Insidious Whispers and Deafening Screams

I mentioned in my last post the the dictator has been whispering in my ear lately, trying to convince me that a relapse into old behaviours wouldn’t be at all a bad thing. I mean, it wouldn’t be a *real* relapse, I’d just restrict and run and life would still run perfectly and I’d have no consequences for my behaviours, I’d just be thin. (Which is totally ridiculous and has never happened to date and, in fact, each relapse is worse than the last, so I’d probably be dead.)

So that has been floating around in my head the past week. Undoubtedly it is related to the stress of the new semester starting, my feelings of utter incompetence when it comes to my chosen field, my highly regimented/probably overbooked schedule, and somewhat overwhelming extracurricular obligations/responsibilities. It has absolutely nothing to do with the food, my body, my weight. Just the stress. (Or so Counselor-Jessica is telling Deranged-Jessica.)

Anyway, that is background for my tale, in which this whisper becomes a wailing siren call on Tuesday. It was the first day of class, so I was already a bit nervous, but our prof for this class is really, really great and very down-to-earth. (She brought brownies! And coffee! And tea! And stress balls!) Early on, she said that she went into counseling because it saved her life. So, ya know, same reason as me.

We were asked to go around and introduce ourselves and tell what drew us to counseling. So I was prepared to just say, “Hey, I’m Jess, I’m a second year CMHC with expressive arts focus and I’m going into this field because counseling definitely saved my life more than once.” For the most part, my cohort (the 15 students I entered the program with last fall) knows about my ED and treatment history and I’m fairly open about it. That said, I don’t generally introduce myself by saying, “Hey, I’m Jess and I’m recovering from an eating disorder.

I was, by virtue of the room layout, the last person to do an introduction. When it came my turn, here is what I said:

“I’m Jess. I’m in the CMHC program with an expressive arts emphasis and I am really going into counseling because it absolutely saved my life on more than one occasion. And I’ve been in and out of a few eating disorder treatment centers and had some really great counselors and some really awful counselors and hope to be one of the good ones.”

So why the mention of the eating disorder treatment?

Competition.

About halfway through the classroom introductions, a young woman explained that she was drawn counseling after her “five year stint with anorexia” (this is actually how she worded it). Alarms started going off in my head. The dictator started screaming.

I needed to defend my ground.

I needed to make sure that everyone knew that I, too, had an eating disorder.

I needed to make sure that everyone knew that it had been so bad I’d had to go to treatment.

I needed to make sure that everyone knew that I’d relapsed and had to go back again and again.

I needed to make sure that everyone knew that I was really sick. (Read: I was thin.)

Because that is just the way the eating disordered brain works. It’s sick and twisted, but my eating disorder still needs to be validated. It still needs that gasp of breath that people do when they hear how much weight I lost in less than a year, that look of pity when I talk about the tube, the almost-jealousy when they hear all the “bad” foods I got to eat freely in treatment to put on weight.

It pisses me off that I feel I so badly “need” this, even after all my time and work in recovery. It pisses me off that some part of me still glamourizes the eating disorder, some part of me still wants it.

I don’t need it and it isn’t glamorous.

It’s hell.

And I need to keep reminding myself of that, but damn if the Dictator isn’t loud these days.

Prepubescent Boys with Breasts

(Or, Eating in the Light of the Moon, Chapter 1 – “Woman Spirit”)

Last February, following 5 days of engaging in the symptoms of an eating disorder that I vehemently denied having, I told my counselor that maybe – just MAYBE – I’d be willing to make some changes.  Nothing crazy, mind you, but I might be willing to explore some of my issues with food and my body.  She stood up, reached behind her for Eating in the Light of the Moon and came to sit next to me on the couch.

We began reading with Chapter 1, “Woman Spirit,” pausing every few lines to check in on what I was thinking or feeling.

“Bodies sculpted by plastic surgery to look like those of prepubescent boys with breasts have become the standard for the ideal female body,” I read.

“Stop,” she said.  “What do you think of that?”

