A Letter To You, Anorexia

This one’s to you, anorexia

For you continue to change my life.

The last time I saw my best friend alive, it was 9:00pm at a house party at The University of Arkansas, and I stood there, in the front yard of someone’s house, backing away from him because I wanted to finish a run.

18 years old – our first week of college – he was visiting on his way to a Mississippi school.

Linds, he pleaded, reaching out for my shoulder. Just stay. Christ, don’t run.

I’ll be back, I’d laughed – shorts whipping my legs in the night breeze. I’ll run and I’ll change and I’ll come back.

It’s my only night here, he sputtered– yelling down the lawn with a red solo cup in his hand– his plaid shorts hanging at the knee. Promise you’ll come back?

Yeah, I’d waved, smiling as I turned.

And I was gone before he could say more – running. Running because I’d eaten bowls of cereal. Running because the ED voice was screeching – and would be for years to come.

That voice, so strong: “You can’t go back. No. You. You run.”

So, I ran. And I didn’t go back.

Later, I texted him.

Goodnight, I wrote. Have fun with the boys.

I’ll see him soon, I thought. I’ll make it up.

And then my best friend, who carried me to bed as kids when I fell asleep on the couch –

One month later – that pretty little boy fell from a tree, and he died.

For years afterwards, and maybe more years to come, I have found myself faced with the lingering consequence of that choice: “was a run worth it that night? Is anything about an eating disorder ever… worth it?”

Of course it wasn’t, one might say.

But, I believe, maybe, it was.

Sheesh, Linds, you’re probably thinking. Heavy stuff.

And maybe this should be the point that I take a backseat here. Speak only to the brightness in recovery – or how much more beautiful the world looks through my rose-tinted #recovery glasses. 

And hey, the world is beautiful.

But, I don’t think that’s the point.

I am here, like many others, to speak to the realities of life with – and after – an eating disorder. And the consequences and choices amidst all of it.

At the end of the day, my story is no different than most.

I have been in recovery for 5 years from a life-long love affair with anorexia, exercise bulimia and binge eating. I’ve been to treatment – been to outpatient – relapsed – and survived.

And, like many others, I still live in a reality where I sometimes have to remind myself what makes life in recovery meaningful enough to go on living in it.

While an eating disorder can provide instant gratification, I complained once to a therapist that recovery can admittedly feel like such a thankless task some days: a burden to feel so much without an escape.

7 years after my best friend passed, I found myself in treatment one night grieving his death as deeply as I did the day after I was told he was gone (because no one really grieves the first day. They merely survive.)

Is this how it’s supposed to be, I asked a counselor that night – snot running down my nose, as I laid in the grass. How do I bear it? Why?

Because it won’t always be this way, she said. But you’ll have to try it out for yourself to know that feelings just are.

And I chose, then, to believe her.

Why? I’ll never know.

But, 5 years (and a whole heap of sobs) later, perhaps I’m writing this from a rickety coffee shop table tonight to pass along that message, as someone once did for me – and represent proof that we are capable of living through the “hard stuff” and still recover, and even be content.

Regardless of which eating disorder, how long you’ve struggled, or how many moments you look back at your life and hold grief because of your choices –

You are capable of facing it – and I know firsthand that there is a day that you stop counting calories– and start comparing the differences between your “eating disorder world” and your “recovery” world, and acknowledge that the two seem incomparable.

I write this letter on behalf of my eating disorder and my best friend tonight, because without that pain in my life – how would I have ever known that grief, guilt, sentiment, and joy are all quite capable of living hand-in-hand; intertwined even – and still make for a full, rounded life.

No matter what you’ve done in your eating disorder, or the back tracks in recovery – or the sheer amount of times you’ve wondered “is this worth it?” and decided ‘no’, only to then again decide ‘yes’ – these are all merely choices. And you have the power to grow from them, and make a different one, tomorrow.

Sitting here, making edits and backspace taps to this letter, I know that all I can ever hope to do as a writer is make a momentary impact with sentences. I am certainly not arrogant enough to think I can change the intimate, personal world of someone’s eating disorder. I know its grasp all too well.

However, what I hope to do through these words is remind all of us struggling or learning to recover – that we as humans are simply a series of choices. And no one choice defines who we are.

The sheer number of choices – and the unpredictable outcome of each of them, makes recovery inherently difficult at times. Anyone who says differently is, truly, selling you something.

So because of this reality, we are always going to be faced with a choice to go back to the perceived comfort (and control) of our eating disorder.

And there will be hard days where it feels inherently impossible not to.

So, I think what recovery is at the end of the day, is learning how to live flexibly within a life filled with choices and uncontrollable consequences, and the grace to forgive yourself when those choices leave stains.

By choosing recovery, we learn how and what to think about again – how to navigate our thoughts in spite of the ED voice and the shame – and how to look at the multifaceted angles of our eating disorder, and stay on the outside of it instead of being hypnotized by its constant monologue inside our heads.

