Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Where does the weight all go?!

If you've read yesterday's blog, you already know that I have gained five pounds since starting treatment a week ago. This causes me so much distress. It makes me feel that I am physically getting larger - that my body is expanding before my eyes and I am helplessly watching with horror. I feel that my clothes are tighter; that I look bigger in the mirror. I feel heavier, and I hate it.

Of course - this is part of ED. He wants me to feel this way. He convinces me that I am larger. That before I know it, I'll be fat. And then people will make fun of me. And all of my hard work losing weight will have gone to nothing.

When my rational mind thinks about it, I cannot possibly have gotten huge in one week. Sure, it was five pounds. But all five pounds did not go straight to my stomach or thighs. I have to remember how each and every part of my body is fighting for nourishment. My hair (which is currently falling out and extremely thin) needs to get thicker and healthy again. My internal organs - my kidneys and liver - desperately want to become their adult size instead of the 4-year-old sizes they are now. My heart - which nearly failed me and almost caused me to lose my life - needs nourishment to pump blood to all of my organs. My lung muscles - ever so weak and therefore causing me to have two breathing tubes inserted - need to get stronger so that they can work properly. My fingernails need to get stronger so that they do not break everyday. My brain - that thing I have in my head that I cannot stop from working through millions of thoughts in one day - needs energy so that it can continue to do it's job. And what about my height that was stunted by ED? Maybe I'll grow a bit taller! On top of all that, my entire body needs to remember what it is like to have food again - to be filled with the nourishment and energy that it deserves.

So, when I REALLY think about it, the five pounds is not too bad. How can something so enriching and nourishing be bad? Well, ED will always tell me that ANY weight gain is not good. But I need to activate my wise mind and use my defences against him. My body is hungry right now. Even though I may not feel physical hunger (which is another topic for another blog!), I know that my organs are screaming to be provided with energy. I know that my body has had to do some hard work, surviving on nearly nothing for the past five years.

I owe it to my body now to give it what it needs. And I owe it to God, to honour my body - a temporary gift from Him which I must take care of. For '...[my] body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in [me], and [I] am not [my] own' (1 Corinthians 6:19).

Monday, 30 July 2012

The Dreaded Number

I got weighed today. And I gained. A LOT.

In simple words, I was crushed. I could not stand to see that number on the screen in front of my face. I could not imagine that my weight could climb so high in on measly week.

Of course, I felt horrible. The entire was full of struggles. ED filled my head with his running tape of how much of a failure I am. Of how fat I would soon become. That I would gain this much every week.

You foolish girl. You stupid, stupid thing. Did you think you would come here and eat this much and not gain weight? You are becoming fat. You are almost there. Everyone will notice and tell you that you look healthier - what they really mean is that you look fat. Your clothes will get tighter, and then they will no longer fit. You filthy, rotten, useless girl. You failure.


And he doesn't stop there. He continues to tell me that I do not deserve to live. He makes me feel so weak and small. He makes me hate myself and my body.

So, in short, you can picture how hard today was. I had to eat my food (including a BIG meal plan increase), even though I had already gained more than what was required of me. I had to sit in groups and talk about how I felt fat and bad about my existence. I've had urges all day to leave this program before I get fat and regret it.

The upside of this is that today really showed me that I have a great support system. I want to thank all of my blog followers and people who comment. Your comments and stories make me feel loved and empowered. They motivate me a lot. And I want to thank my friends and family who have never given up on me - you know who you are. May God bless you and protect you always. Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Weight


Tomorrow is the worst day of the week. Well, Mondays are never enjoyable. But, where I am in program, Mondays are ‘weigh’ days: the day inpatients must don hospital gowns and step onto the scale.

If I could insert the scariest music possible right here, you should know that it would be playing. Getting weighed is never fun. The team expects a 1-2 kg weight gain per week. So, that’s about 2.2-4.4 pounds. YIKES!

The problem with weigh days is that ED likes to show up – big time. If my weight goes up, he tortures me because then I will be fat and I will just keep gaining weight. ED will insist that I will no longer look thin and pretty, and that I will never again be able to eat normal food without continuing to gain. I will not fit into my clothes; I will once again be teased about being bigger than everyone else. In summary, ED will torment me, reminding me of how much work it was to lose weight in the first place. He will then mock me, calling me weak and fat and ugly. He will scream that I am no good; that I have failed to control my food intake and my weight.

You fool. You weakling. You could not stop eating. You ate and ate and now look what happened. Your weight has gone up..and it will do that again and again in the weeks to come. You are so close to becoming fat. Look at your stomach! Your thighs. You don’t look thin anymore. You have failed. You are a failure.

On the other hand, if my weight stays the same (or goes down, but I highly doubt it), I will feel bad because the treatment team will be disappointed. And then they will increase my meal plan even more. But then, ED will be happy. He will jump up and down, thankful that I will be the same (or less) weight.

Good. Your weight is good. Just keep at this. Do not let it go up. You know what happens then. Stay thin. Gaining weight is bad. It will make you look and feel bad.

So, where do I stand?! Gaining weight sucks. Losing or maintaining is wrong. If I could summarize my feelings towards Monday ‘weigh’ days, I’d use the word ‘dread’. Not wanting anything to happen. In fact, if I could skip it all together, I would.

But the reality is that I am here to gain weight (along with getting therapy). If the doctors and nurses are saying that I need to gain, they must be right. But something inside of me just doesn’t want that. I’m terrified that I will break down in the office when I get weighed tomorrow. The thought of gaining is beyond scary for me. I just wish weight was not an issue for me. I wish that I was like other people – eating freely and sensibly, but not worrying about that nasty number on the scale.

