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4.06.2012

two months. six years.



i don't know that i've ever felt so beautiful as i did this past summer.

something shifted and i felt myself living in my body, breathing as a relatively normal person, and thinking, alright, here goes...

and then came september. and october. and november.

and all i could think was oh, shit.

i felt so low. so deep and blue and bruised.

even after all this time i often lack the courage to use the right words. and so i use other words. sadness. i'm feeling blue, i say. to make it palatable, understandable, manageable.

one of my dearest friends, over a cup of coffee, looked right at me and said, we all get blue, meg. that's life. we all have those moments. 

and i knew what she meant and i love her dearly and think her wiser than almost anyone i know, so i closed my mouth, sipped my coffee, and directed the conversation to... something else, anything else. men, probably.

but what i should have said is this: i can handle the blue. i can handle the sad. i don't live in it, i let it pass through. it's this damn eating disorder. it's something all-together, entirely different and it's suffocating. do you understand that? that i'm slowly panicking over here in this corner, and that i'm only ever (at best) two paces from losing it?

it slipped back in this fall. slinked and seeped right through the fissures and fault lines that living a courageous and open life invites. the thing is, to live courageously, to thrash about in the unknown, to stand on the brink, to look down and breathe deeply, these are the things that make one well. in the long run, these are the things that make one well, i know this.

but on the road to well is not-so-well and really-really-really-not-well and a lot of pit stops in between. and it’s exhausting.

it was back in november that i took down the link from the sidebar.

it was back in november that i went home for a week. last minute. unexpected.

why did you take the link down from the side of your blog? my mother asked in one of those talks we had in the car, paused in a parking lot, me crying, her helpless—as any good parent in that situation is. she sat and she listened and cried with me and then asked me that.

because i don’t want that story to define me. i’m done with everyone knowing.

i don’t remember what her response was, but i remember about a month later climbing the hill from my apartment here in new york and having the though: it only defines me if i say it defines me. only with my consent. it is as big or as small as i allow it to be.

and when i’m doing well, as i am most of the time, it’s just as big as i need it to be, which is to say, not at all.

but back in november, the shadow it cast was large and unforgiving. and for a moment there i lost my footing.

everyone i loved told me to let it go. stop thinking about it so much. but i was determined to really know the thing this go round. if i was gonna be stuck in the middle of it I was gonna study it from the inside out and i'd be damned if i didn't emerge just a little bit wiser about the whole thing. 

back in college we studied the alexander technique. it is a method of learning about and freeing the body. it has to do with posture and energy and blockages and is tremendously helpful for actors. one of the things you do is trace your body. meaning you, or a partner, feels along the ridges of the collarbone or the shoulder blade or some such--it's meant to help you know the anatomy of the body--to feel the whole size and breadth of each part. 

one of the hallmarks of an eating disorder is something called body checking. we most of us do it without even realizing--little things like checking our reflection in the store window or taking note that our pants are a little bit tighter today. but back when i was was really unwell i checked by body often and in strange ways. like feeling for my collarbone--checking to make sure it was there--judging my weight, my worth by that bone alone. or using my middle finger and thumb to see if they could wrap around my wrist. comparison was the hallmark of the body checking. is this easier to do today? can i feel the bone more easily today? i'd ask myself. when i returned to my second year of school having lost nearly twenty pounds from my frame (two months on weight watchers) i remember thinking, it'll be so much easier to trace my body in alexander this year. 

oh boy. big red flag. 

when i did weight watchers i lost three pounds the first week. and two pounds the week after that. and two just about each week following. and each week i defined myself not by my weight, but by my loss. by the space between. i’m seven pounds less this week, i’d think. seven less than when i began. i’d study my body in the mirror carefully take stock of the changes. my face looked leaner. my collarbone protruded a bit more. this dress fit better than the last time i tried it on. it was never just this dress looks good, it was better than. comparison to a past moment. the difference, the subtraction. 

comparison. always, always comparison. comparison isn't just the thief of joy, it is the thief of the present moment and the slippery slope to what feels awfully akin to insanity. 

the body is a constantly changing thing so if you keep trying to look for the changes and is it different and maybe it’s not—you loose your footing quickly and you stop seeing it at all. everything’s refracted, distorted, and you lose the sense of which way’s up, which down. it’s a tremendously confusing and terrible way to live your life.

