Having an eating disorder is a bit like living inside a funhouse.
Remember the funhouse at the local carnival? You voluntarily handed over your ticket, and left all reality behind as you entered a world where gravity, balance, and perception shape-shifted, bent, and distorted, constantly causing you to question your instincts as you jumped, blinked, and were thrust unceremoniously into the wall.
Except this funhouse was, well, FUN, because it was temporary, and because eventually, someone would let you out and you’d go get a funnel cake and some cotton candy.
As part of my attempt at recovery from the food-issue funhouse, I’ve tried a few different things. But regardless of what I attempt, the well-established distortion I’ve been living with is difficult to work around.
For example – books. I’ve read tons of books on eating disorders. After story upon story of experiences with intubation, heart attacks, and grieving families, my reaction isn’t ANYTHING like “Oh. Wait. This shiz could kill me if I did it right.” Nope. It’s more like “gosh, if I just had more willpower, I could finally, REALLY, be thin.” And, I’m embarrassed to admit, occasionally I wonder if eating cotton balls really WILL fill me up. (No, I haven’t tried it, and I don’t recommend you do it, either. But part of the funhouse effect is that stuff that appears to be TOTAL craysauce to normal people starts to actually sound logical. Think I’m joking? How many of YOU have tried Slim-Fast? Or the Cabbage Soup Diet? See? SEE?!?)
I also have flirted with trying meditation. In my quest for inner peace, I have discovered that
Wait, what is my cat doing over there?
Can I get MY leg over my head like that?
I haven’t eaten chicken in awhile. Maybe I’ll make paprikash next week.
Suffice it to say I sort of suck at meditation. NEXT.
I did attend therapy for awhile, too. Was it helping? Hard to say. Like exercise, it was exhausting and painful, so I didn’t exactly look forward to GOING.
Yet – also like exercise – once I finished a session, I was usually glad I had gone.
That didn’t make it any easier to keep scheduling appointments. You don’t get the warm fuzzies until you’re done wringing out your brain…and you don’t exactly look forward to the inevitably draining part that has to come first. The relief at the end is barely a consolation prize, much like a small lollipop for getting a tetanus shot.
So why did I quit? It’d be easy to say “well, I was busy.” But if I’m honest with myself, I think it’s more because I was actually making some progress – I was beginning to redecorate the funhouse. Yet I wasn’t quite ready to part with that mental ottoman and its contrasting overstuffed sofa, nor start to repaint some of the walls I’d grown accustomed to seeing.
Not that therapy got me any further than the redecoration equivalent of picking out a toilet paper holder. But it was a start, and starting is closer to finishing. And I’m just not ready to let go of things like attaining my dream weight or wearing a certain size. Nor am I ready to embrace the possibility of being comfortable wearing a few sizes BIGGER than what I wear now. (Just typing that got a rousing “Oh HELL no” outta me. Which got me some glances from my compatriots at the airport. Move along, folks. There’s PLENTY more interesting to see around here, trust me.)
Maybe I’m not quite ready to commit to recovery. I have a lifetime of destructive habits, thoughts, and patterns to renovate – that’s a TON of work, and I’d be fooling myself if I thought for a moment that it’d be easy. After all, I’ve been this way since I was 10 years old and one of my brother’s friends said I was getting as fat as he was. I don’t remember caring ANYTHING about my weight before that.
But from that instant, it was all that mattered. Well, for the most part. Looking back, I did actually have a couple of periods in my life where I just didn’t CARE so much. And I’m not entirely certain why I didn’t.
First up: 1993. This was the year I got engaged and married (to my now-ex.) I just wasn’t thinking about dieting, exercising, binging, starving…any of it. I had just finished college (well, I finished GOING, anyway. The actual degree came later, technically. But that’s a story for another day.) I ate what I want, when I wanted, and indulged frequently and often. Fast food? Yes please. Fried food? Why not?
Looking back, I wasn’t really binging – I was eating heartily and lustily, and enjoying it.
It was nuts.
I actually remember attending a family reunion with my then-newly-wedded spouse, and a relative of his commented on how many brownies I was eating. I told her “Meh, I’m married now, it’s all good.”
I WASN’T EVEN DRINKING DIET SODA.
I’m more than a little horrified at how out-of-control this sounds.
Topping out at about 180 or so, I got married in a size 16 dress that nicely framed my hourglass figure, and kept up with the wed-and-fed bliss until about a year into the marriage, when I realized that the marriage sort of sucked, and to deal with that I lost about 65 pounds.
That actually brought me to a healthy weight for my height, and I maintained that weight before and after two pregnancies.
So I looked healthy…but the patterns were etching themselves back on the funhouse walls. The thin wallpaper I had hung to disguise them was faded and torn.
Fast forward about thirteen years to the year my divorce was being finalized. I started to date again…and dating typically means a LOT of happy hour beer, nachos, and cheesecake. (I suspect the kids do it differently nowadays….?) As I started to date the now-hubs, I wasn’t thinking about my weight all that much. Yeah, if you asked me, I’d readily admit that I could lose some weight, sure. But I was happy, and he certainly had no complaints.
During our courtship, I did gain weight, and this time, I got married in a Jessica McClintock halter-style number that again showcased my curves nicely.
I was about 150 pounds, and I felt beautiful.
So why now, at nearly 40 pounds below that figure, do I feel fatter, wider…bigger? And why am I less satisfied with how my body looks?
It’s because the funhouse feels like home.
I really like wearing a small size. When I go to a store, and the smallest size fits, it means I’ve won. And next time, it should be too big for me. #bossstage.
I want to be the smallest and thinnest. Second place just isn’t good enough. Try harder. Eat less. Run more. Win.
I know that in my funhouse, the couch cushions are ripped. I’m aware of the chips in the end table. I know the floors have a definite tilt to them; you can see it when you set down a glass or drop a marble.
But it’s home.
I’m not quite ready to get a modern sofa. My TV will look outdated if I replace the carpet.
However, I know I desperately need to replace the windows so they keep in the heat and let in the light. The current ones are draining me dry.
But if I do this, will I adjust to the new view? With more light in the room, what will I see? What will I have to address? What will cry out for repair? What else will I need to replace?
Sigh. With an older sofa, I don’t have to fret about spilling red wine, right?
I do recognize that all this mind-chatter is a complete waste. I mean, with all that I could offer the world, why is THIS what I focus on as my life’s directive? Given an alternative outlet, maybe I could have cured cancer by now. Or at least given SOMETHING of value back to the planet. Right?
Since I seem to have my butt firmly planted in this decrepit, ancient funhouse recliner, I’ll read you a fairly tale.
<blows dust off cover>
Once upon a time, there was a bright-eyed, energetic girl named Katie.
One day, someone gave Katie a cookie.
With a smile, she politely said, “Thank you!”
She ate the cookie and went on with her life as if nothing had happened at all.
I know. It’s just a fairy tale.