To close out Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I would like to take a minute to share something I have been thinking a lot about.
What if eyes didn’t exist? What if where the slimy white spheres should be everyone was left with deep hollow caverns? Think about it, I mean really think about it. What if sight never existed? Meaning, you had no memory of what it was like to wake up and see yourself in the mirror. You had no memory of turning on the light, or looking out the window, or picking out clothes to wear. But it wasn’t just you, but everyone. No one has eyes. It is different than being blind because you wouldn’t wonder what sight was like. You wouldn’t be missing out. No one knows what sight even is and they never did.
A Day in the Life of Someone in a World Without Eyes.
You wake up. But waking up doesn’t involve rubbing your eyes or squinting at the brightness of the sun. Instead, it means stirring from a powerful dream, a dream deeply rooted in warm sensations of love and comfort and seeped in human touch, in human voice, in delicious smells. You were with someone you loved, sharing a meal perhaps, holding hands, laughing. Sound, smell, touch, taste. Images were irrelevant.
You wake form the dream. You get up, but own no lights because lights are aren’t necessary when you have no eyes. You run your hands along your bedspread, soft and ruffled, as you make you way to the door. At the door you jump at the coldness of the handle. In this world, you are more sensitive to touch. Not because you have more nerves responding, but because you are more present to the action. You are not distracted.
In the kitchen you stop for a moment. You center your mind on your stomach. What do you want? What would taste good this morning? Pancakes? French toast? Oatmeal? Eggs? The possibilities cause your mouth to salivate. You blindly, but with confidence open the refrigerator and seek out the ingredients for your favorite meal. You know what the containers feel like. You know the weight of the egg carton. You know the smell of the bread. You know these things because you pay attention to them.
You make the French toast without any fear or insecurity. You have no thought about the calories in this meal. You have no thought about the amount of butter you used on the bottom of the pan. You have no thought about your thighs and what the meal will do to them. Because in this world nutrition labels don’t exist. Mirror don’t exist. Scales don’t exist. Comparisons don’t exist. They don’t exist because in order to exist you would need the slimy white spheres back where you just have deep caverns. You would need sight. Eyes. Images. But in this world, those things don’t exist.
I have been thinking a lot about this idea because I have been reflecting on the brokenness of my eyes and, quite frankly, society’s eyes. I have been asking myself the question, how did I come to see they way I see? How did I come to flinch when I looked in a mirror because of the size of my thighs? How did I come to have an intense fear of the grocery store because of the thousands of nutrition labels staring back at me? How did come to see everyone around me in such a glamorized and beautiful light while I was just a “piece of shit”? How did my eyes come to be so broken? When eyes were meant for the same pleasure as the other senses. For connection and beauty. For love and form.
Without my eyes would my existence be less solid, less definite? Would I be able to experience the world in a four dimensional way? Would I finally become liquid, separate from the solid existence I once knew? I am just searching for a fantasy away from the pain that my eyes bring me. I am searching for another mindset that offers insight into a different way of seeing the world. I am searching and hoping that in imagining a world without eyes, I will start to understand the true function of sight. Not for obsession or vanity or fueling self hatred, but to see, to truly see. That is what I want.
Monday evening, I am in my class that centers around art practices in the community. For class this week we read an article about a group of artists that did a collaborative project with the Bayside community out in California. In this particular area there are three distinct ethnic groups which make up the population. In order to bring all these diverse individuals together, the team of artists centered their initial community art practice around food. For example, preparing beans in three ways that represented the ethnic backgrounds of the individuals and then telling stories reminiscent of food preparation in their households growing up. These scenarios lead towards a discussion with my class about food’s ability to bring the community together and build connections that previously were missing. I agreed with everything spoken about. In truth, food has a beautiful ability to foster connection. Sharing meals is a time for conversation and relationship building. But I also couldn’t help but start uncomfortably shifting in my seat as the conversation left me feeling empty and sad knowing that this was not the case for myself the majority of the time.
