’t this exactly what the chaplain was talking about when we met the last day I was at the hospital?  God sees everything.  God sees through all my lies, all my secrets.  Everything.  I can hide nothing from God.  God is all-seeing and all-knowing.

Isn’t it God that I now seek?  Isn’t it God that I now hunger for?  Didn’t the chaplain say that anyone that hungers, hungers for God, and has God in their heart, and that God has never left me, but has walked by my side all this time, all through my relapse in fact, though I have thought I did not believe, that I had lost my faith and had lost my ability to pray?

Wow.  No wonder I cry so much.

On faith: some reflections I have today after returning from the synagogue

You have heard what I said so far in my audio post I made at the bus stop on my way home (if you have speakers or headphones and could hear me).  But I didn’t say anything about the rabbi or the service.  So I will tell you.

The synagogue is huge.  It seems to be a major landmark in the area.  On top of the building is a menorah, and by this I was able to know that this was the correct building.  I wasn’t sure where to enter.  Off to the side was a ramp entrance.  I noticed one on both sides of the building, which was handy because of its size.  I saw no parking lot, but did notice a sign saying something about appropriate parking elsewhere for worshippers.  Finally, I located a door on ground level that was open.  Inside was a huge celebration, and it was obvious that this wasn’t the service because I heard music in Spanish and it didn’t seem to be a religious event.  So I inquired from someone who seemed he might know.  I asked where the Jewish services were.  He said, “Downstairs,”, and showed me the way, also pointing out the bathroom.  I waited.  No one was there.  Then a fellow showed up who said he was there for a MassPIRG meeting (kind of a political/social fundraising organization) and that they had rented this room for their meeting, and that the worship service was elsewhere.  So I went upstairs and asked the guy again.  He said, “Oh, to pray!”  I said, “Yes.”  And he said, “The library, then.”  He showed me a different room, and pointed out a different bathroom.

Here was a tiny room with only a handful of chairs, surrounded by Jewish books of all sorts, mostly very, very old hardcover books, many of which I recognized but hadn’t read.  There were many copies of the Holy Book, possibly in different translations, though I don’t know about the various Jewish translations and biblical commentary they may contain.  I am embarrassed to say that I know more about the Christian Bible New Testament translations–or did, in days past, very long ago, when I studied it very intently.  I must say, it all dates back over 30 years ago to just before I developed my eating disorder.  As I say in my book, This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness, “I craved God like it was a drug.”

I had arrived perhaps five minutes early.  There was no one else there.  The rabbi arrived maybe five minutes late.  It was clear that I would be the only member of the congregation.  He said to me, “This will be a Yartzheit service today, you know.”  It’s been a long, long time, and no way did I remember what Yarzheit meant.  He explained, “To remember the departed.  Do you have anyone that has died who was close to you?”

“Yes,” I responded.  “My father.  And my boyfriend, Joe.”

“And what are there names?  I’d like to write them down.”

I gave him their names and proper spellings, emphasizing the E on the end of my father’s last name.  It’s interesting, too, that most Jewish Greenes don’t have the E.

He handed me a prayer book.  He told me which page we’d start on, and we began.

Jewish prayer books, and all Hebrew books, start from the right, not the left.  This I quickly recalled.  The rabbi, who was from the Old World, read from the Hebrew, which, interestingly, was printed with its vowels (the little weird figures surrounding the larger Hebrew letters), making it easier for me to read and follow along even though it’s been ages, a number of decades, since I’ve been to Hebrew services.  He read fast but not faster than I’ve heard ever before.  After this came the English translation of what had been read in Hebrew, followed by a response in italics, which was to be recited by everyone.  The entire service continued in this form.  I caught on very quickly.  The rabbi instructed me when to sit and when to stand.  At a certain point, he closed the doors that exposed the Torah scrolls that were in a compartment in the wall.  I hadn’t even noticed the Torah there until then.  He must have opened those doors when I wasn’t looking.

It was weird.  I did, in fact, understand a bit of the Hebrew.   I recognized many of the words that meant “God.” The Hebrew language has tons of words that mean God that are used in prayer, and I recognized their spellings right away.  I also recognized the word for “mankind” (humankind) and “world.”  That was about it.  After a while, I could pretty much follow along with him according to the consonant sounds.  Of course, though, it held no real meaning for me, no actual feeling that I was praying.  Nor did the English translation that was provided, or the response that I recited along with him.  Why?  It went by so very fast that I didn’t even catch the meaning of what I was saying.  I had no clue what I was praying about, or saying, nor did I know to whom I was saying it.  It occurred to me then that the folks who came to these services said the exact same prayers each time they came, and probably had them memorized.  I remembered, also, that this was the case when I went to services as a child.  I, too, had them memorized, even the Hebrew, though I had the sounds of the prayers memorized, not knowing the meaning of what I was saying.  The only thing different, at each service, that was, each Shabbat service, was the Torah reading for that week.  Or at least that was the way at the synagogue where I grew up.

Was I praying?  I didn’t know.  I didn’t feel like I was.  I just felt like I was reciting something from a book.  Yes, it was something very special, something Holy perhaps, written by very, very special, learned rabbis from very long ago, and revised over the years.  Perhaps various editions of this prayer book had come out every now and then that were sanctified by a special group of higher-up rabbis.  But the words went by so fast that I had no clue what I was saying.  I have no memory of a thing that was in any of the lines and lines of prayers that I recited today, except for the Shemah: The Lord is One! a very short prayer that I know because we are taught it from day one in Hebrew school and recite it over and over.  I felt a disconnectedness and this was very disconcerting to me.

