I always felt small in most ways, all except for one.
Small in strength, small in ability, and small in worth. Which is probably why I blamed my body. She was too big, the cause of all of the problems.
There are a few different situations I can pinpoint that more than likely built the foundation for my battle with a restrictive eating disorder, but I don’t remember when the actual restriction started.
My first memory of knowing I was sick is from 2014.
I was waking up every morning with only one thing on my mind: the number on the scale.
I’d step on, close my eyes and prepare for the number that would determine my mood for the rest of the day. If it was higher, I’d body check and convince myself I could literally see my skin stretching. If it was lower, I’d hear the voice in my head say, “good girl, it’s working.”
I’d push my body past it’s physical limits. Working out before the sun came up, choosing to park on the outskirts of campus to get just a few more steps in. Sometimes I’d have to take a break on my walks, the blood rushing from my head to other parts of my body. It was if my body was attempting to protect itself from the damage I’d done, working so hard I’d almost pass out.
My parents were angry. “Eat, just eat please,” they’d beg because I’d be so hungry I was a nightmare to be around. My mom would cook me grilled chicken and scrambled eggs every day when I’d be home for a weekend. An odd combination, but we were both trying to get as much protein as we could in my body.
My sister would find me blackout drunk in the kitchen floor with a gallon of ice cream, or in the bathtub crying because I was absolutely miserable. But I was smaller and convinced that life was better when there was less of me.
From the outside, I’d say it looked like life was better.
Boys noticed me; it wasn’t as hard to get a date to formal anymore. My arms were thin, my hair blonde, and my sorority had a new habit of showing me off on social media. Thin was in but my personality was out.
Eventually, I think my friends picked up on what was happening; my boyfriend at the time telling me I needed to try and gain five pounds. My body wasn’t functioning, and I had a string of infections that wouldn’t go away. So, I gave in and decided to get help. But, just enough help to get by. I didn’t want to gain weight back, I just wanted to look like I was better.
Quasi-recovery I think they call it. I’d show up and stand on the scale, my dietician covering the numbers as an attempt to keep me from being triggered. We’d sit in her office and brainstorm ways to find foods other than oatmeal and grilled chicken that I would eat. I’d write down her ideas and toss them out as I walked into Kroger to buy the same thirty dollars worth of groceries for a week.
Flash forward to today.
As I was trapped in my house, I found myself trapped in my head again as well. Loneliness crept in and so did the familiar routines I had created to harbor some sense of control. In hopes of being seen, in hopes of maybe feeling something again. Blueberry waffles and step counting became my best friends. Nothing and no one else mattered. Which was a win for me, because it felt like fighting back against everything and everyone who seemed to have forgotten about me.
I’ll save you the details, but I’m back in treatment again, this time with a sense of resiliency fueled by the desires to get on with my life. I am exhausted by the boxes I’ve placed myself in; the boxes I’ve happily let other people force me into as well. I’m angry most days, realizing that most people aren’t dying to be around the girl in rehab. They truly only like me when I’m sitting still, being pretty, and following all of the rules. Which means they only like me when I’m sick.
I’m tired of being pretty, or at least trying to control my body in a way to make it pretty. I think that’s what I’ve learned from choosing to fight for my own recovery. I’m tired of needing to control everything—calories in, calories out, make people like you, fix your lipstick, find a husband, prove your worth.
It’s exhausting and I think my need for control finally broke me. Which means it’s time to rebuild.
Addictions don’t go away; we just choose to fight them. We decide to stop staring at the walls; numbing ourselves to hide our disgust. We stop staring at the walls and we start tearing them down.