The other day I’m on the phone with my therapist.
“How’s your eating?” She asked – after we covered the mundane and I had no other drama to manipulatively fill the time.
“Better,” I said. “I’m diggin’ outta anorexia part 2. I weigh XXX. Put on some pounds in Mexico on that bachelorette.”
I hear her *harumph* on the phone. (And if you don’t know that sound – familiarize yourself with it immediately.)
“That’s not enough.”
I feel that growing flicker of annoyance in the pit of my stomach. “It’s fine.”
It’s FINE. LEAVE ME ALONE. ALL OF YOU – LEAVE ME ALONE.
“And you were …. how much did you weigh when you were in treatment?”
I tell her. “I don’t want to still be that though. I wasn’t even active then. They wouldn’t let me do shit so it wasn’t fair to say that’s accurate – I knew I’d lose a little. That was 3 years ago.”
“Regardless,” she says. “You’re still xxx off.”
“Yep,” I agree – ornery as eating disorders can be. “Yep, maybe. You might just be damn right.”
WHATCHU GONNA DO ABOUT IT, I want to say.
Instead, I wait.
A chess play. Always a chess play with eating disorders.
“So, what are you gonna do about your meals this week, now that you’re not on vacation?” She asks – which irks me.
WAIT, thought I was CONTROLLING this dialogue.
“Dunno,” I say, nonchalantly. “Do what I’m doing.”
“I’m not. I’m gaining weight. I’m figuring it out.”
“But you’re not making it a priority.”
“That’s fair,” I said. “I don’t care if I gain weight or not. I’d be fine if I stayed this forever.”
“But you know you can’t sustain that?”
“Maybe,” she says. “Maybe isn’t good enough.”
“Maybe is all that I got sometimes.”
What master manipulators we are.
What brilliant little ways we have of “normalizing” abnormal behavior.
Like John Oliver said of Trump: we can’t normalize what’s not normal.
Yet, we continue to try all the time.
It’s sunny tonight, the longest day of the year, and I’m in Breckenridge, Colorado – dressed up from a conference, sipping a glass of white wine in a cream colored dress.
I’m sitting at a shaky iron table right now at a pub n’ taproom, across from a group of girls. No older than 16.
I see one. I see her.
She doesn’t eat. 4 moms and 4 daughters around a table.
She won’t eat. Everyone has a plate. She doesn’t.
She’s sick and looks it. She’s sick and loves it.
Clutches the back of her arm every few minutes.
Needs that little validation.
The validation of grabbing skin – touching it in her fingertips.
How many of us can relate?
I wonder if she’ll get help as I look at her. Sitting here. Typing from my computer.
She has caught my eye a couple times.
I wonder if she’ll be okay.
If she’ll grow out of it. If she’ll find more meaning.
I see her friend trying to give her a piece of chicken and she puts her hands up. “No,” she shakes her head vehemently. “Gross.”
The girl gives her that look. That trapped look of a friend.
You’re transparent, I want to say. I know your game.
She squeezes out a lemon into a bowl.
She distracts herself.
And yet – I live this girl’s game.
Who am I to judge?
How easy it is to justify the shit we do.
How easy it is to displace ourselves when we see another doing the same.
I went through a break up a couple months ago.
It happened in a day. One of those “last best days” sort of memories.
Walking around Boulder, coffee in hand – breakfast bagels in a bag.
Everything was ideal – until it wasn’t. Until my mouth felt dry from hanging open with no words falling out.
It was no one’s fault. I have no fingers to point. Which, when you think about it, is almost always more difficult than having the pain to pinpoint. I don’t have a pinpoint of pain. It just happened. Slowly, one event at a time. Miffed responses left unresolved – one miscommunication after another –
“Do we want the same things?”
Until eventually they forked into a road neither of us wanted to be on – lost in the weeds, dirt kicking up.
I think, as humans, we have a tendency to demand closure as though we deserve it. As though the scenes in our lives are put together as intricately as novels, but they’re not. In real life, relationships are messy, with shitty paragraphs, terrible word choices, ending too early or too late, and sometimes in the middle of a sentence – the middle of some great dialogue, and you’re left saying ”why the fuck did I read this anyway?”
I am awfully sentimental at the end of the day. Of belongings, people, places. It matters very little how positive or negative the experience was – I will remask it anyhow. If it shared some meaningful time in my life, I’ll have trouble letting go.
I love my ex, dearly. But, there’s an intricate difference in loving someone and loving the relationship that you build. How easy it is to love a human for everything they are – and resent them for everything they can’t give to you.
“You’re important to me,” I said that day. “I think if there’s anything that will last forever – and remain true – it’s that. Whether we separate, stay in touch or rarely speak again, you will always be that little someone I really do care for.”
“You’re my friend,” he said. “You were every future plan. I can’t picture a life where I don’t know what glass of wine you had with dinner. What book you’re crying over.”
On our final night, we laid beside each other on a bed. Our arm hairs touching.
“Will you stay?” He asked, once the decision no longer floated in the air. “We’ll miss each other forever, you know. We’ll forget the time. Misconstrue all our memories — barrel them into one container. Forget the little things. Our birthdays -”
“Don’t forget to get that mole checked out,” I smiled.
