"I've always liked the time before dawn because there's no one around to remind me who I'm supposed to be, so it's easier to remember who I am."

-Brian Andreas

Sunday, January 6, 2013

the letter N

(continued from previous post..."the family night")

That is how Uncle Buddy came to save our phone time from ever being interrupted again, and that is how he forever sealed his spot in my heart. I think of Uncle Buddy almost every day. Rarely does something not remind me of him; a Harley Davidson motorcycle, a large great dane (which sounds redundant but Uncle Buddy not only has an exceptionally large great dane, he has two), a bottle of Tabasco sauce, which I'm sure he'd drink from with a straw should that be socially acceptable, a southern draw, a big smile, a perfectly made bed, he taught me everything I know about making a bed, African art (his house is covered in it), and a balanced checkbook, another life lesson I would never have mastered without his help, even at age 23.

Uncle Buddy married Amy when I was in college and I loved her as an aunt instantly upon meeting her. She had a realness about her that most people in my immediate and extended family lacked. When it came time for me to go to treatment, she was there right by Uncle Buddy's side and mine, and it was then that I came to love her as a mother. For the remainder of my time in treatment there wasn't a day that went by that I didn't talk to at least one of them. Amy called me every night before bed. Amy picked me up on family outing days and took me shopping, got my hair cut and helped me feel a sense of normalcy at least once a week. Amy told me I was the daughter she never had and together we would laugh and cry over coffee and hot chocolate.

I no longer believe in the idea of perfection as something to be reached by humans, but I do believe that given the skin we're in and the sky we're under, things can be imperfectly perfect. That said, I think Amy is perfect for Uncle Buddy. My time in treatment would have looked extremely different without the two of them being so accessible and available to me. I continue to find myself grateful that the Lord intervened when I planned to go to California for treatment and sent me instead to the cold, cold land of Illinois.

Days went by in treatment where I would sit and stare out the window, much like you would see in the movies. I couldn't tell if watching the snow fall so intently made me feel more crazy or less crazy, but I was drawn to it nonetheless. I paid less and less attention in groups as I watched the snow outside cover the ground more and more. I so badly wanted to go outside and play but two things stood in my way. One being that I was on exercise restriction until I gained more weight. Exercise restriction meant that not only could I not exercise, I couldn't even walk to the cafeteria. A van came and picked up the underweight girls and carried us all of twenty feet. We spent more time loading and unloading in and out of the van than the other girls spent walking to the cafeteria. Heaven forbid we burn a calorie in a thirty second walk.

The other thing that stood in the way of me playing in the snow was my inability to stay warm. Whether it be my southern heritage or being underweight for my height, no matter how much I layered, I was constantly cold. Even before moving to Illinois, while still in the warm climate of South Carolina, there was a certain season of life where I can't remember not being cold. As some of the other girls in treatment joked, "you know you might be anorexic if you're in a heated room and you're experiencing hypothermia." The more I learned to speak up in treatment, the more frequent I would ask someone to turn the heat up, eventually one of the crack head girls would respond, "eat a cheeseburger!" "Don't be a bitch," one of the bi-polar girls would yell. All of the girls more often than not supported and loved each other, but we each had our moments when we thought everyone else was absolutely ridiculous, and didn't hold back in letting each other know.

One of those moments where the girls found themselves pitting themselves against each other instead of the staff involved the game Scattergories. It started out as a fun game time to get everyone's mind off of the intense group time, but it turned into a yelling match between the eating disorder girls and the substance abuse girls. Depending on the eating disorder, I'd say the substance abuse girls stood a better chance physically, after all, the anorexics were too tired to physically fight, but considering the fact that they had been hungry for the last few years, they were an extremely angry group of people. They were "hangry," as some people like to call it.

When I entered treatment I was clincally diagnosed with Eating Disorder N.O.S (Not Otherwise Specified). What started out as anorexia turned into bulimia and by the time I entered treatment I was so fully engaged in both, restricting for days then binging and purging, that it couldn't really be classified as one or the other. Or so they said. I have no problem identifying myself as either one. Call me what you will, an angry anorexic or a bi-polar bulimic, I've tasted both and I'm proud of how far away I've come from each. For the sake of this particular story involving Scattergories, I was one of the angry anorexics, not to mention I was cold, so I was extremely irritated. It's only a matter of time before even the sweetest of girls snaps when she's hungry, angry, tired and cold. It was a long time coming.

The game proceeded as Scattergories does... You roll the dice, it lands on a letter, you have a little sand timer that gives you a certain amount of time to come up with a list of words within a certain category; those words have to start with the letter the dice landed on. I remember Lauren, my roommate who was in the facility for severe depression, was in my group. I remember her sitting on the couch and quietly and calmly saying a word or two to the girl who was writing our words down. Everyone else was intensely whispering and interjecting quietly enough for the other team not to hear but not quietly enough to actually be quiet. I remember Lauren's peacefulness amongst the chaos. Perhaps it was more her depression than it was her peacefulness, but I think sometimes the two can co-exist. After a few rounds, the dice rolled and landed on the letter N. Within the list of categories was "things you're afraid of."

Things you're afraid of that begin with the letter N? I didn't even hesitate. Being both afraid of and addicted to food, it made sense to me, as it did to the other eating disorder girls on my team, to write in the blank NUTRIENTS. Sure, nutrients are good for you, but seeing as how having nutrients meant having food, in my disordered and distorted thinking, I was legitimately afraid of nutrients, especially if I had no control over how they got in my body. The teams were mixed as far as ED girls and girls with other issues, so the game didn't start segregated, but it ended that way.

After the timer ran out, the time came for everyone to read their answers. The other team went first and then my team. I read off our answers that started with N and got down to the 5th or 6th category, "things you're afraid of," I said, "nutrients!" I was proud and I proceeded to finish reading our list until an alcoholic from the other team spoke up... "that doesn't count!" she yelled. "Why not?" I asked. "Because you can't be afraid of nutrients, they're good for you!" she said, as if I was an idiot for even suggesting it. "You can if you have an eating disorder!" I shot back, my blood beginning to boil already. "You're just using that as an excuse to win the game," another girl yelled, her lip ring increasingly pissing me off as she spoke, "no one is afraid of nutrients!"

A girl on her team who had an eating disorder tried to speak up, "yes they are," she said quietly but firmly. "Hell yea, they are!" I yelled, "who the hell are you to say what I'm afraid of? You don't know me," my inner black girl making an appearance, which I don't mean as a stereotype, I mean literally, a black girl in 7th grade taught me to verbally defend myself by saying "you don't know me!"

"I know you aren't afraid of nutrients," the alcoholic yelled, "you just couldn't think of anything else... that's so fucking stupid if you get credit for that!" I don't know if the Behavioral Health Assistants liked watching things escalate to the last minute or not, but they made no effort to defend me, so I did what any girl in my situation would have done, I snapped.

"Are you fucking kidding me!?" I yelled, "I'm making up something about my eating disorder to win a game of fucking Scattergories!? You think I'm fucking proud of being afraid of food and anything related to it?" At this comment other eating disorder girls chimed in, "yea, what the hell!?" A bi-polar girl sat in the corner screaming for everyone to shut up and calling every one stupid. Girls started calling her stupid, to which she so eloquently responded, just as I would have, and later did, "FUCK YOU!"

The alcoholic girl kept yelling, "that is the dumbest thing I have ever heard in my life, if nutrients are good for you and something you can eat because they are good for you then why would you not want something with nutrients in it? It just doesn't make sense! It's so fucking stupid!"

