But that's not what I want to write about.
She filled me in on another NYC friend of hers, one she's known for much of her life, one who's struggling with an eating disorder. Anorexia, to name names. The conversation brought me back to when I was caught in the throes of it. It's been a long time, a really long time, since I lived that life, or even thought about the reality of it all. And for the first time in longer than I can remember, I remembered the feelings, the grip, the panic, the inability to see, feel, live any other way than in the prison I created for myself.
For someone not suffering with an eating disorder it seems like eating is not a big deal. You're too thin? Eat. Hungry? Eat. Faint, dizzy, disoriented? Eat.
It's not that easy.
In fact, it's just about impossible.
It's not just eating. Yes, food is the enemy. Calories, fat, carbs, sugar—you want as little of them in your body as possible. But worse than food is letting go of control. When anorexia rules you, you're in complete control. You have mastered your body. You are beyond hunger, biological need. And that control is your salvation, your pride, your universe. A tiny crack and it could all fall apart and then what? Who would you be? What would take the place of the constant spin in your head about what to eat, when to eat it, how to eat it, where to get it? Every morning I'd lovingly slice a Rome apple into the thinnest slices imaginable, to make it last as long as possible. And when that was done, I'd think about the diet Pepsi I'd have at 11. I could think about that can, never bottle, never fountain, for more time than you could possibly imagine. Straw or no straw. In a cup or from the can. Over ice or straight up. Straight from the fridge or let it warm up. How many more minutes until I can act on actually drinking it. And from there, once I had absorbed every last drop, it was on to Tasti D-lite (a diet frozen ice cream) for lunch. Thinking about that made my soda thoughts pale in comparison.
When I was sick—103 or 107 was my lowest, I'm 30+ pounds more than that now and I'm still thin—I took it as a compliment when people told me I looked sick. I knew, deep inside my twisted mind, they were jealous and only wished they had my self control. I thought berating myself for pages in my food journal over eating an extra bowl of lettuce or splurging to have brown rice with my chinese food was normal. That going to sleep at 8 because I was so tired from the day was ok, that needing to rest on a bench for 45 minutes after working out to scare up some energy to walk that one block home was fine.
I locked myself in a too small box with no windows, no door, no way out.
I understood where her friend is. I was there.
I am so grateful I escaped that hell. I also know not everyone can.
I wish, beyond wishes, that people could treat themselves with love and respect, compassion and tolerance. Our bodies and minds aren't the enemy. But too often we treat them that way.