Sunday, January 17, 2010


Have you ever said, "I did exactly what I said I'd never do again"?

Have you ever said, "I can't believe this is who I am"?

Often times I try to remember what my life was like before I had an eating disorder. Maybe it'd be better to consult my sister for answers to these questions. Often she offers perspective that I need more than water. But when I try to imagine myself pre-anorexia, pre-life-altering, all-encompassing life changes, I can't even remember what was.

I'm going on four years since anorexia first made it's appearance in my life. Recently, I sought the words to say to a new friend, describing when I first became conscious of the eating disorder in my life. I remember the first signs of illness infecting my body as young as six, pretty much from the time I can recall thoughts, I remember learning what I should and should not be. Six year-olds are perceptive little buggers. Family friends complimented how pretty I was, what a heart-breaker I'd be, never my intelligence or skills beyond my appearance. I saw the sex icons on TV, I saw men's reactions to them. I found the Slim-Fast in our cupboard. I found the scale. I read the magazines. I lost 8 pounds in 3rd grade, the first time my brother told me I was fat in front of his friends.

I remember when the doctor labeled it "anorexia," until then I had just called it "life" as my behaviors changed from average to extreme. I'm not even sure what to call it now. It's too familiar. I can't imagine life without it.

This weekend I fell off the wagon.
I leaped when I should have leapt.
I misstepped.
I did some backsliding.
I went downhill.
I regressed.
I slipped . . . again.

This reminds me off Anne Lamott's words on progress, relating them more to "scootch, scootch"ing than substantial steps forward. We go back and forth, up and down. Progress comes but barely how we thought it would.

Alcoholics slip by drinking alcohol.
Bulimics slip by using food to solve their problems. It's unfair really. I can't go sober from food. So instead, I have to learn how to eat "responsibly".

I hate food sometimes. I hate that I have to eat. I have being around food. I hate that food grins at me from restaurant billboards, movies (Chocolat, Super Size Me, Food Inc., Julie and Julia), and entire TV stations devoted to it (i.e. Food network). Most holidays revolve around some sort of food traditions. People meet for lunch or coffee. Throwing a party? Have a table of food. School presentation? Lure the students in with pizza. Baseball game? Let's all go out for ice cream.

When I was anorexic, I used starvation and control to avoid feeling.
When I was bulimic, I used food to numb myself from certain emotions.
Now, somewhere in the middle, I'm stuck in this tug-of-war between what I want to be and what I've been.

Sierra, my wise friend, pointed out to me today that I'm not eating balanced meals. I'm a person of extremes and my eating habits are less than normal. I realize this. I get a strange high from always being slightly hungry. I try to get the eating process over with as quickly as possible so I don't have to think about. Fullness scares me. I dislike eating with people. I avoid any situations where eating a meal will take longer than 10 minutes.

I realize these fears to be irrational compared to someone who has never had an eating disorder. I realize that most anything I say can be taken as strange or odd, but they aren't odd to every one. If I only wrote to avoid sounding odd, I'd never write anything at all.

I started this blog in August of 2007 to write home about my time in Cambodia. Now I write to heal. I continue writing for the nearly 30 friendships I've made or strengthened as a result of this blog (yes, I made a list). Mostly, I keep writing for 13 of those people who bravely said, in one way or another, "I'm human too. Can we talk about it?"

In the last month, five girls have bravely contacted me sharing their own phenomenal stories with eating disorders.

That's priceless.

We gain strength. We share stories. We heal.

That's why I write about throwing up.
That's why I write about feeling less-than adequate.
That's why I write about my idiosyncrasies and my shortcomings.
I'm empowered to keep writing because I want to start conversations that I've spent too long avoiding.

This is essentially how I met my boyfriend, Jeremy. We started our relationship well aware of each others dirt, pretty refreshing. He's one of those 30 friendships I'm blessed with and continue to learn from.

On days like today, my body carries me from place to place. I'm not even sure how I got there. Too weak to fight, too weary to brace against the cold. Numb to situations in which I'm supposed to react, I'm supposed to respond. Instead I sit. Tired.

A Chinese proverb goes, "Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid of standing still."

I'm not standing still, but I'm definitely doing a lot of scootching. I like to think Anne Lamott would be proud.


Michael said...

I say, why read Anne Lamott when I could read Heather [Insert Last Name]? Just as inspirational :)

Keep it up, and remember to take life and it's challenges in small pieces.

Hannah said...

This was beautiful. I'm so thankful you share your words and, consequently, your soul.