More birthday thoughts

It was interesting: on my birthday, I saw a sign about ordering alcohol.  It said "You must be born on or before this day in 1990 to order alcohol."  I laughed at first--I've now officially been legal for a decade.  That got me thinking to my 21st birthday, which is when I stopped cold.

I spent my 21st birthday in the hospital, my first stay for anorexia.  I had been admitted the day before.  I remember trying to talk my psychiatrist into letting me have a can of Diet Coke as a special treat.  He said yes, but the message didn't make it through to the nurses who said no.  I pitched a fit and ran to my room, crying.

It's been ten years since then.  I've wavered from not thinking I had a problem, to thinking I would kick this thing in a snap.  Now, it makes me tremendously sad to think how much of a daily struggle it still is.  I have good days, yes, but a lot of days are just a grim slog.  I never thought my life would get so consumed for so long by this thing we call anorexia.

In many ways, that day in the hospital feels like just yesterday.  In other ways, it feels like a million years ago.  Again, I waver from thinking what's the point of recovery after trying for so many years, and thinking that surely now I'll kick this.  I guess part of me keeps hoping that eventually I'll get so sick of my eating disorder that it will just magically cure all of the fears and behaviors.  It's a nice thought, except it doesn't really work that way.

Mostly, I'm just tired.  Tired of having to fight all the time.  I want to be able to stop thinking about eating disorders and recovery, just for a few days.  I want to walk around in public without wanting to run and hide because of how disgusting and huge I feel.  I want to order off a menu without internally freaking out.  I want to stop feeling so torn about, well, everything.

I had hoped time would start to heal things, and it hasn't.  People tell me "This too shall pass." Except there's no signs of this passing and it's been over a decade.  And I'm starting to get really frustrated.

I probably shouldn't write blog posts when I'm literally exhausted--it makes everything feel so overwhelming.

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Anonymous said...

I'm approaching my birthday this week and as it's my 30th is kind of a landmark. But not because of the number, but to me that was the date by which I'd have kicked ED into the long grass and resigned it to history.
It's a week away now and there is oh so very far to go. On the outside maybe I look more healthy than I did 12 months ago, but inside it feels like nothing much has changed. I cope with eating but it's still such a consious and painful effort. Like you, to be able to forget about it for a day even and it all just happen anyway would feel like heaven.
I love that you wrote this Carrie. Recovery is a bitch and I think it's important for sufferers and outsiders alike to see that the end isn't necessarily as straight forward as it might seem. Stay strong - and keep talking. Love Anne Wood (AKA Icedgem27) (p.s. I Google+ you yesterday ;-) )

Mel said...

They may be right, it may very well pass....

like a kidney stone

It will take forever and be the worst pain ever experienced...

I appreciate your honesty. I'm glad I can read your blog, knowing that there is SOMEONE who get it.
Thank You Carrie, keep this blog/lifeline open. It does so much for me...

Katie said...

Carrie, I know no one can ever really understand how another person feels, but I relate a lot. Not so much with the eating disorder these days, but my co-morbid anxiety and depression long preceded my ED, and they still stick around. I also occasionally still get intense urges to cut myself even though I stopped four years ago. I get utterly sick and tired of having to police myself, especially since the self destructiveness generally hits when I am feeling the most stressed out and vulnerable.

I think the thing about ED recovery is that you really need to not only get to your set point, but STAY there for a long time without slipping or using any behaviours, before the thoughts start to clear up. It seems to be the central paradox of eating disorders, because although psychological recovery is dependent on physical and behavioural recovery, the psychological symptoms makes it extremely difficult to maintain physical and behavioural recovery for long enough that things start getting easier. Stupid f-ing eating disorders, grr. I've found that the same applies to self harming - I tend to briefly slip every 6-12 months, and that's enough to keep the idea at the front of my head when I'm very stressed out, which makes the next slip more likely to happen...

I hope you feel less exhausted and overwhelmed today <3

Cathy (UK) said...

I'm sorry things feel so difficult for you now, Carrie :( I know in the past that every time I reached some milestone I would think "I thought I'd be better now".

I am trying to think of something helpful to say, but I'm not really sure what that is... I can tell you some of the things that have helped me, which may or may not be possible for you and others still struggling. I do still struggle, though not with AN these days; more my co-morbidities which fed into my AN; especially the OCD and ASD stuff.

In terms of the AN, however; the thing that has perhaps helped most (apart from re-feeding and ensuring that I eat adequately on a day-to-day basis) is developing new interests, activities and pursuits, outside of anything to do with AN. I have some wonderful friends who I have met through links to AN, but I also have wonderful friends who have never had an ED. By spending time with them I see another side to life and I engage in conversation and activities that are totally remote from EDs.

