Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Rope

There’s a rope attached to you. It’s tied around your waist. The rope hanging from you is long. Very long. And way at the other end of it is Hope, Recovery, Health, and Happiness. These four things are melded together to form New Life.

So, you’re at one end of the rope and New Life is at the other. But it’s up really high. And you’re down really low. How are you going to get to it?

Well, the first thing to remember is that if you begin to climb up to reach New Life and you let go…or you slip…or even if you fall all the way—you’re not going anywhere. Because you’re still attached to that rope. It’s tied around your waist. You’re okay. Sure, it’ll be tiring to begin your ascent again. But New Life is a great goal. You want to reach it. Sure, you might slip down the rope again when the going gets hard. But New Life is a great goal. You’ll want to reach it.

So you’ll keep going.

Use your strength. Use your desire. Keep looking up at New Life and know—really know—that you will get there. Believe.

And remember you are attached—tied—to it. You won’t fall away from it completely as long as you want to get there. The only way you’ll plummet way down—far away from New Life—is if you take your own two hands and untie the rope from your waist.

But you don’t want to do that, do you?

So don’t untie it. But…

You can let go. You can slip. You can fall. Give yourself room to fall. Room to slip. Room to climb. TIME to climb. And you’ll get there. You’ll reach it. Eventually.

It won’t be easy. It’s an uphill battle. It’s sometimes a struggle. BUT it’s also a triumph.

Think of this as you climb. Remember this analogy and feel secure.

And one more thing—at the top, where Hope, Recovery, Health, and Happiness are melded into New Life, there will be a lot of people cheering for you.

I’m one of them.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Free From the Fight

My heart leaps, and reaps…it gently seeps the lessons I’ve been taught. No longer caught, I live my life without the strife of pain, strain, or fear of gain—I’m free. The world has opened up to me. I see. Struggles past have hurt their last and I have cast a new light—and in my sight is everything. I sing. I bring with me the story. There is no glory—only fact. Exact truth. No age or youth. Just life and understanding, the helping-handing, the demanding…of solution. Revolution. Retribution. I’m here, I’m here—for restitution! I’ve found at length I have the strength to now survive…really thrive…to jump and laugh and come alive. I’ve stood my ground, I’ve looked and found, I’ve died and tried to live again. I can. I can! There is no wall, no battle call, no way to know when you might fall. You must stand tall. You must recall the way you do not want to live—then give, and give and give some more, ‘til you are spent and on the floor. And then, yes then, and only then—it’s time for your ascent. You’ll start out bent…but slowly you’ll stand tall again. You can.

(c) Arielle Lee Becker 2008

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Fighting, Facing--and Finally Embracing--Food

Let me take a moment here to talk about food. Yes, that’s right: food.

In the wild ride that is life, some of us seek to find control in food. We use it to make ourselves feel better or worse. We restrict. We binge. We purge. We deprive. We use. Why food? Well, that’s the question, isn’t it? It’s just like anything else—some people use alcohol. Some use drugs. Some use exercise. Some use video games.

Addictions. Vices. Habits. Whatever they are—whatever you want to call them—they can be self-destructive. It takes time, patience, effort, and desire, but we can learn to co-exist with the very things that make us crazy or take us on a downward spiral into pain and emptiness.

There were times in my life I fasted for days, consuming nothing but water or diet Coke. There were days when I’d allow myself a mere granola bar to get my body moving for an entire morning, afternoon, and evening. I had moments of ravenous hunger where I’d eat a salad or a bowl of soup with such ferocity that I was afraid people would notice. Sometimes, as I went between wanting to recover and wanting to wallow in my disease, I’d eat one meal a day—dinner—which was not nearly enough to satisfy my deprived body and mind. I remember summers of living on rice cakes at night after a 12 hour day of work.

I did not have a good relationship with food.

When I taught at the Boys and Girls Club and supervised the kids at lunch time, I would eat my packed lunch with a dedication I’d never experienced before (and it was rough), because I didn’t want to set a bad example for the little girls who were sitting there with me. I wanted to be good and real and helpful. I ate for them.

I remember pretending to go out for food on my dinner break when I worked at the mall and coming back with just a Sprite. I remember obvious habits that caused my parents to scream at me, cry for me, and feel helpless. I used to have a lifestyle that made my room mate crazy with worry. I was obsessively worried about eating in public. I would stand near a counter of muffins, deciding for ten minutes which one I would choose, changing my mind back and forth. I was, in short, a mess.

I came to a crossroads. I really wanted to recover. Really wanted to be all right. Really really wanted it. Wasn’t just wishing, wasn’t just hoping—I was willing to do something about it. I was willing to work, to learn, to try.

I got good at just saying “No.” That’s right: “No.” When I’d feel that familiar grip of anorexia, I’d say, “No.” Figuratively, literally, whatever it took. I was bold with myself—with my disease. I did not take shit. When I was feeling low, I’d do something good to pick myself up. I learned to cope without using food. When I felt myself slipping, I’d say, “No.” I’d push the disorder away, say I didn’t want it, and I’d say, “NO.” Sounds simple, and it is. But you can’t just go about it half-assed. You have to scream it, mean it, use it like a weapon. You’re better than all the crap bringing you down. Remember that and just say “NO” when you feel you’re being pulled in the wrong direction. It takes a lot of willpower. More willpower than it takes to starve.

