The Indelible Ninja Scars

Warning: Dark post ahead. I should probably label this with “trigger warning” for the delicate flowers, but this isn’t a designated safe space, so enter at your own risk. I’m gonna talk about stuff that I shouldn’t be doing. You were warned.

<sigh> This post has been difficult to write. I’ve been knitting it and unraveling it in my head for a couple of weeks, debating whether I’m brave enough to put it out there or if I should continue to pretend it didn’t happen.  At this point, though, the latter isn’t working.

I don’t think I can truly pick myself up until I admit to myself how hard I fell down.

I know HOW it happened. Honestly, I should have expected it. It’s been happening for years, off and on, in unpredictable cycles. Like a well-trained ninja, it lurks in the shadows of my being, camouflaging itself behind my arrogant confidence that I’ve really got a handle on things this time, waiting to pounce in the blink of a vulnerable moment.

I’d been coasting along for weeks in a false sense of security: I’ve been having phenomenal success on a new medication that’s quelled my omnipresent anxiety and quieted it to an occasional flare of “wait…I should be, like, worrying about something right now, right?” that I’ve been able to squash like a bothersome gnat. In other words, it’s been quite manageable.

And I’d been rocking my personal fitness. I was running four miles 3 days a week, and mixing in yoga, too. I was cooking – actual food – with vegetables and quinoa and organically-raised tofu harvested by free-range leprechauns. (Close enough.)  I was nourishing myself.

Everything else was…calm.  Peaceful. The hubs had been treating me like a queen. The kids are doing wonderfully. My daughter had just finished her first year of college with <shameless Mom brag> a 4.0.  My son, a junior this year, has a darling new girlfriend. The situation with my stepsons, while not resolved, has stabilized. I don’t have any significant job stress. Mom was doing great – she was preparing to close out her and Dad’s business, and she has a…um…gentleman caller (?) who spoils her.

Side note: What exactly DO you call it when your 70ish-year-old mother is dating? “Boyfriend” sounds kinda juvenile, while “significant other” implies some sort of long-term commitment. And “friend”….yeah, no. You can just HEAR the air quotes when people say it. “…and this is Mom’s ‘friend’ Bob. Try it. See?!?

Side note #2: Should I feel weird about Mom dating? Because I totally don’t. Well, except that the guy she’s seeing is actually the father of my first ever real boyfriend. (Hurrah for small towns.) So, even though that was thirty (!!!) years ago, I sort of feel like I accidentally kissed my brother. But on the flip side, that means that I know this guy, and somehow, that’s comforting – he’s not a complete stranger. His wife passed several months ago, and as I recall, she wasn’t exactly a fan of me being in her son’s life because apparently, I had evil spirits floating around me. Anyway, I like the man and I love that she’s happy.

In summary, things were going smoothly.

The calm before the storm.

Then Mother’s Day weekend arrived. I wasn’t expecting any grand gestures, but the kids were aware, at least. We had a decent weekend planned – my son was getting ready to go to Prom on Saturday, and we’d have a quick lunch on Sunday before they went to their father’s and I got back on a plane.

Prom day was lovely. The weather had promised rain but surprised us with sunshine. The plan for the day was to head over to the girlfriend’s house mid-day, where my son (read: “we”) would cook dinner for the two of them. Then they’d put on their fancy duds and tolerate a few pictures before heading to the festivities.

And it went so well. My son and I worked together to prepare General Tso’s Chicken; I chopped the meat while he found pans and serving bowls. We opened sparkling juice and toasted the day.

Prom1

prom2

That’s my boy. LOL

After we Googled how to tie a necktie, we were ready for pictures. We skipped the usual local haunts (a quick drive-by indicated an intolerable crowd) and headed to his father’s house, where I knew the azaleas would be in full bloom. (I offered to take them to the local funeral home, or the cemetery, because OF COURSE there’d be fresh flowers there. But they declined. Sheesh, where is the sense of adventure? Kids today….) I snapped away, capturing the smiles. I even got some terrific shots of my son with his father that I know they’ll both treasure.  (I am SUCH a big person, ain’t I??)

prom3prom4

Shortly, the lovebirds were off to the dance. I met up with my daughter and her boyfriend and settled in to some serious Netflix. My daughter is really digging conspiracy theories lately, and yeah, there’s a series for that, believe it or not. Even though we’d ordered pizzas, her boyfriend, being a young man with an age-appropriate metabolism, brought “snacks” so we wouldn’t starve to death for the three hours we’d be sitting on our butts. His stash included two family-size bags of chips, a batch of beef stew, a kitchen-sink sized bowl of buttered popcorn, and two six-packs of soda.

