onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “anorexic thinking”

Killing me softly

I have been having a very emotional week.

I was talking to a friend of mine recently. The one with the button that says “Give A S***.” She said to me, “Every time I don’t eat a piece of chocolate cake, a little part of me dies inside.”

It has been a while since not eating cake made me cry. Many years, in fact. But there are things that are like giving up sugar, actions outside of my comfort zone, that are little deaths.

Giving up sugar was the biggest step I have taken on a journey I started long ago. I knew some time in my youth that I wanted to get better. I wanted to grow and change. I wouldn’t understand until many years later, but ultimately, what I was looking for was peace. Serenity. What I wanted was to rest easy, knowing that I was being the best person I could be.

But every time I get better, the girl I was dies. And while I certainly choose it, a life of little deaths can be decidedly uncomfortable.

So it turns out that driving is one of the more painful undertakings of my life.

My first lesson was just a few days ago. And since then, I have cried a lot over it. I am crying while I type this. This is the death of a very young and tender part of myself. This part of me I’m killing may be even younger than my sugar addict.

I was not terrible at driving, but I wasn’t good either. And that is kind of hard on me. I am used to being good at things quickly and without much effort. Even giving up sugar was relatively natural to me. Vigilance, perfectionism and being single-focused are things I am exceptional at. Being aware of four directions at once, remembering a whole new set of rules, and figuring out how the machine I’m controlling responds to my touch, is a lot of information to process. I find it overwhelming. It makes me anxious. It makes me cry. Either way, both giving up sugar and starting to learn to drive have made me feel raw and vulnerable. Itchy. Like I am walking around without skin.

These little deaths are not murder. It’s not bad that I am killing these aspects of myself. They were useful until they were not. Being sad or in pain does not mean that what I am becoming is worse than what I have been. But I have to be gentle with the girl in me that I happen to be killing off at the moment. It won’t do any good to kill her brutally. I am going to have to hold her hand and tell her it’s ok to go. I am going to have to let myself mourn her. I’ll still let her die, but ultimately, I’ll kill her softly.

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With friends like that, who needs enemies?

Last week, I learned about the existence of something that I found deeply upsetting. (This is gross hyperbole, by the way.) And I had to decide if I wanted to write about it here. Because I didn’t want to give it publicity. Or help steer people toward it.

But I realized pretty quickly that I needed to write about it. Because it exists. And my responsibility is to tell my truth. Not to shield others from reality.

This thing I’m referring to is something called Pro-Ana. As in pro-anorexia. As in “all for starving yourself as a means to be as thin as possible in order to be beautiful.” There are people who refer to anorexia as Ana, and often personify the disease. Like I’m hanging out with my friend Ana. She’s the only one who understands me.

Obviously, this creates a visceral reaction in me. When I looked into it, I immediately became an unsettling mix of angry, nauseous, and down-right terrified. And that kind of knee-jerk response makes me want to spout off. It makes me want to say cruel, sick things. It makes me want to lash out at these people, and verbally attack them where they are weakest. Because I know where they are weakest. It is where I, too, am weakest, and most afraid.

But I’m not going to do that today. Today, I am going to talk about disease. I am going to talk about the ways eating disorders affected my spirit and my mind. The way they ruined my life. Until I found out how to deal with them. I figured out how to control my eating disorders. Not “myself”, or my weight, or my eating. I did eventually get control of all of those things. But first I had to get control of the disease. The spiritual, mental and emotional sickness.

I’m not going to spout about health and beauty. Because to focus (attack) on health and beauty is to imply that I would like to deny people their own standards and opinions, their own choices, and their own rights to live as they want to live.

And the terrified girl inside me does want that. Wants to say that pro-ana should not be allowed. Wants to vilify the people who are creating blogs and websites promoting eating disorders, giving tips and tricks for how to be better at starving and/or purging, and glorifying extreme weight-loss with pictures and stories.

But I don’t get on my high horse when it comes to smoking, or drinking alcohol, or drug use. I have respect for healthy people’s life choices, and sympathy for people living in addiction.

But eating disorders revolve around obsession. They eliminate even the opportunity for satisfaction. And they lead to deeper and deeper self-involvement that leads, not to self-love, but to self-loathing.

I have been morbidly obese. But I have also been a bulimic, an exercise-bulimic, and a laxative abuser, among other things. I have less experience with anorexia, but I have some. I have gone through short periods of starvation. And I have gone through periods where I restricted to the point of shutting down my body. Eating only egg whites and raw vegetables. Not eating any fat. So that I stopped getting my period. And ended up so bloated that people started asking me if I were pregnant.

I went to a gynecologist when my period didn’t come for 3 or 4 months. She asked me how and what I was eating. I was secretive and dishonest. I wanted my period to come back. I wanted her to fix me. Even though I knew that the problem was the way I was and wasn’t eating.

She could never understand. I had been so fat. I could never go back there again. I needed to lose more weight. I just needed her to make me start menstruating again. It was none of her business what I was or wasn’t eating.

