**** I had the most amazing Persian food last night. It was so freaking delicious that I thought my tongue would spring up and do a belly (tongue?) dance. You know those moments when you have that spoon in your mouth and all you can do is widen your eyes and go “mmm…mmMMM…MMM!!!!” It’s even more fun when you’re “mm”-ing with a friend in a town you’ve never been before on a Friday night surrounded by Middle Eastern diners.
I love these nights. And I’m kind of in love with my life right now. It’s not just about the good food, but about the daily sense of peace and satisfaction in my life as I feel at ease with who I am right now. It’s the same fulfillment I feel from writing these ED series. I guess that’s the power of words, because as I write these personal posts, I feel more and more convinced that everything is for a reason. I remember those time of darkness, but it seems like I’m in a much different world right now and looking back, I can see all the points in my life where God was leading me. It felt dark, but it never was completely pitch dark. There was still a ray of hope, and that’s what I really want to share with anyone out there who is suffering from an ED right now.
Peace to all of you. ****
I haven’t been back home—the home in northern Virginia—for over a year, but every time I remember it, there’s still a twinge of discomfort in me.
I remember distinctly the structures of the little townhouse; the dark red covers in my bedroom, the outdated PC in the living room, the tiny bathroom that leads to a closet, the kitchen table scarred by all the heat stains left by pots of hot stews, the great big swiveling chair my dad always sat in after his night sermons. And for some reason, I remember the bad memories in those places more vividly than the good memories.
Maybe that’s just how we humans work. The negative images tend to stick clearer and more persistently than the positive ones. But for that reason, I always still feel a bit of suffocation when I return home to that house. It’s like a thin layer of the previous darkness is still lingering and shrouding over me when I enter back in. Maybe one day it’ll go away. We’ll see come winter when I go back home for the holidays.
After two years of being stuck in ED limbo in that house, two years of which I spent worrying, obsessing, self-accusing and self-destructing, I was so ready for a change of environment. I just needed a break from all of…that. I was sick of the monotonous of my life’s routine, and I felt convinced that having a change of environment would stir things up and maybe give me the firm push towards active recovery.
My parent go on a mission trip to Southeast Asia every year now, but it was twice a year at the time. They went once during the summer, and another time during the early winters. That year of 2008, my parents were planning to go to Singapore and Malaysia (and stop by Korea on transit) in late November.
I wanted to go. Whenever my parents left for their mission trip, I never did ask to come along. The number one reason was that with them gone, I could do whatever I wanted. I could be as anorexic as I want, and do a lot of shitty eating disordered things that I couldn’t do with my parents in the house. Yes, it’s very messed up, but that’s the nature of living under the watchful eyes of your parents.
That’s one of the reasons why I felt like I needed a change. Even though my parents were my best supporters, they were also unintentionally pulling me back because of their love. In a way I felt crushed by their love. I always felt like they were watching me, and I could feel that burn of disappointment and frustration in their eyes whenever I would do disordered things like eat a pot of Greek yogurt for dinner, or pepper my apple with way too much cinnamon, or eat the peel of a starchy vegetable and throw the flesh away.
In a twisted way, their silent disapproval made me want to do those things even more, simply because I wasn’t allowed to and I wanted to feel “free” to do everything I wanted without that accompanying guilt and shame (But of course, that was an ED deceit in deluding me into thinking that it was my choice to want to do those disordered things).
Another reason I wanted to return to Singapore was simply because I was homesick. Yes, northern Virgina had been my home for almost 7 years at the time, but a good chunk of those years were either spent 1) struggling to adjust to the American society, or 2) struggling with ED. Thus at the time, Singapore still constituted as “home sweet home” to me and I dearly wanted to go back to a place where most of my memories were fun and innocent.
When I first told my dad that I wanted to go to Singapore with him about two months before the actual trip, it was meant as a wistful longing. I was surprised when he actually took it seriously.
”Really?” he said, giving me a sharp, thoughtful look. “You really want to go?”
And there it was. A small peek of opportunity.
”Yes,” I said. And then my emotions choked up as I suddenly realized how much I missed Singapore. “I really want to go. Oh my God, I really, really want to go.”
I think my dad was mostly surprised because he knew how hard it was for me to travel and break away from the safety of home.
