If Only I Gave a Shiitake

in the kitchen

Oh food. Food, food, FOOD! I know I have to eat it. Food is fuel yadda yadda. I get it. And I have come a very long way on my recovery journey. I no longer have forbidden foods. After all of these years, I have come to accept and eat every kind of food. I allow any type of treat. I occasionally enjoy fast food. The name McDonalds does not bring on a wave of fear as it has in the past. I am able to eat a doughnut and move right along with my day. These are huge steps for me. A lot of times I don’t even think about it. What looks ok, sounds edible and feels fine is alright with me. I know that my body will do what it needs to do if I just pay attention to its cues. I’ll admit, thoughts do come in: Should I really be eating this? Isn’t this a “bad” food? I recognize the disordered thoughts and consciously remind myself of the truth as I know it now. Not what I thought was truth in the past, what the internet says, or some self-proclaimed food guru. Food is food. Food is fuel. I will not die from eating the food. I will die from not eating it. Got it.

Here’s the thing though. I don’t particularly love food. I’ve heard people say, “I could never be anorexic. I like food too much!” When I hear this statement a sad thought remains. I don’t really care about food. I don’t find joy in it very often. I will have a meal occasionally that is pretty tasty. I just had a chocolate which was quite nice. But I feel like I could go without. I don’t look forward to food often. I rarely have cravings. It feels trivial and boring. A waste of time. I’ve had an extremely hard time preparing food. Not only for myself, but for others. My sweet, supportive husband has taken over the duty of making dinner for our family almost every night. The very thought of having to prepare a wholesome, nutritious meal for the four of us fills me with anxiety. I shut down. I don’t care about it. I don’t have passion. Nothing sounds good. Nothing inspires me. If I didn’t have to eat for energy and life, I probably wouldn’t do it. I would fill that time with things I care about.

I have been  quite judgmental of my state. “I must just be incredibly lazy.” But as I look at it further I realize I am anything but lazy! I am often working very hard either at my job, my volunteer work or in my home. My husband has to drag me away from whatever I am doing to get me to the table. I  can spend hours and hours doing whatever it is I feel I need to do. Perhaps it’s all just a way to avoid the kitchen. I’ll eat the food once it’s in front of me. That part I have worked out. Sometimes I will even cook something. But there is no love for it. It very often makes me feel guilty, sad, embarrassed and unfeminine. My husband has never complained about having to make the evening meal or the lunches for the kids. He has never told me I am a bad wife. But I feel it in my soul. This is something a woman should want to do for the people she loves, right? Shouldn’t I want to do that? What am I teaching my kids about food when I am like this? Is this all part of my disorder or something else? I eat only enough to curb my hunger. I do not usually eat until I am quite hungry. And then, I do not eat until I am good and satisfied. My weight has suffered. As soon as I don’t feel hungry anymore, I stop. I eat just enough to keep me going, but not for pleasure or the experience or to bond with people. It is little piece of my disorder that hangs on. And I’m not sure when and if this part will get better.

The grocery store still brings on an overwhelming flood of anxiety. There are too many options. Too many fears. It’s too much to handle. I can only stand being in the market for a few minutes before my fear overtakes me. Making a menu? Shopping? Cooking? I wish I was a woman who enjoyed these things. I feel like my husband deserves someone who can and will cook on a regular basis. It is difficult for me to see my friend’s posts of planning and making a beautiful meal for their families. I feel shame and regret. Why can’t I just love the food? Enjoy the food? Be inspired by food? I watch shows like Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. He is traveling the world and loving food so much he has likened it to porn. I have no passion. I eat only because I have to. I’d rather be doing something else.

The Face of Mental Illness

***This post has been exceptionally hard to write and I have debated for several days if I would post it or not.  I figure I have been completely open so far.  Why stop now when depression is such a large problem in our society.  If my writing can help just one person, even in the face of judgement from others, I think it is worth writing about.

