I have this relationship. I can’t tell you when it began. I sort of can. I, think, it was when I was a freshmen in college and I got sick. I thought I was dying. There was no doctor who could figure it out. I went to doctors, specialists, shamans. I just knew ‘it hurt to eat,’ and I was losing a lot of weight fast. It eventually culminated with me leaving college a few weeks early and having a procedure done to remove some sort of benign tumor/thing in my intestines. My mom has said it began ‘way before this.’ I was born with an eye condition, had surgery when I was about two, the surgery went wrong, and it was discovered when I was about five trying to play T-ball. I’d swing ‘super far away from the T,” and it turned out ‘when I focused I’d see ‘double.’ I was in ‘eye therapy for years.’ During those years (kindergarten and first grade), I had horrible teachers. I had some serious hand eye coordination, but I was smart. They talked about me right behind my back. My parents were brought in for conferences, which I heard. Essentially, the message was, “I was too small. My body was wrong. I should be held back so my hand eye coordination could keep up, and I’d be ‘bigger’ and a ‘superstar.’ The thing was I was a great reader. I was smart, but I couldn’t ‘cut shapes out.’ I agree, the constant discussion around my body, how it ‘was not working,’ probably did something to me. It was in college that I first felt the love. This is the love of shrinking. This is the love of ‘feeling my bones.’ This is the love of ‘never being full.’ As it was painful to eat, my eating disorder started out as ‘a fear of being sick from eating.’ The conditions were ripe, and it blossomed from there. After I had the procedure, I was a lot more thin than I was before. I still had a lot of ‘fear’ around ‘eating and becoming sick,’ and I also had a desire to go further. Enter exercise. I became addicted to it. Instead of feeling things, I physically ran. By the time I was 25, I was running about thirteen miles a day, going to graduate school full-time and maintaining a 4.0 average, doing my four days a week, working at a gym, and I’d train at the gym. I did this between commutes that were often up to an hour on one protein bar a day. When my appendix burst on New Year’s Eve at 25, I weighed 100 pounds. When I woke up from the fever that had caused some blood poisoning, my first image was being cradled by a nurse, being sponge bathed, and as she lifted my body to give me the sponge bath, she whispered, ‘you are so tiny,’ and I remember it like someone telling me, “I love you.” Eating Disorders are categorized as mental health disorders. I’ve treated them in the past. They are often, now, treated behaviorally. I don’t always agree with this. It’s like removing the stressor and never dealing with the feeling(s), which are so complicated. To me, the individual suffering from an eating disorder has an insatiable hunger and a deep craving for an unknown missing ‘something’ (Grof 1993). They search to fill the void, they’re suffering, they’re loneliness. They searches for love, for connection, for acceptance. They search for relief from the tyrannical inner ‘critic’, ‘saboteur’, ‘perfectionist’ and the high expectations they have of themselves. In a training in graduate school, I’ll never forget something that resonated with me. The person who is experiencing an eating disorder often physically manifests what they can’t articulate in emotions through words through their bodies. This is how they start communicating their needs. Anorexics or restrictors, restrict emotion. Someone who engages in the binge/purge cycle is binging/purging emotion. Someone binging is satiating emotion to an intense degree through food. Eating Disorders to me are Eating Disorders are looked at through many lenses. I personally see them through a psychospiritual context, the psyche, in Latin meaning the soul, consists of body, feelings, mind, sexuality and spirituality. Therefore, eating disorders are classed as ‘soul sickness’, not as diseases, mental or psychiatric illness: all terms used within the medical model. I have never met an individual with an eating Disorder that is not searching to fill a void. I was called out in my twenties in almost every setting I was in to ‘meet with a counselor,’ because ‘it was obvious,’ to people around me what was happening. It was not until I had a severe leg injury in my early thirties and could ‘literally’ not ‘run from it,’ that I accepted it. My eating disorder began and was mostly restricting. When I realized people were watching this, I began engaging in the restrict/purge. I’ve had binges too, but I despise the feeling of feeling full, so they are rare. They typically are not the full ‘binge,’ but my idea of a ‘binge.’ They will result in me usually purging. The more things spiral out of my control, my perfectionistic side kicks in and I try to control my eating. The Eating Disorder never goes away. I have gotten some control on it, and it’s still there. When I find myself lost, searching, feeling ‘out of control emotionally,’ I go to controlling my food intake. At one point, I would go to the grocery store up to six times a day and leave with nothing. I would read labels until I felt there was nothing there to ‘nourish me.’ I’ve been through a lot and it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever dealt with. I think I’m good and then it shows up. I really don’t cry much, but when I do, it’s due to frustration over this ‘thing I carry with me.’ I have written more poems on it than anything and shared almost none of them. At one point, I literally would dream of literally ‘disappearing until I was a pile of dust.’ The more bones I could feel, the closer I was becoming. I could write a book on what it’s like to experience and ‘carry’ this thing. I must be always vigilant of it. It’s always around the corner, just waiting for the moment when I’m ripe and feeling all the elements, and it swoops in and overtakes me again. I don’t believe that by being thin, I’m going to be ‘more attractive and loved more.’ I’ve been in this too long. I’ve been to both sides of the scale and love can be found on both sides. For me, it’s a lot about searching. It’s about controlling things when I’m lost emotionally. The poem I’m sharing today is one of the first of many that exist that I’ve written about this. The fact that I haven’t shared one yet and so many exist shows how hard it is for me to be honest and talk about it because it feeds the idea that “I’m not perfect,’ that I could care about ‘something so petty; however, it’s really not about how you view my physical body at all. It’s about the inner-workings of where my mind dysfunctions when it cannot get through an emotion. I have said enough for today and leave the poem to say what I often can’t.
he promised he would nourish his anorexic love of this world for one more year.
he bought some goldfish and thought if he had something to feed
maybe something could feed him.
they were all dead. He went to a butterfly exhibit at a museum and fell in love with a butterfly with a broken wing.
he wrote a letter to his dead hero Johnny Cash telling him how addicted to pills he was, how scared he was.
brought flowers and lots of blues. He spent a lot of hours pouring himself cups of coffee with his shaky hands
brought sobriety and the return of hours spent in front of the mirrors. He himself Samson as he ran his hands through his balding head and missed Delilah.
people constantly asked him why he no longer smiled.
his psychiatrist upped his medication and described his affect as ‘flat.’
he gave it his best to clean up his heart, but damn it’s hard for a dirty boy to get clean.
brought a wisp of faith that blew in and blew all the leaves down with it. He raked them up and stared at the desolate trees.
was just a reminder that December was one month away and he was completely malnourished by this point in his life.
he read books, letters, stories about people who were near death and someone entered their life and loved them til they bloomed back to life.
his promise was complete and he stopped eating and laid in a hospital bed with a tube that pumped food into his body
He was angry. He wanted them to know that he had given it a full year and still….
there was no hunger.
And his last words on that late January night were,
I’m starving and food was never what was going to feed me.
I’m starving but food was never what was going to feed me.