“I’m not eating well today. Idk what my deal is I’m so bingey. All I want is all the cereal in the world.”
She called soon after and asked if I’d like to “talk it out,” but the truth I didn’t tell her, and only admitted to my best friend later- is that I’d already devoured 2 boxes of cereal over the past 2 days.
…Even writing just that, I almost lied and put 3 days instead of 2 so that whoever reading this wouldn’t think it was as bad as the reality is for me and cereal, even now 2 years into recovery.
This last week or so has not been stellar in terms of my binge eating. I go months and months without touching trigger foods, but what inevitably happens is that I convince myself I’m “fine” (like Ross in Friends when Rachel and Joey start dating “fine”) and fall right back down the rabbit hole of my own ED delusion.
Two years ago, I went to a wedding, drank 6 glasses of wine, and wouldn’t take off my coat.
Earlier that day, I binge ate 2 boxes of cereal, threw up- and went straight to the gym with my dad.
I ran for 45 minutes- analyzing how many calories I’d likely thrown up and how many I could continue to burn.
It wasn’t enough.
When my dad came over to the treadmill, he signaled he was ready to go and I hopped off and followed him out of the gym.
We chatted in the car that day, giggled about the latest Bachelorette (because, yes, my father watches The Bachelorette), and when we got home I lurked till he was back in his room before I grabbed the keys and yelled out I was going to “run errands.”
My brother, I was later told, watched me pull out of the driveway and went back to my parents room to let them know I still had my tennis shoes on.
30 minutes later, as I ran cemented to the treadmill, I looked up to find my Dad standing there at the gym entrance- his eyes watching me.
Filled with shame, I stared back as he walked discreetly over to my treadmill.
“Linds” he whispered. “C’mon.”
We didn’t talk much that afternoon. I stayed upstairs with a bottle of wine avoiding my family and getting dressed for the wedding.
Anxious because I hadn’t finished running 12 miles, I hated the way I looked in that dress. I hated how much tighter it felt, I hated my thighs, I hated my arms, I hated my stomach and I wore Spanx that sucked in what was already bloated from purging.
At the wedding, I lingered near the bar.
Please take off your coat, my Mom whispered at some point when I’d gone out on the dance floor with my winter coat zipped to the neck.
I’m cold, I lied.
That night, I got absolutely hammered. I spoke with people I don’t remember talking to but have pictures with, I spent the last hour finding ways to sneak the grilled cheese appetizers in my coat pocket to ”eat later,” and I danced with sweat pilfering through my coat because I wouldn’t take it off.
Wine-dazed and dehydrated, someone drove me home that night and as I walked in the door I heard my Dad call me into the living room.
Shit, I sighed drunkenly. I just wanted my bed and the Cheez Its I’d hidden in the bathroom.
As I walked into the living room, I immediately noticed the two empty boxes of cereal on the coffee table.
Lindsey, he said calmly. What happened to the cereal?
Dunno, I slurred, my face reddening.
Lindsey, he said again- softer. Mom and I counted before you got here and we had 6 boxes of cereal and now we have 4.
I stared at him.
Honey, he whispered. We just love you.
Tears welled in my eyes.
We know, he said. Lindsey we know you need help.
I’m sorry, I heard myself whimper. I’m so sorry.
Did you throw it up? He asked.
My mom shook her head. We have to get help, she said. Lindsey you can’t keep living like this. We can’t live like this.
…Because 4 years ago on 11/22/11 I was a lil girl I can no longer recognize, and I’m going to enjoy 3 cookies.
“I’m tired of living like this,” I wrote then. “Can’t stand drowning in food. Just want to be a person; To enjoy a meal. To not rape myself for eating a candy bar. Need help Bradley, where are you? My god come help me. I’m tired and just want to be okay. When I look into a field I don’t see grass anymore. Don’t see the scenery. I just see a long treadmill made to run off what I ate this morning. I’ve made everything I do a way to burn calories, and the joy of life has left me in so many ways. Nothing is interesting if I can’t make it about weight. I’m 22 years old and lived like this for so long I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a meal; the last time I sat down and felt hungry. So far in and don’t know how to get out. Afraid I can’t. Can’t remember what’s enjoyable, only in theory. Was given so much, and am wasting it. Given looks and I cut them away; given a brain and am using it on everything senseless. Given morals and forgot how to abide. Can’t remember how to be apart of anything.”
