I did not do it for the attention, nor did I do it to satiate a disatisfaction I had with my body. One could argue that eating disorders are about both of those things - attention and poor body image. I could agree with that argument, and can, to some degree. But, those motivations are surface motivations and factors that are considered enormous contributors mainly, and only, because individuals with eating disorders are often too malnourished to push past them and speak of any other reason. In retrospect, I can see that. I found a journal entry today from age fourteen in which I considered an 'off/cheating' day as a day during which I indulged in three pretzels and a cookie. The food was the primary factor in the journal entry and in that particular period of my life. Food was, not bizarrely, the only thing I saw, thought about, or wrote about. Mainly because I was starving.
At thirteen, I failed to recognize that that hunger was not specifically somatic, but that it extended and pervaded all realms of my life. I desperately, desperately wanted friends, to fit in, and to be loved and admired by my classmates. I wanted my father to come back home. I also wanted my mother to come back home, as when my eating disorder began, she failed to exist as a concrete mother and hired a babysitter to watch my sister every waking moment of the day. Thus, what I wanted, was company. My sister was ten at the time and far too young to be of comfort to me - she was three years my junior and also second (and last) so far as birth order was concerned. So, though she may have been ten years old, she was still the baby. I wanted that title. I was, essentially, hungry for not so much the spotlight, but for the position which would make me visible.
I find it laughable now that I thought I could become visible by nearly starving to death. I don't think I ever fully realized that that would produce exactly the opposite effect. In the end, I may have been seen. But, I was seen for the wrong reasons. People were not looking because they thought I was beautiful, or because they wanted to approach me, befriend me, love me. All they saw were the bones, their eyes laced over with exclamations of, 'Oh my god, you are so, so sick.' I mistook the general glances of concern (which I received from basically every person I met) for looks of disapproval. I was, needless to say, insecure. I still am, to a certain degree, though not quite to the extent I was. I woke up in the middle of the night riddled by the thought that my boyfriend hated me because I fixed something on his desk, shaking with fear that he'd dump me and that everyone else would follow suit. As a child, I had an intense phobia of being lost. One of my earliest memories is wandering around the Disney store, panicked and screaming for my parents, genuinely believing they had abandoned me for playing with A Little Mermaid plush for too long. I realize now I was terrified of being alone. Which, of course, was why I wanted to be seen. Because, I wanted (needed) people. Many of them. People to tell me that I was okay, that I was great even. That I was worth knowing and worth loving. That, in the end, I was worth being alive. That it was okay for me to breathe.
I cannot say I ever found what I was looking for. I wanted people, but every person I met was mildly disatifying and unfulfilling. There were a few that weren't, and those few I clung to with every last morsel of my strength. But, even they were too far removed from me, as I had successfully enveloped myself within an inpenetrable barricade of insecurity. And, within that fortress of silence and solitude, I met who would become my two closest friends over the course of the next six years - anorexia and bulimia.
My eating disorders were my friends. Sometimes. Other times, they epitomized those bitchy girls in high school whom you desperately desired to be friends with but couldn't understand why. They abused you and called you terrible names, spreading rumors that you slept with the Math teacher, or filling your locker with sweaty gym socks, but you continued to follow them around like a lost little puppy, hoping, praying, pining for acceptance. This was my life for six years. Some days, my eating disorder praised my hard work and clapped me on the back, permitting me to accept my own status as a human being for an allotted period of time. Other days, I would remain in bed in dire fear of the mirror. I knew the voice of my disorder would not be kind; I knew the voice would only send me back to bed anyway. And, so I stayed.
When I was starving, I was great. According to my eating disorder, anyway. I was higher than high, soaring freely above the clouds in my own whirlwind of thoughts and ideas and dreams, incapable of being touched or reached. Alone. But, I was empty, hollow, and lighter than I'd ever been. Had I had wings, they would have been too much. All I had to do was hold my breath and I'd be able to float off of the ground. In the beginning, that is.
Every high ends. This is no different. I was not involved in drugs, nor did I need them. But, when I crashed, I crashed hard. And, the only thing I wanted, the only thing I desired more than people and acceptance, was food. Because if I could not sate my emotional hungers, why not the physical ones?
I starved for nearly two years and somehow sustained life by consuming only bowls of fruit. But, like I said, the high ends. And, I was starving. So, I ate. I ate, and ate, and ate, and ate. And, when I realized what I had done, I could not remember why I had done it, or how I had allowed it, only that it happened before I could protest. I then protested my body's response to famine and threw back the feast.
I look back on these things now and cannot help but be anything but sad. I starved for years before I realized why. I threw up three times a day and could never see the reasons perpetuating it. I see them now, and I can recognize them now, but I couldn't then, and that is the mind-bender I am constantly left with. I dare not ask how I didn't realize what I was doing was wrong. I think to a certain degree I was cognizant of the irreparable damage I was doing to my body and my delicate self-esteem by engaging in these self-destructive acts. But, only to the degree that allowed me to continue doing it. I am not a manipulative, vindictive, cunning person. I never have been. I was, however, in my eating disorder. And, it seems, I was the most manipulative when it came to myself. A common misconception about eating disorders is that there is only one voice doing the talking. Perhaps in the beginning. But, somewhere in the middle, somewhere in the midst of all the stupid shit you put yourself through, another voice emerges and says, 'What the fuck are you doing?' And, that is your voice. In the beginning, I did not have a voice. I found no fault with this because I didn't want one. I liked the quiet. After my first relapse, I couldn't distinguish my own voice from the eating disorder's. The two had fused. But, after my third relapse, my voice began fighting, though it was no louder than a whisper. I barged past it daily, my hands in my ears, my eating disorder screaming, 'I CAN'T HEAR YOU!' and whispering sweetly that ten pounds more would be enough. But, my own voice became louder and inevitably, I came to see that ten more pounds, twenty more pounds, 100 more pounds, would not be enough. Death would not be enough. And, that was when I decided to live.
I feel like I'm starting to write something that's going to begin resembling a book. I'm excited.