"This is the weird aftermath, when it is not exactly over, and yet you have given it up. You go back and forth in your head, often, about giving it up. It's hard to understand, when you are sitting there in your chair, having breakfast or whatever, that giving it up is stronger than holding on, that 'letting yourself go' could mean you have succeeded rather than failed. You eat your goddamn Cheerios and bicker with the bitch in your head that keeps telling you you're fat and weak: Shut up, you say, I'm busy, leave me alone. When she leaves you alone, there's a silence and a solitude that will take some getting used to. You will miss her sometimes. There is, in the end, the letting go." ~Marya HornbacherI want to say that most people in my life know that I've struggled on and off with an eating disorder for a while now, but I also want to say that might not be the case anymore. I stopped caring a long time ago about people knowing, but real life has happened to me and I've met wonderful people from things not having anything to do with death and sometimes - most of the time - it just doesn't come up. I guess I'm...moving on? Or something like that.
It's been two and a half years since I got out of the hospital and made the decision - without much thought - to stop being annoying and "take a break" from killing myself slowly and painfully. It's been a long two and a half years. Certainly a progression, and I hope that if you've known me throughout it all, you see that.
During that time I did some fun and crazy things. I left the country three times, loved women as they (always triumphantly) pushed their babies out, chopped all my hair off and then let it grow back, wrote and performed a piano composition, made a ton of new friends because I started talking to people again, tried breast milk for the first time since I was a toddler (and no I'm not telling you whose it was), volunteered as a barista, ironically played a bulimic in a skit, played an obnoxious Jewish angel with pink hair in another skit, dissected a cat, saw Sara Groves live, had the most amazing night ever on my friend Lauren's front porch and Peace Valley Park, started this blog, smoked a few cigarettes (I mostly regret that), appeared on the local news, organized a benefit show and a community baby shower and a rally, started a business, became a hippie, had one of the most spectacular weeks of my life in Hippietown USA (also known as The Farm) where I learned a few cool things like how to measure a cervix without even seeing it and how to determine what position a baby is in at that particular moment by feeling his mom's belly, dropped the F-bomb loudly on a roller coaster (hint: that's uncharacteristic of me), got tattooed and pierced, started to dread my hair, began liking things like eggs and coconut and spinach (I previously refused to eat those), worshiped God in spirit and in truth, performed in two choirs and three plays, gave a public speech while sitting on a friend's birthing ball, started college, and pretty much became a completely different person. All the while assuring myself it was okay, I was allowed to enjoy life because the eating disorder was right there waiting for me whenever I decided I wanted to access it again. And I did access it a few times - incredibly briefly - before deciding that was enough of that, it wasn't fun or interesting like everything else I was doing. But eventually it would be, so I'd go back to it then.
That thinking got annoying after a while.
And, well, that break never ended. And I'm starting to think it never will. And that maybe that's okay. Good, even.
Actually, it has really sucked in some ways. I didn't think it would take this long. On several occasions I've whined, ohh the temptation, why can't it go away, ohh my life sucks waahh. At least half of the time, I didn't actually want the temptation to go away. But sometimes I really did. And it didn't. I prayed and read the Bible and talked to people and looked in the mirror, trying to convince myself I was pretty, and tried to pretend food has always been a normal thing to me. But it didn't go away. For two and a half long years, it festered.
"The butterfly can just look back,It's not over. I don't know if it ever will be, if it ever can be. I wonder about that, especially since I don't really know what "over" means when we're talking about something like this. Am I going to forget? Never be tempted again? Always love my body? No, no, and no. But I'm okay with it never being "over." I'm just not okay with it silently festering inside of me, always, I'm not okay with waking up every morning and being greeted by a disease or sin or whatever you want to call it. And it won't and I won't.
Flap those wings and say, 'Oh yeah,
I never have to be a worm again.'
The snake gets tired of being him,
He wriggles from that itchy skin,
Leaves it lying where he's been and moves on.
And I am longing for something tangible,
Some kind of proof that there's been change in me.
It feels like I have been waking up,
Only to fight with the same old stuff.
Change is slow and it fills me with such doubt.
Come on, New Man, where have you been?
Help me wriggle from this Self I'm in,
And leave it like a skin upon the ground."
There has been no revelation. Some tears, and a bit of common sense, but that's about it.
But this is the part I thought would never happen. When I eat breakfast sometimes. When I make water kefir for weeks before realizing that there's no possible way of knowing how many calories are in it. When I think maybe it's time to start thinking about a recovery tattoo. When going to the grocery store is a coping skill and before I needed to use a coping skill to go. When I can eat in front of people I just met and be okay. When singing "I surrender" in church might have nothing to do with my eating disorder. When I consistently say "I had an eating disorder" instead of sometimes saying "have" and sometimes saying "had" and other times just admitting I have no idea what verb form to use. When I wonder, from time to time, how a real food lifestyle is supposed to jive with an eating disorder and then I realize, oh, it's not, because surprisingly, an eating disorder is kind of unnatural and a little unhealthy. When my body doesn't attack me anymore. When I can look at myself in a mirror and not really like everything but still say, "My body is incredibly thrilling because if I really wanted to, I could grow, push out, and feed a human with it. And do a few other cool things too." When I think and talk about random things like vaccines, dementia, my opinions, and the Dominican Republic more than I do calories and puking and death.
When I let go.