Month: July 2013

10 Things I Could Be That Would Be Worse Than Being “Fat”

Sometimes it’s nearly impossible to get through a day without that thought. Ugh, I’m so fat. Yeah, it’s irrational, it’s stupid, it’s superficial, I get it. I hate that it even crosses my mind.

And the thing is, no matter how many times I’m reassured (by myself or someone else) that I’m not, in fact, “fat,” it doesn’t get any easier. It’s still an overwhelmingly negative thought. It’s still a triggering thought. And I have to look at it in its big ugly face every day. We get in this ridiculous back-and-forth circular argument that never ends.

“You’re fat.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes you are.”
“No, I’m not.”

And so on and so forth until I get tired of fighting and try to drown it out with loud Top 40 music, still feeling like a piece of garbage.

But you know what? Maybe there’s a better way to look at this. I’ve been thinking a lot about my mental processes lately, and I generally don’t respond well to confrontation, even with myself. So I thought, hey, maybe instead of constantly arguing with the pesky little voice in my head, I could try outwitting it. I’m a pretty smart person, I think, and I have a good head for logic. It’s worth a try, right?

Here’s the deal, you negative thought, you. We’re gonna play a nice game of “Would You Rather.” Actually, it’s more like a game of “I Would Rather.” And I’m going to tell you about some character flaws that I DON’T have, that I’m proud not to have, and that I would choose “fat” over every single time. Yes, that’s right. Every. Single. Time. So here’s the list, without further ado, for your intellectual consideration. Ten things I could be that would be WAY worse than being “fat.”

  1. Rude. There’s nothing worse than somebody who’s impolite, bad-mannered, and ungrateful.
  2. Unreliable. I would hate to be that person, you know, the one nobody can ever count on.
  3. Narrow-minded. Everybody’s biased, but I’d rather not be intolerant or bigoted.
  4. Selfish. Let’s face it, no one wants to be friends with someone who only cares about themselves.
  5. Arrogant. People’s self-superiority can be pretty darn suffocating.
  6. Oblivious. I much prefer having general knowledge of what’s going on around me.
  7. Lazy. It’s much more rewarding to achieve things when you really earn them.
  8. Apathetic. Caring hurts sometimes, yeah, but it’s better than feeling nothing at all.
  9. Cowardly. I may be afraid a lot of the time, but I’ll never be a coward.
  10. Boring. Let’s face it, I’ve got a story to tell. I’ve got a lot of things to say and I like to be ridiculous and I’m a pretty riveting conversationalist. The worst thing I could ever be is boring. And if being slightly off-kilter means I’m a more interesting person? I’ll take it. I’ll take it any day.

Falling

I didn’t mean to fall, you know. I think I could have been happy just standing on my own two feet for a while. After all, I haven’t exactly been very steady lately. I’m still trying to regain my center of gravity, to figure out how to stay upright without some crutch to grab onto during the terrifying few seconds when I can no longer feel the ground below me. I want more than anything to prove to myself that I can.

But I fell. Before I even had the chance to reach out and find something to hold. Before I even realized the floor had dropped out from underneath my feet and I was stuck to the wall of a spinning castle like an amusement park ride. I fell faster than I thought it was humanly possible to fall. From vertical to horizontal in .6 seconds. A sports car of destruction.

I fell into something that scraped my knees and bruised my elbows. I fell into something that broke my fall with the comfort of an overfilled raincloud. I fell into a darkness that drew me in and slowly led me toward the light.

I fell out of me, all of a sudden; tumbled from the inside of a barrel into the sunlight that was warm and glowing and lovely.

I didn’t mean to fall. But I’m glad I did.

The Whirlwind of Losing Control

I like the driver’s seat. There’s something perfect about adjusting the mirrors to your exact field of vision and pulling the lever forward (or back) until your feet are the exact right distance from the pedals. Everything in that car becomes about you, about what’s going to make you the most comfortable and capable while you get from point A to point B. Whether you’re alone or the car is stuffed full of passengers, you’re behind the wheel. You make the decisions.

You’re in control.

To state the obvious, I’m really bad at not being in control. Which is unfortunate because about 99.9% of the time, I’m not. I can’t be. It doesn’t work like that. I don’t get to decide when it’s hot or when it rains. I don’t get to decide whether or not my professors give cumulative final exams. I don’t get to decide how many calories my body needs every day in order for me to, you know, not die. And I most certainly do not get to choose the way I feel, much less the way other people feel.

