After a decade...

It was one of the last memories I had before the ED arrived--at least, one of the last happy memories.  I was spending the fall semester of my junior year in Aberdeen, Scotland, and I had made friends with a number of other students in my exchange program.  One of the girls was turning 21, the first in our group to do so.  Considering we were in the UK, where the legal drinking age was 18, we decided to have a big party for A. 

First, we went out to a nice Chinese restaurant called Yu.  I forget exactly what we ordered, but there was Peking duck involved.  It was crispy and moist and juicy and so freaking good.  Sake was also involved.  It wasn't exactly authentic Chinese, but we were giddy and happy so we ordered it.  ((As a hint, save your money.  I've never drank rubbing alcohol, but that's what it reminded me of.))  After dinner, we went to the Wodka Bar and each did a shot of flavored vodka--mine was lemon.  We stole the shot glasses as souveneirs, though for the price of the vodka, you could reasonably assume that the shot glass was included.  We made one last stop at yet another bar--I sound like a total lush!--where I was talked into having a drink out of a test tube.  "You're the chemistry major, Carrie! You have to drink it!"  So I did. 

Then we all went back to A's apartment and played Go Fish, and I'm fairly certain there was more booze involved.  But we were up until about four in the morning, laughing and playing cards.  It was incredible. 

I was already starting to get paranoid about food around then.  About two months later, the eating disorder really picked up steam as I fell into a deep depression.  And then my life disappeared into a gigantic black hole known as anorexia.

That was 10 years ago.  I'm now Facebook friends with A, and she celebrated her 31st birthday today.  I hadn't thought about her 21st party literally in years.  I couldn't believe that for the entire decade afterward, my life would be essentially obliterated by an eating disorder.

It seems like so long ago now.  I seem so young and innocent and maybe even stupid.  I never thought I would become anorexic because I knew better.  I had seen friends and roommates struggle with eating disorders.  I wasn't obsessed with supermodels.  I was, frankly, smarter than to get myself stuck in an ED hell.

I didn't know that intelligence has nothing to do with it.  I didn't know that almost 10 years would pass before I felt even a glimmer of that happiness again.

Tonight, it hit me just how long I've been sick, and I'm once again struck by the full horror of what my illness took from me all these years.  It's like my twenties just disappeared.  They were sucked into a black hole where all I can tell you about it beeping heart monitors and glasses of Ensure, of being too weak to get out of bed but running 5 miles anyway.

And it sucks.  The time lost, the money spent.  It all sucks. I want to tell that 20-year-old she should never lose weight.  That if she does, she may as well kiss her health and her life goodbye.  Not that this would have stopped me.

I just...I can't believe it's been ten years.

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Anonymous said...

((((((((((HUGS CARRIE)))))))))))
A toast of sake to your future!

Ann said...

This winter, it'll be 6 years for me. That thought terrifies me. For me, it was kind of the opposite, though -- I moved to Scotland for my junior year of college, ended up friendless and alone and self-hating; I focused all that anger and fear into food. By the time I came home, I was lost.

Staring down those years is daunting. Thank you for writing this blog and proving that there is a way forward.

(PS: I'm the stereotypical "longtime reader, non-commenter")

hm said...

Anorexia sucks. It's a thief, a liar, and a killer.

You rock b/c you battled it and won, even though it didn't fight fair. You're embracing experiences, successes, and pleasures that it would still strip from you if it could. But it can't- b/c you kicked its ass.

And you help pull other people onto your side of the battlefield. Even in the midst of your 10 years of battle, you were winning- creating a bigger army, getting stronger as you fought.

You probably still battle sometimes even now. But the battle's not your life anymore. It's just a sidenote. You, your talents, your interests are back front and center.

Anorexia sucks. But you're stronger than anorexia, and that's really incredible. Here's to your next 10 years being so full to bubbling over with life that, in 20 years, the last 10 years won't seem as noteworthy.

A said...

I've been having similar thoughts. My ED started a little before I turned 13, and now I'm almost 20. It's just like, wow, there went my entire teenage years. EDs suck. I don't remember the fun times I had as a teenager, because there were none, but I can tell you what I weighed and what I was eating at almost any point in those years.

I'm thinking of spending a semester of junior year in Scotland if I'm doing well then.

Holly said...

I've been having similar reflections lately. there's so much time represented by useless memories of nothing but numbers and mirrors.
I will keep going forward, but I want to stop for a few days to acknowledge how cheated I feel, how angry and's not something I've been able to realize before.

Ruth Greenaway-Robbins said...

I hear you. My Anorexia took hold when my newborn baby was just 3 months old ... she's now 3 and half and I have not yet been able to share a carefree meal with her ... I long for it. This all sucks and I just think we must be as strong as we can ... You've been through hell, live through hell but will appreciate heaven much more!

EmilyH said...

I think about that a lot much time I've lost to ED. It's time that I'll never get back. I just try to remember that everything happens for a reason, even my ED. I am confident being able to recover will make me stronger and that, perhaps, it will allow me to help someone else someday.

