Sunday, October 9, 2011

When It Comes

Some days are good. Hell, some weeks are good. The last two weeks have been a veritable cakewalk of self-confidence and motivation.

My therapist thought this was the result of positive thinking. I didn't tell him that it probably had more to do with me losing ten pounds in five days.

So some days are good. And then, often without warning, some days are bad. Today hit me like a truck. One minute I was walking through a store, and the next I'd caught sight of myself in a mirror and couldn't handle the ugliness, the hideousness I saw there. I was mortified. I didn't want people's eyes to fall upon my self-indicting repulsiveness.

My grandmother and I left the mall and I fought the rising nausea in my stomach as I forced myself to respond to her small talk and chirped enthusiastically at the idea of stopping at Subway for a sandwich. I ordered a twelve-inch chicken and bacon ranch sub, wondering as I gave my request to the sandwich maker if he could see the despair through my face.

The steaming chicken gleamed up at me like slime-coated entrails.

You stupid fat piece of shit, I berated myself in my mind. Why would you order a foot-long? Are you going to eat all that chicken? Look at all that chicken.

I could see myself bloating and bulging and hiding behind fabrics. I could see the scale, and the bitter shame those digital numbers would bring.

You won't eat it all, I answered. You'll only eat half of it.

Grand Ma will be angry that you're wasting food, I countered.

She won't know, came my mental retort. You can throw it away.

She'd see that when she takes out the trash.

Say you're bringing it on the road for the ride back to school. Get rid of it there. She'll never find out.

"Sir, that'll be $7.42," the young man behind the counter announced.

I smiled as I handed him the two five-dollar bills.

When we arrived home, I rushed to the guest bedroom and practically threw myself into a large green hoodie. If I covered up, if I hid myself, if I made myself less of what I was, then I'd be okay. Frantic relief surged through me as the thick cotton came over my head and the sturdy hood tugged at my hair. I was so much better this way.

I ate one half of the sub, suppressing both actual nausea and the affected nausea that would be my excuse to end my meal.

"Man, something's upsetting my stomach," I informed my grandmother with pretended confusion, grabbing my midsection through the wonderful hoodie. That blessed thing. I pushed away the potatoes she'd made for me. "I think I need to go sit down. I'm unsettled."

"Okay, honey," she said. "Put some Saran wrap over the potatoes."

I turned to the pantry and, my back to her, was nearly overwhelmed by tears.

I can't do this. I can't do this. I can't do this.

A pause.

I'm not really nauseous. But I do feel sick.

Another pause.

I haven't felt sick like this in a long time. It's been a while since I've cried from it, too.

She was talking about heading out to another mall to look at bedding and then grab a movie, and it took everything I had to refrain from begging her not to make me go out in public. I just couldn't bear it. I'd do anything if only I didn't have to be where they could see my face.

"That sounds good," I told her with upbeat inflection.

The doctor's words came back to me from Friday afternoon.

"Once you get into this pattern, BB, it's extremely hard to get out of it," she said. "My concern is that as it takes hold it may exacerbate existing problems. That could lead to some pretty extensive mental illness and compromise your decisionmaking ability."

My therapist had spoken with her, of course. She didn't actually repeat his verdict of body dysmorphia. I guess she didn't have to.


She stopped as if biting down her frustration.

"BB, if you continue to lose weight, we may need to consider an inpatient program in a hospital setting."

Good luck.

"I want you to be aiming right now for 130 pounds."

Not on your life.

"That's still under what's considered a minimum healthy weight, but at least then it would only be five pounds under."

Maybe if she understood how things are, she'd be inclined to give me a bit of leeway. Maybe if she knew how when I control food my powerlessness becomes empowerment, how my aimlessness becomes directed, how my fears are vanquished by aspiration and certainty, maybe then she'd back off some. Maybe if she knew the relief it is to look at your own reflection and for the first time in months not be overwhelmed by disgust, she would empathize.

I know I'm being unhealthy, both mentally and physically. I've actually been at an even lower weight before, but it never came about this way. This kind of behavior is new.

And even as I recognize my actions for what they are, I don't care. Instead, I love it. I love being able to see myself shirtless and not want to gag. I love knowing that I have taken charge of my body and dictated what form it will assume. I love that I can exercise self-control. I even love the disorientation, the occasional head rush, the disembodied feeling that overtakes me when a Starbucks iced coffee is coursing through my veins on top of precious little else. I love the high. I love corporeally inhabiting the searing pain that has long stalked my mind. I love all of it. I love what it does.

The other day, I showered with the lights on.

And right now, in my hoodie, away from the mirror, I feel good. I feel better. I'm calm. I don't have to go out tonight. It'll be okay.

I'm being harmful. That's a huge part of the appeal, though. I wanted to destroy something but didn't have the heart to hurt anyone else. So I just decided to destroy myself. And I look more attractive in the process. It's a win-win.

It's not, obviously. I can see that. As lost and hurt and wrong as I am, I'm not stupid. I'm aware.

That won't stop me, though. It definitely won't stop me.


Woozie said...

With virtually all of my friends having one or several mental illnesses, and being a long-time sufferer myself, I can say I'm familiar with the self-destructive tendencies you speak of. There's a reason I don't remember much of my sophomore year; every night was a chance to have one more drink or one more bowl than the night before. It was all about pushing the limits of what I thought possible for me to handle, for anyone to handle. And it certainly did give me a hell of a rush.

But this sort of behavior simply isn't sustainable. My drug use petered out a bit partially because of being poor, but mostly because I realized what I was doing had no end other than itself. Getting drunk and high is fun, but it's not all I want to do with my life. There's more out there, you know? The relevancy of my recreational drug use to your apparent anorexia (yes, anorexia) may seem absent but I think there's something. What, I can't really articulate.

I would love to see you healthy, physically and mentally. It's a long, confusing, difficult battle I know but it's one well worth fighting. Nine long years I've been depressed and it's left its mark on my life, forever. For the first time in a long, long fucking time I feel content. Because I finally began to get the help I really needed. Like me smoking weed and drinking whiskey all the time, you refusing to eat because of some misguided sense of being fat will ultimately lead to a stagnant--and shortened--life. I and everyone who reads this post care, and want only the best for you.

You gotta look after yourself, BB. Nobody else can.

Just me said...

Please take care of yourself. It's right to not want to gag when you see yourself shirtless; to feel happy with how you look. But that comes from a change in mentality, not a change in body.

And you say you can win by destroying yourself instead of hurting others. But you missed something. Destroying yourself will hurt so many around you.

Oh, and we have the same Subway order :)

naturgesetz said...

I wish I knew what to say. But you already know what you need to know: that so many of your thoughts and impulses are mistaken. But it is one thing to understand as a theoretical proposition that your self-image is false. It is another to get rid of it and replace it with a true self-image.

I hope and pray that you will continue toward recovery.

Arizaphale said...

I guess it feels good to write it down.You're right though, awareness is one thing, changing your behaviour is a totally different thing. I hope your therapist and doctor are working together. I also hope you are talking to your therapist about your eating disorder. Control is a wicked thing. Mostly it's just an illusion anyway. Keep writing and keep processing the pain.

laura b. said...

I'm so sorry for your pain, BB. No one deserves that. I hope writing it down helps. Please, please, please take good care of yourself. That is a big job and it is yours.

jo(e) said...

Aw, BB.

This was difficult to read so I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to write.

I'm thinking of you.

Aunt Snow said...

It's been a while since I visited you. This post makes me feel sad. I don't know what else to say. Please take care of yourself.

Brock - said...

Hard to read a post with so much pain :(

I hope you are doing better.