Monday, May 18, 2015

... On That War

In what may be one of my more popular posts, I talked about my body image. It's something with which I will most likely struggle for the rest of my life, even as I reach an age where society tells me I won't care any longer. Of course, I'd like to think that, since that article from 2012, I've matured enough to where my thoughts are drastically different from three years ago. I just let out a little chuckle; I know it's naive, even as I type the sentence. Such deeply ingrained ideas are very difficult to eradicate.

One particular passage that sticks out to me now is this:
But here's a dark secret: I actually liked getting sick. I liked knowing that, because I was ill, I would only be eating soup and drinking water, if that, and at the end of it all, I'd be at least five pounds thinner. I'd find myself hoping that I'd be sick just a few days longer ... so I could be sure that I'd be at my goal weight, which coincidentally kept getting lower and lower.
I was sick a couple weeks ago with something that I can only attribute to stress. At first, Three and I excitedly wondered if my nausea and general GI discomfort was a symptom of pregnancy, something for which we have been hoping for years, but as time passed, I only got worse. I felt like an ice-filled balloon was expanding in my stomach and gradually into my throat, and even as it seemed that relief in the form of vomiting would come, the feeling would dissipate, leaving me to stand miserably over the toilet or my barf bag. Eventually, I could barely stand, the nausea and gastric pain too much for me to bear. Throughout that week, it was all I could do to eat a few saltines and drink a few glasses of water.

"This had better be because of a baby," I told Three, "because that is the only way that this sort of shit is worth it."

Finally, I couldn't stand it any longer and had the HusFriend take me to urgent care, where pregnancy was ruled out pretty quickly, much to our disappointment. A stomach ulcer, the doctor told me, was much more likely, anyway. Thankfully, it was just that my stomach was a breeding ground for ulcers; I didn't have a single one. But the doctor made it very clear that I needed to reduce the stress in my life and take it easy, at least long enough for my gastro-intestinal tract to heal.

And here's where I bring that above passage back into play. I was thrilled when the doctor told me to eat a "rat diet" in addition to taking anti-nausea meds and a muscle relaxer. I tried to hide my excitement at the notion of subsisting off of chicken and stars with the occasional Gatorade. Of course, I'd take vitamins, like any "sane" person would, and I would make sure to keep myself from overexercising. That was my mistake before, the little slip up that alerted people to what was going on. This time, it would be gradual, and no one would be the wiser.

Except that I forgot that one other little thing that was different. I was married. Three is quite possibly one of the most observant human beings on the planet, picking up minute details that even a bloodhound wouldn't notice. A few times prior to this, he would subtly mention that I hadn't eaten anything in a while or that he knew I was disliking my appearance. Both of us suffer from dysmorphia - he currently despises what he looks like, even though his puffiness is caused by a steroid shot he received to help with his sinus infection - so he's already intimately familiar with the concept of anorexia. So when Three caught my pupils dilating at the mere mention of a restricted diet, he took note. He didn't say anything, but he was ready.

A few days later, when I felt somewhat better - I was still on medications, but I'd been cooped up in the house for nearly a week and was desperate for some out-of-the-house time - we drove down for a lazy day on Sullivan's Island, just outside of Charleston, SC. The beach is where I go to recharge. There's something about being so close, so connected to where all of life began that the clouds surrounding my brain start to clear. My creativity starts to flow, and any dishonesty - whether I'm aware of it or not - washes away.

"I want to stay sick," I admitted aloud to Three, whose hand tightened around mine. I watched the waves engulf my feet and felt the sand start to erode away, leaving me on a very unsteady pedestal. "I know it's stupid. I know there's something wrong with me, but I know that, if this keeps up, I'll lose all that extra weight that I'm so scared of. But then where will I be? Fat and healthy? Maybe?"

He walked with me and listened, only adding pertinent and kind comments. I was of two minds: one greatly wanted to cure myself of the mental disease, while the other grasped to it like I would die if I even considered getting help. It was incredibly frightening and confusing, and even I knew that there was no clear-cut solution. But I knew that Three would be there with me, loving me the whole way.

I was rather clairvoyant as a very young woman, predicting that anorexia would have a hold on me well past its expiration date of perceived usefulness. Even now, my idealized body, while it is not what it was when I was in my twenties, isn't very realistic, and my anorexia's plan to reach it is anything but healthy. Despite this, I see an improvement, especially now that I can talk about it with only minuscule feelings of shame. I can be even more honest about my struggles, not afraid to admit a defeat. My deep depression from two years ago - and its subsequent valleys that appear every now and again - has me prepped to see a psychologist, so that's one more step that might stabilize my mental health. I suspect I'll do other updates to this body war in years to come, chronicling my growth, and I can only hope that, the next time I write about it, I'll be smiling a bit bigger and ready to be that much more open with the world.
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