We are 6 days into 2019, and here I am – brimming with possibility, opportunity, a new job, dreams:
And, like clockwork, a post-holiday body image crisis steaming Titanic-force ahead.
Maybe it’s the fitness Instagram ads peppering my feed, or the insidious amount of leftover sweets positioned as a shrine on our kitchen counter, haunting my waking hours.
Or the return to schedule after 15 days of nonstop travel and eating out.
Or maybe I’m just basking in the blooming guilt of what I ate over the holidays.
Whatever the reason, it happens almost every January.
And last night, as I dressed to go over to eat at my partner’s mom’s house – and Friday, as I dressed to go out to eat – a familiar pattern occurred:
A series of endless (and mentally draining) “retries” to find a suitable outfit to fit what feels like a bulging sensation in my thighs, ass, and stomach. This year, even the arms weren’t granted mercy.
In other words, I left my closet a tornado site, and the living room a hurricane’s debris of clothes, pants (mostly black), and a limp, wet towel I didn’t bother to hang back in the shower.
It’s times like these that drain my recovery mantras.
I know that it happens, but that doesn’t seem to matter when I’m sunken into this shitstorm of body image plaguing.
I knew it’d come too. While celebrating the holidays, I ate effortlessly. Indulged effortlessly – and all the while, the thought crossing my mind:
Oh god, when I get back to real life this could all bite me in the ass.
I crossed my fingers that it wouldn’t.
But alas, three days home in Boulder and I’m standing in front of the full length mirror – irritable, uncomfortable, poking at skin, and adorning a uniform of black slouch pants and over-sized sweaters, which my partner relishes (sarcasm).
Sometimes my eating disorder brain feels like a Viking attack. (I only just wrote that because I’m obsessed with Vikings TV show, and Ragnar, played by the immensely sexy Travis Fimmel.)
I think I got this shit on lockdown, have victories like the realization that I no longer calorie count. Have literally zero idea how many calories I eat per meal:
And then I’m humbled as always, by the body image standard that fucking plagues our culture.
The interesting part is that even while I have some realistic understanding that my Body Dysmorphic brain cannot always see my body the way that it is, I still – STILL – to this day, develop obsessive thoughts of:
NOPE, I HAVEN’T BEEN PAYING ATTENTION.
EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED.
MY BODY COMPOSITION HAS CHANGED.
OH GOD THINK OF ALL THE MONEY I’LL HAVE TO SPEND ON NEW CLOTHES THAT FIT.
THAT’S IT, THIS IS IT. MY BODY IS ATTACKING ME NOW. MY THYROID PROBABLY STOPPED WORKING.
MY FAT IS STORING DIFFERENTLY.
THIS IS THE END OF ALL ENDS. SOON, I WON’T BE ABLE TO WALK.
…. I know. It’s outrageous.
But, in that moment, I cannot find the will to redirect it.
Yesterday, in a fit of trying to move past this slump, I shopped.
Spent $300 on “tighter, sexier” clothes – and then promptly came home and was like OH MY GOD I HATE THIS. ALL OF IT.
Even my partner was like “you look great babe… but the leather skirt? I’ve never seen you in a skirt.”
He’s right. After I chewed his head off, I immediately was like “Ya, I’m literally never going to wear this.”
I am a girl that feels best in black jeans and a denim pearl snap. (Yes, I know, I’m akin to a hipster Brooklyn male, trying too hard to show people he’s a writer.)
Also, I don’t have $300 to spend. So, I have to now take it back. I’m THAT girl today, who is going to have to slink sheepishly back into the store to be like TEEHEE JK. THANKS FOR HELPING ME FOR AN HOUR YESTERDAY.
And look, here’s the thing:
I’m not going to act on the urge to restrict or puke. It doesn’t do shit and I’m too far past the era of anorexia to go back just over the feeling of having indulged over the holidays.
BUT, it heightens the tension in my brain.
WELL, IF YOU’RE NOT GOING TO GO BACK TO YOUR EATING DISORDER, THEN YOU BETTER JUST KEEP ON HIDING YOURSELF VIA MASSIVE SWEATERS AND LEGGINGS.
I’m in a catch-22 in this war zone. Eat normally and feel like shit about my body. Don’t eat and feel like shit about myself.
I choose the former, because I can’t go back to the latter.
But, I’m tired.
And “humphy” as my partner likes to point out when I stomp around the kitchen, clanking pans, heaving forks into the sink, and oblivious to the amount of sighing I do.
As I sit here and write this this morning, my partner appears:
I’m thinking French Toast and scrambled eggs, he says.
We are in our house; “Blues Run The Game” by Jackson Frank drifting into the kitchen.
My partner sleeps later than I do. He wishes I’d relax next to him, swaddled together in sheets and limbs. I wish he’d get up earlier to enjoy coffee with me at the oak table, footsie under the table, plotting our day.
We begrudgingly accept the other’s process. For me, a culturally infused feeling of “must-be-productive-from-start-to-finish” an ever present belief in my subconscious.
There’s coffee next to me; dog curled at my feet, and the weather is beautiful. A balmy 50+ Fahrenheit in Boulder, offsetting a brutal cold front we faced last week. Snow rains off the roof.
I hope to shake this melancholy feeling that lingers today. We have a birthday party tonight, and I am already dreading the choosing-an-outfit show.
