Tag Archives: past
Aside

“Yes, butting…”

8 Nov

ImageYes, but what about your bones? What about the four fractures you’ve already had? What about the D, K2, calcium, magnesium, zinc, boron cluttering the refrigerator door?

Yes, but what about Osteoporosis screaming from the bottom of the bone density results form?

Yes, but what about when you want to still dance when you’re 90?

Yes. I know… but what about your brain? What about your future, college, your dreams? Yes, those will all go down the toilet, too.

Yes, but what about your potential? What about all the time you’ve wasted? What about differential equations, and calculus problems, long novels, research, and psychology? What about brain chemicals and alternative therapies? What about creativity, art, crossword puzzles, and KenKens?

Yes, but what about all the kids that depend on you? What about giving and teaching? What about them? What about saying, “You don’t really matter that much to me?”

Yes, but what about your skin? What about glowing? What about being beautiful, alive, vibrant?

What about those clumps of hair on the shower floor? Will you go back to that?

Yes, but what about your eyes? Sunken and hollow, a thin connection between the living outside and the dead inside…

Yes, you can do that… but do you want to?

Yes, but what about your heart? But the body doesn’t shrink disproportionally… the heart shrinks, too.

Yes, in more ways than one.

But what about your loved ones? What about the mother who worked so hard to care for you so many years and now must watch you self-destruct, helpless to do anything? What do you think you are putting HER through?

What about the aunt who took you in when you needed a home? What about all the teachers who’ve helped you along, both in school and out? What about the treatment team that has always believed in you, even when you haven’t believed in yourself?

What about all the people who love you?

Yes, but get real… you ARE choosing it over them. Yes, but do you value starving more than them?

Yes but what about all you’ve lost? But how much more will you let it rob you of?

Yes, but what about all you have? All the joy recovery brought?

Yes, but what about all you’ve gained? All that you’ve worked for? All the dreams to come?

Yes, you can choose the eating disorder again.

But it will never be worth it.

The Women I Waited For

29 Oct

Alone in a city of millions… what a paradox.

Yet, just over a year ago, it’s exactly how I lived. Fresh out of inpatient treatment, I went to live with my aunt in New York City. Physically, I looked better, and everyone exclaimed behind hopeful smiles at how restored I seemed. But I knew the truth. The ED spat,

“Look how you’ve let them stuff you. How dare you actually ENJOY eating when they fed you at Oliver Pyatt? I am not done with you yet… You’re mine again.”

After two days in the metropolis, my insurance terminated my intensive outpatient care and I was left with little treatment support. And my ED went wild in jubilation. It was perfect… no one to monitor, no one to force feed, just me and him… all day long.

In the sea of people, I was stranded on a desert island. The ED made me feel ashamed of my newer, higher weight, so I drew inward, clamming up, losing all evidence that I ever had a social life. It was as though I could not emerge back into the world until the ED had deemed me thin enough again. Unfortunately( or perhaps fortunately), I never reached what my ED considered “acceptable.”

No one understood what I was going through. No one could possibly comprehend the pain, the loneliness, the anxiety, and the bleakness that pervaded the summer. No one else was being eaten up from the inside out, being sucked inwardly into a vacuum, where hope did not exist.

Oh, but they did. They do.

This past weekend was a milestone in my recovery as I ventured once again to New York City. But this time I wasn’t alone. And this time, it was on my terms.

Of course, my ED protested, “You shouldn’t… you’ll have to deal with all those messy memories and not knowing every nutritional fact of every bite you eat there. Think of the apple juice on the plane, how much do those flight attendants really pour? Half a can, 3/4? Oh, and those pretzels and peanuts. You’ll have to decline those. Don’t make me remind you of the restaurants all over New York. What land mines! Really, let’s just stay here in nice, safe, cozy Austin and continue to avoid those pesky things called feelings. Doesn’t that sound just peachy?”

Shut. The. Hell. Up.

While the ED pitched its, fit, I stood unwavering, like a parent riding out the terrible-two tantrums. It was not going to keep me alone. Not this time.

So I got on that airplane. And enjoyed the peanuts and the pretzels, plus NYC’s best pierogis, sushi, and muffins. I had coffee with a new friend, wishing the whole time… if only we had met a year ago. Maybe…..    I stayed up ’til 3 in the morning gossiping and reminiscing with my aunt until my eyelids collapsed, yet my heart wanted more. I saw more in four days than I did the entire summer I lived in NYC- art museums, fashion exhibits, improv shows- or at least savored it more. And I attended a bodyPeace by Piece workshop held by Susan Weiss Berry and Margaux Laskey, where I learned new creative tools to help cultivate a deeper acceptance of what my body looks like and how I feel towards this new weight I exist at.