I didn’t know what to say, really.  My relationship with my breasts is a funny one.  In fact, I am so disgusted by the fact that I have them that even the word “breasts” sounds dirty to me.  There were brief periods where I enjoyed them (well, the boys I liked enjoyed them and I enjoyed the attention), but for the most part, from the time I started wearing a bra in fourth grade, I just wanted them GONE.

“I don’t know,” I stammered.

“I was thinking that sometimes I could even do without the breasts,” she said.

I laughed.  Maybe she wasn’t so bad after all.  Maybe I could survive this book and this shift in therapeutic emphasis, after all.

“Yeah, me too.”

—–

Four months later, I would have that coveted thin body sans breasts.  I could walk around without a bra for the first time since grade school.  I still thought of myself as horribly overweight, but loved the long line from neck to toes.

Johnston discusses in Chapter 1 how the celebration of women and their curves was slowly overtaken by the hierarchy of the line.  Masculine replaces feminine, angles and line replace curves.

Just this week in Body Image group we discussed the evolution of the ideal female form in Western society.  An interesting pattern emerged.  At periods of time in history when women are gaining more economic, political, and social power, the ideal woman is thin, thinner, thinnest.  In the early 20th century, it was desirable for women to have a layer of fat, to have curves, to look — in short — like women.

The Height of Victorian Fashion

(source)

But as women struggle for more power, they play small physically.

Just as the women are taking political power in the US through suffrage in the 1910s and 1920s, women cut their hair short and the thin “flapper” looks comes in to fashion.

1920s Flapper

 (source)

 In the 1960s, as women struggle for sexual freedom and gain more and more power politically, Twiggy appears on the scene, forever changing the ideal of women’s fashion and body.

Enter Twiggy

 (source)

The late 1990s and early 2000s see women increasingly involved in politics, economics, and government on national and international levels.  At the same time, the prevailing look in fashion is Kate Moss’s “heroin chic” — thin, emaciated women.  Prepubescent boys with breasts.

Kate Moss, the epitome of "Heroin Chic"

 (source)

We discussed the reasoning for this shift:   Women need to look like men to get ahead in the corporate workplace.  Women need to desexualize themselves in an era where they are seen as objects, things to be had and used.  Women need to make themselves smaller so as not to threaten the men they are taking power from.

Anita Johnston offers another interesting theory:  Our society is slowly changing into one that values even the LOOK of the linear over that of the curved, the round, the intuitive.  As women take their place in the sphere of influence, the only way they can be taken seriously is to conform to the society they are seeking to join.

     Women still live in a society where what is masculine, linear, rational, and logical is considered superior to what is feminine, circular, intuitive, and emotional.  Today’s woman is a round peg trying desperately to fit into a square hole in order to survive and flourish.
How does she do this?  By trying to shape her body into a more angular, masculine form, one that has zero fat to round off its edges. (p. 6)

—–

All quotations are from Anita Johnson’s Eating in the Light of the Moon, published by Gurze Books in 1996.  You can buy it here.

Choosing Love: Defining Beauty

Okay, a day late and a dollar short, but here it is – my definition of beauty.  I thought long and hard and finally settled on writing a letter to the girls I love the most, because it seemed to be the easiest way for me to frame it in my mind.
——-

Precious Girls,

I worry about you. I worry about the culture you’re growing into. I worry about the messages that you receive about what makes you beautiful and what makes you worthy. I know your parents worry, too, because we’ve had the conversations about how much we love and care for you.

But I worry more than most, I think, because I know just how hard it is to dig yourself out of the hole once you’ve spent so long believing that you have to look a certain way to be beautiful. That you have to match up to some “ideal” to be worthy of time or care. You don’t, I assure you – and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. You are worthy of time and care because you are here. Because you are a beloved daughter of the most high King. You are worthy, dear hearts.

And you are beautiful.