You write: "I want to be able to stop thinking about eating disorders and recovery, just for a few days."

I have observed that some people develop as people during and after recovery by getting deeply involved with ED research, activism etc., and that helps them. However, some people want a life outside of AN; to put it all behind them. Some, like me, opt for the 'middle ground'. Of course, there is no 'right' or 'wrong' way in all this.

From a personal perspective, I am interested in ED research and am keen to help people with EDs and their families. However, I feel I have progressed most in my recovery by engaging with things that are remote from anything to do with EDs. But perhaps I am unusual in this respect?

CJ @ said...

oh my gosh I just had this very same conversation with my husband. I am seriously sick of thinking of food all the a negative way by counting calories and obsessing over every little thing, and in the way im supposed to, "did i follow my meal plan, what do I need today to make sure i got the proper nutrition" it is seriously exhausting and horrendous.
You are right though. Some days there is a light at the end of the tunnel when I say, "ok maybe i will get a life that isnt consumed by negative self-talk and a desire to exercise or restrict" but most days it is hard to find the motivation to break every habit I have had for the majority of my life.
i hope you have a better day today, because no one should have to deal with these struggles, which unfortunately invade most of our minds all day, everyday.
Thank you for writing such inspiring things. From what I see you do a wonderful job at fighting.

mowdleUK said...

No, Carrie, I think you SHOULD post blogs, ESPECIALLY when you're literally exhausted - after all, you're obviously thinking the thoughs anyway, so would probably feel 'overwhelmed' regardless; but, at least with blogging, the thoughts are out there (and hopefully you can get some 'rational comebacks' from your fans to help you through the black holes), in black and white, rather than just swirling around in a miasma in your head with no actual substance, just filling you with an unpindownable sense of anxiety and fear. I often feel, on my worst days, that 'offloading' is the last thing I want to do - too exhausting, too exposing, too much risk that it might make my problems seem even more real but, equally, often when I do make myself put it into words, I sometimes feel better for having done so. Wishing you all the best and hope that this apparently particularly difficult time won't drag itself out too much longer. Be strong!

Angela Elain Gambrel said...

It is so strange because I had similar thoughts yesterday. That I was sick of it all, tired of fighting anorexia and staying with recovery, tired of thinking about it all. I think it hit me because I will have been in OP treatment for three years next month. I never thought it would be three years; I was so sure I would be fully recovered within a year tops since I developed my eating disorder later in life. Goes to show what I know.

I remember what a friend of mine with leukemia called it - "disease burnout" He has been blogging about his struggles with leukemia for some time, and then stopped for a while because he said he was just tired of his disease, tired of being a leukemia patient in remission instead of just being himself. He wanted to think and write about something other than leukemia. That phrase really has stayed with me, and I think that might be what you are feeling - "disease burnout." I think all of us get it, and want to just be ourselves without anorexia, bulimia or whatever.

You will make it through this. I have faith in you. :)

Anonymous said...

Keep fighting Carrie, you are beautiful and deserve a beautiful life. You're out of the hospital, thats the first step-you're writing this blog you clearly understand the way you process things is not right. I'm so impressed by you, and I'm proud of you.

My birthday is a month away, and I'm terrified of having a cupcake on my birthday-somthing that used to be my favourite food in the world. I've been fighitng this for a long while, and your blog reminds me of how strong I need to be.

hm said...

Who came up with "This too shall pass" anyhow??? Fuck them! Not everything passes.

Anonymous said...

i know, it does feel like there is no end in sight, like we just keep fighting for these miniscule triumphs, without any real progress. But the truth is, there is progress. Each little triumph distances us farther from ED, and the weaker he becomes. Sooner or later, he won't be able to fight back any more. I don't feel like it is possible some times either, but I KNOW people have done it, and therefore I KNOW it is possible for you and I!!

Stay strong, you can do this <3


Jessie said...

Spending your birthday in the hospital sucks, doesn't it? I spent my fourteenth in the hospital, although I'd been admitted a month earlier.
Recovery is exhausting. Every damn thing about it sucks. It's okay to ay that and let it out. We all know that is, there's no point in trying to be optimistic about it when you're going through aparticularly rough patch. Time may have healed us physically- we aren't going to die of starvation now, our bones don't jut out of our skin- but inside, time really hasn't done anything. I want to break down every time I have to eat, and I loathe myself afterwards. But if you stay strong, just like you have been, I believe in you, and the fact that you can do this. Remember- Real strength involves having the courage to fight the disease that is sucking the life out of you.

Rachel said...

