Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Note about the previous posts

The posts I just posted all were written, at a minimum, one year ago. Some were written two or even three years ago. Life is different for me these days, in a lot of ways (which I'll post about soon.)

The one thing that is still the same though is that I fight with my eating disorder almost every single day. Some days, it's every minute for hours on end. Other days, it's a fleeting scuffle. Luckily, I win most days.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Continuation

I wrote the last blog post (Like a Virgin) awhile ago.

I'd like to say that it was onward and upward.

But it hasn't been.

I've been up. I've had a few days where I honestly thought I had crossed into the elusive recoverED club.

And I've been down to the rock bottom. Sitting alone in a dimmed conference room, lamenting the fact that I'd eaten a plate of goodies after a Christmas party. After the party, because I was so tense and in such a panic during the party that I had to excuse myself to run to the ladies’ room. And in the ladies’, I thought about throwing up the paltry amount of food I had eaten. Then, in the conference room, because I couldn't make myself throw up. Even though I tried harder than I've ever tried before.

But in that conference room, I figured out the reason I had sunk so very far.

And the pattern continued.

Sink lower than you've ever been before.

Take a few deep breaths.

And feel what you never wanted to feel. Because feeling it has got to be better than the place you find yourself. In this case, for me, that was alone in a conference room wishing I was dead.
And it wasn't because I couldn't make myself throw up.

It wasn't even because I ate a plate of desserts.

It was because I hadn't gone far enough.

I had stood up to my parents. I declared my independence from them, in my own quiet way, slowly and calmly, and I won.

I had stood up to my brothers. I claimed my status as an adult. And, for the most part, they treat me as such.

But-
But-

There was one person left.

The hardest of them all.

The one whom I see every day.

The man I married.

Todd.

I am still a slave to Todd. In my actions. But now.

Now.

Not in my mind.

So I fight again. To align my actions with my mind.

To set my true self free.

To be fully human.

To allow myself to stand on an equal footing as everyone else.

Including my husband.

Like a Virgin

The End Or The Beginning

I had a conversation with my friend and sometimes accountability partner, Aaron, today about how his goal for me is to be my own food police. I told him that I don't really listen to his advice on food/nutrition/servings anymore. And that is true. I give in to his proddings only because I don't want to argue, however, when push comes to shove, I do my own thing anyway. I haven't asked for his help with serving sizes as I did at one point. Once I asked him to confirm my suspicions as to what I thought he would tell me to have for a snack. But that was for confirmation only - I knew what he was going to tell me. The ‘Doc F’ voice is inside my head and, for the most part, doesn't need much validation anymore when it comes to food/nutrition.
The only reason I've shared calorie points with him lately is because he had told me that he worries unless he sees the numbers. (He’s an engineer, go fig.) I didn’t want him to worry, so I shared the numbers.

I'm not going to do that anymore.

Oh, some of you are probably screaming, “That’s Edie talking!!”

I admit that Edie thinks it's a marvelous idea, but Doc F reluctantly agrees. Sharing points, food plans, etc. takes the focus off what I (supposedly) need to be doing - acknowledging and expressing my feelings.

This is what I need to focus on.

I’m not saying that what I eat (or don’t) isn’t important. I do understand that I need to feed my body or it’s going to literally digest itself. I do understand that I may have already damaged organs and that the damage may not manifest itself into a problem for many years.
But I also have been through many spirals before.

Aaron is right that I tend to spiral when he or Nancy or Jeff or another friend has been otherwise occupied or out. He is also correct to think that he has helped me from crashing each time. But this happened not because he was/wasn’t there to encourage me to eat. It happened because the connection was interrupted or plugged back in. That’s why, over vacation this year, I didn’t spiral – I connected with Todd and Jack. I plugged into one of my “energy” sources, so to speak. Since it was the only one available, I sucked out all I could, all the while believing that I could supplement the connection when I went back to work. (Because you can’t suck out all the juice from one source all the time.)

When I returned though, I felt disconnected. I suppose it surprised me, although it shouldn’t have. I have always felt the need to re-court my friendships after I’ve been away for any length of time. Well, actually, I hold back and wait for the other people to express interest in reconnecting with me. Like a virgin, I become extremely shy when I’m not sure what to do or if I’m truly wanted.

For some reason though, I didn’t feel that desire when I got back to work. I’m not exactly sure what happened. Maybe we were all waiting for the other person to move first. I don’t know and really, it doesn’t matter. It happened and I’ve finally recognized it. Now it’s time to move on. Stop focusing on food, start focusing on becoming a whole human.

My favorite history professor in college, Colonel Shay, always said that there are only two questions that truly matter in life.

Where am I going? And who’s going with me?

I’d like to think that I’m going to live. Live the life I have always dreamed for myself. Where I am surrounded by my family and friends who love and accept me for who I am. Where I include myself in that number.

How am I going to get there? Although this isn’t one of the two questions, it is the most logical third.

The way I see it, the only way I’m going to get there is if I fill my tank with fuel - air and water, food and love – and never let it hit ‘E.’

Prepare For Take Off

It's been a roller coaster whirlwind of weeks since I received my involuntary separation package from work. I've been to the heights of hope and happiness down to the depths of despair and depression.

Two weeks ago (was it only two weeks ago,) I was ready to move to DC. I thought I had a job offer in the bag and I was ready to leap to my "happy place." But the days ticked by and the emminent offer never materialized. The law firm gave it to someone else.

With each day that passed, my excitement ebbed and in flowed all the pain of losing my job, of being without a routine, of being without my friends, of not having a future, of not being productive.

For four days, I listened to my husband switch between unbridled enthusiasm and obstinent territorialism. I endured his chest-thumping, his putting me down, his scared chatter to make himself feel indispensible, needed, important, superior. Add to this my four-year-old son who cried or threw tantrums if I left the room without him for five seconds, who demanded constant attention because that's what Mommy had always given him whenever we were home on weekends. Throw in sheer exhaustion from sleepless, worry-filled nights.

Stir.

Place in oven.

For a woman who has only tentatively begun to accept her place in humanity, this was more than I could handle.

Lock oven door.

Turn up the heat.

For these four days, I wasn't able to talk on the phone without others listening in; I wasn't allowed on the computer (either because my husband needed to work or my son pestered me incessantly to play with him.) Journalling was impossible with my husband's paranoia that I was divulging lies to the world, like how horrid and insensitive he was being toward me.

I felt more alone than ever.

I couldn't even get out to walk - the weather was too cold for my son to sit in a stroller and he refused to go anywhere (unless I bought him something, which we can't afford.)

By Wednesday morning, I had had it. At 3:00 am, I awoke with wide eyes. From the bed in Jack's room, I paused to listen for sounds of my husband. I sighed when strong snores eminated from the living room. I tiptoed to the computer nook, which happens to be in the living room as well. I logged onto my email, hoping to find a few inspirational words from a friend. Something, anything to make me feel less lonely. Preferably something in response to a note that I was able to sneak out earlier.

So, when I read a note from Aaron that basically started out saying that my separation from the company would be hard for all my friends; my friends will drift apart because I wasn't there to organize lunches; life would be just awful there now; I snapped.

For weeks I had suffered through tirade after tirade from my husband that *he* was the most affected by *my* job lost. The last thing I wanted to hear was how my separation affected anyone else. WHAT ABOUT ME????

I was under the impression that when someone lost her job, it would be about *her.* When I vented to my friends about Todd, before my last day, they validated this belief.

But then I read this note. To me, it validated everything that my husband had said for all these weeks. That my feelings and thoughts weren't worth the air to speak about them.

I was angry.

I let loose.

I, more or less, told him that if he was so lonely, to get off his duff and walk to someone's office or lab - he had that privilege; I didn't. If he didn't and was still lonely, then I didn't want to hear about it. I told him that I made an effort to stay in touch - despite all the obstacles, both internal and external.

I had had enough. I was tired of everything being about everyone else and I let him know it.
I thought as I wrote this flame that he was yet another example of how no one cares about *me;* they only care about the things I do for them. And I was angry.

I felt betrayed. I had exposed my inner self to him over the past few years. I had trusted him when he told me that nothing inside me could ever be that bad; that true friends, like him, liked me for me, not what I happened to do for them; that he had broad shoulders, could handle anything I had to say; and that I should never, ever hold back.

The letter to which he had replied had oozed self-hatred and pain and frustration. Underlying all of it was anger. Lots of anger. From my point of view, his reply was selfish and callous. I read in that note that all he cared about was himself, even though I happened to be dying inside (literally and figuratively.)