"You're stupid!" an eating disorder girl yelled and started crying. My anger grew, "why don't you try going to a bar and only having one drink!?" I yelled, "oh wait, that's right, you can't just have one because you're a fucking child who can't control her alcohol!" She laughed, "I'm the child? I'M THE CHILD!?" the volume of her voice increasing, "at least I can eat a plate of food without being afraid it was going to kill me!" "Or without throwing it up!" the girl with the lip ring yelled. Back and forth girls yelled, all of us mis-understanding each other and the addictions we all had. We each had fears, we just failed to understand that they looked different.

Above the voices, a BHA finally chimed in and told the girls to calm down, that the word "nutrients" wouldn't be counted and to move on. I was pissed and my least proud moment up to that point took place. In my anger, I looked at the heavy set BHA and yelled out, "you can't do that! It's not fair, that's a legitimate fear! Maybe if you were more afraid of what you ate you wouldn't be such a fat ass!" The room got quiet, as did the BHA. The other girls started to snicker. Breathing heavily, I turned bright red and quietly said I was sorry. I dropped the list of words that began with N and said I didn't want to play anymore.

"Fine, just count it," the girl with the lip ring said, "whatever." The BHA was still quiet. "NO, I don't care," I yelled, "whether you count it or not doesn't make it not real, I just wanted to prove that it was a real fear but forget it, you don't get it! You don't fucking get it!" I started to cry. I was angry, angry that being afraid of food was real. Angry that it had been my reality for so long. And angry that it didn't make sense to other people, or even me. I was also jealous, jealous that my issue wasn't alcoholism or drug use, for that seemed more legitimate and more "normal" of a struggle. I didn't understand the other girl's inability to just have one drink anymore than she understood my inability to eat without throwing up. We were both in a struggle, with a lot in common, but instead of bonding over the struggle, we focused on our differences and created division in our lack of understanding each other.

The BHA remained silent as girls started to file out of the room. I said nothing, not even "I'm sorry," other than the whisper of it I got out just after calling her a fat ass. I went to my room, crawled under the covers and cried. I hated where I was, I hated what I struggled with, and I hated who I had become. The only feeling that seemed to pulsate through my body at the time was hatred. As I cried, another BHA came into my room and said it wasn't nap time. "I'm not napping," I cried as I hicupped. "I know," she said cooly, "but you're in bed and it's not time for that." I was so angry that I aggresively threw the covers off of me and cried as I walked swiftly past her back out into the group room. "I hate this," I said under my breath.

"I know," she said, "I'm glad you do."

To be continued...

Friday, December 28, 2012

the family night

(continued from previous post "the uncle")

To better execute the portrayal of Uncle Buddy's rescue scene, I need to introduce a few more characters, at least two for now.

Part of the treatment process involved many group sessions. All sorts of groups. It was as if they were coming up with group names just to keep throwing us into more and more groups. Some of the groups were led by inexperienced behavioral health assistants; these groups frustrated me the most. Other groups were led by top experts in their fields. Unfortunately, as you may or may not guess, it was the most beneficial groups that met less than any of the other groups.

One of those said groups led by field experts was psycho-therapy. While the duo that led this group were more than qualified for leading and facilitating the girls in group discussion, I often left having felt like I didn't get much out of it, but probably because I never spoke up.

Dan and Jen, or more professionally known as Dr. Dan and Dr. Jen were highly sought after by patients both in the facility and out. Psychiatrists with top notch credentials and rumors that Dr. Jen herself had personal experience with an eating disorder in her past, these two were the "big dogs," so to speak, on campus. I was originally disappointed to not be assigned to either one as my personal psychiatrist, seeing as many girls were, but I remained content with my pill pushing psychiatrist since I would be seeing the both of them in a group setting.

Prior to our first group I remember thinking it was going to be the best group the facility had to offer, but I soon realized that not much of it was actually going to be beneficial since there were about six girls in the group and each one of them would be vying for time. Problems don't get solved in an hour, let alone for six people.

Dr. Jen impressed me right off the bat. It seemed that everything I heard about her was true, including the rumors about her history with an eating disorder. In all honesty, I think what I liked most about her was not her intellect, her interest in the patients, or even her calm and confident aura, it was the fact that she looked like she still had an eating disorder. It was as if I wanted to tell her that her secret was safe with me; I wouldn't let on to the fact that she still had an eating disorder if she could help me figure out how I too could maintain my unhealthy figure with a doctor's title and credentials. It should be noted that while maybe in her past, in our current situation with her as our doctor, she didn't actually have an eating disorder. But, in all vain honesty, I was not impressed by her ability to help me, I was impressed by her ability to stay so thin.

Dr. Dan, on the other hand was less impressive, physically speaking. As I was sizing the two of them up in my mind's eye I remember thinking in regards to Dr. Dan, "you may be the head honcho in the psychiatry field, but I bet you don't know your way around a gym." Some of these thoughts are still difficult for me to write out, revealing how shallow my heart and mind were, and in many ways still are. Dr. Dan was an older man with a generous sized belly. He combed his salt and pepper hair over to the side, though I don't remember which side. He seemed nice enough, but probably because I started to feel a little bad about the judgments I made about his appearance.

More than anything else, What I didn't like about Dr. Dan was that he always seemed to be trying to stay awake in our group, as if we were boring him to sleep. He would try to hide his yawns by awkwardly smiling and showing all of his teeth, but I knew what he was doing. It seemed that his eyelids weighed more than he did as he struggled so often to keep them open. Because of this I found it hard to take him seriously and even more so to trust him.

Only a few nights after our group time went over time and cut into phone time, the parents of all of the patients were invited to a family night hosted by Dr. Dan and Dr. Jen. Parents and patients came together to discuss anything they wanted with the doctors, a great opportunity for any lingering questions or suppressed criticisms to be released. Seeing as how my parents lived in South Carolina, it was dear Uncle Buddy who proudly arrived as my father figure.

The evening started calmly enough, but as more mothers wanted to know when their daughters would either start eating again or stop using heroin, the heat kicked on and people started getting agitated. If there is one group of people you don't want to agitate, it would be a group of bi-polar, heroin addicted, starving women. Such a group would make for a violent street gang. To Dr. Dan and Dr. Jen's credit, some questions just didn't have answers, after all who's to say that the length of treatment for one girl is going to look exactly the same for another girl? Not even doctors can make that call, and so when they didn't, girls got pissed.

As girls got pissed, Uncle Buddy got annoyed. If there's one person you don't want to annoy, it's a macho Harley man surrounded by a group of bi-polar, heroin addicted, starving women. Such a man would wipe a violent street gang right off of the street. While girls yelled back and forth, the somber and barely to be heard Dr. Dan tried to get people to calm down but to no avail. Dr. Jen must have left by this point because I don't remember her being present. Uncle Buddy leaned forward in his chair and unclasped his hands, he put his hand on my shoulder and asked if I was okay. I said I was and I suppose that was all he needed to hear in order to get going, "ALRIGHT," he yelled in his deep Southern voice, "AYE, AYE, ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT!" His arms spread out wide as he yelled. The girls got quiet, the mothers bounced their eyes in his direction, I knew they were admiring more than his ability to command a room, Uncle Buddy is also quite easy on the eyes, it's a family trait.

"Look," he said as he sniffed and scrunched up his mustache while staring at Dr. Dan, "I get that you don't have answers for how long the girls are in here, especially seeing as how it's for all different reasons that they're in here..." Dr. Dan looked relieved as if Uncle Buddy was going to come to his rescue. Dr. Dan didn't know Uncle Buddy. "So, whatever," Uncle Buddy said as he threw his hands up, "don't give an answer for that, but give me an answer for this... when you tell me that there are certain times I can call and talk to JJ and I call during those times, why then was I told the other night that I couldn't talk to her?"

