The Short Version of My Love Affair with Numbers
(Fifth Grade Sock Hop)
The other day I was watching Lifetime when a movie came on about eating disorders. I don’t openly discuss my long history with disordered eating patterns or the struggles I have had as a result of it. Mainly because of the stigma that is associated with it. I have been in therapy for about three years getting in tune with my traumas (I was diagnosed with PTSD) and how that has shaped some of my behaviors. It was not until very recently I realized that my undervaluing myself came not just from the most disruptive and upsetting trauma but long before. As I was watching this lifetime movie, it all just hit me and before I knew it I was rummaging through my pictures my parents sprung on me last time I was home. As I was flipping though, I retraced my body image issues all the way back to age 5. I remembered the precocious puberty and the line graph indicating how abnormally large I was for my age. Having breasts before everyone. Having an ass. Feeling alien and confused.
I remembered how I was too fat to fit the outfits for the parts in shows I wanted. I remembered the girls in elementary school pulling at my stomach fat at a sleep over. I remembered not being able to climb the rope in gym class. I remembered winning at the carnival when the person had to guess your weight. The guy showed shock at how much I weighed. By the time I entered into high school, I was 180 lbs. The only time I had ever had a boy’s attention was when I took diet pills and lost weight. The girls in my bunk in camp used to have the pills with ephedrine in them. It seemed easy to lose the weight. But it always came back with vengeance.
It occurred to my parents that I needed to get on ADHD medication. I was pretty hyperactive, distractible, and inattentive in my daily routine. They put me on Concerta and instantly, my appetite was suppressed. At one point, I did not have to stretch out my clothing when they were wet so they would fit better. I remember the day I weighed myself at a rest stop in Jersey. This was right after I was asked out by my first real boyfriend. The scale read 160. I couldn’t remember ever weighing that and being aware of it. I almost cried I was so happy.
This was when I became obsessed with that feeling. I could lose any amount of weight I wanted if I just put a little effort into it. And if I did, people would find me desirable. And the sad thing was, I was right. I started having more friends, more singing parts, more boys interested in me, and even my brother was not embarrassed to be seen with me. I suddenly loved clothing shopping. I could be whoever I wanted to be. Then came the pictures that documented it every step of the way. The pictures, the scale, the emptiness. I began to get obsessed with that feeling of emptiness. I would touch my hip bones all day long because I never believed it would have ever been possible. It was when my weight hit the 140s that things began to slow down. I joined the pro-ana websites for guidance as it was not enough to only eat a bag of potato chips and part of whatever dinner my parents made. Bronchitis medication had ephedrine in it so I integrated that. I began to memorize calories for all foods. I knew 5 calories per stick of gum which would make me more full. I took laxatives and even tried purging. I did 3000 crunches per day and worked out for 2 hours every night. All that mattered to me were numbers. Pounds, calories, hours in the day, minutes working out, and crunches. I no longer was just a victim of stimulant side effects. I took the driver’s seat and it was my favorite car.
(My first semester of freshman year, 2001)
By summer of 2004, I was down to 127. This was the day I was confronted directly by mu therapist who began weighing me. This was also the day my boyfriend at the time stated he would break up with me if I lost any more weight. I hated it because I knew I could lose more. That kind of power was thrilling to me. But, I started eating. My therapist made me start eating Hershey bars for breakfast and insisted my mother take amore proactive approach. It angered and excited me. Never did I think anyone would WANT me to lose weight. And for the first time I did not want junk food. The thought of it made me sick.I couldn’t turn off the numbers. All day long I thought of calories. As the weight started to come back on I would spend time in the bathroom grabbing my stomach fat crying. I managed to keep working out heavily and dated someone who was just as obsessed as I was.
(2005, right before heading to that boyfriend’s house to work out)
But then, college happened. I gained weight. And that boy broke up with me due to me gaining weight. He stated I let myself go. Little did he know I was working out 3 hours a day trying to get my body back. But, that was a huge blow to me. I can’t believe how much control I allowed myself to lose as my therapy. I had to force myself to eat. I just knew I couldn’t have people breathing down my throat anymore.
It was when he broke up with my that my grandfather died (March 17, 2007).. Instantly, I dropped 25 pounds. I never felt so alone and depressed and this was something I did not even have to try at. By May of 2007, I was down to the 130s again.