And it pissed me off.

His reply to my rant was that I had hurt him. That all he had meant to convey was that I would be missed.

I answered, "Didn't you think that that was the very last thing I would want to hear?"

After all, I hadn't come that far from the girl who never wanted the spotlight, the girl who wished to be number three in high school so she wouldn't need to make a speech, the girl who preferred to be invisible, the woman who only wanted to disappear.

True, I had made a move to take a stand for myself, to use my voice to say what I want, but I was (and am) far from comfortable in this new role. I thought my friends understood this. I thought they would realize that I needed all the support and tenderness that they could spare. I had asked them for tangible proof of their support (before I left) - pats on the arm and hugs. I needed them to remember my requests without reminders. I needed proof that my thoughts and feelings really do matter to those about whom I care and who say they care about me, especially since my husband and in-laws were proving otherwise.

In my mind, my friend had let me down, crushed me. And I was angry.

Despite my anger, I did apologize numerous times for hurting him. For while I felt I had a right to be angry, I was sorry that my words wounded him – because that had not been my intention at all.

As the days passed and my friend still wouldn't speak to me, I became angrier.

My friend expected me to mind his circumstances – he was sick, his home life was a zoo in the best of times and had gotten worse that particular week - and yet, I didn't see how I was being granted the same consideration by him for what I was going through. This only validated the voice inside me that said that I didn't deserve such consideration - I was less than human after all.

Email after email, he accused me of being awful to him, yet he apparently felt blameless. Once again, the thought that someone else's thoughts and feelings mattered more than mine was being validated.

I was angry at him - really, really angry.

That is until Edie stepped in with her mirror. She deflected the anger back to me, where she reminded me that it had always belonged.

And I believed her. How could I not? It's a familiar, comfortable feeling for me - hating myself, thinking that I'm below pond scum on the food chain. I kowtowed and apologized profusely to my friend, indicating my regret for sending the letter in the first place without thinking it through numerous times (cleansing it of the volatile content my inner thoughts contain.) I told him over and over again what I horrible bitch I was (and am.)

He eventually forgave me, asked me to forget the whole thing (with a few final jabs about how wretched a human I was and how I should grow up and learn to be considerate.) I told him that I wouldn't forget. He scolded me with his advice to learn to forgive myself and not continue to use this as an opportunity to beat myself up some more. And then, he had the nerve to tell me not to triple think to the point of stifling myself.

Uhm. You just raked me over the coals for days after I spoke my mind and now you want me to speak freely? Sorry, I don't downshift that fast.

While this was happening, I alternated between days of starvation and binging. Luckily for me, I have another friend who was (and still is) able to give me the support I needed at the time. Nancy has a unique perspective - her life is a similar kind of hell to mine. Her husband and mine both have delusions of grandeur and are completely blind to the thoughts and feelings of others, especially those whom they claim to love.

She met me for lunch on each of the days I was in Rochester. She asked me about my life, often and sincerely. She shared in my excitement and was saddened in my despair. She reminded me of my dreams when I thought all was unattainable, when my hope was all but lost. These were the days when I would look at my son and for a moment wonder, "Maybe I can take him with me if I kill myself so he wouldn't be subjected to life without unconditional love."

Nancy didn't mind putting her concerns on the back burner for a little while (even though her concerns are more troublesome, more important than mine.)

Looking back, I realize that she did the same types of things for me that I did for her when her life was turned upside down just a few months ago.

One week after the "incident," Nancy and I had lunch together. Well, she had lunch; I had coffee. I was in the worst depression of my life. I didn't believe I was worth one moment of anyone's time, let alone a morsel of food. Everything was an effort. Even breathing. I wanted to die, but was too much of a weakling to end it.

We talked and talked. She expressed her worry over my rapid decline. After about two hours of conversation with her and her blatant concern over my well-being, I was convinced that it would be okay for me to eat something. In the van, I munched on some rice cakes. I went to my favorite coffee spot and ordered a cup of soup, a sugar-free steamer, and a slice of chocolate peanut butter pie. And I savored every scrumptious bite.

And when Edie came screaming, I wrote in my journal.

And when that didn't work, I called Nancy for reassurance.

I went home that afternoon with the intention to starve, but I splurged instead. I journalled a few battles in the war between Edie and me - between death and life.

The next morning, I chose death. Mainly because I had given Aaron an opportunity to bow out as my accountability partner and he took it - a sure sign, Edie said, that I was an annoying brat who didn't deserve friends.

Later that day, I found out from Nancy about some of the added stresses in Aaron's life and I decided that I needed to do something - I needed to release Aaron from my inner world.

After three drafts and a hundred interruptions, I finally sent him an email that said that I felt like he has been forcing a connection through frayed wires. I wrote that I understood that he has no more bandwidth to spare and that it was okay. I promised to let him know about the major events in my life (to keep him "in the loop.") I reminded him that I care and am interested in his life. For me, I was shutting the door of my inner world to him.

Once I logged off my computer, I found a voicemail from my mother-in-law. "Uncle Mike found two jobs for Jeanne in Syracuse."

Anger flared. Through this whole situation, my in-laws had been the least supportive of anyone. They have fueled my husband's 180s like lighter fluid on a barbeque.

I called her, found out that I wasn't qualified for either (sigh of relief,) thanked her (and Uncle Mike) for thinking of me, then passed the phone to Todd who had come in while I was on the phone.

He hung up and, once again, tried to convince me that we are better off staying in our house and in this area, even if it meant me going back to school.

I firmly stated, "It is too early in my search to give up." My translation, "I'll be dipped in shit if I give up my dream of getting the hell out of this house and shaking up the stagnant state of our current marriage where I'm in a subservient role."

And then, I closed my mind to his monologue.

I did it, just as Nancy had suggested over lunch the day before and it worked.

I was back in control. I ate thoughtfully that night without feeling like I binged.

I even had a few moments of quiet to reflect. I realized that the past few weeks, once again, proved that everything happens for a reason. I had to push Aaron away in order to give myself room. I needed to lose my trust in him, so I could learn to trust myself.

Aaron was my crutch. Every time I spiralled, he was there to help me up - sometimes forcing me up before I was ready. Until this last time when he pushed me down.

But this time, I got up on my own, with a little coaching from Nancy.

But *I* did it. This is *my* accomplishment. Mine alone.

For once, if only in my own mind, it's all about me first.


Author's Note
It was exactly two years ago from the day that I wrote this chapter that I "came out" to Aaron about my eating disorder relapse. Two years ago I took a tiny step and trusted him to help me. I relied on him often in these two years. Without him, I would not be the woman I have begun to become.

Thank you, Aaron.

However, it is time for me to fly. On my own, but not alone. My ground crew is on the horn, ready to offer me suggestions should I need them.

We’ll always have email

"Thank you, my friend," my friend, Aaron, replied.

Of all the times, for his family to peek at his email, this had to be about the worst. I'm cut off from the one member of my support team that I relied on for weekend help, even if it was only via email. And now, it's gone because his daughter probed his open inbox, found a few of my neurotic messages, and told her mother whose own struggle with low self-esteem caused her jealousy to rise.

I wanted to write back, "Aaron, just tell them the truth - your moronic, neurotic friend, Jeanne, lost her job on Friday and her already shaky recovery from an eating disorder is potentially on the verge of a major relapse."

But I didn't.

To his email which requested that I stick to using his work address, I responded, "No problem."

A lie.

It is a problem.

After receiving his message, I proceeded to kick my legs for about a half hour. Edie is already plotting how I will restrict tomorrow and the rest of the week.

I may as well get used to it. In two weeks, I'll be on my own. Sure, my friends tell me that we'll always have email, but isn't that like that famous movie line, "We'll always have Paris." It's a kiss-off line. It's like so many high school seniors who vow to keep in touch with their friends and then meet up with them at their ten-year reunion and ask, "Now, who are you?"

It doesn't work that way. It just doesn't.

In my life, there has been only one person to whom I can go months (and even a year) without speaking, then call her up, and carry on like we were never parted.

Julia is my soul-sister.

I just spent the afternoon with her today. At the end of our visit, we held each other tight. If an outsider had seen us, he probably would have pegged us for lesbians, but we're not. Ours is a friendship that has lasted for almost 20 years. There were times when we were sick of each other, but we simply told each other that we needed space and then a few days later, we were thick as thieves once more.

I can tell Julia anything and I know that she will always have a fabulous hug for me at the end of our visit. I hope she knows the same goes for me.

