When an Anorexic Goes on Vacation

As I am sure most of you have realized, eating disorders are not diseases that just devastate the bodies and minds of sufferers, they also completely ruin families. Parents sometimes must take leave off work in order to focus all their attention on caring for their anorexic or bulimic child. Siblings of ED sufferers end up feeling abandoned and forgotten as their mom and dad spend most of their waking hours on their ill child – shuttling them to various doctor’s appointments, supervising their arduous and emotionally-draining mealtimes , and visiting them while they are in the hospital. When a family member has an eating disorder, everyone has no other choice but to make sacrifices and put their lives on hold.

As I am sure most of you have realized, eating disorders are not diseases that just devastate the bodies and minds of sufferers, they also completely ruin families.  Parents sometimes must take leave off work in order to focus all their attention  on caring for their anorexic or bulimic child.  Siblings of ED sufferers  end up feeling abandoned and forgotten as their mom and dad spend most of their waking hours on their ill child – shuttling them to various doctor’s appointments, supervising their arduous and emotionally-draining mealtimes , and visiting them while they are in the hospital.  When a family member has an eating disorder, everyone has no other choice but to make sacrifices and put their lives on hold.

Since my official eating disorder diagnosis over 5 years ago, my family has had to miss out on enjoyable social events, dining at fine restaurants, and even memorable family vacations. My disease has literally been holding my mother, father, and little sister hostage and so when my parents suggested that we head on over to Arizona for spring break, I agreed (although it took me awhile to built up the courage to do so). I was well aware of how challenging and anxiety-provoking this five day trip to the American southwest would be, but it was time for me to stop letting my disease hold my family back from doing the things they wanted to do. Just like every other human being, they deserved to smile, to laugh, and well . . . to just live!

And so, on March 27th we boarded the plane to Pheonix, Arizona and arrived late that evening.  After spending the night in a hotel, we hit the road and headed south to Green Valley, Arizona – where my grandparents live during the winter.  As I looked out of the car window, I could feel my anxiety morph into astonishment and awe.  The landscape looked almost otherworldly to me.  There were no lush oceans of green grass, tall trees bursting with their fresh springtime blooms, or dark blue rivers filled with freshwater fish.  Instead, the flat ground was completely naked, revealing its dry gold-colored soil. Speckled across the arid landscape were prickly, greenish-yellow cacti and other forms of bizarre-looking vegetation.  Towering over the level desert plane where huge, majestic mountains.  For the entire 2 hour car ride, I stared out of the window, memorized by these gigantic guardians of the Arizona desert.

Once we arrived at my grandparent’s hacienda-style home in Green Valley – a town comprised almost entirely of elderly “snowbirds”- my grandparents gave my family a tour of the community.  After that my sister, grandma, and mom all went swimming and my grandpa and uncle headed on over to the bowling alley. As for me, I went with my dad to visit an old family friend who apparently lived just a few blocks away from my grandparents’ hacienda. Other than that, the day was pretty uneventful.

The next day (Tuesday, March 29th) was probably the best day out of the whole entire trip. My dad, grandma, mom, sister,and I spent the morning exploring the Arizona-Sonora Desert Mueseum – a 98 acre outdoor experience that seamlessly fuses a zoo, aquarium, botanical garden, and natural history museum into one must-see Tuscon attraction.  That afternoon, my dad spent some quality time with my Grandpa and uncle golfing and my mom, sister, grandma, and I decided to head on over to Madera Canyon.  As we drove through the canyon, I was absolutely amazed by how quickly the landscape transformed itself. As we got higher in elevation, the cacti and parched soil all but disappeared and was replaced by lush, green trees and calming creeks.   Looking back at the entire trip, the drive through Madera Canyon was probably the only time when I was truly relaxed and at peace.

Once Wednesday came around, I wasn’t too worried anymore. After being mesmerized by the beauty of Madera Canyon, I had developed a false sense of security, believing that the rest of the trip would be a breeze. I could not have been more wrong.

 

The start of the day was perfectly fine. My mom, dad, grandma, sister and I all crammed ourselves into the rental car and headed to the White Elephant, a ginormous thrift store that had a pretty good selection of one of my favorite things in the world – CHEAP BOOKS!

After the White Elephant, my dad decided we’d all go to Kit Peak whether we liked it or not. He claimed it was a short 30 minute drive from where we were, but once we drove for those 30 minutes, we found out my dad’s calculations were wrong and that Kit Peak was another hour or so away.  It was nearly noon and everyone had become “hangry” as their stomachs rumbled away. I, on the other hand, had completely lost my appetite. The anxiety of having to switch plans so abruptly left me completely devoid of any sense of hunger.