Your confidence is beautiful.
Your perseverance is beautiful
Your honesty is beautiful.
Your generous heart is beautiful.
Your humour is beautiful.
Your passion is beautiful.
Your faith is beautiful.
The way you love is beautiful.
The way you trust is beautiful.

Do not lose those things. They are more important than any physical definition of beauty. And while we’re on the subject of physical beauty, if there were only one thing I could tell you, it would be this:

“You are altogether beautiful, my darling, and there is no blemish in you.” –Song of Solomon 4:7

No blemish. Please don’t mistake this to mean that you are “perfect” in your beauty in the way that the world would like you to believe “perfect” beauty exists. We all have quirks about our appearance.

To say that there is no blemish in you means that there is nothing – let me repeat that – NOTHING about your physical appearance that makes you any less than someone else. There is NOTHING about the way that you were created that spoils your appearance or makes you unlovely.

In fact, it is those very flaws that are the hallmarks of your beauty. Your beauty is not wrapped up in the fact that you are six feet tall with perfect skin and blonde hair and blue eyes – though perhaps that will be true for you, and you will, for a time, get by with relative ease in this culture. But there will come a day when you will see a “flaw” – something that those perfect, airbrushed models don’t have – and you will be faced with a choice. You can either believe the culture or believe the One who made you.

There is no blemish in you.

It is the scars from the times you fell off your bike that are precisely your beauty, because they tell the story of how you got up and kept going. It is the way that your left foot turns in ever so slightly, showing your perseverance and strength as you learned to walk. The way that your nose crinkles just before you sneeze is beauty. Your crooked smile. Your curly, kinky hair. Your long fingers. Your short toes. Your big hips. Your wide shoulders.

Beautiful.
Beautiful.
Beautiful.

Take care of that beauty, girls. Take care of those hips that love to shake and dance, and those legs that are strong and powerful as you run across the playground. Spend time every day acknowledging that you are beautiful now – not five pounds from now, not when you get your braces off, not when you grow a few more inches – NOW. Because you are, beautiful, my darlings – and you have to know that in the core of your being so you will not be shaken when the storms come.

They will come – maybe sooner, maybe later – but they will come. And when they come, you have to be able to stand solidly in the middle of them and know who and what you are. You have to be able to look the storms in the face and tell them that you are a daughter of the King. That you are beautiful and there is no blemish in you. You have to be able to hide that truth in your heart and guard it with your life.

That is my prayer for you, sweet girls.

I love you.
You are beautiful.

Choosing Love: Facing the Mirror

Today’s “Choosing Love” assignment had two options, depending on where you find yourself in the recovery process:

Option A: Take 5 or 10 minutes in front of a mirror and get acquainted with what you see.  Ask yourself what other people might find beautiful about you.  Reframe negative self-talk when it occurs.

Option B: Post a few sticky notes on your mirrors complimenting your physical beauty, not just your fabulous non-physical traits.

Or, if you are like me and started your period this morning and feel more bloated than a body that’s been floating in a river for two weeks and want to vomit every half an hour, you can choose Option C:

–Glance at the mirror every once in a while and try to find something you like about your physical appearance.  Like, “Hey, shoulders, you’re kind of cute – and sort of delicate.  I appreciate that you don’t make me look like a linebacker, because I definitely feel like I’m pushing 400 pounds today.”

Spend some time considering that every time you attempted to compliment yourself, you complimented your body part and did not say something like, “Gee, I have really nice shoulders.”  Force yourself to look in the mirror and acknowledge your body’s connection to your mind by saying, “I have nice shoulders.  I have pretty eyes.”

Stand in front of the mirror and sing “I Feel Pretty” from West Side Story while imitating all of Maria’s choreography.

–Laugh hysterically.

–Take a few pictures to prove to the blog world that you are, in fact, crazy enough to have actually done this.

 

Is this slightly less crazed than the almond picture, Sarah? ;-)

 

Realize that some of the faces you make during your totally narcissistic photo session remind you of someone you love and who loved you.

 

I swear my Granny gave me this look all the time when I was being ridiculous.

