As if a week dealing with sexual harassment wasn’t enough, a guy at work asked me if I had ‘lost weight’ yesterday…I flipped a mental shit-brick-bomb…anyways, I wrote this to my mom over the last couple of days and I was going to give it to her in the card I got her for Mother’s Day on Sunday, but am thinking it may not be the best time for something like this… but I will let her know in the card I have written her something and plan to eventually give it to her… What do you guys think?

Dear Mom,

This is hands down, the hardest thing I have ever written. While it flows out of me with ease, hitting on and expressing my emotions has never been a strong spot. Talking about my problems, namely anorexia as a mental illness, is absolutely humiliating. When it is in control, I do things that you wouldn’t normally do or ever think to share. While it is rather obvious I have never been very good at listening to my body, I tend to work against how I’m feeling or just override many sensations I am learning to pay acute attention to.

Through years of watching you mom- your thoughts, your actions, your self confidence, self esteem and overall moral values. From watching you put others before yourself and genuinely caring for so many people, myself included, and being able to experience the sheer joy life offers, you have taught me so much. You have instilled faith in God in me, which many times has shamefully been my last shot resort in a time of need.

For an unmentionable amount of time, I convinced myself I would be nothing without an eating disorder. The twisted disease made my identity lie in the fact that I was ‘the sick one,’ and for a long time I lived in that thought hating myself and convinced I was never going to accomplish anything. Without anorexia, I thought I would lose my purpose and any point of personal reference if I got better. While I was ‘sick’ I didn’t have to deal with life, with harassment from guys, with my problems, or with society in general. Yet through the sickness I was convinced I was fine, normal even, and so secluded from reality, that I was deeply suffering a nonexistent self identity and zero confidence.

I feared actually ever getting better because I was so convinced everything was in my control, I had it right, and I was just fine. Anorexia was much preferable to being nobody or learning to grow up- in my disordered mind. I fought the fear for so long keeping myself just out of harms reach and in control of my own outcomes. I predicted, or tried to, the consequences of my thoughts, actions and behaviors. I needed the control, the reassurance and the order in every minute of my day. I had no idea where my life was, or still is headed, and this mind control relieves the stress of figuring out what I am doing in life, what I want and what I desire. From sun up to sun down my entire life was based on routine, repetitive thoughts, and a mess of chaotic self hate that considering even one ‘change in routine’ would be terminal- literally.

I thought I would die or be on insanity’s front door equipped in a straight jacket if I let go and chose to battle the numbing routine rather than give into my own mind. Deviating from my comfort, what I know and once trusted, that damn ‘bubble of control’ was so alien it equated to death in me.

I have thought about and thought about this whole getting better thing for more time than I want to admit, but through your personality and your encouragement- hell, just being there all the time to deal with me- has made me realize everything in my mind- it’s all a lie. It is not my identity, but a mental illness. It tells me and everyone else the same message. It is self destructive.

Admitting my fear in recovery forced me to understand that I cannot fear the disease itself. This for me was huge. I had never realized that I fear myself and my own mind more than anything in the world. Mental illness is not something to be feared, but battled.

It was hard. It is hard- every single day is a battle.  I wanted to know the outcome and weigh the cost/benefit reaction of every thought, every action and every bite of every meal- and I occasionally am still caught in the reassurance that anorexia will calm my stress and worries. I need to know where I am headed, what will result, and how I ‘should’ be. I fear the changes- I fear the day to day experience of being myself but having no idea who I am and feeling like my body and my mind were two different battling beasts. Everything about my own being, and being on my own is totally alien- but it won’t kill me.

Losing the disease is scary but until I told myself I could not ever get better if I feared myself, change was never going to occur. I can’t see into or predict my future as much as I desire to. But I know and constantly remind myself that I am not losing anything battling through a mental illness that I would ever want to keep. From my friends, my health, my bones, my mental well being, my family, and my perspective on life, anorexia has taken it all. Trust me I am not oblivious to the fact that my bones suck and I stand the chance at being infertile. Honesty is a hard struggle when your mind is always telling you otherwise- tell someone an apple is an orange enough times and they’ll start to believe it. I think I have exceeded my quota on lying for the rest of my life- I am practically incapable of doing it anymore.

