Sunday, August 28, 2011

Saying vs. Believing

I was a chubby little girl. I had pin-straight brown hair and endless energy. I did cartwheels and handstands on the grass hoping to impress aunts, uncles, and cousins. I made dandelion bracelets and drank kool-aid on the front steps of my grandmother's porch. I rode my bicycle all evening long until the sun began to set and fireflies crept out from the trees that lined our street. I was happy. I had thick little legs, chubby little cheeks. But I was happy.

The hatred and discomfort I felt toward my own body started when I was 8. Until then, I had never cared, or realized even, that my body was different from anyone else's. At eight 8, my two best friends were cheerleaders. They weighed less than me. They were prettier than me. They could do better cartwheels and handstands than me. They looked different in their bathing suits. I remember realizing that and being very upset about it. I understood, even then, that food was what separated fat from thin. I asked my mother once why I couldn't just chew my food up and spit it out again without swallowing it, since the flavor was all I wanted anyway, and the flavor wasn't the part that made you fat. I've never been able to forget the look of horror on her face-- the same look she gave me when she saw me skipping meals years later, when she watched me lose 80 lbs, when I admitted to her that I threw up 8 times a day. When I admitted to her I didn't want help.

Throughout the rest of my childhood and young adulthood, I continued to struggle with my weight. My mother was always present in this battle, hovering in the background and shaking her head with that same look on her face. She had always been a thin woman who could eat whatever she wanted to without gaining any weight. On several occasions I recall her telling me that she would gladly trade me places-- that she felt guilty I wore larger sized clothes than she did. I remember how helpless she looked each time we went shopping. I always wanted the cute outfits and the cute outfits never fit me-- or, if they did, they didn't look how they were supposed to. Each shopping trip led to me holed up inside a dressing room crying. Crying and hating the person I saw reflected in the mirror-- the chubby girl standing in her underwear with a pair of cute jeans that wouldn't pull up any higher than her chubby thighs. My mother always said the same things:

That I was beautiful.
That she loved me just the way I was.
That God did, too.
That he made me this way for a reason.
That I needed to respect myself.
That I needed to love myself.
That I was just as good and as worthy as anyone else.
That I was just as beautiful as all my friends.
That I was gorgeous.
That I was perfect... just as I was.

Although everything my mother told me was true, I never believed it, even when I told her that I did. It took me gaining and losing mass amounts of weight, starving myself to the point of exhaustion and physical collapse, fighting for recovery, relapsing, wanting to die, repenting, wanting to live. It took a whole decade of downward spiral and victory and sorrow and happiness and triumph and defeat and I still haven't been able to fully believe all of what she said to me. I know that I should believe it. But how do I make myself?

I've learned that recovery from an eating disorder-- and from anything else, I guess-- is like this. There is so much space between saying and believing-- so much space. I know that I need to rid myself of my eating disorder forever. I know that. And I say that. But do I believe it? My first instinct is to say yes-- of course I believe it. But do I really? If I really believed it, wouldn't I be working harder toward making it come true?

I've realized that recovery with good intentions is a beautiful thing. That's how I started-- with all the best of intentions. With a whole new outlook on life and living and loving and existing. That was pure. That was real. Somehow my definition of recovery has shifted. Maybe I've been at it too long. I wonder to what extent I am hiding under the umbrella of "recovery" because I'm too scared to step out into the rain. As long as I say I'm in recovery, then people will leave me alone and start believing it. As long as I cling to recovery, people will pat me on the back each time I falter and understand that I am trying. But what if I'm not trying anymore? What if I can't believe it myself?

I have to step back out into the rain and face the storm. I have to put the effort into recovery that it requires. It's like going to the doctor for a sore throat. He gives you medicine to treat it. What if you don't take it? Just because you've seen the doctor doesn't mean you'll get better unless you've done all that he's asked of you. Recovery is no different. It takes effort. It takes cooperation. It takes commitment and dedication and passion and determination.

