Note: Why am I writing about this for all the world to see? Well, frankly, posting this scares the shit out of me, but I know I will forget the message, or try to, at times. Sharing it with others holds me much more accountable to remembering it. That and, as usual, I don’t want anyone to think I’m 100% healthy as I am. Looks, as we know, can be deceiving.
Like most people, I dread the prospect of dressing rooms, what with their unsympathetic lighting and endlessly unflattering mirrors. That awful reality is only heightened by my warped self-perception, which causes me to often wince at what I perceive to be excess weight, or, as it’s known on the streets: FAT. Logically, once I’m removed from the scene, I’m aware that I suffer from serious delusions, but, in the moment? It’s incredibly hard to see what anyone else is talking about when they say, “You should still gain some weight.”
I’m not sure what convened the other day to tear the disordered gauze from my eyes, but on an impromptu shopping trip spurred by impending-drink-date nerves [when I, without fail, make the dumbest purchases] I managed to see myself in a more realistic light. And in that light—a harsh light, but in the right way, for once—I felt like a sexless, hollow creature with nothing to grab at or touch, someone who looked like she was starting to once again become a shell of herself.
No, my “figure” (an ambitious term here) does not appear as it did at my worst point, but it was so noticeably lacking that I found myself on the verge of tears, thinking about my healthier self, her energy and love of food, not to mention the superficial things, like a once-olivey skin tone, now replaced by something more pallid and gray. As an experiment, I posted a selfie to Instagram—one that wasn’t what you might call pretty—and rather than anyone being obviously alarmed, the picture got decidedly more likes than most others I’ve posted before.
I wasn’t totally surprised. Like I’ve written before, our society struggles to accept eating disorders in people who don’t look blatantly headed towards death. Even I, with my warped mindset, occasionally pretend that I don’t struggle with anorexia any longer. I eat three meals a day, snacks, etc. and allow that fact to cover up disturbing realities, like my absent period—missing once again since December. I also can’t and don’t expect people to glean from a blurry image that there’s not much going on beneath my clothes.
But for once, the audience didn’t factor in: I was overcome by not needing anyone else to tell me I was too thin, by seeing it for myself, and continuing to feel it, even if the body in that picture was resulting in numerous “likes,” the social currency of our generation. I left the store and paid closer attention to the women I saw on the street, feeling unnerved by anyone with more pointy bones than flesh, and genuinely envious of the women who looked some shade of normal. I was also suddenly exhausted, perhaps from briefly relinquishing the heavy illusion I have been carrying around for so long. I wanted nothing more than to eat something, lie down, and hold on as tight as I could to this feeling that I knew could quickly pass.
The experience caused me to revisit the reality that, if I truly want to get healthy, I simply need to start eating more. I need to be okay with weight and bloat piling up in my belly first, before it eventually evens out and I begin to fill out my natural form. That’s what happens when a body has been partially starved—and as it has before, it will pass. The reality is that a few pounds from now, I won’t look much different, but I will look a hell of a lot healthier—and hopefully feel it, too.
Needless to say, I struggled to find a date outfit, feeling now very uncomfortable in my curve-less figure. Settling on something that covered up as much of my upper body as possible, I put the emotional afternoon on the backburner for the night. Nevertheless, my ‘smallness’ came up, for the second time with this person, and not in complementary fashion. It made me want to leap into this guy’s arms and say thank you, for it’s so rare for anyone to say anything, especially something with a tone of concern, about a very skinny girl.
I came home afterwards and ate a protein bar proudly before bed. I don’t know if my regained sanity will last—actually, I know for a fact that it will ebb and flow—but something feels a little different this time around, the pull towards health perhaps a little stronger. I want to try, really WANT to, for the first time in a while—and not because my family wants me to, or my friends, or even a nice, attractive guy. Their support might help, but it’s not the impetus here: it’s because I glimpsed the need to get better with my own eyes, and in recovery, that personal push is the one with the most power.