domingo, 14 de diciembre de 2008

Rough pt 2: icky morning

When I unpacked this morning, I pulled my favorite pair of jeans out of my closet. I'd stuck them there because they'd been too small when I went back to Europe this fall. But after 4 months of working out really hard, I was hoping I might be able to put them on again.
Not a chance - in fact, they were tighter than ever. So my day began with me bursting into tears, wishing with all my heart that I had the will power to stop eating completely. Sick sick sick thoughts.
The truth is, I shouldn't be going to the gym to lose weight. I don't need to lost weight. And if I'm not slimming down, it's because I completely relapsed with the b/p this fall and...Well, honestly, I think my metabolism is seriously screwed. If I weren't taking birth control, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't get my period. I've dropped a bra size. My body is not content with all this abuse, and it's telling me so. Time to kick this thing once and for all.

I threw the pants in the trash can, took a deep breath and ate breakfast. One day at a time.
I'm really scared.

Rough pt 2: looking good

My dad really tries. He feels that he is partly to blame for my ED, and truth be told I can't argue with that. The first time I "recovered" I stopped throwing up, went on hypothyroid meds and Celexa, and began going to the gym. Like REALLY going to the gym. I quickly lost a lot of weight, and suddenly had defined muscles, a lot of energy, and a totally improved attitude. My dad was thrilled, and constantly commented on how "buff" I was. Meanwhile, my sister began to gain weight. She had always had a bigger frame, but, essentially, the smaller I got, the larger she did. At a suspiciously coincident rate, my relationship with my father improved while hers turned into constant antagonism.
Eventually,employees at the gym and my therapists began to talk to my parents about my apparent recovery. It baffles me that they needed experts to tell them that their 90lb daughter who lived on diet Dr. Pepper, salad, and cigarettes - who spent 2.5 hours at the gym 6 days a week - was not okay. But after several years pulling me out of bathrooms and dealing with my supposedly-suicidal tendancies, they thought I was finally back on track. Or they wanted to believe this so badly that they ignored all evidence to the contrary.
After that, my father learned to bite his tounge a little. My sister, mother, and I confronted him about his comments on our figures and he stopped pointing out how "gorgeous" every emaciated waitress or actress was. He really did get better.
But the first thing he said to me when I saw him last night was "You look good." I shivered. I ignored it, I changed the subject. But later, at dinner, he said it again. This time, I couldn't let it go. "Dad, I really wish you wouldn't say that."
My mother, eying the waiter who was circling with the pepper grinder, caught on to the dangerous volume in my tone of voice. It wouldn't be the first time I'd made a scene in a restaraunt. She started to shh me, and my father gave me a look to let me know that he was confused and offended.
I took a deep breath, and tried to say it calmly, "I know it doesn't make sense Dad, but I really don't want to hear that. I always wonder whether it means that I'm finally "fat" enough or finally "skinny" enough. I don't know what "good" means to you and I don't want to try and figure it out."
He mumbled something about not understanding, but basically agreed to try to stop.
Later when I went to the bathroom with my sister, I asked her if it had made her uncomfortable that I'd said that. "God no!" she said, "I feel the same way. He always tells me I look good after I've had the flu and haven't eaten for 4 days or something. I hate hearing him say it."
So, as awkward as it was, I'm glad I spoke up.

Rough pt 1: airports

So, coming home has been a bit difficult.
To begin with, air-travel is always a strain ED-wise. Potential pitfalls include:
  • Complimentary snacks/meals on the airplane are foods I wouldn't usually consider eating unless I was planning to...
  • No complimentary snacks/food on the airplane (or passing them up in fear they would be triggers) so I end up famished in the airport. Finding something healthy but substantial to eat is usually torturous. Either I pay 15$ for a salad and feel guilty for the ridiculous expenditure or get 3 capuccinos in a row trying to stave of hunger and end up twitching with over-caffination. All the while, I'm trying to block out the wafting smells of Cinnabon and pizza.
  • There have even been times, when things disintegrated into a full out binge - once almost causing me to miss a connecting flight. I was so panicked as I sprinted out of the bathroom and onto the plane that I ended up in tears, confronted with the dangerous level of my compulsion.
Over the years, falling apart in an airport has become a minor phobia of mine. I remember when the articles on the life & death of Carol Gautbaum came out, I identified with her entirely.
Now I make sure to bring healthy snacks, and if I find myself unexpectedly hungry I buy yogurt or soup. On my long leg home (9 hours), refusing plane-food is totally impractical. It's simply too much for me to pack two FSA-safe picnic meals (no liquids or "gels"!) beforehand and make room for them in my carry on. So the key is being reasonable, flexible, eating slowly etc.

