DATE: 6TH JUNE, 1996
Dear Richard, Ann and David,
I have been reading through the information sent to me by David and am struck with both the urgency and desperation of your situation. I am honoured to have been asked to consult with you and I hope I can offer some helpful ideas/thoughts that will be useful to you. What I will do is run through the ideas I have had upon reviewing the information available. Of course this will be difficult for me because I do not know you or Diana and I am aware that Diana’s voice is missing from all of this. So please let me know if anything seems way off track or misrepre-sentative of your situation or of you as people. Below you will find my thoughts surrounding finding a ‘way of speaking’ if and when the going gets tough.
I have read through the letter to Diana urging for her to live rather than die for anorexia and have many thoughts around some of the text. What I hope to do here is offer you some ideas about how anorexia works to recruit the information it needed to survive and keep a person locked in its grips so that your ‘way of speaking’ can be very sensitive to this. I believe this is important because it sounds like anorexia is so very strong at this point and that any ‘way of speaking’ will have to be careful, so that it will not provide ammunition for anorexia to use against Diana. What is needed is ammunition for everyone, especially Diana to use against it.
Within the letter I am struck by the sincerity and love that Ann feels for Diana. I also have a strong sense of Diana’s ability to help and care for others and the hope to “one day see you giving concerns of your own the attention they so richly deserve”. From my experience of anorexia, I have found that it can use a ‘caring for others’ and an ability to help as a means of recruitment and entrapment into its grips. Being a person for others is something it can use to convince a person that if (anorexia) is something one can do for oneself (to make one happier, more perfect, to ‘measure up’, to take a break…..). Once anorexia has one in its grips, it can twist this and use Guilt(guilt that one has let others down, that one is not able to do the things that one once could do for others, etc) to enhance its control. I have a worry that an abundance of statements that strongly emphasize Diana’s “santi-like ability to help and care for others” may provide some of that Guilt ammunition. As I understand things, Ann is the only person who at this time is “being heard by Diana” and this is very positive. I would hate to see anorexia/guilt forming any more of a wedge there.
I am going to be bold here and make some suggestions that may or may not fit for you so please let me know if it sounds like I am way off base. I, and Stephen, whom I work with, have been looking into the ways that anorexia ‘dismembers’ persons away from memberships in families, communities and especially from qualities and talents in themselves that are cherished. It seems that Diana’s ability to care and give is one of those qualities that is being remembered and I am interested in hearing about more of these “rememberings of her” other qualities, talents, etc. In the information I have, it is stated that anorexia has promised relief from the “travails of her life” and I am curious to know some of the joys, moments of fun, the leisure that she may expect if she moves away from the regime of anorexia. I am very interested in hearing some remembering of Diana before anorexia/depression got a hold of her and this remembering might be of qualities, talents, things that Diana is passionate about, and things that she is likely to wish to reclaim or regain in her life, should she choose to take steps away from anorexia. While this happens, once again it is important to remain very aware of the ways that Guilt will try to slip in and defeat this effort.
Another thought that I have had is around the name of the problem. It was mentioned that when any anti-anorexic talk occurs, violence flares up. Is anorexia the name that Diana agrees to for the problem? The type of language that is used and also the length of communication will be important, especially if anorexia is working to steal Diana’s concentration. The shorter and the more succinct, the better may be a useful guideline, if for instance, a letter is being drafted. A ‘way of speaking’ that will serve to easily touch Diana will be important- not too much metaphor, or language that will sound typically ‘anti-anorexic’ could be useful.
I notice that Diana has stated that “she can lose weight forever without coming to grief” and when the going gets tough as it sounds like it is right now, it is important to make the intentions of anorexia crystal-clear. I have been near death before whilst in the grip of anorexia as have others I know and at that time, the most useful words were strong and clear. I don’t mean fear or scare tactics (although this is a scary time) but honest and clear communication. Strong enough to get past the screaming of anorexia and to reach Diana’s heart. It might be important to her that anorexia’s/depression’s intent is to kill, and that she is in grave danger. Anorexia has a way of telling people that they are not sick enough, not deserving of help, not in danger (all ways for anorexia to win).