Do you know how hard that is to accept? For someone who thrives on being able to downshift when she’s scared and swerve to avoid potholes? Usually when I’m faced with something like that, something too big for me to move alone, I run away as fast as I possibly can. And believe me, I can run pretty fast. I’ve gotten so good at running I almost forgot what it was like to hit one of those bumps that send your car flying and flipping through the air until you land on your head and can’t figure out which way is up anymore.

Relationships, I guess, fall into that category, as do a lot of other things. It’s a lot easier to get out of a relationship than to face the maddening insecurity of knowing that no matter how much you want to be there, you can’t force the other person to want the same. I’ve let really beautiful ones fall by the wayside because I couldn’t stop thinking about the possibility that they didn’t really care, or that one day they wouldn’t care, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t handle not knowing. I couldn’t handle not having control.

Surrendering control is like diving off the 10-meter board with no real assurance that you’ll even hit water. It’s like blindfolding yourself and handing your keys to someone you’ve never seen drive before. It’s like letting go of the rock wall and hoping there’s a belayer down there to catch the rope. It’s like walking a tightrope above crowded city streets. Surrendering control is the culmination of all the things in life that make me the most afraid. It’s an adrenaline rush. It’s beautiful and ridiculous and exhilarating and terrifying.

I wrestle with it. Letting go. I take the first few steps onto the tightrope before I jump back in fear. One of my hands stubbornly retains its tough grip on the rocks. I stand on the edge of the diving board and curl my toes around the edge, rocking back and forth like I might just fall, accidentally, and not have to make a decision.

Sometimes, for a few seconds, I’m there. I’m free-falling through the air and it feels amazing because I’m not scared anymore, and all of a sudden anything in the world is possible. I can feel pain or ecstasy or the perfection of love without holding anything back. Those few seconds, however brief or insignificant they may seem, are everything to me. And then before I know it, I’m back where I started. Staring at the abyss below me. Afraid to take the leap.

I am a mess of emotions that tries desperately to stay put together. But I am learning to trust the universe. I am learning to trust the people in the passenger seat. I am learning to trust that when someone offers to jump with me, they mean it. I am learning to experience the whirlwind of losing control.

How to Love Yourself

I wish I could title this post “How to Love Yourself in Six Easy Steps,” or “How to Love Yourself: A Comprehensive Manual with a Money-Back Guarantee.” If that were the case, I’d be a lot happier, a lot richer, and might single-handedly have destroyed an entire breed of psychologist. There isn’t one way to love yourself. The process is not short, easy, or linear. Think about how long it takes to really fall in love with another person, and it will probably take at least five times that long to really fall in love with yourself. Plus, loving yourself isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, either. You can love yourself and still have moments when you’re mad at yourself or don’t like the way you look or feel shitty for no reason. Loving yourself doesn’t make you perfect or invincible. Things will still hurt. And yet there is something so appealing and empowering in the idea of self-love, something that seems to transcend everything else and launch us into a higher state of being. We yearn to love ourselves. But how?

Start by hating yourself.

Isn’t this where we all start? Finding those little things about the way we look or the way we think and attacking them with a fine-toothed comb? Deciding that if we could just fix this or that or the other thing we’d be better off? More worthwhile? Deserve more good things?

It’s okay to hate yourself. As long as you don’t intend to keep it that way. It’s part of getting to know yourself. You can’t love someone you don’t know. And you can’t know someone without facing the parts of them you aren’t so fond of. Face them. Hate them. And then let them go.

It may take years, even decades to get past this stage. For all intents and purposes, I’m still in it. And I could easily decide to stay in it. But I won’t. Nobody deserves to live their life there, not even me.

And that’s step two. Realize that you’re not special. Realize that if you wouldn’t treat your worst enemy the way you treat yourself, there’s a disconnect. You don’t expect perfection from anyone else. You don’t hold anyone else to your highly critical standards. You’re not the exception to the rule.

Realize that treating yourself like the worst person in existence is just as narcissistic as treating yourself like the best. You are human, for better or for worse. You’re not special.

That’s hard to hear. But it’s the truth. And once you realize that, you’re ready for the third step.

Love yourself a little bit more every day.

You aren’t going to wake up one day and suddenly feel like God’s greatest gift to the world. You’re going to wake up with regrets and insecurities sometimes, and that’s never going to go away. But that doesn’t mean you can’t love yourself. It’s a process. It’s a lifestyle. It’s not a destination.

There are millions of little ways to love yourself. There are some really stupid ones. Like this. Look at yourself in the mirror first thing every morning and compliment yourself. Out loud. Say it. Even better, write it down. Glue it to the mirror so you see it every time you walk by.