Dating in 2015 in NYC while recovering from an eating disorder… even harder.
I could write short stories over the love affairs I’ve had in my life. Spain- Ireland- Germany- UK- Camping- Work Office- Subways- you name it, if I’ve set foot there- I likely have some tale of love and heartache that accompanied that experience.
Airports around the world have been covered in my tears as I’ve stood countlessly in the security line- waving goodbye to the 8-week “love of my life” that was standing on the other end.
2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years- doesn’t matter, I’m a love whore at whatever length of time. *Cringe, sorry Ma*
To be fair, it’s not actually love. It’s idealization, because duh, that’s the best part, right? It’s the non-commital. The daydreaming at your desk, pretending to know the future actions of a person when all you’ve ever spent with them is a night on a tarp.
I crave the heart-pattering, smile-inducing, neuro-transmitting 2am talks. The mutual friends who wink when they pass you talking. It is my personal heroin when I realize that another person is committing their night to being nearby me. I crave the instant attraction- the game of locking eyes till one gives in and comes over.
I love the moment you know it’s something.
And I love the feeling that you are free to leave if it changes.
In other words, I love the beginning of things.
The long-term commitment of relationships are often lost on me. It’s not on purpose (much to the popular belief of my family), but it is sub-conscious.
BUT….BUT… THE VALIDATION* My mind whirls when things get serious. ONE PERSON TO VALIDATE MY EVERY NEED. IMPOSSIBLE, my brain has always panicked.
Recovery is a lifelong process, sure, but what they don’t reiterate is that you’re still going to be the same person once you’re out of rehab. You are not cured of fundamental habits; but more you are just now made aware of them… and it’s your choice how you choose to learn from it.
I’m still not an ideal partner yet- it’s true. But, I also countless times set myself up for emotional tantalizing and torture by becoming involved with someone who I know isn’t going to treat me the way I want.
Some might call it karma (no doubt some exes of mine call it this), but I frankly think it’s me ignoring the reality of the situation… which is almost always ”THEY JUST AREN’T THAT INTO YOU AND YOU CAN’T ACCEPT IT.”
That being stated, here are 4 truths I’ve learned about dating in recovery… They’re honest, blunt, and my mother will likely hate reading this, but recovery is owning your truths and then learning from them. And these are mine:
Recently, I had an article run about wearing a bikini freely for the first time in 8 years. I wrote about the process of it and tips for someone if they wish to wear a swimsuit but are suffering with the same body image dysmorphia that continue to plague my daily existence- 2 years in recovery from an eating disorder.
People, I’ve found, are often not honest enough about this process- that there’s this long, snaking route in recovery in which you have to learn to respect your body after you’ve done heinous things to it. The years of fighting and learning to accept this body- the time you’ve spent growing weary of your own self-hatred.
Anyway, this article ran with my body on display. It’s liberating. Now that my half naked bikini bod is out there on the web, it allows me to stop hiding behind the self-absorbed “fear” of what people *might* think about my shape and figure.
It’s been mostly well-received with the audience- however, there’s a notable amount of “thin-shaming” comments and it continues to plague me. Why? Shouldn’t I be relieved that people aren’t saying cruel remarks about my body? The truth is I am to some extent. But it’s incredibly shorthanded and discouraging to read people’s notion of what “can” and “cannot be” body image struggle.
One commenter wrote “How disappointing. This girl is skinny,” and a slew of comments she’d wished to see in a ‘real’ bikini woman instead of me. Another commenter wrote that I was “seeking attention,” and another said “This is gross. She’s thin.”
Fat-shaming is not acceptable, but I must reiterate tonight that neither is Thin-shame. It is NOT acceptable as women to put “standards” on eating disorders. It is hypocritical and culturally fucked up- and yet on it happens everywhere.
I spent 8 years on the side-lines of my life. 8 years sitting on boats sweating through my clothes with my legs sticking to leather seats because I was too anxious to live. These comments are firstly shallow, but also strive to discredit my 8-year struggle in and out of treatment as though it isn’t a “valid” enough experience with eating disorders.
Do women realize the hypocrisy of their words when they do this? That when a commenter writes “but this girl is thin, show me a real woman” what she really is saying is that larger people should, in fact, be the ones to worry about wearing their bare skin on a beach. It perplexes me and it is a slight on all bodies.
