**** I apologize that I didn’t post a ED post last weekend. As you might know, I had just sent off my parents and I was also bitching at the lack of internet service. But a week has passed and the internet is finally activated and I shall continue on with my series unless something happens.
First I want to thank every one who reads these posts, whether you comment or not. I know ED is a sensitive, complex subject, and I try the best I can to just share my story. But of course there are so many more stories than mine; some of you have emailed me saying how uncannily similar our stories are, others have shared their different takes and experiences. I welcome them both, as I hope sharing our individual stories will help you and others as much as it has helped me.
To catch up on the previous posts on my ED series, please refer to my Weekend ED Series Page. ****
I watched Black Swan last night.
I knew I couldn’t sleep well right after watching it, so I watched a couple episodes of light-humored 30 Rock before turning into bed. Even so, my dreams were dark and uneasy. But they had nothing to do with ballet or Natalie Portman. They were just a jumble of memories, somber snapshots of the dark, lonely times I spent alone after I moved out of my parents’ house.
There was something about Black Swan that really unsettled me to the core. Obviously, the movie is a dark thriller and its motive is to unsettle people. But watching the obsessive paranoia of Nina the ballerina, her feverous desire for perfection, her self-loathing and spiral into self-destruction…that just hit home for me. I felt like I was watching a thriller of my previous self. Now that was chilling.
I lived away from my parents for just about three months. But those three months felt like years to me. And I cannot differentiate each day from the next because every single day was a blur of thoughts and emotions. I cannot recall much what I did; I can mostly recall the fear, the anxiety and the grinding loneliness I felt from the pit of my stomach. I was under a serious depression that both choked and motivated me every day.
Yes, that sounds contradictory. But that’s what an eating disorder is: it’s a twisted series of contradictions. I hated myself yet loved myself. I wanted to kill myself yet I was obsessed with feeding myself. I got a thrill at how sick I looked yet I was bitter at how ugly I am. I blamed everyone in the world yet felt guilty for being a leech to society. I cared deeply about my thin image, yet didn’t care what people thought of me as a person.
Can one person be so torn by two opposite personalities? Yes, he/she can. Just like the ballet director Thomas urged Nina to play two opposing characters, my eating disorder was splitting me apart. And it was painful. To mitigate this sensation of self-controversy, I threw myself into becoming the “black swan” of myself. I didn’t go to church. I left my bible at home. I didn’t even obsess about nutrition or eating clean anymore. I just had one goal: to shrink and disappear. So even while my depression smothered me, it provided fresh masochistic fuel to continue driving my way to self-destruction.
I was rapidly losing myself. I was losing my integrity. I was losing my confidence (not that I had much of it left already). I was losing my identity. And I had completely lost my ability to trust. The only entity I trusted was the every force that sought to kill me: my eating disorder.
My mind was so twisted that I found myself wistfully imagining my death. I imagined myself just not waking up one day. What would my parents think? I suppose they would be a little sad. But that would be better for all of us, probably. They would mourn for a few days, maybe a week, tops. And then they would continue on with their life, secretly relieved that the thorn in their flesh (me) was finally gone.
That kind of horrible thoughts ravaged my mind day in and out. The mind is a powerful, mysterious thing. But it is also incredibly dangerous when allowed to seclude itself and dwell in its own thoughts. I had very minimal social contact during the time. The only people I met were my classmates at the community college I attended, and the customers I served at Red Lobster, where I worked as a waitress. With the outside world, I was a fake persona, smiling and doing the minimum of what I was supposed to do. My entire life was a lie.
But inside, I was alone with my thoughts. And each evening, when I returned to my home, I was alone. The friend with whom I co-rented the basement was barely home, which suited me just fine.
At the time, I was not really anorexic. I was a full-blown bulimic. I had given up on everything. I didn’t care about precision and self-control anymore—to hell with that! So long as the result was perfect, I didn’t care what the means was. The only pleasure I got from was food, so my whole day’s activity was devoted to planning my night binge. I didn’t eat anything except cans of diet coke for the whole day. After classes, I would spend hours visiting different grocery stores to stock up on my nightly feast: pancake mix, chips, cookies, bread, frozen pizza, all the things that I previously denied myself.