But it's hard for me to believe that this kind of friendship can happen more than once in a person's life. What are the odds? I can't imagine they are very good. I really can't.

As a person gets older, there is so much to do and never enough time. Life gets in the way. Tonight is the perfect case in point. If Aaron is only able to email me from work, what happens in two weeks when I'm sharing a computer with my husband who is as jealous or more of Aaron than Aaron's wife is with any one of his female friends?

I can see it now...

At first, I get up at the crack of dawn, praying that Todd is fast asleep or goes to get a paper so that I may have a few moments to hastily type a note. Aaron arrives at work around 8 a.m. and promptly replies, but when will I get to read the answer to my fervent plea for support or help? If it's a day when I won’t be going into the city, maybe mid-afternoon. By then, I'll have already managed to cope - by starving, binging, walking with Jack, or some combination of the three.

Sure, for a while, we may have lunch together on the two days that I take my son to daycare, but how long will that last really? and how would that look? We'll need to include others for propriety's sake. Does he really think that I'll keep going to lunch just to hear about them? Because I rarely get a word in edgewise when there is more than one other person in the room.
So I can kiss my support system good-bye.

Edie has her arms wide open and a kind smile on her face. "I'm always here for you. I have never left you alone. You have never had to leave me."

I hesitate for now. But at the moment, I'm not near my main trigger. And right now, I still have some hope that I'll find the perfect position and they'll offer me all the money I need in order to live comfortably, before the end of my severence pay.

But as my last day draws closer, how will I stop myself from going back to Edie? As my support team collapses around me, to whom else will there be to go?

I know the answer should be me, myself, and Mom-me.

[snort]

Like any of them have ever been strong enough to wrest control from Edie for longer than a week. And that week was during a time of less stress.

I may as well give up now.

All Good Things…

I feel like my vacation is over. Like the past week was only a dream and now it's time to wake up and smell the bread on fire. I ceremoniously enjoyed my last dessert - over a cup of birthday cake ice cream and a cup of Sweet and Salty Chex Mix. With a fifth fiber pill and quart of warm water as chasers.

And yet, I'm calm about it all. I'm not panicking. I'm not overfull (even though I've had around 40 points and I think that I should be stuffed to the gills...)

"I can just restrict tomorrow."

I can, but will I?

I don't know.

I ran across some vocal music tonight - and sang for myself. (After I sang my son to sleep with my usual medley of melodies.) I amazed myself at how much of the music I remembered (and the Italian that I usually chose to sing in for the solo competitions in high school.)

I was more amazed at how natural it all seemed.

Then I found my flute. And my instruction books. Again, I was amazed, this time at how much I had forgotten. It has been quite a few years since I picked up my flute - at least five. What amazed me more was the echoes of hatred. I hated playing the high notes (still do, they hurt my ears and are hard to sustain.)

I hated practicing insipid, made up tunes that no one ever heard. I hated how weak I felt (when I couldn't hold a note as long as necessary.) I remember why I would rather be singing.

I remember that I always felt undisciplined - both when I sang and when I played the flute. Because I didn't practice every hour of every day for either. I often wondered back then, “If I had been more dedicated, if I had practiced for even an hour every single day, would I have been good?” Because I never, ever thought I was any good at playing or singing. There was always someone better or at least, whom I perceived as being better.

At the time, I felt guilty for not enjoying the flute, for not giving it my all. After all, my parents spent a lot of money on the instrument itself and then on private lessons when I dropped out of band in high school. I remember thinking that I was an ungrateful brat because I didn't want to play the damn thing.

When I picked up my flute tonight, I figured out why I hated it so much.

It wasn't because I don’t like the flute - I actually think it is one of the more beautiful instruments in an orchestra. It was because of what the flute represented.

When it came time to choose an instrument, I wanted to play the violin or the french horn. I remember my mom coaxing me, cajoling me into the flute.

"But you always wanted to play the flute, Jeanne."

Perhaps that was true… when I was five, but I was eight at the time and I wanted the violin. But my mother refused.

"No screeching in the house."

So I took flute lessons and was paired with my best friend at the time. Who also turned out to be the music teacher's pet.

Looking back, I understand that perhaps Mrs. Benton was harder on me than on Kelly because she may have thought that I had talent. If that were the case, it would have been nice had she told me that that was why she insisted that I play and play and play while Kelly, who would make as many (or a few more) mistakes would get by with only a once through. Or perhaps Mrs. Benton sensed my apathy towards the whole thing and wished to try to inspire me to try harder?

Who knows?

I never will.

The point is that I walked away from the whole experience feeling resentment and hate and anger and guilt and shame. I thought I didn’t deserve anything. When I was praised and complemented on my playing, I thought the person was nuts. Because I didn’t do anything to earn their admiration. I was a slacker.

Wait.

Another thought occurred to me.

My grandpa loved to hear me play. [And highly-trained circus monkey that I was, I played on command for anyone and everyone. Holidays, birthdays, etc. – Have Jeanne, will travel.] But he died shortly after I began playing (like two years after I began lessons.)

I don't remember if I practiced much before he died, but I do know that my heart wasn't it in at all afterward.

My grandpa.

He took a genuine interest in everything I did. I remember one night when he was babysitting me (not sure where my brothers were.) I played my mom's organ (well, hammered on the keys) and made up a song about my grandpa's childhood dog, Schnookie. It was a goofy ditty, but my grandpa seemed to enjoy it.

My grandpa.

It's been almost 22 years since he died. Aside from the memory above, I only have blips of him. One blip is of me telling him that I would be his cane when we walked to the Marina in Buffalo. I still feel the weight of his hand on my head and shoulder. Then there was the time when my grandpa made my Raggedy Ann and Libby Libby Libby dolls do raspberries and I had to throw them one by one into the closet. Another is of him asking me not to cry and carry on so over losing some game or another. But my memory is that he said it in such a way as to say, "I know that losing sucks and it hurts, but it's only one game, not the end of the world. I still love you."
What hurts the most after 22 years is that I don't really remember him.

When I was home for college break once, I cried to my mom, "I don't remember what he looks like." That made my mom cry, too. (One of the few times in my life that I recall my mom crying.) If it wasn't for pictures, I'd have little memory of his face.

And yet, I miss him dearly.

I still have a hole in my heart.

Why is that?

Could it be that I thought that he was the only person who was willing to take the time to play with me and only me? Could it be that I thought that he was the only person who understood me?

After he passed, I tried to connect with my grandma, but while we are close to this day, it just wasn't the same. She is an independent woman, who is often selfish and unconsciously (I think) plays multiple hands from the guilt deck. I love her to bits, but she wasn’t my grandpa. He was dead.

As I sit here and close my eyes, I am transported back to the funeral home.

“Just look at his feet, Jeanne. See the pillow that you and your brothers gave him?”

I didn’t want to look.

At almost ten years old, I didn’t understand why.

I think I do now.

Looking at my grandpa’s lifeless form in the casket drove home the fact that he was gone. It branded the knowledge that I was disconnected from the one person that I thought knew me and wanted to spend time with me. And I couldn't control it.

And I never told him how much he meant to me.

So I sit here, with tears in my eyes and mucus in my nose, and I wonder, what brought this on?
My grandpa has been dead for 22 years. Over two-thirds of my life. Why am I thinking about this now?

Because I can. I am physically able to put the pieces together. I have nourished my body for six days. Apparently, my mind believed I could handle the intense emotions that well up when I relive these memories. Because for the past six days, I was free.

Free from judgement.

Free from Edie’s clutches.

She was always there, but she was relegated to the background for more than a day or two.

A vacation.

But does it have to be a vacation?

Do I have to give up this freedom?

Edie tells me that I must give it up.

“All good things must come to an end.”

But why?

So, I choose to do the next right thing. I wake up, go to work, and make my breakfast.

And breathe.

Got Water?

Jeff never read my lunch invitation.

It's a little after noon and he hasn't stopped by for lunch. I'm assuming that he thought that I was heading to get apples or that he is swamped with work.

I prepared my lunch around 10:30. I finally cooked that buttercup squash and carefully scooped out about a cup's worth (I eyeballed it.) I took out slice after slice of deli turkey and meticulously took off the brown rim before piling it neatly across from the squash.

I washed a kiwi and took out the cookie that Jeff had given me a few days ago.

I arranged it all on the table. A decent presentation.

And sat.

And moved the squash about. I pushed the plate aside and breathed. I picked up my novel and edited a paragraph or two. My eyes drifted to my plate.

I'm hungry. But I don't want to eat.

