In hiding and out of hiding

My mid twenties were the years of food as the enemy.

I had trained myself to look for ways to ignore it, to allow myself to grow disgusted by it, to cut corners with every meal, to gently shave off what I decided I didn’t need.

I sent myself messages, again and again and again about the lack of necessity for most kinds of food. I taught myself that food (aside from vegetables) was deeply flawed. Fruit had too much sugar, brown rice was laced with arsenic, beans couldn’t be digested. Soy gave you cancer. Fat was simply….well….fat. Something to be avoided at all costs.

Three weeks into my recovery I had a phone conversation with my mother and she cried.

“I just need you to be better” she said. “What will it take to make you happy?”

I had no answer for that, but I did have a desire to make my mom stop crying.

I’ll just eat a piece of toast I thought. I went to the store, bought a gluten-free loaf, and put a chunk of it in my toaster. I carefully measured my almond butter and spread the bread with a thin coating. All the messages I had taught myself about how negative food could be flooded my brain and I tried to picture my mom’s crying face.

You need to eat bread, probably a bunch of times, so you will be well and your mom won’t cry whenever you talk I told myself.

I lifted the bread to my mouth and my hands shook.

I was deeply, deeply afraid.

10 (7-21-14)RGB11 (7-22-14)RGB

Every week I saw a therapist, an eating disorder specialist, an eating disorder support group, and a nutritionist. Part of me wanted to want to be better, and I was going through the motions, but it took years for me to actually put the theories of wellness into practice.

I was afraid that when I wasn’t the thinnest person in the room, I was no longer special. Without my smallness I felt I didn’t have a self.12 (7-23-14)RGB

13 (7-24-14)RGB

Before I was the girl who lifted weights, the girl who talked every day about the importance of body image and self-esteem, the girl who made her living based on the tenants of treating herself really fucking well, I was the girl with the measuring tape around my waist, the girl constantly stepping on and off the scale.

I was the girl who didn’t know who I was with more weight on my frame. I was the girl who didn’t really want to be strong.

And then, inexplicably, as my waist grew wider, my shoes grew a whole size and a half. I got two inches taller. I stopped having a wishbone where my backbone should be.

I was stable.

My mom wasn’t worried about my health anymore.

People didn’t look at me and wonder if I was restricting my food.

When other people talked, I listened, because I was no longer categorically plotting my meals all the time.

I didn’t do sit ups on public bathroom floors because I was afraid of my lunch.

I wasn’t ashamed of my behavior.

I had nothing to hide.

(Illustrations from Handbook Number One by Kevin Budnik. Handbook Number One is the first in a series of ongoing autobio comics detailing the contrast between Kevin’s life in 2014 and in 2012 when he was in therapy for Anorexia and Anxiety Disorder. The autobio comic is totally brilliant and poignant and beautiful and important. You can read all about Kevin’s recovery by buying the comic here)

 

Sunday Reading: The strength to love edition

I feel a little raw these days.

Not because things are bad, (they’re kind of wonderful in fact), but because holy shit, does life move fast. October is my favorite month, and also the month most likely to make me feel both reflective and nostalgic. My time in the Bay Area may be in the very beginning stages of wrapping up (like maybe in six months to a year I’ll leave) and that’s straight up weird to me. Once I moved back here (this is basically my home town) I thought I’d be in for life. Weird how that works out, huh?

I have literally never in my life wanted to own a house, but as a renter, I have to say it can be tough to live in someone else’s home who may not have your best interest in mind. I had a real reality check moment with my current landlord last week,  and when I pulled my head up from my humble abode and look at the prices around me, well, my brain just about exploded. California is wildly expensive!  (So then I look in other states, kinda let my eyes virtually wander the US, and it makes me feel a little crazy. Minneapolis? Philadelphia? Austin? Portland? LA? hell, I dunno, SEDONA?!) There are a lot of cool places in the world to go, but none of them have year round mild weather and an endless bounty of fruits and vegetables right at my fingertips. How does one choose their place when they are not necessarily governed by biological family? And how can we keep our chosen family close when we move every few years?

Things to think about indeed. If you have any ideas on where I should live, I would be totally happy to hear them.

NOW. Onto the links!

 

1) How to be a Good Bad American Girl by Anna Holmes for The New Yorker

Super Strength Health- Sunday Reading- The strength to love edition

This article focuses on two things: two of my favorite female protagonists ever, Harriet M. Welsh of Harriet The Spy and Scout Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird, and their authors Louise Fitzhugh and Nelle Harper Lee. It discusses Harriet and Scout’s relative contempt for femininity and heterosexual coupling, and their admiration and emulation of masculinity. The article says that both characters define themselves in opposition to the standard girly girls on the playground, and the grown up wealthy women in their neighborhood. The characters hate dresses, they’re loud, they stick their noses where they don’t belong.

I was incredibly intrigued by this article, because I would happily think about the subject of Harriet and Scout all damn day. BUT, I can’t quite touch my finger on this, but I found inherent sexism lurking as I read, and I couldn’t tell if that was in the article or in the books themselves. While both Harriet and Scout were absolutely stellar girls, girls I’d love to know and the kind of girls I work to be a role model to, why is the focus so distinctly anti-feminine? Why is curiosity, bravery, ingenuity, and drive portrayed as NOT feminine, either in these books or in the article? I certainly adore the celebration of a good Tomboy, but something about the writing here seemed strange. Thoughts?

2) Vegan Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes by Melissa King at My Whole Food Life  

Super Strength Health- Sunday Reading- The strength to love edition 1

My totally awesome and beautiful friend Ariel made me my first pumpkin pie of the season last week, and I want many MANY more before the new year hits. This recipe is totally next in my queue.

3) Self-Love: Part 1, The Body by Raechel at Rebel Grrl Living 

Super Strength Health- Sunday Reading- The strength to love edition 2

Raechel is my blogger soul sister, and like many of the things she has written, this article had me in tears.

There is something so incredibly beautiful, exhilarating, terrifying, and painful about being someone who was socialized as female living inside of a body. We are taught to fight wars with ourselves, to whittle ourselves down, to carve away at ourselves. We are taught that our bodies are simply wrong, as far as I can tell, pretty much no matter what. I’ve struggled with my thighs, my hips, my butt, my nose, my boobs, for much of my life. These things, I’ve been sure in the past were all JUST TOO BIG. and then I had the experience of shrinking, of watching the number on the scale go down, of my hips, butt, thighs and boobs disappearing (the nose was still big, not much you can do about that) and STILL I felt too, too, too…..something. Too skinny, too stupid to just take care of myself, too tired to put any effort in. The pain of the body is real, my dudes, and from where I sit today, I can say that the excitment of the body is real, too. It’s just a process. Raechel writes about this process beautifully.

4) I Have Feared White Men and I Have Loved Them by Roxanne Gay for The New Statesman 

Super Strength Health- Sunday Reading- The strength to love edition 3

This piece really got me. The discussion of the complexities of loving different kinds of people, paired with the strong female voice….total perfection.

5) Dying to be me by Anita Moorjani at TEDx Bay Area 

Maybe I’ve been on the west coast too long, but it seems to me that when people walk around hating themselves all the time, it proliferates and makes everything around you that much more hatable. This talk discusses self-love as a life or death situation, and it’s totally intense and inspiring.

Have a wonderful weekend!