Thursday, August 22, 2013

at the beginning of healing.

His breathing is quiet. I roll over in my sleep and open my eyes to make sure he's alive. His chest hardly moves. His hands are crossed over him like a corpse. Sunken cheeks. How did I not know?

I look down at the foot of the bed. Every night our two sets of feet lay side along and still I didn't know. That he was aging himself. That he was alone in his secret. Isolated and ill.

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I made him a milkshake with protein powder, feeling like we'd made a sudden jump to years in the future. We sat together and researched that disease. I don't think I knew what it really meant until until I saw it in writing. The symptoms of bulimia. The low self-worth. The loneliness. The risk of nerve damage and tooth erosion and heart failure. The pain in the process of slowly dying of malnutrition. In a way I still don't think it's hit me.

When he told me I half sighed, half laughed. Part of me knew he'd been holding on to a great secret. The other part of me hoped he was joking. How did I not know? Why didn't he tell me before? I thought... well, our relationship is very good. But there are dark things we sometimes feel we don't want to unleash on the family. He tried to stop. He told me because he couldn't stop.

In the past I've asked him many times, sometimes very directly. Honey, did you just make yourself throw up? Honey, is this a regular thing for you? Honey are you really sick or are you making yourself sick? Each time he assured me that his stomach was just upset and that he was fine. He lied to me a lot. I'm not upset at him but instead I feel intense sorrow when I think of the way his own lies have been tormenting him all this time, making him feel more alone and out-of-control than ever.

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Other times I asked in vague ways. Wow, where'd  your booty go? Awe, I miss it! Holy cow you are getting small. I can fold my arms around you. I can count your ribs. You look like a kid wearing his dad's clothes... I feel really terrible about these comments now. How could I be so blind and insensitive?  Why was he doing this alone?

He cried. For the fourth time since I've known the man, he cried. He held onto me like he was scared he might drift off into space. Just before that moment I'd been making some insensitive observation about our love-life and his diminishing desire. I was staring at his leg. That leg with those lines I'd seen before, only on the legs of... were those the outlines of his bones I could see? I'd seen those legs in the poorest nations, across seas. I'd seen those legs in pictures from war camps. I said, you can NOT lose any more weight. He held my body and nearly whispered, I think I have an eating disorder. Then he sobbed.

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I looked at him in the eyes as he described the feelings he was having. He said that he couldn't feel his face. I saw his nerves twitching and his mouth muscles slacken uncontrollably. That was not his face. I had never seen that sunken mask. I looked down at his hands. They were blue-brown. His whole body was grey. I looked at the wedding ring he wore. He'd had it on his middle finger for many months but it was now rattling freely in its new home.

I've been lying to everyone, he admitted. He said he was tired of telling everyone he's fine and that it would be better if they knew the truth. Each time he told someone his weight he was lying. I looked down at the scale. 136 lbs. My mind was blown. That means nearly 100lbs gone in the last two years. He'd told me he'd been maintaining 165. When anyone would mention it I would jump to his defense. I was building a wall around him. I didn't want him to be ill. I didn't want him to be lying.

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Through all of the conversation bringing this to light there are children.  They come to play and we stop talking to wrestle. They hurt him while they are playing. He looks so fragile and I can see the desire to be their strong daddy. He is too injured.

We need to put them to sleep. Then we can continue to talk. He lays on the couch to gather strength to climb the stairs. I tell the boys he is sick. I tell them he needs their love. They gather around him and rub his hands and arms, they are healing his heart with every kind touch. All these many months he has been a loyal, faithful husband and father. I picture him sitting alone on the bathroom floor, his back to the wall and his inner light dimming.

I am reminded of a beautiful video I just saw about a man who rescues hurt birds. He reminds us to work with, nurture, caress and cuddle, put our arms around and look after those who have injured themselves. My heart is breaking for my life's love.

Our family has seen injury. My depression. Ossi's instability. We band together in the healing process. We rely on professional help. We petition God with all of our strength and we find relief.

It's time to take care of Matthew.

21 comments:

Heather said...

I don't comment often, but this post touched me. These kinds of topics are so hard to write about and talk about, and you are both very brave. From experience, I know how hard it must have been for Matthew to admit what was happening, and it will be a difficult road to change. I'd say if any family can handle it, though, yours can. You all have had so much strength when it comes to the trials you've had to face. I wish you all the very best.

deveney said...