Eventually, the two of them headed off to host an after-prom party.

Leaving me alone.

With the food. (Except the stew. I convinced him to take that home with him.)

So that’s HOW it happened. I just don’t know WHY.

But it happened.

Down went the family-sized bag of salt and vinegar chips and the rest of the popcorn. Even though I’d finished my gluten-free pizza earlier, I added a few slices of their leftovers to the frenzy. Then I headed off to Wal-Mart to top off the mess with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s finest.

Why not?  It didn’t matter. It’d be gone shortly.

I hadn’t done this in years. Decades, maybe. Sure, I’ve binged, but I’ve avoided sticking my toe back into the purging pool. Overeating is somewhat socially acceptable; we can half-ashamedly confess eating a doughnut we didn’t need or an extra slice of cake. Barfing, though, is still done behind closed doors.

Now, it was time.

I’d forgotten how hard this was. How violent. The body was not meant to do this. Yet, like riding the proverbial bicycle, mine eventually remembers.

Panting, gagging, my stomach rolls and heaves. I’m undressed from the waist down and perched atop a pile of lightly-used towels, as the bladder of a middle-aged woman can no longer bear the seismic onslaught forced upon it by making yourself vomit.

This is not an affliction for the proud.

get it out get it out get it out

Eventually, it’s over. I feel like a dishrag that’s been left at the bottom of the sink, sodden and heavy and unable to take any shape or form.

I clean up and try to sleep.

The next day, I carry the weight of my sins. My tongue feels as though I’ve burned it; my jaw aches like I’ve been chewing bowling balls.  Belches bring an acidic, burning reminder to the back of my throat. And to my heart.

It’s Mother’s Day. The sun’s out again. And the kids actually remember, bringing me cards and presents for the first time in maybe ever. The hubs surprises me with flowers, which showcase my favorite colors.

I am reminded that I am loved. And that today, I can start over. Reset the timer. 1 day since my last purge.

I can’t say this will never happen again. I’ve learned that swearing “never” is a cue for the fates to set up an elaborate exercise in irony.

But I don’t honestly have any idea why this happened. Why now, when things were going (relatively) fine? Why not when my dad died, or when the hubs and I were having more serious issues, or when my stepson was in the hospital? Why did this cap off a beautiful day bookended by my awesome kids?

And if I don’t know what caused this, how do I keep it from happening again? Was this a momentary lapse, or the beginning of a final descent? Was this random or a result? Fluke or fault line?

It’s unnerving. But I suppose that’s the crux of mental illness. If we could always control it, it wouldn’t be an illness, right?

Things have been…well…not great since then. I’ve done some exercise and a ton of eating. Zero days since my last binge. I’m blaming a canceled flight and an unplanned night in beautiful downtown Detroilet for the pizza and two candy bars I ate alone in my hotel room while watching (ironically) My 600-Pound Life for the most recent one.

I’ve kept it all down, though, and I suppose I have to remember to count that as a victory. Because the ninja still calls to me, whispering from the sink, the refrigerator, the checkout aisle. I’d learned to tune her out, and I need to ensure I have sufficient white noise in my life to block her song. Her voice is the mental mermaid that always tempts toward a tumultuous sea.

Sometimes, my footing slips on the rocks as the surf tugs at my toes.

Today, I hang on.