We were messy that night – but not in the way that requires touching. We were messier than touching can give. Messy the way I always am – and the way he never wanted me to be. It didn’t seem to matter anymore.
“You have me with tears in my ears,” I laughed at one point — eyes to the ceiling, knocking my kneecaps together on his bed. “You have me with tears in my earlobes, forever. I can feel them sliding down into them.”
“I always thought you look beautiful when you cry,” he whispered — but he didn’t look at me – feet fastened to the ground. “Your skin glows. Every time, I always thought to myself ‘how can she be so fucking beautiful in the strangest ways?”
Everyone you meet has a part to play in your story.
To him, I’d say: It was a privilege to matter to you.
And I’m still reorganizing my life to clutter your absence.
I don’t believe you are allowed to blame relapses on heartache – but you are allowed to use that pain to trace back to a starting point.
I lost a bit weight from March – May. Perhaps, I’ll always believe that to showcase pain – you have to see it.
I’ve gained back a few pounds over the last week or two. Life has a funny way of jolting you and then flatlining.
Technically, I’m healthy. I’m thin – but not “too thin.”
I’m thin where you notice (or so I like to think) but not thin where you worry.
That’s a fine line for anyone that has been where I am now.
How easy it is for us to notice others across from us – and not notice ourselves.
I would never inflict this mentality on anyone.
I would never look at a little person, or that girl across from me, who is starving themselves – binge eating – whatever. Running excessively.
And think “good for you, lil girl or boy.”
“You got this baby.”
I see people who are sick and my heart aches.
Mostly because I can see them when others can’t.
I’m the Houdini of eating disorders: the magic of presenting something you didn’t see before. I can always spot someone with an eating disorder.
It’s painful to see – and then, I wonder what others think of me?
Am I that to them?
Sometimes, maybe. Sometimes, no. Sometimes, for sure.
Regardless, this post surrounds the art of gaining back weight once you’ve let yourself lose it.
This is dedicated to all you anorexics that lost weight – and have to deal with it.
((P.S. This is not solely what anorexia is.))
Anorexia is a normal body size. Is an overweight body size.
Anorexia is not an emaciated stereotype.
But, tonight’s post: this shit I’m writing now –
Is for the people who need to gain weight. And know it. Have had it told to them.
Who have the voice in their head that knows they need to.
This is directed towards you.
I’m in this phase where I’ve lost weight and now gained a few pounds back.
Naturally you like to justify it, right?
I did it. I’m done.
Or more like…
OMG I’ve gained back like 3lbs in a week and OMG THIS WILL BE THE NORM FOREVER.
WILL THIS BE THE NORM FOREVER?!?!?
WILL I JUST GAIN AND GAIN AND GAIN NO MATTER WHAT I EAT?
It’s hard to remind yourself that like, MY GOD, we have to gain back weight. And if your body isn’t where it naturally wants to be … it’ll get there … and likely stabilize.
Bodies work for you, yeah? They work for you. And we forget that.
We forget this whole body thing – it wants to work for you.
It’s like the eager college graduate that is biting at the bit for an entry level job.
It wants the ability to impress. To grow. To be malleable.
I have a few remaining pounds to gain back.
I can lie forever – lie to everyone.
But what’s the point?
How much do I still have to live for?
How many memories to still form?
I state this as a question.
But, I know.
I know that life is short – and passing.
I know, I know, I know.
I think about my best friend, ya know – he died so young. 18 years old.
It’ll be 10 years this September. What a life he missed.
I don’t want to miss mine.
We all die at some point.
Will we really be remembered by skin?
By a number?
Nah. You’re only remembered by the way other people felt around you.
Maya Angelou – whoever said that; they were right.
You’re only remembered by the feeling you gave to others.
The energy you put forth into the world.
You’re remembered by connection; by being raw.
Losing weight didn’t make the uncertainty of my future alter.
Losing weight didn’t “prove” to anyone that I was hurting over a relationship ending.
All it did was provide a distraction.
Entice that fear from my friends and family.
That validating fear from them so that I knew I was loved.
An extra layer over my heart so that I didn’t feel.
But, who doesn’t want to feel?
To feel is the bravest thing you can do.
And to feel means to hurt. And to love. And to experience those moments of happiness that you think your heart bursts at the seams.
I don’t want to experience love through sickness – through makeshift blocks of an eating disorder.
I want to experience love in its equality. Two people on the same page – who love each other not because they are sick, but because they are capable, strong, passionate.
So, if you’re in the boat I’m in right now – gain back your weight. Gain it with me so that we’re not sitting around being boring stick figures. Lifeless stick drawings walking up and down streets – so preoccupied and caught up in our shit that we forget to see that life is sweeping past us.
Gain back your bloody weight so we can be present again, human:
And so very alive.
