naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (El Dorado: Little Voice)
TRIGGER WARNING: body image/eating disorder issues

I have started I don't know how many entries about body-image type stuff. This entry right here has been in my composition window for something like three days. Every time I start a post like this, I break it off because it feels like I have to give this long, involved history before I can talk about what is bothering me.

So maybe I should just give you the history so I can go on and talk about other stuff.

There is shit that I have never told you guys. I haven't talked about it because it's a long and painful story, and telling it always means dealing with other people's reactions to it, some of which are guaranteed to be inappropriate. This sort of thing is not something that people tend to be able to comment about in a civilized fashion. There's always someone who comes around and says "But it's fine to lose just a little weight. That's totally possible!" When, you know, way to miss the cunting point.

There is no way to talk about this honestly without making other people feel bad because they have done things or do things that hurt me. That's less of a concern that it used to be, frankly, because I am around pretty universally awesome people, but it's still a concern.

And as a result I don't talk about this shit, and it builds up.

Anyway. I just want to lay this out. Today you just get the quick version.

For several years, five or six, I was acutely ill. I was never formally diagnosed with an eating disorder, but I am pretty sure I had one. I covered it up, I hid it, I thought a lot of my dysfunctional behaviors were normal or healthy. I exercised a lot. I ate really healthy food. Isn't that what people are supposed to do? Especially fatties? And if doing those things is good, surely doing them really hard is better, right? Right?

Yeah, I can hear some of you not-laughing, because you know.

The gist of it is this:

For several years, I was eating 700-1000 calories a day, from a very limited menu of fresh vegetables and lean white meat.

For several years, I trained with weights every other day, intensively.

For several years, I was practicing dance for upwards of an hour every day, longer on days I did not do weight training.

For several years, I was walking every day for miles. Miles and miles. A bad day was not zero miles, a bad day was three miles. An "okay" day was ten. On one occasion, I walked twenty miles in circles around the local park. In addition to both of the above. That was a "really good" day. (I remember it really well. For about four hours I didn't hate myself.)

I did this six days a week.

For years.

Until I stopped being able to feel hungry because my body just got used to it as background noise.

But I didn't think I was ill.

If you are reading this and thinking that what I was doing sounds reasonable, you should probably just click away. It wasn't reasonable. It was killing me. I was going crazy from starvation. All because I wanted to be thinner. And yet, that's what our fat-hating culture would have me do, because better a dead fatty who was trying to be thin than a happy fatty who is content to remain that way. When fatties kill themselves, well, it's the least they could do, really. And if you think those views are impossibly hateful and that nobody really believes that, well, all I can do is envy your ignorance, because I would probably be happier not knowing that to a lot of people the sum total of everything I am and was and might become is unimportant enough to be completely negated by how much I weigh.

And I will never understand how it is that I came to drink that Kool-Aid. I will never understand it and on some level it will always remain unbelievable to me that I let it go on for so long. It felt like the actions of another person. It seems so out of character for me. I don't understand. I mean, there were factors in my family and childhood, yeah, I can see that now, but why didn't those come to a head when I was a teenager? Why did it wait until my late-mid twenties to start?

I managed to get down to 128 for one half of one day. Never could get below that. Never could get into the "normal" BMI category. Most of the time, because I was muscular in addition to being fleshy, I was about 140. I thought I was horribly fat. I told myself I would rather die than gain back the seventy pounds I had lost. Worse, I thought I truly deserved to die.

I had a breakdown sometime shortly after my mother died. This untenable way of life collapsed in on itself and I could no longer sustain the incredible effort it took keep it going, running as hard as I could, starving myself, exercising myself to exhaustion every day, not even to lose weight but to stay exactly where I was, with any relaxation causing an immediate uptick in my weight.

I became suicidal. A combination of starvation, a bipolar mixed state, and stress from where I was living and our monetary situation, both of which were awful. The drugs I was put on fucked me up, and I gained weight. The aftermath of starvation fucked me up worse. I gained everything back, every pound, with interest. Which is what happens when you do what I did, which was even worse than the Minnesota Starvation Experiment*, and went on for far longer.

It was reading about that experiment, actually, that jarred me out of the worst of it. Those men were living on 1,560 calories a day and were expected to walk 22 miles a week for 24 weeks -- 6 months. I was on 700-1,000 calories a day for something like three years, and at my peak I am guessing I walked half again to twice that amount.

It was, specifically, the guy who CUT OFF THREE OF HIS FINGERS and then COULD NOT REMEMBER WHETHER HE HAD DONE IT ON PURPOSE OR NOT that finally reached me. Here was a man, a young man who had passed rigorous physical and psychological health exams, and who volunteered to do this -- he knew it would end, and when -- and he couldn't make it six months in a controlled environment with a great deal of mutual support. And he didn't just wash out -- these were 36 committed, determined individuals, and only two of them, two, failed to complete the program -- he fucking CUT HIS FINGERS OFF. And was psychologically damaged enough by that point to be unsure if he had meant to do it. And again, I will emphasize: he knew when the starving would end.

When you are starving yourself to stay thin like I was, you don't know when it will end. At some point, if you are biologically like most people, you become aware that to stay where you are you will have to keep the effort up forever. That if you stop or relax even a little, you will start losing ground. At some point you realize it never will end. You stare at that fact and you can either 1) give up and let it go, gain it back, and render all of your effort meaningless and destroying the results, or you can 2) keep going and keep fucking yourself up worse, in which case you'll do #1 eventually anyway.

I put as many hours into it as some people put into jobs. It still didn't work permanently. I had been lied to my entire life. By family, friends, doctors, and every book and article I had ever read. Until I read the right book.

After reading about this, I lay down the book in which I had read about the experiment, and I went into a different room and sat there until I no longer felt like throwing up out of disgust and rage and sorrow and pain. And I stopped what I was doing to myself that day even though it hurt like ripping off my own skin. It had been building for a while, but that was the proverbial straw. The fingers.

So. That's the history. That's all the stuff that I feel like people need to know when I talk about this particular kind of pain. Some of that is stuff that I haven't said openly, all together like that.

Someday I will transcribe a bunch of entries from my handwritten journals and I will show you just how diseased my inner life had become. Someday I will scan in the scrawling sketches I did when I couldn't do anything else, the really horrifying ones. I will show you the ugliness that I didn't want to acknowledge.

That day is just not today.

Today I just want to go pretend to be someone else for a while.


naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Default)

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