I recently had a couple of assessment visits with an eating disorder clinic. I'm not terribly impressed at this stage, for various reasons, and I don't know if I'll end up getting any help from them. There are distance and time issues which make it harder. We'll see.
But what I remember vividly is the sheer power of my emotions once I got onto the subject of my relationship with my body and with food. I haven't cried like that in years, not since I was depressed and seeing a counsellor weekly. And I just realised why.
It was grief.
I don't think I understood that before.
I don't think I understood before just how much I have lost.
My sister emailed me the other day, making, to me, a completely astonishing remark:
I just live with my body type. I should absolutely do more exercise and stuff, but I'm content enough to go along with what I have!
This shouldn't be shocking to me – even by current standards, my sister is in good shape. She's a Type 1 diabetic, so her diet is pretty carefully monitored anyway, but she's not uptight about what she eats. She doesn't mind if she gains or loses weight. She just is, in her own words, content.
I wonder how that's possible, especially considering that she came between me, with compulsive eating disorder, and our youngest sister, who was anorexic in her teens (though happily fully recovered now). How did she manage to glide right by the issues with food that have plagued me for over two decades, or those which plagued our sister in her teens.
For me, you see, I can't imagine a world in which I don't imagine people judging me when I buy crisps with my lunch, in which I don't feel guilty and yet compelled whenever there's food in front of me, in which my body is a neutral thing that I can just "go along" with. At every point, I seem to be battling, feeling conflicted and ashamed, either because I'm failing to meet even the beauty standards in my head or because I'm failing to meet the moral standards I've been setting myself. Even as I begin to understand the meaning of "fat acceptance", I'm still usually overwhelmed by the feeling that it just isn't okay for me to be fat.
It's not even coming from the outside, mostly. Oh, there are occasional comments, and occasionally I read hateful remarks that people make on FA blogs and wonder if that's what people are actually thinking that about me. But mostly, it comes from me. There's no one else who's second guessing my crisps – really, if anyone was, I'd say they were in serious need of a life. It's me.
I wish I knew how to make me shut up.
But then, maybe that's part of the problem – I don't look at the part of me that is terrified by crisps and try to understand her, ask her why that bothers her. I tend to want her to shut up and go away, because I think that if I was free of her, maybe I would be able to be happy in my body. Maybe I would lose weight. Maybe not. I think of her as a burden, as something to grieve over, and maybe she's still screaming, in the midst of all my understanding and indignation over FA issues which you would think would make me feel better, about how I'm too fat to live because she's still scared, and I still treat her like shit. I can see so clearly how my disorder works, and yet I still don't ask it what it's doing for me, what necessary function it performed once upon a time that made me cling onto it.
The other day, I was reading Geneen Roth's blog, and came across the following:
"Whether we are sailing into the New Age or facing Armageddon, our work is still the same: to look as deeply as we can into our hearts, to tell the truth, and to question our old beliefs. To be willing to have our hearts break rather than keep ourselves protected. Emotional eating is based on old beliefs of what keeps us safe. Wars between countries are based on old beliefs of what keeps us safe. Question the war inside yourself because what you find inside you is what gets reflected in the world we live. It can't be any other way, since the world is us. If you want to change the world, start with yourself. Start by asking yourself if eating cupcakes for breakfast is an act of tenderness. Question the way you treat yourself, your children, your neighbours. Become your own beloved."
It's so hard to remember to do that. It's so hard, in my grieving for the body contentment that my sister has and I, somehow, lost, to remember not to blame the part of me that has spent twenty years trying so hard to get on top of this. I'd like to separate from her, but she's still me.
It's back to the abused spouse metaphor again. I still haven't stopped treating her like shit.
Sigh. If anyone's actually reading this, I apologise for being so misery-guts-ish.