TRIGGER WARNING | This post includes triggering content and sensitive detail for those who may or may not suffer from disordered eating or cope with mental health disorders.
We cope with stress differently. The body kicks into fight-or-flight mode, and sometimes we let it decide our plan before our mind has any time to catch up.
Like the impulse
Impulsivity nails me to a wall and mocks me for being so naïve to her repeated ways. She shows up in Martha and intrudes on each of my relationships.
It was 11 AM and I skipped classes to be with Martha. It became a thing that year to skip class or events to be with her because she understood it far better than anyone else did.
I realize while reading this, it makes you uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable too. And, it made the people in my life uncomfortable for years.
Think hard about it, how do you casually approach a friend, a daughter, a mother, whomever about their purging? How do you not offend them without setting off the demon that lives within him or her at that time?
The feeling of discomfort disrupts the impulse to stop the bad thing from happening.
And, eventually, maybe walls break down and we can talk about the thing, the issue, the wall that your demons set up months, or years, or whatever it is prior. But, until then things have to be uncomfortable before they get comfy.
So, let me make you uncomfortable.
It is my senior year at Belmont and I skipped class to spend time with Martha. You know the feeling you get when you neglect a friend intentionally, then all of a sudden a rush of guilt overwhelms you, causing every muscle in your body to react and reach out?
Well, there you have it.
The nagging got to be too much and recovery was making more progress in my life than Martha and I cared to admit. We got overwhelmed. We got confused.
My roommate had left at 7 AM for clinical and would not be home until 7 PM. Martha and I could hide here while no one was around.
So, we hid.
Then, we drank.
Martha and I ordered Chinese food at 11 AM on a Friday. Crab rangoon, vegetable lo mein, pork fried rice, chicken fingers, and spare pork ribs – guarantee the delivery man expected the sight of four college girls cramming for a college exam, not one malnourished skeleton pacing in her lifeless apartment.
Martha thanked the man for delivering my food, but internally I screamed for help. I watched as she set the table in front of the couch for one, then poured herself a glass of wine so she could sit back and cheer. I watched as she unwrapped the grease-stained Chinese food boxes from the paper bag, oohing and aahing at the food. I watched her load my plate with a serving size for two.
Then I watched her do it again 20 minutes later.
And, again 40 minutes later.
2 hours later it was all gone.
And by gone, I mean no longer in the grease-stained boxes or my stomach.
Martha had a method to her madness. Her cheers shouted persuasive notes of encouragement, slowly adopting elements of fear, as if to say, if you do not do this, you lose me.
“You got this, Meg!”
“Meg, we are going to win this!”
“Meg, think about the results!”
“No guilt, Meg, just you and me!”
“Meg now is the time, do not miss your shot. Do not miss it.”
Getting up from the couch, lights in the apartment drawn to a low and episodes of Gilmore Girls playing in the background, Martha ran her fingers through the muscles on my shoulders. She had this thing about shoulders. It got her going, it put her in the mood to pull the trigger and stick her fingers down my throat.
That day, she was in the mood to do it in the dark. Maybe it was the ounce of shame she felt when she realized she was doing this to me at 11 AM on a Friday, or perhaps the realization that moments like this were coming fewer and farther in-between.
The realization that she was now a relapse, a hook-up, an in-between.
I have a feeling that is what drove her to push me so hard that day. Once we were in the bathroom her cheers took a sharp turn toward demands, screaming at me every chance she could, trying to pull me permanently back into her world.
I screamed into the toilet, angry with her, and angry with myself.
Anger, a beautiful, wonderful, and frightening thing.
Something I had not allowed myself the capacity to feel for ages.
I screamed and she pushed. The argument played out like a script, that being, her queue to speak was when she stuck her fingers down my throat, and my queue was to bite back and scream no.
I screamed no because I wanted more. I screamed no because everything Martha had me doing felt so good. It felt good enough to dump the thousands of dollars my parents were pouring into my recovery down the toilet along with some pork fried rice and lo mein noodles.
We went on for hours until the Chinese food was gone.
I did not win that day, but I did not lose. Setbacks put us on the right track, they make us whole in a way that is both new to the mind, body, and soul. We gain perspective and we lose a sense of narrow-minded perception we once had before.
With Martha, I am to understand one thing, be nothing but a size two.
With Meg, I am to understand beauty is transformative. It is the way you carry yourself walking down the street and the behavior to which you speak to others. Beauty is the hug you give your best friend after coming out of a spell you have been under for years, only to find their love has been there, waiting for you all along.
Beauty is the ability to say no to your demons and yes to your true self.