“Most of us spend our lives protecting ourselves from losses that have already happened.”
– Geneen Roth
Other than whatever biological implications were at play, I can’t think of a more succinct answer for why I developed an eating disorder than this quote (Roth, FYI, has done some great writing on disordered eating). I’m pretty sure anyone who has struggled similarly with an ED or addiction or any personally-detrimental characteristics can relate. Our defenses usually stem from the clunkiest damage of our past, the scars from which often lay the groundwork for current insecurities.
It’s not always conscious, but I do think that a part of me walks around expecting to incur these damages all over again if I don’t stick to the crazy guidelines I’ve set for myself. It’s probably why whenever things work out, I can’t just let them glide by, I need to announce them loudly—asserting, mainly for myself, that they’re real. I used to read the same behavior as a lack of humility in other people, but I’ve filled that space up with a lot of empathy instead. “Oh you were made to feel worthless once too,” I think, “Well then enjoy the fuck out of this good moment, rub it in the world’s face—I get it.”
All you have to do is listen to the way people talk about themselves to realize that most of us are still fighting these nostalgic demons. Sarcasm, though, works wonders in passing conversation, successfully blinding us to realities we prefer to bury deep. Is that how we should leave it? Call it one of those ominous facts of life and move forward with our feet dragging in the past?
I suppose I tried that, and it didn’t work so well for me. It turns out it’s pretty hard to run like hell from your own emotional constipation. Whatever bliss you feel in doing so is brief…and fully loaded with bullshit just itching to reveal itself. Like a curious child who’s just discovered the versatility of wondering “Why?” the shadows will keep creeping in until, eventually, you can’t avoid them.
At the end of the day, restricting food doesn’t make me feel more lovable or deserving of warm things. It doesn’t satisfy those holes made by my past. Instead, it transforms me into someone who is hard to love, or touch, or simply be with. It convinces me that those needs are frivolous when held up against a disappearing thigh or spaghetti arms. It has me sleeping with the enemies, talking to myself through a mic that old bullies have tampered with.
And it sounds so quaint—embarrassing, really—to even say bully, when I’m almost twenty-four and our having-it-all culture would have me (young woman, world at her feet) shooting diamonds out of my crotch by now. However, I’m learning that it’s the rare person who hasn’t carried those assholes around with them, in some form or another.
The upside is that, with work, many also seem to set them free.