Yo, hold up. Put down the pitch forks, please.
I write headlines to get your attention.
This is one of them.
… And, it’s Tuesday, so my PR small talk skills are lacking.
Maybe it’s the 3 hours of sleep last night. Maybe it’s the constant traveling. Maybe it’s just a bloody Tuesday and I’d rather be cascading mountain tops – van dwelling – or sleeping – than working at a desk.
Who knows? But, I’m in a blunt-typa mood. Would ya have me any other way?
((And yes… I realize my whining is simply that. A whine.))
LET ME HAVE IT.
Went back to Texas – my hometown – this past weekend. Quick trip – 36 hours. Hosted my best friend’s baby shower and attended my other best friend’s engagement party.
Felt the nostalgia that comes with friends you’ve known since you were 5 years old and sucking off lollipops.
Wondered, briefly: “are we really here now – no longer belting Vanessa Carlton’s ‘White Houses’ in our parents minivans – but ourselves now mothers, daughters, and wives?”
Sat on the plane home Sunday. It was also the 11- year anniversary of my best friend’s passing. 09/16/07 – 18 years old. A tree branch broke. He fell.
People wrote about him in the media. “He was drunk.”
“Stupid frat boy.”
“Entitled kids deserve it.”
You don’t forget cruelty.
Years pass. I have known happiness since then. Joy – laughter.
All the crap grief therapists tell you to manifest.
But, it seems on this day, forever, there is a “get out of jail free” card to grieve my friend.
A dark hole that still begs:
Could I have loved you forever? As I did then?
I’ll never know.
But, in that day, in that point of life:
You were certainly a love of my life, Bradley.
So, prefacing this post with the see-saw emotion swirling behind it today.
Came home last night, away from my partner. Hauled up in our living room with my grief and my “LIFE IS MEANINGLESS EVERYTHING DIES AND LEAVES YOU ANYWAY WOE IS ME” mentality.
It is then, I remembered:
I have a powerpoint due for a national eating disorder conference.
Turned on a rather savage episode of Vikings. Spears clashing in the background.
Put on my headphones.
Oh fine, Bradley, I’ll watch your memorial video – snot nosed – later.
Mourn you again in a bit. I suppose I’ve got all the time in the world.
For now, I need to make a moment’s worth of meaning in the world I still exist in.
So, to really preface this, Dr. Colleen Reichmann and I have been collecting stories from y’all over the past few months over the “not sick enough” mentality, and subsequent cause.
We plan to present at the Eating Recovery Center conference in October.
Ultimately, it’s been unsurprising in how surprising its been that so many of you have had an experience with a doctor or nurse or therapist who has more or less told you that what you’re experiencing with your eating is not, in fact, “sick enough.”
… I’ve got a secret for you today.
((Lolz. It’s not really a secret. But, did you like that dun dun dun transition?))
Basically, it’s just that I’ve got my own “not sick enough” story too.
Because the truth is – we’ve all been invalidated in our eating disorders at some point.
Whether it’s our parents, lovers, or medical clinicians.
Sitting back here today, in one of my self-righteous moods –
To tell you that this reality – this inevitable invalidation – is not enough to continue to wallow in your eating disorder.
Or you’ll continue to find a reason to wallow in it forever.
(Like how I say this as I wallow in my own 11-year grief? Ahhh hypocrisy.)
… You’re harsh, Linds. Quit being an asshole.
But, let’s break this down – because I wish someone had told me then, what I know to be true now.
And that’s that for so many of you:
you will likely never be told you’re “sick enough.”
It’s a reality.
Those that are – they’re dead and they’re dying.
Every 62 minutes.
Your insurance won’t want to pay. Your friends aren’t sure what to say.
Your partner may not notice because they see you every day, and aren’t magical experts on ED behavior.
Your parents may very well be from a generation that doesn’t “talk about it.”
And you may not have a salacious, media-approved skeletal pic (which it the only picture the media showcases. I’d know. I’ve worked and been in PR and the media for years. See below.)
When I was 24, in Brooklyn, my parents had just caught me the week prior binge eating two boxes of cereal.
Ah – those Special K brands. Get ya every time.
