There are many reasons I decided to go into treatment for anorexia. I wanted to have more energy. I wanted to look healthier. I wanted to honor my mom. I wanted people to stop staring at me. I wanted to be able to shop somewhere other than the teen sections for clothes. I wanted to eat a BBQ’d hamburger on a warm sunny day. The truth is, I wanted a lot of things that anorexia could not give me. But there is one reason that screamed louder and shone brighter than the rest. Something I craved more than brownies or hip-hugging jeans.
Connection. I desperately wanted to feel connected to other people.
Like and addiction or an abusive partner, my anorexia could only survive if it had me all to itself, keeping the threat of worried well-meaning friends and family as far away as possible. Anorexia convinced me, a once outgoing, social sorority girl who loved to travel and dance, that I was an withdrawn, anti-social freak. It told me that the only way to ensure my cancer wouldn’t return, my husband would stop drinking, and my kids would be safe and happy was to put stringent rules into place. It promised me that comfort was found only in calories counted and miles logged rather than on a friend’s shoulder or a night out with the girls. Desperate to feel less crazy, I bought what anorexia was selling.
While my dietician, Gretchen was working on my body, my therapist, Kirsten was working on my mind, trying to help me reverse the damage that years of having an eating disorder inflicted. During our weekly sessions, Kirsten taught me to question every rule I had put into place over the years. To push back against the thinking that kept me isolated from other people. To face down the angry lion, I was sure would pounce if I let loose of my self-control. Although, in theory, I understood the skill Kirsten was teaching, in practice, it was hard. Often creating long awkward moments during our sessions, the silence gradually swelling, ultimately filling the office and threatening to bust the windows open as I tried to find the answers.
And I needed answers because I was facing a problem. A test of my recovery process. The first since I had started treatment a month earlier. Like the carrot cake, I was being offered something I desperately wanted, only bigger. More critical. And instead of digging in with both hands, I was searching for reasons to deny myself. Not because I didn’t want it but because I wanted it so badly.
I knew what I wanted to do. I knew what I had to do. I knew what I should do. I just didn’t think I had the courage to do it.
While in treatment I would look at old pictures to remind myself of the person I really am and why I was fighting so hard to find her again.
From left; Buying chestnuts in Venice, My twenty oner with my sorority sisters, college graduation with my bestie, Polly.