I thought I might never write again. Really and truly. I thought,
- I’m too busy with the business I work for, or
- my daughter’s too old now and doesn’t take naps which doesn’t give me a chance to write because the nights are shot anyway with counseling until 8 and then the writing of notes for an hour or so, or (and most eating disordered-ly)
- The meager amount of time I have for self-care is usually spent at the gym.
And then I remembered that I watched my father take his last breath and uttered my wedding vows within the same two weeks, and I figured,
“Fuck. That’s worth documenting.”
Around the time John proposed in June I was at my “normal, I dont-give-a-shit-what-I-eat” weight. My cheeks were full as a Campbell’s Soup kid, and I could feel the tug of my pants as I hadn’t weighed myself in a while. This was *fairly* healthy for me. When I eat whatever I want, I have to be careful I don’t binge either, but it seems to be a healthier place for me than restricting.
In fact, I remember the Nutella milkshake and the blue ice cream we had in Rockport that day…they were delicious.
After that, it became apparent that Dad was going rapidly downhill. He had been declining for a while, but things were beginning to suck hard. He really couldn’t talk much any more due to stuttering, and he was starting to look skeletal. For a man who took pride in his jellybean-induced belly, it was alarming when he started to eat less and less. He even started to attempt less to ask me things. You couldn’t interact with him when you spent time with him. You had to sit in silence, hoping the love would somehow transmit through the airwaves.
We wanted to at least plan the wedding with the hopes he’d be at it. We knew he didn’t have a ton of time, so we hoped six months would be short enough.
It wasn’t, but that’s ok. At least we tried.
So wedding planning went into rapid-fire action. I fought hard between wanting a beautiful ice wedding party and scolding myself for wanting it. “Why can’t you just get married at City Hall?” I’d ask myself. “You’re so selfish.” People added their two cents in, saying, “I didn’t need to stress”, and “keep it simple”.
But you know what? Keeping it simple is really hard when your Dad is dying, and you want to please both him and the part of you who’s always starved herself of wanting anything.
So I tried to remember it was ok to want, and picked out silver and white ice branches for the centerpieces (at a discounted rate). I spent a lot of money on a wedding dress, because that’s what I enjoyed spending money on.
And tinges of my eating disorder came back because I’m guessing a part of it wasn’t ok with that.
My mom went away for a weekend, and I stayed with him. This was early August. Dad couldn’t walk at this point, and had to be mostly carried from wheelchair to bed, wheelchair to toilet, etc. This weekend was the first I remember that there was a piece of my ED back. I loved taking care of my father and being there for him, but it was similar to having a newborn; it was really easy to forgo your own needs when you had to help him go to the bathroom, or eat. I reveled in that old feeling of being hungry as I slept on the couch next to his bed.
(Not to mention that my mother did this for a couple of years, day in and day out. I have irrational guilt about this too.)
But this time, it was so fucking grey. A part of me, a healthy part of me, really wanted to be in the best shape I possibly could for my wedding day. I wanted to lift weights and be strong. And that part continued to trade places with my ED. Sometimes, I was aware that I was using restriction as a way not to feel, and sometimes, I ate a super healthy protein/veggie/quinoa meal that gave me energy for the squats I did later.
Let me put it this way: I couldn’t have done any better than I did at the time. I’m amazed I didn’t/haven’t ended up in the psych ward.
And I had to keep going. Before my Dad passed, I was constantly anxious, waiting for him to die, running around, forgetting to eat, keeping going so the bills could be paid, working out for the wedding, being a good mother, listening to my mother, and putting together the brain donation process.
So once we figured he wouldn’t make it to the wedding, we had the small ceremony at home. The whole thing was heartbreaking, (yes, that’s right, I just called my first wedding heartbreaking) but I’m certainly glad I did it. Dad could barely stay awake at that point (MSA robs you of your energy at the end; most patients sleep for days).
And then, in November, we were informed he was “actively dying”.
For a weekend, we listened to his inconsistent Cheyne-Stokes breathing. Would each breath be his last? We continued to change his clothes and undergarments and whatever part of him was left would resist due to extreme pain. I held his hands when we did that and spoke to him. I’m really glad I was there for that.
And then, I left the room briefly to take some pictures of Polaroids of my mother and father from before I was born. I returned to the room, watched him take a breath, and then didn’t again, for longer than before.
He didn’t breathe again. I could tell the minute life left his body.
I then iced his head (as the funeral home didn’t have proper refrigeration. can you imagine that? the two days prior, I was making ice-cube tray after ice-cube tray, knowing this was going to go around my dead father’s head). It wasn’t until after the funeral home director left, and after the hospice nurse offered some of us Dad’s extra neurontin (true story), and after we had slept for a few hours, and after I had dispensed of his medication the next morning, that I snapped. I yelled at a couple of people, and then proceeded to eat nonstop and have great difficulty moving for the next two months.
I still do.
I guess I felt like I could stop running. It had happened.
A week and half later, I still fit into my wedding dress (instead of feeling, it was easier to focus on whether or not my goddamn Lazaro would zip up). And I walked down the aisle. And something felt about 10 percent fucked up, but I actually really enjoyed myself and had a wonderful time. John couldn’t have written more beautiful wedding vows. And yes, I looked good.
I would like to think I looked good simply because I shined, but no. I went to slightly extreme measures to look like that.
So…am I the eating disorder recovery hero? No way. I never wanted to be. I’m just another bozo on the bus, who wanted to look good on my wedding day, and who did extreme things when extreme circumstances surrounded me. But I’m getting better. How do I know I’m getting better? I am honest when I go in my therapist’s office and with friends. And I don’t have to give up my job for my ED. But I’m certainly not perfect at recovery, and knowing this makes me all the healthier.
(Dedicated to Edward M Bruce…You gave them hell, Bruce.)