Honestly, I've been running low on all of those lately. After my last post, several of you reached out to me, whether in comments here or through facebook and e-mail, telling me exactly what I needed to hear. It really touched me to hear all of your heartfelt words and it helped put things in perspective. No one else in my life knows what I'm going through right now in terms of my eating disorder. Honestly, most of them never have. They don't understand. It feels good to be honest, and it feels good to know so many people care.

Somehow I feel like the worst of this is over. That by coming clean I can exhale and slowly start to move forward-- that I can stop excusing my negative behavior and own up to it for what it is-- that I can take a step back, be honest with myself, refocus, rebuild, and set off again in the right direction.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


As I’ve mentioned previously, my fiancĂ© is away on business in another part of the country until October, so I am alone. Well, not entirely. I do have the cat to keep me company. I also have my job, though my hours have been cut back to roughly 10-12 per week. So I have a lot of free time. I have so many hours where I could be doing so many productive things—editing my book-in-progress, devoting time to my fiction side project, updating my blog, cleaning our apartment, making a dent in my mega-long reading list. Sharpening my guitar skills. Brushing up on my French. Planning our wedding. Applying for a better job. There are so many productive ways I could be spending my time. What am I doing?

Working out (far too often)
Obsessing over food
Weighing myself
Watching reality television
Playing Angry Birds
Listening to pensive indie bands (which I do love)
Avoiding reality
Avoiding responsibility
Avoiding recovery

Somehow I’ve found myself in the midst of a depression. Depression is nothing new to me. I’ve dealt with it since I was twelve when my father was first diagnosed with colon cancer. I fade in and out of it so fluidly that sometimes I don’t even recognize. For the last few years it has been relatively mild (I don't take any medication). However, it worsened back in January when my mother remarried. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned her husband (soon to be ex-husband, God willing), but he is a very, very negative and verbally abusive person, which yielded a whole host of trouble. I’ve been so stressed and worried about my mother, among other things. Of course, my eating disorder is closely linked to my depression. And, of course, I’m not eating nearly enough. But it’s hardly even a conscious choice this time. It’s because my fiance is gone and I’m here on my own. There’s no one else to cook for and I’ve been too emotionally drained to cook for myself. I don’t have the energy to do anything at all. All I want to do is sleep. I started out eating frozen dinners just to keep from cooking—which I normally love to do—and I’ve slowly been eating less and less. In the back of my mind I know it isn’t right, that I was doing so well in my recovery for the last several years really, and that not eating is never an option. I know how unhealthy it is, I know how hard ED behavior is to overcome. I know how hard I’ve fought this thing and how much progress I’ve made and how I never ever ever want things to go back to the way the used to be. I know all of this but I can’t snap out of it. I can’t snap out of it because, without really trying to, I’ve lost about 8 lbs. Suddenly my brain insists that I can and should lose more.

“Don’t you love a challenge? 8 was easy. Let’s do 15!”

The one thing that has been keeping me solid in my recovery all these years is my ability to block out those eating-disordered thoughts. They have always been there, but I’ve been able to override them and do what is right. But now, it seems so much easier and requires far less effort just to let my eating disorder do the thinking for me. I’ve been fighting this for 7 years. I’m tired.

I’m not saying I’m giving up on my recovery. I’m not giving up and I’m not going back. I just need help, and thoughts, and prayers right now to keep me grounded and give me the energy and motivation to keep fighting. It is worth it, I know that. I believe that. Really I do.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


One of my favorite authors, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, once said:

"...human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves."

I have reflected on these words many times throughout the years, especially in regards to my eating disorder. But, in the past, I often used this quote to negatively inspire myself. It fit perfectly. I could be reborn. I could change everything. I could alter my course, suppress what I ate, sculpt my body and emerge skinnier, better, more beautiful. I would be me, only better. I would be me, only perfect. Searching for this perfection became an all-encompassing obsession that ruined my life. I refused to believe that "perfect" was unattainable. I reached one weight loss goal only to set another. Before long, the number on the scale didn't even matter. Unless it flashed back 0, it wouldn't be good enough.

Is it good enough now?

A lot has changed since I've been in recovery. My body has changed; it's gotten bigger. It's gotten stronger. This was enough to convince everyone who knew me that I was also better.

