I want to say something to those of you out there who are still struggling. And to those of you who know someone with an eating disorder….
It’s hard, first of all, when no one understands. It’s tough when even your own family (if they’ve stuck around) doesn’t “get it.”
It’s hard when society puts us down for being vain or having skewed values or disorders or labels we don’t actually have. Or they tell us we’re selfish and think of no one but ourselves and the scale. They take away the scale and then they tell us that weight matters but we can’t know what our weight is once we’re “in recovery.” Oh, so much bullshit.
So we try to get this thing “treatment” and find that it isn’t accessible. If we’re male, or over a certain age, it doesn’t exist for us. Treatment is expensive. Treatment is narrow-minded. Treatment means forced care. Treatment follows the Food Pyramid, which is funded by the rich meat and dairy industries. If you want to eat healthy, and stay away from hormones, GMO’s, and pus, you are out of luck. Treatment does work, but for the very few.
For the rest of us, I want you to listen up very carefully: I want you to get better in spite of treatment. Or lack thereof.
There people that say everyone can get better. I will not bullshit you. This is not true. Not everyone can get better. However, there is no way of knowing. I was one of the ones convinced that I would die. I was convinced every night that I would not live to see morning. I could not plan for the future, not even a week ahead of time, because I thought I’d be dead.
The last bunch of times I was in treatment, or, rather, non-treatment, I witnessed them shaking their heads sadly at me. I saw the look. “She’s chronic.” “She’ll never make it.” They were going to send me to the state hospital a year ago. Last time I left “treatment,” I saw the sad look again. “She’ll be back in no time.” I left and felt a revolving door behind me inviting me back. I did not accept the invitation.
Well, folks, I am not back there. Far from it.
See, you can get better in spite of their low expectations. In spite of their labels. You have abilities and strengths, and your eating disorder did not take these abilities away.
Getting better from an eating disorder does not mean you have to have a BMI of a perfect 20 point oh (or higher). Getting better from an eating disorder has much more to do with feeling good about your body than it does with BMI.
Getting better from an eating disorder does not mean you have thrown out your scale. There is nothing wrong with keeping a scale in the house. Scales don’t bite. If you think they do, you might have an eating disorder. Or you might have a darned weird scale.
Getting better from an eating disorder does not mean you do yoga and no other form of exercise. The idea that yoga is the only acceptable exercise for ex-ED’s is a very narrow-minded viewpoint. I happen to have a pair of wings attached to me. I fly every night when no one is looking. OM is not in my vocabulary.
Getting better from an eating disorder does not necessarily mean you run around touting a puppet figure you call Ed. Or Ana. Or Mia. We don’t need to get down to the level of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood or Captain Kangaroo and use acronyms and do child’s play to understand the basics about this dangerous disease. Cuz once you’re dead, you don’t need toys.
Getting better from an eating disorder means doing what makes sense. It means hanging out with positive, supportive people. It means seeking folks that love you and understand you. It means having a voice. It means self-expression. It means feeling good about yourself.
Here’s what I did to get better….I am listing these in no particular order, mainly because I’m not sure which is most important.
First of all, I fired the therapist I had. She was borderline abusive. No, she indeed was abusive. Now, I am not saying this was easy. You’d think it would be 100% relief to fire an abusive therapist, but it’s not. Why? These people have you wrapped around their fingers. They are manipulative. They are push-me-pull-you people. The whole time I had her for a therapist, I was deceived into thinking she was oh so great. She kept stringing me along. Does this sound like, say, a battered partnership? You bet. I am so, so glad this is over and done with. But it took time to pick up the pieces and shake myself clean of her.
Secondly, I write, and continue to write. Writing is self-expression. Writing is catharsis. Writing saved my life throughout my life. Some people have found this to be the case and have ended up becoming great writers because of it. My publisher, Jason Pegler, talks a lot about writing as catharsis and publishing as empowerment.
And so, I am published and empowered. This, for me, is huge.
Puzzle is my service dog and now we are together and complete in the world. Yes, she was always a pet and she has gradually taken on tasks, but once she crossed the line into the role of service animal, there was a profound switchover that I cannot even begin to describe.
I have a recovery partner. He is a man I met while in “non-treatment” in July/August last time I was there. He feels in a similar way that I do about many things. We made a pact. We are sticking with it and watching out for each other in every way possible.
I started going to a church a year ago. This is an individual choice but I feel that if you don’t have any family you need to find community somewhere.
I also now belong to a drop-in center for ex-patients. So I have that outlet, too.
I go to acupuncture.
I take a tiny amount of psychiatric medication for paranoia and another for binge eating. I was off all meds for a while and it did not work out, so this has ended up the compromise.
