In the Burning Phase of My Life.

To befriend the shadow girl in the mirror…

Identity.


I was just talking to a dear, dear friend. She is someone I’ve known for a couple of years now, without realizing it. I first met her over on the “other side,” Myspace. We had one of those friendships where we got to know each other quite by accident, and quite by random, but there was something immediately there, and we clicked. We still have the type of friendship where we could drop out of each other’s orbits from time to time and then just slide right back in, as connected as ever.
Today was one of those days. We talked about everything and nothing in the easy manner that is natural to us. At one point, she said something that resonated so strongly with me that it was like a blow to the center of my chest:

I don’t like being sick, but what else have I to claim when I am healthy. Does being healthy make me less special?

For a moment, I was completely stunned. Then the conversation continued for a time, and then she had to go. Then I was able to go outside, have a smoke and a cup of coffee, and really think about what she was saying.
What does an identity mean, anyway?
In general, an identity is a label that allows someone to see who you are and possibly what you stand for…kind of like a card catalog for humanity. Labels can be good, bad, and just indifferent. Some create belonging, and some are designed to separate us from others and give us distance.
An eating disorder is an identity, too.
It is something to hide behind, to hide within. Something that can be used to get support, can be used as a cry for help…and as a way to push others away.
An eating disorder is also a disease.
It is not a friend or a lover. It is no “ana,” named like a girlfriend.
It is, in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV)
Axis I (without personality components) code 307.1.
A disease.
A disease that kills, sometimes slowly, sometimes not. Without treatment, it is the disorder with the highest fatality rate of ANY mental disorder.
Does that make us special?
No.
If you or someone you knew had a disease that was sure to be fatal in many cases, like cancer, would it be said that it makes you special?
Certainly not. What makes you special is everything else about you. Your ability to love. The sound of your laugh when you are truly delighted. The way you tell a joke that is different from anyone else. Your intelligence. Your one-hundred percent unique point of view.
Anorexia and bulimia are not you. They are a disease that manifests itself as a voice that feels SO real that it seems to be the only part of you that is the truth. But the truth is this…they want to kill you. The disease will not be satisfied until you no longer exist.
That is no friend.
I nearly died from my disease a year and a half ago. Luckily I was so far gone and so deep that I really didn’t know how far gone I really was. That was a mercy. It tried to rob me of everything that made me special. But I fought back. I’m not perfect, I will never be perfect. But I still fight.
Now I know what makes me special. I may not feel it every day, but deep down, I know it’s there. It’s a comfort, a smooth worry stone that I carry in the darkness of my pocket to call upon when I feel like I have no hope.
If I had continued to think that it was only the disease that made me “special,” I would have ended up in my grave. My son would grow up without a mother, with only anger and tears to remember me by. My husband would have faced life wondering if more could have been done, and why he couldn’t make me see how special I really was.
And what could it have read on my gravestone?
she died Thin.
Really? That’s all?
fuck that.
Forgive my crudeness, but really, what else can be said?
I would rather be known for the things that really do matter.
And my wish is the same for all of you. You are not your disease. You are not that voice, the one that seems so damn strong sometimes that you feel like you have to believe what it tells you. Period. No matter how strong it seems to be.
You are the friend, the lover, the wonderful sister, brother, daughter or son…and you laugh, live, you are strong just when you need to be. And you are loved.
You are loved.
When I look at you, each and every one of you, I don’t see your eating disorder, whatever form it may take.
I see YOU.
And if you ever forget, and want to know just what it is that makes you special, just ask me, because I will tell you everything.
And I guarantee you that when I put together that magic list of what makes you unforgettable, anorexia or bulimia will be NOWHERE on that list.
Cross my heart.
I love you all. Be good to yourselves, even if it feels like an alien or strange thing to do…

March 23, 2010 Posted by | Anorexia and Disordered Days. | , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Life At Street Level.


What I'm aiming for...daily peace.

When we made the decision to move to New Orleans earlier this year from Arizona, we knew that we would be giving up certain things. We were going to be living on our own for the first time in a long time. This would mean giving up the constant companionship of our two wonderful friends and housemates, Robert and Jill. It would mean giving up a lot of comforts that they had so selflessly provided us with for so long. And it also meant giving up the use of Jill’s Blazer (BBB!) which she had allowed me to use as if it were my very own vehicle.
At first, this seemed like an enormous, uphill inconvenience. I mean, I had been so sick last year with anorexia before treatment and just afterwards that I could barely walk around the block. How could I POSSIBLY walk around New Orleans all the time, a city that still was unfamiliar to me once you diverged from the usual tourist spots. Plus, the summer heat and humidity made it feel like I was searing my soul in a hot skillet. So I trudged, my head down, just hoping to make it to my destinations.
And then, over time, it slowly changed.
The weather became cooler. The streets seemed to be shorter, and more like, well, home. As I began to walk with ever-growing confidence, my strides became longer and my shoulders thrown back. These two simple physical actions pulled my head up from my feet, and I could all at once take in everything around me.
Life is very different when you are not speeding by it at sixty miles an hour and observing it through a rolled-up window. The colors are richer, the smells stronger. You are innately aware of all of the sound and the life flowing around you, the symphony of life at street level. Each breath in and out brings a new perception. Life on foot gives you the ability to slow down and see the small miracles that happen every day when you are not worrying about when your red light turns to green.
This frosty morning, after walking my son Thor to his school bus stop, I headed down Magazine street, bound for home. There, I saw an older lady waiting for her ride to pick her up. I had stopped to talk to her before, about the weather and whatnot, and we had smoked a cigarette together. I passed her by two days after that, and she greeted me and asked if I had an extra cigarette. I obliged her that day and was off on my own way home.
This morning as I placed one foot in front of the other, I saw her again, waiting again in the same spot. Her head was turned and she did not see me, so I perhaps could have just walked by. But life is different now, not speeding by me with three hundred-horsepower. So I stopped.
I saw that she did not have her customary cigarette in her hand. So I pulled out my pack and offered her one. Her face lit up. And since I had no one behind me, honking their horn, and only my feet on the pavement to tell me what would happen now, I decided to stay and smoke with her.
We puffed away, the smoke and steam from the winter morning making two dragon-plumes of human exhaust, timed to our staccato bursts of laughter. I listened to her talk about her life, what was concerning her now, what made her get up in the morning with that sunny smile that she always has. It’s not that her life is always good. It’s just that she understands that life happens at the speed and manner in which it MUST happen.
Today, I made a friend, because I was moving slowly enough to really see her.
I am not suggesting that all of you should give up your vehicles, because I know what a boon it is to have the convenience of rapid transport when it is needed. All I am saying is to sometimes leave the car keys on the desk when time allows, and go forth bravely on foot. See life at street level. You just may experience something that changes your life.
Oh, and in this day of rising gas and insurance prices, with no car I seem to have a lot more extra money to budget towards coffee and cigarettes…
Enjoy.

March 11, 2010 Posted by | Little ribbons of life. | , , | 2 Comments