Hello! And a very happy December! I know that this time of year will thrill some and fill others with a deep sense of loathing, fear and dread with or without a global pandemic looming over us. I myself love a Christmas jumper, tinsel hanging off my bits and watching The Holiday multiple times a day – every day – but in truth, I sit somewhere on the fence, and I’ve been trying to write about it for a long time. Tonight, for one reason or another, I’ve done just that and below, finally shared what I’ve written with you. It isn’t my best piece of writing, but I hope it will resonate with a person or two who could do with reading it. If nothing else, I hope it just lets you know I’m here, saying ‘Hi’. I’ve called it, ‘I’m Not Fixed’ because I’m not and probably never will be, but that’s okay. I’m imperfect, a bit like the piece itself. So, here we go. Thank you for taking the time to read it – it means an awful lot.
I’m Not Fixed
It’s that time of year again. Mind you, judging by the shop window displays near me which get more and more extravagant more and more prematurely every year, it’s been Christmas since September. But now, it is December and try as one might, it is unescapable. We must surrender to this being the most wonderful time of the year. Unless you’re me or very much like me and for any number of reasons, find this year to be a particularly difficult time of the year which unfortunately doesn’t fit to the tune.
My reason? I find it difficult to let the traditions and expectations of December and its associated festivities pass me by without acknowledging my disordered eating.
Now, it’s no secret I’ve lived with disordered eating since I was roughly 7 years old but that’s largely because A) I made a show about the subject in which I told everybody I’ve lived with disordered eating since I was roughly 7 years old and B) In my late teens and into my early 20s, I looked like I had an eating disorder.
So much did I look like I had an eating disorder that more than one person told me that I was ‘lucky’ to have one over the range of other mental illnesses available because 'It means people can tell you need help – you don’t need to ‘suffer in silence’'. I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of what numerous people said to me. Whilst there is nothing lucky about having an eating disorder, admittedly I thought little of it at the time, so numb was I emotionally then, but now I think about it daily. Because I fear there might be some truth in it. See whilst my issues with food and obsessive exercise are certainly better managed now, they haven’t gone away. I’m not cured or fixed, but nobody seems to know that – not even my closest friends and family and I can only assume that’s because I no longer look like what I think we have been led to believe somebody with an eating disorder is supposed to look like.
It’s evident in what those closest to me say about bodies; theirs, mine and those of others around us. Flippant comments which are almost always meant as compliments, but which can floor me. It was evident earlier this year when it was widely reported that a high-profile reality TV star had tragically succumbed to her lifelong eating disorder and, whilst there was a time when my friends and family would have checked in, rallied round, offered their shoulders to my distraught, angry, ugly, child-like sobs which I might not have needed but would have meant the world to know were available, I didn’t hear from a single person.
I should say, I’m not blaming my friends and family nor am I angry at them.
I mean I obviously am, but please know I understand that’s completely irrational!!! And it’s all part of it. Part of the parasite that lives in me, that is my ED.
In defence of my loved ones, I don’t talk about my disordered eating daily, it just is what it is. I live with it. I generally, unless asked – which is less and less these days – don’t talk about how it’s still the reason behind so many of the irrational ways my brain reacts to certain situations in the way it does every day. I don’t talk about how it’s the reason behind so many things I do, don’t do and say or don’t say. I never say it’s the reason I can’t put anything in my mouth without acknowledging the facts and figures which surround it or how it is the reason I still don’t eat certain things at certain times of day – or at all. It’s the reason I only eat in front of certain people and the reason those certain people might suddenly and without notice be added to or cut from that list of certain people. It’s the reason I might pretend I already ate so I don’t have to do so with you. It’s the reason I tell people I have a phobia of lifts, ‘I’ll take the stairs’ – and that I know how many calories that decision will be worth. It’s at least four of the reasons I won’t have children. It is the reason I will be unexpectedly busy, broke or away at the time of that event you told me about months ago and it’s the reason I will need to see the menu as far in advance as possible so I can make my decision – or invent my excuse. It’s the reason I tell lies. It’s the reason I might pretend not to hear you if you ask what I’m eating and, on my worst days, hate you if you go on to comment on my answer. It’s the reason I’ve quit jobs, so stressful is it to be around people talking and asking about food, exercise and lifestyle choices and just generally being a kind and interested individual – something my ED brain can’t handle. It’s the reason I’ve kept on other jobs for longer than I should have, so addictive is the free, extended exercise they provide me with. It’s the reason some days, I’ll choose nothing when you ask what I’m eating because the calm, safe, controlled quiet of a fuzzy head is easier to deal with than your follow-ups.
1-0 to the ED brain.
It’s the reason I had far less sex than I could have in my twenties and the reason I make jokes which people deem inappropriate but that’s the reason I keep making them. It is, of course, the reason I am vegetarian. Busted.
My eating disorder will be the reason my friends and family don’t like me sometimes. Or even understand me. And trust me, I get it. When you tell me about your lunch or decision to ‘stop eating ‘naughty food’’, I’ll go quiet, pretend to be distracted by something or suddenly need the loo. Sometimes I’ll just walk away. Or I’ll become competitive – the worst kind of me to be. It’s the reason if I notice you’ve been on a new diet or doing a workout programme before you’ve mentioned it, I won’t say anything or react even when you do. It’s the reason I will rarely comment, Like or acknowledge pictures of your food or of you at the gym or after running that half marathon on social media and that, if I do, trust I will have thought about whether to for hours and hours, possibly even left it, tried to sleep and felt so guilty for not addressing it, that I’ve got out of bed to actively Like it. Or comment on it. It’s usually just a Like. I will be so proud of and happy for you in the same breath as I will be furious at you and me both for our lack of understanding of each other and at how the world around us has allowed us to be in this position in the first place.
And this is me managing my disordered eating. And these reasons, sometimes more of them and sometimes less of them, are all going on at one time, in my head, often daily, often while watching The Holiday.
But my reason for finally writing this down and sharing it with you? I think it is that you never know what is going on in somebody’s head. And that’s ok – we all have our own stuff going on, now more than ever. I’m definitely feeling too sorry for myself to be the best sister, friend or daughter I can be right now, but I know it isn’t just me. For many, this isn’t the most wonderful time of the year. I’m willing to bet that was the truth for more than most of us last year and sadly this one too given…everything. So, just be kind or, not even that, just be aware. Check in. And whether you celebrate or can't think of anything worse, have a lovely, safe festive season.