I’m praying for strength today. I’m praying that God may give me peace and fill me with His Spirit. Jesus said ‘…my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives peace do I give. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid’ (John 14:27).

Dear Lord, fill me with your peace that my heart may rest in serenity, knowing that my life is in Your mighty hands.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Food is Medicine

I cannot even begin to say how often I have heard this phrase in my week at treatment. The doctors and nurses constantly tell me to remember that even when I’m full, I still have to keep eating. To treat food as my medicine that I must take in order to get better.

But, I wonder if they’ve ever thought about what they are telling me to do. They are basically trying to get me to think of food like a pill that helps cure an illness. Which, in some ways, I suppose is true. I’m underweight and my body is probably a lot weaker than it should be. So, it makes sense that eating food would make me stronger. It’s like when you have a headache – you take an Advil, expecting that it will cure the terrible pain.

What makes this difficult for me is the fact that I’m scared of eating. So, I’m terrified of the ‘medicine’ that I am supposed to take. This is what makes it different than your typical medicine – no one is scared that taking an Advil is going to do something so terrible to them. What makes it worse is that food is present everywhere in our society and lives. So, how am I supposed to treat something as normal as food to be like medicine? It feels so weird. After all, you can choose not to take that Advil for your headache. Sure, you might take longer to recover, but it’s still possible. I, however, cannot choose to simply not eat because I don’t want my medicine. The truth of the matter is that I have no choice – we all have to eat to live.

So, I guess it’s easy to see why viewing food as medicine is so hard. If you don’t have ED, you might be reading this and thinking, ‘why not? If I were told to eat a lot, I’d LOVE it!’. Well, ED does lots of things to my brain to convince me that I DO NOT enjoy eating. That I cannot possibly gain weight because then I’ll look too big, clothes won’t fit, people will tease me, etc. Sometimes I wish there was some magic pill that I could take to make all these thoughts and feelings disappear. But, for now, the phrase ‘food is medicine’ is all I have.

As much as I hate this sentence, it really is what pushes me a lot of the times to finish my meals. I’m always sitting at the table, inwardly crying because I’m full and frightened of the weight gain that will occur. So, here is where the skill of self-talk comes in. I have to try my best to ignore ED and focus on what I’m trying to achieve. I’m eating right now because I need to get better. I may hate it (and I do!), but right now, this is what I need. ED sure hates this. And when I get weighed on Monday, he is going to be super angry to see that I have gained weight. But, I’m putting my faith in the program and hoping that with time, these thoughts and feelings will go away. That ED will become a thing of my past and never in my future.

And who knows? Maybe someday, I won’t have to treat food as medicine. Maybe I’ll actually enjoy it.

Friday, 27 July 2012

First Week

Today is Friday – the weekend is coming. This will be my official first week of treatment. Honestly, I thought that this would never come. It seems like it has been so much longer than just a few days!

It has definitely been a tough week. Monday was hectic – blood tests, ECGs, interviews with the nurses and doctors, learning the schedule, etc. And let’s not get started with the meals. The food here is so much more than I am used to…actually, A LOT more. And you are expected to finish all of it – or else you get supplemented with a meal replacement drink. The bathrooms are locked at all times, and they are only opened half an hour before meals (unless there is an emergency. Then the staff stands outside of the bathroom while you go). There is no activity allowed. In fact, I was told to sit down on my bed when I was praying my prayers for the morning!

We have many good groups that I find are helpful. Everyday, we all sit down together and share what we did the last night, including our current emotion. Other groups include diabolical behavior therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, self-discovery, mindfulness, nutrition, goal group, weekend planning, and education group. At first, I was a bit shy to open up and speak about my illness in front of the other girls, but I soon learned that it actually helps a lot to talk. I found myself getting very emotional and crying in groups, especially when they hit a sensitive spot in my heart. This is something new to me – crying in public. I am usually a very strong-looking girl; I can tolerate my emotions long enough until I am alone or with my family (then the crying begins). Here, however, I found that I eventually exploded. I could no longer keep the pain trapped up inside of me. It had to come out – and it did.

Overall, I feel nothing short of exhausted. It is such difficult work – eating each and every meal despite being extremely full. Knowing that I have to gain weight – a lot of weight – and hating it. Realizing that I no longer have the life I want – no school, no Church, and missing my friends. Seeing my family only for two hours at night. Not being able to use the bathroom when you need to. All of this puts so much stress and pressure on me…many times here, I have felt like simply going home. And I admit, I still feel that way. Today was tough because my meals were unusually large. And next week, even if I gain weight, they are still increasing my meal plan. So, you can imagine how difficult this is for me. Many nights, I don’t know whether or not I can make it through to the next day. My mind rushes to thinking of how much weight I will gain on Monday, how much more food they will give me, if all my clothes will still fit…and it goes on and on.

I guess the main thing to look at is that I made it through this week. I suppose that is my ultimate goal right now – to take it one week, one day…heck, even one meal at a time. It sounds tedious – and it is. But that’s the reality. Everyone told me that recovery would be the best for me. And I believe it. But not everyone warned me of the torture and pain that I would have to endure. Now, having gone through it (and continuing in the program), I realize how much of a challenge recovery is. Everyday, I find myself questioning why I am here and why I am allowing myself to go through all this misery and anxiety. Of course, the easier path would be to simply not eat. Or to go home and decide that I could do this on my own. But reality tells me that food is not enough. I need therapy and groups to help me recover emotionally and mentally as well.

