My mother told me this yesterday after I admitted an obvious relapse. She reprimanded me first, as is the norm and I don’t know why I would expect anything else, but I again mistakenly thought she would softly assure me that I would get through whatever it is I needed to get through. She’s not that type of mother.
You have to have will power. It’s all a mind thing, she told me.
You see, I went through an unhealthy weight loss that wasn’t considered anorexia, years ago, back in freshman year of college. Back then, I had only lost 10-12 pounds, but I rapidly put the weight back on. I had lost my period and was taken to my pediatrician who threatened to send me to rehab. I was so naive and vulnerable. I was scared shitless and I was so happy to be home and eating my favorites again that I ate, and ate. I stuffed my face, dismissing my shrunken stomach - the result of not eating.
I ate until nausea consumed me. I ended up throwing up at times, but hating the bodily discomfort of trembling that accompanied it. I hated how throwing up felt like I was being possessed, head over the toilet, and I avoided it all costs. I would rather suffer from a stomach ache and have the contents of my stomach come out through my rear end than through my mouth. I also didn’t want to undo all the work of eating to gain.
So my father would walk around the block with me, in an effort to make my body acclimate to the enormous amount of food.
Eventually the weight I had lost was part of me again and my stomach was open. I say that the weight was a part of me again, as awkward as that sounds, because my body, as is everyone’s, has a set point - a weight necessary in order for our hormones to function properly. This is how much space we’re supposed to take up, lest we’re dead.
I didn’t think about how many carbs I was eating when I ate toasted bagels with butter. Hell, there was no other way to eat a bagel than with butter.
I never thought about the fried crunchy bits on chaat - a sweet and savory popular Indian street food. I never thought about the starchy boiled white potatoes or the added sugar from the cloyingly sweet tamarind chutney.
I never thought twice about savoring the Betty Crocker muffins my mom made, substituting the oil and eggs it called for with water and egg whites. I thought that was a healthy choice. Kudos, mom. That George Foreman Grill of the 90s did well to make us privy of healthy eating.
I never did like granola bars, though I took to Kudos, the brand of sticky cereal bars that had traces of chocolate chips, more than any of the others on the market.
I would look forward to pancakes, made from boxes, filled with refined white flour, with added blueberries and a slice of glistening butter melted on top.
The past couple of days, I have felt as though my heart was going to give out. It felt fatigued. My breathing had begun to feel labored. My veins bulged along my arms and legs until they physically hurt. My sunburned skin felt taught. I felt as if death was eminent. I had anxiety and panicked. I burst out crying.
I called an eating disorder specialist at NYU for who a consultation cost $600. She said my eating should be medically supervised. She said, “that’s why so many people die of this.” I don’t want to die. I don’t want it to end like this. I also don’t want to pay $600, but the direness of my situation having dawned upon me by this Johns Hopkins medical school-educated woman, my brother a fellow alum, was all it took to put me in my place. The fear she instilled in me was enough, no fee necessary.
Yesterday I ate more and did not move lest I expend energy. My mom asked me to eat a bagel. I refused, so she left without picking up one either, despite the fact that she wanted one. I knew I had made a mistake when I told her to go to the bagel place that I walked to, to buy her bagels. It’s about an hour walk away from my house- figure 3-4 miles coming and going. She flipped and my secret was out.
She asked me to eat a slice of pizza for lunch after I couldn’t breathe again yesterday. I again refused.
I made her muffins this morning. I know she loves them. She asked if I was going to eat. Again, I refused. I had already felt disgusted with myself for eating so much yesterday, for having that dreaded protein shake this morning. She refused to eat the muffins.
I took her by her hand today and vowed, regrettably so, not to move. I self-imposed house arrest. I hate that I did that, but I have to.
After our argument was patched up, we decided to sit outside in the backyard and look through the 800-page September issue of Vogue. A bee was trailing me.
Now, for your point of reference, I don’t react to wild creatures outside. I don’t so much as flinch when a bee comes near me. Pests, on the other hand, like those creepy crawlies that rhyme with “coaches,” scare me to no end.
So the bee would not let me be. At this point, I lost my yogic stance because there was a high probability that I would be stung. And in the Darwinian case of predator and prey, being the latter, I stared to bob and weave in spite of my weakness, lack of energy, and bulging veins.
My mother’s maternal instinct revved up and somehow she made contact with the bee on her first kick, knocking the wind out of it so that it fell to the ground, and then swiftly stepped on it. “There,” she said, stoic, strong, and satisfied.
That was my momma bear. She is the epitome of a strong woman. She is doing her yoga now while I eat and sit and sit and eat. I am pissed. I feel like she is egging me on, taunting me, working out in front of someone for whom working out is off limits.
But she was willing to let me buy the bicycle I wanted yesterday and she stood in line at customer service just so she can show the manager the organic superfood bars I love to eat, but that they sold out of. A part of me felt like she did it because of their high calorie count. But then again, she didn’t complain when I opted for black bean soup and whole grain toast instead of the Italian food my father and her planned on eating. And she got me a subscription to Health Magazine, knowing fully well that a good deal of its contents revolve around exercise.
I think those were her ways of giving me a little happiness in my world of darkness.
We went to a women’s undergarment shop while looking for additions to our wardrobe for fall. We both noticed that the quality of the shops products increased since the last couple of years when we decided to peruse their shelves only to leave disappointed.
I know I keep coming back here, but I really like this place, I told my mother. Especially since- I paused, leaned in closer to her and whispered - they support eating disorder awareness. My mom knew how serious this was. Hardly anyone knew anything about the dire health risks of anorexia aside from victims, their families, and specialists.
“They do?” my mom asked.
Yes, I replied. Don’t you remember last year at the walk? They were one of the sponsors and gave away tote bags.
After having paid and prior to leaving the shop, my mother went up to the store manager without my knowledge. She thanked her for supporting the National Eating Disorder Association. She left the store smiling.
I’m in a hole and I want out. I want out so badly. I want to travel, to write, to work, to live. Laughing is so foreign that it physically hurts on the rare occasion that I do.
I can’t live like this anymore. I thought this “can’t” made me weak, but in reality, it makes me strong. It makes me a strong woman.
Maybe I’ll dress as Rosie The Riveter this Halloween. Maybe I’ll have the energy to hand out treats to the costumed children. Maybe I’ll be able to laugh without doubling over in pain. Maybe I should just do this and forget that I let a year pass without progress.