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.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

safely walk to school without a sound

For the first time in a couple of semesters, I feel eager and confident about starting classes. I'm taking Principles and Methods of Psychology (okay, not so excited about that one), Psychology of Crime and Violence, Clinical Psychology (!!!), and History of Modern France. Game time: which one of these things is not like the others because it's a requirement for graduation? I'm still looking forward to that one too.

I also have an interview to work in a research lab on campus, on a study researching mothers' psychological adjustment and father involvement. I have my fingers crossed. One of my least favorite things about interviews is that I'm sometimes asked about the lull in my grades and in my experience -- a lull that, super coincidentally!, happens to coincide with uncontrolled bulimia.

My rock bottom occurred during the spring semester of sophomore year. It was a hellish time period where bulimia finally, after three years of admirable effort, succeeded in taking over my life. I was occupied by the sickness. It was as though I was simply an eating disorder embodied: no longer Kelly the Friend or Kelly the Comedienne or Kelly the Writer, but simply Kelly the Walking Eating Disorder. Of particular importance during that semester was loss of "Kelly the Student".

Obvious physiological fact of the day: your body and your brain need food to function. And that's just the bottom line. When you throw in unmedicated depression that renders you inert and half-dead, and, perhaps most cuttingly, a sense that you no longer even have a future so why bother, reading and writing and caring about things becomes very difficult. I think my body and my brain were too focused on surviving, and so my ability to read for more than five minutes at a time went right out the window. Oh god, was that a terrible day, when I realized I couldn't read anymore. Horrifying. Obviously this all had an impact on my grades as well.

To this day I sometimes feel guilty that I wasn't able to stick it out, to really dig in my heels and power through. I get angry, sometimes, when I think about my History and Systems of Psychology class. I entered finals with a 98% average. . . and then came the final paper, worth 20% of the total grade. And I couldn't do it. I remember crying in my room at home (I had gotten an extension from the professor and left campus before completing it) because I could not think, could not for the life of me make thoughts cohere. My brain was decimated from exhaustion and malnutrition and the looming reality of inpatient treatment. So I emailed like three sentences to the professor and said I simply couldn't do it. That lowered my grade from a very high A+ to a B in one fell swoop. I sometimes think of girls from treatment who managed to pull out great semesters and get into grad programs before entering residential, and the crazy bullshit eating disorder competitiveness sets in. And I have to laugh at that: beating myself up for not being a good enough perfectionist, for succumbing to a silly thing like a life-threatening eating disorder. And then I tell myself that my GPA is still a 3.6 and I think, good Lord, I'm insufferable.

But on most days, I can accept that it's over and done. I still have two semesters, and I'm really excited for both of them. It's been a year since I've exited treatment and I finally feel like my brain is settling back into my body, back to its old self. I can sleep, and I can eat relatively well most of the time. I'm ready to go back to my old nerdy self and it feels fantastic.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

"sitting with my feelings"

In Renfrew-land, "sitting with one's feelings" means experiencing discomfort, frustration, anger, and sadness without using the eating disorder as a crutch or distraction or dissociation. So, for instance, when I feel like I'm crawling out of my skin because I'm too full, which I am tonight, I am supposed to live through the absurd discomfort without purging or restricting. I should also coexist with my irrational belief that I've suddenly gained a lot of weight, that I'm totally fat now. UGH SHUT UP BRAIN.

It's noble and reasonable and worthwhile to "sit with my feelings", but in the moment it's really fucking annoying. Whenever a nurse or counsellor or therapist at Renfrew said this, at least one person would kind of freak out, either in the moment or afterwards. It's like UGH SHUT UP, YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT THIS FEELS LIKE, STOP BEING SO PATRONIZING. I suppose this is similar to what alcoholics feel. It must be like, yes, yes, for fuck's sake, I know I can't drink, I know I'm a better person in recovery, I know I have an addiction -- but all I want to do at the end of this shitty day is have a glass of wine, is that too much to ask?

The truly absurd thing is that I'm mostly full from too many fluids. I felt dizzy at work today so I had two big glasses of OJ and about 40 ounces of water in a short time period. When you factor in the three coffees I also had at work, then the diet Coke. . . you can see how my stomach feels pretty distended. I feel gross I feel gross I feel gross, but tomorrow's another day, eh?

I almost don't want to end on an optimistic note because I need people to know that this SUCKS, that it is a terrible terrible pervasive feeling. Rawrrrrr, stupid eating disorders.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

focusing on not focusing on my stomach (and face, and arms, and thighs, and argghhhhh).

