I’ve been feeling vaguely homesick these past few weeks—not for a place, but for a feeling…one brought on by a combination of certain people and circumstance. It’s getting colder, and thus grayer, which always makes me skittish—perpetually fighting off the urge to stay in bed and press pause on real life. I’ve also been thrust into a new job, and while I’m enjoying it, it’s caused a sharp change in lifestyle that has taken some adjusting to. Being the kind of person who needs at least twenty-four hours to come down from any social interaction, you can imagine how riled up I can get inside from a job that requires a good dose of that. This stuff, together, has my inner child craving my family and good friends more than usual—to be surrounded only by those who know me inside and out, and aren’t expecting too much from me.
Unfortunately, it’s also times like these—periods of significant change—when my eating disorder loves to come crawling back in full force, purring in my ear about how I can fill this homesick void by letting go of even more. My thighs suddenly seem larger, my routine of exercising every other day no longer enough, and food once again a terrifying but necessary daily ordeal. Not that I’m starting from square one—which would be full-blown health—either. The constant anxieties I’ve already been facing on a daily basis just ramp up, increasing their volume just enough so that the struggle is noticeably worse. I’m not eating less now, only beating myself up more for what I do consume. This behavior is a cold reminder, though one whose familiarity is a twisted comfort when laid out amongst novel realities.
People ask me to dinner or drinks or simply offer me pieces of chocolate and inside it feels like nails are being scratched along the walls of my brain—no, no, no, I think, I need to follow a controlled path, not one of spontaneity, lightness—not one that allows me to take a breather, perhaps unbutton the top of my pants. I have to pep talk myself into eating pizza at a work event, and though I do it—a few slices, too—it’s not easy. People joke about being on their fifteenth slice and I laugh like, yeah, ha-ha, that’s funny, while inside I’m talking ED off a cliff for nibbling on a third. It’s delicious and I know no sins have actually been committed, but the anxiety remains like a car alarm in the distance that refuses to go off.
But then there are moments that help ease the crazy: waking up at my parent’s house on a Sunday and getting to joke with them about useless things—the fictional plotting of my father’s death, for instance, or my little sister’s lack of respect for her environment (see: coming home to Chinese takeout practically spilling out of the couch cushions). Being on a beautiful orchard on an unreal fall day, with my kind and cool boss who manages to care about people deeply even when she’s being pulled in 300 directions. Knowing that I’ll be in Chicago come Thursday at noon, to spend time with my mom and friends who, from day one, seemed happy to take me as I really am. All of this stuff comforts me, reminds me not to get lost in misguided calculations of right and wrong behavior.
None of these things would be different—will be different—if I didn’t (and don’t) follow the strict path laid out by some inner demon.