Tag Archives: eating disorders

The One He Loves

I always thought he would be able to love me if I could lose weight.  Be thin.  And trim.  But the one he loves has thunder-thighs and a poochy tummy.  She’s not as heavy as I was toward the end of our marriage, the time of ultimate despair and self-loathing.   But she’s not even close to small.  She has substance and heft.   Casts a shadow you can’t miss.  Certainly isn’t close to ideal societal standards.  She doesn’t puke up what she puts in her mouth.  She eats.

I thought if I could be pretty enough…so he could feel good about people seeing him holding my hand…he could find a way to love me.  I wasn’t pretty, but I did what I could to look nice for him.  Fixed my makeup and hair.  Did what I could to make myself presentable.  Yet she, the one he loves, she is not what one would call pretty.  She’s okay.  Kind of on the plain side.  Normal.  Average.  Not the “arm candy” type.  Not the type who possesses beauty that would inspire such great devotion.  And yet.  He is.  Devoted.  To her.

I thought if I worked hard enough and made enough money to take care of us, he would find value in me.  Appreciate me and what I “brought to the table.”   But the one he loves works for a non-profit.  She’s not a big earner in any sense.  She lets him take care of her.  And he inherited a fortune from his parents.  So he takes care of her in ways he never even thought about with me.  Because he loves her.  And he never loved me.  No matter how hard I tried to give him reasons to love me.  No matter how much I tried to make things easy…or at least easier.

I thought if I dressed well, colored away the gray, looked put together, acted normal and was stylish, he would love me and be proud of me.  Or at the very least, be accepting.  Yet, the one he loves is sloppy.  Her hair is salt and pepper…mostly salt.  Frizzy, unstyled.  She wears no makeup.  Her clothes are haphazard and mismatched.  She looks anything but put together.   But he loves her.  The unfashionable and frumpy.  Because she doesn’t have to act normal.  She doesn’t have to try to have worth.  She just is.  She just does.

I thought if I was successful, he would see that there was more to being a good wife than cooking a meal every night (at which I failed miserably) and cleaning the toilets or dusting (yep, failed at that too).  He was the one with the low paying job and easy hours.  I was the one who was paying our bills and providing opportunities for him to enjoy and indulge.  I was working myself to death in an attempt to make something of myself.  But he left me.  And married her.  The one he loved and loves still.  Because she doesn’t have to do anything to deserve it.  She doesn’t have to earn acceptance.  She is cherished.  She brings a smile to his face.  No matter what she does…or doesn’t do.

That face once looked at me with utter disdain.  It was painted clearly across his disapproving features and reflected in those disappointed eyes.  What I was…it was never enough.  I wasn’t good enough.  Or enough.  Because I wasn’t someone like her.

The one he loves is accepted.  Cared for.  Appreciated.  Wanted.  Valued.  Important.  Beautiful in his eyes.  Everything I always wanted to be, but never could become.

Being thin, successful, hardworking, loyal, intelligent…none of it made a difference.  Because I was me.  And he really didn’t like me at all.

I wasn’t able to live up to his expectations.  I wasn’t able to change who I was inside.  I couldn’t make feelings I felt and thoughts that played endlessly through my weary brain go away.  I couldn’t fix the broken places.  I couldn’t be a different person.  I couldn’t change everything that was shattered and damaged.   I couldn’t stop being…me.

I’m glad he found her.  Truly I am.  But I do so wish he could have found something to love in me.

 

Disordered

Eating.  It’s not that easy.  To eat.  At least not for me.  I have determined that I really don’t have any idea how to eat normally.
 
This probably sounds crazy to most people.  I mean, how hard is it, right?  We learn how to eat when we’re BABIES.  It comes naturally.  We HAVE to do it to survive.  It’s primal.  But then life happens and the wiring in our brain gets all messed up and confused and all kinds of other factors come into play and suddenly, it’s not so simple.  In fact, it’s complex.   Very, very complicated and bewildering.
 
I guess there was a point somewhere in my life when eating wasn’t a big problem.  Maybe.  I remember as a child being required to clean my plate before I could leave the table.  My brother would fall asleep in his leftover food rather than give in and eat more than he wanted.  I, on the other hand, didn’t want to have to sit still any longer than was absolutely necessary.  I ate it, want it or not, so I could go run and play.  My brother was stick skinny.  I was…fluffy.
 
My mother was morbidly obese.  By the time I was 16, I was a size 16 and following in her footsteps.  I’m a little on the short side.  But I weighed 173 lbs. when I graduated from high school.  I weighed 194 lbs. a couple of years later. 
 
Back then, I ate.  A lot.  It was an emotional thing and very comforting.  I would sometimes hit 3 different drive throughs and buy that many different complete meals for my dinner.  And I would go to a couple of different grocery stores to buy desserts that I would wolf down in one setting.  I didn’t know how to stop myself.  It didn’t feel as if I had any control, no matter how hard I tried to assert myself.  I HAD to binge.  I couldn’t get enough.  I couldn’t stop.
 
I joined Weight Watchers when I hit 194 lbs.  I didn’t want to break 200 lbs.  I was horrified at how huge I had gotten and I knew I had to do something differently or die trying.  And Weight Watchers worked.  Slowly, a few pounds at a time, I lost the extra pounds, hit my goal weight and then lost a little more just for the heck of it.  Back then, I could eat.  I could consume food like a normal person and I was able to see the cause and effect between eating too much, eating a little less than normal and eating normally.  I gained, lost or maintained in relation to my calorie intake and activity level.
 
When I was 26, my (then) husband told me that, not only did he not love me, he didn’t want to deal with me.  He didn’t want to hear about any of the “stuff” that was inside me.  I was too much.  A problem.  A pain in the butt.  Not worth the trouble.  An embarrassment.   A mess.  He wanted me to keep things nice and easy and smooth and keep my crap to myself.  It did something to me.  Something inside of me shut down and something else reared up.  I started severely restricting my food intake and began to exercise.  I wasn’t overweight at the time…a size 7.  But as I restricted more and ran further and further, the weight melted off.  Before I knew it, I weighed 84 lbs. and was still losing.  And I felt SO GOOD!  I ran 13 to 15 miles a day, did an hour of floor exercises and walked for 30 to 45 minutes every single day.  I felt strong and unstoppable.  I stopped having a period, but, hey, that was NOT a bad thing!  I loved it.  LOVED being in control and skinny and free!
 