Our class is partnering with a residential treatment facility for men and women struggling with addiction. We are going to make art together as a collective and at the end of a two month stent have a show displaying all of our work. Our class has been brainstorming different ways to build connection among the group we are collaborating with and this article brought up a great idea of having food be a part of the first portion of group. The idea is to have snacks together as people arrive while checking in with an emotion and intention for the group. Everyone in the class seemed on board with the idea. “It would be a good conversation starter.” “Yeah, an ice breaker. Everyone loves talking about food.” “Everyone loves food in general.” “No one is going to be opposed to having snacks.” “I think it will draw more people to the group.”
And right there in the middle of the class discussion, I was sucked out of my chair and dropped into a clear cage posed as an animal on display, estranged and isolated. Because every head around me was nodding in agreement with the suggestions around food, the comfort of food, the excitement of food, and I wasn’t. I was sad and angry and hurt and confused because I couldn’t for the life of me understand how an entire room full of people could agree that food only held pleasant memories and pleasant experiences to be had. Because, for me, the animal in the cage, food had been the reason for disconnection. If I had heard in treatment that a group was offering some unknown snack at the beginning of session, I wouldn’t have gone. If a community was sharing memories centered around food growing up I would fall silent. The reality is that even being in recovery and starting to gain some distance from my eating disorder, when the suggestion of adding an element of food to our group was thrown out my mind immediately disagreed. “No snacks, no snacks, no snacks!” And though, I know no one could hear my thoughts, I felt that just the expression on my face and inability to participate in the conversation any longer subjected me to the clear cage in the corner of the classroom.
In class on Monday, I instructed my body to nod when needed, agree when necessary, as if putting on a show would mean that the key to the clear cage would somehow magically fall into my hand and I could unlock myself and walk alongside everyone else. But it is moments like this, speaking about food as comforting and connection provoking, that I am slapped in the face with the reality that my mind does not operate like everyone else’s. I am and always will be different and I can lie to myself saying that I don’t live in a clear cage, but that would be precisely what I just said, a lie. Because in truth there are clear walls that keep separate me from other people. I have an eating disorder and that means that I think differently and things that are seemingly normal and true for other people just aren’t inside my world. So I fall back on the conclusion that I am different and alone as I sink lower into my chair and fall silently away from my class, painting my expression blank, and praying no one will see through into the screaming conversation happening inside my mind.
There are two diagnoses that I have.
- Terminally Unique.
- Professional Minimizer
The first is soaked in a sea of irony because though believing I am vastly different, so much so that I am walking around in a clear cage that forever keeps me from other people, that I am unable to relate or even communicate, this statement just isn’t completely valid. But that is how my mind works. No matter what it fights to be a single entity in a web of two hundred million. Forever alone. Forever different. Terminally unique.
That first time I walked into a treatment center and was met with dozens of individuals whose thoughts were similar to mine I decided I wasn’t anything like them. I didn’t cry over cheese. I didn’t obsess over my body. I didn’t think I was worthless. I didn’t hate myself and use a number on a scale to try and give some leverage to those thoughts. I didn’t, I didn’t, and yet deep down I felt a part of myself becoming entangled in those dozens of men and women. And, that, this feeling of entanglement was precisely why I had to convince myself I wasn’t like any of these people. I didn’t have an eating disorder because if I did then I was like them. Then I needed help. Then I had these racing thoughts and self doubts and insecurities and fears. Then I was like them and I wasn’t my own and suddenly my little entity is woven into the web of everyone else’s whose minds are “fucked up”.
Fast forward to Monday’s class and I wasn’t like them either. I wasn’t because I had an eating disorder. Because on Monday I rewound to that moment in treatment, using this example for the reason to my separateness from my class. Different because I had an eating disorder. Then in treatment I would fast forward to classroom and work places for examples that I didn’t have an eating disorder, couldn’t have an eating disorder, never had an eating disorder. Because in life I slip back on my mental illness and in treatment I slip back on my “normalcy”. Always fighting to disconnect and become alone in my experience one way or another.
