Still anorexic?

I have a healthy weight for my age and height. I eat a fairly wide variety of foods. I don't like my body but I'm dealing with it. I'm almost entirely behavior-free.

Can I just say how much the above freaks me out?

I was talking to the T about it, and she said that the above does not make me recovered. I must have had a pretty baffled look on my face because she said: How long would it take you to fall back into the anorexia? Full force.

One week. Two, tops.

Well, there's my answer, I suppose.

My body is clearly not anorexic. I'm no twig. In fact, I think I could lose some weight and still be plenty healthy, but that's beside the point.

Then again, maybe it isn't.

My brain has recovered somewhat from the anorexia-induced malnutrition. But the years and years of AN thoughts and behaviors are going to take more than 3 months at a healthy weight to fix. Seven years vs. three months. It's kind of obvious that it's going to take longer than that. This is the really really shitty part of recovery, where body has healed long before the mind. I look normal. I sound (fairly) normal.

All cured, right?


I still think I look like a giant warthog, I still have trouble deciding what do I want to eat, I still want to lose weight. This is not a cure.

Recovery is definitely a process. I've known that for a long time. Weight restoration is the mandatory first step. However, if it's the "first step," that kind of implies that there will be more. A lot more. Things that are much harder to navigate. Gaining weight is simple but not easy. It's the kind of eat-more-calories-than-you-burn equation, only the effed-up version of it. Because when recovering from AN, my already quite efficient metabolism went through the roof and I found myself needing to consume large quantities of food, a process that made me hungry and full at the same time. That would be difficult for even a healthy, normal person. It's confusing as all hell.

But then my metabolism has settled down somewhat, though I still need plenty of food to maintain my weight given my current activity level. My organs are still healing and being repaired, even if weight isn't being added. And so on.

Yet there is the analogy to chemical dependency here. As the lovely Sarah over at Recovery Rodeo pointed out, you can get rid of the alcohol, but you can't get rid of the -ism.

That's true with my brain, with the anorexia and the OCD. I don't restrict or purge or wash* just once. Nuh-uh. It rapidly cycles out of control. I wouldn't say that eating disorders are an addiction per se, but there are plenty of similarities. Especially because chemicals, alcohol, starvation, bingeing and purging all change your brain chemistry. Specifically in a way that makes you almost dependent upon the said chemical change. Starving dulled my anxiety. So did my OCD rituals. I would imagine that would be the same for someone using chemicals: it helps you function, however temporarily.

Then it spirals out of control and you're totally screwed especially because you stop recognizing that Houston, we have a problem.

I believe, I really want to believe, that true, full recovery is possible. I know people who are no longer plagued with ED thoughts, who like the way they look. I hope that one day I get there. But my brain will always be only a week away from anorexia. If that. It only takes one hop on that scale, one missed meal, for me to be back in that deep hole.

This scares me, maybe in a good way, but it scares me nonetheless. And maybe that's what I need to keep me in recovery at this point: a good healthy dose of fear.

*In the obsessive way, that is. I do wash my hands after using the restroom because that's good hygiene. I also shower regularly. I'm sure you're all glad to know that.

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Jeanne said...

Oh, carrie...
Do I know how you feel in some ways. If I had the opportunity - if I had absolutely no responsibilities... I may never have cared enough to start recovering when I did, which was well before I had even reached the bottom of the healthy weight zone.

Now, three years in to recovery and as close to recovered as I think I can get, would I turn back?
In a heartbeat - if I didn't have the love of my husband and son.

Luckily, I do.

However, that is neither here nor there.

I do agree with your T - being at a healthy weight and not engaging in ED behaviors does not completely recovered make, not unless the thoughts are gone (or at least quieted) too.

And you're right, that takes a LONG time. Because those thoughts have been around even longer than the ED (for most of us.)

The thing to remember is that it does get easier, the more practice one has with other coping mechanisms.

Keep being patience with yourself.

mary said...