Not sure where it would have ended if I hadn’t broken my hip in a couple of places from all the running.  But I did.  Break it.  And not only could I not run, I couldn’t sit, stand, walk, lift my leg…I was in intense pain and nearly incapacitated.  Turns out, when the hip broke, it caused my pelvis to tilt and cut off the nerves in my leg.  I had extensive nerve damage by the time the doctor figured it out.  It took years to get to a point where I could walk without a limp and get into a car without having to grab my leg and lift it in the car.  Suddenly I wasn’t in control any more.  And I wasn’t strong or free.
 
To make the nightmare even more unbearable, I couldn’t eat.  I had been restricting, consuming a maximum of 1000 to 1200 calories when I was exercising constantly.  I cut back to 500 calories every other day and I was STILL gaining weight at an alarming rate.  I couldn’t do anything to stop it and I was so miserable, I wanted to die.
 
The weight gain slowed, but never stopped.  I continued…for years and years and years…to count calories and restrict.  But there was no longer any cause and effect.  Eating less didn’t equate to weight loss.  Eating more, however, caused accelerated weight gain.  So I ate very little and watched in horror as my body continued to expand.  I couldn’t exercise anymore because of the hip injury.  I could walk, but that wasn’t enough.  Running put too much pressure on my compromised hip structure.  Couldn’t do it.   And that kind of intense exercise seemed to be the only thing that helped slow the gain.  Exercise I could no longer do.  I felt more and more worthless with every pound gained.  My ex recoiled in horror at my expanding body.  He was embarrassed by me.  The rejection was palpable.  Not that it hadn’t been before, but now there was an outward reason to push me away.  He didn’t touch me unless he wanted sex.  I began to feel like a prostitute.  Used.  Then tossed away.
 
By the time he left me, I deserved to be left.  I weighed 230 lbs.  I was a monster.  And it got worse after he left because I turned to food for comfort. Gained another 26 lbs. 
 
At the point where I attempted suicide, I weight 256 lbs.  I had lost all hope, hated myself, felt completely worthless, as if I was a monster to be shunned and avoided at all costs.  I gave up.  I took 300 20 mg. Adderall, sure that it would kill me…and lived.  Angry much?  Yeah, for sure.  I should have died.  I still don’t know why I didn’t.
 
I was in intensive care for days…it all runs together in my brain, so I’m not sure how many, but for 3 or 4 days at least.  When I started becoming more aware of my surroundings and was able to get out of bed on my own, the hospital transferred me to the mental hospital.   Horrible experience.  Like being trapped in a bad movie.  Every 15 minutes, they find you and account for you.  You can’t have a phone or blow dryer or makeup.  There were some seriously mentally ill people in there.  Not in touch with reality in any way.  Scary.  Very few activities, so nothing to distract you.  Nothing to help you pass the endless hours.  An the 15 minutes of therapy a day was a total joke.  I was confined for a full week.  It was one of the longest weeks of my life.
 
But something happened while I was in there.  I had a bulimic roommate.  And my eating disorder flared into being again.  Just.  Like.  That.
 
At first, the purging was mainly because my stomach was a bit of a mess after the trauma of the suicide attempt and resulting pumping of my stomach and having charcoal forced down me.  But at some point, it became something I did on purpose.  I was restricting because I was angry and my stomach was queasy, but I was also, over time, purposely throwing up whatever I ate.  And, miracle of miracles, the weight was coming off.
 
By the time I was able to get a job (a few months after I got out of the psych hospital), I had lost 20 to 30 pounds.  My size 22 jeans were falling off of me.  Most of my clothes were getting seriously loose.  I pulled out some old things I had packed away hoping to be able to wear them again someday.  And found someday had arrived.  Before I knew it, I was wearing a size 18.  Then I was back to a size 16, which was the size I had worn when I graduated from high school.  But I didn’t stop there!  I passed quickly through size 16 to 14 to 12.  One year later, by the time I had to have an emergency hysterectomy, I had lost over 100 lbs.  I weighed 145 the day I had surgery. 
 
And I didn’t stop there either.
 
Now, I wear a size 0 or 00.  I don’t weigh myself any more.  If I’m careful, the binge & purge trick works well enough that I can maintain.  But if my clothes get a little tight, it throws me into a tizzy and I start restricting along with B&P.   And I haven’t a clue how to go about actually eating.  Like a normal person.  Even having a salad is difficult.  If I get too much in my stomach, I panic, even if it’s low calorie “good for you” food.  Mostly, I eat a bunch and then throw up and throw up and throw up until I can’t feel anything in my stomach and can’t get another drop out.
 
This is my life.  This is what happens when you live with ED.  If you can call this living.
 

My Brother’s Father

My brother lost his father in 2010.  And he’s still struggling with the loss today.  This was the man he had always admired.  Looked up to.  Respected.  Believed in.  Wanted to be like.  He actually died in 1998.  But it wasn’t until 2010 that I had a failed sinus surgery, one that was a nightmare.  And I just. couldn’t. do. another. one. alone. This, in turn, caused the demise of my brother’s father.
 
My brother and I didn’t talk much at all for years.  Didn’t have a relationship.  I was the black sheep of the family.  The one who struggled.  Who tried hard but failed.  Who just wasn’t quite right.  Mark, on the other hand, has worked at the same place for 33 years.  He’s been very successful.  He is happily married.  He does well financially, especially with the combined income of him and his wife, who is a nurse practitioner.  Nice cars.  House paid for.  Able to travel internationally a couple of times a year.  There is a big contrast between us, and though he is younger, I’ve always felt “lesser than.”
 
So perhaps you can get a small glimpse of how desperate I was for some help and what it took for me to reach out to him.  To confess to my inability to go on any longer all alone.  I was NOT making it. I had started to have horrible asthma symptoms as a result of all the sinus issues, almost dieing once, collapsing in the ER.  I was constantly physically ill, having fought the sinus infection from hell for a year (my then doctor created a super-infection – long story) and the surgery had failed because when the specialist got in my sinuses to clean the infection out, he discovered I no longer had sinus bones.  They had been eaten away by the massive infection  – the worst he had seen in 23 years of practice.  I had only a thin membrane between my brain and sinus cavities and my optic nerve and sinus cavities.  He needed special equipment for this delicate of surgery.  So he had to stop and he told me it would be bad.  It was worse than bad.  On top of all this, I was fighting an eating disorder.  Having problems with electrolytes and had made a couple of visits to the ER as a result. I had been in counseling for 10 years or more trying to recover from the childhood sexual abuse perpetrated by my father and neglect and abuse from my mother, felt totally worthless, had been left by my husband of 22 years because he fell in love with another woman, lost my job, gotten in massive debt and couldn’t cope a second longer.  I was alone, scared and freaking out.  I needed a hand to hold.  I needed some support.  I needed my brother.
 