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12 thoughts on “The Indelible Ninja Scars

  1. I don’t want to click ‘like’ on your post, but I did feel compelled to say that it happens. Relapses, or whatever it’s supposed to be called these days, happen. I have never struggled with an eating disorder, but I did have a very hard time overcoming an addiction to cutting myself. While not the same format as binging/purging, I see a lot of what I went through in what you described. The act of cutting, for me, was an emotional release, with a huge feeling of regret afterwards because I knew that normal people weren’t supposed to do this. Mentally healthy people don’t do this. Even now, though it has been many, many years since I have intentionally cut myself, I still have moments where I reminisce in a way, of the time that there were bloody horizontal lines all up and down my forearms. I don’t remember that with regret, I almost miss seeing my arms like that. And while I haven’t gone back to that, I fear what may happen if I ever did, and to be honest, I don’t feel the need to anymore (hello emotion numbing medication!). I don’t have an answer for the “why” of what you did, but I do have an “I understand” thing here. Don’t try to analyze it too much, just do what you have to do to get back on track and keep moving forward. Don’t live in fear of it happening again. You know now that it can happen, but don’t let it cause you to constantly fear another relapse. Learn from this and move on. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s hard to know what constitutes a fall from grace for other people. The beginning of this post prepared me for some sort of calamity, but I was surprised by what brought you low. I never had that kind of eating disorder–but I entirely understand the ‘stuff your face to fill the emotional void’ problems inherent with eating disorders. (I recently had to slap cake out of my hands because my acid reflux just wouldn’t let up and I knew, just knew, eating chocolate was going to kill me with pain. But it took effort.)

    My sin is sleep deprivation. Trying to explain to anyone how ‘this’ of all things is a problem and hearing them say, “Well, why don’t you just go to bed earlier?!” makes me want to poke them in the eyes. Why we fall from our particular wagons takes years of therapy and self-forgiveness to discover. Figuring out how to stop doing it isn’t always answered by ‘why’ we do it.

    When I slip up and forget to take my knock-out drugs (Benadryl and Melatonin), I can channel surf or read until 5:00 a.m. without feeling the least bit like I’m endangering my health. But somewhere in the back of my head a tiny voice is screaming at me. Tomorrow Me is begging me to stop. It’s always ‘tomorrow me’ that has to pay the price. Someday I’m gonna find that girl and apologize.

    Good luck in finding the forgiveness.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh my gosh – “if you’re tired, just go to bed earlier” – my body does NOT work that way. Honestly I struggle with going to bed too! And I’m not sure why. Do I not want the day to end? Am I lonely? Am I delaying the next day?

      I get this 100%. Interestingly, when I’m staying up late like that, I’m not usually overeating. WHAT AM I LOOKING FOR HERE???

      Thanks so much for that. It really does help.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hrm, I just typed a big long comment and it disappeared. LOL.
    Guess that means I shouldn’t have said something I said.
    You are not alone. Relapse during a period or relative peace is extremely common.
    I’ll leave it at that this time. Hugs

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I know precious little about this. But I do know that I hate that you have to grapple with this. It’s not a highly discussed topic, but I hope you find some good advice through posting about this. I just wish I had some to give. Keep writing it out though. Positive vibes sent your way, my dear. 😕😕

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Katie, as an AA-chick, the best piece of advice I ever got was, “Never forget you’re an alcoholic.” The second you do, it’s game over. I, being bulimic, apply that to this food addiction as well. Also, I recognize two other things: a) how hard when that food was IN.YO.FACE. esp if you’re in any sort of restriction mode, and b) opportunity. Opportunity is a big one for me. In that opportunistic window, we think the episode can come and go, and nobody knows the better! In my justifying/rationalizing/deep in E.D- mind that equals: no consequences. But, I believe you’re in more of a recovery-mind, which I see in your feeling guilt/shame. HOLD ON TO THAT. Not to beat yourself up with, but as a powerful reminder to stop you should the urges sneak up again. “Play the tape out.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right – and thank you. It was so odd, it was like I was on autopilot….The good news is that that was the first time in a long time – and while I’m still eating WAY too much, it hasn’t happened since. Every victory counts, right?

      Thanks again. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Its almost like being in a shadow world: the relapse away from healing. Especially when things are going so well. The shadows maybe whispering that you don’t deserve it even though you DO! You so DO! So painful. And I am so sorry that nothing takes away that next day feeling of remorse except time. And loving your lovable self.❤️

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