With the death of Robin Williams this week due to suicide, chatter of mental illness, depression, personal struggles and suicide have been constant.  It has surprising to suddenly see so many people talking about this difficult subject.  If the loss of this man has done just one positive thing, it has opened up the topic for conversation.  A topic that is often taboo, misunderstood and stigmatized.  I have struggled with depression and continue to do so periodically.  Just last week I was informed that a neighbor described me a “mentally unstable”.  I don’t deny, that I have struggled with mental illness, depression, anxiety and anorexia.  I am an advocate for being open and honest about these issues.  So why did this comment bring up so much shame for me?  Is it because I (God forbid) talk about it?  Write about it?  If someone had said, “so-and-so says you have diabetes” it would not have brought up the same kind of feelings of embarrassment.  It was as if I had done something wrong or are less of a human being because I have struggled with mental illness.  Well I’m not backing down or giving up now.  Say what you will.  Depression and mental illness are real, alive and thriving.  I  stand up, raise my head and put a face to it.

What Dreams May Come

What Dreams May Come, 1998

At the height of my struggle with anorexia I knew very well that I could die.  I just didn’t care.  I didn’t believe that I was really sick enough.  Even when I was told I was bradycardic (a lowered heart rate) I shrugged it off as “I don’t care.”  I was totally apathetic about life.  I was just floating though in a sad, tired fog.  It wouldn’t have mattered to me to shrink away completely.  One night while lying in bed and feeling my own bones, I told my husband that If I died, I wanted him to move on and remarry.  I wanted him to be happy and free.  I felt like I had already caused him so much pain, anger, sadness and grief.  Wouldn’t it just be better to start off new?  I wanted him to find a great new mom for our children.  I honest to God thought that I was not good enough to be raising those little people in this world.  They were young enough to forget me and they would grow up better without me and grow to love their “new mom” whom I expected my husband to go out and find.  As if he would be shopping for a new car.  For the good of everyone, perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if my heart just gave out.  I was not going to commit suicide, but I was killing myself slowly.  Dying a slow drawn-out death and waiting, hoping for death to come relieve me of my hopelessness.  I didn’t give a fuck what I looked like.  I didn’t give a fuck about my health.  I didn’t give a fuck if I died.  But I did care about my family and no matter what I thought of myself, I knew they would suffer.

I had at least that thread of a thought.

I am one of the lucky ones who had something of myself still in the back of my brain somewhere telling me “no”.  In the depths of my depression one day I was wondering how much more pain I would cause people if I passed away, either by the anorexia, or by ending it more quickly.  I wrote out a list.  A list of everyone who would be affected in some way by my death.  Whether it was just an acquaintance who would hear the news in passing and be sad for a day, all the way up to people who would be devastated for years to come.  A couple of hundred people made my list at that time.  And if I were to write another one now, there would be even more names on it because whether I want to believe it or not sometimes, I know I have touched people.  Just as others have touched my life without their even knowing.  I wrote down the names of people who would come to my funeral and people who probably wouldn’t but who would be affected.  I wrote down how I honestly thought they might react.  It was a shocking, eye-opening experience for me.  It made me sad, but it made me feel something different too.  Purpose.  Hope.  A thin sliver of my value.  Even though I didn’t value myself at the time I couldn’t deny that others saw something in me.

Not everyone who struggles with depression can see that glimmer of light.  I was fortunate that there was a scrap of a frayed rope to keep me hanging on and fighting.  Oftentimes when someone is so depressed that they give up, they truly believe they are doing the world a favor by leaving it.  People say how selfish and cowardly suicide is.  I don’t see it that way at all.  This is an insensitive and uneducated emotional response to something that cannot be comprehended by some.  People cannot fathom how a mother can drive off into the woods and kill herself when she has everything.  The kids, the husband, the house the Lexus.  Why would a musician with all the money, love and talent in the world shoot himself.  Why would a beloved actor whom the world adores with a daughter he clearly loves, hang himself.  What is hard to understand is the feeling of sheer worthlessness.  Almost as if to stay on this earth, would absolutely bring harm and misery to others.  This is part of the disease.  The lies our minds tell us are crueler than any words from anyone else.

So I say, talk about this.  Share your struggles.  Speak your fears.  Unite in your humanity.  Ask the questions.  Because whether we can see it in others or not.  Deep despair is out there hidden behind good jokes, and pretty smiles.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline-  1-800-273-8255

Live on, Seriously.  This world is not better without you.