I caught myself before anyone else would give me grief about it. The calorie game was taking over but I fought my brain every single day. I still do. Every guy I date who focuses on eating, I have to force myself to disengage from that conversation. Every friend I have who starves herself, I have either had to distance myself from or find myself acting out towards them. Sometimes I wonder if it is because I am jealous that I can’t give myself permission to do so. Sometimes I am afraid it will cause me to start being competitive. Every time I walk past the laxatives for a split second I consider getting magnesium citrate and then I remind myself of the darkness I felt. It is so easy to live that life. People think it is easy to sit on your ass and stuff your face. For me at times it is torture. The bloat, the self loathing, and wondering if I am going to be judged for what I just ate. This is a lifetime battle that I am trying to work with. I weigh 160 pounds. I hate it and I know exactly how to get it off. I work out 5 days a week and only give myself 1.5 hours because I know I can do these things to the extreme. It used to be that every time I would walk I would feel my fat moving. It took years to be able to ignore it. I wouldn’t change a thing about what I went through. I think it made me stronger, wiser, and forced me to sit with uncomfortable emotions and cope productively. It forced me to love myself for who I was/am. I’m not a number. I am a person who has skills and the capacity to love. I am an accomplished therapist who defeated some of the hardest things that anyone could have to deal with.
This is just one story of the millions. I did not have the extreme experiences with an inpatient facility. I have a hypothyroid from starving myself and messing with my metabolism. I burned my esophagus and developed GERD. So many people out there have died from this illness. I just hope that people know things can get better and that you can live again free from those thoughts. I wish I knew I was not alone.
(Summer 2012 and perfect at 160)
This past Friday night I got my fortune read. I was walking along South Street in Philadelphia with a close friend. We had been looking for one ever since my private practice boss mentioned she went to one after all this time had passed. I have always been skeptical of fortune tellers/psychics, as it all just seems like a ploy to make people afraid so you pay more money to cleanse yourself or whatever.
We had just had dinner and were walking off the all you can eat sushi buffet when we finally came across this psychic’s place. With trepidation we climbed the staircase to a house that requested one knocks before entering. We knocked and a woman asked for us to wait. I imagined Whoopi Goldberg circa Ghost getting dressed in a shiny ostentatious outfit in a rush that would be waiting for us when we entered with a sprinkle of zen as soon as we would open the door. An overweight woman came and opened the door. She was dressed in sweats and her house doubled as a dry cleaner as everywhere we looked there was clothing hung up on racks, even in her kitchen. The place looked like it had not been cleaned in months which for me to say is kind of a big deal. She asked that we sit in her kitchen. My friend asked if she should leave but the psychic gave her permission to stay. She then asked us what we wanted. We could do a palm reading, love fortune, aura reading, or the cards. The cards were 40 bucks. I thought, fuck it, I’ll go big.
I sat down with my friend behind me and she asked that I think of two questions during the card shuffling.
“Just two questions?” I thought. EEEK! So I thought of some things like, “will I be famous ever?”, “what will my money look like?,” “will my cancer come back?”, “Will Hollywood return?”, “Will I ever get married?”, “What will come of my relationships with my family members?”, etc. She asked me to cut the deck and I chose the middle pile.
She then told me that I had had a hard year and that things will begin to get better. Fall will be my season. Someone from my past will attempt to be in touch with me but I should move forward. In terms of love, a now person has already entered my life or will very soon and it will blossom into something. She sees a long life ahead of me and that I will have a baby. She asked me about me being married.
“Oh, I’m not married…”
I thought, shit, this woman is not for real. Dammit. I mean, its not like I was wearing a ring. She then shared with me that she sees divorce and remarriage in my future. She offered to do a cleanse for 200 dollars to reverse it. How thoughtful of her to offer.
In terms of my success, she sees a big change about to occur which will bring me lots of success. Yeah, I am about to get my license…
She asked me to ask the questions I had thought of. “Will the cancer come back?” She replied that it would but it would be a lot easier this time around. I asked about my relationships with family members and she stated that they would be tough but it’s the average sibling rivalry. One I may never connect with. I asked about Hollywood. She said, don’t go back, run away. NOTED. Hey, if the universe and loved ones are saying it, I have all the support I need in this. I was very focused on the fact she sees divorce in my future. I don’t want to get divorced. I want love to be real and life long. I know the statistics are not in my favor but that sucks! My friend went next and she got all the right news. My friend swears her being in the room was messing with my fortune. Who knows.
As we exited the house, my mind immediately was occupied. My feet started to hurt, my thoughts ate me alive, and worry washed over me. I have to get this right this time around. I can’t open my heart to anyone. I can’t trust someone right off the bat with all of me. I never wanted to hurt like that again. I know love is a gamble and in order to get what you really want in a relationship you have to be vulnerable. But, not everyone deserves to have all of me. I don’t want to be with someone like Hollywood who didn’t prioritize me or cherish me. Or Israeli Soldier who clearly did not have the capability to love after all he had been through. I don’t want to be with someone like Worth who drained me and longed to make me put my dreams on hold to make him feel less lonely. Or like my high school into college boyfriend who loved me based off of my waistline. These people had clear red flags. I ignored them. Why? I don’t know.
I need to know how to turn this fear into something more inspiring. The fear will cripple me and the negative energy Whoopi felt around me can be cleansed from me if I just build my self-esteem to accept the love I deserve and nothing less.
TRYING TO ASSIGN A GAF SCORE