Before I make you laugh, it’s my job to make your cry, so just warning you. I am on Day Four of a residential treatment program for anorexia. I’m not allowed to flush the toilet. Someone always has to check what I’ve left in the toilet to make sure it isn’t my meal, and I had to endure life without coffee for four whole days before they’d let me have any. I jokingly suggested to one of the CNA’s that I would pay her fifty dollars to take me to Starbuck’s. I get one cup in the morning which only makes me want more, and I’m not allowed to exercise for two weeks, which for someone who is accustomed to a quad espresso in the afternoon and at least two and a half hours of hard exercise every day is well…torture. I know, I know….things could be a lot worse, and I’m just a spoiled white woman who loves her little luxuries. I truly am grateful for the opportunity to heal from a mental illness that has held me hostage for 45 years. Thank you President Obama for health insurance that covers treatment for this relentless eating disorder.

Anorexia discovered me when I was sixteen and told me it was going to be my best friend. And it was for awhile. I reclaimed my life at sixteen after my mother committed suicide and my father left me on my own to live with his girlfriend. I loved him, and I wanted his girlfriend to love me, but being unwelcome was a place I knew all too well. I learned that starving was the only thing that made me feel safe in my inner world which had been disintegrated by loss. It made me feel strong, and invincible; it gave me a sense of being special enough to be wanted or chosen. I had never felt welcome with anyone or anywhere. I never had a true sense of belonging with my parents, and my experience of myself was that I had to be ultra-special in some way to be permitted anywhere with anyone. Do you know that feeling? What did you do to ensure your place? For me, as a child, it was to try to shine in my own way. My efforts went unnoticed. I put on my figure skates, and hoped my parents would come to my little ice shows at Blyth Arena in Olympic Valley. I remember hoping they would and looking up into the stands to see if they were there, but they never were. So I learned to dance alone, and to imagine that one day I would be special enough that they might show up. And I kept trying to be special enough, even to the point of starving myself into invisibility, and pushing myself as an athlete the point of being in pain and beyond exhaustion. It’s not that I want anyone to say “Awwww…poor little thing,” as they read this. What I want is to connect with your Orphan so that you can know we share this beautiful part of ourselves. The Orphan’s soul cries out for belonging and to be welcomed and celebrated for being exactly who She or He is. I decided to enter residential treatment for anorexia about two weeks ago, and this is my third day. After 45 years of anorexia being my shadow, I want and need freedom so that I can be present in my own life, and so that I can stop the relentless and punishing schedule that people with this illness feel compelled to keep. Restricting food and over-exercising is a full-time relationship, and cuts off the blood supply that nourishes other relationships. I have not been available for my beloved and amazing husband whose generosity and love and patience is beyond what I’ve ever experienced with another human. I have not been as present for my daughter and granddaughter as I want and need to be, and have lied to myself about why. Anorexia told me that I needed to exercise for hours and hours before I could relax and be present for my loved ones; anorexia told me it was “me time,” or that I was “just an introvert.” That’s true, but it was not the reason I avoided just relaxing and spending time with them. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, I think. I have literally allowed myself to fall apart, cry, feel lost, terrified, and alone as I challenge this illness in search of freedom and peace. It is so hard for me to be in pieces, and I wanted to share this with you in hopes that it will be experienced as a gift from my heart. Avoidance is not the way to peace and it is not a way to manage fear of connection. Our new leaders are role models for that. I believe we need each other and we need to be courageous in our willingness to just let our hearts be wide open and to be transparent no matter what. My soul needs to be heard, and that is what I’m doing. Sending love to all…