But perhaps, most importantly, the women I interacted with this weekend made me realize that all along, I’ve never truly been on my own. While there are times where I have felt no one could possibly “get it,” they were there, I just didn’t know it then. Their companionship, their empathy, their compassion made me appreciate how “real” these women were. How rare it was to find them. yet here was a whole group of them assembled. Finally, those unafraid to admit, “Yes, we are struggling, too. We are vulnerable and yearning for understanding. We will not turn you away because we know what it’s like to hurt, but also what it’s like to lean on one another and find strength together.”

I could feel it in their smiles, in their warm, enveloping hugs, in their joyful dance, their quiet moments of reflection, their beauty. I knew I wasn’t alone any longer in the struggle. Yes, I silently whispered…

“Thank you. You are the ones I was waiting for…”

Homeless to Healthy- A Testament to Recovery

4 Sep

     I took a big gulp of the rapidly-chilling air and braced myself to make it through another night as the temperature, even though it was October, was plunging. Though the city lights obscured my view, a glance upward told me the sky looked darker tonight than the days before, an ominous omen of impending rain. Standing on the filthy, trash-littered sidewalk, I fought to keep myself standing in the howling, bitter wind. To my left stood a green, metal CapMetro trashcan overflowing with the odors of the day’s excesses- greasy fried chicken wrappers, dirty diapers, and bottles with the sludge of stale beer. Behind me, against the dark building wall, a bearded, straggly-looking homeless man sat, rummaging through his dirty pack for more cigarettes. And down the street came the rowdy men, fresh from the sixth street bars, with blood alcohol levels to rival their cockiness. “Isn’t this one a sweet, little thing? Wonder how she’d taste…,” one slurred as he reached through his intoxicated haze out towards me. I shrank back before he could touch me, taking refuge within the radius of the homeless man’s suffocating stench and silently praying the bus would arrive soon. There I stood, my frail set of bones and my vulnerable heart protected from the cold by only my thin, green Target sweater and the sadness, suffering, and loneliness that enveloped me me.

Almost a year ago, this was my reality. Homeless. Because of my eating disorder.

This description is real- it was one of the lowest points I had with my eating disorder. When my treatment team and mom decided to create an “intervention” for me, I was given the ultimatum that I was going to fly to an eating disorder treatment center in California immediately or be kicked out of the house. Because of a variety of factors, especially my previous history at an inpatient facility in Florida, I chose the latter and gambled with my life on the streets of downtown Austin. As a young female, I put myself in grave danger wandering the streets at night and riding the bus system when I could to escape the danger of nightfall and find shelter from the cold. Although I sought safety from some of the local homeless shelters like the Salvation Army, they turned me away after I waited in line for hours everyday, telling me there simply weren’t enough beds. So I managed the best I could, sleeping on midnight bus runs and in parking garages, where the smell of engine oil coated my nightmares.

Although the experienced changed me, it still wasn’t enough motivation for me to recover. The series of heart-wrenching days ended when I wound up in the emergency room from digestive and electrolyte complications and my mom agreed to take me home. But for months after, the fear of returning to the streets was not enough to keep me from starving, bingeing, and purging my pain away.

It took so much more misery before I was at rock bottom and decided to fully recover. But the dejection, hurt, and fear stayed with me long after I slept once again in the comfort behind my apartment walls. For months, it was emotionally excruciating to drive past the street corners where I walked alone and desperately grappled for my life, in more ways than one. I grew up in Austin and went to school downtown, but, though their pain has lessened today, the only memories I relive are the ones from when I was starving on the streets.

I write about this now because the anxiety and depression from the event has loosened its steely grip on me enough that I am no longer suffocating, but learning to breathe again as I cruise down Austin’s potholed avenues. The once raw and open wound has scabbed over enough. And I think I’m at a point in recovery when I can look back and examine the pain of the past without sinking into it.

And most of all, I have come so far in the past year. In stark contrast to the dark description above, my days are filled with joy as I attend classes, practice yoga, tutor struggling students, play with my dog, meet up with friends, and write this blog to inspire others who might just be at their lowest point with no hope to spare. In place of struggling, I am now recovering. My experience is a testament to the power of hope. I turned my life around. Now it’s your turn.

You can overcome, no matter why you are desperate.

You can find new direction, no matter how lost you are.

You can recover, no matter how far you may be.

If you are in pain, let me offer you hope:

Recovery is possible. Believe it.

