I'm glad to say my boyfriend is finally back from his business trip to Boston. He was gone for two months, leaving me here alone. In other words, the ultimate test of my commitment to recovery. It's huge for me, eating on my own. He (next to my faith in God) has been the most crucial part of my recovery. For the last five years he has taken the time to understand my eating disorder and to help me beat it. Even long before I was ready to get better, he was in my corner, fighting for me to get better. When he's around not eating or restricting is never an option. He simply won't stand for it. But, as I've said before, I can't depend on him to make me eat. I have to do it for myself. I can't be better when he's around and then fall to pieces when I'm on my own. Though I stumbled more than once while he was gone, I'm proud that I didn't spiral into a dark, dark place. There were days when I didn't eat nearly enough, but those days were rare. Most of the time I managed to eat properly and healthily. In other words, I love my boyfriend, I'm happy he's home again, and I want to be healthy for him, but I'm glad to know without a doubt that I have what it takes to be healthy for myself.
We went to the gym tonight after he got home from work. I don't like working out with other people and he doesn't either, so we do our own thing and meet up again when we're ready to leave. I was on the elliptical when I noticed a girl two rows in front of me on a treadmill. Her ponytail is what caught my attention, actually. It kept bobbing up and down as she ran. I wasn't staring at her on purpose, but I found my eyes going back to her over and over again. I felt some kind of connection to her that I couldn't explain. Something told me she had an eating disorder. I don't know why. She was doing nothing to suggest it. She was only running, steady, methodical, determined. Maybe I saw a bit of myself in her actions, the way she ran, the way she looked from side to side. She was thin but not overly thin. She looked normal. Was she? Did I look normal? Was I?
I wondered how many people around me had or have had eating disorders. It's hard to tell by looking at some one. Even people who are very thin are rarely thin because of an eating disorder. On the other hand, people who are a normal weight or even overweight could be suffering from an eating disorder without anyone knowing. Like me. At one point in my life it was obvious that I was sick. But now, no one would ever know. I'm just like any other girl there, the one to the left of me, the one to the right.
We came home and made spaghetti. I ate a lot. My brain kept telling me that I needed to burn some calories off regardless of my workout earlier, but I didn't listen. I wanted to have soy ice cream but my brain reminded me I already ate enough today. And then the ticker tape started up, the calories, ticking. 100, 200, 300, 400. I could see all the day's calories rolling out in front of me. It's tempting to add them all up and know exactly how many calories I've had. In the past, that was my only option; I had to know the number. It was the most important part of the day. It measured my progress and determined my plan for the next day. I could close my eyes at night thinking of nothing except that number 700, or 300. 900, or 0. Regardless, that number was the most important thing, next to the number on the scale, of course. Now I couldn't care less.
I'm not afraid of a stupid number.
I am thankful for how far I've come.
I hope that girl at the gym has never had an eating disorder, and I hope she never does. I wouldn't wish this on anyone.
But, for those of us who have to go through this, I just want to offer a reminder:
There is a way out.
There is life on the other side.
There are more important things than calories and fat grams and the size on the tag inside your jeans.
And you're beautiful, no matter what size, shape, weight, age, race, height, gender, nationality, religion, sexual preference.
We're only ugly when we open our hearts to hate.
So open them to love.
I'm opening mine to soy ice cream.