it was five years and four days and 16 hours ago.
i was this sad, underweight little girl. who was shaking in her too-small children’s size jeans. angry that she was on a rickety plane on her way to podunk, arizona. where she’d have to be under the watchful eyes of school-marm like nurses, who would be watching her eat three square meals and two snacks. go to chapel every day (except sunday, mind you). and go on bi-weekly rides on an old, cranky horse by the name of “shortstop” (his name suit him perfectly. he looked like a donkey and was a real ass, if i do say so myself).
for three months, count ’em, three months. add that to the long hospital stays with the feeding tubes and the short stay at a treatment center in boca raton, i’d spent most of my ninth grade year in high school having people stick tubes down my nose, ask about my bowel movements, and learning a lot of corny jingles about beating your eating disorder with an awesome set of girls i still consider to be my closest friends.
for months prior to that moment on the plane, i found myself being that girl. you know the one. i calculated calories like a champ, did sit-ups while watching “the biggest loser”, denied any sort of hunger. whether it be emotional or physical. i thought i was stronger than to eat any morsel. besides, i didn’t really feel like i was deserving of such a thing. there were kids starving in parts of africa and haiti and bangladesh, and here i was eating. not eating was sort of a slapping myself on the wrists for being so selfish. not for the sake of vanity. oh no, please don’t get me started on that.
eating disorders aren’t about vanity. at least mine wasn’t. that was only secondary. you start chasing a number, hopefully in the double digits, but that’s always after the guilt and the suppression. always. please oh please don’t mistake such a awful disease with a cry for attention. i covered my sickly body in sweatshirts and never left my house, it’s hardly a cry for attention. i wanted the opposite, i wanted to take up as little space as possible both metaphorically and literally.
i referred to “him” as “ed”, short for “eating disorder”. they taught us this at treatment so we could put a face to our disorder, as it so clearly had a voice at times. a really loud, booming voice. he was a very stocky bald man, and he conveniently had a hitler mustache. very convenient.
what i’m getting down to is, i’m so glad that this little hitler is out of my life. no more do i worry about where the calories from my oreos are going to go, or whether my sweatshirt will cover up my “gigantic” thighs. no more. but then again, i don’t regret the appearance this little sickness either. it brought me to arizona where i met the most amazing girls, now women, that i have ever met. we could commiserate about having to go to chapel 6 days a week when we were so hopped up on meds that we couldn’t stay awake. we’d all simultaneously go to sleep and then get in trouble together. they’d thought we all planned our rebellious sleeping, but it was really because we were all on the same meds.
we spent hours listening to “veggie tales” at snack time, because we weren’t allowed to listen or watch anything without a g-rating (“gone with the wind” is my favorite movie because of this). my first night, a girl ran away from the treatment center as a joke, and then got a tranquilizer shot in the butt (okay, so maybe this is TMI, but this still makes me laugh to this day).
we all cried together when our clothes didn’t fit us anymore, or if we had to eat another snack. we laughed together when we heard about romances starting between the staff at the ranch (frank the snack guy and candy the counselor?! what?!) and how any guy looked cute to us because the only boys we saw for three months was the guy who did worship at church or our psychiatrists. this was our life. and i wouldn’t take it back for anything. it was a big sleepover for girls with eating disorders. we were the only ones who could understand each other. and that meant more to me than a number on a scale.
this was me. this was my life. this was me when i was under the dictatorship of a nasty little sickness called an eating disorder. notice all of the past tenses i’m using. it’s gone now.
***if you ever find yourself struggling with any type of eating disorder, please oh please find help. neda.org and something-fishy.org are wonderful resources. just tell someone. don’t feel ashamed and suffer through it. or, if you feel comfortable, please don’t hesitate to email me at mackenzie [dot] filson [at]gmail[dot]com for any questions or help.