Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

Aha Moment

This entry is courtesy of the Topics page, where the readers get to suggest topics for my entries. The topic for today:

What was my “aha moment”?

I think this is a multi-layered question.  There were two aha moments and they were both necessary and were about a year-and-a-half apart from one another.  The first one was near the end of my first semester of my masters program.  I started the program on shaky footing, and continued relapsing at a rapid rate.  All the while thinking I was doing a phenomenal job of hiding it.  It turns out my professors knew what was going on, and the peers that I allowed myself to socialize with also had a good guess.  (I didn’t do much socializing that semester because everything involved food.)  

I was at an academic conference presenting a paper and the evening after I presented, I went into severe tachycardia  and could hardly breathe.  I was dizzy and couldn’t stand up or hold anything in my hands because I was shaking so hard.  So I had to go to the hospital via ambulance–the whole drill of potassium and IVs and antiarrhythmic medications and all that.  I really really wanted to finish the semester.  I told myself that I wasn’t near my lowest weight and that I wasn’t sick enough, but a few days later, I woke up and looked in the mirror and what I saw scared me:  I wasn’t pale. I was yellow and, well, I looked disgusting.  So I went inpatient.  

While I was inpatient that time, my brother brought my nephew to visit me on Christmas Day.  Alex was only two and had only just started called me ‘Ame Lexie.  Another patient and I taught him how to say “Peace Out!” and flash the peace sign (which he did with three fingers, not two).  Yes, that’s endearing and cute and funny and he will still say that when you give him the peace sign.  But I realized that I didn’t want him to grow up visiting me in hospitals, that I didn’t want him to remember where he learned the peace sign.  I love that little boy with every ounce of my being, and I decided I wanted to be an active part of his life, and that I wanted him to remember me coloring on the living room floor or running around the playground.  

I decided I didn’t want to be sick anymore.  That I wanted to actively participate in life. 

The second aha moment came a year-and-a-half later.  It was my fourth semester in my master’s program.  And I was doing well.  But then I freaked out.  “What if I couldn’t be a good student without the eating disorder?  What if I couldn’t handle life?  What if I sucked at everything I wanted to do?”  And so what did I do at the fear of not having the eating disorder?  Clung to it even harder.  And went back IP.  

Once I was there, another patient asked me on Day 2, “What do you do?”  As in, my career.  And I answered, “I’m a grad student.”  Except then it hit me: I wasn’t really a grad student.  I wasn’t a part of the program.  I still sat in the library by myself and worked all day.  I still preferred to wear huge baggy clothes and hoodie sweatshirts and curl up in the corner of a cafe than engage with people.  

So I went into my doctor’s office and said, “I don’t care what I say, but do not listen to me when I start asking you to leave.  I am going to trust you 100% to tell me when I am ready and what I need to eat and how much I need to weigh.”  Three days later, I asked him if I could go home because I was sick of being inpatient and was sure I could “do this on my own.”  We talked about this, but then he said, “You will be here much longer than you thought you would.  But you will never come back.”

I ended up in tears in his office multiple times a week, but I told him every thought and feeling and fear and gave up all control.  He did keep me much longer than I thought I should be there, but he was right in doing so.  He kept me long enough to realize that I did not need the eating disorder.  

He kept me long enough for me to realize that I didn’t even want the eating disorder.


July 31, 2009 - Posted by | Eating Disorders, identity | , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I love the power that a nephew or niece can have on us.

    Comment by Andi | August 7, 2009 | Reply

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