"YEA," the other girls yelled as they recalled their anger from that night before being given sleeping pills to knock them out. "That's true," a mother chimed in, "I tried to call my daughter during phone hours as well and they wouldn't let me speak to her. Isn't that the purpose of having phone hours?" Concerned parents started agreeing that they wanted an answer for what happened the other night seeing as how there was already such a small window for them to be able to talk to their children. Dr. Dan shifted in his chair, "well it's my understanding that the groups ran a little late which cut into the phone time..." "Then extend phone time," Uncle Buddy interrupted. "YEA!" the girls yelled growing more and more fond of Uncle Buddy.

"Well," Dr. Dan said looking increasingly uncomfortable, "we want the girls to stick to a schedule as much as possible and if we start changing up the times of free time and phone time then we start to lose structure..." Uncle Buddy remained calm as he interrupted a few more times, each time Dr. Dan giving an excuse for what happened the other night. As Dr. Dan was fumbling over his words, Uncle Buddy started to stand up, "LOOK," he yelled, "if our daughters are in here day in and day out and we only have a small amount of time to talk to them, then you better be damn sure that we actually get to talk to them! You say you don't want to change up their schedule when it comes to their phone time, but you certainly don't have a problem changing up their schedule when it comes to their group time by making the group go longer and cutting out their phone time completely! Part of their schedule and their treatment should be that they get to talk to their parents if they want to (his voice growing louder and louder), so if I'm told that I can call at a certain time and talk to my daughter and I call during that time, then DON'T tell me it's too bad because your group went over! Pull her out of the group or end group time, I don't care what you do, but when I call DON'T EVER again tell me that I CAN'T talk to MY DAUGHTER!"

"YEAAA!!!!" the girls clapped and cheered. The other mothers nodded their heads in agreement, one mother fanning herself. "UNCLE BUDDDDDDY," one of the more gender neutral looking girls yelled in a deep voice. I was elated with pride. My heart skipped a beat when Uncle Buddy called me his daughter and I felt protected in a way that I never really had before. I don't think Uncle Buddy was even aware of the cheering that was happening around him, he was breathing heavy and staring intently at Dr. Dan as if to say "I dare you to challenge me on this." Dr. Dan, the man who I felt barely listened in our group sessions due to his inability to stay awake, looked bright eyed and bushy tailed as Uncle Buddy commanded the "conversation," which Uncle Buddy reminded him wasn't a conversation because there was nothing to discuss, it was as simple as "when I call during phone time, make sure JJ has a phone!"

Dr. Dan ended the family night and girls and mothers alike came around Uncle Buddy to agree with and thank him. Uncle Buddy smiled his big smile and pulled me close to him as he enjoyed everyone's compliments. Here was this macho Harley man, relating to the mothers of bi-polar, heroin addicted, starving women. It was then that I realized I wasn't going to be the only person in my family to be impacted by my reluctant choice to go to treatment. Whether he was aware of it or not, Uncle Buddy found himself in a role he had never played before and relating to people in circles he had never been a part of.

Uncle Buddy coming to my rescue was so tangible and measurable that it only confirmed my suspicions that I didn't need God. God's silence didn't discourage my belief in His existence, but it did encourage my belief in His lack of caring. Little did I know at the time that God caring could look like a macho man in a Harley jacket, God seemed more like a Dr. Dan who was trying to stay awake as I was discussing my problems.

Sometimes you think you know everything, as I did and often still do, and sometimes you realize you know nothing, as I have realized in the last six years since being in treatment. Though I wasn't at the time, I am more and more convinced that should I see God visibly and tangibly walking the earth today, He or She would probably be wearing a Harley jacket, and would most definitely be my buddy.

To be continued...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

the uncle

(continued from post 8/6/11 "the cries for help")

I don't remember much of the rest of that day other than getting extremely upset after every meal. I managed to throw away my salad dressing and a few other extra things, but I was still angry about the amount of food I had to eat. I explained to any BHA who would listen that my stomach literally felt like it was going to explode and there was no way it could physically hold that much food. I just kept saying it wasn't fair as I fought back the tears. 23 years old and I was crying at the dinner table because I had to finish what was on my plate.

Come dinner time the BHAs kept telling me to talk about it with the dietitian tomorrow. I felt like Princess Jasmine (minus the "perfect" body) in the movie Aladdin when the soldiers arrest Aladdin in the street and Jasmine, who's posed as a commoner, unveils her disguise and says "UN-HAND HIM! By order of the princess!" Everyone, including Abu, Aladdin's faithful monkey, is shocked that she's the princess and that she actually has a say in the matter regarding Aladdin's arrest. The soldiers kneel and apologize but the head soldier responds "I would, princess, except my orders come from Jafar, you'll have to take it up with him." The camera flashes to Jasmine and there she stands with her arms crossed and anger in her eyes as she says in a deep and disgruntled voice, "believe me, I will!"

As the BHAs told me to discuss it with the dietitian tomorrow I sat at the end of the table and replayed that scene with myself. I crossed my arms and with anger and disgust in my voice replied "believe me, I will!" I was trying to act like a bad ass, but at the same time trying not to laugh because I realized in my attempt to appear like a bad ass I was actually just re-enacting a scene from Aladdin, of all movies. Oh, if some people only knew what went on in my head... I might have stayed in treatment a bit longer.

Aside from the emotions in regards to my meals and exercise, the only other thing I remember from the second day is meeting with my psychiatrist. I don't even remember meeting with my therapist that day but a journal entry tells me I did and that I actually liked her. More on that to come.

My psychiatrist was a short, somewhat heavy set woman with just the slightest bit of curly hair on her chin. She appeared to be from the Middle East but seeing as geography was the last thing I cared about at that point I wouldn't be able to tell you from what part, but I would guess probably somewhere in the middle. She asked me so many questions though I sometimes felt as if she wasn't actually listening, but instead shaking her head and saying "ummhmm" right on cue. I told her about my anxiety and what I called "sort of depression." As a Christian I wasn't comfortable calling it depression because my understanding was that if you had Jesus then you shouldn't be depressed. But when I thought about the possibility of me not being a Christian anymore I started to feel more comfortable claiming the depression.

Once again, not being a Christian started to feel more freeing than it did lonely or scary. After all, not being a Christian was making me feel more honest than I had ever felt in my whole life. I didn't know it was okay to say "I am a Christian, and I have a problem," I always thought it had to be one or the other. I have since then realized that this is not so. Today my hope does not lay in the problems going away, my hope lays in the fact that I have Someone to carry me through them.

By the end of our session my psychiatrist, Dr. Lynn, had prescribed me to Prozac for depression, Buspar for anxiety, and Trazodone for sleeping. Before entering treatment I had previously been on medication for A.D.D., but since I had a history of abusing it in college she thought we might wait to see how I would do on the other medications before pumping my bloodstream with more... how kind. "Besides," she said, "prescribing Adderall to someone with an eating disorder is quite risky because it suppresses your appetite." Damn. I think she knew that was why I wanted it.

Though I did like the fact that Adderall suppressed my appetite, I also found that it helped me focus incredibly... I'm sure most college students would agree. I missed having that focus in life, even if it was chemically enhanced. Maybe my body needed the medication she prescribed me because it wasn't wired like everyone esles, but at the same time putting all those chemicals in my body without thinking I was abusing them was hard for me to accept. I trusted Dr. Lynn knew what she was doing simply because she was a doctor and I wasn't. I knew I didn't want to be on medication forever, but I also knew that I wanted to feel something other than nothing.