And so my first week is nearly over. Was it challenging? Yes. Was I in pain? Of course. Did I ever feel like leaving? Everyday. Did I wonder why I am here, and did I sometimes just want to scream. ALL THE TIME. But, is it worth it?

Of course.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

A Letter to ED

ED (notice I did not say ‘dear’ – you are NOT to be cherished),

I cannot pinpoint the exact moment when you first entered into my life. All I can recall is that you came into my life when I was vulnerable…seeking attention and refuge from something that had hurt me so much. My close friends teased me, calling me fat and overweight. They commented on parts of my body, telling me that I desperately needed to lose weight. And so began the fall into your control.

I wanted – ever so much – to be simply accepted. After realizing that I could achieve this by losing weight, I put my heart and soul into the task. Every moment of the day was put into figuring out how I would lose weight, avoid the next meal, eat the lowest-calorie option, etc. Night and day you tormented me with your harsh words, telling me that I was never good enough. That I needed to be thin in order to be happy, successful, and loved.

But it was NEVER good enough for you. Five pounds meant that I could lose more. Ten pounds meant that there was still room for improvement. Twenty pounds meant that I was getting closer to looking good – but I still had not gotten there. Being ultra-thin was highly important. It would mean that people would stop making fun of me.

Little by little, my ‘meals’ became smaller. A sandwich turned into half, which turned into quarters…which could eventually become nothing. Leaving the house became a chore because you made me not want to see anyone. I missed out on parties and get-togethers because you told me that there would be food there. Holidays were no longer times of celebration – they became events that I dreaded.

My loved ones became enemies. Their constant reminders that I was on a downhill path were only seen by you as hinders to the ‘perfect’ body. And so, you made me shut them out of my life, ignoring every single concern or worry expressed by my family. You robbed me of my teenage years. The normal life of a teenager – going out with friends, trying new foods, buying new clothes, laughing and smiling at the simple things in life – these, ED, you stole. Healthy relationships were something that you never liked because they took me away from you.

Weight became an obsession. The number on the scale captured my attention for every moment in the day. It had to go lower each day in order for you to feel good…for me to feel proud. Getting dressed up and looking pretty was no longer enjoyable as it had been. Now, I just wanted to stay isolated and alone, curled up under your shelter.

You definitely served a purpose in my life. You convinced me that if I lost weight, I would be happy. You told me lies that everyone would love me and that all the teasing that I had endured would disappear. That all the misery and pain would vanish. And in some ways, you were right. People DID stop making fun of me because I was overweight. People did comment on my weight loss, saying that I looked great. But that is where your reliability ended. You promised me happiness, but all I felt was sadness. You promised me better sleep because I would be more confident – all I got were sleepless nights, spent wondering whether or not I would lose weight the next day. You said that I would be beautiful when I lost weight, but I ended up looking sick and unhealthy.

I have become aware of your power over me. I realize that you used me. You used my determination, strength, willpower, and knowledge to control me. You turned me into your slave as you lured me into your dark trap. You manipulated my thoughts, words, and actions, making me believe that I was going to have a happier life with you. You made me forsake all my morals and values, turning me into a person that I would never have thought I would be. You weakened me, making my body and limbs unable to function as normal. Throughout all this, you blinded me. You changed the way I looked at things and caused me to believe that you were doing what was best for me. You created a deep hole into my heart, stripping away any self-confidence or joy that remained.

You nearly took my life on countless occasions. You were the reason why I had two breathing tubes inserted. You were the reason why I was put onto kidney dialysis. It was you who made my kidneys, liver, and heart fail. It was you who weakened my muscles to the extent that I could not breathe. Because of you, I had to receive four blood transfusions. By listening to you, ED, I nearly killed myself. I subjected myself to your will, hoping that you would somehow transform my life into splendor by making me thin. But you did not stop when I was thin. No. ED, you continued to use your ruthless powers and deceptive ways to take my life away.

But I am growing stronger now. I have entered into recovery and am trying to get better. I still admit that you are present in my life. I often miss you, though I hate to say it. I definitely miss the way I felt empty in my stomach…the power that I felt when I was able to go through the entire day without eating much. I look at the food I am being told to eat now and I feel terrible. I feel as if all of my hard work (to become thin) is going down the drain. But deep down inside (and I mean DEEP down), I know that you are just using this to get back into my life. You are angry because you have not achieved your ultimate goal of killing me. And so, ED, you want to creep back into the picture, cautiously taking steps to make me sick again. You are making me mourn the loss of my school, friends, and family. You are trying to convince me that recovery is not worth it. But I must not surrender to the grips of your lies. I must remain vigilant and strong, persevering throughout the entire journey. It is too easy to give into your power, to stop eating and lose weight. To die. It is much harder to stick to recovery, to eat through the pain and anxiety, to gain weight and buy new clothes, and to feel as though I am back at square one. But I will not be back at square one. I will be beginning a new life, free of your strangle. I will do what I want to do with my life. I will be a successful and happy woman who is not under the influence of your commands.

Yes, recovery is the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life. And often, I feel like quitting because it makes me feel worse than I began with. But I know that this will change with time. With the help and support of my friends and family, I can defeat you and kick you out of my life forever. I also know that God will continue to strengthen me, giving me the power and patience to fight. For now, I have learned to ‘trust in the Lord with all [my] heart, and lean not on [my] own understanding’ (Proverbs 3:5). And so, ED, I have to tell you to leave. You are no longer welcome to live in my head, heart, or thoughts.

Your conqueror – and your ex-victim,
___________________________________

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The ‘Fat Feeling’

Yesterday was my first day in the inpatient eating disorders program. The first group I attended was the diabolical behavior therapy (DBT) group. Yesterday’s topic was learning how to identify, express, and tolerate our emotions.