 

–Count “Choosing Love, Day 4” as a success.

————

Side note:

Dear Reproductive System,

Welcome back!  I hope to never make use of you, but thanks for showing up to the party.  And thanks for deeming this weight a healthy enough weight because if I had to gain one more ounce I was probably going to give up this recovery thing altogether.

Love,

Jess

————

What about you, friends?  How did your mirror experiment go?

Choosing Love: The Art of Accepting a Compliment

Compliments:

Today is Day Two of the “Choosing Love” experiment that is sweeping the blogosphere!!!!! (or not).   The challenge is to accept a compliment and meditate on it.  I’m actually taking a class on the discipline of meditation these days, so the word “meditate” threw me off initially, until I remembered what we learned in class:  Meditation is the act of rehearsing something over and over in your mind, dwelling on it, abiding in its truth and allowing that truth to abide in you.  And while that seems like a rather complicated process when you could just say, “Gee, thanks” to a friend’s compliment and move on with your life, when you struggle to accept compliments gracefully, you really do have to do a lot of rehearsing and dwelling.

Case in point:  Sarah left a beautiful compliment for me on my last post.  She pointed out a lot of really beautiful qualities that I (may or may not) have, and yet the one thing that stuck out to me was this phrase:  “I don’t really know what you look like (except for a picture of you in front of a camp fire and you looking crazed holding almonds).”   Yes, friends, out of all the wonderful things she said about my heart, my perseverance, my dedication, my strength…I’m left thinking, “I looked crazed?!”

Gracefully accepted?  Not quite.  Which is where the meditation bit comes in.

I broke down her compliment line by line.  Sarah said I make people feel special.  I can think of a million ways that isn’t true – but what if it is?  What if I DO make people feel special and try my hardest to encourage them?  Sarah said she can tell I put my all into everything I do.  I honestly think I’m half-assing it most of the time, but what if she’s right?  What if I DO throw all my weight behind whatever I’m doing – for better or worse?  Maybe I don’t entirely believe it, but just what if?

Later in the day, a friend sent me a compliment by e-mail that broke my heart with its simplicity.  She simply told me that I was beautiful.  She complimented my cheekbones and eyes and said that I was a “fun-to-look-at kind of pretty” – not just run of the mill pretty.  I kept wanting to e-mail her back immediately and thank her – but wasn’t sure how, because I wasn’t sure how to accept it.  I wasn’t sure I believed it.  Especially not after a week where I’ve been mistaken for a boy multiple times.  (But hey, maybe that slightly androgynous thing is part of the reason I’m “fun-to-look-at” pretty!)  But what if?  What if my cheekbones are prominent and my eyes are interestingly-shaped?  What if my face, for all the flaws I see, is actually something beautiful?

What if these women aren’t lying to me? And why would they, really?  Why would they spend any amount of time picking out specific features of personality or face if they didn’t really believe they were true?  That just doesn’t make sense.  These are busy women who have better things to do with their time than make up fake things to compliment me on.

So yes, I had to use some logic.  But I think I finally accepted their compliments.  Maybe with some practice it will get easier.

—–

Lobster:

Okay, okay, so I sort of already broadcasted my punches on this one.  But guess what I had for lunch yesterday?  Lobster.  Snow Crab.  Shrimp.  And 1.5 Cheddar Bay Biscuits, which I think the pastor I was eating with described as “orgasmic.”  (I wish I were kidding.  I am not.  However, she was right.  Those Cheddar Bay Biscuits ARE orgasmic.)

The pastor I interned with took me out to Red Lobster yesterday after church to treat me to lunch and try to convince me that this whole “vegetarian” thing is ridiculous.  She loves lobster and was determined to share this love with me.  I agreed, and managed to keep the anxiety at bay until we were actually driving to the restaurant.  Luckily, I was following her in my own car so I was able to freak out privately and come up with a plan.  We got to the restaurant and when we were seated, I looked across the table and said, “I’m just going to let you order for me.  I think I’ll be overwhelmed by the options.”  (Not to mention the fact that, left to my own devices, I would order salad.  Zzzzzzz.  Boring.)  She agreed and ordered me THIS monstrous plate of food:

This was supposed to "ease me in" to seafood. Or give me a panic attack. Could have gone either way.