I'm so there with you, Carrie. I read your blog pretty much every day (even rereading old posts) and I can tell you honestly that you *are* helping me and many other people fight ED and giving us the grit to stay on the balance ball called recovery. And none of us--NONE of us--ever stays on that slippery, shifting ball all the time, or looks very good while we do.

I can imagine--because this is what I feel--that you're completely and utterly exhausted, and that you just want to feel some solid ground under you for once. That you want people who tell you 'Two steps forward, one step back--you're making progress!' to shove it, because slips or bad days or weeks or months don't feel like a 'slip', they feel like a terrifying plummet off a cliff; and falling and flailing sometimes feels a hell of a lot better than clinging to some moldy, rotten, awful cliff that keeps disintegrating under your clawed fingers and toes; and at least when you were falling, before, or when you hit rock bottom, and then hit a lower rock bottom--at least then you were thin.

I HATE being weight recovered some days--most days --because when I'm sinking under shame or panic my body doesn't show those feelings anymore on its outside. My body is pretty normal, functional. So now I have to do all the goddamn work of figuring out what is beneath those feelings and why I'm never good enough for my own damn brain. It sucks.

But I can bike-ride to work now. I even have some muscles in that regained mass of flesh. I can eat a normal breakfast and make a lunch and snacks that will satisfy my hunger without leaving me dizzy at 5 pm, and sometimes I can even think of going out to eat with friends without being completely overwhelmed by anxiety. It's still pretty overwhelming--but I've got a life again, even if it includes food fears and regular meltdowns. And that's really what it comes down to--all of those terrified first bites of pasta, and the meal plans and the grocery bills, and all those small capitulations to my hunger that made me feel like a greedy, insatiable loser--all of those sucked--but they're helping.

I still HATE mirrors and clothes shopping and scary food and watching other people eat yummy food that I don't think I deserve.
But my cells are rebuilt and my brain is working better and my beliefs are starting to get cracks in them. And I WILL NOT give up. Because even if it takes until I'm 40 or 50 or 60 or 80, I am going to keep chipping away at those walls in my head. I am more solid than them now--literally--and I am stronger. So are you. And we deserve a life--even if it's just fifteen minutes a day without anxiety at first.

Rachel said...

You have a life now that you didn't have when you were 21. You are an amazing writer with 2 published books and a high-profile writing life and more guts than most people you've probably met in your life. You're feeding yourself now, and you may hate it, but you're doing it. And whatever the brain's version of muscle memory is, you are rebuilding it, so that one day you will realize that you ate your breakfast and your snacks kind of--kind of--automatically. And that will make ED super anxious. but you'll keep doing it, and the fucked-up filters over your eyes that tell you you are a great grey whale (that is the most flattering description I can find for myself when I feel as big as a garbage truck)--those filters will start to show cracks, so that even if you are still looking through them sometimes, you'll know at the back of your mind that they're just malfunctioning telescopes.

sorry this is a novel--I haven't commented in ages because my computer was having trouble with blogger, so this is like ten comments' worth. :)


p.s. also if you haven't watched 'The King's Speech' it is just fabulous--I loved seeing a movie that shows the struggle and the constant, everyday effort behind fighting a condition like stammering or ED. Usually Hollywood presents recovery as some BS dreamland that you magically arrive at and voila, everything is golden. But this movie rocked and was hilarious, too. You must see it!

Anonymous said...

This is from a mom. Not sure if this will help, I hope it might give you hope to endure. My daughter's doctor at the University of Chicago told us that it could take 6-12 months for my daughter's mind/brain to heal from the malnutrition, and if she didn't maintain her weight, it could reset the 6-12 months back to the beginning. I have heard that Dr. LeGrange is now thinking it may take 1-2 years for some people. From my experience, I would say that seems just about right. My daughter has been weight restored solidly and continuously for about a year. She had therapy all that time but it seemed that after being continuously weight restored for about 12, she felt more settled and started to really benefit from the therapy. I am now seeing the return of the happy easy spirit that ed took away from her. It really took all that time--we knew it was going to take time and we knew that we might restart the clock if she kept losing and gaining weight, so she adopted the motto, "just keep eating" and she gutted her way through.

It was hard for both of us to be patient because nothing good seemed to be happening for her (ever) but there didn't seem to be much choice or any good alternatives so we just kept going on the same plan (eat, go to therapy, do your best to keep afloat at school) and were both happy AND surprised when good things started coming at her at a pretty fast pace! I think there is something to the idea of the body needing time and good nutrition to fully heal the mind because nothing really had changed in her life or her treatment when this started to turn around.

So, I hope you can be a little bit encouraged and I wish the same for you!!! PS can a mom say, "just keep eating please"

A:) said...

I think one of the toughest things about AN is that we don't realize how much we have lost until we try to live again.