Should I go find Jeff?

What if he's already eaten? What if he's already taken a break? What if he didn't want to eat with me?

I sit at my computer and go through a few emails, copy and paste a few articles into the FYI news, and think.

I don't want to eat alone.

But I'm not really alone.

I'm never truly alone.

I could run out and get the apples and then eat.

But that could prove dangerous. I've only had a serving of bran flakes so far today.

I've been fine before.

But I know better.

So I write. And imagine that Nancy and Aaron are waiting for me at the table.

I have to do this.

I need to eat.

But there's too much food. I don't need that much.

I ponder, Maybe I should go to Jeff and ask him to just come and look at my lunch. A reality check.

But I'm embarrassed.

I'd rather not eat.

But I have to eat.

So I go back to the table and sit down. Fork in hand, I stare at the plate.

Eat, it's okay.

Don't do it.

I take a tiny bite.

Oh, all right! Go on. You can always throw up afterwards.

I eat everything - the turkey, the squash, the kiwi, even the chocolate chip cookie that Jeff gave me. Bite by tiny bite. Pausing often to contemplate stopping.

It's gone.

My lips and fingers are oily from the cookie. I down a pint of water. Then another.

I walk to a more secluded ladies room, a third bottle of water in my fist. I guzzle half of it. Then enter a stall.

I gaze into the eye of the porcelain god.

And turn around.

And wash my hands.

I can't do it.

I finish the bottle of water as I walk back to the galley.

I refill the bottle. Warm water feels best going down.

I walk back to the library. The sloshing of the quart and a half of water is audible. My stomach hurts. I'm overfull.

I should throw up.

I walk out of the library. To Jeff's lab.

Please be there. He doesn't even need to be alone. Just be there.

I exit the library, take a step down the hall. A man with pushed up sleeves on his plaid shirt opens the door at the end of the hall.

Jeff.

I grab the library door before it closes and sneak back inside my cell.

And gulp bottle number four.

I turn on some music.

A watery burp emerges.

I swallow.

Damn.

I open a paper in plastic bag and place it next to me.

Just in case.

After swallowing a few more burps, I collapse the bag.

I'm not going to throw up.

I finish the fourth bottle of water.

And sip my tea.

Even though my stomach is at the brim. And my head hurts. And I can't get warm.

I should go find Jeff.

But I don't have a good excuse to seek him out. What if he's not there and one of the Daves is? I have to have a realistic story for looking for him.

So I IM Melody.

But it isn't the same.

I mentally replay Jeff's last visit. He doesn't know that Aaron did get an appointment.
An excuse to find him.

I walk down with my mug of cooling tea. I stop outside to listen to the whirrs for a moment before turning around and going to the ladies room.

Twice more I walk down to his lab, stop, listen, then turn around and return to the library.
Just isn't a good excuse.

Besides, Jeff has never said that it was okay to go find him. He isn't always alone. That one Dave is a suspicious, nosy sort. He might think the wrong things and get us into trouble.

Think, think, triple think.

I don't want to be alone.

I take another walk.

To Jeff's lab.

Only this time, I leave my mug behind.

I walk on stiff legs.

Odd.

I pause outside his lab.

Should I, shouldn't I, should I, shouldn't I?

I walk passed. The quieter Dave comes through the door at the end of the hall. We exchange pleasantries as I glide through the fire doors. I visit the ladies once more. My body is processing the water quickly.

Weakling.

If only Nancy were here... Or Aaron. Someone that has reassured me time and again that it's okay to seek them out, anytime, anywhere.

My eyes beg to be closed.

I'm alone, I'm alone, alone, alone, alone.

I search my mental addressbook.Who can I find? Who can I go to in person for reassurance that I'm not alone?

Betsy - in New Orleans this week.
Melody - at HQ
Sherrie - gone for the day
Holly? Linda? Esther? Not the kind of talk I need right now. I need to be able to get a word in edgewise.

I just want to sleep, but I'm scared - what if it isn't really tiredness? What if I messed up my electrolytes with all the liquid?

I'm not really alone. Aaron would tell me to eat something. So I nibble a cracker while my head is between my knees.

I'm more awake now.

It's almost 3 o'clock.

I hope Aaron is okay. He's been at the doctor's a long time.

I take another walk by Jeff's lab. The lights are on, but I don't approach. I walk to the windows to check if his car is in the lot. I can't tell. I go to the ladies then head back to the library.

What do I do? What do I do?

I could take a walk in the parking lot - get some fresh air.

That might be a good idea. Something to drown out the thoughts that I can't seem to combat today. I check my email first.

Jeff replied to my lunch email.

"Sorry I missed you."

Yeah. That makes two of us.

I answered, "Don't worry about it."

It's 3:11.

I clean out my sent mail in Lotus Notes and notice another new message.

"Did you have a good lunch"

As I typed a reply, the library door opens.

Jeff walks in. Mom-me sighs in relief.

Connection reestablished.

I answer his email in person. Told him about the lunch I had and the half gallon of water as chaser. I omitted the internal turmoil I lived through for the past four hours. He had eaten his lunch in the lab, working to catch up as he had arrived late.

We talk for a bit about our weekend plans. [And how Todd was gunning for me, although he wasn't too horrible last night.]

He leaves and I get an email from Aaron.

I run out and catch Jeff as he is closing up the lab.

I'm a bit slow on the uptake with some of the things Jeff says. Very unlike me.

"I've never been drunk, but I imagine this is how it feels."

A water hangover.

Who'da thunk?

I suppose that’s why they call it water intoxication.

I learned a valuable lesson this afternoon.

Never let embarrassment stop you from getting help.

Hungry Like a Wolf

Countless times yesterday, I wanted to go up to one of my friends and say, "Help. I'm not eating. I've almost entered true starvation. Help me, please!"

But I didn't.

The scene played in my mind thusly.

Friend: Have this or that.
Jeanne: No, I'm not hungry.
Friend: You can't go by that.
Jeanne: But I'm supposed to trust my body.
Friend: But when you've restricted, your signals get screwed up. You need to eat regardless.
[Jeanne eats a tiny apple or picks apart a 100-calorie granola bar. Which she probably would have done herself anyway.]


Conclusion - it would be, as my husband likes to say, an exercise in masturbation. Nothing really gets accomplished, aside from satisfying Edie's pleasure.

This morning, I had the thought again. Again, the same scenario played in my head. Until the actress playing Jeanne improvised.

"I AM hungry, but I don't want to eat."

Bingo!

A true statement.

"I'm not hungry" isn't exactly correct. The truer phrase is "I don't want to feel hungry." Or more to the point, "I don't want to feel anything."

I was about to hunt down a friend, the first one I could find to say this Eureka statement to, but I came back to my computer instead. Old habits are hard to change. I have always lived in my head which means that I need to have an idea of how a scene will unfold. Everything must be calculated, all permutations laid bare before I allow myself to experience it. If I allow myself to experience it.


Jeanne: I am hungry, but I don't want to eat.
Friend: [puzzled] What?
Jeanne: I do feel hunger, but I don't want to eat.
Friend: Jeanne, that doesn't make any sense. What's going on?
Jeanne: I don't know.
Friend: Why won't you let yourself eat?
Jeanne: I don't want to feel - it's the only true reason that I have ever had to restrict.
Friend: What don't you want to feel?
Jeanne: Everything and anything. I don't want to feel, period.
Friend: [shakes head] You can't keep doing this to yourself.
Jeanne: [tired] I know that.
Friend: Why don't you talk about what's in your head right now?
[The scene fades as Jeanne begins to share the multitude of things that leave no room in her mind for anything else. But time runs out before a fraction is said. Ultimately, Jeanne is left alone with her thoughts again, no closer to wanting to eat than before.]


Another exercise.

Another expression of a depressed soul.

Another reason to pull away, retreat back into my safe world of mental solitude.

Except, my world has changed. I no longer find complete comfort there. A quiet, but insistent voice drones, “Reach out. Reach out. You will heal if you just reach out.”

The hammer of judgement descends. “Don’t waste others’ time. Don’t be a burden. Handle it yourself.”

“Reach out. Reach out. Reach out.”

Back and forth. On and on. Endlessly whirring in the background, so much so that my place of peace has become a hive of buzzing gnats.

So common sense tells me to pen an email to my core group of friends, inviting them to lunch, sharing this installment in the story of my life.

But I don’t.

I hesitate.

I judge.

I balk at becoming the center of attention. No. That’s not right.