Even with an ED, You Belong

18 Aug

My treatment team has always emphasized the importance of community and fostering social relationships in my recovery because, for so long, I isolated completely. Not too long ago, the only person I saw was my Mom when she came home from work. The rest of the day I spent with my eating disorder. I was lonely and the loneliness felt dark, enveloping, a huge gaping hole swallowing me from the inside out. I feared I’d never be able to fill that void I felt so intensely- that I was unlovable because of my eating disorder, so I should stay away from everyone. It was easier to hide in the apartment than face a world where I would inevitably sometimes get hurt, be afraid, or, perhaps most frightening of all, have to eat in public.

But the eating disorder said it’d keep me company. It wrapped me in a blanket of despair that provided security from the uncertain world and held my cold, spindly hand in its iron, death grip. Though I felt I could trust no one, the ED was different- it was constant, stable and predictable. Even if the rest of my life felt shattered, the ED gave me one thing to hold onto: “At least, at least you are still THIN.” 

As I’ve grown in recovery, I’ve found, however, that the desire to live and feel connected outweighs the fear that once kept me alone.

Today, I visited some of the teachers at my old high school. They were, of course, shocked to see me and from the look on their faces, they didn’t seem to think they’d ever see me like this. Over and over again, in each classroom, I heard the same phrase uttered, “You look so good!” And while a few months ago, the ED would have sensored their words before they reached my ear, twisting them into, “You look so fat,” today, I felt proud. They wanted to know how I came so far and pulled through; they sensed the magnitude and strength it takes to overcome an eating disorder. It was a radically different visit than the one I had taken a few months ago when I was near my all-time lowest weight.

Seeing me months ago, after I took medical leave from my freshman year of college, I saw concern written across their faces at the dramatic amount of weight I lost so soon after leaving inpatient “weight restored.” Most of them seemed doubtful then that I would ever reach the height of success they once expected from me. They saw me as someone to be pitied- someone who had everything going for her, but lost that in the grips of a wretched medical illness.

The visit today was inspiring for both me, and I hope for them as well. After hearing how healthy, good, well, beautiful, strong, and pretty I looked, I left feeling like I was on top of the world. For once, I didn’t have to lie about what was happening at home and outside of the classroom door. It was a whole new dynamic because I am not a sufferer anymore. I danced through each concrete hallway with my head up, confidence blaring, a bounce in my step and eyes sparkling. I refuse to let my ED make me suffer so much anymore. I don’t deserve it- I’ve done enough suffering for a lifetime. Two years ago, I hid behind a mask of perfection, pretending I was confident and put together, pushing through the pain inside. But that’s no longer: chatting with my AP Government teacher, I told her, “Honestly, I have not felt this good in a very long, long time.” She responded simply, “I know… you’re smiling.”

Most of all, today I felt connected, like I belonged, and that I was always remembered, always loved.

Recovery means risking hurt, rejection, rumors, criticisms and all the mess that comes along with relationships. But it’s worth it. Take a poll. Go see old friends, old coworkers, old teachers. And if you have none of those, I’ll tell you. Let this message flood your pores, ricochet in your ears, and sink into every part of yourself:

You deserve. You are loved.

You belong here.

Words I’ll Never Say

19 Jun

“You never leave someone behind. You take a part of them and leave some of yourself behind.”

 Today, I met an old friend while picking up some flowers at Home Depot who I hadn’t seen since I was in the depths of my eating disorder. Like most people who struggle with anorexia, as my obsession over seeing the scale creep down escalated, so did my isolation. This sweet, caring person used to be an important part of my life and took care of me as if I was her own child when my own mother couldn’t. You’d think I’d keep in touch with someone like that…

 But I didn’t. And I regret it.

 We kept the conversation light and chatted about superficial things like the flowers we were buying and  the Texas heat(ugh… it was 106 F in Austin today!). I’m really good at stuffing down my emotions; it’s a quality that kept me alive in a horrible home life for years. And I’m angry that I did the same thing today, as if nothing had changed, as if I haven’t grown and conquered many of my biggest obstacles. I really didn’t care about talking about the weather( I mean who really wants to be reminded they are living in an oven?). What I really wanted to shout was, ” I still think about you all the time. You were always so sweet, so generous, and so warm-hearted towards me. I’ll always believe I never did enough to thank you. Most importantly, I miss you: I’m sorry I lost contact and drifted away. I wish life hadn’t gotten so complicated and mixed up, that you were still a part of my life. Because you were like another mom to me and there is no one quite like you in my life anymore. You are unreplaceable.”

 But instead, with a lump in my throat, I pushed my cart out into the Home Depot parking lot and walked out her life again. I truly do wish we never had to say goodbye to great friends and the people we love. Because I do miss and love her and her family. But I hope in the time I was given with them, I left a little of myself.

 Because a little of them will always be with me, written on my heart.

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