… Alright, so my Star War/eating disorder puns are lame (although I did get a good smirk imagining Han Solo with a scale obsession.)
Anyway, so the other day I had one of those social media Timehop moments. You know what I’m talking about, right? It’s like you’re all well and good with the past – SAYANORA to the prom pics – the frat parties – SEE YA MOPPY-HAIRED EX – you’ve come to terms with the bad style choices – and then BAM.
A picture resurfaces.
Hello Linds, Timehop sings with its do-gooding dinosaur logo – DO YOU REMEMBER THAT 3 YEARS AGO YOU LOOKED LIKE THIS? Come linger nostalgically in my visual.
Timehop, you marketing bastard.
Side note – ever wonder how much easier recovery could be without the constant triggers of social media? Not that I plan on getting rid of it… but I do wonder sometimes.
Anyway, so I see this aforementioned picture, right? And there I am with my string arms and flat ass and clavicle bone galore. I could almost feel the excitement rage through me as I went to open the picture to zoom in on each body part. Really SOAK UP the nostalgia of my anorexia. Make myself feel like total shit before 9am.
Ah – the blessings of an eating disorder.
“LOOK AT THOSE BEAUTIFUL, BRITTLE, ONSET OSTEOPENIA BONES” I was thinking, sitting there all weepy –
Except as I enlarged the picture – my muscled, excessive-running leg staring back at me – I had an overwhelmingly buzzkill of a moment:
I never really looked “that thin” in my eating disorder.
The truth – if I’m being brutally honest here – is that the reality of my whole 8-year eating disorder experience was spent basically trying to keep off 11-14lbs.
Though I often talk/preach/rant/moan on about the fact that eating disorders come in ALL SHAPES AND FORMS (and they do) – I think anyone who struggles with anorexia innately battles the whole “perfectionism” thing. (Or so my therapist tells me, BLAH BLAH.) And there are times that I still think “YOU COULD’VE BEEN THINNER. IF YOU WERE GONNA FUCK UP 8 YEARS, YOU MIGHT AS WELL HAVE DONE IT BETTER.”
I looked at this Timehop picture the other day, and I thought about all that time I spent worrying and manipulating. Sometimes I just think: “Why? You didn’t even do it that well.”
Old habits die hard – your thought habits: even harder.
Regardless of all that, the truth is that I still miss it sometimes. I miss the control. I miss the confidence. I am human and I still miss being sick.
2 years outta rehab, there’s a bit of me that carries around anorexia like a medal. Yep, sit it right up there next to my spelling bee win from ’98.
I bought a scale recently – which led up to this eating disordered Timehop moment. My therapist asked me to weigh after 6 months and the one at the gym was broken and gave me a number that I panicked over.
It’s ridiculous in retrospect – I know better. All my clothes fit and I’m aware enough of my self-absorbed neurosis (and even if I wasn’t, the trolls on the internet sure as hell love to remind me) so it should’ve been easy for me to rationalize.
It wasn’t. I lost my shit. I mean like full out meltdown:
“Maybe the most dramatic performance I’ve ever seen from you,” my male roommate said the next day.
No joke, I just lost it. Sobs to my best friend in New York – absolute “blank space” meltdown.
I HAVEN’T BEEN PAYING ATTENTION, I cried to her. WHEN DID I STOP PAYING ATTENTION. I’M UNHEALTHY. I HAVE PCOS AND IT’S FINALLY KICKING IN AND I’LL NEVER BE ABLE TO ENJOY A GLASS OF WINE OR EAT A PIECE OF BREAD WITHOUT IT STICKING TO ME FOREVER. LIFE AS I KNOW IT IS DONE.
Lindsey, she said calmly – over and over again. First of all, the idea of you ‘not noticing’ is ridiculous. You know this. Second of all, your clothes fit fine. You are okay, she said. You are okay.
YOU’RE WRONG. MY THYROID HAS TURNED TO SHIT, I persisted.
I slept that night, unshowered, with baggy sweatpants and and a long-sleeved boy’s t-shirt. NOT AN INCH TO LOOK AT.
The next morning – 6:30am – I woke up restless, having dreamed of weight and food (not going to dive into detail but eating disorder dreams are a thing.)