What we learn, overtime, is not only how rewarding the world can be when we are untethered from the eating disorder grip and the guilt, but how unpredictable and spontaneous and intimate life is as well – and how to think and stay conscious and alert to the triggers our world pushes at us.

Ultimately, my hope is that everyone in recovery finds their version of flexible recovery –

And that we will claim our successes on the days we wrestle with the hard stuff –

And be gentle to ourselves on the days we forgot how – as I continue to do, when I think of my best friend standing there, as I ran into the night.

So to you, anorexia, always, I remain grateful that you were part of my life.

You remind me – as I knock coffee out of the cup, and onto my lap:

I still want to be here.

I want to be right here.

Bradley, circa 2007

**Special thanks to Eating Recovery Center for asking me to write this letter!

Advertisements

Sh*t Rehab Never Taught Me: Part One

In December 2013, I was gearing up to go to treatment in Florida after 8 years of living in the eating disorder cycle.

In my mind, I had this notion that rehab was gonna be this all-knowing descent into radical self realization.

More or less, I expected to come out of it being Basic B*tch Gandhi… or at the very least, Mother Teresa’s sinful pseudo-daughter. Meditating on the reg – zen-like in feeling, and – of course – still thin because in my jacked up head I thought the weight I felt was “extra” was only there because I binge ate about as much as I starved.

L-O-L.

Continue reading “Sh*t Rehab Never Taught Me: Part One”

Thanksgiving Recovery Reminder: Diet Talk

Continue reading “Thanksgiving Recovery Reminder: Diet Talk”

“If I Eat That, I’ll Have To Work Out”: Exercise With An Eating Disorder

Oh, Exercise. The ultimate double-edged sword of an eating disorder.

 

^BUT MY GOD, HOW CUTE IS THAT?

People ask me every so often “What was the hardest part of rehab?”

Depending on my mood, the answer varies.

“The food, the confinement, the emotion overload, the disparity of sick people… the exercise.”

Ah, the exercise, I always land on – or lack thereof.

3 years ago, I was escorted into rehab (yes, escorted. Two people at each side in the case that I bolted… and ran to the highway? I don’t know where the hell they expected me to go.)

Anyway, I remember looking around the vast expanse of my prison-like surroundings, and spotting what looked like a runner’s path.

Circular, brown dirted and perfectly suited to run on during what I assumed would be many hard days ahead, I was relieved to see this silver lining.

“YOU CAN TAKE MY BODY, BUT YOU CAN NEVER TAKE MY FREEDOM (TO EXERCISE)” – the William Wallace inside of me screamed. (Side note: Braveheart, oddly enough, happened to be a fan favorite to watch while in rehab. We were banned from all trash television, as well as any movie baring nudity of any sort – but yet, somehow, Braveheart slipped the radar.)

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 10.09.13 AM

As it goes.

Continue reading ““If I Eat That, I’ll Have To Work Out”: Exercise With An Eating Disorder”

“Trump”ing Eating Disorders: Guest Post for My Blog in Light of 2017

“She looks old and wrinkled.”

“She was hotter sick”

“Someone should’ve told her she looked bad sick.”

“She’s so pretty.”

“Poor girl.”

“SHE’S AN ALCOHOLIC NOT A DRUNKOREXIC.”

“This girl be FUCKED up.”

“I’d fuck her.”

“She got an ass.”

“So tired of hearing about sorority girls with eating disorders. NEXT.”

“Someone should give that bitch a real problem to cry about.”

“I think she’s beautiful.”

“She has a nice smile.”


Oh, the internet.

A place I liken to “seeing someone else puking so you start puking and then everyone else starts puking” 2016.

Thanks for the line, John Oliver.

screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-2-21-32-pm

Continue reading ““Trump”ing Eating Disorders: Guest Post for My Blog in Light of 2017″

“Scale Wars”: Return Of The (Weight) Jedi

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-11-12-29-am

… Alright, so my Star War/eating disorder puns are lame (although I did get a good smirk imagining Han Solo with a scale obsession.)

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-11-17-36-am

Anyway, so the other day I had one of those social media Timehop moments. You know what I’m talking about, right?  It’s like you’re all well and good with the past – SAYANORA to the prom pics  – the frat parties – SEE YA MOPPY-HAIRED EX  – you’ve come to terms with the bad style choices – and then BAM.

A picture resurfaces.

Hello Linds, Timehop sings with its do-gooding dinosaur logo – DO YOU REMEMBER THAT 3 YEARS AGO YOU LOOKED LIKE THIS? Come linger nostalgically in my visual.

Timehop, you marketing bastard.

