So yesterday I went over to my dad’s house to see the fireworks that his town puts on every year for an early 4th of July celebration. I had picked out a very patriotic looking outfit that I was very comfortable in, and was actually feeling sort of okay with the way that I looked. The jean shorts I had on still fit; I hadn’t gained enough weight to not be able to put them on. Distantly, a voice registered in my head, saying “You barely fit into them. You’re so fat. Your thighs are disgusting. You’re covered in cellulite.“
This is what recovery has felt like 99% of the time. As if I’m a whale or a seal or something and have a thick layer of blubber around me, insulating me and making me look a bajillion times bigger than I really am. And whenever I eat anything and sit with it, my brain instantly works to convince me that said food item will magically appear on my body as a chunk of fat.
Which, of course, is not how the human body works. There’s absolutely no logic to that. But that’s the unfortunate nature of eating disorders: they are extremely irrational.
And yesterday, that irrationality led me to do something horrible.
For several months now, I have had no clue what my weight. Nor have I had a desire to know.
But yesterday, I wandered into the room where he keeps his scale, turned on the evil device, and stepped onto it, out of a sort of morbid curiosity.
The number that showed up baffled me. I was instantly disgusted with myself, and resolved that I was going to restrict and overexercise again. I went so far as to crunch the numbers and attempt to figure out exactly what I would have to do in order to lose the weight I desired. I regretted stepping on the scale and wanted to throw it out the window. I also felt a ridiculously strong desire to go back to being sick. Being ill suddenly seemed positive; it sounded like the best decision I could make. I’ve had a few slip ups here and there where I’ve given into behaviors and instantaneously felt a wonderful sense of relief and control. Restricting still gives me a high unlike anything I’ve ever felt. It’s part of why eating disorders are so difficult to overcome: they’re a type of addiction.
But then a thought struck me.
There is no weight that’s good enough for my eating disorder. If my anorexia had its way, it would have me making myself smaller and smaller until I all but disappeared. It would kill me.
And weight is just a number. It does not define me. It does not define anyone. So everyone has a weight. It’s a different number for every person, partially determined by genetics, which means that to a great extent, it’s entirely out of our control. It’s in the hands of our bodies themselves; we have to trust that they will regulate themselves as machines properly should.
So my weight was higher than I expected. So it was higher than I wanted it to be. I couldn’t have expected anything different. Anorexia isn’t ever satisfied. It demands that you do more, more, more, and no matter how hard you try, you are never good enough.
There are so many more things that define an individual. Their family. Their friends. Their passions. Their likes. Their dislikes. Their hobbies. Their laughter. Their smile. Their emotions. Their interests. Their promises. Their successes. Their mistakes. Their failures. Their victories. The list goes on and on.
I still regret stepping onto that scale. I knew that the instant I did it, there was no turning back. And I know that the number that appeared like a death sentence, glaring and horrible, has been burned into my brain with a permanence and a finality that may not ever go away.
So I may not ever be comfortable with the weight that I am. But that’s to do with the number. How does weight maintenance feel? If I wasn’t at a healthy weight, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did yesterday. I wouldn’t have been able to visit the playground and swing on the swings and slide down the slides like a little kid. I wouldn’t have been able to walk from the car to the park where the fireworks were held. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the fireworks show.
And that got me thinking about all the other amazing experiences I’ve had, and have yet to have, now that I’m healthy. My eating disorder loves to try and get me to compromise with it, promising me that if I just stay a little bit sick, I will be able to do whatever I want while being content with the way I look. It refuses to admit that there may ever be a point where I am okay with how I appear in the mirror.
It’s extremely hard to believe that the weird weight distribution that is inherent in recovery will eventually even itself out. But I look at other people who have successfully recovered and find hope. They are truly, genuinely happy with themselves. They don’t live a life hindered by thoughts of weight and of food. They live each day to the fullest and never forget that we only get one shot at this whole living thing.
I know what going back to being sick means. It means the end of my life. Because even if I’m still breathing, even if my heart is still beating, if I am letting my anorexia control me, I am not truly living. It is a death sentence.
I wear a semicolon ring to remind myself that I contemplated ending my own life, but decided to continue to fight on. I could have ended the story of my life, but I chose to move forwards. I don’t want the pages of my journey to remain blank. I want to fill them with descriptions of all the amazing things I do, think, and feel.
Weight is just a number. It’s a completely arbitrary identifier that does virtually nothing to explain who you are as a person. There are so many far more important things that define you as the amazing, unique individual that you are.
Forget the scale. But never forget to love who you are.