Or how about this one? Take yourself on a date. Put on your favorite outfit and wear your favorite shoes and treat yourself to dinner and a movie. Even if it’s just making yourself chicken parmesan and watching “Clueless” on Netflix. Forget about what you “should” be doing and just do what you want. Give yourself two hours of blissful ignorance of the rest of the world.

Loving yourself isn’t a passive state that you can achieve. It’s as active as any relationship you will ever be a part of, if not more. Would you stay with a lover who incessantly pointed out your flaws? Who denied you food or enjoyment? Who you couldn’t trust to be there for you at the end of the day?

Be that person for yourself. At least try. You won’t be perfect, certainly, but you will start to love yourself. Little by little. Slowly but surely.

Along the way, you will see the ways that other people can love you. You will notice that your parents are obnoxious not for the sake of obnoxiousness, but because they care. You will learn to take compliments because you can recognize honesty. You will watch your friends appreciate your weird idiosyncrasies. You will see someone’s face light up when they look at you, because they have fallen completely in love with you.

Realize that you deserve every piece of that love. That these people around you aren’t obligated to love you, they just do. They love the way you smile and the way you tell stupid jokes and the way you internalize your ambitions. Someone else loves you, and you deserve it. You are just as deserving of your own love.

Nine months ago, compliments were triggering. I viciously pushed away everyone who was trying to love me. I nitpicked and doled out punishments and literally starved myself – not just of food, but of everything I needed and wanted. So today I say only this: I love myself more than I did. I love myself more today than I did yesterday. I will love myself even more tomorrow. And that is enough.

Realize that is enough.

That is how you love yourself, and that is enough.

Vignettes of an Eating Disorder, Part 8

I don’t have a problem.

Just to prove to them that they didn’t have to call the hospital, I ate an entire turkey submarine sandwich. Mayonnaise included.

See, I’m fine.

I spent the next forty-five minutes locked in a bathroom stall, stifling powerful sobs and willing myself to be sick so I wouldn’t have to feel nausea and guilt dig their little talons all over my insides.

I didn’t have the guts to make myself throw up. I hated throwing up, anyway.

I am a spineless son of a bitch.

I consumed nothing but water for the next 36 hours. My penance.

15 Things I’d Do for A/C Right Now

1. Wait in line at the Comcast store.
2. Watch Miley Cyrus’ latest music video on repeat.
3. Sit next to a screaming baby on an airplane.
4. Clean my bathroom window frame with my bare hands (just trust me for the gross factor on that one).
5. Shave my head.
6. Learn to quilt.
7. Cube ten pounds of raw chicken with a dull knife.
8. Sit through all five Twilight movies in a row.
9. Change a diaper.
10. Teach my grandmother to use her iPad.
11. Speed date everyone I went to high school with.
12. Wrestle an alligator.
13. Go through sorority recruitment again.
14. Watch someone else eat the entire carton of ice cream that’s in my freezer right now.
15. Be stung by a jellyfish.

Bonus: Shots. I hate shots.

Vignettes of an Eating Disorder, Part 7

As I lay awake in bed, I was painfully aware of my slow, irregular heartbeat. My roommate breathed heavily from across the room. Quietly, I pressed my cold hand to my chest. Felt the thumping echo through the bones of my spindly fingers.

Sometimes when it skipped a beat, I held my breath and sank into the moment, wishing it could stay like that forever.

Why I “Sold Out”

As some of you may have noticed, I have “sold out” this blog. That’s right, it is now inarguably associated with me, very publicly, via every social network I’m a part of.

Pretty scary, huh?

I mean, it was definitely a tough decision to put myself in the spotlight. It’s been nine months since I was diagnosed with anorexia and started this blog, and still there are huge numbers of people I’m fairly close to who don’t know. It seems counterintuitive, then, for me to share my stories so openly. I mean, I’m sharing a very personal struggle in a very public way. It’s a risk, one that I’m not entirely sure I’m really ready to take.

But what I’ve realized from keeping up this project for nine months is that it’s stopped being totally about me.

Through this process, through my recovery and my limited sharing of information, I have met so many amazing people who are struggling with very similar things. I have received messages from people I know and people I don’t know, via Facebook and email and the comments section, telling me that the stories I have to tell are inspiring and powerful. I’ve had people confess to me their own struggles with eating disorders and self-harm, people who I might never have expected to hear from.

It’s not about me anymore. It’s about all the people who think they’re alone and anonymous and hopeless, all the people who haven’t given themselves a voice. I’m using my voice to speak not only for me, but for everyone who has ever felt inadequate. I was given the gift of words, and I’m choosing to use that gift for something bigger than just my own passion and pleasure.

