Well, are you?
Alright, so before you bite my head off in T-Swift “Look What You Made Me Do” fashion:
Let me explain.
I’m not actually proposing that question to you.
But – hey – made you open the post, eh?
Had you wonder for a brief second ”Hmm, was I? Am I? Am I just a half-ass anorexic?” (Or whichever of the merry-go-round of eating disorders you’re on right now.)
The other day, I was on the phone with a reporter doing a story about eating disorders, exercise bulimia and anorexia … the usual.
Hearing my story read back to me, I had that flicker of ‘imposter syndrome.”
Near the end, she asked for the dreaded ‘before and after’ picture to go with the story.
I went on my usual Braveheart manifesto:
I can give you pics, I said. But, it’s not going to be clickbait material. I pretty much dabbled between 10-15lbs throughout most of this time period in my life.
But, I still felt slightly ashamed, as always, that I wasn’t your poster-child anorexic.
Likely, because I’m part of the media system – I’m still occasionally (sometimes clearly more so) swept up in the never-ending belief pattern that anorexia is a skeleton with a moving head.
No matter how many times I write posts like this, that strong-held belief remains etched into my subconscious.
So, let’s break this shit down for a second:
Sometimes, it’s helpful to play society’s devils advocate so lemme dissect this mentality in my own life – starting with people I date, and the friends/family I have around me.
It’s always amusing to me, with any human I’m attracted to.
They are typically perceptive, exploratory, and full of nontraditional views on ‘how to live’.
I adore the dialed-in, albeit self-absorbed humans in the world creating energy and vision with the flick of their wrist.
Maybe, because I’m one too.
Spade’s a spade. Ehem: I’ll save that for another time.
Anyway, what I find amusing – in a sense – almost every time I begin to date one of these creative visionaries (excuse my boring-ass corporate lingo. It’s Monday.) is that no matter the circumstances or experiences they’ve conjured up in their lives –
They still have no fucking clue what an eating disorder really … is.
If they’re into me, they ask lots of questions.
If they’re into me more so because I’m just a solid sounding-board-for-their-next-dream-vision – then they don’t ask as much… Sigh. Irrelevant.
REGARDLESS, the point is it’s very hard for new friends, lovers, etc., to understand… well, me.
Me as it pertains to my eating disorder.
I wasn’t an anorexic poster child, yet here is my picture next to the Wikipedia definition of the term ‘drunkorexia’.
Ah – what an accolade. My future children should be so proud.
Anyway, regardless of the amount I’ve talked about my experience on the eating disorder ferris wheel, the only thing that still seems to make sense to so many around me is the weight, which is – of course – because that is tangible to the naked non-eating-disorder eye.
The one thing we feel we can put a finger on and say ‘A-HA, this. YES. She/He’s sick. I am NOT an ignorant a-hole, I have SPOTTED IT!” (throws pointed index finger in the air).
I got a text a month or so ago from my best friend. His girlfriend (now ex… but not because of this story) is a pretty public figure in the realm of ‘self-love and eating disorder recovery’ coaching.
While on vacation, she sent him a picture of herself when she was a bodybuilding fitness model – back when she was on some pyscho regime and eating and counting and obsessing and working out thrice a day and and and … you get the picture.
Why she sent this professional model picture … I have to wonder. BUT that’s beside the point: she did it.
From what I gathered, he texted her back something to the conclusion of “OH HONEYBUNNY, BABY, LOVER, you’re smoking hot. I miss you. Come back. I want you.”
I’m sure in more creative words than that, but I didn’t ask.
Anyway, she blasted him. “I was SO sick,” she said. “And I feel like you want that girl back more than you want me as I am now.”
He called me. “WHAT the hell,” he said. “I didn’t say anything about wanting her to have that body back. I wasn’t thinking about her being sick. I couldn’t tell and thought maybe it was when she first got into it. How would I know that? I would never say shit about her body. I’m happy with it as long as she is.”
I had to laugh.
Frankly, I agreed to an extent.
What was she expecting from that move?
But, I also explained gently in his seething anger: “Look, us eating disorder folks are finicky. We’re also insecure. If we don’t have a horror hospital-on-an-IV tale to tell, we often doubt whether or not we were ‘truly sick’ and begin to wonder in grand detail if maybe we are now just ‘lazy’ and making excuses.”