Is it easier to be “thin-shamed”? Sure. Culturally, it is. But it’s unacceptable that people feel like it’s okay to comment freely about a persons weight in ANY circumstance. I didn’t write that article for people to comment on my weight (though of course I knew it’d happen), I didn’t write this article for reassurance. Yes, my naked-ish body is out there- but nobody reading that article knows the crevices of it like I do. None of them can see the stretch marks I continue to manage, the acne scars around my chin, or the skin I wish I could heal from sun damage.
I wrote that article for the millions of women/men who are also sitting on the sidelines of their own existence. For the people that hide behind towels and miss out on their lives just as I have missed out on mine. I am biologically thinner, yes, but that does not make me tone. I am a “real woman” too with the same body insecurity as anyone else, and I write honestly and openly in order to weave others together through the same experiences- not to have other women turn on each other and discredit that experience- and I will continue to take the podium for ALL women- of ALL types- who have suffered with eating disorders and the struggle to recover from them.
This is the girl your counselors warn you about; the one who has been there for so long that she has her own room.
This is the patient who wears the same outfit for 3 days in a row, and when sitting on the couch, puts her head in your lap as you run your fingers through her mated hair.
This is the patient whose clothes are streaked with paint because when she’s healthy- she’s a brilliant artist- and she often spends her free time in the art room when she can convince a counselor to accompany her.
This patient is the type to give herself a tattoo from a safety pin and ink while you’re at snack one day.
Is that the word DIRT, you say- eyeballs bugging out of your head- when she shows you her fingers. Dirt, you say again- running your hand over each of them. You’ve got to be kidding.
It’s a song, she says- her hair hanging in pieces near her face. It’s a good song.
You hold back when you see that she’s serious.
This is the girl who is delicately beautiful- you find yourself eerily drawn to- but know to remain cognizant and weary of her mood when she’s near.
You will spend hours with on her good days only to forget that she’ll turn the next and set fire to her bedsheets.
Did you take your meds, the nurses will ask her every morning.
Sure did, she’ll say- smiling at you as she drops the pills in the secret pocket of her skirt.
Take it, you hiss at her.
They’re trying to change me, she’ll say- on the days where everything is a conspiracy.
This is the patient who greets her parents with a “Fuck You” as they walk in for visiting hours- but minutes later is on the ground sobbing as she holds her mother’s skirt in the fists of her hands.
She is completely predictable in her unpredictability and often you wonder if it’s on purpose.
She is dangerous, uneasy, and charming.
There will always be one of these- though you’ll lose track of her the moment she’s gone.
2.) The Debbie + Penelope
Okay, so I combined them… but who doesn’t love a good SNL reference?
This type of patient is your Debbie Downer; the one who has no intention of getting better. Who sits in the corner with her hood over her head and when called upon to talk- gives the finger.
This is your patient who talks in group and everyone sighs because they know it’s about to be a rambling vile of negativity.
This patient makes it known when they don’t receive mail, consistently reminds everyone that she’s been in rehab more times than she can count, says ”shit” when asked how her day is going- and often chooses to sit alone in the community room.
This person is exhausting. Tiring to the point that you start to keep a daily tally of the negativity for no other reason than to drive yourself mad.
This is the person that all new patients make their mission to “fix” while you watch- smirking- from the other side of the room.
Sure, go ahead- you think- you were once innocent to Debbie’s ways too, but eventually you lost hope.
Sulky betch, you think when she slinks by in the hallway.
But then one-upper Penelope rounds the corner and you are suddenly stuck – frozen in place- deciding which is worse.
You see, rehab is a club all in its own. A sorority hierarchy of sorts where one is- at times- competing with another.
One-upper Penelope is just shit at playing into the blanketed social subtlety.
This is the girl who lets you know that her anorexia is more severe than yours. Her physical health in worse repair, and her bulimia more efficient.
This is the patient that walks down the hall while you’re waiting- wrapped in your medical gown- for your 6am morning vitals. Shivering in the hallway as the dew rests on the grass- you’re rubbing crusty sleep out of your eye as she tells you animatedly- borderline excitedly- that her heart rate is worse today than yesterday.
This is the girl you nod at and say ”oh shit” when she tells you- but are secretly signaling to your friend across from you to add this to the list of annoying crap this girl has said.
This is the girl you grow weary of quickly, but then feel bad later because you realize that eating disorders, in fact, make you bat shit cray.
This is the girl who revels in being sick, and in the end, you feel sorry for her.