Beautifully written, brought tears to my eyes. I can't imagine how hard this must be to be public about this and I aplaude your family's courage. You guys are strong and will make it through this, sending prayers and love from San Diego:)

Anonymous said...

Maybe this will help Matthew-it's definitely helping me. www.foodaddicts.org/

Garrett & Alyssa said...

I hesitate to comment but... Such an eloquent and touching post! I applaud Matt's openness, courage and honesty, even when I weighed 85 pounds I still denied I had an eating disorder. It's a tricky spiral of feeling so out of control yet feeling that's the one thing in life you have control over. I only wish I had had someone like you to help me through, you can hear in your writing the love you have for him and I know that will help him. Sending love and prayers from AZ.

JessicaLee said...

We will keep you in our thoughts and prayers! We love you guys.

Cody said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cody said...

This is so beautifully written! You guys are amazing and a post like this will reach out and help so many people. I admire you both!

janandtheboys said...

inspiring. brave. true love. i sensed something was going on yet i thought it was my imagination. LOVED you guys' lesson on marriage presented lovingly together. i love you and i mean love you guys.

Holly @ The Young Museum said...

This really touched me today. I admire your marriage. Meg Fee is a blogger who writes about eating disorders. (megfee.com...check out her food/health tab on the left). It has really helped me and my relationship with food over the years. Hugs to you all.

Teresa said...

I've been worried, but didn't want to comment, because maybe you would think it wasn't my business. Our prayers and thoughts are with your family. You know you're one of my favorites. Every single one of you. Tell Matt he is well-loved. Please make sure he knows this.

Anonymous said...

I care.

Anonymous said...

The only way out is through, and you CAN do this.

Anonymous said...

I have an adult son that has battled an eating disorder and know how difficult this disease can be. Your love and honesty with each other are what will get you through! My prayers are with all of you.........

Cindy Lou said...

We are here for you all when you need us.

Elizabeth said...

My prayers are with your family.

amateur idler said...

You know, having read this blog for so long now, I feel like we're friends - I've told people about Ossi's struggles like I live next door to you - and reading this broke my heart. I love your family. I've been thinking about this all night. You guys are so brave and strong. I'll definitely be praying.
Sometimes I'm amazed at how honest and vulnerable you can be here - I tend to want to hide all my problems and struggles. And then I see how much your vulnerability touches the lives of others. How when brokenness is acknowledged people come together in truly amazing ways. Thanks for showing me that.

A LDS mother to three busy kids said...

Having overcome an eating disorder, I sympathize with you and your husband. It is not an easy road to travel or overcome but with the love that you two share, I know you will be able to over come it. The Lord helped me through some of my darkest hours,guiding me through that personal hell that was my own mind. I have loved following your blog and your honesty of this blog post really touched me. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

You can delete this if you want. Long time lurker. I was afraid he had cancer. It robbed my strapping husband of his strong muscles and, last week, of his life. I hope that your man can get through this. There is absolutely nothing romantic or cool about being a widow. I have nothing but hope for you guys:)

joolee said...

Oh my heart aches for you. Look at all you've accomplished and done, the trials you've already overcome - you can make it through this too, I'm sure. I just adore your lovely family and the strength you have, Megan. Thoughts and prayers going out to you, Matthew, and your children.

Natalie said...

Peace to you both. I checked your blog after a few weeks and found this...

I once had a friend who developed anorexia nervosa. I remember the day that I confronted her about it - I can still feel how my heart pounded with nervousness, yet the sweet peace of the spirit that descended as I felt the Love of God flow through my being as I hugged and cried with her. It has been many years since that day.

Thank you for sharing these deep trials that you and your family go through. I believe that they bring some answers to others who may be going through the same thing.

May continued healing come to your family and to Matthew.

Natalie said...

I'm so sad for Matt and this illness that he's facing. I shared your words with Neal, and we both feel a tremendous amount of compassion for Matt. We pray that you'll be guided to the best sources of professional, as well as spiritual, healing and help.

It's good to know of each others stories. It fosters compassion, understanding, and a sense of unity as we realize that we're all in life's challenges together. There's no need to go it alone.