Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Everything everything everything is triggering. The guy on the street, the old picture, the waistband of my skirt, the pastry display, the innocuous comment, the dredged up memory, the box of journals under my bed.

Sick was simple. Everything was distilled and bottled and contained. Linear, even if the line was going straight down.

Healthy is decisions and plans and alternatives and pills and processing and caring and never-ending. . . stuff. Healthy means there are things existing outside of myself and my own brain and I don't know what to do with them.
You have played,
(I think)
And broke the toys you were fondest of,
And are a little tired now;
Tired of things that break, and—
Just tired.
So am I.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"an indicator of relapse is self-isolating"

Relevant, if annoying, Renfrew aphorism. I'm too tired to be with people right now. I can barely manage myself.

I like to compare eating disorders to addictions like alcoholism. It makes sense to me. But I can't imagine an alcoholic feeling like such a failure for maintaining recovery, for pursuing health. I feel like a failure so often, like I lack the adequate discipline to starve or purge or waste away, like I'm no longer strong enough to have a singular obsession.

This post is not coherent.

I'm so tired.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

everyday help

A great post from Carrie Arnold about maintaining recovery when traveling. This is something I need to apply to my everyday life as a college student. I tend to feel guilty about spending too much money on food (a leftover from the hellishly expensive binges of bulimia), and so doing something as simple as carrying around a granola bar or peanut butter sandwich makes my life much less complicated. I don't have to go through the psychological song and dance of debating whether I should buy something to eat, and if so what I should buy to eat and how much, ad infinitum.

Eating disorders are complicated, no doubt, but sometimes even the simplest surface changes (e.g., hey self, you're going to be away from your room all day, you might need to eat something at some point -- here's a granola bar) can make a difference.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Saturday, October 9, 2010

submitted without comment because there's nothing more to say, is there?

This is the very boring part of eating disorders, the aftermath. When you eat and hate that you eat. And yet of course you must eat. You don’t really entertain the notion of going back. You, with some startling new level of clarity, realize that going back would be far worse than simply being as you are. This is obvious to anyone without an eating disorder. This is not always obvious to you.

- Marya Hornbacher

Friday, October 8, 2010

body vigilance

I've started reading Aimee Liu's Gaining: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders. I'm surprised I hadn't read it before; I guess it somehow slipped under the radar. I'll start by mentioning that her constant emphasis on people's weight (mentioned in specific numbers) is offputting. An Amazon reviewer articulated it perfectly: though in recovery, the author is clearly still caught up in the world of scales and pounds. While I'm empathetic to her continued struggles, I also think she has to accept responsibility for writing a book that could seriously, unnecessarily trigger the very people it's seeking to help. Weight issue aside, I've found it good so far.

When I reached the chapter about the inborn trait of perfectionism, I stopped dead in my tracks at this:

To test for perfectionism, the researchers asked questions like "Did you spend a long time doing and redoing your hair every morning to make sure it was straight without bumps?"

I cannot begin to tell you how many hours of my life I've poured into fixing and adjusting my hair, judging it and always finding it lacking when compared with other girls'. It was always too flat or too messy or too bland. Never, ever good enough. I have cried in frustration in front of a mirror, hairbrush in hand, more times than I'd care to admit. Though therapy, recovery, and Prozac have helped with my body image disturbances, I am still a chronic mirror-checker -- when in between classes or while out to eat or at a club, I generally have to go to a bathroom at one point and make sure I am not, in my own lovely self-dialogue words, "disgusting". It's an embarrassing habit and it causes me undue stress. It always has. No amount of lovely compliments or positive self-talk has been enough to counter it. While my stomach also contends for the dubious prize of "must scrutinized part of the body", the hair obsession has been far more long-lasting, arising well before the advent of my ED.

I still remember, with clarity so absolute that it surprises me even today, one night when I was in the family room with my siblings and mother, testing how my hair looked in different permutations and anxiously asking for evaluation. I was maybe eight or nine. This testing went on for some time until my older sister snipped, "Why do you spend so much time on your hair if it doesn't look good anyway?" I burst into tears, and that phrase has been burned in my mind ever since.

