“Is It Wrong To Have An ED Right Now?”: Grieving With An Eating Disorder

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9 years ago on 9/15/07, my best friend fell out of a tree and in a moment, he was gone.

He was just – gone. My life, his family, our friends – forever altered the night my best friend went to fetch a football from a tree, and a branch snapped.

There are images of that day that seem so clear – there are hours I can’t remember at all.

70+ phone calls. The muffled ring tone I thought was my alarm.

“Your phone’s been going off ALL morning,” my roommate complained.

Groggy, displaced, unaware – I picked up.

“He’s dead,” my best friend screamed. She screamed. I do remember that.

“Bradley,” she screamed. “Bradley fell. He fell. His brain. He was – he climbed a tree. He fell out of a tree.”

“He WHAT?” I said. “Say words Kristina – say fucking words,” I felt the phone go limp in my hand.

“He fell out of a tree,” she sobbed. “Jordan called. They all called. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN. Lindsey, he’s gone. I don’t know what to do. He’s gone. He’s dead.”

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I stop here, because the truth is after so many years, the day has become a hazy, foggy group of images. Of moments that blend together in what was utter chaos for those closest to him. And to me.

To write about them now – I feel as though I’d only be sensationalizing that day.

When you are struck by tragedy, there is a disconnect in your brain. There is a loss of ability to rationalize, your senses lose their proper functions.

People lose control of their bladders when they are elderly, people lose control of their emotions when they are in shock.

I remember the odd things I did that day:

  • I continued to get ready for my school’s sorority rush. I even straightened my hair – my face pale, hands shaking. Staring at myself in the mirror.
  • I laughed when my other best friend cried in my dorm room. I laughed. His grief overwhelming  – he sobbed on the ground of my room – his hands in fists. A boy I’d known for 15 years, whom I’d never seen shed a tear – his face red,  eyes puffy, tears and snot seeping into his mouth – that sound in my ear. That sound has never left.  I laughed. I ran. I left him there. I laughed. I laughed and I turned away.
  • As we packed, throwing clothes in a suitcase – we didn’t know where to go. Do we go to Memphis? Do we go home? Do we stay here? Do we fly? Do we drive? Disoriented, we made quick decisions – yet I remember this moment – this moment of total clarity: 

“What do I wear to a funeral?”

    What do I wear to my best friends funeral.

    What do I wear that won’t make me feel big.

    I don’t want to look fat at his funeral.

    I. DON’T. WANT. TO. LOOK. FAT.

    I grabbed a black dress. He liked that, I thought. He said I looked good in that. I should wear this one. 

    But wait, I thought, have I gained weight?

    HAVE I GAINED WEIGHT?

    I shook my head. I hated myself. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU LINDSEY. YOUR BEST FRIEND IS DEAD. YOUR BEST FRIEND IS GONE-

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    Bradley’s Memorial Football Game At Our High School

    I talk about this – because yesterday I felt the same thing happen again – the same overwhelming eating disorder anxiety that seeps into my life at seemingly inappropriate times.

    At 5am yesterday, the day he fell, I got up and hiked to watch the sun come up over the mountains: to have a moment to reflect on all that has happened in life, and a moment of silence for the loss of his.

    After so many years, it’s harder to find the right “time” to feel emotional about his passing. It never leaves me, mind you, but there is a cultural pressure to silence it. 

    I hiked up to this ledge yesterday, to have a moment with my best friend – I talk to him sometimes.

    What’s up asshole? I said to him. How’s it going up there? Still dead? Hanging out at a pool? Scoutin’ the women?

    I bet the girl angels love you.

    I tell him about my life – about our friends. I tell him his Mama is doing okay.

    I saw your aunt and uncle the other day, I said. We drank some wine, talked about you some – not as much as other times.

    I’m sorry, I said. Sometimes it feels like we’ve talked you out and we have to move on. Sometimes, my mind just can’t go back to you.

    As I sat up on the mountain, I laid in the dirt and the grass and I felt peace. And I felt sadness. The birds moving around me – the sounds of life below me – away from the traffic.

    You’re still dead, Bradley. You’re still so dead.

    Forever, I miss you.

    I stayed for a few more minutes. I watched an ant crawl up and over my shoe.

    I didn’t kill it.

    Love you, lil boy, I whispered to him. For you are always little to me.

    I got up to leave soon after – I had work –  a life to go back to, as it goes:

    I snapped the following picture:

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    I feel my chest tighten. 

    ED brain ensues.

    That flutter of anxiety.

    The gentleness a moment before – lost.

    WRINKLES. FACE PUFFY. ACNE. TEETH TURNING YELLOW. JESUS, WHEN DID MY NOSE GET CROOKED?

    I cursed myself. You’re selfish. You’re so selfish. And vain. And self-preoccupied.

    WHY CAN’T YOU JUST BE PRESENT.

    WHY DO YOU ALWAYS DO THIS.