At exactly 7 o’clock, my binge would begin. It would end at 2 or 3 or sometimes even 4 a.m. in the morning. I would eat as much as my stomach could possibly manage, puke my guts out, then continue on with that cycle until I got dizzy and was ready to faint.
There. The ugly, shameful truth is out. I never shared this with anyone, of course. Because to my classmates and colleagues, I was the girl on a raw food vegan diet because of allergies and what-the-shit. I refused to eat the chocolate or cupcake anyone offered to me, but secretly tucked it into the ziplock bags I kept in my bag—for the night, of course.
I weighed myself every morning. Instead of dreading the numbers now, the morning weigh-ins were the highlight of my day (other than the night binges). I saw the numbers fluctuate at first, then tip downwards hesitantly, and then after a month or so, start dipping down rapidly as my digestive system got wrecked from my daily purges.
But I could never really become a complete “black swan.” Even while spiraling into delusion and insanity, there was always a tug inside of me. There were many times when I actually had the mental capacity to think straight, that I asked myself, “What the hell am I doing?”
Especially when I suddenly felt my life was in danger. I passed out a couple times. Once, it was in the middle of a hike. I just felt my heart shuddering, my vision went black, and my entire body just kind of collapsed. I had to lie down, but I still could barely walk. I had to get help from a passing lady with a dog, who gave me water and drove me back to my car. Another time, it happened with my classmates in the middle of a group project.
Each time that happened, I was gripped with a fear of death. I wondered if I should maybe…stop. I wondered if I really was ready to die like I thought I was.
What caught me each time was the regret that I never did anything good with my life. I never even got to attend and graduate from college! And in my mind I saw my family’s faces. Will they really be able to forget about me? The thought of bringing even more grief to my parents and my brother made me pause and make a hesitating decision to change. That motivation would last…maybe a day? And then the cycle would creep back and I would be back to self-destruction.
But still…there were moments of clarity and reason in my thoughts. Sometimes I would get absolutely sick of just the thought of food. And I would sit on my bed and just stare into the wall, remembering the good times I used to have. I missed my parents. I missed my brother. I missed my friends. And most of all, I missed God.
I would cry silently, so desperately wanting to gain back that hope I once had that God would heal me. Now, it felt like foolish naivety. But God, I wanted it back. I wanted the comfort and sense of belonging that being in church brought, the knowledge and faith of my identity as God’s child, as a being whose life had purpose and meaning on this earth.
What’s going to happen to me? I asked myself (but still stubbornly refusing to talk to God). What happened to all those grand promises my parents made to me that God has a plan for my life?
And then I would drift off into a series of “I wish…” scenarios. I wish I had made more effort in my recovery the first time round. Actually I wish I had never had an eating disorder. Or better yet, I wish I had never been born.
After a sob-fest and self-pity party, I would realize that there really wasn’t anything I could do about it. And hence, I would go to the kitchen and just drown out my thoughts by bingeing again. It was both a weapon of self-destruction, and a tool of self-comfort.
But you know what is so miraculous and wonderful? I may have let go of God, but He never let go of me. What happened next was a total intervention. God answered my questions of despair, even though it wasn’t intentionally directed at Him. After three months of hell, He finally stepped in and said: “Enough is enough. You’re mine, and I want you back.”
Turns out, as hard as you try, you cannot be a black swan if you weren’t born as it.
Questions to Ponder:
1) For the Christians out there: Do you firmly believe that once you are chosen by God, you are eternally His? What kind of role does this conviction play in your life?
2) Even if you’re not a Christian: Who do you see yourself as? Has your self-identity changed in the course of your eating disorder and recovery? How important do you think this self-identity is?
3) This might be the first post I’ve mentioned binge and purging. Anyone else have experiences with this? Please share some of the negative repercussions of bulimic activities.