Part of what made everything come to a head was being dumped by a friend at the door of the hospital the day of the first surgery.  She was to come back and get me right away once the surgery was over, I explained at check-in.  The nurses were not happy.  Someone was at least supposed to come in and talk with them so they could explain what to expect and what care I would need afterward.  They finally relented and called my friend to make certain she would, at least be available to come get me.  So I sat in the waiting room alone, watching families huddle and hug and love.  I watched a few pray together.  I saw them surrounded by friends, family, church pastors.  And I sat alone.  Waiting.
 
When the surgery was over and my friend had been called, I was put in the outpatient prep room where I began the journey after my name was finally called.  I lay there, miserable, bleeding, hurting, unable to breathe and scared, listening to the nurses talk about how my friend had said it would be an hour or two before she could get there, that she was involved in something else.  They were throwing “well, I never”  all over the place.  I heard.  It hurt.
 
When she finally arrived, I still couldn’t walk to the car.  She did agree to stop by the pharmacy so I could get my prescription filled and pick up needed supplies.  Alone.  I leaned on the cart and was grateful for it.  When she arrived at my house, she didn’t even help me out of the car or to the door.  I got out.  She drove away.  I struggled with my purchases, finally getting in the house where I collapsed on the couch.
 
The night that followed was one of the most horrible of my life.  It was so tormenting, I still can’t find words to adequately describe the torture.
 
Because of that horrible night,  I e-mailed my brother the following day and told him where I was in life, what was going on and that I needed him.  I totally expected the rejection I had encountered in the past. I was pleasantly surprised.  He responded in a positive way.  He reached back.
 
After my father died, our mother started talking about how he had sexually abused me.  In fact, she couldn’t shut up.  She told EVERYONE.  Without any discrimination, with no filter, no holds barred, as they say.  Of course, she told my brother.  He didn’t believe it.  But for some reason – maybe a miracle – when I threw up all over him about the sad state of my life, he heard and he believed.  He took me to the hospital for my 2nd surgery.  He cleaned up blood, got me soup and talked me through the hardest part of the healing process.  He also asked if he could visit with my counselor about me…what had happened, where I was, what I needed.  I gave the counselor permission to tell him anything that might be helpful.  And this is when his father died.
 
I feel horrible about it.  Mark had always seen what his father wanted him to see.  He believed.  He loved.  Admired.  Suddenly, the very word “father” was an oath to spit from one’s mouth.  He was angry beyond belief…more angry than I have ever been able to even think of being.  He despised the man he had once adored.  He has told me repeatedly that it’s a good thing he’s already dead, because if he wasn’t, Mark swears he would kill him.  I am totally confused by this.  I don’t hate him…so why does Mark?  It’s perplexing.  It’s disturbing.  And I feel responsible for taking his father from him.  Because, you see, his father and my father, they are the same man.  The one who sexually and physically abused me loved, cherished and cared for him.  He was Mark’s hero.  And I destroyed his hero.  A hero I never had.  For I lost my father long before he died.  Mark didn’t lose him until years after death.  I’m not sure which is harder.
 
Not that Mark blames me; but I do blame myself.  I hurt for him.  But I can never give him back what he has lost, because, in truth, he never had it to begin with.  He loved an illusion.  And sadly, that illusion has been decimated.   Because of me.  Being needy and selfish. 
 
And so, I have pulled back.  And so, I try to not need very much at all.  And so, I watch his pain as I drown in guilt.
 
I’m not sure if the loss of his father is a good or bad thing.  But it happened because of me.  Which may be yet another thing for which I can never forgive myself.
 

Taking Up Space

I am afraid of taking up space.  I am afraid to breathe too much air. I like being small.  I would really like to be invisible.  Or at least almost invisible.  Insubstantial.  Is this what lies behind my insane relationship with ED – this drive to be teeny?  To remain unseen? Is it all about ED, or is there more to the sordid story.
 
You know ED, right?  ED, my roommate.  ED, my constant companion.  Who whispers in my ear, telling me I’ve had enough food.  Too much food.  Need to get rid of that food.  And I listen.  To the whispers.  Because I want to get to that magical point of being so small that no one will be able to see me any more.  So small that I don’t need.  So small that no one notices me…and if they don’t notice me, they can’t judge me.  Or reject me.  I want to be walking bones.  Bones that never inconvenience anyone or disrupt so much as a particle of dust or a tiny atom in my universe.
 
ED likes my goal, to be smaller than small.  To take up so little space, I’m almost a black hole.  He APPROVES! I bask in his approval.
 
I get horribly hungry.  And then I eat.  ED laughs because he knows; he knows.  He knows that no sooner do I consume everything I can get my hands on, I’m going to be running to the bathroom as fast as can be, bowing to the toilet, expelling every last drop that I can possible expel.  Working hard at it.  Getting everything OUT.  Until I’m starving again and fighting not to give in to my hunger.
 
Have to get it all OUT.  Get it back to right, to normal, to empty.  Then everything is good again. Then ED is happy.
 
If only it lasted longer…everything being okay.  If only I could be happy too.
 
So yeah, ED laughs.  He watches and roars with raucous laughter.  I don’t. Laugh.  At all.  I lean against the wall, weak, weary, confused, wondering how I got tricked into being in this place again.  And I ponder my life.  The fact that I don’t have one.  I lean against the wall with the heaviness of it all.  Trying to shake off the weight.  Trying to flush it. Trying to find some sense in the ritual, but there is no making sense of it.  I am a slave, unable to break free.  My only hope of escape is to keep getting smaller.  To take up less space.  Until I am nothing but dust.  Until my bones don’t walk any more.
 
My life is consumed with not consuming.  Every second of every day is occupied with concern that I am not small enough, that I might gain a pound, that I put a little too much fat-free sugar-free creamer in my coffee, so I’m going to have to compensate by not eating 2 of the 10 low-cal crackers I allow myself to eat during the day. It is all strictly regulated…my allowed intake.  ED watches.  He checks, calculates, balances.  It’s a delicate line.  A fine line.  A thin line.  Thin.  Nearly invisible.  Everything, it would seem, is about being thin and invisible.
 
