“You were perfect, then,” he said, a brief pause before the last word, emphasizing the difference between then and now. He was referring to a time a few years ago, a time when I fixated on caloric intake and exercised too many hours in a day. He was talking about a time when I was thinner and more confident.
I must have had a look on my face. “Did that make you sad?” he asked.
“Disappointed in myself.” It was an understatement but the best I could do.
He got that look again – the one that said he was going to give me all the answers, if only I would listen. “You know what to do to get back there. You have the map.”
Oh, the map. How many times was he going to mention the map?
Sure, I have the map. But my map was filled with dangerous streets and dark alleys, dead ends and one-ways. My map didn’t have alternate routes. It was all-or-nothing; take the roads previously traveled or find a different map.
I didn’t have a different map. I had many attempts to use the same map. It was worn and dirty and folded in all the wrong places, but it was mine, and it was hard to let go of it.
I wanted to tell him that his words were like a knife right through the heart, twisting and burning with the best of intentions. That they were a bullet to the brain, leaving alive only the parts I couldn’t tell him, because he wouldn’t understand.
I wanted to share those parts with him, to make him get it. But how do you make someone understand something so incomprehensible? Something I myself don’t even fully fathom, and I live it?
“Sometimes you say things,” I began, and paused. The words were out of my mouth before I realized it, and I had no choice but to continue. “Sometimes you say things that, if you knew what went on in my head – if you knew the obsessions – I don’t think you would say.” Or at least, I hoped he wouldn’t.
“Have you ever told me those obsessions?” he asked, knowing full-well the answer.
No. He knew the general idea, but this was personal, private information. How do you share that part of yourself that no one else knows, how do you make yourself vulnerable to someone else’s opinions and ideas and biases, when you just don’t think he’ll get it?
No, I didn’t tell him that the first words out of my mouth after every meal are, “I hate myself.” That self-loathing was followed with, “You’re stupid, and disgusting, and you’ll never do it right.”
No, I didn’t tell him that I can eat three square meals a day, following my doctor’s orders to a T, and the voice in my head still cries, “But how will you lose all that weight if you keep eating?”
I didn’t tell him I was a failure, or a cheat, or a louse. He doesn’t know that after I count calories for one meal, the numbers consume me – not just my waking thoughts, but also my dreams. They become larger than life, feeding on my fear that I will Never Be Good Enough.
If I eat when the voice tells me not to, I’m not strong enough. If I don’t eat when the voice begs for abundance, I’m a baby and I can’t handle myself.
No, I didn’t tell him these things.
Because how would he look at me after that? Would he suddenly light up with understanding, and stop telling me to forge new roads on the same map, because the outline was leading me in the right direction? Would he realize that every time he brought up that damn stupid map, I felt like dying inside?
Maybe I’m being pessimistic. But I just don’t feel like he’ll understand. Few others do. I want him to understand, but opening up is raw and uncomfortable and leaves me naked and bare. And the voice would tell me I’m stupid for trusting someone, that I can’t be trusted myself. What good am I, to naively believe in the goodness of others?
And now, the pièce de résistance. “You were perfect, and now you’re not,” the voice tells me. “You’re nothing. You’re worse than nothing – you’re FAT. And you’ll never be perfect again.”
Debbie is an addiction counselor and yoga teacher in Indiana. She is an avid reader of any genre, and has published fantasy short stories; she is still working on the elusive novel. Recently, Debbie has ventured into non-fiction writing, in hopes that discussing her life with an eating disorder will help someone in need. Debbie’s loves include her niece Lillie and her girl-cat, Emilio Estevez. She is passionate about mental health awareness, especially related to addiction and eating disorders.