Anyway, so I got up – groggy with anxiety – and I headed to Target.
Side note, there is something super depressing about being the first person at a Target. It’s like ‘Oh – you are so engrossed in mass consumerism that you couldn’t even wait for the crowd?”
I couldn’t. I bought a scale from Target that morning – hellbent – completely isolated – I googled the “best Target scales” and bought a 50$ one that had what looked to be the most accurate reader.
I ran out of the store, ripped it open right there in the parking lot, and weighed myself on gravel.
A sigh of relief.
I weighed myself in my office 45 minutes later, closing the door.
Oh, you’re fine.
Oh, you’re valuable.
Oh, you’re worthy of love.
I’m begging you to get rid of it, my partner said when I told him later that day. Please, Lindsey.
I don’t know why I told him. I knew he wouldn’t “overlook” it. I think, in a way, when I *feel* like I can’t help myself – I passively ask for it. Again, such an ED move. Don’t know how to be direct about my needs so I just roundabout it hoping someone will just “get it.”
I will, I lied – justifying it to myself with “I can control it. I eat fine. I am past that bullshit.”
I’m not, if you can’t tell. I had that scale for 4 days – 4 bloody days – and I weighed every day. Twice a day for good measure.
A validation each morning. “You could be more in shape, but at least you’re okay.”
“You’re okay. You’re okay because your weight is okay. You haven’t been perfect at working out BUT AT LEAST YOUR WEIGHT ISN’T SHOWING IT SO YOU’RE STILL WORTH SOMETHING AND VALUABLE.”
I left for camping this past weekend. I felt uneasy without the scale. In one week, I felt unease about leaving a bloody scale.
You okay? My partner asked the first night we got there. We were cooking dinner and I was absentmindedly wondering if maybe the broken scale back at home had actually been right.
You just seem a little ‘in your head,’ he said.
I nodded. I looked at his face, that caution people have with me sometimes.
I’m fine, I said.
I didn’t elaborate.
There was a tension there that night, looking back, I didn’t let him ask about it again. Even now, I’m manipulative enough to sway a conversation in a way that doesn’t allow for another person to step in. I don’t give the option – or the right time. I side step with ambiguity, or controlled small talk.
Ah, what a treat.
Anyway, I came home after that weekend, however, and the scale was gone. I hid it, my male roommate said nonchalantly when I asked where it was. I hid it for you.
Did you throw it out? I asked, feigning casualness.
No, but it’s not here, he said pointedly.
I was quiet for a bit, pouting. It wasn’t for you to take, I said.
Think about what you’re doing, he said later. Think about your writing and the people you’ve connected with. You want people to get help, yeah? You want people to feel like they can do it? Look at your fucking self girl – you can’t be full of shit and writing about this stuff.
He was right; recovery is tricky. You fuck up – and you do all these things you wish you didn’t – you feel all this crappy guilt. “I thought I was done with those thoughts,” you’ll say. “Maybe I’m never meant to get better if it’s this easy to go back.”
Maybe maybe maybe.
You’ll relapse “kinda” and wanna hide it.
You’ll relapse “kinda” and wonder “what’s so bad about fucking this up ‘just a lil bit’?”
You’ll relapse fully and think to yourself: “I’ll never be free.”
You’re right, you won’t be. But copping out isn’t a solution.
We go into recovery with absolutes – a lot of us do anyway. “I’m done. This is over. I’m in control of my actions and my thoughts. I’ll be happy forever. I’ll never look back.”
You will look back.
So, why set yourself up for failure?
Be gentle on yourself. Be gentle on recovery. We’re under this impression that recovery has to be smooth – that fucking it up means the end – its not. I just had a moment- I am human and I made some choices.
I made a choice.
I made another choice.
I lost the scale.
I sit, perched in a coffee shop right now, a half-eaten breakfast burrito beside me – maybe I’ll finish it when my hunger cues bark. Maybe I won’t.
Recovery: the definition of ‘ebbs and it flows.’
Go into it this way, and perhaps when you fail – you’ll be able to look at yourself in the mirror the next day and think “It’s still worth it.”