Even though I took good care of myself yesterday, I still arrived feeling completely nauseated since my last leg was a tiny, turbulent flight. The whole trip, from door to door, would have taken 25 hours if I had gone straight home from the airport. But I had a surprise in store: my entire family coming to pick me up. I felt sick and exhausted and really only wanted to shower and sleep. But I did my best to look enthused when they told me we were going to a fancy Italian restaurant for a late dinner. I'm sure they meant it to be a celebratory treat, but you can imagine it was pretty painful.

martes, 9 de diciembre de 2008

home for the holidays

I was just reading Tis the Season for Comparing, and find that I couldn't relate more. The Christmas card can easily become a perverse little self-check for me as I scrutinize my annual "selves."
But there's a different level of comparison that I dread as well: Returning home for the holidays gives also means getting to see all the friends I've grown up with. I love them unconditionally, and know they love me, but seeing everyone always stirs up a sea of anxiety. Among my closest girlfriends, there exists a steady healthy trio - sure they had their teenage bouts of anorexia (has any girl not?) - but by now they've now reached a pretty healthy, happy plateau. They enjoy dressing up for holiday parties and drool over yummy hors d'oeuvres but naturally stop eating when they're full. There are another couple girls who, having struggled with a bit of chubbiness, are not quite so carefree but are largely pretty pragmatic about balancing celebration and moderation. Then there's myself, and two other friends. We three, it's fair to say, have been highly disordered about food since high school. I don't think any of us have ever been dangerously underweight, but our bodies have fluctuated a lot over the years. While our particular ED compulsions are different (yay diversity!), we all often hover anxiously around the holiday spreads, stress about our wardrobes, and, above all, try to give the impression to our friends that we are "doing okay". When, of course, we're probably pretty obviously not.
This year, when I go home, I'd really like to try to do a couple things:
  • Dress up without stressing out It don't want to put on a short, strappless dress on New Years Eve. At the same time, I know that if I wear jeans and a sweater everywhere, I'll feel out of place and bah-humbugish as the only one without any concession to wardrobe festivity. So I'm going to try a compromise. For the first time in...years? I've bought myself a holiday dress I feel confident wearing. The shopping was long and torturous, but I feel so happy to go home armed with something pretty and comfortable.
  • No comments about looks I don't want to say "You look great!" and neither do I want to whisper about anyone's figure behind their back. People talk about these things, and it's not always evil, but I don't need to participate. Clothes & hair are fine topics, but it would be better to focus on meaningful stuff. There's plently of more important catching up to do.
  • Be honest about the state I'm in This last one is really hard, but I think it's important. I won't resolve, as I usually do on visits home, to exercise/not exercise, eat/not eat, purge/not purge... Of course I'll try to be as healthy as possible, but that type of resolution is usually counterproductive as I'm really prone to the "I messed up once so screw the whole idea" mentality. Instead, the main thing I want to work on is talking about my food, weight, and health issues when I need to. I have a lot of people there who want to support me, but over the years they've let me kind of pull them into my own denial about how serious my ED still is. It's time to start coming clean.
Since I'll most likely be getting some dental work done when I'm home, it will be a lot harder to pretend everything is okay. I think that's probably a good thing.
Alright then. Sounds like a plan.

