Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

My Own Moment of Choice


Me and My Little Namesake Boy (Alex, my nephew). He was a little under 5 pounds here, 2004

So before I shut my hellspri . . . er, formspring down, I had several people ask me about my “AHA moment”~ the moment I decided to get better.  This picture to the right probably played the biggest part in my decision.  Or, the person I am holding, rather.

I’ve known for years and years that I didn’t want to be a mother.  And people usually respond in one of two ways: A) Oh, you’ll change your mind when you get older.  (Um, I’m 33 now.  Still haven’t changed my mind.) or B) You don’t like kids??  Actually, I love kids and most of my jobs have involved working with kids.  I just don’t want one of my own.

I was looking forward to my brother and sister-in-law having kids.  I’d heard about how you get to spoil nieces and nephews and then send them home to their parents.  Sort of like being a grandparent, only I get to be cooler.  What I did not expect was the depth of emotion I felt for this tiny little baby all wrapped up tight in an incubator.  And the first time I held him, his little hands reached up and grabbed a fierce little hold of my heart and they have never let go.

This was 2004.  In 2005, I went through a rather drama-filled couple of weeks involving ambulances and ERs and I went inpatient, not fully by choice.  Once I was there, I had a rough time with the mandatory reporting procedure and got off to rather a rocky start. But I was getting closer and closer to the “I want out of this!” feeling.  The anorexia had completely worn me out and I was starting to see how it was ruining just about everything in my life. I was still IP on Christmas, and my brother brought Alex to visit me.  I loved seeing that boy.

One of my close friends on the unit taught my nephew to say “peace out” (He had just started talking and had just started calling me Ameh Lexie) and give the peace sign, although he held up three fingers rather than two because of the whole coordination thing.  And he tried sticked his animal crackers under the art room door, and I had to get staff to unlock it so we could pick them up because I didn’t want someone to get in trouble for hiding their evening snack later.  All in all, Alex made me laugh and smile and he made a lot of other girls laugh and smile, too.

But something was nagging at the back of my thoughts all the time he was there.  And after they left and I was journaling, I figured out what it was: I did not want my nephew to remember that day.  I didn’t want him remembering me in a hospital. I didn’t want him growing up visiting me in other hospitals.  I wanted to A) be alive to watch this miracle grow and B) be alive enough to be part of his life, an active part.  I didn’t want to be “the sick aunt” even if he never said those words aloud.

That was my big “AHA Moment.”  It didn’t make the work I was doing any easier.  I was still terrified of life without anorexia.  I had no idea what I’d find.  Who I’d find.  Would I like me without anorexia?  How would I be a good student without anorexia?  How would I protect myself without the eating disorder as a shield between me and the world?  Was I strong enough to do this?

Recovery began that day Alex came to visit me in the hospital.  And I made a huge amount of progress and was discharged into their partial program and worked my ass off and went back to school.  And some days I only had a finger’s hold on recovery, but I kept going.  And then, I’ll be honest, the thought of me not having anorexia freaked me the hell out.  And so I relapsed.  And then realized that everything was falling apart because of the relapse.  So I went back to the hospital.  And I told my doctor that I would stay as long as HE wanted me to and I would eat whatever HE told me to.  I stayed a lot longer than I thought I would, but felt more ready than ever before when I left.

I went back to school (again) a much stronger student and a much better writer.  And I discovered I didn’t need the anorexia to pull straight As or be creative.  Those qualities came out in ways I couldn’t have foreseen without the anorexia holding me back.  And I was accepted into the grad school of my choice and moved 1,000 miles away from everything I had ever known.

Then this little angel was born:

Me and Tara, again a little under 5 pounds, June 2009

Tara joined her older brother in the ranks of Cutest Two Babies Ever.  Because of me being 1,000 miles away and logistical stuff, I haven’t seen her since she was this small. But I want to be there as she’s growing up.  I want to see my brother with an adolescent daughter in the house.  I want to see her in a dance recital or soccer game or playing the piano or getting an academic award (in English, of course).