I balk at forcing myself to the center of attention. I recoil from assaulting my friends with a barrage of inanitites while they suffer in their own way.

I struggle with time management - there aren’t enough seconds in the day for everything, somethings have to take priority. Something has to give. Usually, it’s me. There was a time, in elementary school, when this annoyed me. I questioned it (to myself of course,) “Why am I always the last one? Why am I always an afterthought?”

Eventually, I just accepted it. Jeanne comes last. No one ever listens to Jeanne.

In my life, I have rarely demanded anything of anyone, if I ever have, and I’m racking my brain to come up with even one time that I issued an edict of any magnitude. Hell, I don’t even think I’ve ever consciously commanded myself to do anything.

If I did it now, if I rallied the pro-recovery troops and scheduled a lunch where the topic was me, would I want to eat?

Answer: Of course not! The guilt for besieging my friends would fill the void of any emotions that I would release in the bitchfest. Add to that the guilt for disobeying the number one law in my world – Jeanne comes last.

So I sit back and watch the world around me as if from behind a one-way mirror. I wait for others to make their move.

And thus it has almost always been with me. Quickly taking my turn to allow my fellow players more time, even if it means that I don’t make the wisest choices. This is my way. I’m not the lead in a production, I’m the backstage manager who carefully supports the actors in the limelight and never takes a bow of her own.

I’m the wind beneath my loved ones wings.

Except that the wind recedes moments after it begins.

As much as I hate to admit it, this is just a fantasy. A cruel twist of fate has made me mortal. Like it or not, I’m corporeal, bound by the laws of nature.

Energy in must equal energy out.

Humans need to eat.[1]

[1] According to Wikipedia.org on October 12, 2005,:
“The first need for the body is to achieve homeostasis. This is obtained through the consumption of food, drink and air, achieving adequate sleep, a comfortable temperature, and so on. When some needs are unmet, a human's physiological needs take the highest priority. For instance, if one simultaneously experiences the desire for love and the hunger for food, a human is more likely to seek to satisfy the latter need first. As a result of the prepotency of physiological needs, an individual will deprioritize all other desires and capacities. Physiological needs can control thoughts and behaviors, and can cause people to feel sickness, pain, and discomfort.”
Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

How Are You?

How are you?

A perfectly innocent question.

Seemingly simple to answer, isn’t it? We all have our pat answers – “I’m fine.” “Hanging in there.” “Cosmic.” These phrases get us through when we need to make idle chit-chat with an acquaintance. But friends want to know more. When a friend asks, “How are you?” the question takes on a whole new meaning. They may let your pat answer slide for awhile, but if you never talk about what is happening inside your mind and heart, they will start to wonder and perhaps pull away. What may have been a deep and caring relationship (platonic, of course,) withers.

This has happened many times in my life.

Until I started therapy.

The first counselor that I saw picked up on my pat answer right away. “But how are you feeling?” she’d ask.

I don’t think anything confuses an eating disordered person more than that question. The whole point of starving, stuffing, and/or purging is to NOT feel. I don’t want to have feelings, especially the “bad” ones like anger and sorrow and sadness and worry and guilt.

My first assignment was to stop answering queries about my well-being with a pat answer and start answering with the truth. The point was to get me to label the feelings that I had, when I had them.

Needless to say, the concept freaked me out. My first attempt was like opening a floodgate and I got washed away. I spiraled – restricted severely and exercised incessantly.

Over a year later, the question does not necessarily send me spiraling, but it still disturbs me. Some days, I am able to create my laundry list of feelings and analyze the reasons behind the feelings. Other days, I just can’t seem to get past Edie. It’s like she has set up an armed guard on the door to the feelings vault and won’t let me pass unless I’ve done as she asks. Her toll is modest in her mind. Restrict down to practically nothing and be sure to consciously burn off every calorie that you ingest.

So, When Are You Due?

I was struggling from the moment my husband said, “Jeanne? Did you know that it’s 5:30?”


Actually, I knew last night that today would be a rough day. I tossed my Friday outfit of jeans, camisole and blouse onto the basket outside the bathroom and paused. I returned to my closet and grabbed my jean skort, just in case.


Period’s coming anyday now. Add to that the gas from my intestinal troubles and you end up with a whole lot of bloat. Would my jeans fit? Would I even be able to button them?


Had I been recovery-focused, I would have returned the jeans to the closet. But my focus of the past two days was waning.


This morning, I grabbed the jeans, took a deep breath, and put them on.


I could just barely button them.


I stood on the toilet and looked at myself in the medicine chest mirror above the sink. I looked like a sauasge that had one end squeezed.


I have a lot of gas that should go away. I haven’t pooped yet. They’ll be more comfortable in a few hours. I don’t have time to change.


Self-conscious like never before with the knowledge that I looked fat, I drove my son to his daycare. I pumped my legs as if I were on a recumbent bike. Each time I farted, I smiled, knowing that each puff of noxious gas would translate to a few nanometers of comfort in my jeans.


By the time I got into work, my jeans were tight, but not straining. Still self-conscious, I ate my yogurt and two servings of high fiber cereal as slowly as possible. I munched a tiny apple right before my morning meeting with Gary.


Gary arrived, placed his laptop on the table with mine, and remarked, “You have everything booted up.”


I walked over and joined him. “Yup.”


He asked, “Are you gaining weight or are you expecting number two?”


What? I froze.


Edie squealed with delight, “See? SEE? I told you, I TOLD YOU! And you didn’t believe me. You ignored me. You pushed me aside and looked what happened? In just two days. TWO DAYS! You pig!”


I stammered a reply. "Are you saying that I'm fat? Because I'm not having number two."


He wasn't quite sure what to say at that point. I told him, "You really stepped in it this time, Gary."


The words, "I have an eating disorder, Gary. I don't need to hear that I'm fat." were on the tip of my tongue. As was the rhetorical question, "I'm bloated and PMSing, do you really want to go there?"


But I didn't say those things.


I grabbed a sweater from my chair. I had to cover up my bulging breasts and bulbous belly. If I could have, I would have changed out of my shirt into a T-shirt.


The thought in my head was, I really am fat. Here's my proof. Good thing I had a smaller breakfast this morning (as compared to the last two mornings.)


If I didn't want to get outside and get some fresh air, I would be hitting the stairmaster right now.


I’m overcome with a horrible sense of indecision – do I eat like a pig (read that as, normal) and hope that I make myself sick or do I go back to restricting and exercising? The dilemma is that restricting and exercising take time to show results. No matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, I can’t drop 10 pounds in an hour.


But restricting makes me feel lighter, even when I’m not.


Will it take away the anger I feel at Gary’s audacity for even bringing up such a thing?


Will it take away the pain I feel that someone whom I thought was a decent fellow would say something so callous?


Will it release the tears of frustration that are hiding behind my eyes? Frustration at myself for struggling so with this problem. Frustration at society for placing such an emphasis on the way a woman looks. Frustration at fate for making it impossible for me to squeeze my short and squat genes into a pair of jeans.


No. Restricting, exercising, binging and purging, none will erase that remark from my brain. None will give me back that feeling of health that I had yesterday – when I placed only one sticker on my guilty poster, because only once did I feel guilty about fueling my body sufficiently.


I emailed my friend after the meeting. I simply typed what Gary had said with no commentary. He has been peppering me with emails since, trying to purge his anger at the insensitivity of Gary. In the latest email, he wrote, “Well, Happy Birthday to you.”


Snort.


I had forgotten that my birthday is Sunday.


Well, good thing I hadn’t planned on going out to eat this weekend.


My friend dropped in on his way out to lunch.


“You know it’s not true,” he punctuated. “How are you going to handle this?”


I couldn’t look him in the eyes.


Edie wouldn’t let me.


Eye contact would mean connecting. Connecting might mean that I would actually trust what he said rather than the proof of an acquaintance.


“Gary might have been thoughtless, but he is objective,” Edie whispers.


True. He is objective. He hasn’t a clue that I have an eating disorder.


“So why chastise him for having the balls to say something?”


I grabbed my workout shirt and deodorant and went to the ladies’ room. I changed from my flirty, flouncy, fun turquoise shirt and put on my semi-smelly gray T-shirt.


I’d rather smell than look fat.


I looked in the mirror as I washed my hands.


Fat.


I tied the shirt in a knot at my waist.


Fat.


I tried to tuck the shirt inside my jeans.


Beached whale.


I untucked my shirt. Took out my chignon and pulled my hair into a high ponytail.


Still fat.