With ED comes the expression, “I feel fat”. But wait…is fat really a feeling? Is it an emotion like happiness or sadness? The truth is that when we say that we feel fat, we are actually using this phrase to express other emotions we are experiencing.

In my case, ‘feeling fat’ means that I am physically very full. I am bloated. My stomach is loaded with food and I feel so disgusted at myself for having eaten all that food. Mentally, it means I am struggling because I know that I will gain weight. Emotionally, it means fear because I do not want to become larger and be made fun of for my weight and shape. It means feeling regret and guilt that I ate all that food; that I will be overweight once again.

Perhaps this is why I become so frustrated and angry with people when they respond, ‘but you are NOT fat! You are so skinny!’. I get mad because they simply don’t understand what I am saying. When I look into the mirror, I do not see a fat girl. But I do see a girl who was once overweight and had to work extremely hard to lose weight. I see a girl who is desperate not to ever gain weight because she was previously made fun of for her body. I see a soul who struggles everyday with these thoughts, fears, and misery. I see a small body that has taken years to get to where it is now. I see the days where I forbade myself from eating out of a desire to look thinner; to stop all the teasing that I so often heard. I hear the rumbles of my stomach as I denied it food, hoping to achieve the ‘thin look’. I see the sufferings of a girl who has a constant voice in her head, telling her that she is going to get fat.

So, what is the solution? Well, perhaps for others, simply knowing that by saying, ‘I feel fat’, I mean so much more than the physical appearance. For me, it reminds me that I need to keep my emotions in check. I need to focus on what I am really feeling (ex. Guilt, disgust, bloating), and accept that right now, these emotions are normal. Recovery from anorexia involves a bundle of emotions, often mixed up among each other. The key, as I am trying to work on, is recognizing that it is OKAY to feel these emotions. And that, with time, things will get better.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Being Perfect

I'm scheduled to return to the hospital tomorrow, to formally begin treatment for my eating disorder. I'm so scared, frightened, and nervous. What will it be like? Will I fit in there? Will the other girls like me? Will I be cooperative with the staff and doctors? Will I be able to finish all my food? Will I do well in therapy?

It's a new start for me. I guess it's a good thing that I'll be starting treatment early. Studies have shown that the earlier the treatment, the better the outcomes. But something inside of me is crying and hurting. The pain of not being home anymore. The sorrow of not going to school with all of my friends. The loneliness that I will feel.

I suppose that is what recovery is all about: going through tough moments before the good comes. But it's ever so difficult to keep your head held high, to keep working even when you feel like giving up. I am the type of person that demands perfection from myself - a trait that most people with anorexia have. With that in mind, you can imagine how hard it is when I make mistakes or don't do something completely right. I get down very hard on myself, blaming myself for not being able to be 100% perfect. So, what happens if I mess up in my treatment? What if I break down and cry in therapy, or spend hours screaming because I feel fat? What happens when I gain weight and my clothes no longer fit? In other words, what happens as I continue on my journey in recovery, feel the pain and face the obstacles, and feel like giving up?

There is no easy answer. In the end, it comes down to this: I can't be perfect. No matter how hard I try, no matter what I do, perfectionism is impossible for anyone to achieve. I have to learn that it is okay to make mistakes - that I am not a superhero and that I have my own limitations and weaknesses. It's so hard to admit, but it is the truth.

With the acknowledgement that I am not perfect (and that no one is!), recovery becomes slightly easier. I can start to become comfortable with the fact that it is okay to make mistakes. That recovery will not always be a smooth path - on the contrary, it will have many bumps and curves along the way. But with my eye on my goal, I think I can make it. I have tons of support (thanks guys!), love, and care. And I have God on my side.

"For nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37).

Saturday, 21 July 2012

The Spiral

Many people who are misinformed are fooled into thinking that anorexia is a choice. That people who have ED CHOOSE to have it, simply out of the desire to be thin or lose weight.

It's simply not true. I mean, sure, usually ED begins with the desire to lose weight, but it soon spirals out of control. What began as a way to innocently shed a few pounds turns into a nearly unstoppable storm that continues to howl, night and day.

Why would any human being choose such a thing? Why would one subject him or herself to a monster that clings to you, threatening to take away every source of happiness and peace?

It's simple: you DO NOT CHOOSE IT. Anorexia chooses you. No one knows exactly what causes eating disorders, but it is known for sure that no one actually falls into the depths of the disease with knowledge of all the damage that it can do to you.

I'm not exactly sure when ED began in my life. I can trace back to days when people made fun of me because of my weight, saying that I was too fat, too chubby, or bigger than everyone else. I remember moments where my own friends teased me because of my shape, commenting on my thighs, stomach, or arms. Words hurt. They hurt a lot. And so began the wish to lose some weight. After five pounds, I felt great. If you can lose five, why not 10? 20? Heck, go all the way!


And this was me, a person who knew all about eating disorders. A girl who had done numerous projects about anorexia nervosa, explaining all the consequences of the disease. Advocating for people with eating disorders. Never once did I imagine that I would be one of the sufferers.

The hole is deep - difficult to climb out of. It takes so much patience, hope, perseverance, and strength. Falling into ED's trap even though I knew how bad it could get makes me feel silly. I mean, if I was informed, how did I let it happen to me? Why couldn't I just stop it?