Side note – ever wonder how much easier recovery could be without the constant triggers of social media? Not that I plan on getting rid of it… but I do wonder sometimes. Continue reading ““Scale Wars”: Return Of The (Weight) Jedi”

“So, Does The Camera Make You Gain 10lbs?”: Being On Television With An Eating Disorder

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 12.15.30 PM
CBS Studio

2 days ago, I did an interview with CBS New York talking about eating disorders, drunkorexia, and recovery.

Throughout the interview, I felt calm, I felt poised, I felt eloquent.

I win at life, I thought. Woo – I got my shit TOGETHER!

Lolz.

Flash forward 4 hours later and I see the following picture:

CBS

!!!!!#)&@#(^@(!_%$!

ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING, I thought immediately. NO. My ASS. My THIGHS. NOPE. NO-NO-NO-NO.

That is NOT going in the segment, I hissed at my poor friend nearby. Not to millions of people.

My panic heightened.

Continue reading ““So, Does The Camera Make You Gain 10lbs?”: Being On Television With An Eating Disorder”

Anorexia: Everyone’s Favorite Eating Disorder

A few weekends ago, I sat around a campfire talking to a boy.

Get enough to eat? He asked, peering down at the paper plate of leftovers in my lap.

So full, I moaned – tossing it to the side in that disgusted way eating disorder brains have when they want to show everyone that they “know” how full and gross they are for, ya know, eating.

((I’M SORRY I ATE SO MUCH AND AM SUBJECTING YOU TO IT, we want to scream.))

Oh, ED brain.

You sure? he asked – scoping my plate.

I nodded, catching his eye. Why you askin’?

He shook his head, but I already knew.

Ah – my blog, I guessed. Took a gander?

I’m sorry, he said. I know I promised I wouldn’t, but I wanted to make sure you’d be okay.

I shrugged. You’re not the first, but I hope it didn’t overwhelm you.

He shook his head; his mouth opening slightly, then closing.

What? I asked.

I just, he trailed off. It was hard to read.

I’m sorry, I said. But hey, 80% truths. I write 80% truths about 80% truths.

He shook his head. It wasn’t your writing.

I quieted.

He fingered the lid of a beer with his forefinger.

I just- I went through this before Linds, he paused – catching my eye again. Brought back that time I guess.

I mentally slapped my forehead. Of course, I thought.

Someone close?

Close, he repeated – breaking eye contact. Yes.

He mumbled his relation to her, and then he looked at the ground. She’s not really, he paused again. She never got better. Nothing I did ever helped, he said. I worry about that with you. If one day you’ll just fade.

You can’t fix her, I said, realizing how stupid it was as it came out.

((I HATE WHEN PEOPLE SAY THAT. Like DUH, we KNOW we can’t fix people.))

I didn’t want that, he said. I just, I wanted her to be better I guess. I thought she’d grow out of it or something. I didn’t know it could get so bad.

No one does, I suggested. Everyone thinks eating disorders are a cry for attention.

He tightened his mouth.

I opened mine; nothing came out.

Sometimes saying nothing at all, I realized, relates more.

He leaned over; grabbed my hand. We changed the subject.

camping


Continue reading “Anorexia: Everyone’s Favorite Eating Disorder”

“No, I Don’t Want Any F-ing Ice Cream”: Camping With An Eating Disorder

This weekend was a holiday.

Here I am, 27 years old – about to start a bomb job tomorrow – the stress of my past 2 unemployed months lifted from my shoulders –

And yet this weekend I went camping – in the happiest of Ralph Walo Emerson places- and was still consumed by the inevitable eating disorder panic.

That moment that everyone in a car shouts “Let’s get ice cream!”

And you sit in the back, slinking into your Marmot jacket – trying to disappear from your reality in the back of a Colorado Suburu SUV.

Annoyed by the people asking – and then annoyed at yourself for feeling flustered in the first place.

June- fire
Camping grounds!

Continue reading ““No, I Don’t Want Any F-ing Ice Cream”: Camping With An Eating Disorder”

The (Secret) Life Of Eating Disorders And Dating

Let’s talk about sex, bay-bee. Let’s talk about you and me.

salt n pepper

JK Mom, let’s not.

This is the hardest post I have ever written, so forgive me as I deflect with weak humor.

I don’t write about my intimate relationships very often because it’s like opening up Pandora’s Box of emotional destruction.

Like we’re talking on a scale of Jim and Pam to Bella and Edward codependency – I’m at like a Romeo and Juliet (cause I mean when you think about it, both those fools ended it all over each other after WHAT, like TWO days? Shakespeare; the master u-hauler)

The truth is my relationship history is such a disaster that I cherry pick the romantic relationships I have chosen to talk about and portray in my writing. I do it with my friends and family, my blog, everywhere.

In other words, I’ve never been 100% honest about my ongoing relationship status because I’m always shielding something from someone.

Oh my God – I just said it. Wave goodbye to all the dates I would’ve had before this post.

hary met sally

Continue reading “The (Secret) Life Of Eating Disorders And Dating”