When I was actually experiencing emotion it was either anger or anxiety and I just couldn't do it anymore. The sleeping pill was optional and she told me I could take it as I felt I needed it, so I decided that I didn't need it, though I didn't tell her that. Like with my psychiatrist, when I first entered treatment I didn't say much of anything to anybody unless I had to. I mostly just listened and judged without saying a word. I kept thinking I wasn't as bad off as the other girls which I mis-led myself to believe that meant I didn't have a problem. People knew me as quiet and sad, but with spurts of "tamed anger" like my Princess Jasmine re-enactment at dinner. Only I knew that the anger deep down was so much more fierce than that of a Disney Princess, it seemed foolish to even relate it.

I remember before going to bed that night calling my aunt and uncle. Part of the reason my family decided on Illinois as the place for me to go to treatment was because my aunt and uncle, my dad's brother, lived 45 minutes from the facility. Seeing as there were not many options in South Carolina for treatment facilities, plus the fact that I just wanted to get away, my parents still wanted me to have family close by if I went off some where. If it had been solely up to me to pick a treatment facility I would have picked a spot nestled on the coast of California... give me the beaches and the warm weather any day. The idea of going somewhere as cold as Illinois was not appealing to me at all, but thankfully there was a greater plan than my own at work. Having my aunt and uncle close by helped me get through so much of my time in treatment. Girls often had visitors come to see them and I definitely underestimated how refreshing it was (and still is) to see a familiar face in a foreign land. I barely knew my aunt and uncle before moving to Illinois, mainly because of the physical distance between us, but during my time in treatment they became like a mother and father to me.

And now I introduce a most important character in this story...

Uncle Buddy. He is a man who has my heart unlike any other; not more so than my own father, and obviously in a much different way than a man I have fallen in love with, but Uncle Buddy's tough love brought warmth to my heart during a time when it was bitterly cold. Even if others were trying to say the exact same thing to me that he was, I never actually heard what they were saying until it came out of Uncle Buddy's mouth. He might still not know this, but those first few months of treatment seemed as if he were a translator, giving value to the words that other people tried to speak into my life. He's not quite what you would expect from the hard exterior, but the interior, which he would never admit to, is mostly warm mush. I think you might have to know Uncle Buddy a little bit better to truly understand what I mean. Allow me to try to paint a picture...

Picture Paul Teutul Sr. of Orange County Choppers (and if you don't know who I'm talking about click here), subtract some of the grey hair, take a little less off the mustache, but not much, add a thick southern accent (even after having lived in Chicago for twenty plus years), and combine the cooking abilities of Paula Dean, the decorating techniques of Martha Stewart, and the cigar smoking bad ass presence of X-Men's Wolverine, and there you have my Uncle Buddy. Some of it doesn't make sense, right? How can Martha Stewart and Wolverine be in the same category? I know, and you wouldn't understand it unless you met my Uncle Buddy. A true rebel at heart, with the physique to match, this man is not someone you want to mess with. That said, his capacity to love is overwhelming and his genuine smile makes Disneyland look boring.

Uncle Buddy and my Aunt Amy are the ones who suited me up in the flaming orange Harley Davidson jacket (see previous posts) . I'm not actually sure Uncle Buddy owns an article of clothing that doesn't say Harley Davidson. Not only does Uncle Buddy ride a Harley Davidson, he named his dog Harley David. If I were to play a word association game and the words "Harley Davidson" came up, I would say "Uncle Buddy."

So this macho man won my heart and my trust quite early on. His wife, Amy, loved me as if I were her own daughter, and the two of them welcomed me into their lives, not as a project to be fixed, but as a person to be loved.

My first month in treatment they called me every night before bed. One of my favorite memories of Uncle Buddy during this time involved one of his nightly phone calls.

Every night after snack we had our final group of the day to sort of do a check in before bed. After group we were allowed to have phone time for a short while which was always when Uncle Buddy or Amy would call. I don't remember the details, but I remember we were held in group longer than normal and we ended up losing phone time because of it. Uncle Buddy called and was told I was still in group. When he called again he was told group time went over and phone time was up, meaning he would have to call again tomorrow. As of the girls that night were upset that they didn't get to make or receive their phone calls. A few of them threw fits, and as I got more comfortable with my surroundings I cared less about what the staff thought of me and started to throw fits too. "My therapist told me I need to use my voice," I yelled, "so I am voicing that I need to use the phone! It is not my fault that group time went over, and it is not fair that I can't use it!" My favorite phrase when arguing in treatment was always to start my argument with "MY THERAPIST SAYS..."

I didn't win that argument, nor did anyone else. Extra BHAs were called in to calm girls down and take them to their rooms. After sleeping pills were distributed the night ended calmly, but I knew there was going to be someone who was going to be really upset, and I knew that if anybody could win that argument it would be him...

Uncle Buddy.

It was only going to be a few days later that I was going to see uncle Buddy come to my defense and make the director of the program think twice before ever cutting into phone time again.

(to be continued...)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

train rides

I'm currently in the middle of reading four different books. Technically three because one is a children's book and I've already read it, but I keep re-reading it and will continue to do so until I feel as though its lesson has sunk deep within me. I am not saying I'm in the middle of reading four books to brag about how much I read, I am saying I'm in the middle of reading four books because it reveals quite a bit about the way I do life... easily distracted and wanting more than what is in front of me.

Earlier this year I made a commitment to not start a book until I finished the one I was reading, and I did real good for a while. But, like with most causes or good intentions, I'm great at boarding the train in excitement and not so great at staying on for the long haul. After a while the train ride becomes monotonous and what started out as new and exciting soon becomes normal and boring. The problem is, I all too often mistake the excitement that comes with experiencing something new for joy or happiness. I assume I have found what it is I have been looking for and with a new found feeling of fulfillment I claim it as my own. But what once was new can't stay new forever and when those feelings of excitement start to fade, so does my confidence in thinking I have found what truly makes me happy.

I start to look around the train and after searching all the cars I realize I'm not going to find what fulfills me on board. I begin to look out the window and become enchanted by everything I pass. With a hunger for more, I begin thinking about getting off the train to go somewhere "better" and I start to feel the excitement all over again. Once again, I forget that "new" does not mean that it is "better" and I begin planning my escape. It may be a big city with bright lights, or a dark forest with beautiful trees, either way, the newness of it entices me and I assume my happiness must be found there.

I've been hopping on and off trains for far too long now. I feel like I should be much older than I am to be saying that, but when the search for fulfillment begins at such a young age, as it did for me, you start to wear out long before it's your time.

A dear friend of mine sent me a quote from one of my favorite authors, Henri Nouwen, who also happens to be the author of one of my four reading books at the moment. It struck a chord with me because for a man who accomplished so much, teaching at Notre Dame, Yale and Harvard, working with the homeless and people with mental handicaps, for example (which doesn't even scratch the surface of what I find amazing about him), he still found himself coming up empty and unfulfilled.

At 28, with no claim to fame or even much to my name (I did not mean to rhyme, but I may send that as a lyrical suggestion to eminem), even after giving into the excitement of new train rides leading to new locations, new jobs, new schools and new relationships over and over again, each time coming up empty, I confess, I'm still hoping the right train is out there for me to hop on and I just haven't found it yet.

That's not what I'm supposed to say, right? I'm supposed to say I'm tired of train hopping and I give up searching for happiness and I surrender all. And yes, there is truth to that, I want to be at that point, I honestly and sincerely want to be able to say without hesitation that I am tired of hopping the happy train that leads to disappointment, but I'm not there yet. And so maybe I can't honestly say to the Lord, "okay, I surrender all" because I'm afraid of things I have seen on my train rides, and my perception of God is so skewed that I assume if I surrender all then He is going to make me do the very thing I don't want to do.

