Thursday, 14 October 2010

Marya Hornbacher - husband's story.

I just saw this article and found it very interesting! After reading 'Wasted' many times, reading this article by her husband is quite interesting. It shows how hard it is to get rid of the thoughts, and how much strength it takes for us to ignore them:

A computer engineer, Jeff is married to writer Marya Hornbacher. Her autobiographical book on anorexia, Wasted, was published when she was 24. Today, aged 33, she weighs 7 stone 4lb at 5 ft 3in. They live in Minneapolis.
It seems to be a pattern for me - being attracted to vulnerable, yet very strong women. I didn't know that Marya had an eating disorder when we met - but I thought she was pretty thin. Yes, I'm probably attracted to that, too. I would still love Marya if she was fat, but I could never see that happening.
Marya had been married and divorced, and I was separated. I found out at the end of my first marriage that my wife had been secretly bulimic the whole time, and several of my ex-girlfriends have suffered from anorexia.
I met Marya through friends. We went out a few times and one day she gave me a copy of Wasted, her book about her eating disorder. I stayed up all night reading it, I was intrigued. I'm a bleeding soul - I wanted to help her.
We had a whirlwind romance, and got married six months after we met. That was five years ago. We have a ton of common interests: we like to read, travel, we're both really into the arts - museums, theatre, intellectual discussion, and politics. We love being around each other, probably more so than other couples.
When we met, I thought that Marya had essentially recovered from her eating disorder, though I was aware that there was always a little struggle going on. Marya always suffers from an eating disorder - it's just better or worse for a period.
In the beginning, we'd go on and on for hours:
'You've got to eat this.'
'No, it's unhealthy and I'm fat.'
'No, you're thin.'
'Am I as thin as this woman walking by?'
'No I'm not, my jeans are tighter.'
'Fine, your jeans are tighter.'
'So now you're saying I am fat?'
It was painful. She is super-smart. Somehow, she would get me to say: 'OK then, it's better if you don't eat.' It's taken me four years to figure out my strategy. Now if I see her dieting I say: 'That's your choice', or I keep quiet. This is the best thing to do - it snaps her out of it.
Marya also has bipolar disorder, which was probably the cause of the eating disorder. Eating disorders are all about control, and in Marya's case her bipolar is the one thing she can't fully control, even though she's on pills three times a day.
Over the years, when the bipolar would flare up, Marya would have to go into hospital and I would take care of the house and our five pets. It was a lot to do and I was a martyr, never asking for help. We both became too co-dependent. I would shut down, withdraw and pull away from her mentally and physically, which made her bipolar worse. Our relationship was suffering, which made Marya's eating disorder more severe.
We reached a point where we had to separate. Our separation was definitely a catalyst for the eating disorder - I think the anorexia was Marya's coping mechanism. She lost weight - she was well under 100 pounds - but she kept saying she was fat. Things got so bad, she was hospitalised for her anorexia. She had been in and out of hospital for the bipolar, but this time it was really alarming: visiting an eating disorder ward is brutal. Some of the patients are ravaged. They're fiftysomething, they've been anorexic for 40 years, and they look like living skeletons. To see your wife like that is heartbreaking. You feel powerless. But seeing her on the ward actually helped me - I finally realised there was nothing that I can do about her anorexia.
We went to marriage counselling, and I went into psychotherapy to learn how to deal with all these issues. My father was an alcoholic and I grew up in a verbally abusive environment. I worked out that was part of why I shut down - that's my reaction to adversity. My therapy helped me to realise this, while Marya has learnt not to be too dependent.
We have found that if we work through an issue openly it doesn't trigger either one of us, but if there's any secrecy, it just promotes the bad issues within both of us. We got back together last year and I know we'll stay together. I no longer feel I need to 'fix' her.
I have learnt how to back off. If, for example, I eat a big lunch, and don't feel like eating dinner, Marya then feels like she can't eat dinner, and that's an immediate mental and physical trigger. Any time an anorexic doesn't eat, there is that trigger - it's like a high for a drug addict. If I came home with a bag of chips and ate the whole thing, it would trigger her. I have to walk a fine line - I have to pay attention to what I eat. I have to eat healthily and consistently.
What used to happen was we'd buy a bunch of crap and eat it and then feel ill. Then for days Marya would moan, 'Oh I'm fat, I ate all those calories, I can't eat for the next three days', and it would start a vicious circle. Now I guard against anything like that.
The hospital puts Marya on a strict schedule of what to eat and when to eat and I need to follow that, too. I certainly can't go into McDonald's, for example. It's probably good for me in the long run. Some of her food is too healthy for me though - it revolts me.
We tend to travel a lot which can throw a wrench into things - we like gourmet restaurants and if we go out for dinner and eat, say, duck confit, Marya loves it, but then she will struggle the next day. Recently we went out and ate some rich food. Marya thinks she gained three or four pounds and that is genuinely tragic for her. She has to lose it one way or another. Once in a while she over-exercises. We just signed up to a gym, which is fine as long as she doesn't overdo it.
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Kristal said...

I LOVED this article. Its an interesting perspective. Didn't realise Mayra was still battling as hard. Where did you find this?

tracy said...

Thank you sooo much for posting this. How very important it is to see the spouses's point of view. My poor i wish i could help him...instead, i just keep screwing up...

Thank you again.


Angela said...

Wow, that was a powerful and painful perspective. I've read "Wasted" numerous times. Sometimes it was when I was in the throes of my anorexia, wanting to be triggered. At other times I read it hoping to feel sickened by the disease that ravaged my body. Thanks for sharing this. I think that Marya also has written another book about her bipolar disorder.