A while back, a very sweet and dear friend of mine, Laura, gave me an eating disorder workbook during a time in my life when I had really been struggling with my disorder. Since being back in Illinois, I really haven’t had much time to look at it or, rather, to make time to look at it. However, for some reason, the other day, I had decided to give it a shot.
As I skimmed its pages filled with charts and tips and self reflection exercises, I came across a single question that I not only think one must ask themselves when pursuing recovery but, also, a question I think a lot of skeptics ponder when approaching this situation.
What is your eating disorder like for you?
It took a while for me to fully comprehend the question. I analyzed its letters and syllables searching for an alterior motive but, I found none. It was a simple question.
What is your eating disorder like for you?
I guess I could have answered this question a few different ways. Perhaps I could’ve created a pie chart illustrating the different parts of my day, perhaps I could have made a list of
somewhat depicting the pros and cons of my disorder, or perhaps I could’ve answered the question by simply stating, “Shitty.”, because it truly is. But the fact of the matter is, as much as I would have liked to have answered this question with socially frowned upon profanity, the truth of it is, my eating disorder is far more complicated than that.
My eating disorder is tiring; more than tiring.
Six letters of a word that could never do my eating disorder justice.
My eating disorder is sleeping past noon, past one and two, past the stiff knees, heavy arms, and the thick white morning air just so I can buy myself a few extra hunger-free seconds.
As my body screams for me to get up and to welcome the new day, my mind tells me otherwise; to fight against all unwavering laws of nature. To wait until the hunger passes.
My eating disorder is walking back and forth, up and down, tapping feet and fingers, knocking together knees and hearts
because the seven extra calories I consumed in the homemade cookie I took a bite of earlier will kill me. And don’t you dare try to argue this with me. They will fester like toxic sludge in every impurity of my being, clinging like disease to healthy red blood cells, until everything I’ve worked so hard for is lost and I am nothing but just that.
My eating disorder is sitting in my room watching The Biggest Loser, chain smoking the life out of my last few Newports hoping that the radio waves and Nicotine will be enough to fill me up; enough to say, “No thanks, I already ate.” Because although breakfast and lunch are the easiest of the three meals to skip, dinner is, by far, the hardest. I feel my stomach fold and reach and cave in on itself and although I know I should eat, I know that I can’t.
My eating disorder is quietly exercising in my room long after everyone has gone to sleep.
50 leg lifts.
While the house hums with sweet dreams and muffled snores, the voice in the back of my head the Bible had warned me about long before I even knew what sin was is screaming,
“You fucking fat ass!”
“You are a worthless piece of shit.”
“You will never be perfect.”
Although I want nothing more than a simple rest as my eyelids fall heavy with sleep and my joints, slowed with late night exhaustion, I know that I must feel my demons of the day weep alongside the sweat that falls from the outer edges of my hairline and into the carpet of my 4 by 4 room.
My eating disorder is seeing the disappointment in my friends’ eyes and at the very corners of their mouths when they ask, “Do you want to come to the mall with us?!”, because I tell them that I’m too tired for a day out. My eating disorder is hearing the dissipating enthusiasm in their voices when they ask, “Do you want to come to the mall with us?”, because they no longer hold expectations. My eating disorder is watching as my friends, one by one, come around less often and hearing nothing that resembles, “Do you want to come to the mall with us?”, or, “Hey, wanna hangout?”, because they aren’t the ones who fell for the calories. They aren’t the ones
My eating disorder is no longer being able to taste the binge food. The handfuls upon handfuls of pasta and pizza and chocolates and Flaming Hot Cheetos; the massive breakdowns when the hunger gets to be too much and hating myself for letting it get this far.
It’s the bathroom rituals. “Wash hands in hot water and soap. Rinse. Repeat. Take off ring. Wash hands again. Pull back hair. Purge.
Make everything come up.
Taste your memories. Taste your fears. Taste those greasy mistakes.”
I taste my damage.
“Put back on ring.”
My eating disorder is feeling lifeless clumps of the hair that my mom once twisted into big, shiny braids run down the back of my neck, weaving in and out of my shoulder blades and thoracic vertebrae, into the shallow water that pools at the very tips of my toes when I take my morning showers and knowing that I am very much so weathering just not quite sure what from; the starving or the purging?
My eating disorder is trying to cease the seemingly never-ending war between mind and body; my body is crumbling, begging for more while my mind degrades me for asking in the first place. For wanting what I cannot have.
It’s opening cabinets just to close them again because what’s inside is nothing safe. Although I was never particularly good in anatomy, I will dissect my meals until I know every part of its DNA. Although I was never particularly good in math, I will add, subtract, multiply and divide every calorie until I know every part of its formula.
It’s knowing that food can never make me feel whole yet still clinging to the idea that maybe, one day, it might because I know that somewhere along the way, I lost pieces of myself.
It’s counting down the days until Christmas not because I’m excited for its festivities but because I must be #skinny4xmas; I must be stronger by then.
It’s feeling my throat sting as I take drags from my menthol cigarettes because I forgot to cut my nails before I shoved my fingers down my throat the night before.
It’s convincing myself that I do not need food; that my stomach, instead, is applauding me for being invincible. For being brave.
It’s wanting to tell you more about what my eating disorder is like but neglecting to find the words to fit into sentences that fit into paragraphs that fit into the big picture of it all because I am still too embarrassed of everything that my eating disorder truly is.
I don’t want to tell you that I feel as if though I have lost control of everything I thought I had in life.
I don’t want to tell you that, if I could, I would’ve stopped myself from letting it get this far; that I would’ve asked for help.
I don’t want to tell you that I miss my dad.
I don’t want to tell you that most days, I feel hardly strong enough to fight for recovery.
I don’t want to tell you that I wake up already tired.
I don’t want to tell you that I would give anything not to feel.
And I definitely don’t want to tell you that even now, as I sit here typing this, I am hungry. I am tired and I am hungry but I will not eat until my legs can hardly hold me and my eyes can hardly focus because
what my eating disorder is like for me.