Friday, May 27, 2011

Anorexia up close.

In treatment I was given an assignment by my therapist. Write down at least 50 things you want out of life. A year ago I couldn't think of 10. 50 seemed impossible. So, during some free time I got my journal out and started working on the list. Number 21 on my list reads "I want to enjoy healthy meals as a family". After I wrote that I looked up at a young woman sitting on the carpet. She has anorexia. Badly. I looked down at my list in my journal and wrote number 22. "I want other women to not feel self-loathing."
That woman with anorexia struck me greatly. Her shockingly thin body did not surprise me. But I always looked at her because one thing she did that no one else there did was this: she never spoke unless spoken to. And when she did speak it was very quietly. Only one day did I see her hair as she wore a beanie most of the day. Incredibly gaunt, she looked hard as stone. I never saw her smile. But I was captivated by her eyes.
Her eyes were incredibly brown. They were big and you could see life in them. Life that was stuck inside her sick body. She often looked out the window during free time and would dose now and again. During meals in the dining hall she always looked angry. She never spoke to anyone but staff was on to the food games she was playing. She constantly rolled her eyes in frustration. But she never spoke.
She always looked unhappy. I still wonder about her. I'm hanging on to the hope that she gets better and learns to use that voice that I know is there. I wish I could see a smile form on her lips. I never saw that either.
We all have struggles. All of us. Anorexia just happens to be extremely noticeable and particularly deadly. When we play with our food or don't even eat it, that's the eating disorder. It's powerful. It's enticing and habitual.
But it can be changed. We can choose to heal from it. And it's damn hard. Damn hard. You must have an extremely dedicated treatment team. And you must exercise honesty always. When you are busy and decide you're going to skip lunch, you'd better damn well take a moment and eat lunch. It all starts with the actual behaviors we learn with food.

After you get a good grip on the behaviors, the real work begins. But the work will get done if we so choose. Personally speaking, it's exhausting. My blood pressure gets high when I do the actual work. I grit my teeth a lot. But as long as I use all my might and summon the courage that lies inside me, I know I will do it.

Goal number 32 on my list: "I never want to stop feeling this hope."

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