She has to want to get better

I was at inpatient for three months. Well, let’s be honest. I was there for three months minus three days. I was “better” for two months and 27 days. Then for the last three days I internally freaked out that I was nearing my “safe weight,” which to be clear was still significantly less than my goal weight. My discharge plan had me continuing to gain on my own back at home until I reached my weight range. They suggested that I continue on to an R-sponsored home care – RLP — but I was adamant about living back home in the midwest. Or rather, back home in my eating disorder. I was adamant about going to college – About getting as far away from home as possible, back with my ED, and back getting the weight off of me ASAP. At inpatient, I started getting Ulcerative Colitis symptoms, and really played it up that I was concerned about going back into a UC flare just so that I could get the hell out of there and back to my ED.

Although inpatient didn’t cure my anorexia, it did lay the foundation for my true recovery, which happened later. But there was one episode that stuck out to me. Everyone goes through “Family Weekend,” where your family comes out to visit for a long weekend and you work through group and one-on-one therapy sessions. The purpose is to help everyone express how the eating disorder has effected them, how they’re feeling, what they’re concerned about, past hurts, etc. The goal is to “unpack the baggage” that has contributed to this ED monster.

The assignment was to make an art project about how anorexia has impacted you, or made you feel. To be honest, I don’t remember much of what my family made or said — I was too busy being preoccupied with self-hatred and thinking about all the calories present in my body. But I do remember what I had made, and I think it will shed a lot of light on the disease to the loved ones of those battling it.

I made a black box, or coffin, out of construction paper. And inside the black box was a bunch of brightly colored confetti.

stock-photo-confetti-on-white-background-101353513

The box, I said, represented my disease. The brightly colored confetti was who I was pre-anorexia: I was vibrant. I was exciting. I had passion, zest, life, energy, love, zeal. Anorexia took all those things and killed them, as it was slowly killing me.

coffin

That’s the thing that people don’t understand. They see their daughter or their friend wasting away. “Where’s the silly girl I love?” “Where’s the goofy girl who loves to play outside, hang with her friends, watch movies and eat popcorn?” “Where did she go? If I could just reach her…If I could just find her again…”

And that’s precisely it. Because the truth is, If I could reach her, then I wouldn’t be here, wasting away. I’ve lost her and I cannot find her anymore either.

Loved ones don’t understand. Anorexics are typically smart girls. Brilliant, even. So then why don’t they just get it? Why don’t they just eat? “She’s a smart girl, why doesn’t she just eat the damn food!?”

I think the hardest thing about anorexia for the loved ones of the sufferers, is that they want to be able to fix it. They want to be able to cure the disease. That was my father. He was always the problem solver. That was his gift. But he saw my anorexia as a problem: I had Ulcerative Colitis and was unable to gain weight because of a medical issue: my pyloric valve was paralyzed and as a result my stomach wouldn’t empty; it hurt to eat; I wasn’t absorbing nutrients. If I could just get enough calories then I would be fixed. So he did what he does best: he problem solved. He researched weight gaining drinks and ended up finding some incredible, non-FDA approved and super-caloric weight gaining drink from Scandinavia that he had shipped to the house. He had crates of Ensure drinks in the garage. He was going to fix it. Fix me. He took walks with me to help me digest the food that I was “trying so hard to absorb.” He believed that he could fix it -That he could fix me.

But try as he might, he couldn’t. Because here’s the long and the short of eating disorders that makes them so deadly and perverse:

She has to want to get better.

 

Period. End of story. That’s what’s so heart breaking – is that her mom, dad, friends, boyfriend, loved ones – they can pull out their hair, bend over backwards, go to Timbuktu and back to help get her to eat and to gain weight, but at the end of the day, she has to make the decision that she wants to end the disease and get on with her life. That’s the truth. That’s what needs to be understood.

And that’s why it’s so confusing: anorexia is not about the weight. That’s why inpatient doesn’t always, or usually, work. Just because the weight is on, doesn’t mean that the disease has “left the building.” That’s why people relapse. That’s why I relapsed. Because I hadn’t silenced the voice of death yet.

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beautybeyondbones

BBB: Because we're all recovering from something. // For speaking/business inquiries: beautybeyondbones@yahoo.com

23 thoughts on “She has to want to get better

  1. I agree, you have to come to the end of yourself – no matter what trial you are going through right now – and want the light on the other side, want to be free from the body of death. I thank God He gives us this light, His life, in Christ.

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  2. Reading this entry and the “Inside My Mind” entry helped me understand your daily struggles. Based on reading about your experiences, I can only imagine what anorexia does to a person.

    I do have one question: what did you enjoy about my blog entry “Stuck on the Rim”? I did you connect with it?

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  3. I’m really good at crazy, Beebs. I’m gonna go there, just for the sake of argument. You don’t have to go there with me, but you can if you like. I do think that these … uhhh … “abnormalities” in humans do have a basis. I don’t think it was fate that you face what you do or I what I or others they. I think there is a reason absorbed into real existence. What I refer to may not be measurable within a lifespan. Maybe not even within a handspan. I try to measure mine. First of all, I am very good at not getting along with anybody. I am very good at “roaring” if you will. Some people stick around, to their own detriment. Mostly they just want gossip fodder. I can’t help that. Anger. Rage. Violence. Many tendencies that for 20+ years I was able to mask completely as though they didn’t exist. I was able to play the part of mild-mannered well-focused young man. Identity has a way of catching up with spheres. Buried deep within my subconscious was a side of me that I kept holding down. Society, to get along, manners, etiquette, culture, religion all taught me that certain “behaviors” were wrong. I didn’t have anything against Jesus. In fact, when my temper boiled over, I even remember going to my brother at 7 years old (he much older) and saying I was sorry for what I had called him. Maybe I shouldn’t repeat it, but it was something like ‘¡stupid idiot!’ Oh, well, so much for not repeating it. I got into a fight at school defending the honor of my best friend. I pummeled the kid older than I as hard as I could. Fighting was constant in my home. I don’t think a day passed that I and my older brother (the second-oldest he) weren’t in a physical fight. I really don’t want to go into my history of violence, but I just wanted to make a point. I masked the violent side of me so that through high school teachers and coaches never even knew the real me. I thought I was the passive person I had become. But this is my point: I think in the subconscious is always buried that piece of me that really I truly am. Deny it I may, but it still lurks, popping those two eyeballs out in the dark and looking my way. Piercing glance, go away, or come over and turn me into the hellish monster that I am. I’m sorry. I’ve probably said too much already. I never even got to the point. I just don’t want to ruin your day any further. Chau.

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    1. Hi friend, thank you for sharing this. I think we have tendencies within us that stay beneath the surface. What has helped is actively seeking the good and focusing on things that are “good, right, true, lovely, honorable.” Will we give in at times? Yes. But being quick to forgive yourself is also important too. Sending hugs xox

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      1. Eso creo. Trato de insinuar el hecho de conocerse a uno mismo, entender la identidad lo cual vale mas que cómo otra gente nos ve. No temer a uno mismo, qué y cómo es realmente. A eso voy. Por eso tal vez no nos entendemos con claridad. Estoy diciendo que esas tendencias bajo el superficie tal vez se deben entender y no solo re-dirigir. Pero ya, pues, ¿que sé yo? Solo soy un astronauta buscando planetas que explorar.

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  4. “They have to want to get better” – That is true for so many mental illnesses. Doing all the steps the doctors give you is one thing, but actually deciding to want to get better is a whole other. Wanting to want to get better not the same thing. You have to WANT to recover and WANT to stop hitting the bottom of your disease to get healthy again. I really appreciate your honesty on this page.

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