I have started to realize that my problem is not with my fear, my problem is with my understanding of who God is. I want to know Him more, the real Him, not the Sunday School Him, but I know that requires even further surrender on my part. So I may not be able to say "I surrender all" yet, but I can say, "I want to be willing to surrender all."

I want to leave with you with the quote from Henri Nouwen my friend shared with me. I hope it speaks to you as it did to me, but perhaps in a way that relates to you.

"Today, I realized that the question of where to live and what to do is really insignificant compared to the question of how to keep the eyes of my heart focused on the Lord. I can be teaching at Yale, working in the bakery at the Genesee Abbey, or walking around with poor children in Peru and feel totally useless, miserable, and depressed in all of those situations. I am sure of it, because it has happened. There is not such a thing as the right place or the right job. I can be happy and unhappy in all situations. I am sure of it, because I have been. I have felt distraught and joyful in situations of abundance as well as poverty, in situations of popularity and anonymity, in situations of success and failure. The difference was never based on the situation itself, but always on my state of mind and heart. When I knew that I was walking with the Lord, I always felt happy and at peace. When I was entangled in my own complaints and emotional needs, I always felt restless and divided. It is a simple truth that comes to me in a time when I have to decide about my future. Coming to Lima for 5, 10, or 20 years is no great decision. Turning fully, unconditionally, and without fear to the Lord IS."

Today, I am thankful that my worth does not lay in the right location, the right job, the right school, or the right relationship. Because of this, I am willing to stop and rest and not try so hard to prove to the world and to myself that I am of value. At least for today, for this moment, I am going to watch the train pass by as I rest in the truth that I am deeply loved already and my need to go looking for it is no longer.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

true stories

It's quite curious to me how quick I am to stand up for and desire truth above much else, yet how slow I am to be willing to voice truth over saving face. The truth is my computer is on it's last breath, yes that's true. But to cite that as the sole reason for why I can't seem to continue to "truthfully" continue my story would be false. Do I owe anyone an explanation? No. Does it even matter for me to be telling my story on a blog? Probably not. But what I have found in the past is that regardless of the fact that others may or may not be listening, me simply voicing the truth is healing for me. And so here I go.

I can't bring myself to tell the rest of my story yet for a few reasons. The first would be the realization that as I go further into my story, other people's stories become involved; other people who may or may not be ready to tell their story or to have their story heard. I don't want to feed into my family history of hiding secrets so that no one thinks I struggle, believe me, I do, but I want to respect my friends and family who are going through their own healing processes. Truth is very important to me, I do not want to hide behind a smile anymore, so while I can be honest with where I am at, I realize not everyone is in the same place, and it may take them a bit longer to sort through their stuff before being able to be honest with where they are at. I wouldn't be very helpful to them if I was trying to rush their healing process just so I could share a great story on a blog. I hope and pray for healing in the lives of my friends and family, both immediate and distant, but I'm not quite sure it is my job right now to bring their struggles into the light.

While that reason seems quite good enough, it surely isn't what has paralyzed me in my writing. In fact, that reason makes me sound much nicer than I actually am. My rebellious side, which is more prominent, says "screw them and screw what everyone else thinks, I'm gonna shine some light all up in this darkness." Then I would take all the glory for being so honest. So yes, respecting other people's stories is a reason, but it's not the reason. To cite it as such would be to not take responsibility for where I am at in life. If I ever hope to become a better person, I have to start by being honest with where I am at.

So where am I at? (yes, grammar scholars, I know I'm not supposed to put "at" there, but guess what? I wanted to, so I did)

I am heart broken and alone. I am tired and emotionally drained. I am angry and bitter (if you couldn't tell by my comment above). I am cynical and skeptical. I don't trust anyone, and that is not an exaggeration. I know I have been the one to hurt others but I am so caught up in how much I have been hurt that I can't feel much else. I am sad and unmotivated and am pretty much ready to go to bed at night and just not wake up in the morning.

Now, before you call my parents or call some hot line for me or email me a bible verse, hear me out.

I am feeling and experiencing all of those things, yes, but I am okay, because it is okay for me to feel and experience all of those things. After a very difficult year, I would not be being honest with myself or with anyone if I wasn't feeling or experiencing those things. In fact, I would be void of emotion, completely numb.

Either that or dead.

If I expect my heart to be healed I have to start by being honest about its condition. It is weak and it is broken and there are days when it physically hurts, but I know that this pain is not forever. I know because it has been broken before and it has been healed before. I know because as surely as there are seasons of the year there are seasons of life. So yes, I have hope that as Sam Cooke said "a change is gonna come," but let's be honest, hope doesn't necessarily minimize the pain, nor do I think that it should. So when I say life is hard right now, I'm not looking for quick fixes or out of context Bible verses. I am just being honest with where I am at so that if God really is who He says He is, I can reveal who I really am and allow Him to fix, change, heal, or whatever it is He does so that He can draw me away from the pain I find myself in right now.

What comes after that? I don't know. Doesn't it seem like I should desire God for more than just making pain go away? Sure, I guess, but honestly, that is as far as I can see at the moment. To try and figure out how and why and what God is going to do once He heals me is to completely miss what He is doing right now. At this present moment, for me to say I desire God and God alone would be a lie. Do we ever just desire God alone while we live in our flesh? I don't know, perhaps there are some, but instead of trying to be like them, as I have before, I'm going to be honest with who I am and see what God does with that.

The trouble I find with sharing struggles or burdens with some Christians is that they so badly want to find a solution (they want to be God, just like I do) and when they can't find a solution they settle on the "fact" that you simply just don't have enough faith and you need to pray more. I don't even know where to begin on how damaging that "advice" can be to a person. To chalk up someones circumstances as a lack of faith is to assume one of two things: 1) that you are God and 2) that you are not God but you know the ins and outs of how God works and know exactly what He is doing in this person's life and based upon your full and miraculous understanding of God you have come to conclude that this person simply needs to pray more.

I don't mean to bash those people for giving such advice, I truly do believe that some people just want to find solutions for those they love because they don't want to see them hurting anymore. I understand that, I do. I guess what I am saying is that if you are ever on the receiving end of someones struggles, be quicker to listen than you are to speak.

Another trouble I find is this idea of story. Let me clarify... I love the idea of story, if I could be a professional storyteller, I would, but I hate that it only seems okay to tell a story when there is a clear beginning, middle and end. People love hearing people's stories when there is a happy ending and they can package it up and sell it in a book. Books about addiction, recovery, pain, loss, grief... everyone shares about their struggles after they have gone through them and are smiling on the other side. Why? Probably because that's when people want to hear them. I love hearing the recovered alcoholic tell his story, I don't like hearing the drunk say he wants help for the fifteenth time while I sit in disbelief and disgust in his choices. I admit, I don't mind hearing people's struggles when they talk about them in past tense. I have a really hard time hearing people talk about what they struggle with presently. I'm guilty of what it is I don't like, an unwillingness to walk through people's mess with them in the here and now. To take it even further, I determine how deep their mess is before I decide to wade through it, or even stick my big toe in for that matter. Maybe this is discernment, because I do think there is something to be said for that, but when all is said and done, mess is mess, and who am I to avoid someone in need because I think their mess is too messy. Too messy for what?

Perhaps I steered from the direction I was originally intending to go with this post. My intention wasn't to rag on other people in a passive aggressive fashion, though I suppose it could be interpreted that way. My intention was to be honest with where I am at. I am in the middle of telling a story of recovery with a "happy ending" while currently having a hard time in life. And so perhaps there are endings to seasons, but not really to our stories. I will keep telling mine, eventually, but know that it never really ends because life keeps happening. My heart will heal and this will be its own recovery story, but it doesn't mean I have recovered from grief and loss and pain all together. As long as I am breathing, I think hard times will come. But they will also go, and come, and go, and come.

