I’ve been reading some good books lately about women who have had eating disorders. Actually, they’re by women who have had eating disorders. The fact that I’m saying “have had” is astounding in itself. That they were able to overcome this disease gives me hope that one day, I too, might be free. As I have been reading, I have made several mental notes about topics they wrote about that I would like to explore further. One of them being the point/cause of an eating disorder.
I am not sure exactly what circumstances caused my anorexic habits to fester and explode. I have my theories, some of which I have shared before. So I think my problems began when I lost my sense of control around puberty. But from there…things got even weirder. What started out as something that seemed innocent, and maybe even slightly healthy, turned into a nightmare. And that nightmare ate away at me until I could hardly even recognize myself. I can remember being so miserable that I would chant “I want to die, I want to die” over and over in my head. I’m sure I said this out loud several times around my mom too. The thing is, I did want to die. And my anorexia was slowly killing me. I was getting what I wanted, but not fast enough. I started to see my eating disorder as a way to kill myself slowly and softly. I would slip away bit by bit, until one day shush I was gone.
So, my eating disorder not only was an escape from adulthood, it was an escape from life. It was also a way to run from my emotions. When a body is starving, the least of its worries are whether you’re happy or not. My emotions took a vacation, and most of the time I just felt really depressed, or cried endlessly. But I couldn’t cry for the right reasons. I couldn’t smile at someone with genuine happiness, and I couldn’t laugh at jokes I would have previously found funny. I was broken. Utterly and completely broken.
I also became an expert at lying to myself and others. Mostly about food. I was brought up to believe that lying was a sin. But the rules had changed, and now I was lying left and right. Tiny white lies (I poured whole milk, not 1%), bigger lies (I didn’t pull the cheese off of my sandwich, I swear!) and the mother of all lies, claiming I ate dinner at work, when I had skipped it all together. I lied to my family about food, and I also lied to myself. Obviously, because, hello! This whole thing was a lie. Deceit and lies became close friends, and I became adept at keeping them company. Oh, and I have to tell you guys this…one of my cleverest tricks. When my mom made me drink juice, I usually liked to have her buy the purple or red kinds. Then, once the concentrate had been dumped from the plastic canister into a pitcher, and the frozen high-fructose corn syrupy pulp was all stirred into the appropriate amount of water, I would pour a glass into one of the tiny purple cups we had. When my mom turned her back, I would quickly draw some water from the tap, and drop some red food coloring into my water cup. Voila…juice! I know this kind of thing was a huge setback, every calorie counted here. But to me, well, every calorie counted. But not in a good way. So I cut and cropped here and there. And I stayed as skinny as ever. But the thing is, I liked food. It was all I could think about. But I also hated it. I don’t know how this even happens, and I am still this way today. What part of my brain thinks of as my worst enemy, is the one thing I desire the most. The one thing I need the most. Nourishment. I need to be filled to the brim, and just keep that level of sustenance going for a while. If only I could turn my brain off. But no, instead I need to train it, just like I did before. I have to figure out how to get back to my natural instincts. Obviously, it can be done. If those women who wrote about their recovery can get there, so can I.