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Anorexia, or where I've been

Guys, I have to be honest with you that 2019 kicked my ass from start to finish. I had significant depressive episodes, and I was battling and losing to anorexia. It’s been a lot of therapy, and my medication is still being adjusted. There was also a lot of energy absorbed by the usual–chronic pain, parenting, etc.

I stopped posting here because I couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t maintain the facade that everything was okay when my life was the farthest thing from okay. Not the lowest point of my life, but it’s among them.

I’ve decided to share my story in hopes that it might help someone else. I was not educated about how fat people can still be anorexic—in fact, I joked that I could be “anorexic” until I was actually anorexic. I thought of anorexia as something that happens to teenagers, not mothers in their forties.

I have a long history with hating my body, and I have been restricting since I was young, although never like this. Primarily my restricting has been the other component of my eating disorder–what’s called Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, or ARFID.

The restricting that turned into full blown anorexia started by accident in the summer of 2018—what a therapist called momorexia, because I was eating small bites on the go, stopping at the first hint of fullness because I was super busy. I lost weight, and since I was losing at a “safe” pace of 8-ish pounds a month, or 2-ish a week, I shrugged off my initial concerns that maybe the weight loss wasn’t such a good thing, or, more to the point, that it wasn’t happening safely. I kept restricting further and further, taking every less bite of food as a moral victory. After all, I’ve been in a body that has weighed 200+ pounds for the past twenty years, and every doctor I’ve talked to from my back surgeon to my pcps have urged me to lose weight. I’ve done dieting. I’ve done exercising until I hurt myself. But I never was able to move the needle much at all (because, as science tells us, our bodies tend to have a set point weight, and it’s really hard to move that needle when it’s possible at all) until restricting.

When I told my doctor that maybe I wasn’t being safe in late November (by which point I was eating less than I ever had, and my weight has never been about overeating). She told me to eat at least 1200 calories a day and it would be fine. AT LEAST. My fucked up brain said if 1200 is good, under 1200 is better. After all, it’s not like I’m losing weight too fast.

Then I began counting calories explicitly. Weighing food. Measuring food. Then my weight plateaued in February 2019. Then came the spreadsheet, and the game I played with myself, which was effectively “how few calories can Delilah eat without having dizzy spells?” In April I blew up at my therapist over eating—the first time she’d seen me fully lose my composure in nearly four years of weekly or bi-weekly therapy. I ended up confessing everything. She talked to a colleague who specializes in eating disorders. The colleague strongly urged me to seek evaluation and treatment. I made an appointment with Stanford’s eating disorder clinic for evaluation, but I also made an appointment with a plastic surgeon. I knew how many pounds I was away from “overweight” as opposed to “obese.” I was constantly getting positive feedback.

I shopped in straight sizes for the first time ever as an adult. Clothes became a way I compensated myself for all the awful shit I was putting myself through. But I was a pretty absent mom because I was so exhausted all the time because I wasn’t eating.

Then came the first week of June. I ended up in the ER for pain we thought was a kidney infection, but was actually a cyst on an ovary. But as they ran tests, they found that my potassium was extremely low–even dangerously so. I was given a mega dose, and told to follow up with my doctor. Then came the multi-day nausea (which I now suspect was a series of worsening panic attacks as there is a clear pattern between nausea and anxiety attacks for me) and dry heaving, during which I ate virtually nothing and threw up what I did eat and drink.

I got evaluated by the eating disorder team, and it didn’t go well.

But the real bottom of the barrel, and the reason I ended up getting help was that I collapsed at my older daughter’s fifth grade graduation. I felt like shit—I could barely pay attention because it felt like there was something on my chest and that I was struggling to breathe normally. I survived through it, although I remember nothing beyond what I was physically experiencing, which took over everything. When the room started telescoping, I told my husband that I needed to leave and go to the hospital. He agreed, and I went to the car while he went find our daughter and tell her what was happening and why we were leaving. At the car I started feeling really faint, and staggered to the front office where I asked them to call 911. I got taken away, dehydrated, mid massive panic attack (the source of the chest pains, most likely, based on tests), and on the verge of fainting in an ambulance. Instead of celebrating graduation with my daughter.

For what it’s worth, my daughter is so understanding of all of it–which almost makes it worse. She’s forgiven me. I have yet to forgive myself.