Did I eat the entire plate of food?  Heck no.  Did I try a little bit of everything?  Yes.  Did I enjoy it?  Yes – but I enjoyed the company more.  Once or twice I found myself thinking about the calories, worrying about the fact that my salad came with the dressing already ON IT (ARGH!), wondering how many calories are in those delicious, orgasmic biscuits (which I later looked up online, to be honest).  But then I thought, “Really?  I’m here with a woman I greatly respect and adore, who wants to spend time with me and I’m going to retreat into my head and worry about the calories?  F**k that.”

Then, in an attempt to further beat down the ED beast, I ate dinner.  (Thanks, Veronica, for the encouraging words and reminder that eating a NORMAL portion of food does not mean I get to restrict later.)  I took a complete rest day from exercise.  I wrote a letter to my body telling it that I was trying to love it.

Turns out, I didn’t die, the world didn’t implode, and horrid curses were not heaped upon my family.

Go figure.

(Oh, and did I mention that I did this on the same day that I found my smallest pair of jeans – bought when I was at my lowest weight, mind you, so it’s not like I should be trying to wear them all the time – no longer fit?  Yeah, I was an effing recovery superstar yesterday.)

—–

Other Assorted Things:

It should not surprise me, however, that I had a minor freak out today over five calories.  Five.  That is how many calories over maintenance I ate today.   (And, channeling my nutritionist here: that’s my idea of maintenance, whereby I overestimate calories eaten, and underestimate how many I burn in exercise.  I digress.)

I made some of the most delicious muffins on Saturday night.  Carrot-raisin-ginger.  Completely vegan.  Little morsels of heaven (can I say orgasmic again?  How many times can I use that word in this blog entry?).  I desperately wanted one after dinner.  I went to the gym tonight and while I wasn’t there for hours on end, I was there for a significant amount of time and worked HARD.  I pushed myself harder than I have lately, knowing that my half marathon is not all that far away.  I ate dinner after the gym — which was a fight in itself.  I desperately wanted to run upstairs and calculate everything my little spreadsheet to see how many calories I had left to “spare” for dinner and how many different ways I could fulfill that.  Ridiculous.  Anyway.

I ate and I was still hungry.  I took a muffin from the refrigerator.  I brought it upstairs to my computer and sat it down.  I looked at it.  I updated my spreadsheet.  I did the math.  Five calories.  Five.  Freaking.  Calories.  I suppose if I were really anal, I could break off a chunk of the muffin and subtract the five calories and call it even.  But I don’t think you understand how amazing these muffins are.  Truly – if we are ever in the same town, you should ask me to make a batch of these muffins and you will see their appeal.  Five calories.  I looked at the spreadsheet for the rest of the week – under most days.  I could eat an extra five calories and still come out under for the week.

But really, I just kept thinking of the precedent I’d be setting.  This week is going to be rough (more on that in a second).  Why start out engaging in ED behaviours?  Why not eat the damn muffin and then blog about it and vent my anxiety and frustration that way?  Why not write a blog entry where I curse like a sailor and don’t even realize it until I get to the end and then go bust out my crazy-person-emotion-sheet to decide that I am feeling scared, unnerved, sleepy and dirty?

Incidentally, the counseling homework that has the potential to make this week so difficult also involves my crazy-person-emotion-sheet.

My counselor wants me to spend this week writing the story of the night I was raped.  Taken advantage of.  Erm, whatever.  And not just writing the timeline of events (which I had to do with my last counselor), but writing what I’m feeling as I’m recounting the events.

Just thinking of this assignment makes me nauseated.

—–

Tomorrow’s challenge:  Make a “you’re beautiful, you’re loved, and you matter” playlist.