When remorse kicks in the day you realize how you acted and what you caused- not an exceedingly more horrendous feeling exists. I feel as though I owe my every waking minute to you, dad, Chris and Brian. There is no way for me to un-do anything now, but the guilt and shame are with me forever. I am so ashamed of what I have done I have no way to make up for it or the lost time and fear I instilled in y’all. I often get caught up in who I think I use to be and ‘what if’ patterns of not ever having developed an eating disorder. I am so ashamed, and so sorry.

Without possibility and force there is no hope. There is no point with no hope and you provide me with an incredible amount of hope. My mind, or rather ‘that mind’ works on the same foundation. It’s all about the moment, making a decision- perfect decision- right now. The fear of recovery vs. staying this way forever outweigh the possibility of ever giving in again. The change brought about in recovery outweigh what other options would cost me. It is a huge mental and physical obstacle which I have forced myself to work on getting past.

I never thought I could possibly change, let go of even a basic walking ritual or a basic meal time and food obsession ritual. A lot of the time I try to change and tell myself change will happen, right at the last minute I give in fall back and experience the comfort not changing offers- it is very distorted. This does me no good and the ridiculous fury from lost battles of the sort ultimately results in me falling back down the stairs I have struggled so hard to get up. One shaved meal, one skipped dinner, one thoughtless food relapse and I am back to where I started.

Nobody, even I, regardless of how much strength I think I may possess at times can just ‘get rid of it.’ It is much like telling me to ‘just eat.’ It is not about the food- never was and never will be- but the premise of the entire mind game revolves around the aspect of controlling everything that enters my mouth and body with a reassurance of security, comfort and a mind at ease- one that doesn’t freakishly stress-worry-loathe 24/7 . Do I have a desire to be healthy and lean, yes, but this is a byproduct of developing anorexia. I wasn’t obsessed with myself day to day until I developed the disease. So, to move on I must work with it. I understand an alcoholic must get well again by abstaining from the product that harms them and causes an addiction. Alcoholics must avoid alcohol, for life. What makes an eating disorder so uniquely annoying is that I have to face food everyday, I have to eat food everyday, and I have to face my bizarre addiction every single day. You can’t ‘not eat’ and get better. But an alcoholic can ‘not drink’ and get better.

Something you have shown me, that changing tomorrow will never be better or easier than changing today- right now. Not ‘ill try’ or ‘I will’ but ‘I AM.’ I can’t beat around the bush and let stupid rituals slide. You have taught me this. The more time I devote to giving into being horribly absent from life the harder it will be.

I know and trust in God that I am getting better. I talk to him every night. He knows my fears and my small successes which in my book are tremendous deal-with-the-shame-and-guilt experiences that will ultimately make me healthier. You know how you face problems as they come and don’t like to dwell? Taking this trait from you and using it has been amazing help for me. The longer I let fear sit around and wait the harder change is. It never occurred to me that such a strong personality trait needed to be applied to recovery. Who would have ever thought I would be able to hang out in a bikini eating crawfish with 30 some men, or go out on a limb and eat potatoes on a date? Certainly not me, and I learned from similar experiences to give myself more credit, and say YES when my mind is screaming NO. There was a time when I thought getting better was hopeless and all the energy I had left was already taken by my head. I have thought about and tried repeatedly so many times and failed that my quota was surpassed- but it hasn’t and I can always do better. I make one step forward only to fall back three it feels like sometimes. But your ‘deal with it now’ quality showed me there is always hope and always something to try.

