Chapter 8, Missing Peace

So we went back to the drawing board, parents pushing, me pushing back and a well-intentioned therapist saying all the right things at exactly the wrong time. I wasn’t ready to give up.

My sister Jennifer remembers the tension in our home. “As things got worse I had a lot of feelings. I was upset that I always had to corral Kelsey and Rachelle and keep them from bothering Mom because she was often in multi-hour conversations with you. I was upset because Mom and Dad started getting more and more stressed out. I was annoyed that you were doing all this and at the same time, Mom and Dad were encouraging you to gain weight by bribing you with a German Shepherd.”

Daddy and I came to lots of temporary truces. “If you gain 8 pounds in the next month, you can have the Honda when you turn 16,” he bargained once.

“What if I can’t make it? The dietician suggested 10 pounds in two months. Can we do that?”

“OK. Ten pounds in 2 months. But Abby, I’m serious. We’re looking into other inpatient treatment options. If you don’t meet this goal, we are going to take drastic measures.”

I felt trapped. To be true to my personal agenda of uncommon resolve and self-discipline, I had to perform certain long workouts and eat a certain number of calories and tally only a certain number of fat grams. But, my parents were offering me a different challenge. To please them, I had to perform as well, simply doing the opposite all my anorexic tendencies.

Either way, I was a failure. If I relinquished control of my strict diet and exercise regimen, I would fail as an anorexic, a new title I found strangely compelling, a definition all my own. If I failed to gain the agreed upon pounds, I would fail to meet my parents’ expectations.

To this point, the first 15 years of my life, I believed I had fallen short of my parents’ mark. That battle might have been lost, but I hadn’t yet played all my cards in the effort to beat my own nebulous goals. I chose to play another hand.

Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em, Missing Peace Chapter 7

I honestly don’t remember how long I saw Kathy Hoppe. It didn’t take me long to figure out how to play her. She seemed able to read my mind, sometimes to even know how I felt before I could identify my emotion.

Kathy knew why I wouldn’t eat, she said. I was trying to control things in the family. I felt overlooked and less important, talented, special or desirable than my sisters. There was too much pressure to perform as the “mature oldest daughter” that everyone thought I was. I was lonely, living in a small town having been homeschooled for so long.

On the physical level, she prescribed a nutritionist and instructed me to write down everything I ate. “And I don’t want you to do more than 30 minutes of exercise each day.”

I simply had to be smarter to beat her at her own game. Controlling Kathy’s opinion of my recovery became a new challenge, a new high. I snuck jumping jacks in after bedtime, in the dark, in the bathroom. I walked the long way around things, always stood and bounced my knee with purpose and passion.

“I really think we’re making progress,” She would say one week, while perusing my list of 2000 calorie days, only about half of which was true.

But my body betrayed me. My weight continued to decline, albeit slowly. I had taken up jazz dance because it put a time limit on my official workouts, which placated my parents and therapist. I had to get knee pads for some of the moves because my bones dug into the hardwood floor. We had one dance that finished with us laying on our backs. I got bruises on my spine.

Pretty soon Kathy started making threats too.

“I’m suggesting that Abby try an inpatient program,” Kathy told my parents during a powwow session. “What we’re doing isn’t working. Abby, I’m afraid you’re not being totally honest with us about what you’re eating and how much you’re exercising. In an inpatient program, they can monitor all the variables constantly.”

October. A month before my most dreaded holiday of the year. Our family of six left the house under a steel colored sky and drove mostly in silence toward Laurette. Laurette is the only inpatient treatment facility in Oklahoma for eating disorders. Generally, it was a psychiatric hospital; their program targeted at anorexics and bulimics was brand new.

I was numb walking through the heavy sliding glass doors behind my parents. Dad drug my small suitcase. There must have been tons of admission paperwork, but I don’t remember anything until the supervising nurse led us to my room.

All the walls in the facility were light yellow, a dull lifeless color. Fortunately, one wall was replaced by windows looking out into well cultivated gardens, with a goldfish pond.

It felt like a surreal tour of a haunted house, as the nurse led my family, her clueless captives, toward the room that was to be my whole home for the next 30 days. Doors lined the way on every side. They locked from the outside with a reverse peephole. A three digit number marked each room’s address.

“I need to go through your suitcase,” she said.

“Why? We packed according to the directions in your literature. She only has one soft-sided bag,” my dad informed her.

“Thank you for being attentive to the rules, but I need to go through it and check for anything dangerous.”

Apparently, there are numerous life threatening items that we use everyday. I watched helplessly as the nurse broke the glass out of my cosmetic compacts. I felt my dignity crack and crumble as well. She confiscated my shoe laces. Finally, she stood.

