[Obvious TW is really glaringly obvious.]
“I had an eating disorder.”
We were juniors, boyfriend and girlfriend, officially. Up late and texting, doing that flirting thing where you demand each others deepest secrets and pretend you’re giving yours away.
Except I did give mine away.
“I had an eating disorder.”
I was lying, of course. It wasn’t the past tense–it was the second year of an eating disorder, one that would get worse, more disorganized, and wreak much more havoc on my sanity in the coming four years.
But it was the first step.
And he had guessed–known, really, for months. He’s my best friend now, far and away in Texas. In this month, marking six years since I developed what would reach clinical-level anorexia, I asked him about it. He doesn’t remember when he figured it out, really. It was, according to him, always part of how he knew me.
And I don’t think he’s wrong. It’s been six years ago, as of this month, since the behavioral side of anorexia started. Every time I’ve looked back and tried to think “back when I was stable/normal/didn’t have an eating disorder”…I realize I’m looking back at times when I was actually worse, when I wasn’t eating, when I couldn’t go ten minutes without invasive, obsessive thoughts about food.
Six years. More than a quarter of my life.
There’s this thing they talk about in therapy some times: grieving for the normal self. Because even were your disorder to remit entirely…you wouldn’t go back to being Old You. Your brain learns things. You grow and bend and shape yourself around coping mechanisms and triggers and ways of responding to the world. Old You is just gone. And Old You was a whole person, with plans and potential and places to go and things to do and ways of looking at the world. Maybe a little more optimistic, a little shinier and fresh-faced. You get to have all those things again, those plans and that potential, it’s true. But sometimes they’re a little dusty, a chipped, in pieces.
And I really liked Old Kate.
Therapy was a eulogy, stories of when I could look in mirrors, and dancing and days when I could just throw on clothes in the morning.
And now, finally, I think I’ve laid that Kate to rest.
I have this weird alternate life where I write things on the internet and people read them. On weekends I go to conferences and go by a different name, and on Monday the coach turns into the best pumpkin ever and I work at Fabulous Unspecified Internship.
I’ve gone skinny-dipping. I’ve gone skinny-dipping in Lake Michigan in the middle of winter. (Note: REALLY cold.)
I am emotionally able to care for another animal and I know this because I’m doing it right now.
I live in a city that I love. I’m in love.
I don’t dance anymore, and it hurts. But sometimes I actually see New Kate in the mirror, and that makes me think that someday I’ll go back into a studio.
I’ve learned some of two different languages, and I get to take classes about bioethics and astronomy and artificial intelligence and and and…and each day ends with just wanting more more more. More books, more research, more people who want to know anything about everything and everything about anything.
There’s something they don’t tell you about eating disorders. About how much you want more than anything to wake up and be in a different skin, how much you don’t want to feel your own body, to notice what space you take up.
But New Kate is still here, taking up space.
I’d like to keep doing that.