Bottom line is that no matter what the situation my eating disorder mindset likes to lock me back in the clear cage and convince me that no one could possibly understand me because I wasn’t like anyone else. When in reality the clear cage is translucent. It can be walked right through. It doesn’t actually exist. And, if I was really honest with myself it never did. Because no matter how “messed up” I may believe I am, no one is incapable of connecting with another person. It is in our very nature to connect. We are human and humans need other humans. So even if the food conversations gave me anxiety on Monday, I can’t possibility convince myself that I don’t have one positive memory around a meal that I could use to connect with my class.
Terminally unique is not a thing. It never has been and never will be.
Three ambiguous, allusive, and vastly complex aspects of the human experience defined through my eyes.
The body is a solid object, claiming space and desiring to be seen, but the soul, or the essence of the body, is liquid. It bleeds through facial pores, purges from the salivating mouth, and leaks through the saltwater tears, which pour from the body’s honest and inevitably exposed eyes. The body is a vessel, a casing, a vehicle driving towards a gateway. A gateway whose passage is necessary for the experience of touch, of smell, of taste, to hear, and to see. The body sheds, morphs, grows, transforms. Its lifespan is a metamorphosis, shedding according to the skin, which it newly falls into. Time is a collection of the body’s past skins. The skin is a display of time spent where the body is a subset of the soul, without which it wouldn’t exist, couldn’t exist, fails to exist. But somehow, the body doesn’t know the soul. The body is too consumed with the aspect of its vehicle, the solidity and tangibility of form, or the promise that when its eyes look into the mirror a reflection of its figure will stare back, acting as a reminder that it is known. Because, what is seen is known, but what is unseen is felt and that there is the soul. No one body can know another’s felt experience of the liquid dwelling inside it, pouring from it, leaking through it. The soul, therefore, must be accepted by them, by us, and by me, and when accepted only then may I be known.
The mind is a multifaceted layered collection of terrain only one has access to. Layers which interact with one another and can exist simultaneously. Meaning, the mind can stand among a mountain range overlooking jagged peaks outlining deeply complicated trains of thought while simultaneously swimming through a vast ocean, an endless abyss of never ending motion and fluidity. The waters become the strength, the assurance that the mind will never fail to communicate with the heart to beat or the lungs to breathe. Just as the tides won’t fail to remain connected with the rhythm of the tides. The mind is speckled with nooks and crevices unique to its own unseen experiences which remain separate, except under the construct of time. Because, the nooks are impressions of memories and the crevices are icicles of frozen moments in time. The two together, forever altering the geography of the mind’s terrain. What once may have been a hillside becomes a scorched mound with a single strike of lighting or a lake evolves into a raging river as the ground shakes. As what once was complete truth, as true as the beating heart, becomes a crumbling façade of false beliefs. The point is that the mind has no absolute foundation, no starting point. It exists as a subject to memory but with no beginning or end, a constant motion that ensure the interaction of experiences. But, a foundation is not what memory is either, but it is a variable to the disrupted geography. It takes the blank slate offered to you and marks it over and over again and as time passes the marks become molds and the molds become masses and the masses mountains and mountains give way to valleys so great in number that even the most dedicated explorer would fail to visit them all. The landscape shifts as experiences comes to fruition and there lies the formation of the never ending layered complexity of thought, of unconscious, of re-experience, of the profound ambiguity that is the mind.
Beat. Pound. Thump. The sensations ricochet through the esophagus and into the mouth. The heart sits, blocking the airway. A ticking clock accelerated exponentially, offering insight into the unraveling of moments. The heart knows when to displace itself and leap from the facetted casing within the chest cavity. Seeing something in another individual that reflects a piece of it, resonating with the genetic makeup of the muscular tissue is when the heart detaches from the artery in the center of the chest and sucks itself carefully through the narrow veins, into the hollowed chilled space of the lungs, across the empty cavern of a depleted stomach, and upstream atop the delicate lining of the esophagus, to sit and block the breath. Because, blockage of air is the sensation of shock, of awe, of understanding and, that there, is the unseen aspects to the muscle in one’s chest. It first moves in tandem of an intuitive sense that another heart possesses a sliver of knowledge that this heart has yet to acquire and there in the sacred exchange of this knowledge connection is built. Connection being the act that fosters the anatomy of the heart. The heart is understood to be constructed of valves and pumps and veins and arteries, a biological, written, and scientific understanding of a universal piece of information. Yet, it is also understood as the source of passion, beliefs, and purpose. Allowing the dichotomy to exist that the heart is both understood and unable to be understood. Being infinitely complex, displaying an array of responsibilities inquiring about the basis of human nature, and also the source of our biological understanding of how life is sustained for the body. Unseen and seen. Intuition among fact. Both being universally accepted as the explanation for the physical and emotional experiences which unfold in the dance through time. The portrait of such a carefully woven aspect of ourselves must be broadened past the definitive to expand further into the realm of faith, of breath, of meaning, and of purpose.