Earlier this year I asked God to allow me to know Him more, to see His face and to walk hand in hand with Him. I thought that meant He would allow me to see and experience His wonders, all things glorious and beautiful. I thought of all the good things about God and thought by asking to know Him more I would get to know and see and experience some of those things. As the end of the year comes to a close I now see my own ignorance in my prayer. There is more to God than warm fuzzies and holy hugs, I knew that already, but I did not think of knowing God as knowing darkness, and seeing suffering in action and experiencing pain without a light at the end of the tunnel. I truly believe God answered my prayer, and is still answering it, but He certainly did not answer it in the way I thought He would.

To ask God to walk hand in hand with Him might not mean He walks you through green pastures, even if He's quite familiar with going that way, it may mean He walks you through the valley of the shadow of death, and you see things you never saw before, things you thought God would never associate Himself with. Lesson learned: be more specific when you pray. But I don't regret it. I don't regret that prayer and I am no longer angry at God for answering it. I thought my prayer was going to remove my pain, instead God walked me further into it, revealing to me the depth of it and allowing me to see what it would be like without Him. For me, to experience such pain is to know God more.

It terrifies me still because even after everything that was and is so challenging and difficult, I want to know God even more, but I don't want to hurt anymore. I think, however, that even though I want God to draw me away from my pain, He knows what I can handle, whether that be to take me further into it or to let me be still as I am.

I need to note that I am not saying that the formula to get to know God is to hurt severely. I don't think there is a formula. I think we have to allow God to be original in how He reveals Himself to each of us. I'm just sharing a bit of my story while I'm right in the middle of it.

I am hurting, but I am okay, because God has got me right where I am.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


until i can either get my ancient computer, barney, fixed or afford a new one, i am at the mercy of library hours and good neighbors for typing out the rest of "the story." if anyone is actually still reading at this point, there is more to come, it just may take a while longer. thanks for your patience and your willingness to have read up to this point.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

the cries for help

(continued from previous post... "the perfect patient")

After throwing my oatmeal toppings away, I walked proudly out of the kitchen and went and sat down in the lobby. I felt like doing a strut as I had regained confidence in my ability to control what I ate, even while in treatment. My life was falling apart around me and had been for the last few years, but as long as I could control what I ate, I felt like everything was going to be okay. Though I thought I was in control, something as "simple" as food had complete control over every part of who I was. Every thought, every move, every bite, every action was guided by how much weight I could lose, how much further I could run, and how many calories I could cut out. It was easy for me to think that I had dealt with the anger from my childhood or the many other heartbreaks and let-downs, of which I will touch on later, but the only reason it was easy for me to think all of that was simply because I was numb... to everything. What I didn't realize was that I didn't actually deal with any of those issues, I just stopped thinking about them because the only thing I could think about was food, food, food. There was no healing in my life, there was just numbing. And that's pretty much how I remember feeling during my early twenties... numb.

The problem with numbing... you can't just numb out the bad and only feel the good, you numb it all. Sure, I wasn't sad when I was thinking about food all the time, but I wasn't happy either. I was emotionless, driven only by what went in or out of my body. During that time period my mother once described me as a hollow shell, as if all the life had been sucked out of me. I functioned those years, but I wasn't living. My mind was sold out and my heart went right along with it. My mother was right. Didn't someone say once that mothers always are!?

So, day two at the facility and I've already abandoned God and figured out how to cheat the system... I was off to a great start with my recovery. If I'm really honest, abandoning God made me feel like a bad ass, but somewhere deep down I knew that I still wanted Him. I didn't want the life I had lived with Him before, but there was something about Him I still wanted. I so badly wanted Him to be someone other than who I thought He was, but it just seemed too difficult to figure out. I didn't want a God of rules, but a God without rules I just couldn't understand. I hated formulas, but I needed them if I was to accomplish anything, and that was how I felt about God. None of my formulas to get to Him seemed to be working, so instead of abandoning the formulas, I decided God didn't care and I abandoned Him.

I sat in the lobby after breakfast sorting through my thoughts about God, telling Him I wasn't going to talk to Him anymore, even though I was still talking to Him in that moment. I felt conflicted not knowing who or what to believe. I think I decided I would still ask God for help because I have journal entries in which I did, but I also decided that this time around was going to be my final round of asking. It was as if I was putting God on trial and saying, "OK, prove it!" To be honest I was scared to even consider it so final, to ask one last time. As long as I wasn't asking for help I could still hope that there was help to be offered, but if I asked and didn't receive then all hope would be lost. What does one do without hope? I had desperately pleaded for God to help me months before going into treatment and when it didn't happen (the way I thought it would), I was much too afraid to ever ask again. It was easier for me to think God was pre-occupied than to think He wasn't there, but when it really came down to the questions, I would say it was much easier to think that God wasn't there than to think He didn't care. I'd rather have no god than a god who didn't care.

Girls began to pile back in from the cafeteria after breakfast, running about the lobby and getting ready to separate into their different groups. I looked down the hall and saw Annie and Carson, who had been tranquilized the night before for causing an uprising. They were being escorted to the nurses station, barely half awake as their eyes struggled to stay open. I asked one of the girls why they got so upset last night and she explained that Carson had a panic attack and started to cut herself with a safety pin and when the BHAs tried to stop her, Annie came to her "defense." "Where'd she get the safety pin?" I asked. "It's easier than you'd think to sneak stuff in here," she said "or just to hide stuff and get away with it." She smiled as if she were hiding something, but she also seemed to be one of the sweetest, most innocent girls there. I smiled because even though it was only my second day, I knew exactly what she meant since I had just thrown my oatmeal toppings away without anyone knowing. "I'm Katie," she said quietly with a smile. She asked what I was in for and I told her an eating disorder. "Me too!" she said somewhat excitedly, which I found to be a little odd, but I suppose the excitement was over the fact that we had something in common, not the fact that we both had eating disorders.

Katie was one of the first adolescents that I really liked. She was just so friendly to everyone, but not in an obnoxious way, like someone who is just trying to be nice to everyone. She was mostly just quiet, not going out of her way to come across as someone special, but you realized she was special when you came to her and felt her warmth and her genuine kindness. As we sat on the couch in the lobby Katie explained that Annie and Carson got into trouble all the time. She didn't say anything bad or derogatory towards them but simply just stated facts. I liked that about Katie because it seemed to me that there were plenty of bad or derogatory things to say about Annie and Carson, but she opted not to. She told me they would be put on a sort of behavior probation where they would be monitored 24/7 by a BHA. I didn't know Annie and Carson that well, but I knew they weren't going to like that. As we were talking I looked at Katie's arms. One of her long sleeves was slightly rolled up and I noticed all the cut marks hiding beneath her clothing. I didn't say anything but I couldn't help but wonder what this sweet girl had done to herself, and why. I just didn't understand why. I had always thought that someone cutting them self was simply for attention, but Katie didn't seem to want attention. I felt distracted while we talked as I wrestled with the thoughts in my head.

Liz, the nurse I was quite fond of who checked me in the day before, came from the nurses station and called out that it was time for medication. As girls were lining up for their meds, the morning BHAs started filing in through the front double doors. A few of them asked how my first night was and I said the same thing to most of them, "interesting." I was a girl of few words during that time leading up to treatment and much of the time during. I felt so unlike myself, but then again I truly didn't know who "myself" was. Does anybody, ever? Even after people "find themselves" doesn't life just catch up with them again and they begin to wonder who they are and how they got here or there. I know this seems to be the case with me... a continual cycle of growing and changing, finding comfort in who I am for a short while, only for something else to come my way and shake things up a bit, or sometimes a lot. It is good, yes, I am glad and thankful not to remain stagnant and complacent, but that doesn't minimize the fact that it, life, can be and often is hard.