I picked up my clothes and cell phone. I turned away from the mirror and started to cry. I looked at my thighs as they strained the thick denim that encased them. I felt the waistband cutting into the thick layer of fat hiding my abdomen.


No matter what I do, I’ll still be fat.


I wrapped my arms around me. No tears would come.


I just want to die.


Jack. I can’t die.


I stood up and returned to the library.


So.


Here I am.


It’s 11:40. Over two hours since the apple that I ate.


Lunchtime.


Decision time.


Do I eat and then walk or walk and then eat?


I need to think.


“You do your best thinking when you walk,” Edie reminds me.


I do my best avoidance when I walk.


“How are you going to handle this?” my friend had asked.


It’s a multiple choice question. I can:


a) restrict and exercise. Pretend that the comment didn’t hurt me in the slightest. Tamp my feelings until, in a few weeks, they burst forth in a binge.


b) eat and eat and eat. Eat until there is no food left in the vicinity and then hope and pray for a miracle – that I, for once, will be able to make myself throw up. Stuff my feelings until my hatred for myself (and my inability to vomit) causes me to go with option a.


c) write and talk about my feelings, eat to fuel my body, then walk to brighten my mood.

The first two are Edie. I’ve done them both at various times in my life.


And I’m still here.


I’m still struggling.


I still have an eating disorder.


So I choose d.


I wrote.


Now, I’m going to walk.


Then, I’ll eat a balanced, albeit light, lunch.


And worry about the next meal later.

Fat is a Feeling

To this day, my stomach ties in knots when I see my parents. I want to impress them, I want to please them, I want them to love me. Well, show me their love, anyway, because I have to believe that they love me. As hard as that is for my skeptic soul to do, I have to believe that they love me in their own way. It’s a definite struggle to do so, though. Like Doubting Thomas, I want proof. Show me and then I can believe. However, one can’t pry open another’s heart or head and peer inside. Love isn’t something that can be seen. And when people don’t show love in “normal,” society sanctioned ways, it makes it all the more difficult.

Prior to each visit with my parents, I am overcome with feelings – hope that they will have changed, dread that they haven’t, angst that they will bring up my eating disorder, anger that they probably won’t. Since I’m never entirely sure what to do with these feelings, I restrict – my favorite coping mechanism.

During the visit, I worry about what they are thinking, namely, about me. Am I eating too much, not enough? Do they believe that I have an eating disorder? Do they think it is a serious illness? Do they even give a damn? Again not sure what to do with these thoughts, I cope with my tried and true mechanism. I restrict, but make it look like I’m not so that I don’t worry anyone.

Doesn’t make sense, does it? Restricting while making it look like you are eating normally. No one said eating disorders were logical.

So then, the visit ends. Relief floods my soul. I’ve survived! But then, what kind of daughter am I to think thoughts like that? Surviving a parental visit – makes it sound like torture.
But relief isn’t the only emotion I feel. I feel disappointment that the visit went like all the others – where my parents and I chatted, but never once did either of them ask how I was. I feel hurt that my parents ask me about Jack and Todd, but never about me. I feel hopeless.
All of this feeling translates into one thought for me – I feel FAT.

I feel fat.

One hears that phrase daily from one woman or another.

I feel fat.

This phrase transcends weight. Women who are sticks are as likely to say it as those who are “pleasantly plump.”

What it really means is that we are overwhelmed by something – feelings, stress, people, life. But women are trained from an early age that no one wants to hear about our issues. “Don’t be such a whiner!” “Nobody likes a whiner.”

The unfortunate thing for most women, but especially those with eating disorders, is that we really believe that we are physically fat. We look in the mirror and we see bulges and cottage cheese, flab and fat. Proof that we are as ugly as we feel.

“Fat is not a feeling.” How many times have I read that, been told that? Countless. While it may be true that fat is not an emotion, it certainly is a valid descriptor. No better word is available to express how completely stuffed with emotion I feel.

The only feeling worse than fat, is the feeling that I’m getting fat. Translation – my emotions are growing and I can’t figure out how to stop them. My reaction is to restrict more – eat less, exercise as often as I can. This works for a while, sometimes longer than others. At least until my survival instinct kicks my ass and overrides my Edie-controlled brain and I splurge on all the foods that I haven’t allowed myself for whatever reason.

A friend of mine wrote that my feelings are just that, mine and that I can’t change them, get rid of them, or squash them. If that is true, then how do I live with them? If I’m stuck with all these feelings that seem to be expanding, how do I cope, since I’m told at every turn that my current coping mechanism is a one-way ticket to death?

I can hear my friends shouting already. “You can let the emotions out by talking. Share your feelings, your thoughts with those of us who care.”

As I’ve mentioned before, this is easier said than done. On occasion though, I’ve tried it. When I was in total recovery mode, I bookended my visits to my parents. In other words, I called a friend as I drove home to replay the event and analyze it a bit. When in recovery mode, this did work. I didn’t binge on the road. I sensibly made up the calories that I had restricted while there.

But then, I’m not always in recovery mode. My contactable friends aren’t always available. Emailing without receiving replies within a few hours sometimes isn’t enough to convince me that I don’t need to restrict, that I need to eat a certain bare minimum amount, an amount that I have restricted beneath.

At times like those, after I’ve sent a reach-out email, I find myself checking my email every ten minutes in the hope that one of my friends is online, when I know that they probably aren’t – they do have families of their own.

I sit and debate. Should I? Shouldn’t I? The healthy voice argues that eating after restriction, even if it is filling an emotional void, is acceptable (perhaps desirable even.) Edie argues for perseverence and strength to not succumb to emotional eating, to continue restricting. Of course, Edie also may side with the healthy voice and advocate for eating, but only with the understanding that a purge will be necessary.

And while the debate rages, I’m paralyzed from further thought about anything. The benefit is that I am also frozen from further feelings.

And if I sustain the argument long enough, I’ll be asleep.

Tie game. Jeanne loses.

Double-Edged Swords and Other Toys

I can't keep doing this.

I can't survive with two mistresses inside my head - both warring for control! The guilt consumes me, no matter what I do.

I ate more tonight that what Edie planned. I suppose I should remind myself to put another sticker on my poster tomorrow. But who cares? A stupid sticker doesn't make the guilt any less painful.

So what is really causing me so much pain? Because in theory, eating a bare minimum (and I mean below Sue's supposed bare minimum) shouldn't make me feel guilty, right? My body needs some fuel to survive (more than what it needs to just exist.)

Is it possible that all the little (and not so little) worries and stresses can hurt so much?

I don't like this. I don't see the point in writing and talking about things that no one (RTA my friends/family/myself) can change. No one I know can tell me if I'll have a job next month or come January. All they can do is cheerlead and speculate - I get plenty of that from Todd, I don't need any more, "You're worrying over nothing. They'll find a place for you." blah, blah, blah. Bottom line, no one who knows me is in a decision making position about me at work. Thus, there are no guarantees.

But, that doesn't make me feel better.

Because I still don't know.

And despite everyone's words that they are there for me, that they care for me, that they want to help me, I just don't believe it. Because the few times that I do vent, most people tell me that I'm overreacting or not reacting enough or that I have no reason to worry or that I should focus on what I can change and what is positive and good and pure in my life. Well, that's all well and f---ing good, but I am still stuck with these feelings! They have nowhere to go.

"Email me whenever you need to talk."

"I'm here for you."

"No one gets left behind."

All words with no meaning. Sure, I can email everyone and their uncle. Does it do any good? Is it really "connecting?" No. Especially when no one answers or answers with a "we'll talk more tomorrow. Email if you can. Hang in there."

Tomorrow comes and goes and I never talk.

I never felt connected enough to open up. I never feel connected. I have all these people supposedly willing to help me, and yet, I don't "feel" the connection.

I probably never will.

When I finally hit what I think may actually be the bottom of the pit that I’ve fallen into, I reach out. I send an email, spilling my guts like so much blood from an open wound.

And I wait.

And wait.

And wait.

For a response.

I click the Check Mail button on my account every few minutes.

Eventually, a friend will answer. Sometimes with an inspiring note of support and reason. Oftentimes, a hurried reply telling me to “hang in there.”

My friends have their own lives, after all. They all have families, at least one job, hobbies, and other friends. The thoughts and feelings that consume me are nothing to them except in how they affect our relationship. Many of my friends have life and death issues that they face and are in a constant state of triage. I know this, which is why I generally keep myself to myself and not bother anyone with anything.

