I still love the bite of hunger. It still makes me feel powerful. I still struggle with ‘I feel’ statements.
(I feel vulnerable when I write these posts. I feel anxious that I am preemptively hurting a writing career by talking about mental health and illness. I feel guilty for wanting to put my career above awareness.)
I think and feel in extremes, highs and lows, and I’m quick to react with so much feeling that as a child I was often labeled ‘dramatic’ and as an adult ‘intense’. For years, and ongoing, I took these labels to heart. I added them to a long list of what I perceived to be my personal faults. I considered them flaws.
They are not flaws. They are me. I can learn, and am learning, to dial down my reactions, to steady my body language and moderate my voice, especially in person as not to seem overbearing. But there is nothing wrong with intensity. It is what makes me a keen observer, an inquisitive student, and a devoted writer. There is nothing wrong with being dramatic. It is a reason why children gravitate to me. It is what makes me a champion of books I love to any stranger in the book aisle at Barnes & Noble.
When I was sick, I imagined myself to be full of discarded unused items: rusty nails, old pipes, a wrench, electrical wiring. And I used to fantasize about opening myself up and letting it all spill out. At my sickest, I imagined that this was the weight I was carrying around. This would make the scale magically turn to the numbers I desired. As I began the long journey into recovery, I told my therapist about this and her response was confusing to me for years.
“Well, that makes sense, doesn’t it?” she said, and didn’t elaborate. I don’t remember if I had the courage to ask her to elaborate.
Now, I understand. All of that discarded junk I imagined inside of me was everything bad I thought about myself. And yes, getting rid of that weight would, in fact, be freeing. Because the weight would be metaphorical.
But that wouldn’t be symbolized on my scale. The more weight I lost, the heavier I felt inside. Friends caught me bodychecking in bathrooms, my shirt up around my bra as I counted, counted, counted, just to make sure you could still see the same number of ribs when I wasn’t sucking in as you could see that morning, before that meal, after that run yesterday.
Eating disorders are not about food. They are not about weight. They are not about being skinny. They are about being Thin because Thin becomes a placeholder word. It carries in its four thin letters different baggage for every single sufferer. For me, I stuffed my anxiety, my OCD, my fears, my depressions, and my subconscious attempt to regulate my own moods into four small letters. I would be Thin. When I was Thin, I wouldn’t have to work so hard in school. I would be Thin. When I was Thin, I would not be that ugly girl. I would be Thin. When I was Thin, people would like me and not pity me. When I was Thin, my parents would approve of me. When I was Thin, I would be attractive. When I was Thin, I would be calm and graceful.
When I was Thin, I would not be me. Because I would be Thin.
I wanted Thin to replace me. I found nothing about me likeable and I had been taught by many influences that nothing about me was likeable. That my efforts to improve myself never met those goals and standards, and that my life was that of a girl falling short of her potential. I was a disappointment.
When your entire being is found to be wanting, you erase it.
That is what my Eating Disorder was. An erasure of self. A failed—thankfully—attempt to find a better me.
The words Better and Enough plague many people, but I think especially people with eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and depression (the comorbidity of these disorders is unsurprisingly extremely high).
I’m here to share some truth bombs.
For some people, I will never be Enough. For me, I must be.
Getting sick does not make you Better.
Getting better does make you Better.
Getting better does not make you a failure. (I lamented, and still do on my worst days, ‘I wasn’t even good at being an anorexic.’ Or ‘I never learned how to purge right.’ Like those were goals I should have obtained. Like goddammit, self, you can’t do anything right. Sometimes, I have to remind myself, just like Siri did in that last blog post, that I’m doing living right. And that is a success.)
(I understand these aren’t writing posts, but I think they’re important and this is my platform, I suppose. There are two more of these scheduled for next week, and then back to ranting about writing and books and so on, but remember: even when someone isn’t blogging about anorexia and bulimia and eating disorders not otherwise specified and so on, people are dying of these diseases.)