If nothing else has come from the past decade, you have helped me. You have opened yourself up so that I and others like me don't feel so alone in this ED thing. I think that's a pretty big deal.


Katie said...

I want to give you a cyber-hug too. I'm obviously not in your head but I can take a good guess at how you're feeling. My life has been dominated by my mental health problems for 15 years now, and even though I've done well in recovery from my anorexia for the last 18 months I still struggle with anxiety and depression. Sometimes I wish I could go back and do it all over again, but I don't think things could have turned out any differently. Even so, as hm said, I try to think that as long as I stay in recovery I will reach a day when more of my life will have been spent healthy than sick. I'm sure everyone reading this has their fingers crossed for you that your next ten years are much happier :)

Anonymous said...

I can literally remember the last thought I had before I purged for the first time. I had absolutley no idea that what I was doing was disordered. It all seemed so necessary at the time. I have recently sought help for the first time and my gp asked me how long has all this been a part of my life. My answer: 18 years...exactly half my life said...

I feel lucky my ED started when I was 13 and i'll be 22 in a week. I'm not recovered but im getting there and i have my LIFE BACK.

I hope your ED NEVER takes a year away from you again

Dana xo

HikerRD said...

It's a great sign when ambivalence has shifted and this EDz is seen as creating loss, not gain, in life's equation. It's a step for all of you to state, with distress, that this EDZ sucks. There's radical acceptance for you!

Lori Lieberman, RD, CDE, MPH, LDN

Jen said...

A big hug to you, Carrie. Here I am at almost 66 having lost 15 years of my life to that terrible illness and yet my life since then has been one big incredible adventure. Yours can be, too.

Charlotte UK said...

Darling, darling, darling Carrie.

Huge cashmere blankets of love and hugs winging their way from over here. D and I had the same conversation this morning about the past year which, when you are 13, seems an aeon of your life.

My advice to her is the same to you: You can't change the past BUT you can shape your future. A future without ed is one worth living every moment of, whatever happens.

I am also feeling guilty because I suspect I started you on this journey of retrospection - am off to iron my hands.



Erica said...

Beautifully honest. A sad and hopeful post. I love your writing.

I now have an incredible craving for vodka and Chinese food!

Carrie, here's to your next 10 years, -- they are gonna rock!

JenP said...

Oh, Carrie. I know exactly how you feel and have those same mourning moments every so often. But what I try to remember is that this is me, this was my obstacle to overcome. And even though I lost so much, I can take pride in the fact that I beat, am beating so much, that I can take pride in that. And I learned so much about myself along the way. Of course it sucks, of course life was hell for so long. But in the end, I'm where I am now. I can't get back the college experience, the college group of friends that I never had....but I can move forward. And live the wonderful live that I can now appreciate, not starve and exercise away

ylime said...

I know how you feel. My anorexia started when i was 11. I turned 21 while in residential treatment, and i remember looking back and feeling that my eating disorder had robbed me of my teen years.

I really hope it doesn't rob me of my 20s as well.

marcella said...

Hugs to you Carrie - and to your lovely mother. She and I have more in common than we might. I very much wish neither of us had had cause to meet each other but since we do, it was lovely to finally meet her last month.

Jessi said...

i could write a story almost identical, except we are all turning 30 now.. but i have wasted the last 10+ years, because of the ED that consumed my being!

so sad huh???

a great, honest reflection carrie!

thank you

Monica said...

I heard this song on the radio just now and it reminded me of this entry you wrote:

I know Ed is probably going to be really angry at me for sharing this with you, but I will say it anyway. I think that this blog, while it is award winning and successful, is keeping you sick. It keeps Ed at the focus of your life....and that is not the goal of recovery.

You are an awesome writer, and you would do just as well writing about other topics.

Ed is probably very angry at my suggestion, and that is understandable, because he wants to continue be the focus of your daily life and rob you of the things that truly matter. He's probably really loud right now, louder than you.

You are not responsible for anyone's recovery but your own. They can find other supports/websites/can read old entries.

With love and prayers,
-a person who has successfully recovered from anorexia and is on the other side. I was told something similar, and was very angry. It turned out Ed was the angry one... I was asked to let go of friendships with people who are in recovery (not people who want to stay sick- I always avoided relationships with those people). I moved to another city, and it was part of the last step to recovery. I cannot believe that letting go of that was the key.

I am free, and I want you to be free, too. You can still write. You are too good not to write...

flo said...

Another longtime reader, first time commenter here....

I've had an ED for almost 11 years now. I'm slowly recovering, but for me too, my twenties were sucked into the black hole of the ED. Thinking about all the time and money wasted, and all the life I could have lived in that time and with that money makes me sad and angry. It really, really sucks. And I'm fighting hard not to let this illness take another second from me.

Thank you for sharing your story with us.

hm said...

Re: whether writing about one's ed "feeds" the ed monster:
I think everyone's recovery journey is a little different- it's important that we validate our own recovery experience while allowing others to have a recovery experience possibly quite different than our own. :)

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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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