Chances are, someone else out there is dealing with the same things I am. And there’s nothing better when you’re going through a hard time than knowing someone else is right there with you.

So yes, I sold out. I went public, and now everybody on the internet knows a lot of really personal details about my life. My roommate told me if anything happens to her because of this blog, she’ll haunt me forever, so I guess I have to be careful. But any backlash I end up with is worth it if I can inspire even one person to keep fighting. So here I am. Wide open for all of you.

Thank you to everyone who’s been a part of this project so far. I am forever grateful to have such beautiful and inspiring people in my own life. I hope one day I can return the favor.

Little Imperfections

In October, I made a list. The list consisted of the names of fifteen people I love and admire, and next to each name was a sentence that explained why I loved/admired them. The point of the exercise, which I’d learned in a body image group, was to show that I probably didn’t love or admire anybody based on their weight or how they looked. For me, though, it did a lot more. As I scanned my list of sentences, I was struck with a realization.

I love people for the ways in which they aren’t perfect.

I had never thought about it before. Perfectionism is like a virus that overwrites all the logic in your brain, and in a way, it turns you into a massive narcissist. I spent God knows how long constantly freaking out about whether anyone could see my flaws – was I totally put together every time I left the house? Did I get 100% on every test? Did I successfully conceal unpleasant emotions? Had I lost enough weight? Did I always come across as friendly, likable, desirable, smart, and down-to-earth?

In other words, was I perfect?

Well, in a word, no. No one is. It’s literally impossible. And what is “perfect,” anyway? Is there a checklist? The dictionary states that perfection is “the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.” Which is still pretty vague, because who decides what’s a defect and what’s not? Society? The people you surround yourself with? You?

Almost everything I’d written down on that list could probably be looked at by some objective “judge” and deemed a flaw. But none of them were. They were the things that set these people apart from the masses, made them interesting. Made me love them.

My little brother is maddeningly lazy. But that was on my list. I admire his ability to let go of the things that aren’t immediately relevant and just enjoy time as it passes. He knows himself. He’s confident and secure. And that means, well, sometimes he doesn’t get everything done, but he doesn’t get stressed and manic and worried about it.

Some people, including myself at times, would consider that sort of lazy, disinterested attitude a “defect.” But I’m secretly (or not-so-secretly) incredibly jealous of his ability to stay present, in the moment, no matter what the situation.

I admire little things about the people I love. I love the way my best friend sings loudly and off-key way too often. I love that my mom gets super neurotic about things because it means she cares. I love that my roommate doesn’t eat salad because she hates most vegetables and she doesn’t give a crap about it. I even love the way my friends lose patience with me because it keeps me on my toes. If anyone tried to tell me that those were flaws or defects or barriers to perfection, I’d be pissed. I can’t imagine those people without those qualities. I can’t imagine loving them. Those flaws are integral, special, and important parts of who they are.

Perfectionism causes you to hold yourself to impossibly high standards. But clearly, I’m not holding everyone else to the same ones.

I’m working very hard to deal with my perfectionistic tendencies, especially when it comes to my grades and my body. Part of me doesn’t want to let it go, because the goal of “perfection” gives me something to always be fighting for. It gives me a purpose. But the other part knows that I will never measure up to this unrealistic concept of the ideal.

I’ve got flaws. I overshare a lot. I overanalyze a lot. I forget to clean the coffeemaker literally every day, and I have an obnoxious bone structure that does not allow for the existence of well-fitting pants. I can be flaky and painfully socially awkward.

But maybe someone who loves me would say those aren’t flaws at all. (Well, the coffeemaker one definitely is. I’m working on it.) Maybe someone who loves me would say that my social anxiety is kind of funny and puts people at ease. Maybe someone who loves me would say that my overanalyzing means I usually do the right thing. Maybe someone who loves me would say that well-fitting pants are overrated and my unnaturally large hipbones are ridiculously awesome. Who knows what someone who loves me might say?

Imperfections are the good stuff. They’re enticing. If I were “perfect,” I wouldn’t want to be friends with me. I probably wouldn’t be very interesting. And I don’t find myself drawn to people who look like they have everything put together, either – I’m much more intrigued by the people who embrace the parts of themselves that make them different from the boring, general average population.

Part of recovery, and growing up, and life itself, is accepting all the little imperfections. And slowly but surely, I will embrace my own.

Nobody is perfect. Everyone has their own little idiosyncrasies. Some people call those imperfections, but no, that’s the good stuff. — Robin Williams