Inpatient treatment was recommended, but I was able to find what’s called a partial hospitalization program near me. Partial hospitalization was a six and a half hour a day commitment, but I could live at home. I’d go there, eat lunch (supervised), do two hours of therapy, eat a snack (supervised), two hours of therapy, dinner (supervised), then home. I was at that level of treatment for pretty much the entire summer, initially six days a week, although I moved to five pretty quickly.

I have mixed feelings about my treatment program, but I can’t deny that they saved me from a far worse fate–despite being 180 pounds, despite losing at a safe rate—I was courting heart damage and death with my actions. I developed and still have a problem with being orthostatic (blood pressure changes dramatically when moving from laying to standing, which can cause fainting among other things) because of it.

I went several months without treatment and began to backslide.

In late 2019 I was able to connect with an eating disorder specialist and dietician, and I am currently working with them to pursue recovery.

Were there any bright points? Lab Rats was 90% edited during 2019. I started leading my younger daughter’s Girl Scout troop. I had a short story in an anthology. I wrote the forward for an anthology put out by Jayhenge (again, I’ll highlight that in another post). But that’s about it.

So how to move forward when I’m not quite out of the woods yet either eating disorder or mental health meds-wise? Well, I started 2020 by putting Lab Rats up for pre-order (I’ll do a promotional post with an excerpt another day), so that feels significant.

Writing feels foreign to me as I’m really out of practice. I didn’t write much of anything new for 2019–editing Lab Rats was all I could manage. But I’m starting again, and even if it feels hard and stilted and sucky at least it’s happening.

Romance Writer’s Blog Challenge–If I weren’t writing

Today’s question is what would I do if I couldn’t write. The answer is simple–I’d be a teacher. In fact, I used to be a teacher until Athena was born almost ten years ago.

I used to teach middle school Math and History, and I was damned good at it. I had only intended to take a year long break from teaching when I had her, but she had serious health issues and needed me. So I stayed home. Then we moved to Singapore. So I stayed home. Then we had my younger daughter who is nicknamed Bunny (because she was born in the year of the rabbit and her class was always the bunnies). Then I started writing professionally. I did some freelancing.

I’ve thought about going back. I’m getting my paperwork together to transfer my teaching license to California, but it’s more of a “break glass in case of emergency,” sort of thing. Besides writing and doing the mom thing, I also have fibromyalgia, which is an illness with chronic pain. It’s questionable if I *could* go back as several medications I take make it hard for me to wake up from. I have trouble getting out of bed before 11 most days. I’ve started doing my girls’ hair at night in tight braids that will survive the night and the next day of school because it’s questionable if I can be waken up enough in the morning to do their hair.

So I guess the real answer is that if I couldn’t write, I’d watch a lot of tv and read, I likely wouldn’t be able to go back to teaching.

Sorry, I didn’t realize how depressing this entry would be.

Twenty things about me

I thought I’d play a game I’ve seen floating around, and tell you twenty random things about me. This is totally off the top of my head…

1–I’d love to be a cake decorator/pastry chef.

2–I can’t sleep unless my room is super cold, much to the irritation of everyone else in my family when I keep turning down the thermostat.

3–I’m a Ravenclaw. (I’m wearing a Ravenclaw tank top right now, actually.)

4–I love two truly terrible movies–Deep Blue Sea and A-Team.

5–My house is fully of my photography. I have two walls of family photos and two of travel photography (soon to be more).

6–Taking cannabis has altered my quality of life dramatically. I have fibromyalgia and without it, walking is painful. Most things are painful. Taking cannabis pills alleviates a lot of the pain that my medication doesn’t.

7–I can’t draw for shit. Stick figures are about the most I can handle.

8–I used to be a teacher. I loved teaching the kids–I hate the politics, which is why I probably won’t go back.

9–I was a huge Baby-Sitters Club fan as a kid. I identify as a Kristy.

10–Even though I’ve lived outside the US, I never flew on an airplane until I was 20.

11–Next month will mark my twelfth wedding anniversary.

12–If I could have picked my own name, I’d pick Katherine.

13–My favorite candy is Reeses Peanut Butter Cups.

14–I’ve reread the Jewels series by Anne Bishop a ton of times. I’m so upset by everything going on in the US right now that I’m rereading them for comfort.

15–I hate coffee.

16–I love Disney–the movies, the animated movies, the music, the parks, all of it.

17–I keep meaning to write some Star Trek Voyager fanfic because the series finale has some serious issues. Janeway and Chakotay forever.

18–I almost moved to New Orleans, but I’d just met my husband and wanted to see where things would go.