And when we begin to live again we have to cope with the "normal" life we found so overwhelming and putting ED behaviours behind us.

When I feel like this, I try to remember how far I have come: 3 years ago I was emaciated, had no friends and had just started university. I almost didn't attend school that year. I almost stayed home and took yet ANOTHER off for treatment.

Everyone at work (lifeguarding) knew I was ill and no one wanted to get close to me -- no one knew how. My bloodwork was messed, I was having asthma/anxiety attacks and I felt utterly worthless. I had nothing but my eating disorder.

Now I am going into my last year of uni. I have gained 24lbs and am close to my target weight. I'll be doing a thesis project this year in physiology -- and spots for this were competitive. I'm working as a summer student doing research in a lab, NOT as a lifeguard. I am learning to cope with mistakes and challenges in that new position.

I have friends (somehow) that are here for me (surprisingly) and are accepting of me. I am going out for drinks with people, asking people to do things, etc. All these things are terrifyingly new. Most terrifying of all, I am learning to trust people.

For every happy exhilarating moment,there are equally horribly painfully crappy or anxious ones. AN is feeling nothing. Recovery is embracing the whole spectrum without going insane. I don't know if there is ever a "bliss" state that is entered upon being "recovered."

Life will always suck sometimes and behaviours will always be an option that feel immediately good. Doubt will always creep in. For us it is restricting, bingeing and purging, for others it may be smoking, drinking or having sex to fill some void. Our struggles with food are unique but our struggles themselves are not.

Like Cathy said, what has helped me most is trying to find other interests and hobbies. I have never started an ED blog because I don't want to be thinking about it to that extent.

Part of recovery is behavioural, but part of recovery is also putting the illness in its place and discovering who you are aside from AN -- that doesn't have to mean giving up all AN interests -- just making some alternative time apart from the AN aspect.

That's my ramble.


Anonymous said...

Oh Carrie. Thank you so much for sharing your real thoughts and struggles with us. We don't need another blog or book on recovery detailing the worst of the worst days in the throes of anorexia capped off by a quick happy ending of how one day the weight was gained, recovery was suddenly a heaven-like state of being, and all is right with the world again. Seriously, how often is that the case? And that leaves so many thinking it's as simple as eating a muffin and ED melts away and those struggling totally baffled how you make that jump from the depths of illness to being rid of all negative food and body thoughts in one simple step.

Recovery is a fight. It is a struggle. It may be something you have to keep on top of from here on out. Yes, you have to eat, but it seems like there must be more to it than just eating up and maintaining an appropriate weight. Even being fed, re-fed, receiving the support of family and / or a therapist, weight restored, independent, establishing goals and interests in life outside of ED, fighting to not give into the urge to return to old ways is going to be a biznatch but all for the better.

You are incredible, not for never faltering, but for stumbling and then resolving to get back up again and fighting through the tedious, draining daily struggles to do what is truly in your best interest.

Jen said...

Carrie, I know there are times when the telephone looks like this incredibly heavy thing and that thoughts can go through one's mind like "they're too busy to listen" or "I'll be a bother" but the fact is, one of the many, many people "out there" who read your blog, who have met the wonderful person that you are, and who love you will pick up that phone and listen and acknowledge the difficulties as well as the successes. I'm one of those people at the other end of the phone line and I'm sending you my cellphone number so you can call it. Hang in there.... Love, Jennifer

Anonymous said...

I don't have much to add, except for that I especially appreciate the posts like this one where you let us see how you are struggling.

I'm struggling with the beginning phases of recovery right now and experiencing something very similar to what you describe -- so tired of being That Girl with the Eating Disorder, of having everything in my entire life consumed by it whether I am sticking to the recovery plan or whether I say "fuck it" and let myself slip.

Anyway, thank you for sharing. Even though it was probably so hard for you to write this, it's immensely comforting to know that someone out there somewhat understands how crappy recovery is, even when you know it's the right thing.

Keep swimming! You inspire so many of us, even on your 'worst' days :)

Anonymous said...

Keep surrounding yourself with ED thought this, ED article that, the next ED book and you will not recover. You know that, though. You're far too smart for this.

Emily said...

I'm sorry I missed this post earlier - you put it so well, "Mostly, I'm just tired. Tired of having to fight all the time. I want to be able to stop thinking about eating disorders and recovery, just for a few days. I want to walk around in public without wanting to run and hide because of how disgusting and huge I feel. I want to order off a menu without internally freaking out. I want to stop feeling so torn about, well, everything."

Although we struggle with different EDs and outwardly we look very different, we feel the same on the inside. I can't tell you how many times I've told my therapist that I'm just tired of all of this being so hard. I wish I knew when it would get easier.

I hope your 31st year is the best year yet!

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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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