Here’s another one that sort of poured out- I’m not editing – my deepest apologies to my grammar and spelling experts.
I wish you guys could experience how scary and exciting this completely blank page feels to me each time I sit down to write. This empty, white page waiting for me to fill it up with something good – the black cursor hounding me with its relentless pulsing.
Oh blank page, hello. We meet again. You scare me, but I love you.
It’s appropriate that scared and sacred are virtually the same word. Those two often walk hand in hand towards me.
Here’s our Momastery FAQ for the day: I get lots of variations, but let’s use this one:
“G- I’ve seen some of your pictures on Facebook and you look really skinny. Makes me wonder. Are you sure you’re “better”?”
We addicts, we refer to ourselves as recovering, never as recovered. Because recovery is a process, sort of like trying to be a person of faith or a decent parent or a loving spouse or a good friend . . . you’re never done. You gotta start over every single moment. By start over I mean constantly make decisions that carry you out of your hiding place and keep you bravely marching (or crawling) toward the light.
I’ll give you the real, raw skinny (so to speak) about my eating first, so you don’t become afraid that I plan to hide behind phrases like “bravely marching toward the light” throughout this essay. I swear I can hear Bubba gagging on that one all the way from the bay.
Speaking of gagging, I became bulimic when I was in fifth grade, and I binged and purged several times a day until I became pregnant with Chase, at twenty-five. I was never truly overweight, but when I was young I was never skinny either, and most of my friends were. At some point this difference started to make me uncomfortable. Back then I didn’t know that discomfort was an inevitable part of life. I thought the fact that I was uncomfortable meant that something was wrong with me that needed to be fixed. Bulimia seemed like a good plan to fix my wrongness. Anorexia was not an option because I found too much comfort in food. Binging helped me forget my worries, numb myself from anxiety, and best of all – hide from life, relationships, my own dramatic thoughts and everything else scary.
I lived in my little Bulimia World instead of the Real World, and it was a kind of a depressing, gross, unhealthy world but at least I understood it and I made the rules and there weren’t many surprises. In my Bulimia World, I was not vulnerable to other people or even to myself. Nobody was allowed in to my world but me. And really, I wasn’t even allowed in because there was no space for real emotion or thought in my world. The only feelings I allowed myself were, “fat” and “skinny.” And since those aren’t even real feelings, bulimia was a lot like being dead. Dead is safe.
In middle school my bulimia got bad, in high school it became worse, and in college it got ridiculous. My friends knew that I threw up after every meal. They’d wait for me outside the dining hall bathrooms. I constantly avoided the pained looked on my best friend Brookie’s face as I exited the stalls each day. There was a group of us who were known as bulimics, and it was cool . . . it was no problem. At least we were taking care of ourselves was the attitude of the guys I hung with. I don’t remember my college boyfriend, with whom I spent most waking hours, ever saying anything to me about my bulimia at all- other than a few jokes here and there. That ex-boyfriend’s best friend nicknamed me “Smush-Face,” and still calls me “Smushy” to this day. It’s an affectionate term, and I love it. Who doesn’t love a nickname? Makes ya feel loved. But it’s funny because the reason he called me “Smush-Face” was that I had these chipmunk cheeks (think Renee Zellwegger) that are often a dead give-away for bulimia.
I remember this formal announcement being made at a meeting in my sorority house: “Guys, if you’re going to throw up, please remember to flush. It makes us look bad when people come to visit and there’s puke in the stalls.” I also remember passing out twice in the bathroom of my college dining hall and then waking up, walking out, and joining my friends to go party. All of this seemed normal to me. It’s a scary thing- what can become normal.
The point is, I was really bulimic, really sick. And I needed my bulimia. I chose it, everyday. I think it started out as a way to control my weight but turned into a way to control everything. You can’t take away someone’s bulimia without offering something else better to replace it – a better way to control things, a less harmful way to handle life’s discomfort.
But even better – the best thing a bulimic can be offered is the idea that she doesn’t have to control anything at all. That the things she’s so desperately trying to fix don’t have to be fixed, ever.
I don’t know how to teach that or learn it- but it feels kind of like when Tish cries because she colored outside the lines in her coloring book and she’s saying tearfully “I messed it all up, mommy” and I tell her- Actually -that’s the way I like it. I can’t stand always staying in the lines. THAT- what you did there– is art.
She’s not sure she believes me yet – but maybe one day.
Until recently, I never had any idea how to just breathe and let life happen. How to say – yes, yes, that’s okay, and that, too- and even that. I never knew how to let things be and trust that I am enough and that everyone else is fine and that I don’t need to be liked or even loved by everyone at all times. That I was always going to feel a little left out, and that’s okay. I didn’t know that the moods and actions and words of other people did not have to affect my peace. I didn’t know how to forgive people even before they hurt me because they are doing the best they can. I didn’t know that it wasn’t all about me, anyway.
I just didn’t know that everything was okay. That my messiness and my dramatic, worried heart were what made me beautiful. I didn’t know that no one needed me to fit in. And I hadn’t learned that sadness and loneliness and differentness and fear and anger are not problems to be fixed or avoided, but inevitable places humans have to go and stay sometimes to learn and grow.That life is not a science, it’s art. And outside the lines is better.
I think I’m done for the day.
Stay dry and safe and I love you.
Author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller LOVE WARRIOR — ORDER HERE
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