Sunday, January 17, 2010

Eglantine Died and I'm Still Alive

I just had some deep thoughts while peeing on the toilet. I swear. I think I have most of my deep thoughts on the toilet or in the shower.

Anyway, it started with me thinking about how I get so much into my blogging that I sometimes am cruel to my poor waiting bladder. I LOVE writing this blog.

I compared it to how I used to write novels in high school. I was obsessed with my writing, and worked very hard at it. I received the same joy back from my fiction writing as I do now with my nonfiction.

I had very strict quotas for myself. I think maybe it was something fairly reasonable like ten pages a day. But when I make quotas like that, I usually don't feel okay unless I greatly exceed the minimum. I remember sometimes writing 20-30 pages a day.

Yeah. I'm like that. I get obsessed with my plans, and I make very strict rules for myself. In the toilet, I thought about how I have such an eating disorder personality.

I read a recent book by Catherine Jinks that deals with a ghost who has died of anorexia. Sorry. That's kind of a spoiler. But I really want to talk about this, so I'm hoping you'll forgive me. Plus, I'm guessing most people who read this blog don't read Catherine Jink's ghost hunter series. If you do, and I've ruined things for you....please accept my sincere apologies.

Okay, now I'm feeling a little less guilty. The entry for the book has the keyword anorexia. So they kind of give it away too. Anorexia is not the whole mystery anyway. There's a lot more to the book.

In the book, they talk about anorexia and the protagonist reads about the typical anorexic. She learns they're often moody, sensitive to the needs of others, desperate for approval, highly intelligent, and angry with their brothers and sisters. That description reminded me so much of myself, except for maybe the highly intelligent part. And I've heard from other sources that we're very competitive and high achieving.

This eating disorder website says: Someone who may develop anorexia nervosa is typically an introverted, conscientious and well-behaved child who seldom present problems either at home or at school. The 2 personality traits consistently found amongst those with anorexia are perfectionism and obsessive behaviour. It is when these last two are combined with a general dissatisfaction with life, or life presents an individual with events which they feel unable to cope with, that anorexia nervosa becomes a viable alternative. It may be seen as a coping mechanism.
That describes me and my situation very well too.

Now unlike the ghost in the book, I never actually had full-blown anorexia. I'm still alive and no longer underweight. I recovered. There was no medical intervention , and no psychological intervention. I received very little help and support from family and friends. Why am I still alive?

Well, basically I failed.

First of all, I didn't manage to limit my calories enough. I've read of more successful anorexics (those who managed to grow hair all over their body and achieve cardiac arrest). They made MUCH better calorie limits then I did. I've see minimums of about four hundred calories, and some stop eating almost all together. I think the lowest I ever got was about 800 calories.

I never managed to get thin to cause major organ failure or damage. I DID manage to get an underweight BMI, but in my family that wasn't quite impressive because my cute petite sister has ALWAYS naturally had an underweight BMI. My parents were vocally proud of me for managing to get as thin as my sister. My accomplishment wasn't ignored. But when I announced that I had an eating disorder and was going to make myself better....they reacted as if I was a bit nuts.

That announcement came about two years after the eating disorder began. So, see? I failed at endurance as well. Despite my perfectionism and perseverance, apparently I do not have the willpower needed to fully starve oneself. I got sick of calorie counting. I got sick of exercising almost all day. I got sick of being so obsessed with food. When my sister and a stranger called me on the whole eating disorder thing, I think a part of me was relieved. I was ready to give it up.

All was well. Then a few years later, I brought up my eating disorder with my mom and she told me I had never had one. I had simply been yo-yo dieting like most women do. Eating disordered people weigh fifty pounds and are in the hospital. Well, I fought back the tears. I blamed my anger and tears on feeling invalidated. And that's definitely PART of it. But now I realize the truth. I felt like a failure! I had totally failed in having a proper eating disorder. When I got home, I rushed to the computer to read about eating disorders. I wanted to prove myself right. I DID have an eating disorder. Most of the websites took my side of the argument. I DID have an eating disorder. But I did not have the impressive anorexia or bulimia. I had the half-assed EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified).

I ended up going through a minor relapse. There was a part of me that wanted to do it all over again, and this time get it RIGHT. I stopped myself fairly quickly. Now part of the reason for this was that, in my research, I got a better idea of how physically dangerous an eating disorder can be. I had never wanted to leave my child an orphan, so I think I had previously always ignored/downplayed the whole deadly part. I never aimed for death or ugly brown body hairs. I aimed for a size zero and the end of menstruation. I mean who wouldn't want to quit having their period?

But yeah.... in my further research, as a recovered person, I saw a lot of death stuff. So that did put a curb on my new and improved starvation plans. But I have to admit this. One of the other main reasons I didn't have a full-blown relapse is that I FAILED. I tried to not eat for a few days, but I just didn't have it in me anymore. I would limit my food intake, then say screw this, and grab a handful of candy. Did I throw it up like a talented Bulimic? No, because I have a phobia of vomiting.

So, there you go.

I am a very competitive person. But in the end, it was my failure that saved my life.

My heart still beats.

I didn't end up like Eglantine.