"Better. Synonyms: convalescent, cured, fitter, fully recovered, healthier, improving, less ill, mending, more healthy, on the comeback trail, on the mend, on the road to recovery, out of the woods, over the hump, progressing, recovering, stronger, well". (

In other words, all former symptoms and issues vanquished. Anorexic no more!

If only it were that simple.

One does not go from Anorexic to Formerly Anorexic so easily. There is a long period of transition. A great chunk of time to think and reflect and heal and cry and eat and struggle and starve and struggle and fight and celebrate and lose and love and win. A lifetime of great, marvelous, continuous rebirth.

The quote is still one of my favorites, but I see it now for what it is: a celebration of our imperfections. An urging to grow, to try, to change and be changed. It isn't about being perfect at all. It's about doing the best with what we're given-- it's about making the decision to adapt to any obstacle-- and to grow because of it.

I may never be fully recovered, but I've come far enough to know that I am never going back. I will never treat myself the way that I once did. I am not perfect now and I never will be. Finally, I'm okay with that.

Are you?

Stop chasing perfection.

You won't find it.

Stop punishing yourself.

You are beautiful now. In this moment.

Right now.

You are good enough.

You are worthy.

You don't have to pull it together to begin recovery. You don't have to lose 10 lbs to begin recovery. You don't have to get a whole lot worse to "deserve" recovery.

You just have to let your body speak. Not your mind, your body. Your heart, your organs, your skin and blood and stomach and hands and feet and bones. Your body, the one you're hurting, the one you're depriving, the one you're neglecting, the one you're killing. You have to let it speak.

And then you have to listen to what it's telling you.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Thank You! Plus, Big News! Plus, I haven't abandoned you!

So, first of all, I want to thank all of you for helping out the Geese by signing the virtual petition! That petition, along with local media coverage, protests, and letters written to editors and the humane society helped to save the geese! At least for now. The homeowners withdrew their request to have the geese murdered and are looking at other options to control them. Though their future is uncertain (this will be a big problem again next year, and the year after that, and the year after that) the geese can at least for now, relax. So, thank you again. I knew I could count on you! Here is a picture of the protestors via the local news channel.

I also have some very exciting personal news. If you follow me on facebook you may know this already, but... I am engaged! My boyfriend, err, Fiance, proposed to me a little over a week ago. I am very excited about it. No wedding plans have been made as of yet, except I know that I want to have an outdoor wedding. The when is the big question. On a sad note, he will be out of town--and out of state-- for the next two months. He is en route to Wisconsin as we speak because of his job. This also happened last year. I was worried then that I wouldn't be able to properly feed myself and care for myself in his absence, but I did, proving to myself that I can take care of me. I won't lie, it's not easy. I have a hard time cooking a meal for just myself, but I do it anyway. I'm already thinking about what I'll make for dinner tonight. In my refrigerator I have zucchini, fresh corn on the cob, cabbage, leftover quinoa, green peppers, and a bunch of herbs. I'm sure I can whip something up out of those goodies. Speaking of cooking, my boyfriend... err.. Fiance and I have been thinking about starting a video blog featuring various cooking tutorials. He is a classically trained chef and I, well, am not. I doubt that we would actually go through with it, but, if we did, would anyone want to watch? I guess that's the question.

Finally, I want to apologize for my absence over the last several months. I feel like I have let some of you down. Maybe it's myself I'm letting down. I used to blog daily, then weekly, then, well, randomly. I want to recommit myself to blogging more often. The truth is, for now at least, it seems my eating disorder is pretty well controlled. I still have issues but they're not as common as they used to be. I've considered allowing my blog to drift slightly into the "healthy living" realm posting about my ed when it's particularly relevant, and posting about other things when eating isn't a real issue. But, I'm not sure if that is something you ladies and gentlemen would be interested in reading about? So, there are a few things I need to work out, but I will be blogging more often.

As always, I hope you all are well and wonderful. I hope you're being kind and gentle to yourselves, taking care of yourselves, and wearing sunscreen. Seriously. It's hot outside. At least it's hot here. And humid.

Take care!

- Jess