But it still hurts. Especially while I’m waiting. With every refresh that shows the same page with no new items, the pain deepens. Edie gains strength. “You see? I’m right. You can only rely on yourself.” Like a train wreck, I can’t help but look. To rub salt in the wound. To check and recheck, all the time wishing for… Something. Any balm to heal the pain inside. I keep looking for something like a mommy’s kiss, something that will make the boo-boo all better, the pain go away for good.

Regret creeps in. I wish I could recall my message and pretend that I never reached out in the first place. “Better to have never run, then to lose the race.”

Like Anne in Anne of Green Gables and Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, I keep looking for help outside of myself, when all this time, it was in my own backyard.

But this line of thought leads Edie to cheer, “Yes! That’s right! You don’t need anyone else. Back away, forget about everyone. You can do this yourself.”

According to my therapist, I need to connect with others to heal completely. But, at the same time, no one can rescue me from myself. I, ultimately, need to heal myself.

Does anyone else see a problem here? Is anyone else confused? Or is the message only mixed in my head?

My friends remark at the effort I take to construct and keep my happy mask in place. They probably think, “Jeanne, if you spent as much energy on sharing and venting as you do on hiding and dodging, you’d probably have kicked your illness by now.”

But you see, living inside one’s head is easy. It’s only when you open up that you begin to question yourself. Other voices enter and tell you another version of the truth. Which is the real truth? The side that says to open and share, or the side that says that the power is in yourself and should be kept there?

Life isn’t black and white. But it is in the world in my head. Everything is clear-cut. There is no gray. No need for triage because you find time to fit everything in. So what if you don’t sleep? So what if you don’t eat? Those aren’t really necessities.

Life is about keeping the balls in the air.

So, where is the ball marked “me?”

My husband told me that protecting yourself is not being selfish. I disagree. Anything that may harm another while it benefits you is selfish. The Wiccan Rede states, “And ye harm none, do as ye will.”

I live by it. Some might say that I take it to the extreme.

But something tells me that the practitioners of Wicca include themselves in the “none” part.

Which makes this statement untenable.

So, where does that leave us?

I think back to all the times when I’ve opened up to others, all the hurt it caused. There’s a line from She’s All That that goes, “Sometimes, when you open up to people, you let the bad in with the good.”

I suppose one needs to decide if the good is worth the bad. Perhaps somewhere in the middle is best. I have heard that the high of the joys in life are worth the worst fires in hell. But what is so wrong with staying level? Sure, the view from Mout Everest is probably spectacular, but is it worth the risk of dying to see it when you can stand in the middle of a field in Kansas and see the same sky?

I guess the thing that bothers/worries/frightens the hell out of me is that people are beginning to know the me that has lived deep inside, not just the face I present to the world. One friend, in particular, seems to know just about everything there is to know about what goes on inside my muddled mind. Of all the people I have ever known and counted as friends, he is the most open with his own feelings and the most willing to help. So I have allowed my thoughts to be read by him. I’ve even allowed my feelings to vent (a little,) all the time, believing that it would help me. And it has, to an extent, but by opening up myself, I have also opened up Edie. This friend sees her, he knows her ways, he acknowledges her existence. In a backwards sort of way, that gives her power.

Edie is always there and this friend knows it. More importantly, I know he knows it. So I worry about upsetting him when Edie is in control because that makes him worry all the more (which is the last thing he needs.)

So, I’m left completely confused.

His friendship means a lot to me, but I think that I have become too dependent on him. Which is maybe why I pull away. Which might explain why I want to be there for him – to listen and support, comfort and advise, but not the other way around.

I’m just too darned needy.

But is my perspective accurate?

According to my therapist, I'm too independent. I live in my head too much. I'm not connected with other people enough. She says that I need to open up and share my thoughts and feelings with others to recover. She tells me that I need air, water, food, and human connections. Real, live, honest-to-goodness relationships where feelings are talked about and thoughts are shared.

So when I send my long, drawn-out, lengthy emails, am I being an annoying basketcase who is co-dependent or am I being a human who just needs to connect?

A Spoonful of Sweetener Helps the Medicine Go Down

Just eat.

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

Eat.

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?

Snozzberries Taste Like Snozzberries!

I have never felt so torn. Am I old or am I young? I’m almost 31 years old, a thirty-something – the no man’s land of adults. I’m considered a “kid” by those ten plus years my senior while I’m “sooo ooold” to those ten years my junior.

I went out for lunch with my friends, Nancy and Aaron, and Aaron’s twenty-something daughter, Melanie. I was nervous and uncomfortable because I didn’t know where I belonged. Although only ten years older than his daughter, I really didn’t have much in common with her, except that I remember being her age once, not too terribly long ago. On the other hand, Aaron is old enough to be my father and Nancy was a teenager when I was born.

For someone who had become accustomed to being the youngest in any given situation, this was very uncomfortable. I know I seemed aloof and snobby – too things that those in the know would never associate with me. (I’m as earthy as a Virgo can get.)

So, as usual when I can’t handle the emotions, whatever they may be, I turn to my favorite coping mechanism. I ordered a dry side salad with grilled chicken and made sure to leave almost all of the chick peas and a few pieces of chicken on my plate. I tried not to stare covetously at the others’ sandwiches and concentrated on my salad, enjoying the bitterness of some of the spring mix mingled with the sweet tang of the marinated chicken. [Really, you get used to salads with no dressing, especially those with protein in the form of meat, nuts or beans, to the point where a salad with dressing, even fat-free or low-fat, feels greasy to you.]

After lunch, we all went to a tea place next door known for their “bubble” drinks. Apparently, a bubble is a gummy-bear, tapioca-like substance at the bottom of the beverage, be it tea or a milkshake. Nancy passed with the excuse that she was full from her sandwich.

“Oh, my salad was very filling, too,” I agreed and also passed on the tea. The real reason is that I couldn’t have the bubble tea because it was caffeinated and I wasn’t about to let a fattening milkshake pass my lips. Let’s not forget to mention that the unknown calorie count of said “bubble” crossed my mind as well.

We walked back to my van which I had parked outside Melanie’s apartment. I volunteered to drive to Stever’s, the candy Mecca of Rochester, down the street.

Any candy store, actually, any food store is like entering the gates of Hell for someone with an eating disorder.

Did you ever see Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the 60s/70s version with Gene Wilder?) Do you remember the scene in the beginning when Charlie goes into the candy store with a small handful of change and he looks all around the store at all the wonderful treats and all the kids around him grabbing armfuls of sweets? Charlie's eyes showed envy tinged with more than a hint of sadness and pain. He couldn't enjoy all the goodies around him like his peers.

That’s what it’s like to have an eating disorder and shop for food. Only, usually, you have money to spend. What stops you is that you are mentally calculating the caloric content of each item as you pass so much so that it paralyzes you and you find you can’t decide.

All or nothing thinking, I believe the experts call it. You want it all, you can’t have it all, so you accept nothing instead. Better to have never loved, than to have a taste and pine all the days of your life for more.

So I wandered the store and gazed at all the treats. Edie walked right beside me, whispering about sweet-nothings in my ear, “Inhale, breathe deep. Smelling has no calories at all and is just as rewarding.” “Don’t even think about buying anything you might like, like dark chocolate. But something for Jack, buy him milk chocolate.” [There once was a time when I would’ve dived for the milk chocolate and left the dark for someone else. Perhaps age has refined my palate?]

Then Aaron called out, “Oh! You have to try some white chocolate covered popcorn!” I stood but two steps away from the counter where he sampled the coated kernels. A moment of indecision passed before I walked up to the counter, lifted the napkin and carefully selected the tiniest piece of popcorn I could find – just to say I tried it. It was fabulous, but I resolutely continued my perusal of the other fine wares of the store. I selected 2 suckers (lollipops, if you will) and 4 milk chocolate pieces in the shape of a car and checked out.

While I waited, I read some of the boxes, flipping a few over to see if they had a nutritional panel on them. Of course, they didn’t. Oh well, time to head back to work.

Once back, I started a virtual conversation with Aaron. In it, he wondered if I was okay with the impromptu visit to the candy store. I told him I was until the popcorn incident. He apologized for not thinking. I brushed it aside. For Hell’s sake, he didn’t know I was having a tough time today deciding whether to be “good” or to be “bad.”

And there it is. The heart of the matter.

Each day it is my choice whether I will eat or not, whether I will let Edie rule or whether I will fight her tooth and nail. So for all my crying that “I can’t” or “I tried,” it all comes down to choice. Ultimately, I am in control.