And about not needing.  Because needing is painful.  Because needs create chasms that can never be filled.  Emptiness.  I am all about emptiness.  On so many levels.  In so many ways.  I am not yet able to map the intricacies of all the routes emptiness has taken through my brain.  All of the paths it has carved in my soul.  I only know my stomach must echo the  bareness of my existence.  It must remain hungry.  Unfilled.  Because that is my lot in life.  I will never matter.  To anyone.  Not really. 
 
There is only one way for me to have value.  Worth.  Love is out of the question.  For it is evident now that there is no path that leads to love…not for me.  The most I can hope for is to have some kind of value…to at least be worth enough to be deemed human.  My only value lies in my smallness.  It is only when I become nothing that I am something. 
 
And that is the most cruel joke of all.  To have value, I cannot have weight.  ED is laughing hysterically.  He loves a good joke.
 

God and Other Mysteries

I have struggled in my relationship with God for many years.  I totally believe.  I KNOW God is real because I’ve met Him; encountered Him.  And once encountered, you can no longer deny His existence, power, or force, or convince yourself that He is not a living, breathing being.  He is.
 
But what is He truly like; what is He at heart?  This is where my struggles come into play.
 
As I said, I know He is powerful.  But is He a powerful good force, a loving being, a caring father, a doting dad?  Or is He an authoritarian?  A disciplinarian?  A master who demands to be obeyed and who doles out consequences when you do not do what He requires?  Does He help us as we journey through this difficult world, during our life on this planet?  Or does He watch without intervening?  Does He want good things for us?  Does He work on our behalf to protect us and bring those good things into being in our life?  Or does He allow us to suffer because He can’t be bothered?  Because He’s too busy with His big, magnificent overall plan.  And does He just watch benignly without lending a hand when we so desperately need one or can we count on Him to lift us out of the mire when we are drowning?
 
I see God in much the same way I saw my earthly father.  I’ve tried not to, but they are hopelessly intertwined to me.  I see Him as being distant, demanding, harsh, rigid, uncaring, angry, inconsistent, unhelpful, unconcerned.  Not someone who could be depended on or relied on.  Not someone to go to when you need a hug.  Nurturing and protecting were not my earthly father’s things.  He was someone to be feared.  Cowed to.  Who had all the power and who abused it, never using it to help in any way, never offering a hand except to hit and slap and knock you down.  Or to take what he wanted from you.  He had many rules that had to be obeyed or one would suffer dire consequences.  Ditto the God of the universe.  How much more dire of a consequence can you get than hell, after all?
 
Some people that I know personally and who I completely respect see God as a loving father.  To them, He is someone to run to when you are hurt, when you need help, when you need strong arms around you, when you’re afraid, when you’re overwhelmed.  To them, He is THERE for them.  He makes life doable.  Bearable. 
 
I so want to know this God.
 
But the God I know is someone who demands that I get my act together, then maybe we’ll talk.  He judges me.  He’s not happy with all of my failures.  He’s given me a few chances in the past, long ago, to be what I should be and I failed.  So I’m not in that top tier of people He loves and people He’s concerned about.  I’m not complying.  I’m not someone He’s going to move mountains for, if indeed He feels inclined to move some.
 
Plus, I continue to fail.  And honestly, I’ve mostly given up even trying these days.
 
I’ve given up in the sense that I’ve stopped trying to make myself into the person He wants me to be.  I’m not blatantly sinning, but I’m not a stellar example of what it’s like to have His presence in one’s life, nor of what His proclaimed goodness produces.  I know I’m a failure in His book.   I’m hanging on to my eating disorder and basically forbidding Him to take it away from me, much like a drug addict hangs on to their illegal drug habit.  I can’t find healing for my heart and soul and if you’re read recent blog posts, you know I’ve pretty much given up on that too.  I can’t get my thoughts in line with what He requires in His Word.  I feel like I’m trying to brainwash myself into believing something that doesn’t feel real or genuine to me.  I want to know it’s real before I grab it, but God’s way seems to be that I have to grab it before it becomes real.  I struggle to get past that.  I can’t seem to make the leap of faith that is required.  I’m not going to church either…I got really hurt by my church when my ex left me and I struggle with putting myself under the authority of some pastor who will more than likely misuse their power yet again and cause further wounding.  I have stopped reading the Bible or doing any kind of Christian reading because I feel so condemned by the Word of God and I’m utterly discouraged by how poorly I’m performing against His standards.  When I compare myself to others, others who are seeking after God, I may not be a total heathen, but I’m far from a good Christian.
 
No, I don’t drink, use drugs, do illegal things or immoral things.  I don’t hurt people intentionally and if I do hurt someone unintentionally, I do everything in my power to make it right.  Because I understand pain and I don’t want to inflict it.  I forgive others, try to live my life in a “right” manner.  Even though I’m struggling with massive debt, I make the minimum payments.  And I will do that until I absolutely can’t do it any longer.  Yeah, I cuss…sometimes a lot.  I am depressed.  Deeply depressed.  I don’t have connections.  And I feel very lost.  Even though I’m supposed to be found. But God has made some difference in me…I think.  Just not enough of a difference.  Because of me. Because of who I am.  Who I am not.
 
I don’t have a vital, viable, alive relationship with God.  Yes, I KNOW He is real and I truly don’t want to piss Him off or disappoint Him any more than I have already.  So it’s not like I’m trying to be displeasing or rebelling actively against Him.  I just AM displeasing.  And because I AM displeasing, I can’t do enough of the right kinds of things to ever get in His good graces.  I can never do enough to be loved.
 
And that’s the hard part.  Because all I’ve ever really wanted was to be loved.

Weighty Matters

We think we can make our world better…if only we can be thinner. We can have worth…if only we lose some weight. We can be loved…if only we get skinnier. We will be normal…if only we can feel our ribs and hook our fingers through our collarbone and feel the bones in our arms. We can be beautiful and adored and wanted…if only we are a certain size.  Like zero.  Or zero zero.  Then, at last, we will be acceptable.
 
My father told my mother over and over again, “Everything would be fine if you would just lose weight.”  I listened.  I took his words to heart.
 
But it’s all a lie, isn’t it?  The world won’t be better. We already have worth; nothing can increase our value or decrease our value…or so I’m told.  Being thinner will not make anyone love us because being thinner has nothing to do with who we are inside. And that’s what people love…or don’t. And feeling our ribs won’t make us normal. It just makes us tired. We lose a part of ourselves for every pound we drop.
 
