ED Revealed

I’ve been gone a while, and now I guess I’m back—physically, anyway. Mentally? Almost.

Someone, somewhere, has said you’re only as sick as your secrets. Maybe that’s true. I don’t know if that means your secrets need to be revealed publicly, but as some people know, I’ve been working on my fall show, which is all about healing. All I want to do in my life is heal. I’ve been working on it for decades.

I often talk about mental illness here, being transqueer, disability, and many other things that go along with my life as an artist. These are things that most people don’t like to talk about or hear about. They are taboo or have that stigma to them that makes others feel uncomfortable. I talk about them anyway. I advocate for them, I guess you can say.

But what I guess I’ve been afraid to talk about, for those same reasons of stigma, are eating disorders. My eating disorder.

In March, I checked into residential treatment for this. I’m home now, but I’m still “in treatment” for it. For decades, I was in denial about my situation and didn’t even realize that I really had an eating disorder. I just thought I had “disordered eating.” Yes, there’s a difference. But I was using that difference to keep myself from addressing a lifelong problem. And I mean a true problem.

Not every ED (eating disorder) fits into a perfect box: anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating disorder, etc. There are a few main ones, and some are common. Some are not so common, and some overlap, just like any illness.

From as far back as I can remember, I’ve been restricting food, malnourished, and neglecting my body of nourishment. How did that manifest? For the first half of my life, I was severely underweight. I was hospitalized a couple of times for it. Nobody called it anorexia back then. It was for “malnourishment.” At nineteen years old, I was eighty-seven pounds. In my early twenties, I was eighty-nine. Lying in my hospital bed, my mother told me she thought I looked “fantastic.” She talked about getting me a modeling agent. I thought she was insane.

I wasn’t trying to be skinny. Perhaps, subconsciously, I was looking to please her. I really don’t know, but I was so used to being neglected by my parents, and especially her, I lived on my own, and I was neglecting myself. I didn’t care for myself, and I didn’t care about myself either. But I was very physically active on top of all that, gigging and playing drums every day, hauling my equipment from place to place, blah, blah, blah.

Fast forward to the second half of my life, I still didn’t eat. I continued to restrict, but now I was sedentary. I wouldn’t eat all day. Then, at the end of the day, weak and shaking from starvation, I’d eat dinner. My body would hold onto those calories for dear life, and the pounds began to pile on. And pile on they did.

Add to that the medications I started to take, aging, a hysterectomy, then menopause, I gained and gained until I was over 200 pounds. Thus started the yo-yo diets, the constant weight obsession, the depression, shitty body image, the cutting off of friends, not leaving the house, the daily struggle of self-hatred, and the loss and gaining of weight, back and forth—fifty pounds here, twenty-five pounds there, and on it went.

And then there are the fatphobic doctors. I see a lot of doctors because of my disabilities. Every last one of them tells me about how I have to lose weight. Each of them put me on the scale when I arrive. They berate me for my weight, tell me about how obese I am, talk about my BMI, tell me to eat fish and spinach, and how I should walk four miles a day; some of them actually raise their voices at me. I leave in tears. I go into a depression for days and weeks afterward. Because I have a fucking eating disorder! It only exacerbates it! That’s not to mention certain friends with their input, too. The whole planet is fatphobic, but that’s society for you.

If your foot hurts and you’re fat, a doctor will tell you to lose weight. Same with your hips, and especially your back (even if your MRIs show spinal stenosis from way back when you were skinny). I wonder what they tell skinny people to do when their backs hurt. Doctors are taught that people can only be one size: skinny. All that’s trained me to feel is that I’ll never love myself until I’m skinny again.

Since I came back, I’ve been easier on myself. A bit. I’ve learned a lot about the way this shit works and about myself. Now, I’m eating throughout the day: meals and snacks, and trying to regulate my metabolism. Never in my life have I done this before. Never. Not even in kindergarten! I’ve never had three meals a day with snacks. Not consistently. It’s been difficult, and I often feel like I can’t keep it up and make it a new habit, but I’m doing my very best. The voices inside me tell me to eat less, eat less, eat less. But that’s gotten me nowhere except being very ill. Now, I’ve stopped counting calories (a miracle) and put my scale in the garage. I’m working on at least liking myself as I am instead of waiting for a future self before I can consider starting to accept what I look like. Not easy, but I’m trying.

So that’s it. Secret revealed.

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