    I’M SORRY BRADLEY – I yelled. I’M SORRY I RUINED THIS.

    I went back to my car. I left. I didn’t look back.

    As I reflect back on this event, I wonder sometimes: “Can eating disorders be inappropriate?”

    My guess: Kinda.

    … Alright, maybe yes. I don’t know. Yes? No? Kinda?

    What’s frustrating is that people think this bullshit is a choice. That eating disorders are a choice. As though somehow I want to grieve my best friend and then have some self-preoccupied, vain, chaotic thought blast through my head and in turn, make me feel worse.

    This happens fairly often: these inappropriate ED thoughts. It’s happened at funerals. It’s happened in client meetings.

    Oh yes, mmhmm, tell me more about your company, babble on about your product {meanwhile, I’ll sit here and stare at my arm in the mirror behind you.}

    I’ve managed these thoughts much better over the past 3 years, but they don’t completely leave you – and if some self-help coach wants to tell me differently, then fine. Go ahead.

    TELL ME MORE ABOUT HOW THIS WILL ALL EVAPORATE – POOF – GIVE ME A SPELL HARRY POTTER.

    Maybe they will – how am I to know – but  ultimately my guess is that it’s more about trying not to feel guilty when they DO happen.

    ED behavior is part of me – it’s part of who I am – just as is low self esteem, self-judgment, and an aversion to confrontation. I’m highly more confident now as an adult (thanks mostly to writing) but these are not qualities that come naturally.

    ED habits are something I’ve cultivated over the past 10 years. Just as chewing your nails or smoking are habits that are hard to break, mind habits – in my opinion (having tried desperately to give up smoking COMPLETELY) – are even harder.

    I’m re-framing my thoughts, slowly. Pretty sure I shot outta rehab and was all like ”I GOT THIS. CURED. BINGO.”

    It’s not the case. It takes a long time.

    Be gentle.

    Be motha’ fuckin’ gentle.

    9 years since that day I stood in my dorm room, shell-shocked, and thought about my weight as my best friend laid on life support – I am different.

    I am different, but I still have an eating disorder brain.

    I understand it, I manage it. I live happily in spite of it.

    But I will always have an eating disorder that I battle.

    And that’s okay.

    I am okay. Even on the flustered, fluttered moments of self-critical, innate judgment – I am still okay.

    I know it will pass.

    I am human.

    You are human.

    We are okay – and we all have our own shiz ❀

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    *Special thanks to @EffYourBeautyStandards for sharing this message

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    11 thoughts on ““Is It Wrong To Have An ED Right Now?”: Grieving With An Eating Disorder

    1. I saw the picture on your Facebook but couldn’t find the link to the story. I’m so sorry. I love how you describe Ed as this uninvited, rude guest who shows up while we’re grappling with real life and death. Yes. And anyway my nose is crooked too and your grief is no less real for any of it.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. So…I have to share that my first thought when I saw your picture was why can’t I be that pretty. Your teeth are beautifully straight and white. Your hair is long and wavy. Your eyebrows aren’t plucked and graying. The sun has kissed your face. You are gorgeous…naturally and absolutely beautiful. I sat here wondering why the heck you can’t see how beautiful you truly are. See how untruths can infiltrate our minds? Eating disorders fill our mind with untruths. (My nose is crooked too)

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        1. Omg I was just frantically trying to figure out how to delete my question!! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ why are we so mean to ourselves? I have a sense of why but anyway, πŸ˜‚thanks. Ditto. Sheeesh. πŸ™ˆ

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    3. Anouk

      I stumbled upon your blog a few days ago. Stumbled is the right word here, because I do not have an eating disorder. However, I do feel like I can find common ground here. I’m in recovery from self-harm for quite a few years, and even though that is completely different, some things are exactly the same. Like how it never really leaves you or how the thoughts pop up in your head when you really don’t need it… And so many other things I’ve read in your other posts.

      Thank you for your honest and sincere writing – I wish I was brave enough to do that too. This is what connects people, what brings them together. I’m truly sorry for your loss. Keep up the good writing, I will come back for more πŸ™‚

      Love,

      Anouk

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    4. Pingback: The Eating Disorder No One Talks About | I Haven't Shaved In 6 Weeks

    5. Thank you for sharing. You are so sincere and eloquent and it makes me feel so much less alone.

      I remember being at my grandma’s funeral last year and all I could think about was how much I wished I were dead like her and how fat I looked and all of these irrational thoughts and it made me guilty and ashamed and even more hateful of myself

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    6. Courtney

      This is beautiful. Your an incredible writer. I felt as though you were in my head. I am have the same exact thoughts, a similar tragic loss and it is comforting knowing I am not alone. Thank you for your words.

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    7. Pingback: “But, The Scale Says I’m Fine”: Gaining Weight With Anorexia – I Haven't Shaved In 6 Weeks

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