Friday, July 28, 2006

Maybe its Mercury

No not the mercury as in the temperature, but Mercury the planet. My friend Ruth, Piccolo’s mom, was saying yesterday that Mercury was moving retrograde and in astrological terms it can be a bad time for communication, among other things. So maybe that’s part of it but I am feeling furious and very upset right now.

On a list I’m on I wrote very briefly having an eating disorder and that I had been thinking about writing about it on my blog. Someone suggested that I should start by not writing what I had earlier about being jealous of a friend’s slim body type. Excuse me? First, I really thought what I had written was flattering and second I was infuriated that this person slapped me on the wrist but in addition said nothing about what I had actually written about – which was that this was a hard subject for me, one I had never even brought out in therapy, ever. Thanks a fricking lot. I wrote to clarify my position and also said I was done on the subject. Then, then, a good friend on the list agreed that I had not been nice. And further, then wrote me privately to ask if I were stressed because my posts seemed a bit testy lately. Well fuck, I wasn’t particularly testy but after that I sure as hell was. TGF agreed that I hadn’t been particularly testy in my postings, but given that I fairly screamed the question at her, she may have only agreed with me to save herself from the banshee that was about to erupt. Honestly it took all my strength not to send a screaming email to my good friend.

This is not merely a hard subject for me. It is one of very deep pain and shame. I have an eating disorder. It is not normal to think about food as often as I do, which you just have to believe me when I say it is way too often – what will I eat, should I eat something different, is that really the best choice, why can’t I have more self control, I shouldn’t have eaten X but really should have eaten Y because it is of better quality, i.e. less fat, more fiber, more balanced etc. It is not reasonable to berate oneself on a daily basis for your body size. It is not healthy to wake up every morning and wonder if today is the day you will take control of the reigns of your eating habits. It is true that I no longer diet wildly, I binge considerably less, I no longer weigh myself 6 times a day (no this is not an exaggeration), I don’t take diet pills, or exercise for up to 2.5 hours a day.

What made me think about writing this entry a few weeks ago was that TGF was leaving the house for a significant period of time and I was going to have the house to myself, something I crave. What did I think of almost immediately upon her exit – “what can I eat?” It certainly isn’t like I don’t eat in front of her, I absolutely do, though it did take nearly a year of living together before I would eat ice cream out of the container in front of her – ice cream being a favorite binge food. As soon as that thought crossed my mind, the next one was “Dharma, this is not at all normal you know.” Another event was I had gotten something to eat one evening, a snack (probably involving ice cream) and TGF asked me what I was eating. A reasonable question, right? But for me, not so much. I nearly took her head off and she felt awful. In turn I felt like a horrible beast. She was sure that she must have done something along the way to elicit such a response and wanted to know what she had done, and how she could correct it. She had done nothing, not a blessed thing to inspire that response. I tried my best to convince her of that. Maybe this entry will help.

I first dieted when I was 12 years old, weighing 99 lb and standing 5 feet tall (or close to that I don’t think I grew much after age 12 and I am now 5 foot and a hair tall). In many ways I have been dieting the entire time since then, which is a couple or few decades now. My doctor, whom I adored, mentioned to my mother, after noting my weight that an eye should be kept on my eating habits. She obviously had a crystal ball. My first year in high school, I refused to eat anything during the week until the school day ended. On the way to the subway I would stop at this donut/small grocery place on 23rd Street and 6th Avenue right by the F train station where I would usually buy an 8 ounce container of Dann*n banana yogurt. On days when I felt decadent, thin, or defiant I would be an éclair. It was one or the other, but never both. I did eat dinner. The weekends, who remembers, but I suspect it went back and forth between a Spartan allotment of food and binging. Because I was sensitive to caffeine I had trouble when I took Dexatrim, I bought empty gel caps and divided the pills up, trying to build up a tolerance to it. Several times I took up smoking, starting at age 12 or 13, in order not to eat.

One night when I was 17 I took so many diuretic pills that I spent almost the entire night awake (again, mostly caffeine, a substance I still wasn’t used to) because I felt I could hear the building breathing and so paranoid that I was never more than 10 inches away from the phone. Another time, I was feeling great about my weight, it was low, I was barely eating, taking diet pills (aha! success in getting used to caffeine) only to have my ex-boyfriend tell me how worried he was about me because I had sunken dark circles under my eyes and was so pale. Really, I thought. But the scale says I am this wonderful low number so I must be fabulous? No? Huh. I did take some heed but I often reflected back on that time with nostalgia for my dedication and my weight. When I say some time, I mean years.

At about 23 or so, I forget the year, I found myself with an unplanned pregnancy despite my efforts to avoid such things (this happened three times – good thing I stopped sleeping with men, huh?). Trying to decide what to do was very hard, heart wrenching in fact. Among the many memories of that time, one of the visceral ones is looking at myself in the mirror liking how thin I was and how that would change, possibly forever if I continued the pregnancy. I was wearing a size 6 or 8 at the time. I cannot fathom being that small now, though I long for it daily. A year or two later, I was taking a semester long poetry workshop with Melinda Goodman, who was mentored by Audre Lorde. The assignment was to write a body poem. Mine was titled “Albatross”. About one or two years later, along with my partner at the time tried Fit for Life to try to cure some vague illness (that even then seemed mostly in her head) and me to support her but also because it promised, yes you guessed, I would shed weight.

In the intervening years between the last paragraph and now, I have gotten less extreme in the behaviors that could be videotaped but my thought patterns are no better and given that I have only twice, briefly had a size 10 in my closet in over a decade, it’s not because my weight is acceptable to me. I am tired, worn out by my struggles. There are literally hours a week spent in reverie of the glory days of my neurosis where my weight was down, even if in many ways I am happier and more accomplished in other areas of my life now. I have been fortunate in my last few relationships to find people who seem to adore my body. I wish I could feel the same way. There are moments, flickers of that peace and adoration and pleasure. They are magical, fleeting dreamscapes where I feel like I am flying. When they end, the emptiness is huge, the struggle feels insurmountable. It is midnight and the coach is a pumpkin once again, the horses are mice, and am back in the dungeon with a scrub brush trying to erase the years of abuse and hatred that I have imposed upon myself. Every once and again I look up and hoping against hope that that sliver of peace will return, even for a moment.


WesWhiner said...

Dharma, it takes courage to write about food and obsessions. Thanks.

who is not recovering at the moment

Dharma said...

Thank you Diane. I am not sure whether I think I am recovering. I think I'm just living with a condition.

heather said...

hey there. i haven't commented before but i've been reading you for a while..

i just wanted to second diane's comment. it takes a lot of courage even to admit to struggling with obsessions. like you said, you haven't even dealt with in therapy. but clearly you have been working on it, and good for you! you should be proud of the work you've done so far. and be patient with yourself for the future.

Jennie said...

Oh, honey. {{{hug}}}

Ancrene Wiseass said...

Kudos to you for being brave enough to write about this, and I hope you'll be able to find a way to tackle this problem that'll make you happier soon. As (yet) another woman with food issues, I definitely sympathize.