I’m not interested in eating, I mumble back, half joking, because who can ever *really* be joking about anorexia.
He closes the fridge, egg carton in hand. Great, he deadpans. Just today – or forever?
I smirk, and lower my head back to this post.
Our brains are an interesting vessel, aren’t they? And this morning, my heart is here in this kitchen – but my thoughts are elsewhere.
I notice that in times of this eating disorder melancholy (which I purposely define vs standard life melancholy), there’s a sadistic trend that develops:
((P.S. I’m totally about to subject change for a second – but hang with me.))
I don’t know what it is about my eating disorder brain when it lights up –
But everything I have ever lost in my life – mostly, humans – start to reappear in my dreams almost simultaneously as to when I start to have a bout of eating disorder “flu”:
Blanketing me when I wake with the feel of someone I once knew so near to me, but now even farther. Last night, a boy I used to love.
Come back, I plead in these dreams. I miss you. Tell me how you are.
Tell me you’re okay.
Tell me we mattered. That all of it meant something.
But, they never do.
And when it’s gone, I am left knowing that this punch in the gut is un-reciprocated, and they, wherever they may be, are moving about their same day, unencumbered by the memory of me.
The dreams replicate each other. A person I loved loyally, at one time:
We face each other.
I’m sorry, I say. I’m sorry, they say. Sometimes, we say nothing;
An embrace. In the forest. In a crowded street.
In a bed.
They are so real to me in those moments, these people I once knew. Their mannerisms. Their clothes. Their hair. Their acne or moles or birthmarks or limbs.
I wake, wondering how it could’ve been a dream – ache to return. And ache because it’s not real.
Ache to tell that person “I miss you, still.”
Last night, it was my German ex. 12 years later: I wonder, of all the people in my life since high school, how does he still invade that part of me so deeply?
Maybe it’s a distraction – these dreams, maybe they are a doctored metaphor for that aching pain I feel when I miss the bones and hunger of anorexia. Maybe anorexia is what kept me from grieving them.
I’ll never be quite sure – but it’s interesting to write about anyway.
So, I sit here this morning – in an oversized grey sweater – and I think of him, and the way we hugged in this dream;
Wondering if he still pronounces “freckle” the same. If he remembers that in English “mole” and “freckle” are different, not just “points on your face.”
I wonder if his dad is okay. If they work well together when they travel throughout Berlin and Munich. I wonder if he still smokes, and if he does – what it has done to his damaged lung; born 2/3 the size when he forced himself into this world too quickly.
I wonder if his shoulder healed after a snowboard accident. I wonder if his knees still ache under the jumps and the flips. Mostly, I wonder if his dreams of professional snowboarding are still alive somewhere in the back of consciousness, and if they are, how painful that likely is for him. Knowing, now, that he is not pursuing them.
I wonder, still, why he chose to come to New York all those years ago – and not tell me til he was on the flight home.
How he circled the front steps where I worked, the letter I’d sent a year prior in his hand, and why he chose to sit in that Starbucks down the street on 2nd and 54th, take one last look at the building I sat in – and leave.
I wonder often, if we will ever hug again – or if we’ll both go on, and die. And that’ll be it.
Two people that could’ve made different choices over the eight years intertwined around continents and countries, but didn’t.
I tried to write you out, I wrote him not too long ago when a book publisher approached and wanted confirmation that I wouldn’t be sued by former lovers.
I tried to write you out, but nothing works.
So all I can do, is try and write myself out.
He never responded;
And I knew, then, that this chapter, for him, was closed.
I know you’re probably thinking right now: Jesus, Linds, talk about a subject change.
But it’s just interesting to me how the sparks of my eating disorder cause sparks to my grief.
Rendered to manage them both simultaneously.
For years, I thought I loved my eating disorder. I grieve it still, too.
And I grieve it presently when simple tasks like trying on clothes – feel daunting.
I miss the ease I had, in the final years, when clothes felt flattering (well, sometimes at least – cause in an eating disorder, you never feel great about yourself) and I felt controlled and elitist for not eating.
I wish recovery people like me opened up more about the grief:
Maybe we don’t because people find it too triggering. And if I trigger you here today, I’m sorry.
I am just a girl writing out her life.
Living, despite it all –
I read this post the other day:
“None of us are getting out of here alive, so please stop treating yourself like an afterthought.
Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine.
Jump in the ocean. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird.
There is no time for anything else.”
And those perspectives resonate – so I thought I’d pass it along.
Usually, I try to end these things with some big glob of perspective about why recovery is a beacon in a dark place.
But, I don’t really have anything like that today – and I suppose, in a sense, I’m proud that I can admit that. It’s easy to feel a push to tie life up with a pretty little bow.
But, how awfully bland.
As I’m reminded again in moments like these:
I’m just a human, messy:
Becoming who I am not by mistake – but by carrying on anyway.
And hopefully you relate, and maybe feel less alone.
If you do – tell me, cause I’d like to feel less alone too. Thank you always for your years of reading.
As I sit here, french toast and scrambled eggs and bacon headed my way:
I know I will eat them; carry on despite.
To the boy I loved once before:
Maybe one day I’ll have the chance to say:
Look how we’ve grown –
Into two completely different souls of our own.