I was standing in the kitchen last week, barefoot, up to my elbows in water just a bit too warm. And dirty dishes. Always, the dirty dishes.
There I stood, scrubbing and washing and rinsing and only half-thinking.
And I was aware that I felt a little bit of unease--sometimes I won't know what I'm feeling, I'll just know that it's uncomfortable or uneasy or at odds with normalcy.
So there I was, hands plunged into soapy water, with a pit in my stomach. What does this feel like, I asked myself? Have I felt this before? And within moments it was pretty clear that it was just a low-level anxiety about money.
Ah, finances, of course.
And so I let it be. But then came another thought, without me asking:
I hate my body.
And that brought me round. Fully in the moment.
Wait, hang on. That's not right. I do not hate my body.
The thought had come so quickly and so casually that I nearly missed it.
But it occurred to me, right then and there, that that thought--that single thought is the best tread path in my brain. It is so well worn and was once so oft-used that it'll find myself suddenly on it just out of habit.
People are forever in search of the why of an eating disorder. And it always comes down to control. That's what everyone says. That's what everyone's always told me. You're life lacked structure--you went in search of it. You found in in the rules and regulations and rigidity of calories and points and the whittling of your waist. But the thing is, never have I felt more out of control than when I was really sick. And I'm a pretty bright girl, if it had been as easy as balance and structure and a set of mandates I would have searched for those things elsewhere. Because it was very clear, very quickly, that whatever the hell i was doing, wasn't working.
Control--that notion never made sense to me. And maybe it's about semantics, but if it is then let me offer up some other words: to condense.
It was about being overwhelmed in a holy-shit kind of way. It was about being overwhelmed by things so large that i knew nothing more than that they were unnameable--that they were bigger than language allowed for. And so I attempted to harness them by emptying all of that looming and ambiguous and terrifying unknown into one thought: I hate my body.
Which was sometimes true and sometimes not, but at least known. I am afraid, I am overwhelmed, I am lost or a little alone or totally unhappy in this place...I hate my body. Like laps in a pool I'd go away from the thought, only to return. It was my touchstone--the lip of the pool I clung to even as I was drowning.
It never occurred to me to swim to the side and climb out.
Or maybe it did. Or maybe I was more afraid of what getting out would feel like: cold and vulnerable.
And sometimes it was as simple as everything else might be terrible: I might be unhappy and I might be heartbroken and I might be out-of-my-depth, but at least I'll be thin. And then I'll get to feel superior and that'll be worth it--that'll be a good-enough-stand-in for all the things that I can't have.
But the thin never came. And that was both my particular blessing and my particular curse. Because I didn't get what i wanted I could only fool myself for so long, but because I didn't get what I wanted I couldn't disprove my false notions that thin would make for an easier, happier, more manageable life (which sounds like control doesn't it?), but i thought the thin would bring the control--not the process of getting to thin--which is a big difference.
But in the end, in this life, all we really have is the process. Nothing is an end point. And so we have to invest in the-getting-from-here-to-there, as opposed to the goal.
When the thought came last week it unnerved me. And then it amused me. And then I got a good little laugh in. Because this is health in a new way.
And damn if it doesn't feel good.