Beyond eating disorders

There was a lovely essay in yesterday's New York Times called "A Guy, a Car- Beyond Schizophrenia," about moving on after 20 years of schizophrenia. Harry, the patient, had been unable to drive for years and now that his disease was in remission, he wanted to learn how to drive.

The author, a psychiatrist, had this to say about the illness:

For decades, the condition was thought to have an inevitable downhill course, much as we still see with Alzheimer's disease. Even during my residency in the early 1980s, most of us were gloomy about schizophrenia.

We now believe that schizophrenia comprises several different disease processes and often has a more benign course. We have begun to speak not only of remission, but even of recovery — and hope.

Hope is what Harry presented to me at his most recent appointment — along with a request that raised the hairs on the back of my neck. He wanted me to sign off on his application for a driver’s license.

Suddenly, I was caught between two conflicting visions: one of my patient obeying some malign voice behind the wheel, with who knows what consequences; and another of a young man yearning to get his life back.

And Harry did learn to drive and did get his life back.

All I can think while reading this is that one day people will write essays about eating disorder treatment filled with such hope. I do believe there is hope for all of us, otherwise I would have given up a long time ago. But so much of what I read in the news is doom and gloom, the grim realities of the struggle, of relapse, of death and despair and pain. No doubt Harry's life had these factors, too, and no Ferrari can ever make that suffering "worth it." But it can help us endure, help us keep moving forward until we can get our driver license and move beyond the eating disorder.


Kim said...

I needed to hear this today. I'm having one of those days of thinking, "Well, hell, anorexia is a biological disorder and I'm never going to really be over it. I'm hopeless." I know there IS hope. I have to be reminded sometimes. It's just a process.

Unknown said...

I have always found there to be HOPE in the biological disorder thinking. That means there is a clearer path OUT.

The "this is a deep-seated problem rooted in real and unchangeable circumstances" sounds, really, harder to see as treatable.

ja said...

I'm with Kim. I tend to feel more pessismistic about biological disorders.

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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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