Saturday, June 26, 2010

Gaining

Because I have dropped below my agreed upon compromise weight, I have been charged with the onerous and absolutely distasteful mission of having to once again gain weight. My nutritionist said, “It’s not permissible for you to remain at this weight.” Which rubbed IT in exactly the wrong way. Really. I don’t need anyone’s permission to be any weight. But of course, I have agreed to act in line with the consensus of my team and my team has royally decreed, “Weight must be gained.”

This goes against everything the Eating Disorder has me believe: that less is more; that my body is already corpulent, fleshy, too, too much; that emptiness and hollowness are the ideal states of being. I find myself longing for my lost anorexic body—the knobbed backbone, the visible ladder of ribs, the concavities of the breastbone, jutting hipbones, the indentations around muscles, the flattened breasts, the deep wells of the collarbone.

Never mind that that was twenty-five pounds less then where I stand now. Never mind that I was eating only a few bites a day and throwing up even that. Never mind that I was pretty much forbidden to do any sort of exercise. Never mind that I was weepy and irritable and forgetful and my moods shifted on the hour. Never mind. Never mind. I had achieved perfection—a body without needs or desires, a body that could slip through the cracks and disappear.

As I write this, I can hear how this might sound to anyone without an Eating Disorder: emaciated, sick, a body on the edge of starvation, an unattractive assemblage of bones. Wasn’t that my nickname long ago? Bones Neville! Bones Neville! Recently, I thumbed through my sixth-grade diary, a blue notebook covered in gloppy silver glitter hearts. Most of the pages were scrawled with I Love Tony! I Love Terry! I Love Tony Again! I love Rob Lowe! Kerry and Rob 4-Ever! But in the middle of this dreamy exuberance are more secretive revelations: I wish I had boobs. I hate my body. All I am is one giant pimple. I’m ugly. Nobody will ever love me because I’M SO FAT AND UGLY. Everyone hates me. I wish I could die.

Sad, isn’t it? That girls learn to pick at (and pick apart) their bodies when they’re so young? Yesterday, while my daughter was getting dressed for camp, she yelled, “I hate this shirt!” This shirt, yellow, tie-dyed, was given to her by the camp to wear on field trips. They were going strawberry picking that morning. “I hate this shirt,” she yelled again.

I stood in the doorway and watched her pull at the shirt. “Why do you hate it?” I asked.

“It’s ugly,” she said. “I look like a yellow blob.”

“You look like a sunburst,” I said. “How can that be ugly?”

She looked down, wringing the shirt in her hands. “It makes me look fat,” she said. “It makes me look wide and fat. That’s what everyone will say. Fat fat fat.”

“Sweetheart,” I said, “the shirt is just big. And you’re not in any way fat. You’re a skinny Minnie. No one would say that about you.”

“I’m taking it off the minute I get home,” she said. “That’s that.”

Had I said the right thing? Had I only heightened the distinction between fat and not fat by pointing out that she was not, in fact, fat? And since I didn’t have any integrity in this matter, how could I tell her anything? Hadn’t I just been going through my own closet in search of something that would make me look not-fat? Hadn’t I been secretly happy by the fact that I had lost enough weight to fall below the compromise? Doesn’t weight loss make me feel successful and in-control, and weight gain, even if needed, make me feel like a failure and out-of-control? But the end all be all cannot be a few pounds or clothing sizes in either direction. I don’t want to be a mom compromised by an Eating Disorder, a mom who can’t speak from the heart, in truth, and with integrity. So the challenge, over this next week, is not only gaining weight but gaining perspective.

4 comments:

  1. I do not have an eating disorder. I tried but I couldn't do it.

    And I do not think horrible thoughts when I read what you wrote.

    I think of when I was scratching and burning myself in an effor to numb some of the emotional pain. In an effort to be in control. Having my husband and therapist tell me they wanted me to stop just made me want to do it more to prove that I was in charge of my life.

    I haven't injured myself in over a year. The desire has been there but things have interfered. Nothing makes me want to more than having someone tell me not to.

    I think I understand a little. Not a lot, just a little.

    And knowing how to answer that dilemma with your daughter is tough for almost all of us. I've had a tough time over and over with my daughters. I think you did fine. And you'll probably have another chance.

    I hope you can get to a place where you and everyone around you can be at peace with your body. Sorry it's tough right now.

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  2. Wow. I can't begin to understand what that's like. And I can't imagine how hard it is for you to hear your daughter say she's fat. It hurts me to hear my girls talk about feeling ugly because they have zits on their faces. Or to watch my daughter work out obsessively so that she can have the body Cosmo says she needs to attract a man. I've finally gotten to the place of being somewhat contented with how I look. Honestly, I think a lot of it comes with age. I hope the best for you and your girl.

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  3. One of my daughters, the older one, seems to be very proud of her body--since adolescence, she's been voluptuous, lots of curves, lots of personality. My younger daughter, like her sister, is a good person inside and out. Yet she is the one who has suffered from anorexia and cutting. Sometimes I take on all the guilt a mother can take on for her condition. I beat myself up a lot, wondering what I did--but when I calm down (lots of positive self-talk), I know that it was the trauma she suffered with her father and with our divorce. I have admitted to her my own mistakes, and we are close. It's just that sometimes I have to put on the hair-shirt. That's really non-productive.

    I didn't mean to make this post so much about my own situation. You did exactly right with your comments. Just give your daughter lots of praise in every department. And work toward your own healthy self-image. When you love yourself, she will instinctively know that; she will love herself too. That's important, because she will need lots of support from her parents to deal with our culture's weird and sick concept of beauty.

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  4. Young girls and body image are a difficult task to begin with Kerry... they see every day in the media the waif-thin models who are the role models they try and follow. Give me a healthy girl like the star of Drop Dead Diva any day in comparison to some of these girls. You're doing right by your girl, just because IT provides you with a flawed view of your own body, does not mean that you cannot help your daughter see that she is in fact beautiful just the way she is. My daughter is facing the same issues now at 16 and constantly complains that she's fat, ugly, gangly, and just not "right" all around. Never mind that she is built like a model at 5ft 7; 130 lbs and looks just like Taylor Swift... in her mind she isn't enough. You are doing just right - reminding her that no matter what shape or form her body takes - it is perfect for her. Missed being around to read your posts as we were offline last week - so glad to be back in the swing and reading your wonderful words again! Have a wonderful weekend!

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