ED Will Never Ever Be My Valentine’s Date Again

Gosh, relationships. Hard enough before you have a third party involved. If you watch Sister Wives, you know what I am talking about. If you are in a relationship while having an eating disorder it’s like having an ménage à trois, because the eating disorder voice is always there, looming, as the third party in the relationship. You can’t just focus on the two of you, because that third party is constantly pulling at your heartstrings, like a puppet master, causing complete havoc.

Since I have never been one for a three way–I guess I am just not that kinky, but power to you if you are—when I was struggling with ED (short for “eating disorder,” which was coined by author and eating disorder survivor, Jenni Schaefer, in Life Without ED) he was the only thing I had time for. We were exclusive to each other, a monogamous duo. We had the talk many times.

He was romantic at times. On Valentine’s Day he pulled out all the stops, triggering bulimia, a special peanut butter binge-he knew it was my favorite–followed by an epic purge. He was thoughtful like that, knowing this was what an ideal date night for me would consist of–no one knew me, the ins and outs of my mind, quite like my eating disorder.

At times I did try to date. I made a profile and joined the ranks of New York dating singles on JDate and Match.com. At the time those were the big ones. It was difficult for me to take any “blind” date situation seriously. I felt like a caricature of myself out on these dates. I could never take these meet-ups as more than a joke—that would mean I would have to face being rejected or, worse, let someone in and get my heart broken. My eating disorder kept me safe, so I stuck tightly by his side.

For four years during the peak of my self-destruction, he was my everything. He was the only one I had time for because he was extremely demanding. He was bossy, actually verbally and physically abusive. He told me to workout, that my butt was too flabby. Sometimes he would tell me to workout for three hours on the elliptical in the middle of the night, when I couldn’t sleep. He told me not to eat anything all day except for a lean cuisine meal around dinnertime. He told me to wear baggy clothes to mask my shrinking frame. He told me how to order laxatives without people knowing (online—duh!). He taught me so many tricks, he taught me everything I knew. We were so co-dependent that I thought we merged into one. I forgot who I was.

Six months into recovery, was the first time I was able to let someone besides ED into my life. A year and a half later we were married. I finally started to peal away who Dani was without her eating disorder—what she really liked, didn’t like, and most importantly how she felt. I became the real me, not the me I felt pressure to be or who constantly believed I wasn’t good enough. Because you know what I am more than good enough, thank you very much!

My husband, he was not my cure-all, by any means. I am in no way saying that a ring and a wedding cured my eating disorder or made me well, because it didn’t. What I am saying is that because I was happy and healthy enough, mentally and physically, to let myself be vulnerable, the conditions for true connection were set.

So this Valentine’s Day I will be celebrating, four years eating disorder free, with my husband and my 11-month old daughter by my side. We will be at home, in our pajamas, eating takeout and speaking baby babble with food absolutely everywhere—and it will be perfect. I couldn’t even imagine this life years ago, but now I wouldn’t even want to take a peek back out of curiosity. Recovery has brought me this perfectly imperfect spaghetti-and-tomato-sauce-in-the-hair filled image of Valentine’s Day and as challenging and sometimes messy as it will be—I couldn’t picture it any other way. I will cheers to my recovery, with a spaghetti noodle from my hair, for giving me the guts to get rid of my abusive boyfriend—ED.

 

 

This Is Not A Choice

“Why can’t you just eat?” Such a simple question with such a complex answer.

Trust me, when I was at my lowest weight and struggling with anorexia, I knew I looked sickly. I just couldn’t get myself to eat. It wasn’t that easy. That is the biggest misconception about anorexia; that if you just eat, you will get better. Great, if it was just that easy! Eating is against everything you believe, especially when it is ingrained into your DNA not to.

Similarly when I was trying to recover through the Maudsley approach, family based treatment; I couldn’t help but slip with laxatives a couple of times. It was like a force was pulling me towards them like I was in some kind of magical trance. My parents didn’t understand. One time it got really bad. I didn’t respond well—we all didn’t respond well.