lunes, 8 de diciembre de 2008


Here's a little rundown of my ED-related history:
I was a skinny, flat-chested little teenager until I went to boarding school and promptly put on 20 lbs. Returning home that first Christmas & surrounding myself with all of my Barbie-figured, gorgeous friends was pretty unfun, and I promised myself I'd lose all that weight by the summer. I began to run, but I couldn't help but wonder if it wouldn't also be helpful to join the veritable throng of girls who visited the bathrooms after every meal. Binging (and often purging) was simply a way of life for many of the students, so I certainly wouldn't be alone.
And it was easy for me, I was a natural! At the time, I completely romanticized the whole thing - terrorizing my art teacher with pictures of bony, big-headed figures in an adventurous palette of red and black, purging late at night and then sneaking on to the roof to smoke a cigarette. Black eyeliner, emo-music, etc...
Not to mention that I had a strong, almost proud, sense that I was carrying on a family tradition. Though my own mother had only been bulimic a couple of years ("I stopped because I wasn't good at it. I just got fatter."), my grandmother was a life-long purger. And she, too, was a natural. With thick dark bangs and porcelin skin, she was always the pinaccle of style and beauty. Not to mention her tiny Audrey Hepburn figure that she tended with diligent regurgitation. "She didn't even have to stick her finger down her throat." My mother had told me. And "She had a very close relationship with her dentist." At the time, these statements didn't invoke fear. Even though I started throwing up shortly after my grandmother died, I associated her sickness with elegance and self-control...not with the sickly, delirious physique I watched the nurses and doctors struggle with during the year of hospitalization that preceded her death.
So that was how it began. Now I'm a pro. I've been living with four roommates for the past 5 months and not a one has the faintest idea that I throw up at least once a day. Of course, the cashiers at the supermarket below my house must be fully aware of the situation... But having worked in food service myself, I'm sure they spot customers like me all the time.
Okay, enough for now. Night!


So, maybe a little explanation is in order about the ultra-dramatic profile and first post.
When I suddenly decided to start this blog yesterday, I was crying. Crying because I had just worked up the nerve to look in the mirror, pull down my bottom lip, and see exactly what was hurting so much. After a nice round of cyberchondria, I've realized that I probably need some gingival graft action, stat. Exposed roots, raw nerves, etc. Did I really think that this day would never come? And isn't it ironic that vanity, that very engine that has kept me so tightly on the ED course, is now in more alarm than ever?
Anyhow, with my life flashing before me (all of my worst fears are finally coming true!), I sat down to start this blog. And the first post came out pretty pseudo-poetic. Since then I've found some realy wonderful blogs that reminded me that false-pretense is unnecessary. Contemplative works. Off-topic works. Funny works.
So. Onward!

domingo, 7 de diciembre de 2008


Anyone that's struggled with addiction is familiar with the psychological compensation that ensues. I feel out of control and sunken with shame when I am driven by these compulsions, so I've learned to neatly tuck that entire side of my identity into a secret little stash. I carry it with me always, but hide it with a well-honed expertise. Denial works the entire scenario on many levels:
I'm sick, it's dangerous, yes - but I recognize that. And 90% of recovery is admitting you have a problem, right? Great, so I totally recognize that. Consider me pretty much recovered! Now that I understand this illness, I can stop anytime. Just not right now. Tomorrow. Yeah, it's under control. Next Monday. Don't worry about me, really. When the semester ends. It's getting a lot better. When I turn 18. This time I'm really going to kick it! Once I fit into these pants. New Years. When I get home from this vacation. After I get a great job. My 27th birthday...
And so it goes. Until it's been ten years, and addiction is such a part of your life that you have learned to live with the nightmares, hide the physical side effects...And present, always, a healthy and happy face to the world.
Saying I want this to end is easy. It's something I've declared on numerous occasions, each time thinking all that pain would become "the old me" - and that once it was comfortably in my past I could begin to talk about it. Once there was a secure and comfortable distance between my current life and my illness, I would have the strength to share my experience.
But that doesn't work a bit. Rather than give the recover-first/talk-later approach another decade to prove itself, I want to try this: I will talk now. I will tell you everything, with perfect honesty, because there is so much comfort in anonymity. I hope, with all of my heart, that this blog works as a revelation in all senses of the word; that as I uncover I can recover.