FINGERS AND TEETH

Anonymous

CONTENT WARNING: Eating Disorders

I could describe it in so many ways. I could tell you the story entirely in numbers: in calories consumed, in pounds gained and lost, in body mass index. I could tell you about the state of my teeth (poor). I could tell you about the way the doctor frowned when she looked at my hands (blue fingernails, scratches along knuckles). 

I could spend fifty pages cataloguing every way I have tried to lose weight for the past nine years: every diet, every regimen, every magical solution found on the internet. Cucumbers sprinkled with salt. Light whipped cream. Jumping jacks in the thousands. Pacing around my apartment for two hours in an attempt to burn off the calories in a Granny Smith apple. Chugging ice water because I read online that doing so would burn one-hundred calories. 

I could summarize it in Google searches: why do my teeth feel sandy? How do I know if my electrolytes are low? How many calories are in 195 grams of Granny Smith Apple? 

I could describe it only in bodily sensations: in gnawing emptiness, in cold. I could spend so long discussing only the cold: falling asleep each night shivering; straddling the space heater in a desperate attempt to feel warm; defining experiences not as good or bad, positive or negative, enriching or draining, but only as warm and cold. 

I could describe it in bodily harm inflicted: loss of period, loss of warmth, loss of hair. 

I could tell you about every night lost, amounting at some point to every year lost. I could tell you about every plan canceled, every lie told, every hungry night. I could tell you about every sit-up, every stolen spoonful of peanut butter, every meal replaced with tea.

Why do you want to get better?

Because I am tired of being cold.

Do you even want to get better?

Of course. I don’t want to be cold anymore.

The women at the hospital have been in and out, in and out. Their hands tremble as they bring graham crackers and apple juice to their lips. I am not sick like them. I am not sick. I ate more for breakfast today than I did all of Sunday. 

We learn skills:

Avoidance: tight clothes, mirrors, plans, uncomfortable situations (ie. situations where calories are consumed).

Distraction: TV, movies, knitting, books, phone calls, reflection on life goals. But distraction only works to a point, and sooner or later we must learn ways to cope with our negative emotions. But not yet. For now, we just need to be nourished back to safety.

Dialectical thinking: I want to be happy and I want to be eternally thin. I want to live a rich and full life and I never want to eat again. 

I want to forget: the BMI range.

I am never going to be this small again, and I am trying to be okay with that. It is hard, because I do not see myself now as small. I was told by a doctor that I needed to lose weight for the first time when I was eight years old. At home that day I stood in front of my bedroom mirror wishing for a smaller tummy. 

And I am not only letting go of being small. I have wanted to lose weight for more than half of my life. I have spent nine years constantly dieting. I do not yet know how to eat without simultaneously trying to make myself smaller. 

It always seems to manifest in the state of my fingers and of my teeth.  

I wanted thin shoulders most of all, more than anything. I only wanted thin shoulders. Please, forgive me. Please, forgive me.