19–After leaving a small town as soon as I could, and living in cities for the past twenty years, I’m shocked by the fact that I like living in a suburb.

20–I play violin. I started taking lessons in Singapore, but had to stop because I hurt my shoulder. I’ve just recently started playing again, and now both my girls are starting to learn, too.

Home

Hi all

Thank you for the many well-wishes during my ten-day hospital stay following my back surgery. I won’t really know if it actually worked for four to six weeks, during which I am wearing a support garment around my middle, and walking with a cane. Sexy. Super Super Sexy. Don’t all Agaproposition me at once.

I am still on a number of narcotic painkillers and other medication which make me muddled and sleepy. I’m having a hard time concentrating enough to write this post (and for all that I know, it may come out garbled). Please be patient with me, and I’ll make my return to blogging sometime this week.

In my (short) periods of lucidity, I read through my first draft of Plunder and added comments. Given how drugged I was (am) I didn’t trust myself to actually try to edit the novel, but I think I do at least have a sense of what needs to be done to improve it.

Again, thank you for all your support during a difficult period.

much love

Delilah

Sometimes there’s no such thing as a good choice

DSC_1783

Greetings from a hospital in Singapore. This is my sixth or seventh time here in three years. With one exception, every hospitalization has been because of my bad-and-getting-worse-low-back.

Without getting into medical terminology, I first hurt my back when I was sixteen and because it wasn’t really properly cared for then (we didn’t have health insurance) it didn’t heal properly. Over the years it became progressively worse.

Ten years ago this October I had surgery on a herniated disc that was compressing the sciatic nerve root (which runs from your back down your leg into your toes) to the point where the nerve hurt so much I literally could not walk.

Three years ago this past March, I was putting my second daughter (who was just over a year old at the time) into her stroller from the car seat and the disc above the one from ’06 tore.

In the past three years I’ve gotten so many MRI’s I’ve lost count. I was excited that on my last two visits the hospital I go to can pipe music into the headphones they have you wear while getting the MRI from Spotify, so you can request your music. I can sleep during an MRI, but this last time I quietly sang along to Hamilton in my head for the hour or so it took to do my full spine.

We know that my back is a disaster as is my sciatic nerve, but we don’t know the full story. Scar tissue isn’t visible on any imaging system, and can compress nerves and create persistent pain with no easily diagnosed cause.

Six days ago I had eight injections at various levels of my spine to deal with four disc herniations (two in my back, two in my neck) and three surgeries (two for my low back discs and one to deaden the sciatic nerve).

Were any of these the right call? I have no idea.

I’ve been living in chronic pain for the past three years, but the past six months have been the worst. A “good day” became one where I had enough energy to drive to my daughter’s schools and pick them up. My daughters even know to avoid the right side of my body as even a casual hug at the wrong moment can lead to severe pain.

In doing one of the surgeries, my doctor confirmed that there is a lot of scar tissue, because he could barely force the needle into the disc to perform the nucleoplasty. (In layman’s terms, they burn out the center of the disc and the idea is that the disc will shrink back down).

I carry a lot of guilt that I’m not the mom I wish my kids had. I can’t get on the floor and play with them. I can’t run around outside. If I’m lucky I’ll be able to swim with them again (which given that we live near the equator is a year-round activity). My days of roller coasters and waterslides are behind me.

Six days into my hospital stay I’m asking myself if I made the right choice, but honestly–sometimes there is no such thing as a good choice.

wicked wednesday

Fearless Hair

Ever since I first saw a bottle of Manic Panic hair dye in the early 90’s, I wanted to dye my hair. I wanted a bright blue streak. I wanted to dye my hair crazy colors. I wanted to use my hair as a canvas.

manic panic

So why not do it? For a number of years I couldn’t because my workplaces didn’t allow “unnatural” looking hair. The rest of the time? Fear. Mostly I was afraid of people looking at me.

As someone who isn’t thin, I’ve learned toxic messages. I’m supposed to fade into the background and not call attention to myself. That if people looked at me, they would only do so with the worst intentions. Neon hair pulls focus, and I was afraid of it. I’ve gained confidence over the years–I’m well aware of my great legs (see my twitter icon), I rock sexy librarian glasses, and I’m generally at peace with myself. Which is not to say I’m comfortable as the center of attention.

