1095 days

Celebrations really are a mixed bag. While there’s no 12 step group to offer judgment free support, there are some whose compulsions to break out the flimsy crepe paper and cloying confections the moment they catch the faintest whisper of a marriage proposal or spot a subtle baby bump, border on the need for immediate intervention. The more workaday observer might fire up the barbecue upon a long holiday weekend under the pretense of honoring some long dead president’s birthday, or grudgingly pony up a few dollars towards that notoriously specious gold-plated timepiece in recognition of a job promotion/firing/rehiring/retiring.

As a country, we’ve become so accustomed to multiple motives for occasion of some sort, I’m sorry to say, I harbor a cynical suspicion that our worshipful celebrations now outnumber the actual amount of religions that are actively practiced. The lengths we’ll go to for a good dessert…

As a society, we’ve grown inured to the scads of contradistinctive observances and expect everything from mailers offering discounted oil changes to “THIS WEEKEND ONLY!” white sales. But then there are the other days. Days that might not matter to many people at all. Days that might matter only to one. Cupcake-less days. Still, these are every bit as important as the commemorations that take place on a national scale. This past Monday? A big one of mine. It marked three years to the day since I gave up the fight. Wait, no. That isn’t right.

It was three years ago that I began the fight. My greatest to date in fact. A full on, knockdown, drag out, make it or break it, battle for my survival. Because I had known  people throughout the years. An astounding sector of our society who nonchalantly dwelt among the rest of us. Those of us who went about our daily activities trying to hide our indisputable damage.

These were the people who were somehow able to live without the afflictive abetting of an eating disorder. I don’t mean merely exist, no, not this bunch. Truly live. Such characters always struck me as the real super heroes. I had seen them for myself and yet.. the very possibility that I might one day join their ranks? That had never seemed like much of a possibility at all.

I believed in living without an ED about as much as I believed in unicorns and mermaids, but exceedingly weary from dying by degrees, the slightest prayer that I might..just might ride one of those unicorns to a disordered-less world? It began to haunt me. I hadn’t (no pun intended…maybe intended a bit) much left to lose.

If it was attainable for some, could it be for anybody? For the chance, however unlikely, to live free, I owed it to…well, I owed it to someone anyway, to let myself dream. And if I could dream it, then maybe I could try it. And put in at least as much effort as I had put into learning to shuffle convincingly with the dual shackles of restriction and purging. Okay. Marginally convincingly. Okay, okay. Temporarily marginally convincingly.

For the great strides made in recent decades with educating the masses about ED’s, we’re still barely emerging from the metaphorical dark ages as far as sensitivity and true understanding are concerned. For example, you know, don’t you, that eating disorders are about vanity. Oh yes. And control.  And sometimes about wanting to regress back to childhood. Freeze the female form into a prepubescent and somewhat asexual shape.

Oh! And they’re funny! Have you seen the T-shirts that are sold in sizes XXL (and larger) that proudly bear the words “I BEAT ANOREXIA”. Let the hilarity ensue. Give me a moment to collect myself. Self starvation by a tormented soul? That’s just good comedy right there. Heaven help me if I ever see someone wearing one of those. I will walk right up and clock them….and then probably get my bum handed to me in numerous fragments. (I will have made my point though.)

One of the hardest misconceptions to get past is the notion that treatment or hospitalization (or even intensive therapy), is a cure. It’s disheartening as well as damaging, the plentitude of loved ones who expect that money can buy a miracle. The richer the resources remunerated, the quicker we can all be fixed and just move on with this foolishness already. Sigh. If only.

Shortly before I left for treatment, I was presented with a check from my father-in-law. The down payment necessary for my extended stay. Mostly anonymous donations from concerned members of my church family who had silently watched my ephemeral withering and set aside precise funds, praying for the day I would seek help.     “I’ll never be able to pay this back..,” I was astonished. Moved.  Awkward. How could I ever say ‘thank you’ to people who didn’t want me to know who they were?  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               “Just go. Take care of this…get it taken care of.”  

Message received. His words weren’t of cruel intent. There was no harsh tone. He simply said what made sense to him. You go to the hospital with a broken bone and they put a cast on it. It mends. Antibiotics are administered to clear up infection. Something about me was broken. I was being sent away to be fixed. Curiously enough, I think I believed this too for a time. Or I just really wanted to.

Somehow I imagined that when I came home, I would be all patched up. Cured. As it would happen, one of the first things explained in group therapy was that this precise view was a widespread error. That recovery is often an uphill battle. Lifelong. I surreptitiously stole glances around the room at the other patients. Was anyone else caught off guard with this news? Disheartened? Why else was I here if not for a magical panacea? What a gyp.

So what could  treatment offer? Self nurturance for one thing. A foreign concept for many of us. We were taught a way of facing the world that didn’t involve self-destruction but rather self consideration. That is, if the decision to actually treasure oneself, (body, soul, or spirit) was too cumbersome a load to be carried. If it seemed just too extraordinary. Too vain.

I didn’t,.. well,… if I’m being completely honest, I don’t always choose the path of being kind or easy on myself, but I can’t say now that I don’t know it exists. I met staff members that summer who were long over, and I mean done with their anorexia. Their bulimia. Such diversity was there in contour and construct among their frames, that it was surprising to me how simple it was to find the beauty in each one. Perhaps it was their quiet strength that so drew me. Their lack of self-contempt. Something I had never seen in a woman before. As time passed, I was able to recognize that beyond what I had already seen, something even deeper prevailed. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first. What was it? Could it be?

