How do I save my little girl?

I am on my second cup of coffee and half a pack into the day. I have done laundry, made lunch for kids and picked things up off the floor. In between all of this I have chatted with my sister, watched parts of an evil suspense thriller, worked on Twitter and contemplated home decorating. I haven’t eaten anything yet today. I have thought about and fought with food for the past 23 years. I have an eating disorder.

Eating Disorder – noun – Any range of psychological disorders characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits.

I love food. Cake is my favorite. I will inevitably always succumb to a piece of cake. I am always on the hunt for a better piece of that sugar frosted, moist, fluffy treat. When it’s perfect it sticks to the top of your mouth for only a moment before dissolving amid that pleasant sugary feeling on your tongue. I will settle for a donut.

I love meat cooked properly. I will eat fish of all sorts. I love cheese. Fine artisan cheeses that I can feel and taste the different textures in the rinds. I like to cook with a variety of olive oils and vinegar. I will devour a cookbook and leaf leisurely through cooking magazines always hunting for the best ideas to do with the special chocolates I eat daily.

At no point when this all began did I ever imagine that I could consume all of what I wanted at once. The food consumed during that maniacal eating was never the divine food I loved. It is the easy to devour fix.That I could stay thin and eat a dozen donuts, half a gallon of ice cream, a whopper, fries and a large bag of Lays at once. (or a similar group of foods)

I never thought, in my little mind, that I would go to the Whole Foods and make all kinds of half-hearted small talk with a cashier about the imaginary party I was buying all this food for. Or, that I would eat in the dark in the middle of the night or a back room somewhere. Or, that after weeks of during the week’s starvation and weekend binge eating I would be so exasperated I would give up friends.

Nobody goes into this knowing they will need to come up with stories about broken blood vessels, stomach problems, vocal and teeth issues and scabby knuckles. It really isn’t pretty at all. Your hair is weak and to tell you the truth; you will never shit right again. Nope. Never. Ever. The After school special I assume didn’t mention all of that. Most often I only see the truth as experienced through other people’s memoirs and struggles. Written plainly. Without glamour.

{A fucked up asshole and bloody knuckles}

Somewhere around second grade I felt fat. I remember a Christmas card I made for my mother in Brownies. I wore brown corduroys and a cute happy face orange Brownie sweatshirt. Crooked wavy brown hair, not a broad smile – but a smile none the least. I was on the school auditorium stage next to a fake Christmas tree. When my brownie leader gave me my card back with the newly taken picture I looked at it and immediately my heart sunk and I felt ugly. I did not feel pretty and special like the other girls. I thought I looked dumpy and round. My hair wasn’t straight and it wasn’t in ringlets or braided all fancily. I had on plain sneakers. Not Mary Janes or the coolest new Nike’s.

{That was the day that I started identifying myself as ugly}

I started jogging and doing aerobics in my mid teens. I wasn’t what I thought of as a skinny girl but I knew I passed for pretty to the boys. I was athletic and enjoyed running and doing ropes and coarse type activities. I have always loved walking a trail and feeling the muscles in my body respond to the roll of the earth beneath it.

At the flower shop where I worked, the owner’s daughter was what I thought  of as the luckiest girl in the world. She was blonde and petite. She had a walk-in closet stacked to the gills with everything desirable. She lived in her Mother’s beautiful home and had money in her pocket. I was amazed that she was my friend. She was a little bit older than me. At the time she was dieting and doing some exercises with a dumb bell in the office. She start talking of this dreamy new Rocky Road ice cream at Friendly’s. I of course was on some fashion of diet and knew this was a deviation from whatever plan of the day I had. Got the ice cream, ate the two scoops or whatever and went and puked.

{Saw it on TV}

Apparently, I wasn’t paying attention to anything in the movie; only banking the solid information on how to ‘get skinny by way of after school special’. I am not sure of the fine line between that day and the ability to binge up to eight times a day, ingest ipecac and daily boxes of Exlax.