When I thought I just couldn’t fight it anymore, I realized I am stronger than that. Reassuring as it is, when you realize 99% of your everyday is not in your control it is a bit terrorizing. I know, and am always reminded of how incompatible giving into my mind is with reality- it is truly scary. The whole recovery process is so unnatural to me. Being, living and existing are nothing I can control.

Another thing you have provided me…While I know I did not choose to develop anorexia despite what the mainstream uneducated public thinks, I do make my behaviors a choice and when I fight constantly, I start to have a say in my life again. I guess this goes with the ‘bite the bullet’ motto. I do my best everyday to not make this whole process harder than it really is. I don’t allow myself ‘time to think on it’ and time over-considering and reconsidering the possible outcome of one choice all day long. I know from experience that a few of these will have me starting to fight all over again.

However prepared I can convince myself to become; it will never be okay, easy and unproblematic. I cannot begin to explain the frustration, shame and guilt I have with myself. I take it as a sign of getting better merely because I feel pain and remorse again. I have so much regret it is ridiculous. The process is SO SLOW- and it still is. It is hard to reprogram my brain after so long with so much assurance and fake-comfort attached. Thankfully, my body has been more forgiving than I have.

If I want and desire the change and recovery then I need to provide myself alternatives- possibility of truly getting well. If I don’t do anything to change myself and my thoughts then I will never get any better. It’s broke, my thought process, so it needs fixin. What a painfully harsh awakening it is when you are able to finally see the reality- it hurts like hell.

And usually, as past experience has shown me, I would fall back upon a glimpse of reality. I want to retreat when I realize I can’t handle reality and the change required in getting well. This only made it worse, dragging on to an inevitable nonexistent fantasy of a mind game. My thoughts ultimately get worse, my fear gets stronger and the disease plants itself deeper in my head. So again, I turn to you. I learn what you would do in such a situation. I don’t try to ‘be you or act like you’ but I take your general advice and what I have learned through watching you, and use it to help myself.

And it works, albeit slowly, day by day. To you it is natural and to me it is a whole new world. When I struggle I am pretty sure you are aware. I am around the house a lot. I am quiet. I am silent but gathering the strength and comfort of ‘home’. I don’t know what it is and I don’t know what it will ever be, but the feeling of ‘coming home’ makes everything okay- even driving down 11 to our house makes it okay. I muster up strength to fight myself and I am once again flourished with the accomplishments and pride I should have in myself. Maybe it’s the hug, maybe it’s the ‘I love you’- I don’t know but it works. Avoidance is futile and I need to learn to deal with it as it comes.

It is hard when you are scared to get better, but you are scared to stay sick too. Staying sick is way worse, but getting better is an unknown world as well. I thought at one point I had no hope and couldn’t dare ever change my ways but with your support I know I can’t think my way out of this. Your straightforward-ness, no negotiation style attitude provided me this guidance.

I make it a point to place myself in uncomfortable social situations. I do my best to ‘act’ normal and ‘fake it till you make it’ because for me, it is not natural. I can’t expect friendship and desire from other people if I am not even nice to myself. Once I figure out how to establish a sane and good relationship with myself then social gatherings, outings and spur of the moment changes will be natural to me. But for now, I force it into habit. I want for other people and their impact on my life and my life reflection on them to be the reason I have a ‘life’ and a desire to be happy.

When my mind starts playing tricks, I start seeing truth in the lies, or my body starts getting high from missed hunger, I make myself remember everything you have taught me. Nothing in the world could act as a more compelling and driving force to keep going than you mom. I have learned to move beyond embarrassment, fuss, and hopefully one day shame and have found I am capable of a little risk and saying yes. You’ve taught me to bite the bullet, face it, deal with it and conquer it. I realized it is the anticipation that gets me and the reflection on it never is as bad as it feels. I will never be ‘as good as you’ with it all because I make it a forced habit, but your guidance has instilled a confidence in me I could not find anywhere else.

Thank you for everything and always being there for me. I love you so much

Love, Mal