Choosing Love: A Thank You Letter to My Body

Yesterday, fellow blogger Sarah decided to embark on a seven-day journey to come a little closer to being able to look in the mirror and say, “I love you” to her reflection without, as she puts it, “crying, scoffing, or maniacal laughter.”

I’ll be happy if at the end of the week, I can look at the reflection in the mirror and say something like, “Well, body, I don’t totally hate you.”

Today’s assignment?  Write a thank you letter to your body.  And away we go!

———–

Dear Body,

I sort of feel like any letter I begin to you has to begin with “I’m sorry.” And I am – sometimes – for abusing you in the ways I have. But sometimes I’m still really angry at you for defecting – for having curves when I didn’t want them, for having collarbones that will never protrude unless I’m really ill, for the acne and frizzy hair that made me an even more awkward teenager than was necessary.

So, body, I’m not really in a place where I could look at you in the mirror or shower or even under sweatshirts and trackpants and say “I love you.” Maybe, though, it’s because I haven’t tried? Isn’t love a choice, after all? An action? Maybe I’ll never get to the point where I look at you and have the warm, fuzzy feelings that one might ascribe to “love” – but that doesn’t mean I can’t choose to love you and be grateful for you.

So thank you, body, for being the way that I get to experience the world. Not all the experiences have been great and some I would rather forget – but some have been spectacular and you allowed me to have those precious memories.

Thank you, toes, for being short and having toenails that all but refuse to grow. While you look squat and awkward in flip-flops, you also don’t get jammed up against the end of my running shoes. Because you are so short and stubby, I’ve never had to deal with half the horror stories I’ve heard from other long-distance runners.

Thank you, feet, for carrying me across so many varied landscapes through our years. Thank you for the bunions that are not so terrible as to prevent me from running and walking – but severe enough to remind me when I’m overdoing it.

Thank you, ankles, for not being cankles. Seriously.

Thank you, legs, for being strong and powerful. I often give you a bad rap because you’re “SOOOO HUGE” but the fact is that you’ve powered through two half-marathons, two 10Ks, and dozens of 5Ks. And despite the fact that I worked everyday for two years with a girl with cerebral palsy, I often forget that your very movement on demand is miraculous. You work, often without my thinking about it. Thank you.

Thank you, hips, for being perfectly proportioned for cuddling a baby. For having just enough space for the baby to snuggle in and grab on while we dance.

Thank you, stomach, for…well, hm. I don’t love you, stomach. But I guess I can appreciate your adherence to evolutionary biology, whereby humans carry around a little extra fat for days when there isn’t much food. So…thanks for holding onto the extra in case we’re ever in a situation again where I need the extra fuel. (And hopefully if we’re ever in such a situation again, it will be the result of some natural disaster, not a relapse.)

Thank you, fingers, for the way that even after a year, you know your place on the bassoon and can fly through passages as if I had been practicing them all along.

Thank you, arms, for bearing the scars that are my story. Thank you for reminding me that this is not the first dark night of the soul that I have experienced, that I survived those dark nights and I will survive this one, too.

Thank you, shoulders, for being the one part of my body that I almost still sort of like, even after weight restoration.

Thank you, lips, for helping me to form the words that I speak. Thank you for being a way for me to express what I’m feeling.

Thank you, tongue, for allowing me to experience the fullness of flavours in foods. Thank you for letting me try new cuisines and enjoy them.

Thank you, brain, for showing up to the party, even when I didn’t feed you enough. Thank you for bouncing back and regaining your ability to think about things other than food and calories. Thank you for staying just tethered enough to reality that I was able to see through the fog on the hardest days and believe that there was something better ahead.

So, body, I guess I have a lot of reasons to love you – and not many reasons to hate you and abuse you like I do.

So today, body, I’m choosing to love you.

I’m loving you by taking it easy on the exercise today.

I’m loving you by choosing to eat the food that I know you need – protein and lots of it – to help you rebuild after yesterday’s long run.

I’m loving you by taking a multivitamin.