Yes.. peace.

1095 days later, I find myself in a position that brings about a great deal of introspection. Some unflinching honesty. How far I’ve come. How much further I really want to go. Much has changed.  I’m unrecognizable from the woman I once was and some days that’s all the motivation I need to get back on that proverbial horse and put my slips behind me.

Most of the time my weight is stable. And most of the time my head is not. Continually swirling with thoughts of calories and fear foods and ‘should I or shouldn’t I buy that magazine that shows me how to exercise away my “trouble spots”?’ But I have moments of stillness now. Of calm. Moments of ‘Shut the hell up, Ed. I have more important things to do than deal with you right now. Like, everything.’

And it even works for a while. Maybe one day it will work forever. Maybe not. But I celebrate the day. I feel like it’s so much bigger than just me.

In my mind’s eye, it’s all of us.

Living and gone.

Walking tall or drowning, it’s all of us.

So I’ll keep doing it.

Because it matters.

We matter. 

If we know each other, if we don’t.

At least one day a year I make a conscious decision to nod to you. Keep going. We’ll get there. I make the day an occasion for all of us. A holiday. No offense to George Washington, but we’re the ones who are owed two-for-one movie tickets. And on one of these anniversaries? We’re all going to eat cupcakes.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”   Psalm 147:3




About JJ's song

My freshman year of college, my English prof was fond of saying "A writer writes, always." I found him to be desperately profound until Wikipedia became a cultural staple some years later and I learned that was not an original quote, but rather one he had ripped off from that Billy Crystal movie "Throw Momma from the train." I admit this threw me. If you're going to quote a movie (and you're talking to someone whose entire household can quote "The Princess Bride" backwards and forwards), and you're not even going to credit said movie ( "HALLO! My name is Inigo Montoya.."), at least let it be a decent movie. I'm not hating on Billy. I'm just saying..not his best work. Could he not glean some inspiring gem from "When Harry met Sally"? But I digress. I love words. I love them in the nerdiest coke-bottle glasses, pocket protector kind of way. There's such a pure beauty, a ballet of cadence when you're writing and you've hit upon the exact right word producing the exact right sound...sweet, sweet alliteration. The marriage of that rise and fall, auditory ebb and flow of our spoken language creates a type of symphony as beautiful as can ever be composed. (My husband is rolling his eyes as he reads this. It should be noted here that he finds Jim Carrey hilarious. 'Nuff said.) I started writing www.abendingtree.wordpress.com shortly after returning to the real world from months of inpatient tratment for anorexia. I was targeting a specific audience, sure, but also working things out for myself. This branched out organically into purging myself (sorry) of angst related to childhood abuse and self harm, both highly prevalent in the eating disorder community. I still write pieces for abendingtree but rarely publish..such a perfectionist am I that when the aforementioned exact perfect word eludes me, my work will be tabled. Last January though. Last January I was raped. Last January I was raped and beaten up and tossed half naked in a stairwell. Last February I found out I was pregnant. Last September, six weeks early, we welcomed a 7lb. 7oz boy with huge blue eyes and fine, fuzzy dark hair and deep dimples. In him I see how God spared my life. With him I am reminded of when He used this tiny human to pull me from my ever darkening spiral. Watching my husband blow raspberries on his round little tummy and rock him to sleep, nuzzling his neck, I see the love Christ has for us. From our earliest beginnings. Such love. The fondness for Jim Carrey can be overlooked in these moments. Joshua. We named our son Joshua. It means: Jehovah saves. No kidding. How could we name him anything else? (Also, everyone else shot down the name Finn which I thought was super cute.) My newest blog will be our journey with him. It may be slow going, but I've got a start.. Writers lay our offerings humbly before our readers who we can only hope will be moved. Will laugh. Learn. Pray. Hurt. Wonder. Love. Grieve. Eat. LIVE. And heal. I hope at some point you'll do all of the above. Thank you for reading. In His truth. "Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." William Wordsworth
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4 Responses to 1095 days

  1. Leilani says:

    While there may not be a cure for the terminal illness of an ED, I praise God that there is a daily reprieve, a remission. Although I do not count time any more, I know in my spirit when I’ve reached an anniversary in recovery from my ED. For many years, I believed that freedom from food-, body image- and weight-obsessions was as real as unicorns. Not until I met living, breathing women who were just like me, who no longer were in bondage… did I receive the hope to believe it could happen to me. I am not “cured,” but for today, I am well, all by the grace of God. He continues to do for me what I cannot do for myself, because in of myself, I am powerless over food and obsession. He, being all powerful, restores me to sanity. I can’t; God can; I think I’ll let Him. 🙂 All praise to the God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) and God the Holy-Spirit, Three in ONE. For me, He has used the 12 Steps to set me free. Not that I haven’t had my relapses; I have. It took many years of “keep coming back” before I experienced the freedom. Today, I know that one bite of a cupcake (or any dessert for that matter) is one too many, and a thousand bites not enough, AND I am totally fine with that. My son once asked me if I thought I would be able to eat chocolate in heaven. It amazed me (who was a 3-pound-a-day chocolate eater), that I answered that it didn’t matter, that I didn’t miss it, and hadn’t even thought about it. That is truly a miracle, and so are you, Jen!

  2. Chrissy says:

    I’m so glad you’re here…and I love cupcakes…cupcakes WITH you sound even better! Coo ❤

  3. Rusty says:

    Happy anniversary! We’ll save the cupcakes for later…

    Keep calm and carry on.

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