One of the true strengths for my daughter was that she recovered for one person, HERSELF.
We forget how much of our life we spend alone and innocent before we reach the age of searching for someone to share our life with. We CAN do it. The best thing though is to know that it's ourself we are sharing our life with....[Jeanne, do it for the love of yourself...let your husband and son be a bonus]
You know that her story now includes someone very special who not only accepts her but allows her to be an individual. It helped her to be someone who loved herself to find a guy this special.When she was insecure and unhappy with herself she was not quite ready for another. It took recovery for her to shine again and be able to give as well as receive.
Recovery is a process and you may still be on the path BUT < big butt : ) for now you get to take each day as it is and stay committed. You might be able to relapse big time but I don't think you would give up the chance for a better future to go backwards. You've tried treatment and it wasn't enough even though time wise it was a long hard effort.Investing yourself as you've done in this last year has by far said more about how much you want to be free than to keep ED around any longer. He's old hat, boring and too predictable. It's easy. Life without an ED is the challenging one, the one where you get to be as true to yourself as possible. ED hid you away! Don't you let yourself be bullied again!
A meaningful life awaits you. It takes time but you do get to celebrate today's victory.
Now you've made me go and write a book!

Anonymous said...

I was in your position two years ago and hated it, too. Based on my experience, I think you're going through the toughest stage of recovery: your body is healthier but your brain is lagging behind. Trust me when I say that if you keep doing the work of recovering, your mind will catch up. You'll reach a point where you'll start to see a difference in how you think and feel. Just keep going, hon. There's tons of great stuff out there to look forward to that will help you leave your eating disorder behind.

Going said...

I've been reading your blog for a few weeks now. And I just keep reading because what you're saying makes so much sense to me. I'm in recovery, too. And I, too, struggle with ED thinking even though my body is much farther down Recovery Lane. I wish I could offer anything more than commiseration!

Anyway... just wanted you to know that you've got a new reader in Washington DC, and I really appreciate all of the writing that you're doing here.

Laura Collins said...

All recovery plans need to include what you are saying, so well, here: that physical recovery and behavioral recovery are neccessary but insufficient. What you are doing now is truly heroic stuff.

You were a witty and insightful tour guide about being ill, and your skills only seem to have grown as you've done the Grand Tour of restoration.

I AM SO looking forward to your insights and observations of this stage. THIS next period in your life is the part too few people articulate, and has the most to teach us all.

carrie said...

Every reminder I get that it does get easier helps. I cling to those. And often starting to recover for someone else can keep us going at first.

In a sense, I'm through with treatment (the IP/residential type) because I know what to do. I also know how to self-correct, with the help of my lovely therapist who usually removes my brain, shakes it around a bit, and hands it back to me at the end of the session. Kind of the therapeutic equivalent of the plastic fork lobotomy.

I am recovering for myself, but in those low moments, remembering who else I'm connected to (parents, friends, kitty) can be the impetus to help me stay the course.

Char (lovely Char),
Thank you oh so much for the encouragement. In very small ways, I can feel my brain begin to catch up. It's good to know it keeps going.

Why thank you! I shall be several hundred miles closer to you in about 2 months as I begin school in Baltimore. ;)

Your kindness means the world to me. Thank you for helping me and my mom out, and by helping her trust her instincts to bring me home and help feed me.

ms. em said...

hi darlin',

sending you hugs and hope.

i believe recovery is a process that challenges you to redirect a lot of your passion, energy and focus into a more positive passion that allows you to feel emotionally nourished. learning to do things just for joy without a pursuit toward perfection has been helpful for me.

thanks for sharing your difficulty with weight gain during the restoration phase of recovery from anorexia. sista, i can so relate to this. and, i know how hard it is. so proud of you for getting through this part!

much love,

ms. em said...

p.s. i'm not plagued by ed related thoughts. there's hope. i promise!

Anonymous said...

Aw, you called me lovely. That made my day!

You are quite lovely yourself, m'dear. :)

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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