Ultimately, I told him to treat that time period in her life with empathy. And that while she looked like your average pro-fitness model with her beads of sweat and ‘gym face’ on in these pics – she was suffering. She was suffering because she was obsessing and missing events and missing her life. And working herself to midnight passing out on gym floors.
In a different way, the same thing happened to me. A dude I was dating went through my pics on social media in one of those ”I WANT TO KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU’ moments when you’re first starting to talk to someone.
He sent me a pic from 2013. “God, you’re one beautiful human. Your energy is glowing in this picture.”
I cringed (and no, not just because of his Cat Stevens-ish energy reference).
I knew the pic. I’m on a beach with my mom. The sun’s setting gracefully (so no, my energy was not glowing, you hippy manbun. It was the light off the sun.)
HOWEVER, it’s the pic I often linger on in the times I miss anorexia, and the instant gratification it gave me when I had 10lbs less weight than I do now.
10lbs, my dears. 10 pounds for 8 years of life.
He didn’t know. How could he? I don’t look all that different.
But, I of course know there are 10 less pounds then. And I also know what I gave up when I chose to hold onto 10lbs as the teetering point for ‘happy or not.’
It’s the same way I feel with friends and I hear this:
OH! someone starts to say. I think I met someone who could use your help. She was so … thin. I think she has anorexia.
Maybe, I always shrug (except not always because sometimes I admittedly assume the same). Hell if I know. I’d have to watch how she eats. Know her medical history. Talk to her.
It’s not always bloody spottable, I want to scream.
And time and time again, I reset their idea (and my own) that anorexia has to entail the certain ‘look.”
Time and time again, I have to remind myself that we can balk at the audacity of people for believing that anorexia looks one ‘way,’ but at the time of the day: it kinda is what it is.
And that’s why I write.
It’s ridiculous to demand empathy if we first do not extend empathy back. How will we ever grow together?
I am not angry at those who have not been plagued by eating disorders. Jealous, perhaps, in some simple way. But, not angry that they don’t understand – nor angry when they choose not to engage farther with a discussion.
Mental health is a tricky ice block. Our society is politically correct – almost to the fault that we are afraid to ask the ‘unmentionable’ questions.
I’d love for someone one day to just blatantly ask me “You sure you had anorexia?”
It’d put me on the spot, but hell – it’d allow me the opportunity again and again to remind myself, and those of you –
That yes, I have anorexia. I have the diseased mind, if you will. It exists in my bloodstream – in the way my synapses light up or don’t around food.
In the way I’ve engaged with life through the preoccupation of food.
In the way that I have to work very hard to not be distracted by how much I eat or don’t.
In the way that I am still disconnected from hunger cues at times – and working through what that means.
In the way that I lost my first job, and got arrested for a DWI.
In the way that I don’t remember a lot of my 20s – and that, to me, is un-fucking-fathomable.
I am nearly 4 years removed from my eating disorder lifestyle – and I am always still slammed by the world and what it has to offer when you start creating the existence you really want to live.
At the end of the day, the birds are singing when I go to bed and when I wake – and I’m floored by it far too often. Where was I when I didn’t listen to that?
There’s a fire burning inside me these days – begging to live with intent – and I’m in the middle of building a business out of recovery, plotting a life on the road with a van.
I’m in the straight up middle of envisioning and planning a life that is sitting in the palm of my hand.
I suppose that’s the real takeaway I have for you: make up a life where you don’t have time to give a shit about whether or not you were a half-assed anorexic or a fully crippled one.
The point is you know by the amount of time you lost. You know by the suffering.
You know by the way your world will unveil itself when you finally begin to break free.
When we’re dead and gone, will the mountains remember what we weighed when they turn our bones into dust?
At the end of the day, I remind myself to not choose the path that leads back to pain.
There is no point wondering ‘was I’ or ‘wasn’t I good enough at self-destruction.’
It’s irrelevant. We’ll die that way – pondering a question that means nothing.
So, on I plot ahead – living in the flexible ‘okay’ of recovery – with the dreams that when I die, I don’t have a light to burn out forever. <3