A Week

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 10.52.33 PM

There aren’t really any pre-eating disorder Kate photos in my possession–very few exist–but this isn’t long after it started.

[The eating disorder content note on this post is so loud it tapdances in sequined tights. Skip the latter half if that seems bad for you.]

It’s a Friday. 12:42 in the morning. And I’ve done something for the first time in seven years. I have fed myself properly for a week.

Twenty-one meals in a row.

I have eaten seven breakfasts and seven lunches and seven dinners, one each day, and the last time I can point to and say, “that happened” was when I was fourteen.

It has always made me feel like a child, in the helpless, immature, possibly-unfair-to-children way. Accomplish all manner of things, come of age, go to college, hold a job, spend years working on recovering, and you still can’t feed yourself for a week, can you?

I am twenty one years old, and I have spent one third my life depriving and counting and adding and crying over calorie totals. I have binged and exercised obsessively and hallucinated and measured and feared

And I did it.

I haven’t beaten the parts of my brain that want this to be a loss–who think failure is eating when you are hungry. But they’re a little quieter, a little cowed. And that’s enough.

Seven years ago, I wore braces. I hadn’t been kissed, and Kate Donovan certainly didn’t exist. I wanted to be a ballet dancer. Was one, actually. And nearly the happiest I could be was starving.

There was this sharp piece in the New Yorker two months ago. We write about anorexia too positively, the author claimed. And she wasn’t wrong. It’s hard to capture what it takes to override something like wanting to survive. So you dig deep when you write, and try to find it–what could possibly be worth all of that?

There was something, though. That intersection of feeling competent and sparkling and happy. God, the happiness. Hard and diamond-bright and just so easy to get. You can’t get away from hunger easily, and the two melded a bit. Feel clenching hunger? A rush of joy. Over and over and over. And the choice? Happiness or food and feeling slightly duller and slower and sadder? Why, you’d have to be crazy to pick eating.

I felt a little bit of it today–late to dinner with an errand that ate into my time. My stomach growled and it flared.

Be happier…go to the gym instead.

It’s a hell of a drug, this madness.

But I’m winning. I will sleep and tomorrow, I will eat breakfast before class. I will come home for lunch, and commiserate with housemates about approaching midterms over dinner. In the coming days and weeks, I’ll slip up at some point. Rome and days of building, you know. It’ll be harder to come back if I make this an all-or-nothing game. So I’ll expect that sometimes, the feelings will win.

But for now? For now, I’ll be really goddamn proud. Proud of eating, imagine that. I’m not sure fourteen-year-old-Kate could have. I’m going to have a hell of a Friday for her.


  1. previously-chrisj says

    Woohoo! Go Kate! Congratulations (and hugs if you accept hugs from random internet people), and I hope your success continues.

  2. E says

    Congratulations, Kate! And here’s to many more weeks like this to come.

    I had some…thoughts…about that New Yorker piece when I first read it (I remember thinking her cultural criticism strayed way too far into dismissal and blaming of sufferers—and OMG the nasty, ignorant, compassionless comments!!!!!!), but I really like the theme you pulled out of it: “It’s hard to capture what it takes to override something like wanting to survive. So you dig deep when you write, and try to find it–what could possibly be worth all of that?” The perversity of willfully starving is so profound—the idea of it, when you stop and think about it, so unfathomable—that we’re forced to use lofty, ethereal, almost spiritual language to describe it . . . and (to digress a bit) we invent rationalizations that probably aren’t inherent to the illness, but rather borrowed from the outside world: religious asceticism, drive for thinness and therefore attractiveness, suppression of femininity in a hypersexualized culture, need for control in an out-of-control world. But it’s not these narratives that are the problem, even if they’re false or facile, and it’s not the flowery metaphors—it’s the disease! That’s what I think Gregory missed.

    (I haven’t read the essay in at least a month, though.)

    Anyway, sorry for musing all over your comments section, Kate. Your post is powerful and beautifully written, and I am SO GLAD that you feel proud of your accomplishment. You should!

  3. besomyka says

    I have close family that have and are going through the same sort of thing you have been. I wish that gave me some better sense of what it’s like, but it sadly doesn’t. What it does do, however, is let me see – at least a little – how much of a truly hard thing you’ve just done is, and what a frustratingly sysiphean accomplishment it is.


  4. geekgirlsrule says

    I had a lovely therapist who could just not wrap her head around it when I said, “Not eating, hunger, feels like winning.”

    She kept going on about how I was punishing myself for failing at whatever…

    No, when I’m stressed the fuck out, and I feel like shit is spiraling out of control, not eating feels like winning. It really does feel like it’s the only thing I can control, and god damn it, Imma control the hell right out of it.

    I’m mostly better, but there are relapses (today has been one such relapse, and I’m fighting the urge to lie to my husband, and tell him I grabbed something at work, when I get home).

    • Kate Donovan says

      Not eating, hunger, feels like winning.

      yeah, pretty much that. and it takes SO MUCH WORK to intentionally lose over and over and over, and keep being okay in the face of it.

      So, *hugs*, if that’s your speed. The best to you in fighting jerkbrain :) The internet person will be thinking of you.

      • geekgirlsrule says

        Thank you. Hug accepted, and one offered in return.

        It just never goes away. Mostly I’m better, but every once in a while… For many people, a bad day is a bad day. For me, it’s an excuse to not eat. Fortunately, my husband won’t let me get away with that very often.

Leave a Reply to geekgirlsrule Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *