Today is September 11th. If you live in the US, it's pretty hard to escape this fact. There are memorials and retrospectives and all manner of remembrances.

On September 11th, 2001, I had dropped out of college the week before, too weak to continue my studies. I was miserable, depressed, and hoping to die. My blood pressure was essentially non-existent. I was contemplating entering treatment, but too apathetic to really care. I was at my absolute lowest weight.

I remember wishing I was in those burning buildings and crashing planes because those people probably wanted to live. I remember wondering how many calories I would have burned if I had to run down from the 86th floor, or whether I would have just jumped. Just as the Twin Towers were collapsing, so was my life.

I entered treatment on the 14th. I was trying to decide between Renfrew and Remuda when all of this happened. Since I could easily drive to Philly, I wound up checking myself into the Renfrew Center.

For the first few years after 9/11, the anniversary brought a sense of despair because I had gained so much weight since then. I was no longer skeletal, no longer special, and my pain was no longer visible. I had failed at anorexia, but I hadn't succeeded at anything else, either.

The last few years have been more of a sense of horror, that so many years had passed, and I was still sick. That I couldn't figure out how to get better.

This morning, I looked at condos. And then went to therapy.

I still judge myself for gaining so much weight. I still feel I've failed at anorexia and haven't yet succeeded at anything else.

But mostly, I feel a sense of lingering sadness for all the time that has slipped through my fingers. Time I can't get back.

I wrote this poem three years ago, and I still think it's decent, so I'm pasting it here.

I remember

the jingle of the phone
my mom shaking me awake
"turn on the TV, you
won't believe what's happening."
buildings falling- a bad movie.
no. this is real.

I remember

the people running and the
sick knowledge that I was to weak
to run for my life.
the anorexia had taken over and was
killing me as much as a plane
slamming into a building.

I remember

the hollow falling falling
rush and buzz in my ears
from CNN and starvation.
lost in a cloud of smoke
created by my brain
staggering and brushing away ash.

I remember

the frantic trip to the doctor
where I lacked pulse and blood
pressure. stand up sit down.
wanting to give blood
like everybody else
but I had no blood to give.

I remember

wondering why I cared about
calories in celery when
people were dying alone apart.
wishing I could trade places
with those who had perished
because they deserved life
and I didn't.

I remember


I remember

and I am alive. still.

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Cathy (UK) said...

Reading your post I find it difficult to comprehend your remaining attachment to your AN when you have achieved so much more in your recovery. You have written an award winning book, you have an award-winning blog, you are a wonderful science writer - yet part of you still desires AN - or perhaps I should say thinness.

Yesterday I left rather a long comment on your blog. My objective was not to be negatively critical, but to explain the following:

*First, that AN doesn't mean the same thing and doesn't fulfil the same purpose for each person. It is heterogeneous.

*Second, that anorexic behaviours can be 'practiced' to cope with the difficult emotions of trauma, bullying, rejection etc. - and hence there IS such a thing as an underlying cause.

*Third, that I don't believe that EDs are driven solely by disordered eating and/or low weight. When (e.g.) trauma, personality disorder, autism (etc.) are involved the AN may have little to do with achieving thinness as an aesthetic goal. Rather, the weight loss is often a 'side-effect' of behaviours practiced (semi-consciously) to control anxiety and very negative emotions.

Despite weight gain and adherence to a sensible meal plan many people still struggle A LOT mentally. That, to me, is evidence that all the symptoms are NOT solely attributable to low weight and disordered eating.

I am glad that you are now looking at condos and choosing your writing career over being thin. You are a very bright young woman with so much to offer...

Emma said...

hi.. found you via google reader, been reading a bit of your blog recently. It's fairly big so I haven't read it all :)

"and my pain was no longer visible". Yes, that is it. I wish it would all appear over my head as a warning and a disclaimer, so that people would give me a break and not expect me to act like a "normal" person. At the same time, I am too scared to have a look that says I'm not normal, I constantly try to blend in...

Anonymous said...

I, too, think of all of the time I've lost.

And can't get back.

Rose said...

i got chills down my spine when i read this post, Carrie.
thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

"I had failed at anorexia, but I hadn't succeeded at anything else, either."

"I still feel I've failed at anorexia and haven't yet succeeded at anything else."

That is the ED talking- it's not you! Remember that an ED is a harsh taskmaster- it promises success but never, ever delivers.

TRUE success is finding the strength to turn away from its lies.

You've written things that have helped many, many people. You have made a positive impact on the world. You have succeeded.

It sounds as if you miss your ED a little- I can relate. Remember that the mind idealizes it. What you do now- channeling your energy into your writing rather than your weight- that is the real, true, successful you.

Mary Baldwin said...

The idea of failing at anorexia is one that passes through my mind thousands of times each day. Thank you for sharing this post and keeping fighting! For me the day that stands out as a turning point is Thanksgiving; not only is a holiday dedicated to food, it was the first time I came home from college, nearly 25 pounds lighter than when I left. I will never forget the way my mom looked at me in horror when I hugged her in the airport, a ghost of my former self.

Angela E. Gambrel Lackey said...

I also think of all the time wasted, time I could have spent with my husband and family, time I could have spent enjoying life, time spent instead counting calories and trying to always become thinner; time spent wishing I would die instead of other people.

But you have accomplished so much more and time spent regretting the past is also a waste. This post made me cry, but as I continue to eat and work toward recovery, hoping to reach the place you are at, I know that none of us need to spend any more time on anorexia. It's time to let go and realize what a good and wonderful person you are. You never have to go back to AN; continue to move forward.


Katie said...

I like the poem Carrie. It makes me sad to think that you still feel like you're a failure. I see a successful young woman who has the courage to fight for herself and her life, not to mention the bravery it took to try and make freelancing work. I often feel like a failure when I see things on facebook about promotions or marriages of people I went to school with. But I had a rather large handicap to contend with and have done well just to get to 25, conventional notions of success be damned. Lot of people with mental health problems say that they feel cowardly and weak for being scared all the time, but going out and living your life when you are scared is far braver than doing it when you're not scared of anything. Success means more when it's been fought for - if it came easily, what pride would you have in it?

I think you rock anyway. So there :P

kushika said...

Gaining weight and health IS an achievement in itself, and it is a far bigger success than being starved to near death. You know that.

As Cathy has pointed out there are a number of instances when you have achieved something. No, it may not be the nobel prize, but I do find it very sad that you do not recognise these things as acheivements.

If someone else wrote this post, how would YOU respond to it?

Sorry that this is not much help, but I really do hope you manage to feel that your ARE deserving (because you fought so hard to get to this place, and your blog provides so much comfort to others such as myself, and you are a good person overall).

You've got this far. Don't give up now.

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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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