I am about to admit something that I have never admitted to anyone else. And considering the number of doctors, pharmacists and other health care professionals that I see on a weekly basis the fact that I have never said these next words is actually quite astonishing. The words are easy enough to say, but their meaning is so easy to deny. You see, “I have an eating disorder.”
I have long ago accepted that I have more health problems than the average person out there; no matter how many pills I take on a daily basis. I obviously have mental health issues in the form of bipolar and now I am displaying the majority of symptoms of Asperger’s disease. My thyroid doesn’t properly work and requires daily medication. My teeth are falling out of my gums at a rate that is rather alarming for my vanity and now I get to add eating disorder.
Believe it or not I have perfect blood pressure (and I mean 120/80 every time). My pulse is exactly as it should be. My hearing, my eyesight, my internal organs are all working as they should (besides the thyroid of course). I suffer numerous side effects from all the medications I take; acne, headaches, tiredness, tremors, etc. etc. But all of those are expected. I do have a lower than average resting temperature but as that is only a few points off, doctors have noted it but no one really cares.
I live in a world of dichotomy. The medications versus the side effects. The diseases versus the otherwise perfect health. The teeth falling out despite excellent gums. The therapy versus the incredible desire to find my own way.
When I was a child health was one of the most important things to my parents. They didn’t drink or smoke, they worked out at the gym almost everyday, and they ate and fed my sister and I healthy and nutritious food. There was rarely treats after dinner. There was rarely a day that went by that I didn’t eat three full meals and a snack of cut up vegetables. And I never bought my lunch at school because my mother honestly believed it wasn’t as healthy as the food she could provide for me.
Did we once in awhile go for ice cream? Of course. Did we go on vacations and receive sips from my parents sodas? Of course. Did we have to finish all of our meal? Yep.
I don’t blame anyone for my current status. I blame the diseases that ravage my mind and body. I blame the medications that are supposedly cures but oftentimes seem to be curses. But I have to talk about this next part because it is vital in understanding the ease which I fell into a cliche. It is important to put blame where it belongs – in the history of our lives – but it is also extremely important to pull those things out and look at them every once in awhile.
Because of the healthy diet and the exercise that my parents regularly participated in they were very good looking. They didn’t carry body fat and instead could easily show off their muscles when called for. They weren’t body builders by any stretch of the imagination but they looked good in a swimsuit.
My sister is the same, although she never goes to the gym or eats correctly. In our childhood she was the sister that was skinny, that had little to no acne, that looked the part we all wish we could have in high school. And she did it not because of hard work but because she simply won that lottery. I, however, never won that lottery.
I was not skinny. I had curves in a time between the pin-up girl and today’s modern view of beauty. I had curves in a time when it wasn’t considered healthy or even that attractive. Please don’t misunderstand me, I wasn’t fat, I simply didn’t fit the mold of a beautiful girl. I had the eyes and hair going for me, but never the weight. When I was a baby and a toddler this was cute and people loved to tell me how pretty I was, but as I grew older and the baby fat stuck around that same view changed.
There are two things wrong with this personal picture: one, I was not like the rest of my family and two, my family knew it. I heard things about my future self’s health long before I got to the point when it was healthy for me to diet. It drove my parents crazy that they had a bookworm in their midst and not the kid trying out for every sport offered. My father, especially, was sure that if I just put that book down I would magically lose all the weight and everything would be great. As for my mother, she was more subtle. She didn’t bring treats in the house but kept them at her office; that way she could eat her chocolate and not be forced to share it with her daughter that she was so worried about. This means that my poor sister suffered as well.
And my family truly did care. They loved me and they were confounded by a person that didn’t want to worry about getting through a Jane Fonda tape. They couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to go outside and play. And when I did grab my bike and go for a ride, well let’s just say those were the days I got a treat.
Before you blame everything on my parents, as all of us are guilty of doing, please understand one salient fact. I don’t have an eating disorder because I was the fattest person in the room at Sunday dinners. I don’t have an eating disorder because of their hints and subtle prods to do more. I have an eating disorder because that is who and what I am today. I am not what I was yesterday; I am a wholly formed person who has a complication from numerous disorders that I carry around like the baby fat I once did.
It doesn’t mean I don’t hear my father’s voice. It doesn’t mean I don’t remember when I got the treats from my mother. What it means is that from an early age I got permission to do anything I needed in order to be skinny and I got permission to allow those urges to reign free. I got permission a long time ago to have an eating disorder, although no one called it that.
To explain my disorder is rather easy: I don’t eat. Let me say this again, I don’t eat. I don’t eat breakfast, lunch or dinner. I don’t eat a snack. I don’t get hungry. I don’t have cravings and I don’t have any desire to change that. Am I skating a thin line with my BMI? Sure. But it is my BMI and as long as I am skating I believe that I am doing just fine.
To explain the “I don’t eat” comment let me put it into context for you. I can go to the nicest, most expensive, most beautiful grocery store, walk every aisle, look at every product and walk out of the store with nothing in my hands. I can see foods that I know in the past I have enjoyed and I can literally taste the food and know that it is as repulsive to me as beets are to others. I look at that fancy food, remember what it tastes like, and simply walk away from it.
I suppose my forays into these grocery stores are my conscience choice to try and placate the doctors. By walking the grocery store, not hungry and not in the mood to eat even a sample some kind lady is giving out, I feel as if I am at least giving it an attempt. By trying, I can walk away knowing that I am well aware of the problem.
I don’t know how to describe the feeling of literally not being able to find one food that tastes good. I don’t know how to describe the feeling of literally not craving anything, and I certainly don’t know how I can walk through those grocery stores and see nothing at all to eat. And what is crazy about the whole scenario is that I have a husband who long ago gave me permission to go to those fancy grocery stores and get whatever I wanted. Cost doesn’t matter. If it gets me to eat, my husband will find the money and the recipe to cook it for me. Every time; and I love him for it.
It is a different feeling than most anyone else feels. Most people get hungry and then they eat. I get hungry and move along with my life. Most people want to be skinny, or diet, or kill themselves exercising. But none of those things belong to me. I simply don’t want to put the taste of food on my tongue. I simply don’t want to feel the weight of undigested food on my stomach. I don’t want to deal with the thousands of flavors that don’t taste like anything but everything else. I simply can’t fathom a desire to eat a meal.
I lost my baby fat a long time ago. And while I continually reassure my doctors – and they ask every week – I know that a time is coming when I won’t be able to hide the results of not eating for so long. I know that my husband can feel my bones under the thin layer of skin that covers me, and I know that my mother watches how much and when I eat in her presence. And yet knowing all that, I can still sit here, think about all the foods in the world and realize that I don’t want one of them. There isn’t one food, one taste, that I could sit down and eat. And no matter what they believe, I don’t think anyone can change this. So, I will for the second time in my life state, “I have a eating disorder.”
Is eating the equivalent of sawdust worth the wrath of my family and of my doctors? We may be on our way to finding out.