What They Could Have Done (but didn’t)


Contacting the medical provider for a loved one can be tricky.  I am not sure about the rest of the world, but here in the United States, there are strict laws in place to protect patient privacy.  As there should be.  I understand that.  I myself work in the medical field and take the responsibility of patient confidentiality very seriously.  And, as a patient, I would not want my personal medical information to be taken lightly.

So what are we to do as friends and family who are deeply concerned about someone we care about when we have done everything else we can think of?  Last week I did the only thing I had left to do.  On the recommendation and advice of many people and out of pure desperation and love, I contacted my friend’s healthcare provider.

And I would do it again.

Now, what the provider could not tell me is whether or not my friend is being treated by them.  Fair enough.  What they could have done, and if they had looked at it from a different angle, was guide me to help.  I made it clear right up front that I did not want or expect any information about my friend.  I only wanted them to know that “hypothetically” if she was a patient there, that her friends and family were (and still are) deeply concerned about her welfare.  It needed to be known by someone that people care about this person.  She is not alone.  She has friends who fear she may die.  She has a father who doesn’t know what to do.  My own healthcare provider once told me how surprised she was that my husband, family and friends did not contact her while I was in her care.  She is used to the parents, husbands and friends of her patients contacting her out of fear, confusion and desperation.  She understands this and although patient information cannot be disclosed without a release, I know she would treat a situation such as this with compassion not only for her client, but for the ones who love them.  She would give resources, books, websites, friends and family support groups.  This is not what I got from the provider I called.  All I got was a “talk to your friend.”  If she would have listened to anything I had to say, she would know we’ve already tried talking to her.  And that because the eating disorder has a way of engulfing it’s sufferers in denial, talking hasn’t been helpful.  This provider did not seem to remember the frustration, sadness, guilt and fear loved ones have when they are watching from the outside.  It seemed her goal was to get off the phone with me as soon as possible.  Not once did she mention something along the lines about understanding how hard it is to watch someone struggle with an eating disorder.  And with that lack of sensitivity, I will not be recommending this particular treatment center; and I get asked for recommendations often.

I am also not convinced that this facility has the capability of caring for someone so ill.  It would have been helpful to hear that they have the resources to treat critical patients.  And if they do not, what they recommend when the level of care is beyond what they are capable of giving.  It is their ethical obligation to recommend patients to a higher level of care if they are not equipped.  At this point, I have no way of knowing anything.  I can only hope this person I love so much is getting the best care available to her at this time.  Hope is all I have left.

If you have a loved one struggling with an eating disorder, addiction, mental illness it is so frustrating to be on the outside.  I understand this first hand, both as a person who has been sick and as someone watching.  It’s painful on both sides.  The system itself can be maddening enough.  There does not seem to be much to do if there is not a signed release of information or care.  And, often in these cases, a patient does not want or think they need the appropriate level of care.  All we can do is speak our truth as we see it.  To the providers, it is understandable that the frustration to not be able to reach out to friends and family must be difficult.  How hard it must be as a provider to try to reach a patient and not be able to use the support system around them.  I imagine it can be heart-breaking.  To the provider I called last week, I hope they realize that true, while you cannot give out sensitive information, a little sensitivity goes a long way.

Live on,


What Giving Up Looks Like

I admit I am writing this while my emotions are high.  But writing soothes me helps me settle my brain. Typing helps me process and make sense of the chaos. So write I shall.  It’s awkward.  I’m embarrassed and angry and sad.  But I can’t help but feel a little relieved as well. And of course guilt comes along with that.

My dear friend sent me a text today that she wants no more contact with me.  I am to leave her alone.  I am not to contact her family.  I accept this.  I accept that I asked a lot of her to contact me once a day so I knew she was still alive.  I accept that I took on too much.  I accept her anger as well as my own.  I accept that she could die from this and will if she does not get better.  I accept my own shortcomings and the mistakes I may have made. My own treatment team has told me I am going through what is called “anticipatory grief” which I have never heard of before.  I feel like I have failed.  Yet a weight has been lifted.  I do not have to worry about this anymore.  She is pushing me away and perhaps that is actually what is best. I was taking on this role of friendship to a whole new level and now I don’t have to do that anymore.  If she dies, it is not my fault.  I can sleep at night knowing she is the one who could not continue with the relationship, not me.  I did not give up on her.  She gave up on me.