My dad decided he’d head on into Tuscon in search of a place to eat. I was praying he would just stop at a Subway where I could munch on a vegetable salad, but that’s was unfortunately not the case. Instead he decided to stop at an authentic Mexican sit-down restaurant, which was literally my worst nightmare. Not only am I deathly afraid of Mexican cuisine (all the sour cream, cheese, and fats are enough to make me go into an anxiety-induced coma), I also DESPISE sit-down restaurants. Unlike Subway, I can’t watch the chefs prepare my food. I have no idea if my dish has any hidden fats or if they prepared my meal with buckets upon buckets of calorific ingredients.

As we sat down at our table, I flat out refused to look at the menu. My palms began to sweat, my mouth opened wide as I began to hyperventilate, and my legs kept on jiggling – all classic signs I had been consumed by a massive anxiety attack. As I was trapped in this uncontrollable state, my dad kept scolding me – telling me I was acting like a child, that I needed to grow up, that I was an embarrassment. . . .all the typical things he says when my anxiety and eating disorder take over.  My mom on the other hand, tried to be a bit more helpful. Instead of repeating my dad’s unsympathetic comments, she noticed I was struggling and attempted to calm me down. She told me in a soft, soothing voice that everything would be alright and then proceeded to help me picked out a dish that I was comfortable with on the menu.  By the time the waiter delivered our lunches, my mom had helped me quiet my eating disorder voice and I was able to fully collect myself.  At the end of the restaurant ordeal, my mom said she was proud of me and obviously, that meant a lot. Although my dad said something similar to me, I could tell by the tone of his voice that he was disappointed in my behavior.  He failed to realize that this “behavior” I exhibited was not  me trying to act unruly and ruin the trip, it was a manifestation of my eating disorder – an uncontrollable medical condition.

Unlike Wednesday, Thursday was benign. I stayed at my grandparents’ hacienda most of the day, working on my coloring books.  At around 2:30 in the afternoon, my dad and I drove down to visit the San Xavier Mission.  Since my father and I both are quite spiritual people (my dad is a Methodist pastor while I on the other hand am still searching for a religion that suits my beliefs), I thought that this visit would give my dad and I the opportunity to bond and enjoy ourselves. Even though it was a good experience, the wall that was built after the restaurant fiasco continued to divide my dad and I. We were silent most of the time we ere there and on the drive back to my grandparents’, we never said a single word to each other.

On Friday, we returned to Wisconsin. It’s Sunday now and my dad and I still are not really talking to each other. We continue to quarrel and I honestly I am heartbroken. I only have a couple months left to make memories with my family before I head off to North Central College in the Fall.  I don’t want start this next chapter in my life without mending my strained relationship with my dad, but I don’t know where to begin.

 

The Day of the Visit

You may notice the beginning of this post is rather similar to one that was published recently (I have since taken that post down). This is because the post you saw was actually an accidentally published draft. Here’s the real thing 🙂 🙂 🙂 ! 

When I submitted my college applications, I was already mentally prepared to be pelted with rejection letters.   In fact, maybe there was a little part of me who longed for that.  I wanted colleges to deem me as unworthy for their institution, not because I wanted to discontinue  my education, but because for all of my life I have seen myself as nothing but a housefly – annoying, bothersome, and a waste.

So when I got my first acceptance letter as well as a pretty hefty scholarship, I was in a state of shock.  I had in writing that someone actually wanted me to teach me, to watch me grow, to watch me make something of myself.

It wasn’t too long after that, that more acceptance letters came rolling in and with each kindly written letter I read, the reality of the situation began to hit me harder and harder. It finally dawned on me that within a few months, my little ranch-style abode would no longer be my home.  Instead my home would be a dreary, outdated dorm room with thin-walls allowing any noise to seep through.

Reading these letters was already stressful enough, but obviously my mom and dad didn’t recognize that. Instead of seeing that I needed a break, my parents insisted I visit one of the schools that accepted me. I agreed. Not because I wanted to, but because I have been cursed with the desire to please others before doing anything for myself.

Hesitantly, I emailed the admissions counselor and scheduled a visit to meet with a faculty member as well as the school’s pre-health track adviser.  My mom happily got reservations for my dad and I at a hotel near the school and for the days leading up to the visit, my dad couldn’t stop talking about all the things we could do while in that area.  I honestly just wanted to curl up in ball and cry until I had no more tears left.

