Ed-proof fence

Remember that scene in Jurassic Park where the velociraptors were flinging themselves madly against the electric fence? The raptors (who gave my 13-year-old self nightmares for months) were testing the fence, seeing if they could take the shock, seeing if there was any tiny section of the fence without electricity. I forgot exactly what happened, but the raptors did find a weakness and took over the island until the smart dino guys saved the day.

An eating disorder is a velociraptor: mean, predatory, stubborn, cunning, and ultimately predictable. And recovery is building a fence to keep Ed out.

No fence is perfect- Ed will test everything and anything you build to find a weakness. That's just his modus operandi. If he finds a weakness, he will exploit it.

My main weakness in recovery (at first) was being told that I had to choose to build the fence, to wire it properly. I was deathly ill and certainly not up to fence-building. Only when I was told to recruit others for this job did I start to make progress. Whether it was my parents to help me eat, my friends to provide social input and caffeine, or my writing and jewelry making to give me a creative outlet, it all formed a part of the fence.

My lasting job has been to maintain the fence, to find the tiny weak spots not visible on the outside, to keep the electricity running.

Ed's no dummy, of course. Just like the raptors, Ed keeps throwing himself against the fence. Where is the weakness?

In psychology, this is known as an extinction burst. Rats who got a "reward" (usually a food pellet) when pushing a lever, would whack that poor lever half to death when the reward was stopped. This was the extinction burst.

In recovery, this can look like extreme distress as weight is gained, as substituting other self-destructive behaviors when an ED behavior is thwarted. Why? It is when the eating disorder is the most threatened.

I still maintain my Ed-proof fence on my own. I almost have to. However, I have support. I have my treatment team to talk to, people to monitor my weight, and my parents to keep me real. I know Ed will always be there, waiting for fence repairs to go untended, or the electricity to go out. But for now, he knows the fence stands and occasionally goes away and sulks.

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Cammy said...

I guess it's one of those sad ironies that we often think we're too weak to build an ED-proof fence and tell ourselves it's futile to even bother trying, much less mess to just invite the monster in...Which is where the support team comes in, like you mentioned.

Great analogy, the image of the dinosaur vs fence scene is a great way to illustrate what it feels like to have an ED trying to force its way in. You have a lot to be proud of with the fence you've built and maintained, thanks for the reminder that it can be done, and the importance of recruiting help!

Anonymous said...

I love your analogy. I guess everyone has a fence for something or another!!! Some just have to be a lot stronger than others. Surly those raptors are starting to get tired?

ms.shoe said...

This was a very provocative piece. Interesting and powerful.

I guess that's why I am where I am right now - I'm barely half trying to build 'the fence'.

This got me thinking about working a ittle harder and not being so passive to my ed. It's not a battle if i'm not fighting.

A:) said...

Love your analogy Carrie. . .

Exactly where I am -- once again, building the fence.

ED tore down the last fence, but fortunately I have learned from my mistakes since then -- the materials with which you build recovery must be strong for your fence to last. The recoveree, so to speak, must be willing to monitor the fence once a level of stability has been achieved.

The good thing about recovery attempts and mistakes is that we truly can learn from them.


Carrie Arnold said...


And that's the other thing: you can always build a new fence. Keep on keeping Ed out.

MrsMenopausal said...

Excellent analogy, great timing. Linking this to a friend. Thanks.

Anon mom said...

More than just finding weaknesses in the fence/around the fence, EDs evolve to become "better"/worse, necessitating more sophisticated fences and scientists on the support team. Therein is the enemy in chronicity.

It's almost a perversion of that part of the movie where Jeff Goldblum's character says: "Nature always finds a way."

On the one hand, our bodies seem to find exceptional ways to survive self-destruction and abysmal self-care. Yet, the "nature" of eating disorders is that they also "find a way" to morph beyond the last best efforts.

Further, anorexia's mind/mind's-eye begins to find normalcy in the abnormal and can't see the holes in the fences of recovery ... that the fence isn't so high nor forbidding nor impossible/impassable ... and that the people on the other side *can* be trusted.

Starvation really is a vicious cycle.

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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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Have any questions or comments about this blog? Feel free to email me at carrie@edbites.com

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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