As so many of us know, this week is Eating Disorders Awareness Week. A very important week for those who struggle with eating disorders or those who have a loved one who struggles, to raise awareness and reduce the stigma around eating disorders. With that being said, I thought I would write out a few truths about these diseases that are so commonly misconstrued.
- Eating disorders are invisible.
They look like nothing. Anorexia is not just thin. It is not some frail girl with her ribs poking out and hollowed cheeks with a feeding tube stuck in her nose while she is being wheeled around the hospital. Bulimia is not some white blonde chick whose friends wait outside the bathroom door telling her she is perfect and can stop throwing up now and return to the party. Binge eating disorder is not an overweight girl who has no self control. Orthorexia is not the super relevant and super hipster chick with dreads and a nose ring eating only raw vegan smoothies and birdseed. And EDNOS is not the almost eating disorder. It is not the not quite thin enough, not quite sick enough. It is just as, if not more, deadly as all the others.
They are underweight, overweight, normal weight individuals, men and women, young and old, black and white, and everything in between. And, there is a reason why they are the deadliest psychiatric disorder because no one sees them. No one sees them because our society is too ignorant to know or care how to.
- Every eating disorder is unique.
Sure, there are similarities. There are diagnostic criteria that help to spell out the scaffolding of the disease, but at the end of the day I could be sitting in a room of a thousand eating disorder strugglers and not one of us would have the same problem. Everyone’s behaviors are different, everyone’s reasons for using them are different, everyone’s fear foods are different, everyone’s safe foods are different…
Let me try to paint a picture of the complexity of these disorders. First off there is a vast range of behaviors- restricting, binging, purging, laxative abuse, diuretic abuse, diet pills abuse, over-exercising, cutting food into a million little pieces, only eating clean foods, only eating packaged foods, eating only when alone or eating only when with others, the list goes on and on. And, each person uses a different combination of these behaviors. One eating disorder might choose restriction, over exercising, and laxatives while another might choose binging, purging, and diet pills. So, before you make these overarching assumptions that you know what an eating disorder is because you once saw a women on the show “Intervention” or because you read a paragraph about it in the DSM, think again. You couldn’t possibly understand an eating disorder unless you personally battle one or you have seen someone battle one and were there holding their shield while they fought.
- People in recovery from eating disorders are silent warriors.
People with mental illness in general, depression, anxiety, bipolar, etc., fight on a daily basis a silent war, a war within themselves, a war society has preached is not acceptable to be spoken about. For that, even getting out of bed when you have a mind full of the very demons you are battling with, deserves a gold medal. But, of course, no one acknowledges that.
Addicts fight the urge to use all the damn time. They have to constantly be on guard when going out. Will there be alcohol? Will I run into my old dealer friends? Will I be strong enough tonight fight my body/mind’s cravings? I am close with several individuals who are in recovery from various substance abuse problems and I have seen the vital importance of their 12 step meetings and of the chips counting days of sobriety. It is a daily battle, an ongoing battle, and a battle that unfortunately has to be fought among the shameful stigma blanketing addicts.