Lastly, I am concerned about asking Diana to once again to something for others, especially the emphasis to live for another. From my discussions and from my own experience, I have found that while it was important for me to live because I had people in my life, especially my daughter who needed me, anorexia had ways of twisting this to allow me only to see how much I had let here down, how much I had burdened my family, etc. As I have said Guilt can really dig its teeth into this kind of stuff. What was very helpful was recognizing that the anorexia had promised me only good things and positive results, but time and time again kept letting me down and in fact kept punishing me. I needed to see that I was someone who was worthy of a life, worthy of help from others.
I must end here but I hope that there is some information that will help.
DATE: 1ST JULY, 1996
Re: On Hospitalization
About two summers ago, I found that after much time struggling with disordered eating, anorexia/bulimia had completely taken over my life. Over the months prior to this, it had weakened my body and mind so that I felt even when I wanted to fight, I was too tired and scared to do so. What I find amazing now as I reflect on this time is that although people were telling me that my health was failing, a/b blinded me to this and told me that it was was not true. All of the promises that had been made by anorexia all still felt beyond my reach. The reality was that it had promised me happiness but I was miserable. It had promised a more active social life and I was alone. Despite an unbending devotion to a/b’s rules, I felt out of control and scared.
One day a health care worker whom I trusted took me aside and told me bluntly that if I continued on the path that I was on, my body would soon fail me and I could be dead at any moment. Anorexia tried to shove this off as nonsense but a small part of me was able to hear this information and trust it. For the next short while, as I was doing the things that I had to do to fulfill a/b, I found that warning voice in the back of my mind. As this happened, a/b began to holler louder and I could see that it didn’t care if my body was exhausted- it would keep on pushing me even if it killed me. I felt as if I could not stop a/b and it was trying to convince me that not only did I have no right to happiness, no right to have fun, no right to rest, eat or drink. It was telling me that I had no right to live. I became terrified by this and after much deliberation, I accepted that I needed more intensive help and yielded to the idea of hospitalization.
The time that I spent in hospital felt like a roller coaster ride- a/b continued to scream its’ harsh words and at the same time, I had to meet the goals of the hospital. It was during that time that I saw the true, vicious nature of a/b. It tried all the tricks to try and get me to reject any help I was getting. Even though I was sick, it was still hounding me to exercise, to obey it, to push my body further and I was scared at the strength and power that it seemed to have. I had been betrayed, lied to, hurt and manipulated by anorexia. As I began what is called the ‘refeeding process’, I found that a mess of emotions that had been ‘numbed out’ began to resurface and it felt hard to sort them out or to know where to start.
Anorexia’s reaction to the hospital is often intense, as if it were backed into a corner, and this can make it a difficult time to fight the problem. Messages, such as “you don’t need to be here”, “you’re not sick enough for this kind of help”, “they’re trying to make you fat” are vicious tactics that anorexia will try and use to undermine the step that one has taken to rebel against it. Anorexia HATES the hospital and it hates anybody/anything anti-anorexic because it is threatening to its’ survival.
Some of the things that were helpful to me during this time were as follows:
- to try not to fall into the idea that I had a certain period of time in which I HAD to recover,
- to realize that anorexia was not a dark part of me, a bad part of myself, but rather something that was affecting me,
- to take small steps toward health and to realize that each small step was a big step away from anorexia
- to be easy on myself
- finding distractions like writing or drawing or other projects that occupied my hands and my mind…to be anti-perfectionistic about these projects,
- to start to rediscover some of the ideas, talents, interests that had been abandoned while anorexia took over,
- to realize that recovery is a process that can, and often does, take a long time. To trust that is worth it. To realize that each person recovers at their own pace,
- to ask myself- “what kind of lifestyle do I want? One that is anorexia-filled or one that is self-fulfilled?
- to recognize that each step I take away from a/b is going to make it panic and try harder to pull me back.
This was what I felt was the real beginning of recovery (or re-discovery). I had been through other programs and treatments but at that time I couldn’t believe that anorexia was dangerous and could take away my life. As I said, that was two years ago and I can now say that anorexia’s influence on my life is quite minimal. I still hear it’s voice but it has become much easier to tell it to take off and leave me alone.
Keep Fighting- It’s Worth It