But how do we, who believe we are worthless, come to understand that we have value? How do we come to see it, to believe it, to rest in it?
 
We weren’t told we were adorable or wonderful or valuable as kids…during that all important time when our self-image was being formed.  That programming wasn’t imparted to us.  Instead, we learned our value depended on how well we performed.  How cute we were (and we were never cute in comparison, so we completely failed before we even got started).  To compensate, we made good grades.  But good grades were never enough.  We cleaned the house, ironed the clothes, did the dishes, took out the garbage, fed the dog, smiled at all the right times (mostly) and spoke respectfully to adults.  But that wasn’t enough either.
 
If only you would lose weight, everything would be fine.
 
I was first told that I was fat when I was 7 years old.  I grew incredibly fast.  I was taller and bigger than all the kids my age.   I was 5′ 5′” by the time I was in 5th grade…a giant!  That equaled fat from a kid’s perspective.  I remember how much it hurt.  My mother was fat and our family was all messed up because of it.  That was why my parents fought…violently at times.  That was why everything was scary and uncertain.  Surely that was why I was abused and neglected by my parents. If I was fat, I was part of that chaos.  I was a failure.  I made the world all wrong.  Therefore, I was bad.  And no amount of doing good, performing well or doing the right things would change the fact that I was a defective creature.
 
I started trying to lose weight when I was 11 or 12.  By 14, I was desperate, but largely unsuccessful.  I tried not to eat.  I limited my intake of foods I liked, forcing myself to eat those I hated, but that were supposed to be good for me and that were lower in calories.  Nothing worked.  By the time I graduated from high school, I weighed 173 lbs.
 
A couple of years later, I went on the Weight Watchers program.  And it worked.  I worked hard at it, making my own ketchup (you had to do things like that back in those days) and forcing myself to eat tuna 5 times a week.  I weighted 194 lbs. when I started.  I got down to 110 lbs. and I was in heaven.  Except, well, being skinny didn’t make the world better.  Life still sucked.  I was married to a man who cheated on me constantly and who didn’t love me.  He had asked me for a divorce two weeks after we wed (I was 17 when we married).  We still didn’t have any money.  Everything was a struggle.  He didn’t love me.  But I LOVED my body.  I was thin.  For the first time in my life, I felt like I was worth something, even if my husband didn’t think I had any value.
 
We divorced when I was 20.  I was skinny.  I could handle anything the world threw at me.
 
I married again at age 25.  Still thin.  I had gained some since my divorce, but lost it again.  This time, I thought I got it right.  I thought he loved me.  I certainly loved him.  But after only a couple of months of marriage, he told me he didn’t love me; never had.  This kick-started my first anorexic stage.  I started running and exercising.  I ran 13 to 15 miles every day.  I did an hour of floor exercises.  I walked for an hour too.  I counted every drop of food I put in my mouth and I wouldn’t eat at all if I couldn’t eat at the exact right times.  I weighed 84 lbs. the last time I checked.  I loved my body.  It didn’t matter that my husband didn’t love me.  I was skinny.  The world is better when you’re skinny.  My father said so.  He taught me well.
 
The equation didn’t actually work.  The one my father taught me.  My husband never came to love me when I was skinny.  Eventually, I broke my hip and couldn’t overexercise any more.  I was eating one meal of 500 calories every other day and gained weight at an insane rate.  I finally leveled off.  I was a size 7.  But I felt fat and ugly and unlovable.  As I got older, the weight slowly crept back up.  I died inside.  Numb.  Broken.  Going through the motions.  Trying to appear normal.  Then I was fat.  And I loathed myself.  I wanted to die.
 
When my ex left me for another woman, I weighed 256 lbs.  I blamed myself totally, even though he didn’t love me when I weighted 80 lbs. either.  I tried to kill myself.  Failed.  But the eating disorder returned and a year later,  I had shed 156 lbs. of that blubber.  My world sucked.  I hated my life.  But I loved being tiny.  It made everything bearable. 
 
I still don’t believe I have any worth.  But I’m little.  So I get to breathe the air I need to stay alive.  I can feel my ribs.  So I will allow myself to live.  Being near skeletal is the only thing I can do semi-right.  It’s the only value I have.
 
I lost weight, daddy, but my world is still a dark, lonely, empty place.  The only good thing about it is that I don’t take up much space.
 
There is a lesson we all have to learn for ourselves. That we matter. That we have worth. That we are beautiful. That we are special. And that weight has absolutely nothing to do with it. I’m trying to get it.  Trying to understand.  To believe. We have to tell ourselves this over and over and over and over and over again until we get it. Until it filters down into the deepest part of our soul, takes root, grows there. Then we will be able to let ourselves have food. Then we will be able to heal, nourish our body and heart, grow, thrive, enjoy, live life, be free. We have to matter to ourselves. And we have to believe we have worth. Keep whispering it in our ear. Keep telling ourselves this until our heart can grasp it. Tell ourselves the “truth” a thousand times, if need be. Keep telling ourselves the truth. Until we can believe we are wonderful. Until we can believe we are special.
 
I think, maybe, you were wrong, daddy.  I think perhaps we always do, always have and always will matter. And our weight is what truly, honestly, totally doesn’t matter at all.

Suicide

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.  I don’t know how this day and the emphasis provided is supposed to keep people from committing suicide, but it’s an important cause and a good dream.  I know very little about what they do today to help prevent suicides.  Unless it’s to call attention to the fact that way too many people attempt it and far too many of those are successful in their mission.  It’s a taboo, to be sure.  People don’t like to talk about mental health issues any more than they like to talk about abuse issues, particularly incest.  Yucky subject matter.  And if said yucky subject matter happened to us as a child and as a result we are contemplating suicide, we are supposed to keep that and all of the rest of our yuckiness to ourselves.  Yuckiness is not socially acceptable.  Trust me on this one.
 
I tend to break the rules.
 
