"I am not a mathematician, but I know this: there are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There's .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities."
The Fault in Our Stars | John Green
I don't know how to write about the end of it. Now that it's ended, I don't know how to write about the end of it other than to say that it's ended.
It was a quiet thing. A silently-slipping-out-sort-of-thing.
I can't tell you how it happened, only that it did.
And only that I've just now realized it did. Only now, some weeks or months or some unknown amount of time after.
I wrote recently that the opposite of love is not hate. It is simply the absence of it.
The opposite of an eating disorder is not health. It is simply the absence of it.
It will last forever. It will be a forever-sort-of-battle. How many times people said that to me. Smart people, wise people, people with degrees in how-to-fight-the-thing.
How many people say that still, day after day.
I think often on why people say it. And why we accept it.
It was always clear to me that I would not accept those words. I would not accept that notion. And if it was true than I would go in search of a different truth. And if that different truth was not anywhere to be found then I would write my own.
An infinity. An unlimited extent of time, space, or quantity. There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. And even more between 0 and 2. And how can that be? How can one infinity be greater than another?
There was a timeline of events:
At nineteen I stood in front of a mirror and convinced myself I was fat. Five minutes it took me to rewire a small bit of the brain that perceived weight and shape. Five minutes. An infinity.
At twenty I starved myself for two months. That was it, just two small and insignificant months. An infinity.
And for the next three years I binged. And my body ballooned. And every bit of who I was as a person shrank in direct proportion. Three years in which an eating disorder hijacked my every thought and my every action and I felt as though I was drowning at all times and everywhere, above ground and in plain site. And it was an infinity somehow greater than those before.
And then slowly breath and breadth restored some sort of life. And inch by inch ground was gained. And then some. And things got better. And I got better. But there was always more to go. There was always an infinity stretching before me. And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.
Five years trudging towards recovery. An infinity.
I remember having a conversation with one of my dearest friends about a year and a half ago. I was not feeling well--I was blue and low and bruised and I told her so and she said to me, Meg, we all have those moments. We all live through stretches in which we think we're not doing so well--in which we're not in a tremendously good place. And I remember listening to her as she was saying this and feeling a distance much greater than the small, marble table between us. I remember being aware that we were using similar words to describe two totally different experiences. That's not what this is, I wanted to say. We're not talking about the same thing. But instead I sipped my coffee and smiled and nodded, because, much as we don't always want them to be, some battles are private.
But just the other day I was walking east on 49th street and I though, I'm not doing so well. I'm having a rough time. And quick on the heels of that thought came another, This must be the not-so-good that everyone always told me about. I'm right now, at this very moment, going through a totally normal rough patch. And heaven was that thought--heaven was that notion of normal. My not good now is different. Shallower, more bearable, not so overwhelming. A little bit lighter, if you will. There are still plenty of tears and it feels like its own infinity, but it only feels that way, it never is.
I knew that one of the last steps on the timeline would be to divorce guilt-about-what-I'd-just-eaten from eating-more. I didn't know how to do it other than to create awareness around that intention and let it live in me, but not force it--to create enough space for healthier thoughts to grow.
I think about the notion of divorce a lot. About why people get divorced. Of all of the unknown forces at work. Of how impossible and traumatic it must be. And how it is not for someone like me to comment on it, ever. And yet, I think of myself at twenty-one and twenty-two and how at such a young age I'd already been doing battle with myself for so long. And I imagine that had I been in a marriage--if I was married to myself, I mean--then everyone around me would have said, with great love, maybe it's time that you think about divorce. Maybe it's time you leave this person. Because you are not good for each other. And it is not as though you haven't tried. For years you've tried.
And the thing is, they would've been right. Divorce would have been the best option. But it wasn't an option--and that lack-of-an-option proved to be the blessing of my life. Because I had to stick it out. Because I learned about love by loving myself. And I'm so much richer and so much better and so much kinder for that period in which the best option was not an option and the infinity before me felt impossible.
This is where words fail. In explaining the end and explaining why I'm thankful and explaining why I wouldn't change the thing. This is where I get overwhelmed by just how much there is to say--and how many of the the things I want to say are consistently failed by the limits of language.
So I will say this, I will try with these words:
I remember being a little girl and going to school with another little girl. And I remember the moment that someone else said to me, she's fat. And I said, she is not. She is not fat. How can you say that she is fat? Truth it, I don't know if she was fat or not. I can't tell you anything about the shape of her body other than that she was tall.
As a little girl I didn't look at others as fat or not. My eyes didn't register that as a thing to take note of.
Sitting in Tom's office, years ago, I said, I want to go back to that place. I want to not know if someone is fat or not because I simply haven't noticed. Because it's not part of my visual vocabulary. But I don't think it's possible. Because once you see something, how do you un-see it?
And he said, you can, you can return to that place.
And here I am, returned. To that place. To myself. I am well and whole. In this way, at least, I am well and whole. And this is a whole new infinity. This is the infinity that will dwarf all those that came before.
Now if I lie in bed next to a sweet boy I'm so busy thinking about his long eyelashes that I never once think about my body--whether it is thin or not--whether he thinks it is thin or not. Because it is my body. And it is healthy. And it is remarkably free of the notion of fat or not. It just is.
And this will be the infinity that will dwarf all those that came before.