now there is a chance that someone, somewhere is reading this thinking: she lost twenty pounds on weight watchers? okay, that's what i'll do then. and off that person'll trudge to a meeting and they'll count points and follow the plan and they'll lose weight too. 

so let me be very clear in how i say this: i did weight watchers for two months. i lost twenty pounds. and i  spent the next six years paying the price. 

two months. six years. do the math. 

and i followed the plan. i ate the twenty points each day. twenty points was roughly 1,000 calories. 1,000 calories each day is starvation. period. 

weight watchers was recommended to me by my pediatrician. 

i think i've lost track of why i began writing this post.  something to do with comparison. how coming out of of this last bout of blue had much to do with waking each morning and making the active choice to not study myself in the mirror or lift my shirt to check the flatness of my stomach.

and to put the sidebar (FED) back up. 






ps:

dear dara lynn-weiss, perhaps you should consider telling your daughter this.

(oh yeah, i have a few choice thoughts for that woman and anyone who thinks she did her daughter a service, but we'll get there next week).


and on another note: i don't know that i've ever opened this forum up to questions regarding my personal journey regarding eating and health. so if you do have questions or suggestions for posts, please don't hesitate to comment and ask. 

37 comments:

Meghan said...

Meg thank u for your honesty. You help so many women just through ur words. Post suggestion: healthy eating; no sugar... Im contemplating after watching 60 mins on toxic sugar... Just don't know if I can give up ice cream. Ergh.

KristyWes said...

Though not in relation to an eating disorder, I definitely know that slippery slope of a comparing mind. Thanks for the reminder that it's just going to keep stealing my joy away, all that comparing.

You write good words :)

Anonymous said...

beautiful.

Leslie Harris said...

as i read your words, i was struck by your willingness to face all the uncomfortable, often unbearable feelings that are part of the eating disorder experience. You'll always come out the other side with that kind of courage.
Leslie (aka Gwen Moss)

communikate. said...

So many words feel familiar and yet I know our experiences have been very different. To this is say, "Keep going." You are beautiful, wise, and smart. You got this, Meg.

A question or two for you:

1. Do you think if you would've gone to a different university the problem would've arised? I've heard Julliard can be a nasty little breading ground for eating disorders, and just wondered if this was the case for you, or if it was already there.

2.What's the best words of advice you're received regarding "diet" or lack thereof?

Alex said...

Thank you. For your honesty and your strength.

carla thorup said...

C.Jane's post was incredible and I'm so glad you linked to it here.

Your words are also incredible, and probably a huge help to a lot of people.

I see your strength and it's inspiring. To be bolder. More honest. Better.

Thanks

Mel said...

Along the lines of dara lynn-weiss, did you ever read this? An optimistic view at that same sort of situation: http://www.rachelsimmons.com/2012/01/mom-im-fat-one-mothers-inspired-response-to-her-7-year-old/

Alissa said...

Yes, yes, yes. I've been craving a post like this for some time. For which I could say, "Me too! I also wring my wrist and feel my collarbone. It's sad for me, too." or "I also have days/weeks/months when my eating disorder feels suffocating and overwhelming and unbeatable." There is just something about the way you write. If you wrote a book, I'd buy an advanced copy. Let's put it that way.

And also, have you seen this article?

http://www.rachelsimmons.com/2012/01/mom-im-fat-one-mothers-inspired-response-to-her-7-year-old/

Kmarie said...

Vulnerability is a sign of great courage and acceptance is a attribute of grace... It looks like you have those qualities in spades. The keys to me accepting my body even tho I am 25 pounds more after the last few years is that I seriously asked myself 'what do I really want? What would I be able to sacrifice my time to make up my life?" all these diets and such were absorbing my time. I realized it was not me dream to be skinny but instead to be somewhat pretty and valued. Any size can do that. This was critical to me. This distinction kept me free to enjoy what I had and to re value my life goals. I still find it tough not to allow food to make me revolt but I love the freedom of my new perspective.
You sound like you are approaching it healthily. Continue on;)

Anonymous said...