I have seriously attempted suicide once, just before Christmas of 2006.  I was jobless and out of money, living on credit cards and had no hope and no one to turn to.  My Schnauzer, Maddie, who was 12 years old, had died a couple of months earlier.  I was utterly alone.  It was dark and dreary.  I couldn’t see any way out and had lost all hope.  I swallowed 300 – 20 mg. Adderall pills, having researched and found that about 60 pills was the maximum dose anyone had ever survived previously, per the internet gods.  I figured 300 would be overkill, but I wanted to make sure it would work.  Nine hours later, in a state that wasn’t exactly normal, I started feeling bad that I was going to be the first patient my counselor would lose.  I stupidly called him on his cell phone in the middle of the night to apologize for his soon to be loss.  He, of course, called 911.  I was transported to the hospital by ambulance, a ride I barely remember, and because I didn’t cooperate fully, I was intubated and the most horrible black substance was forced down into my stomach.  All I really remember with clarity is throwing up black goop, repeatedly.  It went everywhere.  All over me. All over the nurses.  All over the floor.  Everywhere. I had no control, nor did I care at the moment.
 
At some point, I was moved to ICU where I spent the next 2 to 3 (?) days. My memory of this time is also patchy.  I think I had some visitors, but I don’t remember things in any sequence and I’m not sure what I said, did, or didn’t do.   When I was finally stable, the powers that be agreed to release me only if I would agree to be admitted to the psychiatric hospital.  This was what I classified as a true low point in my life.  I was angry at having survived.  I was still kind of out of it.  Confused.  Scared.  And now, I was to be a patient in a mental hospital.  Going to the loony bin.
 
I spent a week there.  It was wasted time.  Nothing productive happened.  They basically took everything away, including my cell phone and even my makeup, supposedly so I couldn’t hurt myself.  As if I could somehow kill myself with mascara.  They watched me eat and monitored my position every 15 minutes.  Took my blood pressure.  Gave me necessary medication.  I talked to a counselor of some kind who was trying to determine if I was going to attempt suicide again if they let me out.  My regular counselor worked with them and finally got me released.  I was in therapy twice a week with him for several months to come.  I wasn’t allowed to go home.  One of the requirements of my release was that I live with friends for at least 2 weeks…talk about being a burden…at Christmas.  And another friend brought me my medication twice a day.  I wasn’t allowed to have more than the one dose in my possession at a time.  It was horrid.  I felt like absolute crap.  Crap that wasn’t supposed to be in the picture any more.  Such a failure, I couldn’t even kill myself properly.
 
Amazingly, I got a job the following April.  So I decided to keep trying a little longer, just to see if something good might possibly come my way.  
 
In the meantime, my eating disorder took control of my life.  I went from 256 lbs. to 100 lbs. in about a year.  I was still losing when I started collapsing in the yard, in the bathroom, trying to get out of bed, trying to walk into the grocery store.  I went to the doctor.  He wasn’t available, but his nurse practitioner put 2 and 2 together and came up with ED.  They wanted me to go inpatient, but I had just started a new job the year before, so I resisted and was placed in the outpatient program.  That roller coaster ride continues to this day.
 
Now, I’m unemployed again.  The job was a godsend in that it paid bills, but I was never able to get out of the vast hole of debt I had dug myself into.  And the job was far from fulfilling because I wasn’t allowed to have much of an impact or be a part of things in the way I had hoped.  I was not accepted.  Probably because I’m not acceptable.  I’m a nut case, right?  I continued to try to act like a “normal” person and fulfill the role I was hired to fill, but it was a facade.  When the company sold this January, they reorganized me out the door at the end of June.  
 
Having any job, even an unfulfilling one, was better than where I am now.
 
I’m back in that dark place.  No job.  This time, because of my past unemployment, my eating disorder, several surgeries and a series of bad luck, I’m $30,000 in the hole with no savings.  I’m so close to going over the edge, I feel nothing but sheer terror, the kind that takes my breath away almost all day long.  It makes me sick to my stomach.  It keeps me from sleeping.  Am I contemplating suicide again?  If I knew how to do it to ascertain the desired outcome and if I knew my dogs (I have 2 Miniature Schnauzers now) would be loved and well cared for, well, all bets would be off.  I don’t know if I can get through the next few days, much less months.  Terror paralyzes.  Depression does that too.  But today, on World Suicide Prevention Day, during National Suicide Prevention Week, I don’t know of any way out…of my dilemma or out of the world.  I feel stuck.  I don’t know what I’m going to do.
 
I wonder what they would suggest, those people who man the helplines and who are trying to keep people like me from doing something permanent?  I wonder if they would care?  I wonder if there are any answers for someone as hopeless, broken and empty as me?  Other than to become a statistic.  

Never Been Loved

I have a friend who recently, tragically, lost her husband to cancer.  He was only 45; same age as her.  They have three sons who are now missing the heck out of their father.  And he was a wonderful father.  Just as he was a wonderful husband.  In fact, this friend says he treated her like a princess.  That never a day went by but what he let her know how beautiful, special, cherished, loved, adored, wanted, cared for and amazing she was.  She was deeply, thoroughly, completely loved and treasured by her mate.  And she is hurting over the loss.
 
Friends have naturally rallied around her.  People are taking her places, including her and her boys in their plans, bringing them meals.  There are cards, letters, calls.  Nothing can compensate for losing her husband.  Nothing can fill the void.  But she has the love and support of hundreds of friends and of a couple of handfuls of family members.  Her prince is gone…she is no longer the adored princess.  But she is being nurtured tenderly by caring friends who love her greatly.
 
She comes from a loving environment.  Her father died a few years ago, a loss she still grieves.  She was a daddy’s girl.  Her mother is still living and they are very close.  They even live in close proximity (her parents moved to this city so they could be near her and their grandkids).  She was adored by her parents when she was growing up and that adoration hasn’t ended.  It has changed.  But she is still the treasured child and her mother is there for her now, during this time of devastating loss.
 
Her husband’s health issues were a strain.  But those issues never came between them.  They never fought.  They simply adored each other.  My friend has, in fact, in spite of some hard circumstances (his health issues, losing a sister to diabetes, having a son diagnosed with diabetes) always been surrounded by people who loved her.  Greatly loved her.  And that love has carried her.  It has sustained her.  It has let her blossom and grow, in spite of the pain life brings at times.
 
I was 47 when I lost my husband. He left me when he fell in love with another woman.  No one called.  No one came by.  No one brought meals.  One friend included me in some of her family’s plans for holidays and such, but other than that, I was on my own.  There were no cards.  No letters.  No outpouring of love and condolence.  Divorce is a kind of death, but it’s not treated that way.  You’re pretty much on your own when you lose your husband because of divorce, as if you did something horribly wrong and deserved to be left behind.  There’s still quite a bit of shame attached.  And people criticize, take sides and avoid you as a result.
 