I was getting all sorts of advice to call an ambulance for her.  To drive her to the ER.  To petition a 5150 section hold on her.  I was advised to contact the crisis line.  Call her family.  Contact her providers.  I didn’t do most of these things. I did what I felt comfortable with and what I felt necessary at the time.  I contacted her dad.  I will continue to do so. He and I are adults and the two of us can decide for ourselves if we want to speak to each other or not. I contacted her provider who was completely rude and didn’t offer any resources to me as a friend watching someone with anorexia.  At the very least she could have given me  support group information.  All she did was tell my friend that I called them.  It’s all I could do.  And I could not have done anything more, or less.  It’s completely up to her now without me.  I’ll be thinking about her and feel sadness. But I cannot be there for her anymore, as she requested.

So it hurts and I hate this disease.  But it has taken my friend away long before today. I am grieving.  But I am ok with that. It is to be expected.  I will be alright. I lost a friend today, or before today for that matter.  I will miss her.  I wish I could know her without anorexia.  Even with it, she is special.  Without it she could be so much more.  Now I will let the tears flow, and let go.





Moving On

This has been a particularly hard couple of weeks as I guess I should expect.  Last Friday was Will’s funeral and I could not be there as I wanted to be.  I considered how I could make it happen but my daughter’s birthday was the next day and it would have just been logistically too difficult.  I also didn’t want to intrude on Will’s family.  This has to be devastating for them and I wanted to give them some space.  During his service, I wrote to Will.  I told him I was thinking a bout him and his family.  I’m pretty sure he would  have understood my not being there.  I was with him in spirit all that day though.  I could not stop thinking about my friend.

With Will’s passing, I have had re-open some issues and revisit some painful memories.  Not all have been bad though.  Death has thankfully been a rare occurrence in my life.  But that also means I forget how it feels, how it hurts and how I am supposed to grieve.  This has also been the first death in my life that has been someone so young.  I’ve had grandparents die and co-workers and acquaintances.  Each loss has been painful in its own unique way.  The fact that Will died from his eating disorder, which was treatable, and the fact that Will was so very young, has been a new type of loss that I have not experienced before.  It has brought up a lot of feelings:  Deep sadness, intense anger, irritability, guilt, and moments of refection and happiness in remembering him.  I had forgotten some of Will’s antics and it was so wonderful to be reminded by others who knew him.  His Bon Qui Qui imitation could not be matched.  And it repeatedly brings a smile to my face to think of him shouting “BOOM!  YA DONE!”  Remembering him dancing in an open field with a toilet brings me to laughter.  What a character he was.  He truly was a piece of me that I will hold on to forever.

In the  last week I have talked to many people I have lost contact with from Denver.  It has been comforting and healing.  The community immediately came together to support each other in the ways we were able.  Texts, e-mails, gatherings and Skype sessions served as a reminder that we were not alone in our loss and sadness. I took the day off last Monday to process, think and grieve.  I went to my favorite place to be alone; the cemetery.  Yes, I know it’s weird.  But I have always had a love of cemeteries.  They are quiet, beautiful, sad and full of life all at once.  Being among the forgotten names and wondering about the histories underneath brings me peace and comfort.  And, if I couldn’t be with my friend Will, then I could be with my friend Robin (whom I have never met but who has the most beautiful headstone in the cemetery I visit).  I wrote, I listened to music, I walked, I lay in the grass, I prayed.  I even sang.  Some people when they  experience a loss say they feel “numb”.  I suppose I did at some point.  But in that cemetery on that beautiful day, I felt more alive than I had in a while.  I was reminded of how precious life is.  How very short it can be.  I watched nature move on.  The bees were buzzing in the flowers next to me.  Birds were chattering.  I noticed the smallest things around me like the tiny ants climbing the blades of grass.  The sun was blazing hot.  The clouds seemed infinite and I felt so small.  Everything felt so real in that time I had alone.  It was lovely and sad all at the same time.