My family thought I was vain -- always checking and rechecking and then rechecking the mirror again because who knows what could have happened to make my hair tangled or static-y or flat or ugly in the past twelve seconds. Their breezy assessment infuriated me, although of course I never articulated it to them. Body image perfectionism was -- and still continues to be -- an incredibly raw subject for me. Describing it would mean articulating layers and layers of disgust and shame.

Another issue -- and god, this is a weird one to explain -- is angles. Yes, angles. This is a private journal entry I wrote about six days before I went into treatment, after spending a weekend trying to hold my shit together enough to attend my sister's graduation in Massachussetts:

I am so gross. I look hideous, by the way. Horrible. Every single time I looked in the mirror this weekend, I was upset at what I saw. Fat, ugly, round, red, messy. Always. (Strange travel-induced memory this weekend: me at twelve, staying at a hotel in Boston and seeing my face at a new angle in the weird mirrors there, absolutely appalled and ashamed at my profile and my stomach, horrified that this was how I looked to the outside world. Crying over it in the shower.)

That memory of being in Boston and looking in the mirror is also seared into my brain. I don't think I'll ever be able to articulate the intensity of the shame I felt after looking in the mirror. It was just so. . . visceral. I think I had gotten used to looking at myself dead on in the mirror and had accepted that that was how I looked from straight-on (even if I didn't like it.) But knowing that other people were looking at me in ways I couldn't control and didn't have access to (from behind, from my far periphery) decimated me. I just remember that feeling of helplessness. I felt like I had utterly failed in my efforts of vigiliance: it was one thing to look terrible, but it was entirely another to look terrible and not even realize it.

I recognized that this kind of obsession was perhaps more intense than others', but not pathological. Just as I spent years starving, calculating calories, bingeing, and purging while vaguely thinking, you know, everyone probably has a phase like this, I'm no so bad, I didn't think this sort of perfectionism was that uncommon. The results of a screening between high-achieving, psychologically healthy adult women and patients with eating disorders would suggest otherwise:

Except for a handful who had overvalued rules and order as kids, the women who had never had eating disorders registered zero childhood perfectionism, zero inflexibility, and zero doubt and cautiousness. By contrast, 60 of the eating disordered had been perfectionistic, rigid, and rule bound as children.

Another indication that there is something qualitatively and intrinsically different about people who go on to develop eating disorders, hinting again that the role of genetics/biology (this time, in the form of inborn traits) influences ED pathology more than culture.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Am suddenly, inexplicably depressed as all hell. Not conducive to eating.

So I'm eating what I can. You do what you can do until it's enough.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

small victories

I just realized that I no longer tally my daily calories in my head regularly. Considering I've been doing this reflexively for about 5 years, this is a big deal. (I will say that my arithmetic skills are off the chain thanks to this habit, but the depletion of my already tenuous sanity definitely tipped the scales -- haha -- toward an ultimately negative behavior.)

When I'm having days where I'm panicking about the amount I've eaten, I sometimes calculate to reassure myself that I've eaten a normal amount as opposed to OMG THE ENTIRE WORLD, but still. Pretttttty big deal.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


I always thought I was good with change. I like newness. I like changes of scenery. I can adapt.

People with eating disorders are supposed to fear change. They're supposed to live by rules and habits and plans. I thought I had busted that cliche. After my first day back at college, I only now just realized that I'm only externally good at it, that on the inside my reflexive response to change is to cling to my eating disorder. Out of nowhere, sitting at a friend's house, the thought now I can really restrict and lose weight hit me, and then these thoughts of scales and skipped meals cascaded from nowhere, and it was simultaneously so depressing and so alluring. The thought of all the things I can't stand to lose from getting sick (relationships, trust, hope, stability, happiness) made me cry, and yet the thought of going back to it is almost intoxicating.

I've had a good day full of friends and old faces. I'm not some complete sadsack at the moment. It's just -- oh my god, does this ever get tiring. I wouldn't wish an eating disorder on a single soul.