I have an eating disorder and it’s probably not what you think.
I am 39, married with children and pets, and I coach my daughter’s soccer team. I look relatively normal—not skinny, not fat—and I laugh all the time. Most would tell you that I give the impression of someone who has their shit together, aside from a terrible potty mouth.
I have an eating disorder and nobody knows except those who I’ve told.
The face of an eating disorder is multi-faceted and devious. You picture a girl who is deathly skinny, bones jutting. She nibbles on crackers, drinks pots of coffee, and is addicted to laxatives. Or maybe she’s fat. An overeater for sure, shamefully hiding away in her apartment, stuffing her face with cake and pizza. She tries to rid herself of it, but the weight stays on.
These girls both exist, but a middle ground exists and it is vast: an abyss of self-hatred and shame, swallowing our society by the thousands.
The behavior of those burdened with this terrible affliction varies greatly, but the thoughts and driving force are the same for many of us.
I’ll die if I’m fat.
I’m worth nothing if I’m fat.
I’m unlovable. I’m gross. I’m disgusting.
I don’t deserve to take up space in this world.
Shallow isn’t it? That I would throw the quality of my amazing life down the drain all for the sake of vanity.
Fuck that. It’s not my fault. I’m sick, so very, very sick.
I don’t make myself vomit anymore—no that was years ago and I’ve “recovered.” I don’t exercise compulsively because I’m “recovered.” I don’t binge on food very often, but still have my days. No laxatives, no scales, no diets no nothing. My actions look much like one who has “recovered,” and very seldom do I relapse into high risk behavior, but the thoughts…the thoughts are killing me slowly. They are killing me and so many others who fly under the radar because no one can see the hideous rot on the inside.
My days are laden with thoughts like daggers, poisonous ideas coloring the air around me. I see life through a haze of dingy smog, reeking of anxiety, shame and self-loathing.
A soundtrack stuck on repeat reels through my mind as each unapproved bite passes my lips. “Tomorrow I’ll start. Tomorrow I’ll be good. Tomorrow I’ll exercise. Tomorrow I’ll cleanse. Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow…”
Fuck you, tomorrow. I’m dying today and I can’t stop the noise.
What are you thinking? I’m dying to know. Do you feel my pain and suffer in silence, willing yourself to be better? Perhaps you see a shell of a woman, pathetic and weak, frivolous in her vanity.
No matter what you think, remember this: this is not a choice and I have lost control over the ability to have perspective, rationality and reasoning. The tide is sweeping me and my mates out to sea, trailing an untethered anchor. No matter; we are strong and seasoned swimmers—we will find a way…a way to drag this dreary, hazy life out to the bitter end, whenever that may be.
Someone once told me that “you don’t know what you don’t know.” I don’t know what exists outside this deep and seemingly endless despair. I don’t know what freedoms lie beyond. It’s been so long since I’ve tasted air that is pure and clean and free from disease. I don’t know what I don’t know.
I’ve started therapy, but I have a deep distrust of anyone who claims to be able to help. Falling from a place of high hope buries me deep, and relinquishing control of my sick ways feels like a death unto itself. Maybe in death and ashes and sorrow lives a spark of life that is new, a piece of untarnished and beautiful life, like a baby discovering laughter.
There is no answer to this problem, each of us must find our own way. Give into the tide, be swept away, and let the waters take me to where I’m supposed to be. A journey to discover the things I don’t know may just lead to a treasure trove of gold, jewels and sparking life waiting to be unearthed. Waiting for the taking.