Blurry-eyed, drunk and somber, over their coffee table I used to play chess on as a kid, my dad made the statement “We’re getting you help. Now.”
A week unfolded.
He didn’t want to tell me, but to this day – I know insurance was a pain in the ass.
They didn’t want to take me on.
“Get her a physical,” they said. Prove her sickness is what they really meant.
To this day, all these years later, there’s not a glitch in memory that doesn’t recall what it was like to walk into that New York hospital and fill out the paperwork for a physical.
Palms sweaty in the waiting room.
I believe I had “Do You Realize” by The Flaming Lips on my headphones at the time.
Got into the physical, that awkward paper sheet they make you cover with.
A doctor, a man of middle age, came in. Bored and listless. As I suppose we all get in unfulfilling careers.
He took my stats and my EKG and all the other crap I don’t recall now.
Isn’t it strange how eating disorders are?
The whole time he did that, thinking to myself “I hope it’s bad.”
I hope it’s bad. I hope something negative comes out of this so that I “deserve” help.
Ultimately, my wish was not met with reward.
“You’re fine,” he said – flipping through charts.
He looked up. “This is a requirement from your insurance?”
I’m going to treatment for an eating disorder next week.
He looked me up and down.
You’re small, he said nonchalantly. Not that small. Meat on your thighs.
I stared at him.
I need it, I said, not believing it myself.
He frowned. Okay.
Good luck, he said. Your blood pressure is low. But, it’ll shoot back up when you eat more.
He left the room.
Forever, isolated in my memory.
It’s funny what we carry with us throughout the years.
Read your stories – doctors telling you that you “aren’t sick enough” to deserve a life without the burden of an eating disorder.
I wonder, sitting here on a Tuesday afternoon:
At a desk table in the far corner of an outside patio.
Brussels Sprouts and Falafel by my side.
What will it take to change our culture?
At some point, eating disorders aren’t about your weight.
I mean they are, sure.
They derive out of negative coping skills. Negative adaptions to life.
They evolve from our culture telling us that to look a certain way implies this meaning or that.
Eating disorders are an epidemic because we are told by marketing and advertisements to hate ourselves – just that little bit more – so that we will “try” their product and their brand.
But, at some point, eating disorders are more about the moments in your life you lose.
They are about the times you don’t show up to bat for your own life.
They become about the events in your life you wish you could have back – and can’t.
No one is perfectly anorexic – just as they are not perfectly binge eating.
In turn, your weight will often not reflect your pain.
The fact of the matter is that if you’re “not sick enough” eating disorder prognosis is solely about weight –
You are looking at this from a very microscopic view.
So is your doctor.
Finish up this post this afternoon:
My partner texts me:
“Grabbing hummus and crackers for the board meeting,” he says. “Want some?”
I just ate, I think. I ate at 8:30 and then again at 10:30, and now at 12.
I shouldn’t eat again, the little ED voice whispers – because that voice has never fully left me.
And I doubt ever will.
You don’t unlearn 8 years of learned “truths.”
Instead, you notice.
You notice that voice, and you choose how to respond to it.
You notice what “sick enough” is to you – and you choose how to respond to it.
“For sure,” I text back. “Grab that garlic hummus one.”
At the end the day, the true reality is that life goes fast. And I write this as “Do You Realize” plays ironically in my ear pods.
It is hard to make the good things last.
The last time I saw my best friend alive, I left him for a run.
There’s not a day I don’t regret that.
In the end:
To be “not sick enough” is the worst sick brain there is.
It is the sick that keeps you tethered – forever.
It’s the sickness that kills you from experiencing your life.
From loving the people in it.
Watching the ways they smile when you watch Stephen Colbert together.
When you’re “not sick enough” you spend most of your time trying to get to “sick enough,” and that in itself double the sickness, doesn’t it?
Only you can decide how you want to show up for your life.
What often keeps me from going back is the regret I have for the time I missed.
The years I spent:
Eyes wide shut.
One thought on “It’s True: You Probably Aren’t “Sick Enough” To Have An Eating Disorder”
I can’t tell if this makes me feel better or worse.
My therapist says the only person with a perfect eating disorder is dead.