I’m loving you, body, even if I don’t love you.

More or less fondly,
Jess

Tomorrow’s assignment:  accept a compliment and meditate on it.  So if you know me, compliment me!  And remind me to accept it gracefully!

A Letter From My Body

This week’s homework from my nutritionist is to write a letter chronicling what my body might say to me if it could write.  Or talk.  Or whatever.

We also decided that this week, I need to reframe my thinking:  it’s not about “how much I’m eating” it’s about how “I’m listening to my body and giving it what it needs.”  I’m really hoping that this makes it easier to eat.

I have so much I want to do.  So many things I want to see happen in my life.  An eating disorder is just not in that picture.  I have to fight.  I have to win.

—-

Dear Jess,

I’m really upset and hurt by how you’ve been treating me this past year and a half.  More upset now than during those years where you escaped to a bathroom or dorm room five or six times a day to draw blood, the scars of which I still bear.  That hurt, but I know that you were just trying to figure things out and I was merely a way for you to do that.  But this past year has been different.  You have declared war.  You dug deep into dark places and believed the  lies you were being told about me and decided you hated me and would destroy me at all costs.

I’m actually pretty amazing, if you’d take the time to know me.  To know me wholly – not just know those things you see as inadequate.  We have Granny’s eyes and the toes that you hate so very much are hers, too.  Yes, we have hips, but you used to think that was fabulous – used to think that it was the best thing in the world to be able to easily carry a child on your hip.  You used to take some pride when the boys you loved told you how fabulous your breasts were, how much they loved your curves.  And you loved them too, for a time.

I know we were abused and taken advantage of.  I know, Jess.  I understand how you began to see those hourglass curves that I naturally default to as a liability.  And I really do understand the logic that says that it’s easier to starve away the curves than deal with the abuse.   Easier to blame me, hurt me – than to blame the men who hurt you and move past it.  Safer to live in me if I’m small and unassuming, tiny and silent.  I really do understand.

But here’s the thing:  when you don’t feed me, I lose the curves, but I also lose the ability to do so much more.  I can’t run if you don’t feed me.  I can’t  climb mountains.  I can’t hop and skip and jump and act silly with your friends.  I know you love it when I do these things.  We’ve been through a lot together – half marathons, 5ks, 10ks, hours of rock climbing, backpacking trips, hours and hours and HOURS of music rehearsals and drama rehearsals.  I want to keep doing these things, don’t you?  The reality is that I just can’t do them if you’re not feeding me.

So we seem to be at an impasse.  Someone’s got to give and I’ll be honest – it’s not going to be me.  I will happily conform to your idea of beauty – slim, curveless, androgynous – but I can’t keep running and jumping and climbing if I’m working so hard to simply stay alive in that form.  I would much rather run and jump and climb and be STRONG – but you’re going to have to accept that I’m naturally going to settle in a body that doesn’t look like a twelve-year-old boy’s.

Here’s what I can offer you if you’ll feed me properly:

I will have breasts.  (Really fantastic breasts, if you’re into that sort of thing.)

I will have your mother’s hips.  They were meant to hold children and love and nurture them.

I will have big, strong legs.  They have carried us many miles across roads and hopefully one day they’ll carry us many miles across the mission field.

I will have short fingers and toes.  Seriously – no matter how much you starve me, that isn’t going to change.

I will have a soft, round stomach.  I am strong and this does not mean I am “fat” – it means that this happens to be where all the women in your family carry weight – even your younger sister, who seems to have accepted that fact.

I will have that hourglass figure that so many women spend thousands of dollars to get.

I will be able to regulate my temperature so we can go out without fear of hypothermia.

I will grow hair that is strong, nails that are strong, skin that is glowing with life.

I will have energy and be excited to go on runs and hikes and impromptu walks in the park with kids you love.

I will be strong, passionate, and around for a long time.  We will have years together – years where we can run and jump and play and help the Kingdom of God come to earth.

Please, Jess.

Please.

