FIXING A WHOLE

Published December 19, 2019 by rochellewisoff

The following story is written for the photo prompt below and is part of the Writers Unite! challenge Write the Story

Twenty-three years ago, I fought the final round with Annie—Annie Wrecks Ya. At present I’m working on a novel based on my experience. Thus far the working title is Last Dance with Annie, but I’m not married to it.

FIXING A WHOLE

          The flashbacks started somewhere in my late thirties, upending my memories of a happy childhood. How could I have blocked out such things? Nothing made sense. I loathed the body that had betrayed me. My life spun out of control.

           It’s all about control, you know.

           Annie gave me control. No one, not my husband or even my doctor, could tell me what I could or couldn’t put in my mouth. I controlled my eating—until I didn’t. Annie did.

           Annie controlled my daily frenetic exercise. At the same time I fantasized about onion rings and fried chicken. Of course Annie would never allow me to eat them. She constantly reminded me numbers mattered. One hundred calories per meal. Twenty pink pills to purge it. The scale hovered between eighty-five and eighty-four. 

  “You like my new jeans?” I asked my friend and coworker Linda. “I can’t believe they fit.”

            “What size?” Her ice-blue gaze met mine. 

            “Zero.”

            “You’ll look nice in your child-size coffin.”

            Her comment almost became prophecy when my “dieting” caught up to me. After collapsing in a store, I was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital with an eating disorder unit.

            After two months of treatment and medical leave, I returned to work.

            My size 0 jeans no longer zipped and they’d become tight around the hips and thighs. In fact, I’d outgrown my size 2’s as well.

            “You look so much better,” said Linda. “There’s color in them thar cheeks.”

            That’s a good thing, right?

            Recovery was more difficult than I’d expected. Although Annie’s grip loosened, she continued to haunt me. When someone complimented me on my weight gain Annie translated it to, “My you’re getting fat.”  

            “Body image takes time to change.” My dietitian assured me during my weekly visits. “All I can do is provide the tools. It’s up to you to use them.”

            Tools? What tools?

            One of those so-called tools offered by Dr. Wilson, my psychiatrist, was Risperdal, a drug prescribed to treat such conditions as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Mental health experts hoped the antipsychotic might calm the obsessive thoughts of anorexics and bulimics.

            I detested the way it made me feel. Strange. Out of touch with the rest of the world. Afraid of what I didn’t know.

            Dr. Wilson decided Risperdal alone wasn’t doing what it should. Diagnosing me as “mildly bipolar” and being “slightly” ADD, she added Lithium to my daily pill-age.

            My appetite dwindled and my anxiety level skyrocketed. I began to lose weight again, but took little pleasure in it. I barely functioned at work. How I stayed on the payroll is beyond me.

            “I’ve never seen such a severe reaction,” said Dr. Wilson. “Clearly you’re allergic.”

             My nightmare was far from over. The drugs’ half-lives of a week or two stretched into over a month. The debilitating side effects continued to take their toll, not only on me, but on my frazzled husband as well.

             One night it all came to a head.

            “I don’t know what to do for you anymore.” He fumed when I broke down. “Crying won’t help.”

            I sniffed and choked back sobs. “Stop trying to fix me!”

           With a sigh, he sank into his recliner and gathered me onto his lap. Tears streamed down his cheeks. “Maybe you need to go back into the hospital.”

            I snuggled against him. His admission of helplessness comforted me. My true recovery began that very night when, together, we learned crying is sometimes the best of all tools.

***

*Note: The story is non-fiction, save the doctor’s name. (I can’t remember it 😉 ) I’m not sharing this to garner sympathy or shock anyone. Eating disorders strike any age, any ethnicity and any gender. Recovery isn’t as easy as ‘snapping out of it’ or ‘just eat something.’ The reasons are as varied as the individuals. Thank you for understanding.        

26 comments on “FIXING A WHOLE

  • This one hits hard. It brings back memories when I thought, and was told, I would lose you within the year. I was devastated and at a loss of what to do. Reading this was impossible for me without tears. I am so glad we survived this life episode and grew into the couple we are. Life would have changed so drastically that I doubt I would have survived myself. In your healing, you helped heal me also. Loved you then……love you now. Self image is a valuable and important personal trait that we should also try to help instill in everyone we come in contact with. You never really know what is going on in other people’s lives. Even if you think you do. We should all try to build our friends and family up. Not tear them down. Enough ranting for now.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Jan,

      Wow. I’m a bit overwhelmed, if not encouraged by your response. That night in particular will stick with me. You gave up trying to fix me and that helped more than I can ever say. It was a nightmare I’m happy to have way behind us. Thank you for standing by me when I wanted you the least and needed you the most. (Hm…that’s going to have to go in the book, you know.) ❤ I love you.

      Liked by 2 people

  • My dear Rochelle,

    First of all, thank you for sharing this most intimate and personal story. It takes courage – of which you have in spades.
    You know I have a high school friend who will never recover because she can’t. She can’t because she has created her persona around being “the anorexic artist”. She maintains she is in the five percent who will never recover and has convinced the world she is an ecstatically happy person. I honestly don’t know how she has survived 30+ years of self-abuse. But enough about her;
    Your story is wonderfully written and all I can say is I am so very happy you have won your battle against Annie!

