I’m reading a book by Marya Hornbacher called “Wasted”. It’s her personal memoir that focuses on her history and struggle with eating disorders. I’m about a fourth of the way through the book and we just jumped from elementary school to middle school. I’m interested in this book for a couple of different reasons. First, Marya is a woman who is a mentor in my MFA program at UNO. I don’t think she takes on Poets as she is a creative non-fiction writer, but could be wrong. Secondly, the subject matter interests me because of my own struggle with my body image and history of bulimia.
I’m not sure exactly what I am looking for in the book. Perhaps some confirmation or validation or maybe just a connection to another human being who might understand my thoughts, which can often be quite absurd. The truth about eating disorders is that they never really leave you. It’s a lifelong battle in the mind between conflicting notions about how things ought to be. Her descriptions of life events is very much like this. Always extreme, and dire, and, if I may say, beautifully tragic. I would go so far as to say passionate. That’s how I would describe her writing and it’s very inspiring.
I can relate to some of the patterns of thought she lays out before the reader as if I were living in her skin, in her body. Her hyper self-criticism while looking in the mirror is too familiar. Having fallen into that mirror at the age of 9, is something that is not familiar to me, however, as I didn’t develop my eating disorder until I was in my 30s, after I had had two children.
I was a grown woman responsible for two small children and should have had better sense than I did. I’m reading all the things that Marya sites in her book that can be contributing factors, and I don’t have any of those classic problems. If I had issues with my parents growing up (which the Universe knows everyone does), that certainly could not have been any cause because I was well past all that nonsense. It’s not like I was having issues with puberty either. One common thread may be that our society still holds being “thin” on a pedestal and there is an ideal body image that we should work hard to try and get.
I wonder if that was one of the key ingredients along with most certainly my failing marriage and my (at the time) soon to be ex-husband and his desire for skinny women – which he was very vocal about. I know I also had this constant numbers game going in my head about weigh. I had lost weight to help with my PCOS and getting my hormones in check to get pregnant. Naturally I thought that meant that whatever weight that was, was healthy. The truth is, it’s still pretty close to what my present self believes to be the ideal. That is what I mean when I say that it never leaves you.
At the present moment, I am approximately 12 lbs heavier than that “ideal” weight and it is on my mind more than anything else. More than my children, or work, or school, or my relationship. I think about food all goddamn day and am constantly scheming about how I am going to solve the “problem”. I worry that my clothes are getting too tight. I worry that if I have celebratory meals, I’m going to regret indulging in things, I don’t want to sacrifice any quality of life I get from eating (which seems to be super-important for me), yet I feel shame and guilt when I have something I know is not healthy.
Honestly, I don’t even know where this blog post is going. Was that the long intro that I needed to bore everyone away from reading further so that I could confess that I actually tried throwing up again today (the first time in about 7 years). Marya read about a girl who commit suicide and thought “I could do that”. And I read about how she was throwing up at least once a day at the age of 12 and thought “maybe I could do that”. Of course I can’t. It’s ridiculous.
I mean, I can, but I am 45 and in no mood to deal with that nonsense. Once was a good enough reminder that it’s not the answer I am looking for.
I kept my son home from school today because it is his birthday tomorrow and we have a tradition. Once a year, around their birthdays (my son and daughter), I let them pick a day and we both stay home. We spend the entire morning and afternoon together, just one on one. It’s a great tradition and I am hoping that someday they will look back on their youth and remember these times fondly. Anyway today was my day home with my son and we had just finished eating breakfast. I made a tube of cinnamon rolls and he had 4 and I kept to two. That left two in the pan and I just hate to let food go to waste. I asked him to have another but he was clearly done. That’s when I had the thought, “I’ll just eat the last two and then try purging”.
Like it’s just that easy. Like it’s no big deal. Like the last 7 years of being “over it” had never happened. I wonder a little bit to myself it this isn’t what falling “off the wagon” feels like for an alcoholic. Just one sip, and it’s “so long, and see you tomorrow”.
After breakfast he went to go up to take a shower and I went to my room to do the same, only instead of doing that, I got into that all too familiar position, crouching in front of the toilet, and tried to “get rid” of those cinnamon rolls. You don’t need any more details other than the fact that it was horrible and a good reminder how ridiculous the whole thing is. Minutes later, I was stepping in the shower, disgusted with myself for trying. The rest of our day off was quite lovely, but now it is over and this is the dominant event of the day that I feel like I need to write through. I’d much rather be reporting on how I treated us to a new video game and got my butt kicked in Super Smash Bros. or how we watched “Venom” together and I fell asleep during the big, final fight scene.
I often have to remind myself that I am only human and that I am doing the best that I can with what I have. So I made a mistake today, but nobody ever got a medal for 9 days or 9 years of sobriety and nobody is ever going to congratulate me for getting over my eating disorder. I survived. I’m still surviving.
Tomorrow is another day and another opportunity to make good choices – better choices. Hopefully today’s experience was enough of a reminder of how terrible things were when I was “in the thick of things”. Will I ever be able to hush the constant hum of worry about my appearance? I certainly hope so, but I just don’t quite know how. That’s how the mirror tricks you, it makes you believe that if you become what you imagine to be your ideal self, then the worry will stop – that all the problems will be solved. If that seems like a fucked-up circle of thought, it is because it is.
And tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,