{Often times stealing the laxatives at the super market I could walk to from my house}

Some days the binges would not come. On those days I would drink black coffee with Sweet n Low, a rice cake, a thinly sliced piece of Genoa salami and gummy bears. I would also eliminate those items.  I had a second job at the mall in a florist that I was terminated from because I was across from a jelly bean cart. And there was a food court upstairs that if the need presented itself I could consume and purge. It’s not always a binge. I needed to get rid of it. I lost the job because I was always vomiting and the manager had a problem with that. I assume he knew because I have never been all that good at lying or covering up my tracks. If I’ve been there, there is usually a sign. I threw up everywhere.

My mother was convinced I was retarded so I had to start puking in bags in my closet and putting them out my bedroom window – or puke out the window. Of course now always horrified at what I know the neighbors saw over the years. I went to a few ABA meetings. Taken by an older very concerned co-worker. All I got out of that at the time was more ideas and notions of, if I were skinny enough. I was never skinny enough. Only skinny enough to tolerate.

{Eventually it became a size zero, or 100 pounds}

When I reached those goals my lofty dreams of feeling like a just been kissed Sleeping Beauty did not come true. I knew I was sick. I knew I had been introduced to a beast so evil and powerful I would need to fight to be okay. What I did not know is that it would be a forever battle. A battle that would fester in my body and mind for all the years past and all the years to come. Like the gates of hell with a clever genius tapping her finger on the iron gate. I am not exaggerating and only after all these years can I identify her.

Honestly, I often don’t see the signs until the day I have a grueling feeling and know I need to quell the beast. I need to have a bowl of oatmeal. I need to drink a glass of water. Take a vitamin. Eat cereal. I need to move my body.

{Cereal the mainstay nutrition of my life}

I know the key to MY health is vigorous exercise. I will not say that it does not consume me. And that I have been known to extremism. What I know is that when I challenge my body physically and mentally to push out the power, create space and growth in my muscles. I more often tend to feed them much better. I know that a muscular body is beautiful. I also know one must feed their body to perform effectively and efficiently. If I am not challenging them I generally don’t feed them. They don’t get that reward. I don’t think that concisely only as I am writing it. What I also know at this stage in the game is that I NEED to eat something or else I am a nut bag – as of late it seems to be at bedtime. And small bites throughout the day to ease that daily nausea thing I have.

The nuisance of the problem is that it is such a labyrinth of rules and emotions that under stress can come up daily. One needs to eat daily. It is not the same as putting down a drink. I understand that putting down a drink can be like pulling your eyeballs out with your own fingers, without a drink. But, eating disorders can become that feeling every day when you have to continue to consume the drug per say.

Today, I am most fearful for my daughter. She is an amazing girl crafted of unbounded beauty. She has recently been starting to struggle out loud with body image. When she complains of clothes or of something said by an asshole classmate I immediately seize inside. All I can think to myself is please know you are amazing. Please know that you are the most cherished and beautiful girl on the planet. Your unpolished talents have the potential to be wondrous and full as you grow in life and experience. I tell her things like this and I give her all of the obligatory be yourself, God made you perfect speeches. 

I deep in my soul know the truth is , it doesn’t always matter what is said. And it doesn’t matter what you know. It is insidious and powerful.

I am sorry (mostly) for the day I said I wished I was anorexic. It was before I knew what that meant. I say mostly because my eating disorder has become such an easy place to fall back on when things are rough. I stopped throwing up when I got pregnant with my girl. Mostly I don’t have the energy. I tinker in the land of hungry and controlling most days unless I am training for something. I am not in training for anything on the calendar right now. Like an old comfortable pair of sweats, smooth from years of wear and familiar in a perfect way. Just out of the dryer, still warm as they slide up and fall onto your curves; I fall easily into old behaviors.

What is the answer to ending the cycle of eating disorders? How can I continue to take care of my body, feed my soul and set a good example for my daughter? I don’t know the answers to those questions. What I know is my experience and the pain it causes. I practice my due diligence at encouraging healthy eating habits. I continue to learn about myself and my behaviors regarding food every day. I can only encourage others to ask for help, be patient and try to remember you are loved. Really.

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3 thoughts on “How do I save my little girl?

  1. Your honesty is startling and courageous. I am sure that the self-knowledge that you clearly have is the first step to making sure that your daughter lives a happy, healthy life. Best of luck to both of you. Thank you for sharing.

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