My pen rolls across the paper—fluidly—and my words come out almost sloppily. (It’s not my usual, preferred ballpoint pen.)
My fingerprint-laden aviator sunglasses—the ones I’ve had for nearly a decade, with gold rims and the lenses that make the world appear brighter—rest in the cup-holder next to me, to my left.
The warmed car seat beneath my thick, off-white winter peacoat helps me to relax.
My rose gold and turquoise ring—a family piece that’s circulated within us for over 100 years—falls slightly to the right as my thumb and first two fingers press into the firm rubber grip of the black pen, gliding smoothly along my decomposition book.
My cheek itches suddenly and I pull down the mirrored visor to look.
Distracted, I notice the way my dark brown hair wisps out of the copper barrettes that pull it back on either side, creating a few haphazard chunks around my temples.
My forehead has maybe three shallow lines running across, broken in the middle and making it, more accurately, six.
My fine eyebrows arch high and I admire the perfection of their shape (thanks to a recent salon visit).
My eyes have light imprints of sleep-deprivation underneath them that appear somewhat like purple-tinted shadows. Above these shadows, I observe that today my eyes are more blue than green. This changes easily, though—due supposedly to my black Irish ancestry—and I trace the yellow that faintly edges my pupils, lending to this color changeability.
I hear the trunk pop open and smile intuitively at the sound of my husband returning to our little silver Jetta.
I feel the soft, grey light hit the surfaces of the car interior and I hear, once again, the sound of my daughter’s music playing through the speakers. I’m no longer alone inside of my mind and, although it takes me a moment to collect myself and shake free from my thought stream, I smile again; knowing that life isn’t meant to be continuously lived inside of ourselves.
He climbs into the driver’s seat and reaches for my hand. After squeezing it between his much larger thumb and forefinger he pulls away from the two, diagonal yellow lines—and towards the pink and peach setting sun.
My fluttering heart stopped beating.
At least it felt that way—time standing still and you swear that you can see a humming bird stopped, mid-flight over your shoulder.
And then it ends and time starts up again, but it’s still slower for you—making the speed of the world overwhelming in its unnecessarily rushed and hurried pace.
When something stops you in your tracks—a loss, horrible news, a heart-cutting blow—it doesn’t seem fair that life shouldn’t pause while we grieve and figure out how to collect ourselves in order to stand back up.
These incongruous places in life can feel hollow and desperately alone—and it’s when we feel hollow and alone that anorexia can become an unfortunately welcome friend.
But anorexia is absolutely a frenemy—not a true friend. It doesn’t make hardships easier to deal with—it adds on to them; it becomes a distraction and, if we’re being honest, this is what we’re really seeking.
So, although I’m that rare once-anorexic bird who is completely recovered, I have to pay careful attention to myself—and to my heartbeat—when life deals me merciless challenges—because I know that I’m not immune from turning to an eating disorder to cope—no, I’m much more likely, considering that this is exactly what I did for years.
And there’s another cutesie saying that occasionally floats around the internet and pisses me off: fat is not a feeling. Because fat is absolutely a feeling—with an eating disordered person, that’s a perfect description of what it is.
And when, finally, we are ready to move forward from this night-terror of a coping mechanism—to begin picking up our pieces and moving a tiny bit closer towards our healing—we first need to admit what emotions we’re avoiding by feeling fat instead.
What is it that’s going on within the framework of our lives that we are trying so hard to avoid that it’s easier to abuse our bodies? (Note: this is where therapy can be helpful, within these early stages of the healing process.)
For me, I’m usually avoiding something that’s severely upsetting and that I’m not in control of—a situation with a family member, an illness, a death—and my eating disorder gives me that wonderful, false semblance of control.
More, it gives me something else to focus my mind and emotions on—my caged, needy body.
My fingers work clear, thick shampoo through my hair.
I close tear-rimmed eyes as white lather spills down my back.
Warm—almost hot—water runs down the length of my body, to my feet and down the drain near my toes—and I wordlessly beg for it to wash away anything that I don’t want to hold onto anymore.
I don’t want my guilt. The soapy water can have the fragments of my broken heart too.
I’m also ready to leave behind my anal-retentive need for authority—that piece of me that wants every minute, self-created element to fall in line with a cruelly fictitious plan that’s never played out correctly anyways.
Because I’m not in control—not wholly. Rather, I’m in control of the way that I react.
I’m in charge, also, of my actions. (Which reminds me of a few other things that I’d like the hot water to wash down this drain).
My fingers today don’t clickity-clack, clickity-clack. No, they sound more like pitter-patter, pitter-patter—light and not aggressive; softly hesitant.
Because I don’t mind sharing my intimate feelings—I want to explain how I broke out of my cage and how I don’t even keep it on my shelf for rainy days anymore—yet this doesn’t mean that I always love revisiting my past.
And that’s the strangest part about no longer being a caged girl, like my former self—the one who lived, at times, small and contented and, in others, angry and hostile—she doesn’t feel like me anymore. And when I step back in time and put on her fragile glass slippers and wear them around to see how well they fit now, I discover that, like Cinderella, they’re still perfect, and it scares me more than anything—the reality that I really was her and that she’s not just some character in a story.
Pitter-patter, pitter-patter—I want to tell her that she’s no longer welcome in my home with the sunny, open windows, but I know better—she’s more likely to come snooping—peeping—around if I ban her from my heart.
So I content myself, now, with those, thankfully, rare occasions when my heart stops beating and I can count how many times a hummingbird’s wings beat up and down, up and down, and I content myself, too, with my more reckless emotions and my upsetting human struggles, because it’s when I ignore them that she threatens to move back in—and I like my free—albeit humanly imperfect—life.
And I might not be able to stop my churning heart, nor the busied world from stalling, but I can count the pulsing of my own wings—I can feel the pumping of my reality and I can accept it, even when it doesn’t ideally mirror my quietly quaking soul.