When the day of the visit finally arrived, I held back tears as I threw a day’s worth of supplies into a small suitcase and changed out of my mismatched pajamas. By the time the clock struck 6:30, everything was packed and my dad stood in the living room with a smile on his face, ready to take me.  He seemed to have this idea that the next 24 hours would be jammed with joy and memorable father-daughter bonding experiences.  Yeah . . . because spending a day just thinking about nothing but my future sounds like an absolute blast to me (I hope you sense the immense amount of sarcasm there).

After 4ish hours in the car, we made it to the college.  Now I am not going to get into the nitty-gritty of all that happened while I was there, but let’s just say I had some massive panic attacks .  The bone-chilling fall air, the seemingly endless sea of students, and the very idea of my future caused my heart to beat wildly and my breathing to become shallow. As we drove to our hotel after the horrific visit, I begged God to show some mercy by getting rid of me. I didn’t care how God went about doing that, I just knew that this next stage in my life was a burden that I didn’t believe I could carry.   I should have known better though than to plead with God because believe me, I have tried it before. Throughout my entire battle with my eating disorder, I have desperately asked Him to pull the plug on my life. Either He just doesn’t exist or the requests of a mentally-ill adolescent female usually go out His back door, because obviously I am still here.

Honestly, I wish I could write something better for all of you – something that will put a smile on your face. During this transition period of my life though, things have been beyond challenging. I feel like every waking moment of the day is a battle and to be quite frank, I am truly exhausted.

Maybe I just have to hang on and keep fighting.

Maybe all this emotional bloodshed will be worth something in the end.

Fighting to Stay Afloat

It’s been awhile now hasn’t it?

The last time you heard from me was in August,  a couple of weeks before I was officially dubbed a high school senior. Now the oceans of green summer grass that once stretched across my town have been suffocated by a thick blanket of damp, dead leaves and the heat of the sun has been replaced by relentless bone-chilling wind. I have found that harshness of this changing weather is mirror-image of the hell that has now become my life.

After this summer, I really thought things were getting better. I challenged myself and by doing so, I got the best gifts I could have ever imagined – friends, one-on-one time with my grandparents, and a stronger relationship with my parents. But once school came around, all those beautiful gifts were stolen from me.   The friends I had meant had returned to their own lives and my parents and I grew farther apart.

Now my hours are spent fighting with my parents or racking my brain as I attempt to understand basic calculus and physics concepts.  I go to school everyday pretending I am alright. I act like I am happy, like I am not struggling, like I do not think of purging and restricting every waking hour of the day.  I wish someone would just help me because I really do not know if I can handle this much longer.

No.  I have a correction to make.

I KNOW I can’t handle this much longer.

The Long Awaited Update

It has been ages since my ED has had this much control over my life. Not only does this scare me, it also scares my family and Dr. K (my psychiatrist). Now whenever I step Dr. K’s scale, I lose weight and I can sense he is deeply concerned that am falling back into old habits. Somehow, I am always able to convince him otherwise, but I know that soon he will see through my lies and start to demand that I seek a higher level of care.

Well, hello everybody! Long time no see!

I can’t even begin to describe how happy I am to be sitting down and writing this post. School, homework, college planning, and of course my eating disorder, have sucked up every single second of my day. I have hardly had time to rest my enervated mind, let alone compose a blog post.  But as summer vacation approaches, school is beginning to die down. Finally, after months of unending stress, I am finding myself with a few extra moments in my day and what better way to spend this additional time than by giving all of you a thorough update?

So let’s just begin by addressing the elephant in the room – my eating disorder. Things with my ED haven’t been all that great. In fact, with each passing day, my eating disorder has grown stronger. No longer can I eat the food my dad prepares due to the paralyzing fear of not knowing exactly how many calories are in it. Going to restaurants is now something my ED has forbidden me to do and eating in front of people (whether it be at school or at home) is nearly impossible because whenever I do, I am overcome with embarrassment.

It has been ages since my ED has had this much control over my life. Not only does this scare me, it also scares my family and Dr. K (my psychiatrist). Now whenever I step Dr. K’s scale, I lose weight and I can sense he is deeply concerned that am falling back into old habits. Somehow, I am always able to convince him otherwise, but I know that soon he will see through my lies and start to demand that I seek a higher level of care.