I went back to work.  Started moving back into my normal routine.  Eating the food that Will would have wanted me to eat. “Will would kick your ass if you gave up,” one friend reminded me.  I got in to my dietician appointment two weeks early.  I cried and cursed in her office while she sat calmly and looked on compassionately.  I actually contacted my therapist whom I haven’t seen for six months.  I took special care of myself.  Listened to what felt right in regards to grieving and recovery.  I did (and am still doing ) exactly what is right for me.  I cry at random moments, and I swear a lot.  I still have anger with no where to direct it.  Last night on the drive home from Seattle, I  got ridiculously mad.  Mad at the disease.  Mad at how miserable people are with it.  Mad at how many lives are destroyed or wasted because of it.  Mad at the system for failing those who need help.  I felt helpless and small.  Right now I have two mentees who are struggling and several friends.  What can I do?  I can’t do a damn thing!  I was so very angry.  I eventually remembered; I can only take care of myself and offer comfort to others.  I can feed the fight against this illness.  I can speak out.  Loudly if I must.  I can be the truth behind the lies that ED feeds its sufferers.  It is not always the easy way, but still I fight.  Not only for myself but for my family, my friends and for those who can no longer fight.  The people who die because of their eating disorders.  My fighting is the only way I can shove back.  I don’t want to be lonely, afraid, sick, tired, numb or empty.  I want to be full of life and sometimes that includes anger, sadness, pain and regret.  I’ll take it.  All of it.

Live on,



Losing Will to Anorexia…


I met Will Brooksbank nearly three years ago.  We were both patients at a eating disorder treatment hospital in Denver, CO.  The community was especially gossipy the day he arrived.  We were getting in a new admit and it was a guy!  In a treatment facility filled almost exclusively with girls and women, this was big news.  I remember seeing him for the  first time.  He was in the hallway of the center with his treatment team.  He had white-blonde hair and fair features.  He was small.  Not just thin, but small like a child.  His face looked so young.  Like maybe he was 12.  In actuality he was 19.  An adult.  And, something about this guy was immediately likeable.  Even though Will was sick, seriously, visibly sick with anorexia, he still carried a radiance about him.  Somehow he was still full of energy.  He had a theatrical charisma.  The class clown.  He settled in so easily with the established community.  I remember him saying on his first day in group, “I know a lot of women here have had issues with men.  I’m sorry that happened to some of you.  I’m not one of those guys.  I understand, please accept me.”  It was this statement along with actually being one of the very few men there, that made my heart tighten and my eyes well with tears.  Where has this man been in his life?  What has he seen or been through that has given him such sensitivity, insight, kindness, compassion…and anorexia.

William Arthur Brooksbank the IV was hysterical.  So very witty.  Always there with a warm, genuine smile and a lilting laugh.  He was constantly saying funny, ridiculous things to make us all laugh especially there where we needed to laugh a little.  He was deeply religious and faithful to his God, but he didn’t push it on anyone else or try to convert anyone to his beliefs.  He believed in God and Christ, passionately but it was his relationship, not a belief to be forced on anyone else.  He would sing.  He would dance.  He would play with anything that was available to play with.  A pencil could be made into a sword.  A piece of paper into a cape.  Sometimes after program a small group of us would bus it (because most of us had no other form of transportation) to either Target or the Mall, or a park.  He would play and laugh and put on silly hats while in the stores.  He’d use outlandish accents which he had perfected over the years.  He would come in program in the morning, look me straight in the eye, touch my arm, and ask me how I was doing.  He genuinely cared about others, their feelings, their struggles, their recovery.  He was the light of the hospital.  The beacon.  The hope.

Underneath all of the playfulness though, occasionally, one could see something deeper.  I remember him having trouble with the food.  I remember him getting angry and frustrated.  Of course we all did in treatment.  It was as if there was a little boy in there.  Confused, lost, afraid.  He was so smart and quick and determined.  And my heart aches for him now.  Because dammit, anorexia won.  An eating disorder actually beat someone, and this someone was special.  I am so sad and angry, with no place to put my anger.  Anorexia is not a person I can swear at or punch in the face.  It doesn’t have feelings that I can hurt by silent treatment or screaming.  The only way I can show my hate for this disease is to continue to fight my own battle.  To keep eating the fucking food.  With each bite, I can have my say.  And I can say it for Will.

