Thursday, July 28, 2011

My cat saved my life: One of many relapses into anorexia

October of 2008
A few years ago, during another relapse into anorexia, we had a family get-together at our house (I was living with my parents then). While family members were cooking hotdogs and marshmallows on the bonfire for lunch, I was nervously darting around, avoiding food. Whenever someone needed a condiment or extra napkins, I was the first to jump up and volunteer. Sitting in one spot would no doubt result in an offering of food, according to my anorexic mind. I stood six feet tall and weighed 108 lbs.

Familial exhaustion
After my first wave of anorexia, therapy, psychiatrists, medications, support groups, supplements, EKGs, heart rate checks, low blood pressure, hospital stabilization, inpatient treatment, and residential treatment, my family and most of my friends seemed to address additional relapses less intensely. From my perspective, they had given up on me. If all of that help didn't work, they didn't know how to help me. Continued relapses became a normal facet of our family and it was expected that either at our summer or Christmas reunion, they would find me sick again. It became commonplace so instead of the exhaustive effort of challenging every disordered thought or behavior, my family and I seemed to accept it as part of me.

As I was an adult, there wasn't much that could be done to save me from myself, aside from taking me to court and committing me to the state, which was discussed by my therapist. I felt all my coins of possible ways to get help and reach recovery were spent.

I gave up and decided anorexia would be my slow suicide.

I had had a suicide attempt years prior, but I felt that death by anorexia would be less hurtful to my family. The previous attempt on ending my life was unrelated to the eating disorder and caused shock, hurt, and fear in my family. At least with anorexia, I felt they were so fed up with me (no pun intended), that by slowly dying they were able to accept it, see it coming, and almost wish it sooner due to the pain I caused the whole family.


The bonfire
Sitting around (or me-darting around) the bonfire, I heard a faint "mew" sound. My family watched as I investigated in the woods behind the fire. Luckily it was daytime so I could see a tiny kitten at the base of a tree, looking lost and terrified. She continued to "mew" at me and the only thing I had on hand to give her was a hot dog. I threw little pieces of hotdog in front of it and it gobbled them up. She ended up eating 1 and 1/2 hot dogs! She was about the size of a beanie baby!

My parents were adamant about not ending up with a cat in the house...they were never cat people. I was able to get the kitten close enough with a chunk of hot dog that I made a grab for her, but she got away and ran back into the woods. I felt terrible but I couldn’t find her after that.

Growing fonder
The next late-fall morning, I saw through the dining room window the kitten had curled up in the warm ashes of the fire pit for the night. I began to leave a dish of water and a dish of tuna fish out for her every day and I frequently visited. She began to follow me around and I started feeling attached to her and worried about predators at night. I convinced my dad to let me keep her food in the pole barn with the door open so she had a shelter to stay in. Eventually, I got more attached and didn’t want her in harm’s way or to get lost, so I shut the door of the barn. Not yet knowing the sex of the kitten, I named her Pumpkin since she was orange. As winter neared, the barn got cooler and my mom finally conceded. If I would pay to take the kitten to the vet to be tested for parasites and to be fully declawed, I could bring her inside the house. I was thrilled.

Taken from me
One day I came home to my mom saying a neighbor had come to pick up the kitten. I was furious and hysterical. I felt like she was my baby, and she was stolen from me. “Why would you DO that?” Apparently he had showed up looking for a different cat that was missing and my mom told him about the kitten I found. He offered to take her off our hands since he had a barn full of cats. My mom didn’t realize how attached I was and after my outburst, she told me to go over there and ask for her back. I did. He gave me my kitty back, apologizing. He didn’t know how attached I already was. I thanked him and left.

The vet
After the vet appointments, I was able to bring her inside. I found out not only was my kitten a girl, but she wasn’t a kitten at all! Age-wise, she was a very young adult cat…that only weighed THREE POUNDS. She was extremely malnourished and they didn’t believe she would grow too much because of it.

I re-named her Riley as I’ve always loved that name for a girl. She never left my side, even following me into the bathroom at times. As I worked on rehabilitating her to a healthy-weight, I was focusing less and less on my eating disorder. I began to eat when she ate, share some of my food with her, and if I got anxious and wanted to purge or over exercise, I would use her as a distraction.

Both malnourished and slowly regaining our health, our connection grew to more than just pet-owner attachment. I almost felt TOO attached. I was so incredibly protective and anxious about losing her, I think not only because she felt like my baby, but because I didn’t really want to die, and I was getting better. I called her my recovery kitty.

She is now a healthy 11.1 lbs and I am a healthy 160. I love her and always want to be able to be around for her. That’s one of my many reasons that every day I fight for recovery. I know I helped save her life, and I truly believe she helped save mine.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Voice of an Eating Disorder: Internal WAR

I found this journal I wrote last year of the internal war going on in my head, and I think I captured it quite well for my situation at that time. This type of dialogue, war, constant battle, raged on incessantly. It exhausted me physically and mentally to the point of collapsing on my bed and trying desperately to think of nothing but a brick wall to "block" it out. The arrows (>>>) mark the beginning and end of the old entry.

