With a Little Help from My Friends

Every day I tell myself I won’t write about anorexia anymore. I tell myself: time to write about something lighter, something happier. Time to write the sort of thing you’d want to read, when you went to resume your slump/seat at your desk in the morning.

(Are you facing a whole onslaught of emails? I hope not. I hope you have coffee, too. Can I bring you some coffee?)

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But then I get another note, from someone who is struggling too/still/again, and I think: okay, one more.

It’s not my favorite thing to write about. I would much rather write about love — new, old, or imagined. Or something really all-too-real, like loneliness and new cities and how can it be this hard. I’d even prefer to write about unemployment, I think.

But I keep coming back to anorexia. Anorexia, anxiety, OCD, and depression — because for me, the four of them tend to come tangled together. Tightly twisted into the kind of knot that’s going to take an eon (or a v patient mother) to undo.

Are you picturing this knot? It better be the kind that you just know is going to get a lot worse, before it gets any better. A month ago I would have added: if, it ever gets any better.

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But it is better, I’m happy to report. And it’s just going to keep on getting better, providing I don’t get really impatient and start yanking on all of the strings, not yet ready to be undone. It’ll come; it’ll come. (That’s my mama’s voice.)

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Sidenote: I’m not really qualified to offer anyone anything, outside of the aforementioned cup of coffee. But should you ever need an email listen and a virtual hug, I’m your girl. Please don’t be shy. Even if you just want to talk about other things, other-than-anorexia things. I’d like that too. (hcnickerson at gmail dot com.)

Okay, now we can do like we always do. I’ll talk to myself, and you can listen, if/when you feel like it.

Yesterday I went to the nutritionist. Funny story: I like her better now that I don’t hate her. I wanted to recover, when I met with her the first time, but I didn’t actually want to do what I would need to do, in order to recover. She made me feel hot and uncomfortable and like a liar and I hated it. I didn’t want to go back. I said I would do it on my own. Could do it on my own.

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I went back a week later, and I never heard anything even a whisper away from I told you so. And when I actually decided I wanted to recover — even though yes, that meant eating more, and yes, that meant gaining weight — she became one of my biggest allies.

I trust her. She knows more than I do. She has the knowledge and experience to help me beat this thing and put it behind me, forever. So I do what she says, and I try not to panic too much.

It’s been a month since I started. Since we started. “We” includes my therapist, my nutritionist, my family, my friends, and every single person who has ever emailed me. Every single person who has made it known that he/she is on my team, rooting for me to get better. All the way better. Because it would be such a shame, to settle for anything less. 

At this point, my meal plan feels a little like a life vest — it’s both comforting and constricting at the same time. I wish I didn’t need one, but…it is what it is.

I’m doing a good job. I didn’t need the nutritionist to tell me, but it was really reassuring to have her confirm it. I’m gaining weight right on schedule. I think she may have mentioned some number of weeks left to go, until I reach what she thinks will be my body’s set point, but I’m trying not to think too far ahead. Anorexia doesn’t much like we’ll see.

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That said, I don’t really care what anorexia likes anymore. Anorexia took away my ability to be a pretty person — one who is patient and kind, confident and bright, well rested and affectionate — and I find that unforgivable. It’s not a person, anorexia, but if it were, it would be a sad stick figure, sickly thin. (Would it be taking it too far to say that I’d like to ink a big X, out over that figure?)

I wrote this to a friend yesterday, and I was so proud of myself for being able to write it. For being able to mean it:

“If I’ve learned anything, I’ve learned restricting food actually heightens anxiety. And if you’re worried about how you look, restricting what you eat is a surefire way to become so thin that you actually start to look a little translucent, which is not pretty. It’s scary. It’s really scary, for you and for everybody around you. For everybody who loves you. The trouble with disordered eating is you will never get to the ideal you have in your mind. Trust me: you will not. Try any harder, and you will shoot straight to sick. And then you will have A LOT of work to do, before you realize that your body has a weight that it likes (independent of what you’d like it to be), and all of your energy would be much better spent going into learning how to love that body, at that weight. That body, at that weight — which will be smart and sexy and soft in some places, because that’s what pretty is. That’s what pretty looks like. It’s not perfect. It’s not cold. It’s not see-through; it’s not empty. It’s approximately none of those things.”

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