Not that I lost a great love the way my friend did.  He was truthful with me, telling me often and candidly that he didn’t love me.  Why he married me, I guess I’ll never truly understand.  But from year one throughout the 22 years we were together, he let me know in many ways how defective and deficient I was and how he simply didn’t care for me.  No bubble of love for this girl.  I hung in there.  I was loyal and faithful, believing God would somehow, someday, in some way, redeem the situation and breathe life into our relationship.  I believed God would work it all together for good and that at some point the man I gave my heart to would come to love me.  Instead, he left me for another.  He’s now remarried (not to her) and by all reports is very happy.
 
I’m still alone and unloved.
 
My parents didn’t love me either.  They abused me.  Used me.  Hurt, destroyed, wounded, demolished me.  But love…no.
 
You know that movie with Drew Barrymore and Michael Vartan, “Never Been Kissed?”  Cute, funny, sweet movie with a “happily ever after” ending?  If that movie happened to be about me, it would be called “Never Been Loved.”  For the truth is, though I have been married twice, I have never been loved.  No fairytale ending in my movie.  I would be waiting in that stadium for days and he would never come.  And it hurts.
 
So, I guess I’m having a little bit of a pity party.  But I can’t help but compare my situation to that of my friend who just lost her husband.  I know I’m not the cutest, most wonderful, funniest, sweetest, most exciting person on planet earth.  I’m nothing special.  I have issues.  I’m highly imperfect.  But there are zillions of  “nothing special” and”highly imperfect” people out there who have been deeply, truly loved.  Who aren’t alone.  Which makes me think I must really be horrid in some incredibly hideous way to have never had what most people naturally experience.
 
And that is what scares me the most.  Maybe I’ve never been loved because there’s absolutely nothing there worth loving.

Size Matters

When it comes to matters of size, I’ve decided that size matters. 
 
Size actually matters way too much to me, in all likelihood.  Always has.  Thinking it always will, barring major miracles that totally change who I am.
 
When I was a kid, I was bigger than most other children.  I grew fast, so by 5th grade, I towered over all of my peers.  I was at least twice as tall as almost everyone else, even though I was only 5′ 5″.  I was wearing a 36b bra by 6th grade.  I’m shorter and considerably less well endowed today.  For a kid, I was a monster.  But it wasn’t just my height.  I was bigger all over.  I was pudgy, if not quite fat.  My hands and feet were even bigger.  And I desperately wanted to be a short, slight, waif of a girl even way back then.  I wanted to blend in.  I certainly didn’t want to stand out like a giant among the Lilliputians. But that’s what I was.  And I hated it.
 
I can remember when I was a sophomore in high school and the band was getting new uniforms. No more ill-fitting hand-me-downs (seriously, I wore the same band uniform my AUNT wore when she went to the high school).  But my excitement turned to horror and shame when I went in for a fitting and found the largest size of pants available was a junior 16…which BARELY fit me.  BARELY buttoned.  They ran small.  I usually wore an 11-12 to 13-14.  But still.  I was mortified.  I was flooded with embarrassment.  I had to cram myself into the pants and work like crazy to get them zipped and buttoned.  I wanted to crawl under a rock and die.  I felt hideous.  Size matters.
 
By the time I was a senior in high school, I weighed 173 lbs.  I was no longer pudgy; I was fat.  I wore a size 16 misses.  People made fun of me and rejected me because of my weight.  I was an outcast.  I tried to pretend like I didn’t care, but inside, I cringed.  I tried to hide.  I wanted to die.  I looked at the cute little girls in my class…the ones the boys followed around like puppy dogs…and longed to be them.  Longed to be tiny.  Cute.  Swoon-worthy.   Size matters.
 
When I was in my late 20’s, I went through a bout of anorexia.  I got down to 84 lbs., but I was young and still strong, so I didn’t suffer many of the ill health effects others have experiencedh.  Oh, I stopped having a period.  I restricted what I ate, keeping my intake at 1000 to 1200 calories, which isn’t too bad.  But I ran 13 miles EVERY SINGLE MORNING, rain, shine, snow, wind, lightening, freezing weather, heat, sleet, whatever.  I ran.  And in the evenings, after work, I walked for an hour and did another hour of floor exercises.  Every.  Single.  Day.  I was really thin, but I was in such awesome shape, no one said “eating disorder.”  Of course, ED’s weren’t the media darling they are today.  Not much coverage; no one talked back then.  There were a couple of TV movies made about anorexia.  Every now and then, you would see some new article.  But barely a whisper.  I didn’t think I had one.  Even though I fanatically restricted, religiously measured my cereal in the morning, counted the croutons I put on my meager salad at lunch and only allowed myself to eat if I ate within a 30 minute window of “the right time” for each meal.  I was rigid, bound, but I felt SO FREE!!!!  I was skinny!  I could run for miles and miles and miles!  Size matters…and I was finally close to the right size!!
 
That ended when I broke my hip.  In two places.  From running.  My pelvic structure tilted when it broke, cutting off nerves and causing damage.  I could no longer run.  Or walk.  I limped.  Even sitting was painful and difficult. It took a long time to heal.  To compensate for the lack of exercise, I cut back to 500 calories ever other day, but I still gained weight.  I finally hit a plateau at around 125 lbs.  Size 7.  Not great, but not horrible.  I wasn’t happy, but at least I wasn’t disgustingly overweight.  People didn’t look at me and want to puke.  It took time, but I came to terms with it; made an uneasy peace.
 
Which lasted until I started gaining again as I got older.  Sadly, NOTHING made a difference.  None of my efforts kept the weight off worked and suddenly I was a size 12.  Then a 14.  Then a 16.  Then an 18.  I despised myself.  I hated my body.  I loathed what I had become.  But I couldn’t exercise because of the previous running injury and no amount of calorie cutting did the trick.  Every day was a battle with food.  Hating it.  Hating me.  Hating my size.  People rejected me because of my size.  They looked at me with disdain.  But their rejection and discomfort was nothing compared to my own.  No one hated me more than I hated me.  And I hated me intensely.
 
My highest recorded weight was 256 lbs. At this point of an all-time high weight, I hit an all-time low in my life.  There were a lot of major problems in my life; a perfect storm of disasters.  They culminated in a serious attempt to end my life.  An attempt that I was sure would work and was in utter disbelief when it failed.  I found myself in the psych ward with a roommate who was bulimic.  And something clicked.
 