“OK. You can put all of your things in that dresser over there. After that, you will need to say your goodbyes so the doctor can do your admissions checkup.”

My eyes blurred and my hands shook as Mom and my sister, Jennifer moved all my t-shirts and jeans to the dresser. Rachelle held my hand and watched with me in silence.

Daddy drew our family into a group hug and prayed.

I don’t know what he said. My heart was saying, “Don’t leave me. Do you hate me? Won’t you miss me? How can you abandon me here? What’s going to happen to me?”

Laurette was not for me. The eating disorders program was underdeveloped so they lumped all seven of us eating disordered patients into the group therapy sessions with schizophrenics, suicide watch patients and drug addicts. I recall one high school age boy telling about a wacky drug trip he’d taken before being admitted. Another man threatened to beat the counselor with a chair.

For 72 hours I was on phone restriction. But the moment I was released for my first phone call, I held the receiver with a death grip.

“Mom, Dad,” I choked on tears. “Please don’t leave me here. I’ll do anything. I don’t belong here.”

They must have still loved me. They came to rescue me.

Crazy has an Itchy Trigger Finger

You’ve already gotten the true Naked confession that returning to Columbus, GA, the scene of my relapse into anorexia 6 years ago, has huge potential to be triggering for me.

Now the second Naked truth: I was kinda hoping that walking in recovery meant I wouldn’t have anymore triggers. An excerpt from my journal this morning:

My heart is bowed low in humility or embarrassment, pain or fear, I’m really not sure which of these it is or might be. In spite of all my words and plans for preparedness, Crazy is trying to kick in. Almost quite literally, Crazy (the compulsions I obeyed and my behavior while under the influence of an eating disorder) is trying to kick down the door and all of my defenses, the things I propped against the door are shaking, quaking, threatening to collapse around me, crush me and all my valiant efforts to “stay well”.

I admit (Naked truth here) that I have wondered if it might require less energy to drop my resistance. To just slip back into the habits, routines and culture of my “former Columbus”. Just let it take me under. But what of the next move, what then? Would I ever, ever be able to resurface again? I fear that if I let anorexia take me under one more time, I’d never breathe again.

So, as I am leaning into my One Word 2013, Naked, and bearing my soul to you here, I wonder:

How does Crazy kick in?

Few people actually think they’re Crazy, how does it sneak into my life and habits?

How do I slam the door since I already know what Crazy looks like?

How do I get away?

I’m in a position right now to be staring Crazy in the face, let me tell you how he got here, what he looks like and how I will banish him.

Crazy always walks in with a trigger. From a place of recovery, that looks like something you did or someone you knew before when you were still acting Crazy. And while you are chatting with this person, or considering this behavior, a flood of optimism comes over you. Crazy tells you, “We had good times. You don’t want to lose this relationship. You can keep it under control this time. You can find balance even while flirting with this behavior.

On a personal level, my trigger is all the familiar streets in Columbus, the sweet friends who are still running and competing in triathlons. The friends who somehow are able to contain Crazy without letting him take them over. I’d like to think I could do that, too. But I recognize this trigger, if I start extreme exercising again, I’ll flip the switch for Crazy.

But perhaps what Crazy looks like and even how he got here aren’t all that important relative to how to get away from him. Praise the Lord, who through Jesus, has finished all the work for me.

“LORD, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.” Is. 26:12

As I prayed and continued writing in my journal, the Lord spoke to me.

Beloved, all your defenses, the plans you stacked against the door of possible relapse, are pointless without me. No good intention will ever succeed without me. It is not only someday in Heaven that you are safe from fears, secure and protected from your enemies. Darling, you have me, The One True God, now, and forever. And it is not only eternity or only your spirit that I love and care for. I am intimately invested in you. Trust me with your recovery.

“Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure…You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Ps. 16:9, 11

The Ghosts of Columbus

Why did she have to ask that? I stared at the blinking cursor in the little box at the bottom of my Facebook page. I had only wanted to leave a message. I wasn’t prepared for this conversation. I knew it was coming, But Lord, I’m not ready!

Are you still running? It blinked again. How on earth to answer? What would she think of me? I have a reputation to uphold!

###

If you’ve been reading around here recently, you know that my husband and I just completed our PCS (the Army’s version of a move) to Columbus, GA. We’ve been here before. In 2006, we moved into a teensy-weensy, one bedroom apartment off of Moon Road. Partly by accident and mostly by deceiving myself, I found myself part of the local running club.

Surely, I can handle it, I told myself. I’m making such good friends here in the running club. All I have to do to “stay recovered” is eat more. 