Love,

Your Body

Things I am Loathe to Admit

(In no particular order)

1. While I have absolutely no concept of what I weigh right now (despite multiple opportunities to get my scale back and weigh myself), I have the feeling that whatever this weight is, it seems to be the bare minimum for where my body will settle healthfully.

2. This knowledge means that when I talk to my nutritionist next week about the fact that I’m training for another half-marathon, I should be aiming to maintain this weight.  Whatever it is.

3.  I am training for another half marathon, even though I know that this is not conducive to recovery.  (As multiple people have pointed out, this whole “eat to train” thing means that I am not dealing with the core issue – which is that I do not find myself worthy of being healthy just by virtue of my being human.)

4. Looking back at my past few months of blogging and journaling has made me realize that as much as I like to think I’ve been working hard for recovery, the reality is that the whole thing derailed (aka total relapse) shortly after my birthday.  It just looks different now.

5. The prozac is really quite helpful in dealing with my depression.  Since trashing the stuff a few days ago, I’ve noticed the rigidity and compulsivity around food slowly returning, as well as the inability to move myself from the couch for 12 hours at a time (except to get on the exercise bike).

6. I really, really, really hate my body.  I am constantly trying to remind myself that even though I’ve gained weight, I was really too thin and the fact that people no longer look at me and tell me I need to eat is a good thing.  I am actually getting complimented more now than I was at my lowest weight.  People still tell me how thin I am and how great I look, but in my mind I am chubbychubbychubbyfatdisgustingblob and people don’t seem to understand that.  One of my best friends rolled her eyes at me yesterday when I told her how much I hate my arms now that they have a [perfectly normal and healthy] layer of fat on them.

7. I really, really, really want to get back to the weight I was at a month ago.  Even though I know it was really unhealthy.

8. More than once in the past two weeks I’ve wondered if it’s worth it to keep fighting this.  I despise the feeling of hopelessness this eating disorder causes.

These Hips Don’t Lie

I was lying in bed this morning, my stomach lurching in pain and revolt to a combination of pills I am neither proud nor particularly regretful of taking.  (Clearly, the monster in my head has taken back some control, as this is something I should be utterly ashamed of – instead, I find myself thinking, “Eh, it had to be done.”)  As I lay there, I was struck by the fit of my pants.

I adore pajama pants – in fact, over Christmas, as I tried to clear some clutter from my life, I found that I own no fewer than 14 pairs of pajama pants.  The pants I am wearing this morning were a gift for my last birthday.  Some girlfriends and I rented a hotel in the downtown area of our city, got all dolled up for martinis and nachos, then came back to the hotel and busted open a pinata. 

(Sweet tooth much?)

I remember the fit of the pants, the way the waistband left an impression, the pants ever so slightly tight.  I remember the shirt I wore (strangely, also the shirt I am wearing today), the way the fabric pulled across my chest, how the sleeves grazed my arms.

But this morning, I looked down and saw pools of fabric where thighs and hips and stomach used to be.  Fabric that lay flat and limp across chest and ribs.  And I thought, Oh, that’s what XX pounds looks like.  I lifted my shirt, examined my bare stomach, creeping fingers across, inspecting to ensure that the ratio of skin to bone to fat is ever moving in the right direction. 

Saw, for the first time, the changes that have been written on my body over the last nine months.  The new scars, large and purple and screaming.  The old scars, no longer stretched and thin, more visible to the eye.  The soft layer of hair that now covers my stomach, my ribs, my chest, my arms, my face.  The bruises, more each day.  The tired, vacant look in eyes that used to glow and laugh.  The pursed lips, constantly furrowed brow.  The hair that falls out by the handful, leaving bald spots and a receding hairline.

I walk to the bathroom, stand in front of the mirror.  Take inventory again, try to recognize this strange body in front of me.

Okay, I think.  Thinner.  I’m definitely thinner.  But we’re not there yet.  Not thin.  Soon, maybe.  Just a few more pounds.

 

The Greatest Show on Earth

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.