Having a bad body image day is analogous to crawling out of my skin. It's this acute awareness of my flesh that creeps in slowly in the most mundane moment -- when I'm driving or reading or talking to a friend -- and then infiltrates my entire stupid brain, growing more urgent as it remains. I feel like I am sheer flesh at the moment -- just fat without discernible shape or muscle. It is deeply uncomfortable.

It doesn't matter that my weight is pretty stable at a moderately thin weight, nor does it matter that I've received a lot of nice compliments from strangers and friends, the latter of whom are pretty much universally supportive all the time. And it doesn't matter that I intellectually know that I am not, in fact, grotesque -- because, honestly, if my eating disorder were an intellectual affair, I'd've thought my way out of the whole shebang in five minutes.

Rawr. Obnoxious Pollyanna-esque silver lining: this feeling always goes away with a bit of time. In the meantime, I have to focus on not restricting/purging/being eating disordered and try to get in some yoga. It makes me feel much more connected and cohesive and sane. And, more pressingly, I should get some sleep.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I was watching Intervention* with my mother. It was this heartbreaking story about a woman addicted to painkillers and how her family had to deal with it. Very very sad. Then one about crack addiction came on, and I jokingly said to my mom, "If you ever get the urge to take up crack, please resist". Then she jokingly said, "Let's hope we never have to do an intervention on you." Uh -- awkward.

There actually was a mini-intervention done on me in high school. I literally just remembered this -- maybe repression, maybe because that seems like so long ago. Long story short: I got a note in homeroom from the guidance counselor to go see her, and I was like, whatever, I'm a senior, she probably wants to talk about colleges. Turns out she wanted to talk about self-starvation and sadness. Friends had sought her out. They were awkwardly sitting there and we talked for a bit, and then agreed that I'd see the counselor every so often. I was horrified and embarrassed and angry at my friends, but in truth part of me was relieved.

I was a straight-up restricter at the time and had lost a bit of weight, but not enough for the counselor to adequately give a shit. Which -- it's not like she was a bad person or anything. It wasn't apathy, I guess. I'm going to sound like a jerk, but I was a very self-aware semi-adult with an exceptional knowledge of eating disorders**, and I felt like I was smarter than her in that respect. I also had a stubborn refusal to deal with life, and she didn't specialize in EDs. So that was that. The whole affair left me feeling like a silly girl who wasn't even sick enough to warrant serious attention and obviously she must have thought that I was too fat to really have an eating disorder. It was. . . counterproductive.

When I passed out later in the semester due to hunger/faintness, I got pushed to my parents' car in a wheelchair in the middle of the hallway and I saw her and she just stared and it was this terrible, terrible moment of awkwardness and silent blame and guilt.

ANYWAY. It was an uncharacteristically weird comment from my mother, who is in all other respects educated and very empathetic in all things eating disordered. I wound up saying, "Well, that hits a little close to home, huh?" and she said, "Why?"

Why? Because I was in treatment for ten weeks. My mother (and father, and sisters, and brother) visited me at a place where girls/women were pacing around and crying and freaking out about pasta, and she cried when I told her about my suitemate at Renfrew who was dying -- not immediately, not right away, but in a wasting kind of way, in a slow-burn, slow-fade kind of way. I was -- and am -- one of those girls.

This is not a coherent post. It was just a profoundly weird interaction. Maybe she just didn't want to think of her daughter as having something in common with a 52-year-old crack addict.

*I'm feeling morally conflicted about this but I don't have the energy to write about it at 1:25AM. But I know I will soon enough.
**People with eating disorders tend to have an obnoxious knowledge of them, at least in my experience of knowing people with EDs.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

on hunger

I have a really low appetite, and I don't know if that's due to the eating disorder fucking up my metabolism/hunger cues or if it's just what I'm naturally like. And it's sad - I actually have no idea what I'm "naturally like" in regards to hunger because I can't remember the last time when I wasn't weird about it all.

But basically, due to a bunch of different circumstances, I didn't get to eat much today. Then my family and I went to my father's friend's private restaurant-opening party. There was a buffet, which I was actually comfortable with. . . until I realized it was not vegetarian-friendly. Long story short: I spent a while at the restaurant weak with hunger. After about 45 minutes, the owner made some vegetarian hoagies. I was really grateful - I felt like my vegetarianism was such an imposition. I was exhausted and cranky and inpatient and all I wanted to do was go home and eat "my own food" and possibly sleep.

And it made me realize that, oh my god, I was always that miserable when I was sick. A lot of my problems were psychological, but there's also the simple physiological fact that humans need food and they feel terrible without it.

It made me really appreciate recovery.

And those vegetarian hoagies were really good.