As the girls got their meds I was told by one of the BHAs that I would be able to meet with a psychiatrist as well as my new therapist that day. "Your dad wanted you to have a Christian therapist," she said, "and since we don't have one here one will be commuting from another location, so it will be later today." I was honestly embarrassed that she said that out loud and really glad that most of the girls were getting their meds so as not to hear. "Great!" I thought to myself, "I'm the only one here that's having a therapist wrangled in because I need to have one who's a Christian. I'm gonna be seen as the typical Christian who only wants to associate with other Christians. I don't even know if I am a Christian." At the time I was much too worried about what other people thought of me to see this as a blessing, which it ended up being, though not right away.

I was more concerned about my meals than I was about meds or therapy so I asked when I would be able to meet with the dietitian. "Probably not until tomorrow because she doesn't come in on Tuesdays," the BHA smiled as she said it. I was livid, though I didn't show it. "I was told that I would be able to meet with the dietitian 'tomorrow' yesterday, and now I'm being told today that I can meet with her tomorrow, what about my meals?" I asked. I could tell that the BHA was slightly nervous about how to answer seeing as how eating disorder patients are likely to snap when it comes to matters of food, just like a drug addict would if you tried to take away their drug. "Well," she paused, "you'll have to just keep eating what they assign you until you can meet with her." I tried not to cry. She could tell I was upset, "but the dietitian will definitely be here tomorrow." I was just as upset about feeling mis-led as I was about what I would have to eat. If there was one thing that I could not stand it was being told what I wanted to hear instead of the truth, which is kind of ironic because I was always so good at telling people what they wanted to hear instead of the truth. Maybe that's why it made me so mad when it happened to me, because it was something that I didn't like about myself.

Before lunch I was also informed that I was put on exercise restriction, meaning I wasn't allowed to exercise until I gained weight. What I didn't realize was that their idea of exercise meant any movement at all in which calories might be burned (at least that's what it felt like to me). I wasn't even allowed to walk to the cafeteria, which all the girls did because it was just up the hill. Instead, I and two other girls who were on exercise restriction, Katie being one of them, had to wait for a van to come pick us up at the front doors of the lodge and be driven a total of five seconds to the cafeteria. It was, to say the least, in my opinion, ridiculous. I was pissed about not being able to exercise, especially thinking about the amount I had to eat without the option of throwing it up, or taking a laxative, or now being able to burn it off. I wasn't in the van long enough to think too much about it and once we got to the cafeteria I was just so glad to be out of the lodge that I literally stepped out into the cold and wiped the lodge smell off of me.

The cafeteria was big and sort of divided into two dining areas. The girls were divided into two groups... those with eating disorders and those without. The girls without eating disorders all sat where ever they wanted and were able to go through the line and get whatever they wanted to eat, while the girls with eating disorders were confined to one table monitored by two BHAs. One BHA would sit at the table the whole time while the other would follow the girls through the food line. The "benefit" of having an eating disorder in treatment was that you got to go first through the line, but if you had an eating disorder then more than likely you didn't even want to go through the line, and the girls who actually wanted to eat had to wait longer, so it wasn't really a benefit to anyone.

The eating disorder girls all had meal cards which they had to hand to the servers and the servers would then fill their trays with what was on the cards. The meal cards were prepared each few days by the patient and the dietitian and together they would pick out certain food groups to comprise a meal. Since I had yet to meet with the dietitian I didn't have a meal card, and I wasn't allowed to pick for myself so I had to wait at the table for someone to bring me my assigned meal. Thankfully it was a mixed salad with tofu, "yes!" I thought to myself, but it was the biggest salad with the largest amounts of tofu I had ever seen in my life, "daggum it!". Even if it was just mostly lettuce, I wondered how the hell I was going to fit this mountain of leaves and vegetables into my stomach cavity that was three times smaller.

To take a few steps back and glance at another snapshot before entering treatment, I had lived and labeled myself as a vegetarian for the last year and was greatly considering becoming a vegan. (Katie and I had talked earlier that morning about us both being vegetarians, another exciting commonality.) Though I get the cool vibe associated with being a vegan because it requires a lot of discipline, keep in mind that it is also very easy to be a vegan when you have an eating disorder. I was basically eating salad leaves and fruit except for when I would binge and purge. I think for me to be a vegan just would have meant to stop binging. I had a way of disguising my problems by associating them with "normal" life styles or medical diagnoses. In another instance I told my family I was lactose intolerant, when really I was binging on ice cream and sweets and then making myself throw up. I thought it was genius.

It may have been genius if I wanted to continue to live as a functioning addict, but I have the journal entry dated 11/29/06 where I recognized that I had a problem and that I didn't want it anymore. It was on a trip to South Africa where I found myself binging and purging all through out the trip simply because I had broken one eating rule. Once I broke that one rule, as an extremist, I couldn't get back on track. At the time I didn't realize being on track, for me, meant anorexia (because of my severe food restriction and over-exercising), I just thought it meant I was being healthy. Getting off track, binging and purging, was what brought me to a place of admitting I had a problem. Getting help was going to be a long process because my idea of getting healthy was just another addiction, another disease, that I wasn't willing to admit I had. Nonetheless, at least admitting I had a problem of some sort was a baby step in the right direction. Much like Bob Wylie in What About Bob? I don't think I could have handled dealing with all of my problems at once.

My journal entry from that day in South Africa, November 29th, 2006 was as follows:

Today I realize I don't want to live my life in bondage, and even more so, in secret. Today I want to stop pretending like nothing is wrong with me. Something is wrong with me. Making yourself eat until you feel sick just because and then making yourself throw up is a problem. Not only is it a problem, it's disgusting, and I'm disgusted with myself. I don't know how to go about getting the help I want and need. I know the church is there, but it's hard to know who to talk to who won't talk to others, especially since I've been a leader in the church. I feel so ashamed of myself because until this trip I had gotten in great shape and lost all my weight by exercise and nutrition- the "right" way, the long way, the hard way. I really worked hard. And on this trip when I started gaining weight, I started taking the easy way out. Everyone thinks I'm lactose intolerant. I'm not lactose intolerant, I'm bulimic. When you feel you have to hide what you're doing, you should know it's a problem.

Once I admitted I had a problem I did okay... for a few hours. But even after deciding that I didn't want to live in bondage anymore and that I needed to change, I found myself repeating every behavior I had vowed to get rid of. Addiction is a terrible beast, a monster that truly can not be controlled if it doesn't want to be. Even an addict who wants to get help can't just simply stop what he or she is doing by choice. I had made a choice to stop, but I was stuck in a cycle too far in to be able to get out on my own.

After just a few hours I recorded these words:

11pm. This is no way to live. I hate it. I did it again. I don't even want to write it out because I am so ashamed. Tonight I gave in again. My stomach hurts, and I'm sure it's under tremendous stress, which is probably another reason why my skin is so bad. I keep blaming it on other people, but I really think I'm stressing myself out. I know I'm stressing my body out. I need help, and even though I feel so confused right now, the Lord seems to be the only one I can call for help. Of course, I honestly don't know if He's actually helping me, or if I'm really truly calling on him, or just saying that cause I know I should. I have to keep reminding myself that this is just temporary- this trip. Of course my problems will continue to follow me if I don't deal with them. I'm so unhappy. What has happened to me? I'm run down, I'm worn out. I'm tired of trying to keep up- with everyone- with society, with Christians, with my family. I'm running a race I can't win so I don't even feel like trying anymore. I know I need to talk to somebody, I just can't seem to take the step to do it. Knowing and taking action are two different things.