“You’re going to have to gain some weight before you can go,” he told me. “We’ll see.”
A “we’ll see” was 10 times better than a flat-out “no.” This was it. I had to gain some weight now. I had to make changes in my diet and routine.
When my mom heard that my dad gave me a “maybe,” she was aghast. “Look at her,” she said. “She can’t go! What if she can’t survive the trip?”
“It’s up to her,” my dad replied, and gave me a pointed look that said, “Prove her wrong. Make changes.”
It was only about two months till November. I had two months to gain some weight and make it stick. It was actually a perfect timing, because I was at a stage when I was sick and disgusted with my ED. After seeing how a mental disorder can disrupt and deceive a person, and slowly accepting love from others, I had made some significant mental and spiritual progress that instilled in me a genuine desire to make physical progress as well. I just needed one firm push, and the possibility to going to Singapore was that final instigator.
There is a time for everything. My time to start recovery had come.
Except the initial stages of this recovery wasn’t without its shortcomings. At the time though I was ready to gain the weight, I wasn’t really ready to eat everything and anything I wanted. I still couldn’t exactly stop my diet ruts, and I still had a deep fear towards “unhealthy” food like refined and processed products.
So what I did to “change” was simply drastically hike up my caloric intake. My goal was to eat at least 3,000 calories a day. But I aimed for that while still aiming to stick to “safe foods.” I ate a LOT of oatmeal, six times a day with natural, non-sweetened nut butter and organic coconut flakes and cups of roasted nuts and Greek yogurt. No 1/3 cup of oats for me; mine was about 2 cups (dry) oats at a time. Imagine eating six gigantic bowls of oatmeal with toppings each day. Times that by 60. For two whole months, all I basically ate was oats and nuts and nut butter and yogurt, simply because that was what I was comfortable with.
My justification for myself at the time was that I’ll probably be eating a lot of unhealthy fried and white foods in Singapore, so I should eat as healthy as I can before. Besides, I told myself, I’m eating so much calories so I’m already doing so good. I don’t want to freak myself out and slide back into my anorexic ways.
To be honest, I am surprised I was able to stomach that much, and be able to jack up my calories so quickly. I guess in a way, I did make improvements, but it was kind of the same half-way changes I made two years ago before I relapsed. I saw the dangers in it, but I was too preoccupied dealing with “being okay” with the caloric meals to be able to deal with yet another anxiety.
I gained some weight. I started gaining hope too, that I might really be able to go to Singapore. Each week I boasted to my parents that I was getting better, trying to sway their decision into securing an air ticket for me.
My dad prayed a lot about it, while my mom still shook her head no. Both were still unconvinced that I was truly “better,” because by then they knew that recovery wasn’t just about the poundage. But the more my dad prayed about it, the more he received conviction that something good will happen in this trip. God was telling him to have faith, and trust his daughter to Him.
So about a couple weeks before November, my dad finally gave me the answer I had been awaiting: “Yes.”
He ordered the air tickets. The dates were set. It was final. Oh my God. It’s final! It’s really happening! AAAAH! I’m going to Singapore!!!!!! I was so deliriously happy, yet everything felt so surreal. I still remember having sudden periods when I would suddenly realize “OMG! Singapore! It’s real!” and my lips ripping into a foolish grin in the middle of typing or walking. That was how happy I was, and suddenly I realized it was too long since I’ve felt this kind of pumping excitement inside me.
The next five weeks swept past quickly. My mother left first because my maternal grandfather wasn’t feeling well, so there were two weeks before the trip in which it was just my dad and me in the house (brother was in college). There was definitely once again that struggle to succumb to destructive and restrictive behaviors with one less set of eyes watching me, but somehow I managed to stick it out on my heavy oatmeal diet and gain a few more pounds.
But still, I lacked the mental preparation for the trip. I felt convinced that once I got on that plane and set my foot on new land, I would magically be able to eat anything. That, of course, wasn’t the case.
Questions to Ponder:
1) Do you still have trouble dealing with places that are filled with bad memories?
2) What are your thoughts on a change of environment and people? Do you think they are helpful to recovery?
3) Eating fear foods/breaking free from food routines, or ingesting calories. What were/are scarier to you? Or perhaps they are one and the same…