Then, there are eating disorders. Imagine having your drug of choice be the one thing that you cannot escape from. You have to eat to survive. You have to face your biggest fear/struggle/demon at least three times a day for the rest of your life. It is like putting an addict into a closet full of heroin and saying “alright now, remember balance is key. Not too much. Not too little. Just shoot up the exact amount that your body needs and try not to loose control.” It is absurd when put into that context, right? But our society is unable to recognize the magnitude of eating disorder recovery. Why does is take so long? Because it is so hard! Because you have to figure out how to become friends with, what has been for so many years, your biggest enemy.
And, that is only the food aspect of eating disorder recovery! This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the true nature of the disease. A disease of self-hatred, self-blame, body-shaming, and an endless monologue played by media that you have to change in order to be beautiful or perfect or desirable. It is a disease bred around traumas which lead to more secrecy and more isolation and more self hatred and more behaviors. It is a disease that offers nothing less than a cycle of destruction that will play on a loop until the body after so much physical and mental abuse, either dies or, by the grace of God, finds recovery. But the latter only happens when we finally start to recognize the disease for what it is.
Invisible. Unique. Complex. Ruthless. Insidious. Deadly.
Realize that and then maybe others will start to see the armor and intensive training it takes to even enter into the battlefield towards recovery.
Black and white become an enmeshment of grey. The black is beautiful because only in complete darkness does the authentic gift of the white become apparent. The white is beautiful for it showers me in silent cotton balls. A tangible experience of air that I am able to hold, able to see, and to collect within my body’s casing. It is a memory to the bliss that the day has to offer. I hold onto it for the times when night knocks on my door to steal me away once more. The grey is beautiful because it encapsulates both the black and the white, becoming the duality of life. It has the ability to hold both, know both, and acknowledge both. A perfect housing for the highs and lows when the mundane routines overtake our time.
Yesterday, was all white for me. Not because there wasn’t some grey and a heavy coating of black, but because I actively chose white to be the dominating color. The weather was magical. Nearly 60 degrees and sunny on a February Saturday in Chicago. That in and of itself laid the foundation for my day’s intention, white, white, white. Breathe in positivity and out the negativity. Magic. Renewal. Gone with the hopeless brokenness. The sun of my face thawed the icicles that had formed around my heart over the past week. Each step along the sidewalk, each sunray meeting my cheeks melted my insides a little more until the waters freezing my heart were leaking down my legs, leaving a trail of black and grey beneath my feet.
Since the beginning of my recovery journey, I have stopped believing in New Year’s resolutions. In the past, they have developed into unhealthy, unattainable goals set with the intention that when I failed to meet them I would have an excuse to beat myself up. Instead, I now make New Year’s intentions. This year’s intention being courage or the willingness to face things that make me fearful. The intention has yielded positive results so far and to further my exposure with situations that force me to practice courage, I decided that for Lent I would add in activities that forced me to be courageous. My intention for the Lent season is each week to seek out an experience or situation that has the potential to foster connection. For me, someone who is very shy and very closed off, this seemed like the perfect combination of fears and necessary growth.
Last week my connection was visiting a new small group. Though, extremely difficult I did so and the experience was positive leaving my Sunday last weekend showered in white cotton balls. This week my connection element was attending an alum event for my last treatment center. And, once again, though very difficult to channel my anxiety and attend, it proved to be a positive experience that then led me to reconnect with a friend which in turn led to a weekend full of connection and new friendships.
For me, the basis of my recovery is built on connection. If I don’t have that then the white days slowly fade away. I am left with grey and black and then slowly even the grey darkens and only black is left. Dark. Unforgiving. Heavy. Black. This is precisely why my intention for the year is so important because the most courageous thing I could do for myself is to pursue relationships with people. And, that act of putting myself out there is centered around fear. But because it scares me so much I know that is what I have to do because it is the presence of fear that shows me opportunity for growth.
Tonight I went on a treasure hunt. I do this sometimes. Wander around the city without direction or time constraint, seeing what little gems I can find while blasting inspirational, jams in my beats.
I am an alum to my past treatment center so I get to go to alumni events. No longer do I schedule into my week groups and supported meals. No longer do I crave the comfort of being told what to eat and when. No longer do I feel like I am splitting in two unless I have that space filled with couches and teary faces to validate my week’s pain. I am an alumni and I haven’t been able to say that in over two years and that is an empowering identity to take on.
