Hip Hip Hooray

Yesterday morning there was hip-hip-hooray; yesterday afternoon there was its exact opposite. I can’t think of the word — if it comes to you, you let me know.

I should have seen it coming. A couple of catapults forward, a few staggering steps back — that’s been the pattern this whole time. After such a wonderful week, I was about due for a difficult day.

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Writing it down helps me see — it’s pretty incredible to even be talking in terms of seven good days, before digging into a bad one. I used to count in minutes. Five good minutes followed by fifty-five bad minutes, in an hour on any given day.

Still, I keep thinking I’ve experienced the full gamut of emotions when it comes to recovery. I keep thinking I won’t feel anything new — just lesser versions of what I’ve already felt. I keep thinking the falling-off-a-cliff feeling will dull in its intensity.

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Welllll, wrong on that score.

What happened is shallow and stupid. What happened rocked me more than it should have. What happened led to waterworks with a capital W.

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You know I’d been avoiding looking at a picture of myself, correct? It was the last big hurdle left, if you don’t count stripping in front of someone or wearing a bikini. Neither of which I need to worry about right this second.

I’d been feeling so good, so I thought what the hell — how bad could it be. I was in the gorge, so the scenery was stunning, and I’d been feeling athletic more than anything else. I’d been feeling healthy and active and so full of energy. So enthused.

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So I posed in front of a waterfall so Instagram could go click, and then I took my phone back and peered down at the screen. Note for future reference: the zoom feature is not for me. The zoom feature is not kind. The zoom feature needs to be left alone.

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It was horrifying, such a shock. It was so much worse than I’d thought. Somehow I’d gotten myself to believe that I basically look like my college self — plus five to ten pounds — because that’s the story by numbers. But I let my eyes flicker up and down that photo, and I immediately felt like finding the person in charge, tapping them on the shoulder. That’s my smiling face, but that’s not my body. That’s my head, the head is right, but it’s been cut and pasted onto the wrong body. That body definitely does not belong to me. There’s been a mistake, you see.

I tried to fight the panic welling up inside me. I told myself I’ve never photographed particularly well, the angle was bad, my outfit wasn’t flattering, the camera adds ten pounds, all of those things. I told myself yes, you’ve gained weight, but you desperately needed to. I told myself, you had a distorted body image before — there’s no reason to think you don’t still do. 

It didn’t really work. I cried the whole way down. Stumble-skidded past dozens of people busy enjoying their sunny Saturday afternoon, not fixating on horizontal stripes and butts so big they wanted to die.

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I went home and kicked off the offending pants and shapeless top, and told myself I’d do some ab work, because the hike hadn’t been all that hard. I got to 4:34 on my stopwatch before I sat back up and stopped. The goal isn’t to lose the fat. Not anymore.

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I let the shower wash my tears away this time. Put on infinitely more forgiving clothes and went into the kitchen to make dinner. Last night: wild-caught cod topped with a pepper/lemongrass/garlic/shallot salsa. With a charmingly shaped sweet potato and roasted vegetables on the side.

I told myself it’s not as if you’ve gained weight eating pizza, sitting on your bum. I told myself I’ve been doing this with a nutritionist checking in on me every other week. She specializes in eating disorders. She knows her stuff. I told myself I’ve been doing this by eating foods I LOVE, foods most people would consider to be incredibly healthy. I told myself everything I could think of to make myself feel more even-keeled again.

I re-read this article. I highlighted these two parts:

“If recovery from a malnourished state is allowed to proceed naturally (i.e. without any negative impact of restricting behaviors), body weight (specifically body fat) will increase beyond the level at which it was stable before weight loss, but will gradually drop back again to pre-starvation levels within a year.”

“Your body weight will stabilize and your metabolism will normalize without restriction — but only if you let your weight increase to where it’s meant to be. Otherwise, your still lowered metabolism will force you to keep restricting to stabilize your weight. This is your choice to make. Either you diet indefinitely to keep your BMI at, say, 20, or you let it increase to, say, 26 in the short term without restricting. You could stabilize at 26 then drop back down to, say, 23 over the following months and years. Which seems like the better option?”

What bothers me is actually not the weight. What bothers me is the amount of self-loathing I still carry. When I am small enough to raise all the red flags, when I am a bit bigger than I want to be — it feels the same.

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Only that’s not quite true. Being able to feel all of the misery now — being able to wrestle with it — is actually a really positive sign. It’s when you can’t register pain that you’re in real trouble.

Every month that goes by is another month that I am further from all of this. I will not hate myself forever. I will not feel so ashamed indefinitely. It’s just not possible.

I will just have to keep going. Keep filling my life with other things to think about. Keep being grateful for every happy minute, knowing that I came perilously close to having no more minutes.

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Because honestly — what else am I going to do? What’s the alternative here? Am I really going to tell myself that I don’t deserve to know what this kind of a life can be like? I’ve caught glimpses of it, and I want it. I want it so badly. I want to experience all the things I didn’t have a prayer of enjoying before.

Am I seriously going to say I don’t deserve to know love? Because I’m not teeny tiny? Am I seriously going to say that my body is so repulsive that I shouldn’t dare to ever let anybody in?

We’re back to this again: I just have to give it up. Really and truly. I’ve already let go of so much, but if I don’t keep going, there will still be stuff eagerly waiting to circle back and haunt me. I have to let go of how I looked before. I was sick, before. I can’t be small and well at the same time. It is not in the cards for me.

I also have to stop caring so much about what people think. Try not to bruise so easily. Suppress the urge to compare. Continue to prioritize all of the other things in life — all the things that are much more important than something so trivial as size or shape.

I have to believe people when they tell me that what I look like doesn’t matter. That they love me anyway, love me always. I have to remember that I don’t care how much the people I love weigh. On a good day, on a bad day, on a confusing day.

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I have to remember that I might not be able to be small, but I do have the ability to be someone so refreshingly real. So vibrant, and so full of life.

I feel pretty sitting here, with my yoga pants hugging all the right places. With my baby blue top skimming the sides of my stomach, flaring out at my hips.

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“If you love beauty, it’s because beauty lives within you. If you love art, it’s because you are creative. If it wakes up your heart, a receptor for it already exists within you. Your soul is drawn to the things that will help you unfold your most glorious expression. Give in.” -Cynthia Occelli

“To lie in the warm expanse of your back, to kiss those sun-speckled freckles, to be warm and gentle together, to drink you into honey. That is all.” -Azra.T, Holy Monday

“You deserve to be loved with great intensity. Sometimes it is burning passion and lips and teeth and skin and skin and skin. Sometimes it is the comfortable quiet that says without speaking, ‘I am here for you.’ Sometimes that’s all you need.” -C.L. Mueller

“What passes for hip cynical transcendence of sentiment is really some kind of fear of being really human, since to be really human is probably to be unavoidably sentimental and naïve and goo-prone and generally pathetic.” -David Foster Wallace

“The deepest fear we have, ‘the fear beneath all fears,’ is the fear of not measuring up, the fear of judgment. It is this fear that creates the stress and depression of everyday life.” -Tullian Tchividjian

“You must master a new way to think before you can master a new way to be.” -Marianne Williamson

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