Right after being released from the psychiatric hospital, my stomach was pretty much messed up.  I had overdosed on a drug that should have killed me.  It left my stomach raw and it was difficult to hold food down.  Combined with the inspiration from my bulimic roommate, I began restricting and throwing up what little I did eat.  Amazingly, it worked!  The weight began to fall off.  I went from a size 22 to a 20 to an 18 in no time at all.  But I didn’t stop there!  I had found the winning combination.  Eat and puke.  Suddenly I was a 16, then a 14, then…oh, my gawd…a 12!  Could I make it to a size 10?  Piece of cake.  Why not an 8?  Just like magic, I was there.  Size 6, count me in.  Moved on to a 4, then a 2…and could it be possible?  Could I do it?  Could it really happen…a size 0?  YES!!!  Size matters.  Once again, I was the right size.  After years of battling.  After decades of fighting.  Finally, success.
 
Now, I wear a size 00 or 0.  I eat whatever I want every day.  I throw it all up.  Binge, purge.  Binge, purge.  Binge, purge.  That’s the core of my existence.    The bedrock of my daily routine.  It’s the sun I revolve around.  It’s the only thing that matters to me…staying the right size.  Not gaining.  No matter the cost.  It’s the only thing I have accomplished…the only area in which I’ve overcome.  Everything else is a monstrous mess.  The lift raft I cling to is that I’m a zero.  I love being a zero.  It’s the only thing I can seem to get right.  And I’m not giving it up.  Not without a fight.  It’s literally all I have.  The one and only thing I can cling to and feel good about.  In matters of size, I have arrived.  Size matters.  And after a lifetime of shame,  in this one area, I’m right where I want to be…finally…

Denial

If I don’t talk about it and don’t tell, it didn’t happen…
 
If I tell myself it’s a lie, it isn’t real…
 
If I never acknowledge it, it never really took place…
 
If no one believes me, then what happened really doesn’t matter…
 
If I say it wasn’t that bad, then it really wasn’t that bad…
 
If I don’t look at it and what it did to me, the damage won’t be that horrible…
 
This is one reason why it’s so hard to talk about incest and what it does to the individual’s soul, heart and mind.  There is a massive wall of denial that disinclines a person from even looking at what happened to them, much less thinking it matters.  But the other side of that coin is, when you actually say the words out loud to another human being, it makes it more real.  And making it more real chips away at that wall of denial.  It’s a violent act; speaking it out.  Hitting that wall. Violent and traumatic and extremely difficult.
 
Therein lies the dilemma.
 
It’s very hard to say the words to an empty room.  It’s nearly impossible to say them to another individual.  A friend.  A family member.  For a couple of reasons.  First, they don’t really want to hear it.  I mean, this kind of stuff isn’t exactly fun conversation material.  But even if they are willing to listen a little bit, I find it’s hard to get the words to come out of my mouth.  Seriously!  I’ve tried.  Talking with my counselor, who gets paid good money to listen to the crappy stuff I went through, I can’t even make my mouth shape the words, much less give them voice and spit them out.  It’s as if I’m totally incapable of forming the words and telling the things that were done to me.  The words get lodged in my throat.  I am suddenly mute.  My tongue is not able to move the way it needs to move to fashion the utterance and sounds I need to make.  Nor, because of that wall of denial, does what happened seem worth talking about.  It seems like such a non-event.  Why bother talking about it?
 
That wall of denial doesn’t really want to be messed with.  It’s big and strong.  And in hiding so much from sight, it becomes almost impossible  to talk about what happened because you can’t really acknowledge those things, even to yourself.  You can’t truly see the extent of the damage or get an unbiased, clear perspective on who is responsible.  The wall of denial can seem impenetrable.  In fact, I’m not sure that it isn’t impenetrable.  I’ve been trying to break through for years and while I have managed to put a few tiny chips in a few of the bricks that have walled me into this dark and lonely place, those chips have cost me greatly in that they required a monumental effort.  But I still can’t see the light of day.  Which is discouraging.
 
I think I need to talk about what happened…about the abuse…in detail.  I think I need to talk about it a lot.  I think I somehow need to find a way to form those words that are so hard to say, to spit them out into the air and into someone’s ears so they can finally become real to me.  I need them to hammer into my heart, accompanied by the pain that has so long been repressed.  I need to let them rip me and tear me and open those wounds all over again.  But how can I say what is unspeakable?  And who will listen?  Who will cry with me?  Especially considering I can’t even cry for myself…
 
Oh, to feel the pain!  To truly see the magnitude of the enormous damage that has been wrought in my soul!  What an incredible miracle that would be!!!  To finally, once and for all, rip a doorway in that massive, cold, dark wall of denial that keeps me imprisoned!!
 
I thought I had a window…when I realized the abuse wasn’t my fault.  When I suddenly saw it really was my father’s fault that he sexually abused me and it didn’t happen because of anything I said or did…or was.  But so far, the impact of that revelation has gone nowhere.  It hit with a thud…then nothing.  There is a crack, but no daylight.  The crack hasn’t continued to grow.  The wall of denial remains solid and immense and strong.
 
I’m about to give up.
 
I’ve been working on this for years.  Many, many, MANY years.  I’m tired.  Things have not gotten better; they’ve gotten worse, and not in a good way.  My life continues to fall apart and spiral downward.  I’m financially ruined.  I’m losing my job at the end of June.  I’m caught in the throws of a powerful eating disorder that ravages me daily and demands obedience to rituals that are destroying me.  I can’t break out of the prison of denial, can’t put the pieces of me back together, can’t punch depression in the face (it punches me instead).  I am fighting with my hands tied behind my back and my legs are chained.  My heart is so ill and damaged, it doesn’t even bother to attempt to show up any more.  Whoever or whatever I am hiding lies deeply buried.  My soul is wiped out.  Ripped to shreds.  Decimated.  And nothing I do seems to make a difference.  I’m being sucked ever downward, no matter how furiously I try to swim to shore.  There is no reprieve. No miracle.  No breakthrough.  I remain locked in this dark, hopeless, depressed state, unable to free myself, unable to even speak of where I am and where I have been.
 
Sometimes I can write the words.  At least I can put a few of them on a page and minimally express some thought or feeling. That is the best I seem to be able to do.  Unfortunately, the best I can do doesn’t appear to be good enough.  I’m losing the battle.  And I’m terrified.