Two Voices

I was on Facebook looking at my “On This Day” memories and came across a video I’d posted of me playing guitar and singing 3 or 4 years ago. This was at a time in my life when I was very VERY unhealthy but also skinny.

As I watched the video I noticed things I’d never noticed before. My arms were skinny, probably the best they’ve ever looked, my shoulders were cut and defined, my collarbones stood out like razorblades erupting from my flesh and my cheeks were sunken in harsh squares, a clean right angle from jaw to chin.

There are two voices in my head watching this video.

The first was horrified. Initially she’d admired the arms and shoulders, but the face so startled her that she drew back in the realization that she’d been admiring careful starvation. The video was in what I’d always thought of as my “recovery period” but I was so painfully underweight that, today, I’m thinking I may have overestimated my recovery. Or maybe, I just had a long way to come back.

The first voice wants to know how I had DONE that to myself. She wants to know how I could have missed the lank hair, the pallid face, the painful angles my skeletal structure made protruding against my skin. She remembers all the hours spent at the gym and wonders how I had “worked out” when I so lacked muscle, when I was skin and bone and not much else.

The second voice reminds me that fifteen more pounds and I’d be nearly in that range again and fifteen pounds is easy. A couple weeks of nothing but juice and an occasional handful of almonds and that face in the video could be mine again. My abs look like the after photos in BeachBody ads and yet I have this second voice telling me I could starve my way back to a thigh-gap.

This is the reality of eating disorders. They never go away. Even if you’re eating normally, and you feel in control. Even if you’re happy with the way you look. There is something in you that CRAVES starvation, purging, overexercising. The desire to punish yourself, mold yourself, shrink until you disappear never goes away. You just learn to ignore it.

I learned to get angry at it.

Probably not the most healthy reaction but finally I think I’m at a place where I can yell at that second voice to shut up. I can tell it it’s stupid and I’m fine as is, and that I do still have a couple pounds I’d like to lose, but that like the other 60 I lost, I’m going to do it the right way, so it stays off. So I can maintain. So I can eat cake on my mom’s birthday and sushi on a mini-vacay with Jo and not feel bad.

This is what being in control really feels like. I don’t know how I mistook hurting myself for control, but I did. Over and over again I took a backseat to my disorder.

I won’t do it again.

But this is today. There is always the chance of backsliding. The second voice doesn’t leave. It is patient. It waits for moments of weakness.

This is why we need to be kind to each other.

This is why media giants like Cosmo need to avoid posting unrealistic beauty goals like back and shoulder contouring.

This is why we need to remind our friends and family of the ways they are beautiful.

In hopes that it will help save others from this confusing pull in two directions over something that should be shallow and unimportant.

No one should have to choose between health and image.

Body Positivity Week

I guess this week is body positivity week. My Facebook has been absolutely bombarded with plus size models and inspirational quotes. The “Try Guys” from Buzz Feed put out a video on photoshopped images. My friends are all reposting BPW media and I see so much positivity being put out there but (because with me there is always a but):

I have an eating disorder.

And because it’s body positivity week, it’s somehow appropriate for all these people to come out of the woodwork and haphazardly post about how they “had” an eating disorder because society, the media, photoshop, etc. but how through some radical self love and a little gumption they managed to “cure” themselves.

It’s killing me.

You don’t cure an eating disorder.

You go into remission.

And you don’t get an eating disorder from watching too many episodes of America’s Next Top Model.

You develop an eating disorder through a myriad of deep seated personal problems.

Because of this, it’s not as easy as just up and deciding to love yourself.

It’s not ABOUT loving yourself or being “positive.”

Personally, I’ve got so many issues I couldn’t tell you which one it was that started me off. None of my shrinks have pinpointed it either, and that’s not how therapy works anyway.

Big picture? My eating disorder, like my agoraphobia, and a couple other things we’ve never talked about here on the blog, stems from feeling a lack of control over myself, my situation, my life.

If we’re being honest, here, I have a very selfish reason behind this rant, but I think my reasons are making even more clear the problems with this week.

It just so happens that the Monday of Body Positivity week dawned on the Monday I woke up and realized I’m no longer in remission.

I had a stomach ache. The deep, painful kind you get when you’ve actually overdone it and hurt yourself. I vomited three separate times on Sunday. On purpose.

And  I recognized as I walked to the bathroom, knowing what I was about to do to myself, why I was doing it. I felt out of control. Making myself sick has a method to it. There are steps. Steps I won’t list here because reading other people recount their dealings with eating disorders is how I kept mine under wraps the seven years I went without professional treatment. But there ARE steps and going through them makes me feel like things are okay.

I’ve had a rough couple months.

I’ve had very little control at work, in my personal life, at home.

I thought I was managing, but clearly I have not been. I have just been making myself feel better by rigidly controlling what I eat and when that gets messed up, just “adjusting.”

My nails are brittle, the inside of my mouth is full of raw patches and peeling skin from acid exposure, and I woke up so dehydrated Monday morning that I felt hungover.

It’s a problem. I’ve been able to look at myself rationally, now, so I’ve be able to stop, I’m two days clean, and I’ll eventually get back to a good place.

However, this body positivity week, a movement that is supposed to be helpful to people like me is hurting me. I can look at inspirational quotes and put the most negative spin on them or wonder what is wrong with me that I can’t seem to think as positively as “You’re not fat, you HAVE fat”.

I can look at a plus sized model and either feel bad because she’s actually skinnier than me, or panic because she is my size and I DON’T WANT TO LOOK LIKE THAT, or worst of all, even if she’s bigger, I’ll feel like I don’t measure up, or I’ll reverse it and feel like I’ve gotten too bony. My collar bones are too prominent, my leg muscles are too hard and close to the surface.

I can’t win.

Besides that, this week is so superficial. Love your body! Love yourself!

This week somehow equates the self with the body, overturning this Cartesian duality that I count on to feel human.

I do love my body when I’m able to be rational. When I am centered, and not struggling to feel in control, I love my body. I am strong. I am proud of what my body can do and how far it has come. I adore being able to dance and exercise and stretch.

My body suffers at the hands of my mind, though.

I cannot love my mind because it so often betrays me.

It makes me hate my body.

It makes me want to get so small I disappear.

It tells me I have to lure a man in with my body first and that if I am attractive enough he will accept the flaws of my mind. An ass that defies gravity makes my social anxiety more acceptable. A small waist makes it easier to deal with someone who still has tics from being abused. Toned arms and legs makes bursting into tears for no apparent reason endearing instead of disconcerting.

Yeah, I know it’s all crap. Rationally.

It’s not the media making me do this. It’s me. Just me. So to equate my self with my body brings on a whole other level of confusion that serves to push me farther out of the controlled center I NEED to function.

That being said, nothing the media puts out is going to help me. I just have to pick up and sort myself out again.

It’s very isolating, to tell you the truth.

The conclusion I’ve come to, is that Body Positivity week is for people who are already positive about their body or who want everyone else to think they are.

Because those of us who aren’t body positive know better.

I hope to god no one else is having a BPW like mine.

And if you are, I’ve gone nearly 3 days without starving or purging. I will celebrate that. I know you can do the same. We’ll take it one day at a time.

We know we’ll fall into old habits.

But we also know we can pull out again in an endless tiring circle.

 

Just stay strong.