I was about halfway through my Maudsley refeeding at twenty-six—I know, it was rough-when my mom found natural laxatives I’d bought in one of the drawers in the computer room at my parents house. I was staying there for a couple of months to avoid inpatient treatment, while working with an eating disorder therapist, and other experts. I had compartmentalized the laxatives as not being a problem. I mean I was gaining weight, eating, doing everything else right. Can’t I be getting better but still abusing laxatives at the same time? I wondered. I know the answer to that now, but just humor me for a moment.

I had tried to justify them to myself when I sneakily bought them because they were “natural” laxatives. Natural meant they were acceptable in my mind—wrong! My mom called my dad when we were on the way home from work and angrily told him what she discovered. He yelled at me for being deceitful.

“All you do is lie to me. I can’t trust you! How could you lie to me?” he roared, his lower teeth overtaking his upper lip like a shih tzu, which was intimidating as fuck—not like the cute little teacup shih tzus I was familiar with.

“I am so sorry, I didn’t mean to—” I said biting my lip hard, tears forming in my shameful eyes.

“You mean, you didn’t mean to get caught! Your mother and I have been busting our assess trying to get you better, and this is how you repay us. You are so ungrateful.”

I swear he had such force in his voice that the car shook with its booming vibrato. He never knew how to handle his emotions, especially over things he couldn’t control. He wanted to scare the shit out of me, scare the anorexia and bulimia out of me, so I wouldn’t do it again. Though that wasn’t going to help. He didn’t understand how powerful this addiction was. He didn’t understand that the last thing I wanted to do was lie to him, to my mom. It wasn’t about trust. I had a problem. I was an addict.

I cried all the way home as he expressed his disappointment in me as a person, even more hurtful, as his daughter. We got home, and as we pulled in, I saw the outline of my mom at the door peering out: her long brown locks, medium-height lanky body, and long skinny arms. How would I get around her without talking to her? My dad’s screams were all blending together as the intensity seemed to decrease, and all I could hear were the same words over and over again “disappointment” and “unappreciative.”

I opened the car door and slithered out like a rattlesnake making its escape, slammed the door shut behind me, and ran past my mom up the back stairs and hid. Yes, you read that correctly, I hid. I didn’t want them to belittle me anymore. I couldn’t take it. Through the vents, I could hear them talking, but only in murmurs. Then they shouted for me: “Dani! Dani!” I stayed in my hiding spot, paralyzed. I felt like a little girl hiding from her spanking.

I hid in a closet in my room under hanging clothes, squishing old shoes with my butt and legs for what seemed like a long time. I whimpered but tried to stay as quiet as possible. It was hot and dark with a little light peeking through the bottom. I saw the backs of dresses from when I was younger. One was dark maroon. I recognized it as the dress I wore to my bat mitzvah. I placed my fingers on it and felt the texture; it felt hard, almost stale. I looked at a suitcase above me where I used to hide laxatives, now I was hiding for them. I was hiding because I was so addicted to them, to my habits, that I couldn’t stop myself from using them. I’d reached a new low. I was sitting in my childhood closet hiding from the world.

I heard my mom calling in echoes. “Dani, Dani! Is this a joke? Where are you?” I heard her faint footsteps far away.

My dad chiming in: “Did she leave the house?”

I heard the front door open and slam close.

Tucked quietly away, I let them panic for a bit. I let them squirm the way I had been squirming these past couple of months, tiptoeing around them, trying everything to please them, following their every order so I wouldn’t be hospitalized. Somehow, in this moment, this felt so much worse than the worst punishment I could think of. I wanted to get even with them in a way. I resented my dad’s reaction; I resented my mom for busting me the way she did. She could have just waited until we both got home, instead of making me get stuck in a car with someone who saw this as the ultimate betrayal.