Researchers have discovered that anorexia nervosa changes the way the chemicals and hormones work in your brain. In fact, some have found that the dopamine-reward-punishment system is altered in people with anorexia, making eating feel like punishment (the reward and punishment centres in the brain light up at the same time when anorexics eat). **See http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?articleID=99283 for details.**

So, the moral of the story is that people with eating disorders do not choose to be sick. No one would purposely push themselves into such an illness. It's terrible, horrible, and torturing. If we could get this message across, people with anorexia would be stigmatized like they are today. Some people blame anorexics, saying that they are doing it all 'for attention'. Some people harshly accuse anorexia patients with blindly making themselves sick. Well, I'm proof that this is not the case - at least for most cases.

I did not choose anorexia. I guess it just chose me. But the one thing I CAN choose is to get myself out of this dark illness - to emerge into the freeing light that fills my life with new energy and strength. To spread my wings, to fly out of this deep hole. To live my life, free of any chains holding me back.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Thin is NOT in

"I wish I could have a little anorexia".

I hear that phrase often. Before my ED developed, I was one of those people who said it. I mean, come on! People with anorexia are thin and happy, right? They are gorgeous, look like models, and they are thin and happy. They are successful, and they are thin and happy. (Did I mention that they are thin and happy?!)

That is what the media tells us. That is what society tells us - that thin is beautiful. As if being thin will make you a happy and successful person. So, is it any wonder that young girls (and boys) grow up thinking that they must be thin?!

Look at TV commercials. How many times do you see an average-sized person in them? Heck, even ads for no-fat products are endorsed by the tiniest people I've seen on TV. Or what about men? The actors are all muscular and bulky. What message is that sending to viewers?

The truth is...THIN IS NOT IN. I used to think it was. I used to think that being skinny would change everything - would make me happier. But it didn't. I mean, I was happy that I became thin. But I was not COMPLETELY happy - I suffered under the torments of the disease. Imagine this: night and day battling a voice in your head that is denying you the right to enjoy food. That is screaming in your head, telling you that you are going to gain weight and be fat. A feeling of anxiety and discomfort every time you are faced with food - or even the thought of food.

Still wish you 'had a little anorexia'? I don't think so.

So, what's my point? We need to get the message across that the media is wrong. That thin is not perfect. That being thin does not guarantee that you will have a happy and successful life forever. That being muscular will not grant you everlasting happiness.

 How can we do this? Get the point across! Start by loving yourself for who you are - whether you are male or female. Because you 'are created in His own image and likeness' (Genesis 1:27). With that mind, you can be sure that you are worthy of being loved - inside and outside.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

In the Mind of Anorexia

I'm sitting down at my kitchen table, facing my biggest fear. My worst nightmare. The enemy. My chest tightens, it is becoming hard to breathe. My heart is racing - I can almost hear it beating against my chest. My head is pounding. I cannot do this. I cannot face this horrible, wretched thing. Someone, make it stop! Take it away! Free me from this misery!

No, I'm not talking about a spider. Or some deadly bacteria. I'm talking about (can you guess?)...food. That's right. F-O-O-D. Yup. That's my fear. The only thing that makes me shiver, makes me want to  run away and hide. And for so long, that is exactly what I did.

Having anorexia is not 'all about the food' - there are lots of other issues, depending on the victim. But, to a great extent, it IS about the food and the weight gain. I spent countless days, desperately trying to run away from any chance to eat. Of course, this sounds strange to many people. I mean, what happens when you get together with your friends? You eat. Or what does grandma do right when you walk into her house? She feeds you (despite your reassuring her that you are full!). What happens on Easter and Christmas after Church? We eat. Make no mistake - it is very difficult to run away from food.

But for people with AN, the ultimate goal is to avoid food because for them, it translates into immediate weight gain. I am guilty of this. Before every morsel that enters my mouth, I think about the weight gain behind it. I'm terrified that I will gain too much weight too quickly, that I will look 'fat', that people will notice and make fun of me, that my clothes won't fit, that I'll have to diet all over again...AHH! The list never ends.

Please keep in mind that these feelings and thoughts are REAL. I do not make them up to seek attention or to be annoying. I really truly am afraid to eat. That is the essence of the illness. It lurks around, just waiting for the time to eat arrives. Then, it pounces on the victim, literally taking its life with it. ED does not want you to live; he wants you to die. To cease existing. It is ruthless; it will not stop until it gets what it wants - your life.

In my illness, I have told myself that I will stop 'after I lose just these 5 pounds'. But then I'd lose those, and want more. Why? Because if five pounds could be lost, why couldn't 10? 15? 30? But here's the paradox: the very thing that is avoided in AN is the same thing that must be consumed in order to recover - food.

When faced with a meal, I immediately want to RUN. To escape the pain that comes with eating. My body and my organs are screaming 'feed us!', but that nasty little fool in my head is saying 'NO! No food. Do not eat. Stay strong. You do not need to eat. You will get fat'. 


So, what to do? Do I eat and face the perils and sufferings of ED? Or do I listen to ED, not feel bad for eating, but then end up being sicker than before? Ah, here lays the hard decision: to eat or not to eat?

But I have to stay strong. Even if all my thoughts and feelings are arguing against me. Even if ED insists that I will gain weight. Even if ED makes me feel like a 'fat pig'. I have to eat. Because, as is often said, food is medicine. But HOW do I just ignore these things? It is not easy. It takes a lot of work...the recipe for recovery in yesterday's post is a good way to start. And keeping up hope that one day, things will get better.

It sounds easy - it is not. It is very difficult. It is a long road. But, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me' (Philippians 4:13). And that's enough to keep me going.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Recipe for Recovery

I know what you are all thinking: someone with anorexia posting a recipe?! Isn't there something a little wrong or strange here?

