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"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.


JB said...

how do you take the words i can't say and put them into words? you say you have more words, but you're a mile ahead of the rest of us and i can't wait to read more.

Clio said...

I have been sick the last couple of days, the kind if sick that means no make up and a stuffy nose and pale dry sore skin…the kind of sick that is 'ugly' but my boyfriend spent two days glued to my side, looking after me, making me laugh and just being there. For the last two days I have felt golden. Being in the presence of someone i love, being in a place where the notion of 'pretty' or 'thin' is irrelevant is the happiest place I've ever been.

Vera said...

Wonderful. In every way. Wonderful.

Rach said...

Love. Love love love. And I feel so much joy for you right now! I thoroughly enjoy reading your words :)

Natalie said...

This is so, so great! A million thank you's for sharing this with us.

VibrantGrace said...

Meg, I love your words and love this beautiful place you're in now. So proud of you. Thanks for letting us share your joy!

RetreatingAndAdvancing said...

This is so beautifully written. I can't describe how happy I am for you! And now go back to that boy ;)

Anonymous said...

I love your writing x

Jen ♥ said...

Congratulations on this discovery. It is quite the accomplishment. And beautifully said. As always.

Jenna | The Paleo Project said...

so powerful as usual, and what an amazing book you quoted up top there - one of my favorites - I hope all of your good infinities are longer than any of the rough ones. Some are larger than others, you know?

molly yeh said...

ah. your words are so relaxing. there is so much i want to talk about with you right now. wonderful post, meg!

Allison said...

These words have such special meaning to my situation right now and I'm so grateful you wrote them and shared them here. It's not often someone can so perfectly articulate such depth of emotion.

amanda said...

Wow. This is such an important post. This is atonement and reclamation. It is hope. Thank you.

Julie said...

So well said, and I'm so glad that you've gotten to the other side. I don't believe any of what people say about "forever," either. We all get to decide.

jill said...

Way to be Meg, you are a brave, wonderful soul. :)

colleen said...

ughhhhh you are the best writer. i often think of that time - before i noticed race, or economics, or weight. that time as a child where you see a difference but you don't, it doesn't register. and then one day you feel something different, you see it in a light - because of society or life or whatever - and how hard you have to work to get back to that pure moment. it is possible. but oh is it hard.

"Everyone is a prisoner of his own experiences. No one can eliminate prejudices — just recognize them." - Edward Murrow

emilia. said...

i will just give you another hallelujah. thank you.

Anonymous said...

This piece of writing is exquisite......I was anorexic for several years and the recovery process was definitely an infinity.....but the infinity of now is definitely dwarfing the infinities of yesterday for me too :-) wonderful, real and beautiful

Tiffany said...

This is beautiful! I love it.

Also...The Fault In Our Stars...that was an amazing book!


Amanda said...

This is an amazing thing. As someone with an eating disorder, I can relate to trying to get your body and your health back. More like getting my mind back. Because food doesn't go away. You have to eat. I try to explain this to people who think that drugs are the only addictions. And then try to tell you once an addict, always an addict. AA has it wrong. Your addiction is not who you are. So amen for finding your own truth, for not giving up. For not letting anyone tell you you are anyone but you.

P.S. Now I really want to read The Fault in our Stars. It's already on my list.

The Rookie said...

I love how this particular TFiOS excerpt resonated with you. I think that is the sign of a really good bit of writing, isn't it? That it resonates with each of us just a little bit differently, but deeply nonetheless?

Beautiful piece, Meg. Beautiful.

Utah Girl Am I said...

I feel like I can't even adequately express how this made me feel besides saying that I wish I knew you so I could hug you. A- Because you are a hero! B- Because your words strike a chord in my heart as I struggle to focus on making and keeping my body healthy (not thin, not skinny, etc. etc.), but healthy (and to stop worrying about the thin, the skinny, the etc. etc.). So, basically, just... thank you. :)