And then, the rabbi closed the book, and said, “The service is now over.”  And that was that.  Wow.  It felt so weird.  I immediately sensed that perhaps this synagogue was too conservative for me.  The only thing liberal, interestingly, was that the rabbi often substituted the word “God” for “He” or “Lord, ” undoubtedly to avoid the assumption that the Diety is male.  He then told me his name, and invited me to services on Shabbat, and the other weekday services.  I told him that it had been over 30 years since I’d been to services.  He said that it would all come back to me in time.

I left, knowing that I wouldn’t be back.  I can’t go back.  I just don’t feel any connection.  I don’t even feel a sense of memory, and I don’t know why that is, either.  Maybe I’m blocking it all out.  Maybe I don’t want to picture my parents beside me in the synagogue, or the blue seats, or the aisles in between the rows, or the pulpit, or the fiery sermons the rabbi would give over the Six-Day War.  Maybe I don’t want to taste the Israeli wine, or the challah bread, or the goodies we ate after services, or hear the ancient Hebrew chanting.  Maybe I don’t want to recall my bat mitzvah and the fear I had that my period would show through the white robe I had to wear, and the huge reception line, relatives I didn’t know kissing me and leaving lipstick marks on my cheeks, and all the thank-you notes I had to write for weeks and weeks after my bat mitzvah for the gifts I had received from friends, congregation members, and relatives.  I know I don’t want to remember waiting for my mother to pick me up from Hebrew school and waiting for 45 minutes, an hour, an hour and a half in the dark, the cold, long after the synagogue building had closed its doors for the day, and finally, giving up, walking home over a mile on a slippery, dangerous sidewalk to a home I wished I didn’t live at.

So I came home this morning, arriving I don’t recall when, maybe 11:30 or so.  I put away the vegetables I’d bought.  They looked nice and fresh.  The fellow at the co-op had asked if I was making soup.  I had just shrugged.  I’d felt like saying, “No sir, I’m anorexic and this stuff doesn’t have, like, much calories,” but I didn’t.  I just said, “I don’t need a bag, I don’t think,” and I put the stuff in the red stuff bag I have.  The vegetables were still cold when I got home.  The computer was still on.  I decided to Google Unitarian churches, thinking this may be the way to go at this point.  I found that the Unitarian church is the one that Puzzle and I happen to pass every day on our walk.  Bingo.  On further inquiry, I looked up the sermons posted at this church website.  They contain poetry I like from familiar poets, as well as quotes from quotes from great literature in every sermon that was posted on the site.  I also looked at a posting of Q&A on UU.  This was a publication that came out of another UU church.  I found that the church is very liberal and doesn’t push beliefs on its members.  Just about all of the members came over from other faiths, and a huge number, interestingly, are baby boomers.  Jesus is considered a teacher but definitely not deity, nor is the Bible taken literally (i.e. the “virgin birth” or Jesus walking on water).  Many don’t believe in God and call themselves atheists.  And I am wondering if prayer has a place in the UU church.  The Q&A didn’t say, but I assume that traditional prayer doesn’t exist there.  Would it, then, be okay to talk there about God, or would it cause discomfort or controversy among members?

I so very much want my faith back.  The chaplain at the hospital said I never really lost it.  Like I said in my audio post, she told me that people who hunger, hunger for God, and if I am hungering for God, then I have God in my heart and God has never, never left me, and has walked by my side all along, even though it was my thought that I had stopped believing around the time that my relapse began in 2008.  I told her that I was completely unable to pray, and that I lost my connection long, long ago, even before 2008.  I spoke with a number of chaplains during this hospitalization.  When they asked who I’d like to pray for with them, I said to please pray for Puzzle.  And so each of the chaplains would say a special prayer for God to watch over Puzzle–and me–at this difficult time.  Every time, we held hands and prayed.  I always cried when I talked to the chaplains.  In fact, I’d start crying as soon as they came into the room and told me who they were.  I opened up right away.  I told them about Puzzle.  I showed them photos of Puzzle.  They knew just how special Puzzle is to me, and why I wanted this special prayer to be said for Puzzle.  The last one who came while I was at ____11 (the psychiatric “prison” came two days in a row.  She said that God didn’t want me to starve myself.  She gave me an explanation of this that made a lot of sense and made feeding myself seem not so scary.  Actually, what she said was more helpful than anything any therapist or doctor has ever said to me about my eating disorder, not because it had anything to do with God, but simply because what she said was so powerful and went straight to my heart.  And for one moment, it stayed there, and it felt okay, and very rich and delicious.  And then, it was gone.

And now, as I sit here writing this, I realize that I have been writing for a long, long time, and it is close to the time for Puzzle’s walk, and Puzzle is my dear dog who has been prayed for so many, many times.  I would ask a zillion people to pray for her if I could.   Puzzle so many times has saved me, so she deserves plenty of prayers and blessings.  We will go out soon, and pass by the fire station, the library, and–yes–the Unitarian church.  I may–or may not–think about God when we pass by the church.  I know, though, I’ll be blasting the music on my MP3 player and be tuning out the world as I always do, but watching the traffic to save Puzzle from harm.

Please, please, pray for Puzzle.