Girls night.

The thing is, she DID look great. I said as much. Blame me for starting it all. Her number one tax break was still several months shy of his first birthday, but in she walked wearing this snug tank top and..jeans? Shorts? I can’t remember, but she looked fit and over the top adorable in that not even trying way. And small. Just… small. Small without being sick. I hate that.

In spite of the fresh bloom in her cheeks, that very warmth belying self harm, I felt compelled to ask. I always do. Over the past few years especially, my hypersensitivity to the warning signs of incipient eating disorders has led me to assume this seldom appreciated role. Sort of a hall monitor for body acceptance. I admit however that my motivation is not purely altruistic. With each query, I’m emotionally reaching for a hand that is more stable than my own. I’m extending a silent plea for someone, anyone to remember that although I may look the same as they do these days, I’m not. Not just yet.

It gets lonely being the only one in a room who is so keenly aware of this fact.

Tank top and jeans (or shorts) assured me that she was just fine, that she hadn’t lost the baby weight doing things “the easy way.” Easy meaning what? I wondered about that. Starving? Vomiting? Laxatives? Yep. Lemon squeezy.

“That’s not the easy way.” I said it lightly, but I didn’t mean it lightly. Chatter bounced off the kitchen walls. Laughter. Pungency skimmed just atop the invisible carpet of calories from food both cooked and cooling, worrying  my stomach into lazy somersaults.

I said it again. Louder.

“That’s not the easy way..”

My voice, perhaps projected only in my head, was suffocated in the din. It didn’t really matter. I’m not even sure who I’d intended the comment for. Maybe reaching for that hand again. It’s disheartening that the once blazing flames of  pride that surrounded my all-consuming eating disorderlinger still. Now as mere embers, true, but after years in recovery they continue to smolder. To burn. And they burn me.

Said group consisted of a few friends, a few could be friends, and an acquaintance or two. Not a blatantly unsafe environment but not quite a warm and fuzzy blanket of a place either. Among the laughers and chatterers, a precious few of those who know, get it. Insofar as it can be “got” by an outsider. The pervasive societal belief seems to be that an eating disorder is something that just works its way out of your system, like a stomach bug.  And why shouldn’t it be? Who wants to imagine that years post treatment, the specter of anorexia still haunts? Still torments. Every. Day. I wouldn’t. I don’t. But I’m living with it.

That’s what it’s about though, right? Living with it.

The alternative?

Does that mean that there aren’t days when I consider going back? When I soberly weigh the pros and cons? When the haunting of Ed becomes full on possession and I am reduced to a head spinning, pea soup spewing, mirror smashing, stomach cutting Disease? Disorder? Albatross around the neck? I wish I could say no.

Those days don’t come as frequently as they once did. When they do though, I suffer in silence through the worst of it lest the truth be revealed. Or rather, Ed’s truth. Through his distortion I am unwell and unbalanced. Out of my shell, underbelly exposed, I am unlovable.

Shut up Ed. But look in the mirror…Shut up Ed..If you’d just lose..Shut..

This is an eating disorder. Stabilized.

There would be no food for me that night. Not in front of people anyway. I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. I’m not pointing my finger at the discussion of butt firming exercises or low-fat recipes found on Pinterest. It’s not what someone did or didn’t wear, said or didn’t say…a smile, a glare, a hug, an eye roll. It was me. It was the ever-present whisper of a decades long nemesis. I bummed a banana for the car ride home and at the first stoplight I purged it into a Wal-Mart bag, still sticky from the Diet Pepsi I’d had for breakfast.

Slips. Slips are to be expected. Should be expected. A step or two backward every so often. Sometimes those steps are bigger than others but always there’s this movement.There has to be. The saying about time standing still is a lie. So forward I must go. There really is no other option.

The alternative

I did a lot of thinking that night. A lot of praying.

Here’s the skinny. (Cute, right?) Truth is, there will always be a penny on the track waiting to derail your recovery. Sometimes it’s as blatant as the doctor  “Really? Well, you don’t LOOK like you were anorexic!” (they always say that), and sometimes it will be an innocuous young mommy who doesn’t do a thing but smile and share the oxygen in your space. Kids will talk back and checks won’t clear and the origin of that foul stench in the refrigerator might remain a mystery for months. But..

..but you have to keep that damn banana down.

Metaphorically speaking.

The next morning, I started anew. It won’t be the last time.

But I moved forward.

Like I said, no other option. Not for me.

Not for you.

I’m wearing a stupid tank top today. There’s a question mark, whether or not I have the courage to leave the confines of my house, hovering in a cartoon bubble above my head. But I did eventually leave my bedroom. You know what that is?

That’s forward motion.

The alternative is no alternative. None at all.


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 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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2 Responses to Small

  1. Please know that your spirit, courage, pizazz, humor, wit, and gift for interpretation are so valued and loved.

  2. Leilani says:

    Jen, any time you need to be affirmed that just because you look well, doesn’t mean you don’t have an issue, just call me. I am a compulsive overeater in recovery, one day at a time, from bingeing, bulimia through dieting, fasting and purging through exercise, as well as anorexia. It matters not how long I have abstained from these behaviors (I don’t count time any more), it is still “Just for today.” I’m like a person who’s lost her legs; I’ll never regrow new ones. I am just as dependent on the Lord to protect me from that first compulsive bite, fast, etc., as I was at day one. And, it’s okay. People look at me, not having seen my yo-yoing or past, and say, “you no longer have a problem.” God knows and I know the truth, and we wink at each other. He is my Solution! I love you, Leilani

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