And I did make such good friends, such very good friends. We didn’t stay in close touch when I moved away, but every now and then we bumped into each other on Facebook and said, “Hi.”

So I thought it was only appropriate to let them know I’m back in town and I’d love to see them again. Hence, my initial message to K, “Hi! How are you? I’d love to meet for coffee and catch up!”

“Love to see you again! Are you still running? We could meet for a morning run!”

How to answer? No, I don’t run much anymore. Leave it at that?
No, I can’t handle running emotionally. I tend to relapse.
No, I started doing other kinds of exercise, so I’m still fit! (justification)

We managed to sign off with a mutual invitation to coffee – sometime. But as I got in my car to go run a couple errands, my nerves stood on end.

When we lived here before, I got into crazy long distance running. I lost weight, almost back to what I weighed before my first hospitalization. Now, every main road, every side street, every gravel turn, bridge, public park, and roadside bush (for bladder emergencies) has a memory.

And they’re not all good memories. Even though I made great friends in the running club, in all honesty, that’s not what it was about for me. Committing to see the group on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday for whatever distance, gave me an excuse to exercise beyond what was good for me. When I won a race, completed a marathon, or was congratulated for my endurance, I pushed that much harder.

Relapse picked up speed.

Exercise addiction…is a chronic loss of perspective of the role of exercise in a full life. A healthy athlete and an exercise addict may share similar levels of training volume — the difference is in the attitude.An addicted individual isn’t able to see value in unrelated activities and pursues his sport even when it is against his best interest. (American Running Association)

Most streets in Columbus, GA, are haunted, for me. This first week in town, my dog andIMG_0656-1 I have made it our mission to banish the ghosts that lurk in Britt David Park, Flat Rock Park and on the Riverwalk.

We’ve walked their trails, stopping at every puddle, funny smell and potential pee-pole. We’ve sat on the rocks and watched other people running. I wonder what their motivation is?

There are still a lot of ghosts here. Like I said, I traversed most of this town in my running shoes. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that these memories scare me a little.

From my journal:
There’s a hole in my heart as I drive around Columbus. It’s such a weird feeling, like a cavern that’s been covered over, sealed and the healing of that gaping hole has felt secure and relieving and good. Or a wound that once scabbed over, healed and remains a white, filmy scar. A bone healed, that again bears weight and mostly, the pain is gone. I feel debris and water slipping beneath the crevices and trying to re-open the hole in my heart. Scar tissue pulls and growth hurts. The weather here is just right, making the bone ache, and I see how and where I was broken once before.

And here is what Abba said:
Abby, those days are long gone. See, not only have I changed your body, I am changing your desires, changing your vision of beautiful.
There is no one like me who has doused you with life. Even in accepting your limits you feel more free than ever before. I have brought you far love. Rest and enjoy wide open spaces, green pastures and fresh water. Love, Father

Unveiling

Dearest Friends,

Halfway through the year, I have finally discovered exactly what God was getting at when He placed the One Word: Naked, on my heart, as my theme for 2013. Father was preparing me for His next nudge, to write my book.

If you’re a regular around here, you know that I started this process officially at the beginning of this year, though it has been fomenting in my subconscious for years. The thing about a personal book, is that it requires nakedness. Even in the first draft, I’ve already written some things that I’ve never shared previously. I’ve become more vulnerable with my self than I’ve ever been, discovering keys to my recovery from anorexia that were once mysteries.

In fact, peeling away the layers “typical anorexia”, and “treatment options”, and looking at my story under the spotlight of hindsight, I believe I’ve actually come to understand the purpose anorexia served in my life and I can honestly say, I would not wish to have done life differently. That doesn’t mean it was a pleasant experience, or that I would wish it on anyone, or even that it was God’s best for me.

What I have learned is that if I had walked through those years without an eating disorder, my faith would be softer. If I hadn’t made so many poor choices, or hovered so close to death, I never would have come to realize that my natural inclination is sin, the wages of sin is death and that I desperately need a Savior, and that Jesus is more than capable to save me.

This is a long introduction to a new segment of, Predatory Lies, that I begins this month. Starting next week, each Monday, I will publish a portion of a chapter in progress. This will allow me to be as naked with you, my current readers, as those who I hope will read my book once it’s published. Also, I hope that it will incite you to get the book and read it in full later.

Lastly, a naked confession, though I am more than convinced that God has called me to write this story now, I don’t know exactly what His publishing plans are. So, at least in this way, I can begin praying now, that God will use my words, my history, to turn the cultural tide of eating disorders and to point those already in its vice toward the One True Healer.