For a while today I had “the thoughts”.  The “I miss being skinny” thoughts.  How can I get it back just a little.  All I want are thin arms, a thigh gap, I miss my bones.  Oh my ribs, my long-lost shoulder bones…I recognized the thoughts and felt fear.  It has been a long time since I’ve thought deeply about my feelings about my disorder.  I have been so busy with life and advocacy work.  I suppose I have forgotten to take time out to get mad and sad and fearful.  I guess I need to remember how truly terrible being trapped in the ED is.  This is not a game as it has often felt to me.  “I can play a little.”  No, this kills people.  They are here and then they are gone.  The family and friends are devastated and hurt.  It’s not romantic or beautiful.  It’s insidious and ugly and mean.

I have regrets.  Will and I did not stay in contact over the last couple of years.  Occasionally a Facebook “hi” or something.  But we lived far apart and he had so many friends.  And I was so far along in my own recovery.  I can’t help but think, what could I have done for him?  What could I have said?  I guess we all feel that way when someone passes away.  What would I have done differently?  What did I miss?  Why didn’t I call him?  What the fuck just happened?

This is my first friend to die.  The first person I have known personally to die from an eating disorder.  Sure, I had head about it.  I have seen the statistics and read the memorials.  But this hits home.  What’s worse, is that I don’t think it will be the last.

For Will Brooksbank, I eat the food.  I fight the fight.  And I win.


Live on,


And Now I’m Going to Eat Pie

I’m here!  I know.  You’ve all been wondering where I am.  Where are the posts?  What is happening?!  I’ve been slacking on the writing I’m afraid.  But I am here…and there; everywhere!  The last couple of weeks have been BUSY!  That is a good thing for me since I was kind of in limbo for a while.  I felt a little lost and unmotivated.  I didn’t feel like I had much going on and I was starting to panic.  Apparently I need a certain amount of stress in my life to function.  I had to remind myself that sometimes not having “something” going on, is a good thing.  It is life’s little way of saying “Chill the eff out!  RELAX!”  It appears I don’t know how to do that very well.  Now I am back with a full plate (so to speak).  I have been putting in some extra time at work, taking care of the short people who live in my house, and preparing for the next few weeks  The sun has been out and I have been taking time out to get my fingers filthy in the garden, (don’t look at my nasty nails) watching the neighborhood kids play, (or try to kill each other.  However you want to look at it) and relaxing with their parents.  I love B.S.ing with grown-ups while the plethora of kids play, cry and make us laugh.  It’s been a good start to the spring/summer season.  Bring on the outside world!

The month brings on a bunch of things.  The kids are finishing up school and my daughter is turning 7.  In less than two weeks I will be hosting my own booth at a local Wellness Connection Expo.  I will be speaking, telling my story and talking to the public.  This whole thing has brought up some mixed emotions and thoughts.  I have contacted every single local eating disorder treatment provider I can find in the Western Washington area.  The response was swift and sweet.  NEDA sent me a whole box of information and flare to pass out.  Opal has given me a bunch of goodies.  Vibrant Health has given me info to share as well as The Center for Discovery.  I feel pretty confident that I have enough “stuff”.  My fear is doing this alone.  I will be at my own booth talking to the public about a very personal topic.  A sometimes embarrassing topic.  I thought I might have a partner with this but now it looks like I am going solo.  My self-critical mind takes over.  Thoughts of inadequacy flood in.  “What are you doing?!  You are not a professional!  You don’t have a degree in this!  You are not a healthcare provider.  What are people going to think?  You should not be doing this.”  I fight back with a self-inflicted mind smack.  I should be doing this, and I can do it alone.  I have to remind myself that sometimes people aren’t looking for a “professional”  sometimes people are needing to hear from someone who has been in it.  This is a perfect time to show myself what I am capable of and that I am enough just as I am.  I’m educated on the topic.  I can do this.

On another note, I was selected to be a MentorCONNECT mentor.  It was quite a process!  I had to apply and then answer some tough questions.  I have to say I’m very proud to be chosen and I can’t wait to get started.  This scares me a little too but I know I have the support of the program and help is always available.  I have been doing a little of this type of work on my own, now I am part of a group which feels pretty dang good.  I also decided at the last-minute to participate in the Seattle NEDA walk.  This year I am not quite as involved as I was previously.  I am taking a backseat and trying not to get too competitive about it, which is really difficult considering I’m the most competitive person I know.  I am am going to do what I can, but not overextend myself too much.  My own recovery, life, happiness and family come first.

Well that’s an update.  I’m going to go eat a pie.


Live on!