The voice:
There’s no way in the WORLD you can eat that. Why would you think you can eat that? You aren’t allowed to eat that. It isn’t time yet for you to eat. You know I’ll let you eat later tonight, why would you eat now too? You think you deserve to eat BOTH times?? You’re not even hungry, why would you eat now? Stare all you want, you can’t have that. Let people who deserve that food eat it. Look at all of what you put your parents through, they should be able to eat that. Leave it for them. Even your dog deserves to eat more of that than you.
Me: I don’t want my parents to worry.

The voice:
I don’t care, you’re still not eating it. Pick at it if you want, although you shouldn’t even be eating THAT much. What was the point of eating the rest of the salsa after your mom left the room? You don’t want to worry her and yet you eat when she won’t even see you eating? Now you’ve eaten when you weren’t even hungry. You’re PATHETIC. Worthless piece of SHIT! You don’t deserve to have parents.
Me: My mom puts so much work and love into her cooking. It’s a passion of hers, I don’t want to disappoint her. I DO love her food, I’m just afraid.

The voice:
Well you SHOULD be afraid. If you eat with abandon, there will be consequences. You don’t deserve food or nourishment. You’re a worthless, lazy, selfish, PIG.
Mom: You didn’t eat very much.

That’s what frustrates me. I hear this incessant voice, SCREAMING at me at how worthless I am, how I can’t eat that, how I don’t deserve to eat, how I shouldn’t eat when I’m not even hungry right now, and I’m trying to enjoy the time with my family with that stupid voice in my head, and then my mom says, “you didn’t eat very much”. Nothing wrong with her comment, it’s an observation. But I think we all KNEW I didn’t eat very much and now the voice is that much stronger. Now it’s saying,

The voice:
Look at how WORTHLESS you are. YOU ARE A FUCKING DISAPPOINTMENT AS A DAUGHTER. You don’t deserve them. You’re going to pay for how you’re treating them. This is all YOUR fault.
Me: I’M not the one who wouldn’t let me eat. I WANTED to eat. Even though I wasn’t hungry, I WANTED to eat. My mom is an AWESOME cook. The food looked/tasted great. I wanted to, but YOU wouldn’t let me. STOP CONTROLLING ME. Please just leave me alone. I want to be in peace, please!!

It still breaks my heart remembering the pain of feeling like you're living with a bully 24/7 inside your own body and knowing others still live with that bully as well. I believe you never lose that bully or voice, but you learn to thought-challenge it, get angry at it, fight it, and with time it quiets down as you learn to deal with life in a healthier manner and rely on your eating disorder less and less.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Learning to Separate YOUR Voice from the Eating Disorder voice

I learned to live half alive,
And now you want me one more time
And who do you think you are?
Runnin' 'round leaving scars,
Collecting your jar of hearts,
Tearing love apart
You're gonna catch a cold
From the ice inside your soul
So don't come back for me
Who do you think you are?

Didn't eat well today, and ED keeps making excuses.
Didn't eat enough for breakfast.
You were running late, so you couldn't grab something besides a banana at home, & a train stopped you for 15 minutes so you didn't have time to stop at the gas station.
While that excuse is true, it doesn't excuse the rest of the day which happened because I had a poor start.
Banana on the way to work
Coffee with sugar/cream on 1st break
Lunch was a few garlic toast chips with pesto on them & another coffee.
I had 2 regular and 1 jumbo blow pop during work.
After work: nada yet

It's 9:55PM here and I wake up at 3:30AM so really I should go to bed.
I think that was partly ED. I hate when I can't tell who is saying something: ME or the eating disorder...sometimes they become so enmeshed you can't distinguish two voices.

But if you take away anything from this post, let this be it: Learning to separate YOUR voice from the eating disorder is vital to recovery. By creating that separation, you enable yourself to turn against the eating disorder's voice (no, we're not crazy...but the ED voice is a self-critical voice you have learned to use to cope with life through eating-disordered behaviors. By recognizing that you are separate from it, you acknowledge it is not your identity, but a disease that can be overcome) and by turning against the voice, you can choose healthier behaviors and gradually increase the gap between you and ED.

I can't take one more step towards you, cause all that's waiting is regret...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sangria, food diary, and...Lindsay Lohan?

Those don't seem to fit well together, but at the present I am drinking a glass of sangria in my room wih the shades down.  Isolating...maybe.

Probably due to being more tired than Lindsay Lohan's legal team.

Mmm. sangria is the SHIZNIT. liquid happiness.
caloric liquid happiness.
SHUT UP ED. it's delicious and I haven't eaten properly today so I might as well drink some calories.

The amount of food I'm eating is still MONUMENTAL compared to what I used to be able to eat! But today it was not enough, despite ED telling me it was too much.

I had 2 chocolate chip cookies, a Lingonberry juice, and a Special K protein meal bar in the morning...ED's already cringing.

Then on 1st break I had 2/3 of the other Special K protein meal bar & a banana

I had 2 lindor truffles while working inbetween breaks

At lunch I had the other 1/3 of the bar and a coffee with cream and REAL SUGAR (this is something I've been working on successfully for a long time).

1 Strawberry blow pop after lunch

After work I've had 2 pieces of toasted garlic bread chips (each could fit on a tablespoon) with a teaspoon or so of pesto on them. And of course the glass of sangria.

Calorically, that's a monumental WIN from the last 10 years...but a fail from the last few months as well. I can tell something's stirring. It's like *he's* a monster that lies in wait until you're in a compromising stage of your life, which I'm about to be...