I'm so sad. So tired of my disorder that no one understands. So tired of seeing pictures of my puffy self and hating myself. I need you to be well so I can see it's possible.

Brittan said...

i'm sad to say this is all very familiar.

i admire that you take it head on and are always on a quest to get better.

Brittan said...

(just to clarify: familiar in that i know it myself, inside and out. and i haven't come nearly as far as you have in recognizing it and being accountable for it.)

Simone said...

What an amazingly eloquent and brave post, I imagine it took an awful lot to write it.....well done to you.

You clearly do have a lot of strength and I wish you well.

Much love from London XX

Ana Magdalena said...

I can relate with every word you wrote, as someone who battled an eating disorder myself.

Thank you for sharing your story!

In A Class Of Her Own said...

I do the comparision every day. The same ways. I also have body dismorphic disorder. Sometimes, I stare at my reflection. People think I'm full of myself, and maybe I am, but I do it because I'm afraid that if I look away and look back, I will see something else. Something heavier and unreal. If I see that, I panic. I was doing well up until I had lost weight after going back to school. Then I thought I was doing really well. But I didn't realize my definition had changed. Then I started to gain the weight back. I went into "hybernation". I wore only sweats, never jeans. Talked to no one. Saw no one. Barely left my house. I'm trying to get back to where I was...Happy with what I was.

debbiecutieface.com said...

"like feeling for my collarbone--checking to make sure it was there--judging my weight, my worth by that bone alone. or using my middle finger and thumb to see if they could wrap around my wrist"

I still do this :(

and that article in Vogue. My God, it infuriated me. So much.

Kathy Kelleher said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I appreciate your honesty. I always enjoy your writing.

Lauren said...

Meg, thank you for sharing your journey. Mine, too, has been a long one. I am almost at the point of 5-years recovered from AN, but the comparison and the concern about weight still lingers. I thank God that He took away my power to starve myself, and I pray that he will take away the emotional issues that led me to that terrible point in the first place. Keep fighting, friend.

Mackenzie said...

thank you for saying the things we all need to hear when so many are so afraid of sharing these things. you're the awesomeness.

Anonymous said...

Can you talk more about how the atmosphere at juilliard affected this all? I am a recent juilliard grad as well and went through serious eating/body image struggles while I was there. I have been trying so hard to help myself understand it all so when the feelings overcome me I can be strong against them.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. Especially, "it only defines me if I say it defines me."

My daily struggle is with depression and sometimes crippling anxiety. It is so difficult to separate who I really am versus how depression makes me feel about myself. The shadow of past issues overlapping current issues can be overwhelming some days. It's definitely a long process. I look forward to the day when I feel the weight of all the mental battles fall away and I can finally stop letting it define me.

sydney gillman said...

this is written so wonderfully.
between you and c.jane hopefully we'll all feel great about our bodies someday!

Hope Johnson said...

Hi Meg! I've noticed there are a lot of chats about the Julliard, and I wondered if it was the university itself, or whether it's the types of people that Julliard attracts being the same type of person who is susceptible to eating disorders i.e somewhat highly-strung, perfectionists were attracted to Julliard, and also more likely to have eating disorders. So not so much the place, but the people who are drawn to it, as well as the messages from the types of industries they are entering.


Previously, I commented on some of your links about no-sugar (I swear this is the last time I will). While I'm not an expert, I think the whole 'no sugar' concept is just another diet industry fad, and the type of thing eating disorders latch onto and fanatically follow.

RetreatingAndAdvancing said...

This is a great post, thanks for being so honest! You're a remarkable personality!

Lexi said...

I, too, did weight watchers at the age of 15. I think I lost around 30 pounds and kept it off during high school/the first few years of college. Then I put on that plus an extra 40, and gained what is known as Night Eating Syndrome. Look that one up for fun!

This whole time, though, I have spent way too much time than is necessary tallying up what I ate for breakfast, or lunch, or couldn't eat for dinner...and now what I ate overnight. Way too much time thinking about calories and losing weight (obviously without success).

This thing...I'm basically in a relationship with it. There's just no room for anyone else. I, too, compare myself, mostly with people on the subway. Mostly I "lose".

Thanks for sharing. And on an unrelated note, I love your random photos of New York, this crazy place we call home.

bubble and squeak said...