    Shalom and lots of healthy love,

    Dale

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Dale,

      The more I share it, the less power the beast named Annie has. It’s not a period of my life I’m particularly proud of, but it happened. If someone else can be helped it will be worth the write. Your friend is in so much denial IMHO. Frankly I’m surprised she’s lasted this long. My poor gymnast friend didn’t last 10 years. Nor did Karen Carpenter. I wonder if she could quit if she wanted to, although she doesn’t want to, of that I’m sure. I remember the pride I felt at being the skinniest person in the room.
      Enough of my blathering. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

      Shalom and lotsa well-fed hugs,

      Rochelle

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes. Remove all the power to the beast! While you might not be proud of that period of time, you have to be proud for beating her. And I agree with you about Veronique. I have no clue why her organs haven’t yet quit on her, She must have a steely strength left.
        Of course. I always take time for you, my friend.
        😍😘

        Like

  • My, Oh, my does this leave me wanting to reach out through the screen and hug the stuffin’s outa ya! (Hugs). After my accident, I lost so much weight that I was at 45 lbs on a 4-11 frame. I was only 96lbs the day of the accident. so many used the phrase ‘just eat’ without realizing I couldn’t. I was terrified to.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Bear,

      Wouldn’t it be nice if it were that simple? One of these days I hope to collect on all the virtual hugs we’ve exchanged in person. ❤ Thank you for commenting and relating and rejoicing that we're no longer "there."

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

      Liked by 1 person

  • Thank you, Rochelle for sharing your sad story and I am so thankful you recovered (with Jan’s help) and today well, thriving and so blessed with all the ways you are using your talents and skills. I knew about your eating disorder when Sharon (Groom Kenzora) shared it with me many years ago, but did not know the specifics or causes or outcome then. It is interesting about the prescriptions you were put on that were similar to those used by mentally ill patients with Bipolar 1, etc. After two years of a downhill spiral for Wayne, two suicide attempts, many months in mental hospitals, evaluations, therapy and recovery Wayne is now living in a full care facility in Loveland, CO where we made our home for twenty-five years. This last Sept. he was released from the Wyoming state mental hospital after being diagnosed finally with Bipolar 1 disorder and is finally on the road to recovery and a new life for himself. God brought me through a living hell with Wayne at the time and for months I could not forgive him, then turning it over to God for Him to work in my life, He also was at work in Wayne’s life as well. We are now friends, I have forgiven him and he is now able to move forward as I have done. Both our daughters, Steph and Erika are his POAs and help him adjust and move forward with his life as I have done the same here in Grant, NE. I had guilt for months for filing for divorce and leaving him, but I know that God is a faithful, loving God that never leaves us. And He did not leave you either to struggle alone with your anorexic disorder. Trusting God through the worst of times helps us to grow spiritually and in doing so we learn how to become more dependent on him daily for all that we need. God bless you and Jan and have a wonderful, blessed Christmas and happy new year in 2020.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Joyce,

      It’s so disheartening to hear about Wayne. I always liked him and he was one of the men who hitched a ride to that fateful men’s retreat in 1976. So many good memories. We’re pleased to know that things are looking up for him.
      Thank you for taking the time to read and share. Blessings on you and a blessed Christmas.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

      Like

  • Dearest Rochelle we all skeletons in our closets some are more blatant than others. Thank you for sharing yours and the real struggle to recovery. Keep sharing it gives hope to others that are still looking for hope. Evelyn

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Sweet Evelyn,

      It’s only been in the past five years or so that I’ve been able to write about it. We think of it as a young woman’s disorder but it’s one that has no boundaries. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. I’m encouraged.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

      Like

  • Querida Rochelle,
    I can so identify with this illness. As a dancer, you’re always watching, checking and avoiding foods. I started to feel better once I stopped dancing and became pregnant. I figured this was my new body. I went back to over-exercising and food avoidance when I was 38. I was 88 pounds at my daughters wedding. The staff thought I was the bride.
    I could go on but this story is about you. How you managed to conquer this dreadful power of the mind over the body.
    I’d say the two of us seem to be more alike every time I learn something new. Thank you for sharing this for others who may be suffering alone. AND … there are many.
    Gracias mi amiga por vivir … el mundo seria triste sin su presencia.
    Abrazos y HAPPY CHANUKAH !!!!
    Isadora 😎

    Liked by 1 person

    • Querida Isadora,

      We do have mucho in common, don’t we? I’m glad you’ve overcome the beast as well. When I went to my son’s college for a visit, his fellow students thought I was his sister. I took a lot of pride in being the skinniest person in the room. I don’t know about you but, to this day, the first thing I notice about a person before gender or race, is body type. Funny, this past year my doctor was concerned about my weight in the other direction. Now she’s concerned I lost too much. 😉 She knows me all too well.
      Gracias para sus palabras dulces mi querida amiga.

      Abrasos y Happy Holidays,

      Rochelle

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, growing in the opposite direction can be an issue too.
        Aging causes health problems if your weight increases.
        It’s a dance we need to delicately do.
        Happy Hanukah to you ,Jan and your family. You are a shining light
        In the presence of all who are around you.
        Abrazos y Carino,
        Isador a 😍🙏😀😎

        Like

  • Connie had me fixed when I was about thirty, but you can read that story in one of my books.

    Enough about me. I’m so proud and happy you conquered your demon Annie. I doubt you’ll ever be fat and sassy like me, but I’m sure you’ll always be sassy. 🙂

    Excellent piece. These types of stories can be extremely helpful and encouraging to those fighting similar battles. Keep up the good work.

    Liked by 2 people

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