I am doing my own investigation into nutrition. I believe nutrition is a highly individual matter.
I started running again. Running seems to be the natural best exercise for my body but I have to be careful due to past injury. My psychiatrist supports my efforts.
I have licked depression and mania, the whole mood thing. Why? I know it’s a body thing. I know any “mental illness” I have has nothing to do with “poor coping skills.” This was some bullshit someone told me ages ago and they were wrong. Some of what I picked up was learned behavior. Punching walls is a learned behavior and actually I never punched a wall. I put my hand through a glass window once. Binge eating is biological and I did not learn that in a hospital from other patients. Binge eating almost always comes…get this: from a diet. Yep. From vitamin deficiency. So that’s what starts it. Do you think I’m crazy? Go look it up. Just about every eating disorder starts with a diet. And then the diet ends up leading to some other problem, such as getting hooked on starvation cuz it makes you high. Not poor coping skills. Not bad morals. Not gluttony. Not selfishness. Not a skewed value system. Not from looking at a fashion magazine. Not from a personality disorder. Not from the Olympics. And so on.
So why do we start this diet? And, a lot of people start diets and don’t end up with eating disorders. We do know that some people get high on starvation and some don’t. We do know that some people can sustain starvation because their survival instinct response to eat does not work properly. And this combination, that I know of, produces anorexia. It’s very simple.
They say one thing they are trying to do right now is to develop a an “antibuse” drug…I am not kidding on this…that will kill “starvation high.” Oh yeah, like we’re gonna take this drug. But there are some who will do just that and live happily ever after I suppose. And I’ll bet there would be off-label uses for this weird drug. They say Naltrexone, the drug I took for a while for binge eating, did away with starvation high for some people. For me, Naltrexone worked and then stopped working shortly after. I”m back on Topamax and glad of it. I expect it to work for a year or two and I’m thrilled that I’m responding at a much lower dose than I was at before.
I’ve been criticized for “poisoning my body.” To this person I want to say that I cannot wait a year, two years, three years to use “willpower” or some fancy “therapy” or “white knuckling it” to get myself to stop bingeing. If it comes from a vitamin deficiency, I don’t personally know which vitamin or mineral it is. If it’s a food I’m deficient in, I don’t know which food it is. I can experiment, but it will be hit or miss for months. I can’t wait months.
Actually, if you are “white knuckling it,” then you are NOT in recovery! If you are “white knuckling it,” then you are most likely miserable. Misery is NOT recovery! You don’t deserve to suffer like that. Suffering is optional.
I am not suffering. I got past that. I haven’t experienced suffering for a while now. I haven’t experienced angst for a while now. I haven’t experienced depression or any mood problem for a long time. I have not experienced paranoia…I have to medicate that symptom but it is gone now.
I eat, too. Would you believe that? I’m fairly okay with my weight. I can say that not only do I like myself, but I totally dig myself. I even like how I look. I mean, how many folks 54 years old look as absolutely cute as I do? I look doubly cute with Puzzle. Who, after all, would not look cute with a Schnoodle in their lap? One named Puzzle at that!
Do you dig yourself?
One thing that really helps me is to think of things that I like about myself. Now, maybe that sounds very over-simplistic, but you will be surprised at how many things will turn up on your list. At first, you may have trouble thinking of things. You may sit for quite a while trying to think of the first few things beyond the obvious.
Do you have good manners?
Are you considerate of others?
Are you good with animals?
Are you decent with your kids? Are you decent with other people’s kids?
Are you respectful of the planet? Do you pick up after yourself?
Do you have quirky handwriting? Do you have an unusual hobby or talent? Can your body move or bend in an unusual way?
Have you ever had an exceptionally wonderful relationship?
Do you have vivid dreams? Has someone who has died ever sent you a message in a dream? Have you ever helped anyone using your dreams?
Are you a decent writer? Like I am?
Do you dream big? What is your biggest dream?
Does your faith in God or Gods keep you strong?
Does your sense of love and commitment toward others help you participate in your community?
Would you like to take a class and go back to school or college and finish? Yes, you can do it!
Do you like yourself? Cuz that’s what it boils down to. Ask yourself this question. I don’t give a shit what you weigh or what anyone says you should weigh or what the scale says or whether or not you have a scale. If you truly dig yourself, then you are already right where you should be. Take a good hard look at yourself and answer that question right here right now and you will answer everything there is to be answered about “recovery” and nothing else will matter.
You can fly like I can. Pick up your wings and fly with me. Go where Puzzle and I go. I used to go nowhere. Now, together, Puzzle and I go everywhere. After all, we have our six legs and loud music, and if you’ve got that, you’ve got just about everything.