How to Recover from and Eating Disorder, Part 2
Anorexia is not being able to look in the mirror. It’s cranking up the air conditioning in an already-cold gym and lifting tiny little weights again and again and again with your head looking to the side because the sight of the bones and veins protruding from your arms looks scary and wrong, and even you yourself don’t want to face it.
It is extreme panic paired with extreme banality, life as a choreography of musts that take all of your time and every ounce of your energy. It is day in and day out, wake, weigh yourself, measure your soymilk, drink your coffee, feel hungry, so incredibly hungry that there is no point in eating because you will never not feel hungry when it gets down this deep. It is eat your vegetables, remain hungry, eat your pear, remain hungry, drink your diet soda and remain hungry. It is closing your eyes to try to breathe through the hunger and wondering why you don’t just eat.
It is your mom calling you on the telephone and begging you to be well.
Anorexia is a fight, an extremely stupid fight, a selfish fight. You know this, but you’re brain chemistry is all fucked up and you’re scared of very very basic things.
Anorexia is embarrassing.
Anorexia is a severe fear of actually living a life. A life includes food, rest, running around, fucking hot people, focus, drive, friends. Life is showing up to birthday parties with gifts in your hands and celebrating other people. Eating the cake or not eating the cake and it not mattering either way. Life is quiet time, sinking into hot tubs and letting your mind go blank, enjoying the way it feels to be in your body. Life is waking up and knowing there is both purpose to your day and a chance of mystery.
Anorexia will have none of that.
There is no “enough” for anorexia. There aren’t enough sit-ups, or measurements, or regimens, or restrictions. There certainly isn’t thin enough, because eventually every moment is fraught with the reality that you will either gain some of the weight back or you will die.
Anorexia has you believe that both options are on an equal plane of terrible, and you will not know which one to choose.
I remember my entire recovery as making deals with myself.
I will get to 100 pounds, and then I will stop.
I will get to 110 pounds and then I will stop
I will get to 120 pounds, and then I will stop
When I see that eating makes my weight go up in a way that isn’t about the deals I make with myself, I will stop weighing myself.
It’s just too painful.
I will eat enough, but I will exercise manically.
I will take rest days from exercise, but then I won’t eat much.
I will sometimes eat a little too much, but then I will throw up.
I went like this, in my recovery, for years.
I couldn’t see that to truly recover, I would have to learn to like myself. I was so deeply ashamed of my actions that I couldn’t imagine a world where I had any sort of self-esteem at all. I felt guilty about my behavior, disgusted at myself in the face of my crying friends and family. I started trying to recover for them, to make them happy, to stop the tears.
One day I wrote down every negative though I had about myself or my body for an entire day. I filled six pages in my notebook and asked myself how I could recover while constantly telling myself I was a piece of shit.
One day I promised a close friend I would help her to set up her thesis exhibition. I hadn’t eaten enough in a couple of days and when the time came to show up I was so exhausted I couldn’t move from my bed.
I asked myself how I could recover when I was continually disappointing people that I loved.
I asked myself if the negative things I spent all of my time saying to myself were perhaps sparked by how disappointing it felt to let people I loved down.
Then, I asked myself a question, a question I consider the first real step of my recovery for me, the first question that spawned the recovery that stuck:
What is it that I need to do to like myself enough to be well?