Well, sure there is. I'm not exactly your biggest fan of eating (not just yet...but everyday sure gets easier!). But this is not your ordinary-everyday-take-out-the-stuff-and-cook recipe. This is the ultimate recipe for recovery, a list of ingredients and instructions that helped me along my journey with anorexia...and what continues to help me day by day. It's super simple, too. Even the worst cook could probably get this one down!

INGREDIENTS
-a cup of prayers
-a tablespoon of hope
-a pinch of determination
-a sprinkle of love

INSTRUCTIONS
1) Mix all ingredients together. Stir well. Expect resistance while you are preparing this dish. It is not easy to make. There will be bumps to overcome along the way. But keep going, keep stirring. Fight all challenges. If you want that yummy meal, you have to work to make it!

2) Eat up! Give yourself a big portion of this scrumptious meal. Recovery is worth it. Make sure, though, that you have ALL the ingredients. Without any one of them, recovery simply will not be the same. It will not be as delicious as it is meant to be. Cherish every bite of it. Recovery is worth it. Even if it tastes bitter at the beginning, keep on going. It will get better as you make your way through it.

And there you have it. Recovery. Only a few ingredients along with very simple steps. But do not be deceived. Recovery is hard work. There is no easy way out. You can't skimp on one ingredient because then you will not go far. You can't try to rush it because then it will not turn out correctly. You must persevere. As the Bible says, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7). So I know that I need to fight to get through this. And I will keep fighting until I finish my race. Throughout my journey, I will hold on to my faith and keep my loved ones close. I will embrace each new day - each new meal - with the hope and understanding that one day, things will get better.

I will be free, I will live life to the fullest. I will take each moment as it is, knowing that "...that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Romans 8:18). 

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Recovering

Going home was the best thing that could happen to me! I was so excited to finally leave the hospital. My most glorious moment was walking out of the room. You see, during my hospital stay, I was not allowed to get up and walk at all - except to and from the bathroom in my room (which was NOT even a walk...it was literally right in front of my bed). Because I was immobile, I was given a needle to prevent blood clots - everyday. But now, here I was, standing tall and proud. I remember feeling so happy that I could walk out of the room!

When I first woke up at the end of May, my body was still long asleep. I tried to get up and walk, but my body was too weak. The physiotherapist was called in to help me 'learn to walk again'. I felt ashamed and horrified that I had to use a walker to begin walking. I was terrified that I would never be able to walk alone again.

The second I got home, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy fill my heart. This was home - the place where I belonged. For so long, I had lived in the hospital and had nearly forgotten what it was like to walk around my house, to use my own things, to lay on my own bed, and just to simply feel the burst of fresh air from my windows. At last, I thought, I am HOME.

Before I was discharged from the hospital, I was told that I would have to return in September for the inpatient eating disorders program. Although I had gained about 30 pounds in the hospital, I was still underweight and my thoughts were still very negative. Eating at home, as you can imagine, was - and still is - a struggle.

Perhaps you may be wondering, "why can't you just EAT?". The best way I can answer this is by asking you, "why can't cancer patients just kill their cancerous cells". The analogy holds true for all aspects of anorexia nervosa. People with ED do NOT choose to get it, just as cancer patients do not. The process of recovery from an ED is painful and tiring, just like cancer. Things always seem worse before they get better...at least I'm told.

I pray that one day I will recover 100%. I dream of the day where I can sit down and enjoy a meal, not giving it a second thought. Or what about the time when I will eat and not worry about gaining weight or looking fat?! What does recovery mean to me? EVERYTHING. It means getting my life back. It means going back to University and feeling healthy and strong. It means eating freely, not caring about my weight or appearance. It means feeling happy and confident with myself. Recovery is equivalent to freedom. Freedom from something so vile and terrible that it robs you of your entire life - literally or metaphorically. Freedom from thoughts and feelings that haunt you day and night, threatening to take every inch of your soul away.

Recovering from anorexia nervosa will be the greatest thing I have ever accomplished. And yet, although the road is a hard one, I am sure that my God will not forsake me. I am positive that I will suffer, that I will want to give up. But I won't. I will not stop trying until I make it. No matter how long it takes, no matter how much obstacles I must overcome.

Because recovery IS possible. And I deserve to recover.

Monday, 9 July 2012

More Time in the Hospital...

I was put on dialysis for 24 hours a day for 10 days. My body was extremely swollen because of my kidney failure. I had - shockingly - 30 pounds of 'water' that my body was holding on to because my kidneys could not process it. The dialysis was supposed to get rid of this water, in hopes that my kidneys would restart. But, as the doctor said openly to my parents, things did not look so good.

"She is the worst case we have ever seen. She is the youngest and most dangerous case out of all the ICU patients. That means she is the sickest one in the hospital," the doctor told us - on more than one occasion.

And so I was asleep - under the power of sedatives - for the entire month of May. I would sometimes wake up, only to feel extremely dizzy. The whole world around me appeared to be nothing but darkness. My room always looked black to me. The dialysis, along with the antibiotics, made my body weaker and weaker.

My body was fragile. My heart rate soared to about 140 beats per minute, the normal for my age being 60-100. My blood pressure (which has always been on the low side) became 180/90. The doctors had no choice but to begin giving me heart and blood pressure medication via IV to stabilize my condition. It seemed as though each and every single day, I was getting worse. My organs were all failing. It was only a matter of time, then, until everything shut down. Doctors, nurses, and even the custodians often witnessed my parents in tears. On countless occasions, my parents were asked whether or not they had any other children. It was plain for everyone to see - I was dying. The only question was when.