I will never forget that night. I fell on my knees on a hard wooden floor as a party was going on in the living room beneath me and I begged God to take all the pain away. I asked Him to either take it all away or to please not wake me up the next morning. I honestly would have rather died than wake up another day and be stuck inside of my head. I wasn't actively suicidal because I had the smallest bit of hope that if it could all just go away then I wanted to live, but if living meant nothing more than what I felt in that moment then I just wanted God to take me out. I begged God to bring me Home that night and allow me to see Jesus. "I'm going to bed now," I cried, "please just don't wake me up unless this will all go away, OK?" I was as sincere as a little child asking their mother or father to lay with them in bed until they fell asleep. I was terrified to wake up again, alone in my struggle.

As God would have it, I woke up the next morning, but nothing had changed. I assumed He understood that I meant for the pain to go away as soon as I woke up, not at some point down the road after being woken up. My heart felt heavy and incredibly sad as I felt somewhat ignored and neglected by God. I assumed my problems weren't big enough for Him to deal with. After all, with so much else going on in the world, what are my problems to Him?

That day while going around a mountain pass, I felt like my mind had been completely taken over. I sat silently on the back seat of an SUV, surrounded by my parents, my younger sister and her friend who was driving. As he zipped around each corner all I could think about was how much I wanted to die. I was gripping so tightly to the edge of my seat and I just kept thinking, "I want to be fucking shot. Please, just let it be done quickly and have somebody shoot me." All I could think about over and over again was being shot. I was memorized by the thought of it. It was like I was aware that I was going crazy and there was nothing I could do about it. I finally asked if we could stop the car and get out. We pulled over on the side of a ledge and everybody got out to take a breather. No one had any clue what was going through my mind. I looked over the ledge and thought to myself "if I just jump, this could all be over."

I think there was a beautiful view over-looking the mountains of South Africa, but I really don't know... all I remember thinking about was death waiting at the bottom of the mountains. I stared like a person obsessed with an idea that they couldn't get out of their mind. The bottom of a mountain had never looked so beautiful until that moment.

"God, I can't take this..." but before I could finish my mom walked over to me.

It was a few days later on that trip that I would confess to my parents that I had a problem and that I needed help. They promised to get me help as soon as we got back to America and kept a close watch on me the rest of the time. Despite their efforts, I still binged and purged, often in the middle of the night and always before going to take a shower. I thought admitting the problem would just made it go away, I didn't realize it was only the first step in a long list of steps to overcome addiction. Upon returning to America I told my parents I was fine, and that I was just out of control because of the stress of the trip. It would be another 2-3 months of living my life still in bondage, knowing I wanted out but not being sure how to get out, before entering treatment. I lived in a constant state of fear... fear of having a single bite of food because I was certain I wouldn't be able to stop if I started. I feared going home at the end of the work day, I feared just being awake, stuck in my thoughts and tormented by the site of my body.

One night in January of 2007 after having dinner at my sister's house and "giving it back" in her bathroom, I set out to drive home. I was discusted with myself as I drove and the only way I knew how to deal with my feelings of discust was to numb them out. I had already made up my mind to binge and purge as soon as I got home. My mind fought with itself as I went back and forth between whether or not I would. It wasn't even a matter of wanting to or not wanting to, I literally felt like I had no control, like my body craved something, and without my permission it had already decided that it needed to binge and purge. If I were to walk into that house there was no way I would be able to keep myself from doing it. I cried because I didn't want to do it anymore, but I felt like I didn't have a choice. It was like I was two people duking it out in one body. The eating disorder literally had a voice of it's own that over powered any bit of sense I tried to make.

As I drove home I cried and cried and begged God to take the feelings and the urges away. When I felt no relief I just kept driving. I knew I couldn't go home so I just kept driving. I drove to a town an hour and a half away from home and I parked in an empty parking lot. I sat there in my car and I screamed and cried. I let God have it, again. How many times had He heard me come running to Him? How many times had He heard me ask Him to take it all away? How many more times was I going to have to ask for healing? After screaming I sat silently only to hear the sound of my breath and the snot dripping from my nose. I waited for that moment, that triumphant moment when God shows up and light shines in and your whole body gets warm. I waited to feel His arms around me and the whisper of His voice to say "It's okay, my child, I am here." I waited in silence, breathing like a two year old who just wore herself out from a temper tantrum. I whispered one more time... "please, God, please, just show up."

Nothing happened.

So I waited.

Still nothing happened.

In that moment I felt so unworthy of God's love that my heart just completely broke. It broke so much more than it had ever broken before that I literally felt as if I couldn't breath. I did the only thing I knew to do. I opened my car door, stuck my finger down my throat and made myself throw up. Even when there was nothing left to rid my body of, I kept trying because I simply could not sit with the thought that God didn't love me.

That was the hardest I had ever prayed in my life. I couldn't have added any more meaning or any more faith to my prayers. That was quite simply all I had in me, and where I was expecting at least a whisper in response, nothing happened. I couldn't comprehend what that meant. Wasn't God supposed to heal if I asked in Jesus' name? Wasn't I supposed to find Him if I sought Him with all of my heart? Wasn't He the one who said if you had faith the size of a mustard seed that nothing would be impossible unto you? At one point later on in treatment I remember thinking, "my fucking mustard seed has been planted, sprouted and over-grown and now the birds that rest in the branches at the top are shitting on me down below."

Wasn't God at the very least supposed to care?

God's silence was so loud it made my ears hurt. After feeling as though God was never going to heal me I started to realize I needed somebody elses help, anybody elses help. But even after I finally drove home that night after sitting in the parking lot, it would still be another few weeks of binging and purging before telling my parents that once again I really needed help. Never did it cross my mind that God would use a method other than snapping his fingers and making it all magically disappear to heal me. Never did it cross my mind that God was asking me to wait just a little bit longer, that He had something bigger and better in store for my healing and He wasn't going to let me die along the way. Never did it cross my mind that while I was begging God to do something, anything, He was already unfolding a plan that would lead to life abundant as I had never known it before.

No, I did not think or know any of those things at that point prior to treatment, I just knew that I was angry and alone and well on my way to telling God I was done with Him, which I did the first night in the facility. It was just the night before I found myself sitting in the cafeteria that second day with salad mountain sitting in front of me. I didn't know the dietian yet, but I hated her already, for salad mountain was going to be impossible to finish.

At one point in my life I might have looked at what seemed impossible before me and approached it with the mindset of repeating over and over again: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." I once won a hot dog eating contest that way, just repeating that verse over and over, and beat out six guys... but I was also bulimic, so I had the advantage. But that day in the cafeteria, after all I had been through and the countless times I had asked God for help or for Christ to strengthen me, like my time in South Africa or that night in my car, I looked at what seemed impossible before me, even if it was just lunch, and with a tone of anger and hatred in my voice whispered, "fuck it!"

Eventually I will get to the point where I see God's silence not as neglect and abandonment but as taking precise and intentional care of me. I will come to know Him not has a god who withholds love and grace and mercy just to watch me suffer but who gives me those gifts freely, despite my selfish efforts and my dirty mouth, so that I might learn to rest in Him and find my worth like I had never it known. But even still, that doesn't come until later in the story. For now I am even more so determined to do life on my own so as never to allow myself to be hurt by anyone, including God, again. In retrospect, salad mountain wasn't so big in and of itself, but it was the straw that broke the camel's back in which I found myself saying "I can do all things through my own strength." A very dangerous place to be.

To be continued...