So to celebrate I went on a treasure hunt because treasure hunts are special and only happen when the inspiration strikes me.
Staring up at the tall buildings, feeling the February air brush against my cheeks, my music drowning out any city noise. I was in a time warp, a liminal space. I was alone in a bustling world, one among two hundred million. I was here and not at the same time because my heart connected in that moment with my spirit. My spirit being the part of me that notices that my purpose is bigger than that which I see in the mirror. That my body is simply a vessel for this endless liquid that contains my soul and my vessel was flooding with the waters of my soul because I was able to open the lid to the bottle gifted by my spirit. I was, for a moment, overwhelmed by the beauty of this life, this world, this body, this mind given to me. For a moment, I was drowned in contentment with all that has and will happen. For a moment, I felt completely at peace.
These moments are fleeting as they should be. No person could sustain that state of wonder and connection for their entire existence and if that was their entire existence then it wouldn’t be full of wonder and connection. The experience of the spirit and the soul wouldn’t even be beautiful because it would just be. Nothing more. Nothing less. Because in order to appreciate these “mountaintop moments” which I experience from time to time, I have to know what valleys, dungeons, raging rivers, and vast canyons feel like. I have to know the good, the bad, and the ugly in order to appreciate everything beyond and in between.
I am an alum because I was once a patient awaiting an intake session, I am a treasure hunter because I was once a garbage dump, and I experience the filling of my soul because I know what it is like for my body’s vessel to remain an empty shell.
When I first walked into the room of couches and had a IV of compassion stuck inside my veins, they told me my eyes were broken. Distorted, sick, not right, they are a disillusioned gateway into the physical world. I said they aren’t because how could they be? I saw color and shape and depth and beauty all around, it was not what I look at from afar that was wrong. It was not my friends or my family or the strangers on the street that I pointed at and scream, but me, the face reflected back at me in the mirror, the one with the hollowed out, empty eyes and swollen cheeks, the one who seems to blow up the longer I stare until she was filling the entire bathroom. A massive form growing and growing, forever growing because she had to in order to contain all of the pint up anger and sadness, grief and heartbreak. They told me my eyes were broken, so I turned off all the lights to keep myself from catching a glimpse at that hollow child ever again.
The cycle of couches became routine. Kleenex and ensures, exchanges and process. They told me I was getting stronger and I could turn the light switch back on. But, when I tried no light filled the space because the electricity had been cut. The fuse was left unfed for too long. It was severed. No longer responsive to my finger’s touch. They told me my fingers were broken. I refused to believe them. I used to drive myself to the brink of insanity fighting with the switch. Yelling and screaming, kicking and punching because it should work god damn it! It should work! But time passed and desires shifted and I stopped wishing for the switch to turn back on and it was then that I found the real light. The one outside of my window. The ball of fire barely peaking over the horizon. The sun. It has been stuck there for a long time, failing to rise, but resting far enough so that I knew it is there and that there was a promise of light coming soon. They told me this was an awakening. I told them my fingers should work now. They told me they were still broken. To look at the sun and not the switch because my hand was not the answer. Outside of myself. Outside of my room and my switch and my mirror and my face, that is where I would find the fix. It wasn’t my eyes that were broken, but my heart. Only a whole heart could mend it, offering that piece it is able to share to patch mine enough so that it could remain beating. Outside of myself because everything inside is short fused and apparently broken.
My heart keeps growing despite the pain. I tell it to stop, but it says it is not me who gets to decide. It is the past hurts, the past memories, the past mistakes, the past highs, the past loves, that decide what size is required of the muscle. My heart is so large it was hard to house inside a hollowed body. So I had to grow. I had to eat and grow because I needed a space for that abnormally huge muscle. I didn’t want to, but I did because if I didn’t I would die. Not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, spiritually. I needed to grow because my spirit was very much alive.