When I began to slip this past winter, a great deal of that had to do with the sudden depression that hit after my cardiac diagnosis, a diagnosis that took away a lot of my normal day-to-day activities.  A diagnosis that changed how I define myself.  And yes, I freaked out and fell back on what used to work so well for making all those problems disappear.  Except I realized very quickly that the problems weren’t going anywhere.  And they wouldn’t.  And I wasn’t getting that “high” from restricting I had gotten in the past.  Instead, I continued to get more depressed and I freaked out more because I had relied on symptoms and was terrified of going “back there.”

These two little babies, who aren’t so little anymore, were always at the forefront of my mind while I was at Rader.  I couldn’t start another sick-well-sick-hospital-well-sick-hospital-well cycle.  My stay, as is part of the program there, was the shortest of all my inpatient stays for the eating disorder, but I got back on track and by the time I came home, I felt secure on that track once again.  I wish I hadn’t started using behaviors again.  But maybe it was a good thing, because I realized that the eating disorder holds no magic anymore.  There was absolutely no gain from any of the symptoms, only more misery and the knowledge of this is not who I am anymore what the hell am I doing?

I’m going to be there at their high school graduations.  And some day, when they’re old enough to understand, I’ll find a way to tell them that they saved my life.  They gave me a reason to fight.

Eventually, I became the reason I was fighting so hard.  But those first couple of years, it was all for Alex.  It took awhile to develop enough of a sense of self-worth for me to fee “worth it.”

My advice: find anything that makes your life worth it, be it a child, a niece or nephew, a grandparent, a pet, anything.  Remind yourself every day of that reason.  Carry a picture with you.  But hold on tight.  Keep holding on, and eventually, you’ll start to see your own self-worth and you will become your own reason for fighting.  But I do believe that for most of us, that takes time.  I mean, we put ourselves down for so many years; it takes time to heal that.  So for now, hold on to anything you can.  Hold tight and as you get stronger, draw that person or animal closer to you and teach you self-love.  There is no better teacher than someone or something that knows nothing other than unconditional love.

What are your reasons for fighting?  What do you hold onto?  Let’s see how many reasons we can list.  Someone out there may need a list; someone out there may need a reminder.

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June 18, 2010 - Posted by | Eating Disorders, recovery, relationships | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

6 Comments »

  1. Our Alex rock! I am trying to fight harder for him and for Zach and Max too of course. They all notice when I am not there..i.e ip. How many time has Alex (my Alex) heard “Didi doesnt feel well” in his four years? too many times and thats a burden I have to bear. XXXoooo

    Comment by diana | June 18, 2010 | Reply

  2. “Keep holding on, and eventually, you’ll start to see your own self-worth and you will become your own reason for fighting.”

    This is so important! A lot of people say you can’t recover for someone else, and that’s basically true. But you need to have a starting point. If the only motivation you can find at the beginning is another person, then use that and build on it.

    Comment by Millie | June 18, 2010 | Reply

  3. Just thought of something else. I’m glad you wrote about continuing to struggle, while keeping your eye on the goal. A lot of people (both patients and family members) seem to think that an “aha momment” is a magical transformation and recovery then happens overnight. It can be frustrating to realize there is still a lot of work to do. The power of the “aha” is that the foundation for recovery becomes much stronger.

    Comment by Millie | June 18, 2010 | Reply

    • You’re absolutely right, Millie. There was no magical transformation after the AHA moment in my journal while I was IP. But suddenly I had a reason to fight, and having a reason to fight increased the amount of energy I had TO fight. Suddenly I had this knowledge that my fight was worthwhile. It gave me something to cling to

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | June 18, 2010 | Reply

  4. the power of a child’s love…there’s nothing like it. i’m so glad you have that in your life, and grateful to Alex for being the initial spark that kept you here.

    Comment by michelle | June 18, 2010 | Reply

  5. I struggled with an ed for over 30 years, through 3 pregnancies (it’s a miracle my kids were born healthy). I guess what finally put me on the road to recovery was realizing that I wasn’t LIVING life. I was just barely getting by. I wanted to LIVE life and be there for my grandchildren. I wouldn’t want ANYONE to live the life the way I did for all those years…barely getting through.

    Comment by cathy | June 18, 2010 | Reply


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