“You are going to be in big trouble whenever you come out!” I heard my dad scream. Not exactly motivation for me to move. I closed my eyes and tried to slow my breathing, hoping the walls from the closet would close in and suffocate me, end it all right now, right here . . .

“Dani, please, we are not mad at you,” my mom countered his lunacy. Her panicked voice made me feel a little bad.

About ten minutes in hiding, I opened the closet door from the inside, revealing myself. I picked myself up slowly, gaining balance on my two feet and feeling weak and defeated as I shouted, “I’m here, I’m here.” I realized that my voice was in a whisper and not the shout I intended it to be. “I’m here. I am coming!” I screamed again, and this time it was actually louder.

I walked down the front stairs and found them both in the kitchen.

When I saw their faces, I apologized through broken whimpers and tears. My parents both embraced me. I snuggled into my dad’s chest, hiding my face and tears in the warmth of his body. I cried for my parents. I cried for myself. I cried because I didn’t think I could do this anymore. I just cried.

I wish all of us had responded differently. There were a lot of emotions. It was one of the hardest times in all of our lives. My dad didn’t know anything from eating disorders. He thought I chose not to eat. He never heard of anyone being addicted to something like laxatives. But now every year at the NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) walk, my dad stands right by my side listening to the speakers; his unblinking eyes release tears that roll along the contour of his chin and down his neck. Now, he is my biggest advocate and understands how difficult this illness is. He is proud of me, of all the people that beat this. He knows this is not a choice.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 or refer to the resources page

 

 

 

Get Low, Low, Low

It’s called getting low. At least that’s what my hubby and I call it. When you don’t want to do something in parenthood, but you do it because you absolutely have to—that would be the start of getting low’s Wikipedia definition. Then you duck, tuck and get as low as you can and slither out of the room, like what they tell you in Fire education–stop, drop without the roll. But for effect if you want to do the roll, go ahead by all means.

For instance, last night my daughter was wickedly teething. The amount she was teething made me want to be all tough and Bostonian, like a Ben Affleck movie, hence the wicked. Well, she woke up screaming at around 10 pm. After some Tylenol and a pity viewing of Little Einstein’s, her favorite show, which I like to think she enjoys because she is a baby genius, not because of the bright colors and catchy tunes. But I digress.

After twenty-minutes when she seemed a little better I went to put her back into her crib when she started screaming. And when I say screaming I mean-wah, wah wah, getting increasingly louder with each subsequent wah. It’s awful. One thing I can’t take is hearing my baby crying. My heart cramps together in pain and my blood starts boiling like a teapot— it hurts my first-time-mommy soul. So I did the first thing that came to mind. I got low, and slithered out of her nursery, pretending it didn’t happen. Five minutes later, she was back to sleep.

Another instance where this works is when you are putting your baby in the stroller after a class, when she does not want to be in there more than anything. And hell yes, she will let you know it. Oh and also the fifteen other mothers in the class. She screams incessantly and all of the other mothers are looking at you like girl, what’s wrong with your baby? You can’t get her to stop-try a bottle, a WubbaNub, nothing works. So you duck, tuck and get as low as possible and sneak out the door and start hauling ass down the street.

This can really work in any situation. Let’s say you are feeding your baby at a restaurant and she throws up—puke covering her head to toe. Then you take her to the bathroom and realize you forgot her change of clothes. Crap. Well, you put her in the diaper and winter jacket with the 7AM—pay the bill of course, we don’t promote dining and dashing– and then duck, tuck and slither out of the restaurant before anyone can even notice.

So the next time something happens where you want to avoid seeing your baby upset or the judgmental eyes of other mamas; or worse, the judgmental eyes of other people that don’t have babies and don’t understand–do whatever you got to do. But always remember in the back of your head as a rabbit in the hat magic trick of the trade, when all else fails with your baby, duck, tuck and get low low low low low low low low.