People often ask me if I'm "normal" now. In my case, it's not so black and white. While some people believe that once you have an eating disorder, you will always have it, statistics prove otherwise. When I was in the hospital, years and years ago, I, like so many other anorexics, became the model patient. At least on the surface it appeared so. The reality is that I was a perfectionist and aiming for that top 5% (these days I've read it can be as high as 20%) of people who fully recover, but I was still a rebel deep down. I relapsed hard after I got back in the real world where there's nothing to protect you from the stress of living. Eventually, I did get better though. I had a resistance to 12 steps and groups where the main goal seems to be stewing in the past and in problems, issues and all kinds of hurt. I know AA has helped many people and even saved a friend of mine, but it wasn't for me. Back when I was struggling, there weren't many resources or much hope. It was either turn your life over to god (not so great an option for an agnostic who was raised by an atheist) or stay sick. So, I fumbled through my own recovery. I remember reading the book Wasted, hoping for some answers. Man, that's about the most depressing piece of written material one can find. After reading it, I thought I must write a book if I ever recover, just to let people know that it doesn't have to be that bad and that hopeless. So when people ask if I am fully recovered, I have to answer that it's all relative. See, I never related to food in a normal way, even as a child, so how would I know what normal is? I can say that I'm more "normal" now than I ever have been, but maybe someone looking in might not say that I'm all that normal.I say that considering where I've been, relative to that, yeah, I'm normal.
I do believe that a full recovery is possible. While at times it seems there is a trend of a backward spiral down for women with more objectification and more both subtle and blatant put-downs (see the Killing us Softly series for more information about how women are perceived in advertising: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1993368502337678412#), there's a counter trend of women who are trying to take a stand. I admire what I like to call the anti-anorexia mafia. This unorganized group is comprised of women who buck the system by saying, "no, you can't dictate what I look like" to the media. A good example is a small but effective group of young women who decided to try something different. In a grand gesture of taking a stand against the fashion industry that has often promoted models who are far too thin, this group decided to take matters into their own hands. They inserted positive affirmations into magazines next to images of models they felt were too thin. Instead of facing an image of impossible beauty- overly air-brushed and touched-up, readers were faced with positive messages such as: You are not a number on the scale, You are beautiful the way you are, Don't let anyone dictate how you look etc. I love it. We need more movements like this. Speaking of great movements, there's a wonderful organization in Boulder called the Boulder Youth Body Alliance http://www.boulderyouthbodyalliance.org/ This is a group dedicated to helping teens address issues about weight, body image and the messages they receive about what they are "supposed" to look like.
Slight left turn...hang on!
When I first saw Diane's film, Beauty Mark www.beautymarkthemovie.com I thought it was a bit like seeing my book on the screen. I mentioned before that Diane and I had similar pasts. I believe that both of us are trying to reach out to others, so that those struggling don't feel so alone. Both my book and her film offer hope, rather than promote this idea that there is no such thing as recovery. This goes for any addiction, not just eating disorders. The longer one stays in recovery, the easier it becomes. Sometimes I even forget to be anorexic or forget that I ever struggled so badly. But there are still some triggers, and I have to be aware. I think the key is to know where that line is that crosses into addiction, and to be completely honest, especially with oneself. Honestly has always been key in recovery. There's no way around it.
I was telling a friend recently that I once went to a therapist who told me that I would either stay anorexic or gain weight and hate my body. I thought, "really? Those are my two choices?" It didn't seem right, so I immediately thought, "fuck that. I'll show you!" and set out to prove him wrong. Eventually, I found great examples of people of all shapes and sizes who were just fine with their bodies. And I have to say that I like my body a hell of a lot more now than I ever did at 80lbs. Oddly, at 80lbs I was constantly feeling fat and fretting about gaining weight, afraid every moment that I would somehow balloon to a huge size. What a crazy illness. So to go back to the question of whether or not I'm normal, I think it's all relative. Considering how bad it got for me, I'd say that I'm pretty well into that normal range with my issues these days. Sometimes I fret about too many desserts or not enough vegetables, but, especially living in Boulder, I know I'm not alone in that. Oh my, the restrictions Boulderites put on themselves. whewww. Hey, yesterday I lived on the edge and ate cookies- yes, that means dairy, wheat AND sugar! I'm such a rebel.