More and more lately, I find myself avoiding the mirror altogether. Let’s be honest, I’m not going to like what I see regardless, right? But more than that, it’s become an experience not unlike staring into fun house mirrors at a carnival.
At first glance, I get what I assume is a fairly accurate account of my body size and shape. Second glance, I seem to have gained fifteen pounds. And by third glance (which is, of course, more of a lingering stare), I am literally watching my body balloon in the mirror.
This last glance is, of course, the one that stays with me through the day and I walk through the day convinced that I am obese, even if I know that’s not the case. I think the tug-of-war between perception and reality is the most painful part. There is a small part of my brain still tethered to reality enough to know that what I’m seeing and what others see is completely different. But who is right? I’m not sick. Right?
My counselor mentioned terminating treatment again this week. However, not from the perspective of “you’d better get your crap together and start acting like you want this, kid” like last time. This time, it was from the acknowledgment that what I’m dealing with may be past the scope of her expertise. She’s got a fair amount of experience in the realm of eating disorders treatment, which is why I chose her in the first place, but she thinks it may be time for an eating disorders specialist. Or inpatient treatment.
But I’m not sick! I counter. I mean, I don’t generally like shades of gray, but there must be shades of gray here. I know I’m not healthy, but I’m not sick…not like people seem to think.
You are sick, Jessica. You are sick. My counselor says this in the sort of slow, deliberate manner that means I am supposed to pay attention and receive this information and allow it to affect me. I avoid her gaze.
But I’m not thin. This is, of course, what I really mean when I say I’m not sick. I’m not thin, not really, not thin enough for this to be an actual eating disorder. I don’t voice this, but my counselor knows this is what I mean.
She agrees – I do not appear to her “too thin.” Yet. This is the same thing the nutritionist told me two weeks ago – that I am not on the verge of being hospitalized. Yet. But my body is, quite simply, starving – regardless of my weight.
Because at the rate I’m going, my counselor notes, we’re only weeks or months from being “too thin” and too far gone to stay out of a hospital. So if it means not getting any worse, she would send me to inpatient tomorrow. I think to myself briefly that she gives me too much credit, that I’m really not as good at this whole “eating disorder” thing as she thinks.
Until my eating disorder realizes that she just issued a challenge.