She put me on birth control pills. That made me get my period again. But it didn’t stop the bloating. And it didn’t stop me from feeling out of control, and crazy. It didn’t bring me the peace I wanted. I wanted my period to come back because I wanted to be assured that I was ok. But I was not ok.

So then I went on a 6 day green juice fast. I had nothing to eat for 6 days. I drank 3 green vegetable juices a day from a juice bar. That made me feel fantastic! It made me feel powerful, and in control and like master of my weight and body. It made me lose all of the water that I had been carrying in my belly. I think I lost over 15 lbs in those 6 days. And that triumph was followed by the darkest period of my life so far.

It led to uncontrollable bingeing. It led to the most damaging bulimic acts I would ever commit. It lead to the deepest self-hatred I have ever experienced. It lead to self-enforced isolation. It lead me to distrust everyone. I was delusional and crazy. I was miserable.

And I felt trapped. I couldn’t see any way out. I felt doomed. Either to perpetuate this horror of bingeing and purging and exercising and starving and striving. Or just plain giving up and gaining back the 150 lbs I had lost. And living in shame for the rest of my life.

One thing that my eating disorders did was allow me to convince myself that a certain weight would bring peace and happiness.

Of course, I might reach that goal. I did. A few times. And I would be happy. Maybe even satisfied. For a moment. But then I would either want more, or I would be tortured trying to maintain what I had accomplished. I’m saying it was never enough. I was never good enough. I was looking for perfection. And I was positive that if I were only good, better, worthy, I would attain it.

That is what my eating disorders did to me.

I can’t go on anymore today. It’s too big a topic for me to be able to handle in one post. Even having had this week to think about it. I’m feeling how scrunched up my face is at this moment. This has been painful for me. But important. I’m glad I got to write it. And I will probably write about it again in the future. But for this week, put a fork in me. I’m done.

Sometimes less is more. And sometimes it’s just less…

When I stopped eating sugar, grains, and starch, I did a lot of things to get by. I chewed packs and packs of gum. I drank coffee and diet soda constantly. I put artificial sweetener in everything. I didn’t just put it in my coffee. I put it in my salad dressing. And on my fruit.

It helped. All of those things took the edge off. I don’t think I would have gotten through the beginning without the caffeine and the sweetener.

But after a while, the need for those things lessened. I haven’t chewed gum in about 5 years. For the past few years, a diet soda is a rare treat. I now use about a tenth of the amount of sweetener that I used to. And a couple of years ago I stopped drinking caffeine after noon. I might still have a decaf between noon and 1. But after that I stick to herbal tea.

And of course, a year ago I quit smoking.

I like living this way. I like not being a slave to things.

Please don’t misunderstand. I love artificial sweetener. I love coffee. I don’t plan on giving them up.

It has happened before that some person who is over 100 lbs overweight will tell me that artificial sweetener is bad for me. That it’s healthier to eat real sugar. And I nod and smile. Sometimes I tell them that I can’t eat sugar. That I’m allergic. That it makes me sick. Which is true. Just probably not in a way they understand “allergic” or “sick”. But it’s none of their business. And I certainly don’t mock them. Or shame them. But I do sometimes wonder if they see the irony. I mean, I’m in a healthy body with beautiful skin and clear eyes. I radiate “healthy glow”.

But then this week, I got mad at myself. For having another coffee shake. (Black coffee, ice and sweetener in the blender.) 3 instead of 2. All before noon. After I drank the 64 oz of water I drink every day.

I don’t know why I got so judgy. But I didn’t like it. That is not the kind of person I want to be to myself.

It’s true that I don’t want a love of indulgence to be the center of my life. But it’s not! And I don’t love “restricting” myself. It’s not about restriction. I mostly love the way it feels to live in a body with less junk in it. And I love “not needing” one more coffee, more than I love “not having” one more coffee.

But this is what occurs to me. This is some incarnation of my eating disorder brain. And it’s one I never thought I had. Anorexia. I never starved myself. I could never go long without eating. But just like the bulimic girl, and the fat girl, and the good girl who live in my head, there is an anorexic girl. And I don’t know that I have ever distinguished her voice until now. But she is harsh. And judgmental. And disgusted by my weakness. That I folded to the temptation of another coffee. When I should constantly be trying for less, not more. She wants progress toward perfection. Perfection is the goal.

And there is one more important thing I am hearing from her. Not important because she is right. Important because I need to distinguish her sickness. She tells me happiness is of no value. Peace either. Perfection is the only goal. To be attained and then maintained at all costs.

This is what I want to say about that. You don’t get a say, Anorexic Girl. You are not the kind of woman I want to be. Your desire for perfection does not impress me.

I want happiness. And peace. I want to enjoy my life. And the fluidity of it. The dance. And I don’t want to focus on what I can’t, don’t or shouldn’t. I have my commitment to my food boundaries. And to never eating sugar, grains, or starch. And I even have some guidelines around coffee and artificial sweetener. All of these things enhance my life. These things make my life bigger, not smaller.

Someday I might decide to stop drinking coffee. Or using artificial sweetener. (I said I might!) But if I do, it will be because I want to give myself something. Not to take something away.

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