I wrote. Oh, I wrote. Daily. I used my writing to help me, to save me, to direct me. I stopped using food to control and to deprive. I stopped using food as something mental. I tried to embrace it. It was difficult. I didn’t like it.

Then, I forgot about food. I focused on my eating disorder for what it was without the elements of food. There was so much more to my problems other than food. I mean, come on, food doesn’t have the ability to destroy.

I learned about myself, sought to love myself, wrote about my pain and my feelings, wrote about my struggles. I began to feel better. I began to stop counting. This was tough—to forget about sizes, forget about calories, forget about a number on a scale. I didn’t weigh myself. I had no scale. I did this purposely. It was weird and it was hard. I wanted to weigh myself. But I didn’t have a scale. I kept wanting to weigh myself. It went on, but I had no scale. And eventually, I stopped wanting to weigh myself. It didn’t matter. An inkling of curiosity wasn’t the same as an aching need.

I still don’t weigh myself.

I don’t care now.

You can get to that point—to that point where it doesn’t matter—but you have to work at it. You have to be strong and not allow yourself to give in. And in time you will be okay. You won’t be a slave to a device that conquers your mood and your sense of well-being. And let me tell you, without a number to dictate your daily mood, you begin to listen to yourself and to how you feel without that number. You know yourself as you never knew her before. You feel good. You feel free. You begin to finally see that you feel so good that there is no way you’d ever want to go back to that dark, horrible place you were before. You want out with a passion when before you just wanted out with a desperation.

I was eating. And I was trying not to think about it much. It was necessary, but not enjoyable. I was okay with it as long as I didn’t think on it too long. I had moments of worry and panic, moments of stress and distaste, but I got through. I just plodded through. Food and I were still not friends. But we were no longer enemies.

I trudged on, doing well, but worrying that I might relapse into old ways. I gained weight, but instead of being horrified by the way I looked, I appreciated the curves that were slowly showing themselves. The mirror was—strangely, I thought—more of a friend to me when I had put on some pounds than it was when I was sickly thin and longing to be thinner. I felt good, so I looked good. I was learning to love my body. It was fascinating, liberating, and astounding. I felt like a different person.

I surrounded myself with the right people, I tried to stop worrying about what others would think. This was a big one. I still have to remind myself not to concern myself with what others think. It’s not easy. But it’s possible. If I couldn’t stop myself from worrying what they might think, I tried at least not to spend too much time on it. As I grew to be happy with myself as a person and as a woman, I found that I was content to cook food and eat it. More than that—I enjoyed cooking. And I enjoyed eating what I’d taken the time to make. It took me a while to get over the shock of this.

It remains the same. I like to cook and I like to eat. Yes, you heard me correctly: I like to eat. I eat when I’m hungry. I stop when I’m full. I enjoy letting myself enjoy. I cook for my fiancĂ© (husband in one more month!) and he loves it and appreciates it, which is so nice. He cooks for me. We eat together. We nourish. We’re healthy.

So how can a girl/woman who suffered from anorexia and had such an unbearable relationship with food come to love it and live with it? Well, I just told you. But words on a page are not actions, and the actions are much harder to accomplish than writing the words. And don’t forget that it doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years.

You have to try it for yourself…when you’re ready…but I can tell you one thing: It’s worth it.


Sunday, March 9, 2008


Don’t forget about me, she says

As She twines her hands inside my hair

And yanks me close so I can hear

Her evil whisper in my ear.

Just when I’m doing great

And I can be myself again,

She jumps up on my back;

I can’t fight off the attack.

Don’t do this on your own, She says

Referring to my life.

She says, You need me, yes

And when She does this, I regress.

Just when I’m feeling better,

She throws herself right in my face

And I’m drowning, but just She

Can save me from the sea.

Don’t let go of me, She pleads

When I feel I’m getting well

And I cry and She feels better then

Until I’m doing fine again.

Just when I’m being positive

And I’m surrounded by good thoughts,

She breaks inside and screams

Until I let Her in my dreams.

Don’t forget about me, She says

As She pulls me closer still.

But at least for now I push Her away,

Tell Her I’m great, tell Her I’m great,

At least She’s gone just for today

And with Her went self-hate.

(c) Arielle Lee Becker 2004


I wrote this 4 years ago. It describes the kind of conversation I feel a person can have with an eating disorder--or at least part of an eating disordered mind. This poem speaks to me of the kind of desperation I used to feel when I was trying to get out...or at least wanted to recover, but Anorexia kept dragging me back, calling me back, or was causing me to slip up in my attempts to be rid of Her. I personified Anorexia because it's interesting and also--I think--easier to imagine being clutched at by a person rather than a concept or a disease. In the same fashion, I think it is easier to imagine breaking away from a person rather than an intangible element of your own brain. This poem also shows the day by day kind of mindset I had to go through to eventually get to where I am now. You can't just say "good bye" to something that has essentially ruled you for a long time, and run away free and clear. It doesn't work that way, as nice as that would be. You have to take it step by step, day by day. If you can be rid of it (or as my poem says, Her) for one day, you are that much closer to your goal. And though She may be back again tomorrow, you can try again to break away. Before you know it, you'll be pretty damn good at living your own life, fighting back. And later still, you will realize you are free at last.

Much love,