Well now that that’s off my chest, let’s switch gears and talk about school.
School has definitely been stressful, but I think the most stressful part of school is the trouble I am having with friends. You see, I meant a group of girls at the beginning of this school year and have been sitting with them at lunch.  We joke together, laugh together, and participate in intriguing discussions on feminism and gender equality.  Plus they all attend my charter school in the afternoon, so the majority of us all have the same classes together. But despite all of this, they have still neglected to invite me to their myriad of parties and social gatherings. How do I know I am missing out? Well, when a party is coming up, they talk about it right in front of me during lunch.  Not once have any of them asked me to join them and I can’t tell you how much that hurts me. It makes me feel like I am nothing but a nuisance in their eyes. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever find friends or if my ED will be the only thing that will ever keep me company.

So folks, there’s my update. I am planning on making a YouTube video on the best eating disorder websites.   If you have any other suggestions, please just comment below J

Thank you all for your support!

Claire

Breaking – How I Fell Apart

My mind was like a hamster running forever on its wheel to nowhere. I got down on my hands and knees and pleaded with my mind to stop running. I tried to tell it that it could rest , I really did. But of course, it didn’t listen or maybe it just didn’t care.

It’s almost 4am and it’s a Saturday. Like all other hormonal teens, I should be fast asleep – not to wake up until the burning yellow sun is high in the Wisconsin spring sky.   But though my eyes struggle to stay open and my body aches for rest, I can’t calm myself enough to return to the rat’s nest that is my bed.   Even during spring break last week, when there was absolutely NO homework and nothing to fret about, I couldn’t sleep for longer than 4 hours a night.  My mind was like a hamster running forever on its wheel to nowhere. I got down on my hands and knees and pleaded with my mind to stop running. I tried to tell it that it could rest , I really did. But of course, it didn’t listen or maybe it just didn’t care.

Actually spring break is what I want to talk about with you because even though I was freed from school for that week, my mind was holding me captive.

The original plan for my spring break was that my family and I would drive the 8 miserable hours to my grandparents’ farm in Lower Michigan.  I dreaded the idea of going there not only because my mind continued to inform me that I would morph into a fat pig during the car ride, but also because my mom had a signed me up to visit a few colleges in Grand Rapids.

Now I know most kids are excited about leaving their families and venturing out into the world to start their lives, but I lack that excitement. In fact, the thought of me going to college is worse than my most frightening nightmare.  I’m not ready for my parents to abandon me and I’m not ready to be independent. My mind is still plagued with eating disorder thoughts and depression is like a cancer, taking control of every aspect of myself.  I am so emotionally unwell that I doubt I will be able to survive without the presence of my family.

Luckily, my dad was unable to go on the trip due to his pastoral obligations. I felt so incredibly relieved . . . . until my mom told me she signed me up to visit two colleges here in Wisconsin.

To make a long story short, I visited both the colleges and before I visited each one, I turned into a monster fueled by anxiety. I screamed and yelled about the stupidest things, I withdrew from everyone, I cut my arms, and I cried.

I cried until my hideous face was hidden by a mask of salty tears.

I cried until my eyes felt like they had been set on fire.

I cried until my heart, mind, and body felt completely numb.

Though I survived both the college visits, my emotional instability continued all through the rest of spring break. My parents were constantly furious because of my behavior and they of course expressed this to my therapist.   When I went to see her on Wednesday, she expressed a great deal of anger and frustration at me as well. She told me I wasn’t trying to get better and that I wanted to become a life-long prisoner in the jail of mental illness.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I can’t tell you how much I want to be normal. I want to enjoy life and take pleasure in all it has to offer, but it is just so hard to break free from the chains of my diseases and sometimes I wonder if I should just go back to a treatment facility to try to regain the self I have lost.  I couldn’t do that though  . . . it’s too expensive and it is much too scary to give my control to the treatment providers.  I just couldn’t do it.

Why can’t I just be normal? Why can’t I just live instead of survive?

Why?

Won’t someone tell me why?

Eating Disorder Vlog: Relapse

The month of January is usually a month of great excitement. It is the beginning of a new year, of a new start on life. Unfortunately, that was not the case for me.
The month of January was like a heartless militant. It waged war on me and through the use of anxiety-provoking, stress-inducing events, it destroyed me in every battle. Now January is over and it won the war, shattering my emotional well-being and destroying any progress I made in overthrowing the kingdom of my eating disorder.
I hate to admit this but I have relapsed. My eating disorder is beginning to control everything about me and my life and this time, I don’t know how to stop it.