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After looking back, I decided that posting my Goodbye letter to Ed so that new readers can read where I’m at in my recovery is probably a good idea. The letter gives a good idea of not just where I am now in my journey, but where I’ve been. Some history.

It also updates those who read my old blog as to where I am now, so that you’ll be ready to read my next post which is how things have been going since the letter. It also nicely ties in my eating disorder and sobriety.

As a reminder:

My dietitian asked me to write a goodbye letter to my eating disorder. I’ve known Ed (“eating disorder”) intimately for almost my whole life. When I was little, I overate purposely because I believed it would stop me from being abused. In the naiive mind of a child, I thought that if I was fat, no one would fine me attractive, and they’d just leave me alone. In other words, I overate to hide.

When college came, I snapped and went in the other direction. My life felt out of control. I needed control. I felt better about myself, felt on top of the world with every calorie I cut out and every pound I dropped. I ran on the treadmill until I hit the ground–working out over four hours a day. I exercised until I was too tired to think anymore–too tired to hurt anymore.

I was eventually hospitalized involuntarily, and that is when my journey of recovery began. It’s been a long four years, and I have gotten better, relapsed, gotten even better, and then relapsed even more. It’s been up and down and sometimes, unfortunately, my life has been touch and go. But four years later, I am as far along as I have ever been.

Seeking to help me find a mental disconnect, to help me to realize that I do not need to use food to control my life and to calm my anxiety, my dietitian asked me to write a goodbye letter to my eating disorder.

As an fyi, for those that know me as Allison, I’m in the process of changing my name (well, my middle name). I generally go by my new middle name, Alex.  Want to learn more about why? Visit my gender blog–The link is in my blogroll to the right.

Here it is:

Dear Ed,

As I’m sitting down to write this letter, I’m realizing that I have a lot of mixed feelings. Over the years, you have served an enormous and significant purpose for me, one that has quite possibly kept me going and hanging on, and one that has helped me question my relationship with drugs and alcohol, as well as my respect for myself and for life in general. However, while you have allowed me to do many positive things with my life by distracting me from the chaos, you have also wreaked havoc in other areas of my life. I am extremely intelligent, but can no longer function at 100% because my time and energy is being devoted to obsessing about food, calories, weight, and body image. At any given moment, I am either judging myself for the previous meal, running a tally of input/output in my head or deciding which food rules to follow at the next meal. I have restricted, binged, purged using laxatives, diuretics, and exercise. I have run myself into the ground until I have collapsed. I have put you first when you did not deserve to come first. Now, I will come first. Ed—you served your purpose, you helped me with what I needed help with, but I no longer need your help to control my life. Your empty promises gave me hope, which I desperately needed at the time. However, now I have real, worthwhile promises—promise of a better life, of a better me.

As a child, I learned to look to you to shove down my feelings, to numb my pain. I used you as a way to keep going. I overate to hide. I thought that if I hung on to you, I could eat so much that creepy old men wouldn’t like me any more. I hung on to you when I felt lonely and worthless. Children dealing with trauma need these ways to escape, to keep faith in their life. But I am not a child anymore.

In college, I started to look to you for hope and self-confidence. I was at a really desperate place in my life, and felt completely alone and isolated. With every pants size that dropped, I felt better about myself. For every meal I skipped, every calorie I cut out, I found control. A high. Every mile I ran like a hamster in a hamster wheel made me more and more numb. Erased the pain, calmed me down.

With that high, however, you helped me to let go of alcohol and drugs. Being distracted from the daily pains of life and being so caught up in calories had a plus side. Obviously, with the calories went alcohol (it obviously has calories). This gave me time to go to AA and reevaluate my decisions and my life. I realized why I was drinking and stopped myself before I lost even more…

Unfortunately, however, I became addicted to and dependent on you. No matter how much I tried, no matter how much I curled up in a ball and cried, I could not let go of you. No matter how much I hated the metallic taste of blood and bile, or the way I got dizzy upon standing, I still fell for the lies you told me. I still thought I needed you. You were my crutch. But just like with a crutch used for any injury, there is a time to let go. If someone is in pain, a crutch will help them while they heal and get stronger. But if it is used for too long, muscles atrophy and the person is actually weaker. You were my crutch. You helped me get stronger, but now it is time to let go.

I remember sitting with my friend’s mom in a diner. She wanted to ask me about my food intake and realized things were going poorly. I ordered a salad; she made me get a tuna steak on it to “get some protein in me.”  I remember sitting there in the diner staring at a salad–lettuce and vegetables. I remember starting to cry because I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t eat it.