They tell me my story will heal me. I tell them that is not the case. They assure me it is part of the journey. I tell them I would rather look the other way. They tell me that I have already turned the lights off. For once they are right. The only light left was the one on the horizon, the hope and peace, the one that is inextinguishable because it is out of my reach. That light is never ceasing and that terrifies me. That light shines through to my heart. That light is what is feeding the muscle and therefore has become the reason for its eternal growth. My broken fingers can’t touch the light and kill it. My broken eyes can’t falsely know it because it is far outside of me. Far enough that it is real.
I wanted to sit down tonight and write an inspiring entry about recovery. The why’s and how’s, the yes’s and no’s of my “unpolished journey”. I felt as though all my writing was austere and abstract, a gas like substance, hard to grip on to and even harder to define. I wanted to write something more tangible and, above all, motivating for readers, and quite frankly myself, when it comes to recovery. Yet, with that intention after three weeks of endless thoughts and ideas I was suddenly struck by writer’s block. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. My mind instead started to paint a picture of my real, true, rocky, recovery process. It wasn’t exactly the inspiring, ribbon on top of a pretty box message I wished I could give to readers, but never the less it needed to be shared.
The progression mapped out is loosely chronological and wholesomely true.
Finally lying my head down at night after successfully managing behaviors, only to find the eating disorder screaming about the feeling of my bloated belly and swollen cheeks. Of my mind combating with, “that is just the results of proper nutrition and hydration”. Of my eating disorder yelling back, “how could you let yourself indulge in such glutinous acts!? Tomorrow you have to get back on track. Tomorrow, or else you will just get fatter.” And I peacefully drift off into a fragmented sleep dreaming of daisy and rainbows and how much I love this magical idea of recovery….
The Middle Stages:
Sitting at a restaurant blinking back tears at the fact that my thighs are touching. I am trying to hold a conversation, while simultaneously panicking about the selections on the menu. I had wanted to challenge myself tonight. I had planned to get something I truly wanted (pizza, pasta, burger, etc.) The thoughts of my favorite foods were so painfully alluring, leaving my mouth salivating, but now with my thighs touching…there seemed to be no way I could indulge in such delicacies. My friends could, my family could, the stranger next to me could, but not me. Never me. Poor me. Terminally unique me.
I had come to convince myself that I no longer had a problem. Normal weight. Eating the meal plan. Minimal behaviors. But, as I excuse myself to the bathroom to cry silently about how badly I wanted the taste the bread in the bread basket but couldn’t find the strength in my sausage arms to reach it, I realized the problem was still there. Loud. Obnoxious. I started to wonder if recovery was all just some big lie fed to me by treatment centers to simply steal my money.
I didn’t get the bread and I didn’t order what I truly wanted and the whole walk home the disorder applauded me while I beat myself up for listening.
The Relapse Stages:
These came interspersed. I would be good for awhile and then suddenly my disordered friend would steal the driver’s seat. Either through a new behavior or a new mindset, he kept coming back, relentless and leaving me in what felt like an endless cycle of “getting better” and then “getting sicker”. It was banging my head against a wall. Chasing my own tail. Redefining insanity as I reached for the same deadly comforts over and over again.
The Done Stages:
I got really good at bullshit during my time in treatment centers. The bullshit came at times when I was there but didn’t want to be there. That stuck feeling was when the fact I was surrounded by dozens of eating disorders became, I am ashamed to admit, helpful. I learned all kind of tricks to keep me sick, but let me out at the same time. I played the game just like so many others. The one where I am actually not playing at all, but instead my eating disorder is kicking goals and shooting hoops all for the wrong team while I sit back and slowly disappear into the recesses of my mind.
The Awakening Stage:
Came to Believe a Power Greater than Myself Could Restore Me to Sanity.
Realizing the magnitude of the disease inside my mind, I resulted to falling deeply and madly in love with the idea of a Higher Power. Someone to help the helpless little bird I had become, someone to love me when I hated every inch of my existence, someone bigger than the eating disorder who could help me get away from it.
God met me when I was willing to meet Him. When I asked for help, truly asked. Not the prayer where my fists still desperately clench onto my eating disorder as I pray for help, but the fall on my face, arms opened wide, help me I am broken prayer. That is the one that God heard. And suddenly I began to believe in this recovery that everyone was talking about. Suddenly the voice of God, of hope, of surrender and let me, was louder than the manipulative, abusive, narcissistic disorder inside my mind.
