Sunday, April 1, 2007

A Spoonful of Sweetener Helps the Medicine Go Down

Just eat.

Seems so simple, doesn’t it. The perfect prescription for the anorexic.


Should be second nature, instinct. Stomach empties into small intestine, sends message to brain via NM (nerve messaging.) “Done. More. Now.”

The Nutritional Support Unit (NSU) of the brain reads the rest of messages from other organs to determine the highest need, sends NM to Hand. “Food. Pick up. Relay to Mouth.” [With food being whatever the body is most lacking – fat, protein, or carbohydrate. That, combined with the list that Brain keeps of likes and dislikes, determines what craving Brain sends.]
Hand should respond by obeying which will also elicit messages to Brain from the Eyes, Nose, Mouth, Tongue, and Ears.

For most people, this occurs without conscious thought. Most people trust that their brains know what’s best and let it control things. It is, after all, their brain – not someone else’s.

For an anorexic, the picture alters.

Stomach empties into small intestine and sends a NM to Brain. “Done. More. Now.”

The NSU NMs the stomach, “so?”

The stomach NMs back, “Food. Now.”

NSU responds, “whatever.”

Stomach continues NMing Brain, “food. Food. Food.”

The NSU switches off.

Stomach causes all sorts of rumbling and gurgling. It bypasses the NSU and begins NMing another part of the brain, Sensation Central, Pain Unit. The PU bombards the NSU with messages.

The NSU responds, “Wait longer. Not hungry enough.”

Finally, after an inordinate amount of time, the NSU NMs Hand to pick up food.

But instead of joy and elation, satisfaction and satiety, the NSU NMs the Automatic Emotion Control, “remorse, regret, hate.”

Hand slows down. Mouth and Tongue savor the tiny bits Hand gives them, to make it last. They send the AEC an NM, “joy, elation” which normally triggers the NSU to allow more.

But it doesn’t.

Hand stops.

Stomach complains.

Soon other organs join in the bitchfest. The NSU responds by allowing Hand to eat a few bites of something.

Brain’s Mission Control tries to circumvent the NSU, enlists the other units into devising intense cravings for food.

Still the NSUresists.

The harder the other units push, the less the NSU allows.

That’s because the NSU is controlled by a foreign entity.

E. D., Edie, Ed. Take your pick of nickname.

The Eating Disorder.

There is no tumor to be removed. There is no bacteria or virus to destroy with drugs. The remedy is as varied as the brain where Edie resides.

Why Edie infiltrates some brains and not others is an unsolved mystery. After more than a year of therapy, I’ve found my prescription. And it is the foulest thing in the universe.
I need to talk. And not just talk (which, as you have read, has never been an issue for a “Motormouth.”) I have to talk about myself. About my (gasp, gag) feelings. And not just once. Every frickin’ day.

I developed a support system to facilitate this. The members are eager, salivating with anticipation for the day that I decide to open up and feed them with the banquet of my fears and worries, aches and pains.

And yet, I resist. I leak out once and a while, give them a glimpse into the world of my brain, with a touch of humor or perhaps insight to make it palatable to the listener. Just enough to sustain the friendships, but not enough to expose myself to the wolves.

I have lived in my own world for so many years. My world is comfortable, it’s familiar, it’s safe. Even with Edie holding back nourishment (starving me, if you will,) it is still the “known.” The worst “known” is a thousand times better than the best “unknown.” (Well, at least until the unknown becomes the known. Chicken, no egg.)

Recovery is the great unknown. Actually, the state of being recovered, eating ordered, is a mystery. I’m told it is fabulous.

But for someone who has trouble trusting her own self, this is difficult to believe. Better the devil you know, right?

Unfortunately, this devil doesn’t let his prey live for long. And isn’t death the great unknown?
Eventually, there comes a point when restricting where your body begins to rebel beyond the intense cravings. You don’t sleep as well. Your head spins a bit when you move it (which you blame on your exhaustion.) A voice in your head begins to drone, Feed me. Eat. Eat anything.
I hear that voice now as I type this. I calmly sip my tea. I know I need to eat. I know I need the fuel. But it’s almost like I’m paralyzed by fear. Every piece of food morphs into fat. Nothing looks appealing or worse, looks so appealing that the intensity of the feeling frightens me.

I know I should seek out a friend, reach out, connect with someone.

I know I should take my medicine.

And yet, I resist.

When I was three, I had a coldsore on the cornea of my eye. For months, I needed various eye drops to heal my eye. My mother told me that I once bribed my grandfather a nickel to not put the drops in.

I’m willing to up the ante. Any takers?

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