I remember walking into my bathroom in my dorm. Leaning over the toilet to purge. Over and over and over. I stood up, and put another mark on the tally on my wall—my doctor always asked me how may times I had purged in the past week, and I started to lose count because it was so often. It was easier to just keep a tally.

I remember sitting in my doctor’s office when she told me I would die within a few months if I didn’t make some changes. That I would be hospitalized soon if I didn’t “listen.” I looked down on my labs and saw a series of “L’s” meaning “Low.” Hypokalemic, Hyponatremic, Hypoglycemic, Anemic. My body slowly wasting away.

I remember fainting while exercising, my heart rate irregular and tachycardic. Someone called 911. It was that night that I, at the age of 18, was diagnosed with Atrial Flutter, and later Atrial Fibrillation. I remember laying in the hospital bed, hooked up to wires and with an uncomfortable oxygen tube in my nose. My heart rate now low after cardioversion, what they called “rebound bradycardia.” Ticking away at a meek 49 beats per minute, my blood pressure now 90/60, where it remains to this day. I remember my cardiologist coming in, after driving two hours from New York City to tell me that I needed to go see a surgeon in Hartford.

Let me give you some basic info, Ed. Look up Atrial Fibrillation online. It’ll tell you that the risk increases with age, and that up to 10% of people over the age of eighty have AFib. 80. I was eighteen. Laying in a bed for cardiac catherization, while the man in the room next to me was coding. All because I decided that being thin, purging, and controlling my life was more important to me than I was as a person. All because I believed the lies you told me, the false hope you provided me.

I remember being held in the infirmary at school for weeks on end. The first face I saw in the morning was my therapist, bringing me an Ensure Milkshake at 7 AM. Yes, Ensure mixed with ice cream. After that hour, I was with you, so it was probably the most calories I had all day.

I remember the awkward silence when my friends Aunt didn’t know she was on speaker phone and exclaimed: “How’s Allison? She eating yet?”

I remember being diagnosed with Celiac Disease, which is triggered by a stressful event—virus, extreme stress, surgery, etc. I remember zoning out as I got the news in an appointment with my dietitian—hearing some words, but not all of them. Only thinking “Great. Another thing to deal with.” I remember her saying that it was manageable, but that it had happened in other predisposed patients of hers during the course of their eating disorder, an extreme stress on the body.

Now, I remember you every morning, when I take my list of medications. Drugs that I will now take for the rest of my life, because I have known you so intimately. Two for low blood pressure, drugs to decrease stomach contractions for Celiacs.

These are my moments with Ed.

All of these moments have given me perspective in life. They’ve allowed me to help and touch so many people, to pull them from your grip and give them the reality—the reality that I have now realized. That they, along with myself, have hope. That life does not have to be that way. That no one, including myself, should waste their valuable time and energy obsessing about food and calories all day. That they are worth more than that; That I am worth more than that.

I am an amazing individual. I have cared more in my short time on this Earth than many do in a lifetime. I was only fourteen when I was told by someone that I inspire them to be a better person. I have known more pain and more heartache than many do, but I have stood up every time I was knocked down. I am a good friend and a good girlfriend. I am intelligent, I am worthwhile. I know that I will make a difference on this planet, that my existence on this planet is meaningful.

I met a person who helped me realize all of this while I was helping her to do the same. Fortunately, every day she helps me to realize more and more–to have lightbulb after lightbulb. On good days, I look in the mirror and I like myself. The positive voices in my head drown you out, and you become a quiet murmur in the back of my head. Even in desperate moments, I realize that I have the support I need, and I do not need to go back to you any longer. Some days, when it’s really bad, you seem tempting—the lure of that power and control, the numbing silence after purging or running until you collapse. Slowly but surely, as I become empowered, however, you are losing your power.

Finally, I am learning to own my life. With the help of my therapist, I have learned an essential key to life—when I take away a secret, I take away that secret’s power. If I am not ashamed of my battle with an eating disorder, or with cutting, or with alcohol and drugs, these things have no power over me. I can talk about them and not be anxious. As I own my life and my history with you, you lose even more of your power. Every time I food journal, every time I tell my story, your grasp on me loosens more and more.

So, Ed, it is time to call it quits. We’ve had a long history, but sometimes, it’s better when people part ways. I am a better person for having known you, and I would not take my experience back for anything. However, this is the end of our friendship. I no longer want to know you intimately or hear your goals for me. I will not follow your rules; I do not need you to coach me along in my journey.

Sincerely,

Alex

Stay tuned for life since the letter, where I left off with my old blog…

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