As someone who often feels like a fake in my upper middle class life, I wanted to fit in. I feel like a fake because I grew up poor and I’m the first person to go to university in my family. My mom is a single mom and I’ve never met my dad. However, I’m educated and well spoken, so people assume I have a background similar to the one I currently am lucky enough to have. I have cultivated a very proper exterior, which means I’ve done nothing more daring than blonde streaks in my hair as an adult.

I don’t hide that I’m queer, but as someone in a marital relationship with a person of the opposite sex I pass as straight. I use a pseudonym for my erotica. I don’t draw attention to myself as a whole.

hair 9

About three weeks ago my hair started falling out in clumps.  It’s always been thin and fine and not particularly voluminous. So when I looked into the mirror and saw the glint of my own scalp peering out at me between increasingly spare strands of hair, and when someone I was skyping with asked me if I’d gotten fades shaved into the sides of my hair I felt more exposed and vulnerable than ever. Now, not only had I committed the cardinal sin of daring to be fat in public, but I was even less attractive than before.  Fear took over because I had no real options other than to wait the hair loss out–it’s a very common side effect of severe medical trauma called telogen effluvium and the only real solution is time.

I realize that this was all taking place in my head, but that doesn’t make it any less real.

hair 8

 

I’ve cried so much this month. Granted that’s partially because blood work showed that I have severe deficiencies in a number of vitamins and hormones. Off kilter hormones are a bitch, and among other things will make you weepy. But it’s also because despite the fact that I’ve never loved my hair, I never wanted to have it fall out. But along with the tears I’ve felt a growing rage. Mostly at myself.

hair 7

 

How dare I have let myself get ruled by fear like this? For what purpose? Did I really almost die without ever having done something I’ve always wanted to do because I was scared? And now I’m being ruled by fear that people are staring at my thinning hair?

I have zero fucks left to give.

If they’re staring, let’s give them something to look at.

Let me do what I’ve always wanted to.

My colorist warned me that stripping the color from my hair to bleach it could make it break. Well, there is no better time to be blasé about that possibility than when it’s already falling out. Luckily, given a lighter bleach and toner, it was as healthy as it was when I walked in the door.  With the addition of color, it looked even better.

hair 6

 

 

 

Today I smiled one of the biggest smiles to cross my face in the past almost four months. My husband thinks it’s sexy, my daughters think it’s cool (Ms. 3 kept trying to force the cat to see my hair, which makes me glad that “her” cat is extremely easy going), and I feel like I’ve given all the hair related tears of the last month the middle finger.

To be fair, there’s part of me that’s a little concerned about what happens when I have to go be a parent at school. Singapore is super conservative (once my colorist realized exactly how crazy I wanted to go, he was thrilled because he rarely gets to do so here). Will the vice principal take me seriously when I’m complaining about a boy bullying Ms. 6?

But that’s a small voice, and once that will quiet with time.

hair 2

The hormonal stuff and vitamin stuff are harder to deal with. Like regrowing the hair that fell out, it will take time to resolve. I’m taking supplementary vitamin and hormone therapy and we’ll repeat the blood work in a few months.

What has gotten me down the most about this, apart from feeling unattractive about my hair–the outward issue–is that every time I think I’ve put my illness behind me, some new side effect rears its head. The septic shock and threat of death were over in April. The crappy immune system, the lost muscle tone, the lost core strength, all of those were starting to resolve and were things I could actually fix. Each week I swam I saw muscle tone returning to my legs. I was ready to move on. Then I got blindsided by the hair loss, which was the motivating factor behind getting blood work done. Having gotten the blood work done, I now have the new host of issues to deal with. While it’s good to have a label to apply to the problems that were already present, it also feels like I’ve been dropped back at the starting line of the world’s longest marathon all over again.

hair 3

I’m not actively worrying about this, but I also know that if my hormone and cortisol levels don’t improve in two months, I could be looking at a round of tests to see if my adrenal gland has stopped functioning properly. So while it’s not something I’m obsessing over, I’m wary of what might be next in the unending list of what happens after you almost die from septic shock.

The hormone I’m deficient in is what controls the female sex drive. Which is a cruel joke for nature to play on an erotica author.

As I said in my last entry, I’m coping with a lot of personal, medical drama. I’m going to cycle between present and absent on social media, and between productive and unproductive when it comes to writing. I appreciate you guys sticking around while I deal with this. Unfortunately this is one of those things that will resolve over a long period of time.

hair 5

But at least I have cool hair.

Still here

I’m dealing with some new medical drama, which is why I’ve been quiet, but I’m still here. The best way to help is to send cat pictures to me on twitter or here in comments.

xo