As a privileged young white woman in America I naturally have a number of friends who have had some sort of struggle with an eating disorder. In fact I recently started seeing a shrink and one of the first sort of funny moments we had together was during my first session. She cautiously asked me about my relationship with food and I told her that I eat it, I love to eat it and I feel no guilt whatsoever about eating it, and then I pulled out the wrapper from the chocolate croissant I had eaten on my way over there.
Compared to pretty much all of my peers my relationship with food is pretty insanely good (if only I could cook it).
And I know exactly how lucky that makes me. And I have a lot of people to thank for it because I know it is the result of some pretty conscious hard work from some people who love me (and food).
And as someone who benefitted from those people I feel like it’s my duty to pay it forward, and help other people not be afraid of food too. Because I wouldn’t be here without the people who took it upon themselves to make sure I saw them eating whole gallons of Cherry Garcia ice cream.
It’s important to talk about it, to think about how I got where I am and to hear from friends who have been less fortunate about their experiences, the potholes they fell in along the way and the triggers in pages of magazines and on red carpet shows.
A common thread I often found when talking to my friends about their ED’s was that they felt ashamed of not just their bodies being seen but also of all those negative thoughts about their bodies. And so it was harmful for me to shut down their negative self-talk without hearing it out first. It taught me that even when your thinking is disordered, the answer isn’t just replacing the words with healthier more accepting ones but sussing out why the negative words feel like the ones with greater fit.
Which leads to the question: If I feel so passionate about this then why do I sometimes have to not read them?
It’s not because I’m afraid of being triggered into skipping dinner. If I don’t eat dinner we’re going to have bigger problems.
It’s not because I don’t care about the fact that my friends are having a rough day and need to get the negative words out of their mouths so they’re not bouncing around their heads.
It isn’t even because I’m bored of the topic from spending every day watching it unfold, penetrating my friends, my family, noticing the tones in the voices of shopgirls as they try to sell me anti-cellulite lotions.
But every once in a while as I pass a friend bemoaning and apologizing that she can’t just be better, that everything is just so hard and so much, I get scared. Not that I’ll stop eating, but that some days everything is too hard and too much, and if I were to take that as an answer I’d be the biggest disappointment I could ever imagine being, to myself and to my family, to all the people who have leaned on me for that same support.
And so out of self-preservation (something else my shrink says I sometimes do too little of) I just press the skip button and continue on my merry way.
On the days where it’s all too much I cry for myself and for my losses, I cry for the friends who can’t just snap their fingers and eat pie guilt free, I cry for the friends stuck in jobs and cities and relationships and families where they aren’t happy or loved and I cry for the people in harms way, sick, injured or scared. On the days I cry I spend the entire day doing it. It’s exhausting and time consuming and god forbid it happens in the morning I better hope I have nothing else to do that day unless I schedule in a nap.
Everyone has days that are dark, obscure, and terrible. And you should live those days to their darkest, obscurest, and terrible-est. And then tomorrow enjoy the kittens.