I think you're very brave. Also, I think http://www.sarahwilson.com.au/ is the best resource there is on quitting sugar and why it is not a "diet fad."

A Sunday Kind Of Love said...

Having been suffering effects from PCOS since age 13, I can tell you that I too have been "counseled" by many pediatricians and doctors who I now think shouldn't be allowed to practice medicine. I could rant for years on the second half of your post and how these things have affected me too (yes, weight watchers 20 points a day plus 2 for milk because I was a teen when I went on it- and south beach-, body checking...the list goes on).
If you ever want somebody to chat with about all these things (or other things), I'm no longer living in Switzerland! :)

Anonymous said...

Meg, your honesty is so refreshing. I am in the process of trying to gain back weight after losing ~30 pounds last year in college. When you wrote that 1,000 calories a day is pure starvation, I just looked at that sentence and cried, for there were many days last year where I would laugh at the thought of even eating 500.

As I am in the process of trying to gain back the weight, I cannot help but compare how my body is now to when it was whenever I was in the depths of weight loss. Your perspective on comparison brought light to what I am experiencing.

I just want to thank you for this post. You have no idea how many people you reach with your words, and you are seriously a role model for those who are on this journey with you.

You can do this.

lcb said...

"comparison. always, always comparison." unfortunately, in so many ways, this is still my life. and if it's not about my body, it's some other fault i can find.

still, years later, the first thing i do most mornings is pull my shirt up in front of the mirror to see if my stomach looks flatter. or not. and i do the collar bone too. glad you feel comfortable tackling the subject again and that you're feeling stronger than in the fall. best wishes on your road to health!

LouBoo said...

Hello...your eloquence is so striking. The capability to actually describe your real thoughts and most crucially, their effect, is the skill of a writer. It almost doesn't matter what caused your anguish; it's description is so stirring, anyone can relate, eating disorder or not. I really get the concept of measuring everything by comparison, that's such a relevant observation for women as I think women do this so much more than men. Am I happier now than then? Reading what you write, the beauty of it is that you have benefited from experience...the fact that you can look it all in the eye and see what it is. For me, experience is all; it's a map to follow which is signposted by instinct. Lou x

CityGirl said...

as always a great read. your musings on this sometimes remind me of this writer, Marya Hornbacher, who wrote so eloquently, as you do, of her struggle in "Wasted"...excellent memoir to read about eating disorders.
keep writing...

ronquillo_iyah_29 said...

hey,

it's an inspiring post gurl...i have a question though. I have beent rying to gain weight for the past year. 2yrs ago my body was in a great shape and then something happened, which i won't discuss anymore and I radically lost it. I tried everything aside from going to the doctor and seeking professional help (do you think that's what I should do?). I'm avoiding to do that as much as possible. I tried eating 2x my usual diet, vitamins, sleep but nothing's happening. I am just so tired of looking myself in the mirror and feel terrible because I look so thin.:(

The Little Flapper said...

You are correct. Your eating disorder doesn't define you. Your strength defines you. Your courage defines you. Your honesty defines you. Fears can swallow us whole sometimes. But you've managed to remain graceful through it all. There is nothing more liberating than studying our fears. I hope this path will not only enlighten you but will bring you clarity. xoxo To a beautiful soul

Rachel said...

A personal question from a fellow Texan who has struggled with body image and over-eating her entire life (I'm tall too! It's so hard when you're young, but so glad for it now!):

How do you exactly know when you've fallen into it again? Does it start with one bad night and a binge and snowball? What do you consider to be your triggers and how are you evolving to deal with them?

And of course, you should know, your beautiful, heartfelt words define you, not any one particular topic!!! (although the love letters to your future husband would be the feature i'd choose if i had to :)

Lottie said...

Ut is so easy to fall into the trap of comparison in all shapes and forms and in a way it is most destructive when the person you are comparing with is the person in the mirror.

A great post and beautifully written as always.

My body is changing at the moment but I am finding it hard to accept but I think this has given me some much needed perspective.

Betsey said...

Meg,
Thank you so much for this post. Thanks for opening up to your readers. What you have to say is so important and honest, and something that every woman needs to hear.