Today, the battle rages and Edie is winning. My jeans that I couldn’t zip on Saturday without sacrificing the ability to breathe, fit just fine today. The benefits of restriction and exercise. The positive feedback I crave. I know I should stop playing with fire, but the reward is worth the risk. The reward isn’t that my jeans fit, that is just a bonus. The reward is the peace that I feel when all seems right in my world. I am in control of my emotions. I am floating on air.

Unfortunately, my body does not view this as a reward and will, eventually, rebel against the punishment. Somedays, I’m willing to take the risk though.

This is why I am still in therapy after a year.

Having a Party and You Can’t Come

Because You're Dead

The New York Times published an article about funeral meals (“He Would've Wanted Everyone to Eat” by Abe Opincar, August 10, 2005.) As I read it, I wondered what my funeral might be like.

Perhaps I’m just gloomy today (the oppressive heat and humidity may be getting to me,) but really, a funeral meal for a dead anorectic? I have to chuckle at that. Talk about absurd!

The article stated that in New York it was illegal for friends and family to bring food to serve at a funeral. Maybe I should request to be buried in Pennsylvania?

I draw the picture in my mind.

An open casket. Me, inside it, dead as a doornail, looking pretty in my sexy peach dress. Instead of flowers, platters of cakes, brownies, cookies, tarts, pastries and donuts are arranged at varying levels around my coffin. To the one side, a buffet table is ladened with open jars of peanut butter, pints of Ben & Jerry’s, and jars of Nutella, and a basket of spoons next to each one. To the other side, a table creaks with bottles of IBC root beer and Aunt Rosie’s Loganberry, bowls full of foamy fruit punch, gallons of chocolate milk, a blender for making milkshakes (chocolate peanut butter, of course.) Then, afterwards, long sheet pizzas are spread on yet another table. All the foods that I loved. All the foods that I denied myself. All the foods that I would never be able to taste again.

Sad and ironic, wouldn’t it be? Food at an anorectic’s funeral just seems out of place and somehow wrong. And yet, at the same time, apropos. The funeral meal could send the message, “Don’t let this happen to you or your loved one.”

Personally, I would love to have the above scene. Funerals and wakes should celebrate the life of the deceased. I’ve spent much of my adult life baking and cooking treats for my loved ones. What better memory could I give to those loved ones than one final treat?

I have often thought about writing out my specific wishes regarding my death rites, but I can never decide – cremation, burial, or entombed? Cremation would be poetic, don’t you think? “At the end, she finally became weightless as her ashes were scattered into the wind.” But, there is something about being burned that just gives me the willies.

Burial, above or below ground, just seems like a waste.

Often in my life, I have pondered my own death. Apparently, that isn’t something most people do, let alone a child. The main question I always had was: would anyone miss me if I were gone?
Of course, the positive question would be: Why am I here on this Earth?

But then, I have always focused on the negative. Odd for someone with a perky personality, smiling and bubbly. Just goes to prove what a truly gifted actress I am.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t think about death and dying often. Generally, these thoughts come on when I spiral into my eating disorder. Is it my brain’s way of smacking me awake? “Hey!” Whack! “Wake up!” Whack! “Feed me or you will die!” WHACK!

If it is, it generally takes a case of whoop-ass to get me to wake up. The invincibility of youth mentality – show me proof that it could happen to me and perhaps, I’ll change my ways. But it best be compelling proof.

French Women Don’t Get Fat, Neither Do Anorectics

I started to read French Women Don't Get Fat last night. The basic principle is that French women savor each bite they take - basking in the flavors, the textures, the aromas, the presentation. They eat with all their senses. They take pleasure in every morsel. By doing this, by concentrating on every delicacy, by describing it to themselves in detail as if they were writing it down, they are able to sense when they are satisfied - usually after a few bites.

I stopped reading about a quarter of the way through.

Edie was loving this book and her “I told you, so’s” were getting to be disruptive.

This is what Edie has been telling me all along. If I just take a few bites, savor them, make love to the food (if you excuse the phrase,) then I will be satisfied with just those few bites. Milk an eight-ounce container of Light, Non-fat yogurt for an hour. Eat Cheerios one by one, pausing between each O to reflect on how its crunchy coating turns mushy in my mouth then washes slowly away in the ocean of saliva.

Something tells me that this isn’t what the author had in mind.

The author does not have an eating disorder. I doubt that she even thought about how triggering her book would be to a person with a restrictive-type eating disorder.

And therein, lies the dilemma of all ED sufferers.

We can’t avoid food.

We are addicted to food (yes, even anorectics are addicted to food, they just don’t allow themselves to eat it,) but we can’t get around the fact that we need to eat to live.

Everyone talks about food and diets and tricks for staying thin and trim. It can be maddening to the sufferer who wants to recover. The lure of restricting or binging or purging is always present. As acquaintances discuss their latest weight woes, a voice in our heads whispers, “you know how to get the weight off. You know what you need to do.” Because, at least for those with restrictive-type eating disorders, we do know how to lose weight. It’s something at which we are exceptionally good. Of course, it’s not healthy, but that is beside the point, isn’t it? The point is to lose weight. The person who loses the most, wins!

Right?

Wrong.

And there is our problem.

Because our society has led us to believe that you can never be too rich or too thin. What they fail to tell you about the later is that even skeletons weigh something. The scale can never read zero.

I just had a brainstorm! Everyone should balance their scales so that zero equals a healthy weight (whatever that is and, from what I’m told, it’ll be different for each individual.) Maybe then people wouldn’t get so uptight about a pound or two?

Of course, it is best not to own a scale in the first place. If you have an eating disorder, that is. While Edie may be satisfied with a zero reading on the scale, she would freak at a one, let alone a five or ten on the scale. Don’t forget, Edie isn’t easily fooled. She’d be wanting negative numbers next.

That is the difference between Edie and French women. French women want to live and enjoy life. Like Thoreau, they suck out all the marrow of an experience, be it a spoonful of crème brulee or a stanza in a Mozart opera or the delicate metamorphisis of the sky at dusk. French women want to live long. They believe that the person with the most fulfilling experiences, wins.

Edie, on the other hand, just wants you dead.

The frustrating thing is that, as much as every recovering sufferer desires it, thought patterns do not change overnight.

I think it is hardest for those sufferers who don’t need to gain weight. My Edie constantly jabbers, “but you aren’t underweight. You aren’t even close to being a true anorectic.”

Semantics.

Technically, I am only eating disordered. I do not have anorexia. Does that lessen my struggles? Should that make my recovery easier? Is someone with cancer at Stage 0 or I somehow less important than someone with Stage IV? Cancer is cancer in most people’s minds, but when it comes to eating disorders, ranking somehow matters.

Even my own mother said to my husband after I had disclosed my eating disorder to her and after I returned from the doctor’s who informed me that I had lost a few pounds, “but she doesn’t look anorexic.”

So I struggle with the thoughts that I am not sick enough, that I’m blowing everything out of proportion, that I’m failing. Yes, that’s right, failing. Failing at my eating disorder because I’m not underweight.

And Heaven forbid if I gain weight!

I have gained weight. How much? I couldn’t tell you because I’m adamant about not weighing myself again. (And so far, I’ve successfully avoided the trap.) I do know that my clothes are snug. These are the same clothes that hung loosely around my waist and chest just a few months ago.

What is infuriating to me is that no one is concerned – not my therapist, not my husband, not my friends. In my eyes, I am blowing up like a balloon on a hose. In my mind, I was out of control – eating when I was hungry, stopping when I was full, eating what my body told me (even if it was an ooey-gooey dessert.) When I look in the mirror, I see the same image I always see – short and dumpy, chubby Jeanne.

But see, it is in my mind only.

Once or twice, when I was in the thick of restricting to the tune of 1000 calories a day or so, I actually caught a glimpse of reality. I wasn’t underweight, but I saw the shadows around my ribs, the shady patches under my cheekbones. It thrilled and scared me. At least, until my filter returned. The thin woman replaced with a flabby, awkward girl.

So here I am. I had written my declaration of independence from my eating disorder, supposedly had committed to disobeying Edie.

And Edie is telling me that I signed it under false pretenses. The understanding was that I wouldn’t become fat.

And I have.

So now what?

My friend believes I need to talk. Ultimately, all this focus on food isn’t really the issue. Fat is not an emotion, just a blanket to hide the true feelings under.

Another paradox – when I think I’m fat, the last thing I want to do is talk. I want to take action, fight the fat! Battle of the Bulge! Unless I can walk when I talk, I say, “fugetabotit!”

This is the beginning of the spiral slide.