And then it happened. I say this with disbelief, knowing that what I experienced was nothing short of a miracle. On May 31, the doctor came in to tell me that they were going to remove the breathing tube. He said that he was sure that I was able to breathe on my own. I remember two nurses coming in and telling me to take three deep breaths. They said that on the third breath, they would pull out the tube.

And pull out the tube was just what they did. I remember taking in a deep third breath and feeling the tube slide up against my throat. I stared in amusement and horror as I realized how large that tube was. The next day, the nurse came to stitch my neck, as it was cut open from where the dialysis tubing was attached. I remember putting my hand to my neck and feeling a large metal suture to my neck.

"It has to stay there," the nurse said. "Because you'll be getting dialyzed in four hour sessions now, instead of for 24 hours".

This time, however, I felt the dialysis because I was awake. It was a horrible feeling. Watching the blood leave your neck out of one tube, and seeing it enter (this time filtered) through another tube. Not being able to move - even an inch - for four hours straight. Shivering in terror because you are losing your blood. Feeling empty on the inside. I pray that neither myself nor anyone else ever has to experience this.

After a week, I was doing fairly well. I was still receiving the tube feedings, but this time it was only overnight. I was eating, though still not enjoying it. I still had negative thoughts and terrible feelings. But at least I was alive.

I was released from the ICU the second week of June, and was then a patient on the ward. The tube feedings continued, but I had healed from the pneumonia and also no longer needed dialysis. My blood tests showed large improvements in my liver and kidneys. My heart was also getting stronger. Although I didn't like to admit it, I knew that it was the nutrition I was getting that made me better. Food, and God. God has been by my side throughout this entire journey. The doctors and nurses did not believe that I was leaving the ICU alive. Neither could my family. All we could do was thank our Lord, who stretched out His glorious hand to save his daughter. Not to mention all the prayers and support of my family, friends, and Church community. Food, prayers, and love.

It got me through. I was released from the hospital on June 21, 2012.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Can't...Breathe...

I woke up from a nap at 2 p.m., grasping my chest with my right hand. I could not breathe. I gasped, desperate to get any amount of air into my lungs. It was hopeless, useless. My lungs were bailing on me.

My dad called the RACE (Rapid Assessment of Critical Events) team to come to assess me. Upon examination, it was determined that my intercostals and diaphragm (the muscles of breathing) were way too weak because of my being underweight. And so, I was unable to breathe properly. I was instantly given an oxygen mask.

The next day, I still could not breathe, despite the oxygen mask. I also developed a harsh cough. The doctor discovered that I had caught pneumonia. He was hesitant to give me antibiotics because of my small size, but he realized that since my immune system was too weak, I could have very well died from the pneumonia. So, I was started on a potent antibiotic to battle the pneumonia. I thought that my life could not get any worse...

Later that day, the doctor revealed that my blood tests showed an abnormally low hemoglobin count. I was severely anemic, and my body was not able to produce enough blood on its own. I need a blood transfusion, and fast. And a blood transfusion was what I got. However, my body rejected the new blood, so I got a fever.

The next day, I woke up again with severe shortness of breathe. I was so scared, and so was my family. The doctor came and informed me that the only way I would be able to breathe again was to have a breathing tube inserted. This is basically a long tube attached to a machine (called a ventilator). It provides the patient with a means of 'breathing' - it basically does the breathing for you and is a form of life support. You cannot talk with this tube in.

The nurses took me - on my bed - to the ICU. I watched in agony as the doctor prevented my parents from entering the room. They both had tears streaming down their faces.

"MOM! DAD! Don't leave me! I'm scared!" I said, hardly able to catch my breath.

"Just relax. Breathe. Breathe", the nurse said.

Well, if I COULD breathe, we wouldn't be here now, would we?!

That was the last thing I remember before I was totally knocked out (the doctor gave me a sedative needle to put me to sleep so that he could insert the breathing tube).

Two days later, I was very uncomfortable with the tube. I called for the doctor (using a clipboard and pen to communicate with everyone), and demanded that he remove the tube. He said that he should not because I still needed it. However, my persistence drove him crazy, so he removed it.

Big mistake.

Three days later, I was literally dying. I could not breathe at all. Despite being 100% on the oxygen mask, my body did not have any energy to breathe. The doctor rushed in.

"If you want her to live - even for a few more hours - we need to insert the breathing tube again", he told my parents.

And so there I was again, with a breathing tube down my throat. This time, my case was so severe that the doctor put me on a heavy sedative to keep me asleep (the breathing tube causes tremendous pain for the patient). That was May 9, 2012. Meanwhile, I was still receiving the antibiotics for my pneumonia. My hemoglobin was still low, so I had to receive 3 more blood transfusions.

I was - literally - put to sleep for the entire month of May. Oh, yes. But there was something else wrong with me at the time. My kidneys had shut down. The solution?

Dialysis.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

First Days in the Hospital

I thought I could rule the world. Fool the doctors. Look stubborn in front of the hospital staff, not eat, and be kicked out of the hospital for noncompliance.

I was dead wrong.

I hardly ate the first two days in the hospital (I was still in the ER, waiting for a room). After two days, the nephrologist (kidney doctor) showed up in my room.

"Your kidneys have shut down. They have shrunk to the size of a three year-old's kidneys. They aren't working properly. You need to eat and drink, if you do not want to die", he said.

I smiled at him smugly. These words meant nothing to me. Absolutely nothing. It's not that I did not understand him. I did. But the thought of eating and drinking was too scary. Maybe I'll eat and drink some more, I thought. Just to keep myself living. Perhaps my kidneys will get better if I do. NO! Don't eat. Don't drink. You can't. You will get fat. Is that what you want? ALl your hard work, done with? To be fat, obese, with everyone making fun of you? You don't need food. The doctors are just trying to scare you. You are stronger. You'll show them. Okay ED. You are right. I don't need to eat. These doctors are trying to use scare tactics to get me to eat. Well, I'll show them whose boss.

