When I was a kid, my favorite Halloween costume was Wonder Woman. In fact, I even had a framed picture of her over my bed, a super-heroine crucifix of sorts. Sure, there was a Saint Elizabeth medal hanging over my door, but I knew that when push came to shove, Wonder Woman would be the one to save me. After all, she had the golden lasso that could rope all evildoers into submission and the cuff bracelets that gave her superior jumping power. What did any Catholic icon have on that? And then of course, she was beautiful, with that cinched waist and mane of dark hair that curled up at the ends. And she was also smart, outwitting robbers and kidnappers and other nefarious types. So when Halloween rolled around, there was no discussion. I was Wonder Woman for several years running, always the same plastic pull-on costume and sweaty mask.
One year, I even put on my mother’s own silver cuff bracelets and, believing that I had assumed Wonder Woman’s powers merely by the force of my adoration and naïve emulation, I took a jump from the top step of my living room staircase and learned, by my broken arm, that I was merely mortal and had no super powers.
Super powers. I am in sore need of them right now. It has been a difficult week. I keep having to learn that I am still, really mortal. That IT has me falsely believing that I can conquer the ED on my own. As Christopher terms it, I, we, are in crisis mode once again as I’ve allowed the ED to take over—skipping meals whenever I can, purging whenever there’s an opportunity, and in the process, losing too much (though for IT, not enough) weight. If I were dressing up for Halloween this year, I’d have two possible costumes.
1.Ghost. Isn’t that what the anorexia-backsliding is about? Disappearing? Becoming invisible? Isn’t the ED always haunting me anyway? Always telling me I ate too much, that I’m too fat, that I’m a disgusting pig? Isn’t it always trying to scare me into submission? i.e., If you eat that apple or that slice of cheese or god forbid lick the spoon while you’re making brownies then you have committed an unpardonable sin and should die?
2.Ghoul. You know, the stringy haired, pasty-skin variety, lurching and staggering around, baring rotten teeth? That’s how I see myself after purging, like some wasted hag who scares everyone she comes in contact with, her husband and children alike.
Even though these are the costumes hanging in front of me right now, I don’t want to wear them. Ghost and Ghoul. That’s not me. Not that I expect any golden lasso to pull me out of this. “You have to give a damn,” Dr. B. said to me on Friday. “Nobody can do this for you.” Not Dr. B., not Christopher, not Wonder Woman. Is love enough to help me pull myself up from this Eating Disorder hell?
“Do you know why I’m still here?” Christopher asked me yesterday. This was right after he caught me purging an apple.
(An apple—how absurd is that? Even I know an apple has approximately zero calories. So what was the point of risking getting caught? It was the panic; an inability to sit with my discomfort after eating; my adolescent need to prove my diseased autonomy still had its say; my need to say Fuck You to food, to fullness, to health. Self-sabotage.) So really, why was Christopher still here after all these years of hell, a hell that feels so often like my own making?
He said, “Because I love you. Because I know how strong you are, stronger than IT. Because I believe you will get well.”
I said, “It hurts to hear you say you love me because I don’t believe I deserve it.”
“Tough,” he said. “I may be enraged at IT, at this disease, but I love you.”
I am trying to yield to that love. Eating and accepting food. Keeping my ass on the couch, in close proximity to him and away from all bathrooms for a good hour after meals. No running. No walking. No secret sit-ups. I’m trying to make peace with the fact that I have to gain weight again. Watch the scale creep back up instead of plummet back down. A tiny victory? I raided my son’s Halloween basket, eating a handful of Swedish fish, which may not seem like much, but when you compare that to yesterday’s decimation by apple? A victory for sure. I ate something I didn’t need but wanted. A small wonder for this woman.