The Real Stages:
Each day is impossible. Filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows because when the disorder was truly given up, I felt everything. Sure, even after the Awakening which unleashed the desire for recovery, I still had to return to the basics. Baby steps. Take your time. Relearn yourself.
I have a meal plan. I have a treatment team. I go to EDA. I eat and I sleep and I pray and I cry and I write and I make art and I talk. But above all, I think about concepts larger than calories, food, and the circumference of my thighs. (Most days, that is. Remember nothing is perfect.)
I am slowly coming undone, collapsing into a new alignment of the broken pieces I have been comprised of. I am transforming. I am in so much pain awaiting the beauty that is being created. And that is recovery. Pain. Change. Gain. Repeat.
My mind is shooting out words that don’t exist so my thoughts are unable to translate into anything outside of myself. That leaves me misinterpreted as a translucent sheet of ice, but, actually I am opaque and dense and dark. I am, in fact, as black as midnight, a mixing pot of anything and everything, a dismantling and welded together of, what are forced to become, paraxial pieces. My words are gas for them and therefore they don’t exist as more than a passing inhale, digested, used, and gone. But my thoughts leave my existence clouded by their chained estranged infantry to my god damn mind. My thoughts therefore become real through the debilitating power they have, the alienated existence they possess, the gas they embody which suffocates my entire reality. Thoughts that they don’t know, can’t know, will never know because the words formulating them don’t exist. Forever fostering a storm of intangibility determining an inevitable madness within because who wouldn’t become mad if trapped inside of their self with the compiling weight of words left unspoken? But the words can’t be spoken because they are created in the language of my mind. That language only exists among my thoughts and is unable to be translated to them because the words only make sense in the realm of my own reality.
So instead I abandon the idea of the mind, thoughts, alienation, and the failure of these elements to actually exist. Instead, I look to melt my heart, my many hearts. The one in my chest, the one in my gut. Leg heart. Calf heart. Heart Heart. A powerhouse control center for each pulsing activity which dictates my physical existence. My leg heart, frozen as all of my hearts are from a winter formed from years of manipulation, annihilation, culmination of false truths. My leg heart must melt so that the pillars of solid ice can become water. They must be water if I am to move, to run, to dance, to swim in the form that once was my legs. If I was to move now shattered shards of ice made glass would crumble beneath the weight of my frozen body and leave my face heart plastered against the hard pavement with the blood of my head heart pouring down the grey ground and steam forming to note the process of the rising temperatures. Warm pavement meaning the winter of passed traumas is gone and as a result leaves a pool of red leaking from my head heart’s icy center and a mosaic of painted glass surrounding what once was two pillars, my legs, my statue legs, my frozen legs. It was the collapse of the hearts that began the melting promising the future of Spring.
But snow is still falling and I find my mind swimming in the magic that exists inside each individual flake. Each unique, complex, different. Each with their own story and yet together is when they start of become seen, formulating a blanket of white which cloaks a dark and somber world. I walk in the snow, the flurries melting in my hair and hands. They are frozen and I am not because I am warm and I melt them. Maybe it is only within me that Spring is beginning to arrive and everything around me is still living in a never-ending winter? The snow paints me with wonder and incomprehensible excitement for the complexity of the one dropping the flakes. I look up with certainty that these flakes are for me because I understand the language in which they fall. It is the language of the heavens, of the universe, of the other worlds. The ones of angels and demons and God and Andy. The one where that which doesn’t make sense is real. Pain and heartbreak and trauma and illness, makes sense under the language of snow because the snow speaks of a collective beauty comprised of individual artistic masterpieces. So in the context of the white, even the darkest of experiences become stunningly beautiful. Suddenly the words which my mind is shooting out, the one’s which don’t exist, I can become exceedingly grateful for because it is through my comprehension of the language of snow that I come to realize I am living a four dimensional existence in a three dimensional world and that is a magical thing.