14 thoughts on ““But, The Scale Says I’m Fine”: Gaining Weight With Anorexia”
I’ve read this before, was struggling, and read it again. I’ve been trying to gain back the weight for the past year (my god, how have I let it go on for a year? I thought it would take a week) I gain, I panic, I lose. And to be clear, it isn’t a large amount of weight I”m supposed to gain and maintain. But I’ve fought with an iron grip to HOLD ON TIGHT to my percieved control of those couple of pounds. It’s been such a long year in that way…I’ve learned a lot. Therapy has been good. The dietitian has taught me so much. And I just repeated the cycle again-lost the weight I worked to gain. And I am fucking exhausted. I have to make a choice. Do I want this to be my life? Not on the verge of death thin, not about to collapse, but teetering on the edge of just slipping into full blown anorexia again within a couple of pounds? It’s like if I give that up I think I’ll die, if I give up that identity of being “thin”, but in reality, this stupid fucking identity is keeping me from living. I have to make a choice to keep trying, to make this time different. Just because it’s cycled over the past year doesn’t mean I have to keep repeating the same cycle…right? Even though I don’t want to fall off the edge into full blown anorexia again, the idea of stepping into freedom is somehow equally daunting. The truth is, I may not be “naturally thin”. I might be just a relatively normal size, and that’s terrifying, even though I’ve told myself again and again that I’m more than just a thin body.
Very inspiring post. The trouble is people’s reactions are so hard to deal with when you ‘recover’. Especially when you’re feeling wobbly anyway!
I cried reading this and can relate to each part. I’m below what I was when I became anorexic and now my life is so stressed I just barely eat due to circumstance.
I just realized another reason why my relationship is so unhealthy.
Thank you for sharing your honest words. Has inspired me to not just be fine at 85lbs. And 32 years old.
I really enjoyed reading your words – especially about the expectation that life should read like a great work of literature – with order and development – I recall so many times along my journey – especially with anorexia, thinking “fuck, this wasn’t what i wanted ….when is it going to get better again?” – it took me a long, long time to remember that the moments – even the ‘fuck’ ones, are life as good as it gets. now. here …NOW – not over there somewhere in the distance. Much love and luck – I look forward to hearing more from you.
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I’m reading this with tears in my eyes right now. Gah, I love so much about your raw honesty. Beautiful post. Beautiful words. Beautiful continued journey.
Thank you, you beautiful soul. Thank you for validating my words so that I can keep writing them. Sending love. <3
love the railroad track tattoo on your foot…what does it mean?
THANK YOU for saying that. Because I actually hate my railroad tattoo sometimes. It’s faded and didn’t heal well. I have to go back in soon to get it touched up again.
It’s from a Hemingway quote – Moveable Feast. Just this beautiful paragraph towards the end that stuck with me forever (I’ll even quote it here):
“When I saw my wife again standing by the tracks as the train came in by the piled logs at the station, I wished I had died before I had ever loved anyone but her.”
Yep. All of this. Funny. You and I were in different parts of Mexico the same week: you were winning and I was losing. The struggle is real. I’m spinning my wheels again and pushing away assumptions of love. I like what you said about the privilege of mattering to someone. We find our truth regardless, or it finds us. Tonight on the machine all I did was worry about heart attacks but ended up convincing myself that eating less forces your body to detox and that’s healthy. Always look forward to your posts. How did you find the guts to put this all out there? I celebrate your bagels xo
This is brilliant. You’re a wonderful writer.
I’ve been in treatment for the last month, I’m leaving to go on a holiday but my psych is urging me to return when I get back… I’m trying to find all the motivation I can. Trying to find something that will snap me out of this headspace of telling my self I’m fine despite all evidence pretty clearly suggesting otherwise. I really hope you don’t lose that fighting spark you have.
Your writing is so incredible, Lindsey. You never cease to amaze me with your honesty, for the good, the bad and everything in between. Take what you can from this relapse, take it with you and grow. As I’m sure you know, that feeling of digging yourself out each time is so raw and so incredible, it’s impossible to describe. You build your toolbox more and more each and every time. Remembering what you’re doing it all for. Remembering how worth it all is. Let yourself feel and hurt and cry and slip up, it’s all part of this painful but beautiful process that is recovery. You are such a bright, honest, real, just all around incredible human and I only hope the best for you. Thinking of you always <3 YOU'VE.GOT.THIS <3
Man, I adore you girl. Thank you for letting me read this a month later – and beam. Always worth it to heal. Appreciate you. <3
Thank you as always for the most amazing post and for making sense of what is going on in my own brain! I had a breakup at end of last year and while
I doubt it nearly everyday this sums it up for me:
“I love my ex, dearly. But, there’s an intricate difference in loving someone and loving the relationship that you build. How easy it is to love a human for everything they are – and resent them for everything they can’t give to you.”
I said aloud to people that it wouldn’t affect my weight and I would cope in other ways and then bam a few months later suddenly I’m x kilos down, the crazies came back in, I’m having discussions about whether it’s just better that way anyway and I’m Fine don’t you know, and then the realisation that I’m in the same place I’ve been a zillion times before since starting recovery and maybe I don’t want to spend another 20 years like this, so I’m now at that having to gain weight stage and it’s horrendous, scales didn’t move for quite a few weeks and now I feel like they will never stop, trying to trust the people around me who who tell me they will, thanks for reminding me other people feel this way too!