Or so I thought.

After half an hour, the doctor ordered that I have a 50% dextrose solution IV. I went hysterical. I instantly grabbed my phone and searched how many calories were in dextrose. To my horror, I read that 50mL of dextrose had 3 CALORIES! I argued, protested, and wailed at the doctor. He looked at me and said, "This won't make you fat. Heck, it won't make you gain weight. We are just trying to keep you living".

Humph! Well, I thought, if they are getting calories into me through this nasty IV, I'll eat less. I look back now and regret it all. Because before I knew it, the doctor came in and announced that I would be getting a feeding tube - also known as a nasogastric tube.

"NO!" I howled. "I'll eat! I do not want that nasty tube up my nose. Just give me a chance, I'll eat".

"You had a chance to eat before," the doctor replied. "And we have seen that you cannot do it. You are getting the tube. Now, lay down on your back. And swallow when I tell you to".

I had no choice. I cried as I swallowed the tube, feeling its rubbery end scratch my nostril and throat as the doctor pushed it up my nose. Now, I apologize if this sounds nasty. But it is what really happened. A nasogastric tube is basically a tube that is put up a patient's nose. It reaches down into their stomachs. This tube is connected to a machine that has a bag. The nurses fill the bag with some kind of weight-gain formula, such as Ensure or Resource. And so, you get 'fed' through your nose. Needless to say, it is NOT a pleasant experience.

And so, I vowed that I would eat more, hoping that they would take the stupid tube out my nose. I ate the meals that the hospital would give me. But the stinkin' tube feedings kept going. The doctor refused to remove it.

I thought I would be out of the hospital relatively soon, especially since I was eating more now. I expected to leave within two weeks or so. That was assuming that nothing else went wrong - that I didn't have any sudden complications or problems.

I wasn't that lucky.


Friday, 6 July 2012

The Journey Begins - Friday April 27, 2012

I'm at home, typing up the latest of my assignments. My dad comes home early. I stop - why is he here so soon? He goes into the family room and speaks with my mother. I am called to their presence, where I am told the most horrific news of my life:

 'You need to go to the hospital', my mom said. "You are too sick to stay here. You need help. We need you to get better. You are so sick and unhealthy. Please, get into the car. We are driving you to the emergency room".

Ouch. My mind began spinning in circles. Here I was, in my home on a seemingly normal day, and being told that I had to get myself into the hospital. "NO!", I shouted. "I won't go. I can get better. I'll eat, I promise. Just give me a chance. Don't make me go. STOP!"

But there was no point in trying. For months, my parents and sister had helplessly watched me fall into the depths of anorexia, losing more and more weight with each day. Skipping meals. Pretending that I had eaten. Eating very little amounts of food. Holding up my pants because they were getting looser around my hips. Enough was enough. I was going to the hospital - there was no room for any discussion.

So, I got into the car and we arrived at the ER...in my pyjamas. I still remember all the weird looks I got as I walked into the ER with my pink and black polka-dotted PJs. I protested to change my clothes before leaving, but my parents argued that there was no time. I was dying, and they knew it.

The ER nurse looked at me and asked, "why are you here?".

"I have no idea...my parents brought me here", I said, secretly praying that I would be released and not admitted.

"She's not eating. She is too thin. She is dying", my dad said. No doubt, my parents both endured sharp and angry glances from me. I was definitely not pleased with their decision to bring me there.

The nurse weighed me. '53 pounds' was the number on the scale. She stared at me, her mouth way open. She was probably wondering how I could be living at such a deadly weight. "You are 53 pounds!" she exclaimed. I said nothing. I knew I was thin. Of course.

And so, within five minutes (literally!), I was admitted. I had blood tests done. The results were, not shockingly, terrible. My liver had shrunk. My kidneys had stopped working. My heart was failing - it was equivalent to the function of that of a dying 85-year-old. My lungs were not working properly. My muscles had atrophied. My bones were brittle. My skin was dry. My hair was falling out. In summary...I was playing games at death's door.

I screamed, full of anger at how my parents could have brought me to the hospital. I was frustrated, knowing all too well that I would not be released the same day. I asked the doctor when I could go home. He gave a smirk (I'm NOT joking!), and he said, "you'll be here for a while. You are not going home for a while".

That was the first day I stayed in the hospital. Friday April 27, 2012. I thought it would be a short stay: I'd eat, show them that I could eat, and then go home. Little did I know how long and difficult of a journey I was in for...

Thursday, 5 July 2012

About this Blog

This is the story of a girl's journey throughout an illness. A terrible illness that controls your entire life. Something so horrid that it, in fact, can end your life within days - even seconds. I'm talking about anorexia nervosa. The disease is powerful. Day by day with less and less food, the illness threatens to take your life away. And you may not even realize that you are dwindling away into nothingness. That's the cleverness of the eating disorder.

But this is not meant to be a sadistic and depressing blog. It's really just my way of letting the world know about this vile thing called anorexia. Here you'll find stories of my journey with the illness, but you will also read about the positive steps I've taken on my way to recovery. I am in no way recovered just yet, but each day brings me one step closer to freedom. I pray that you will find something in this blog. Perhaps you know someone with an eating disorder - this may help you understand the challenges that they face daily. Or maybe you suffer from an eating disorder. I hope that this will help you realize that you are not alone, and that recovery IS possible.

And so the journey begins...