Today I read Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. All of it, just today. Sometimes I do that with books.
This one was a scary read.
I don’t have body image issues. I don’t think I’m fat. If anything, I’m pretty sure I don’t weigh enough. I’ve never counted calories.
I do know what it’s like to hate eating, though. I know what it’s like to have every mouthful feel so thick and heavy that you can’t breathe around it. I know what it’s like to spend an hour or more trying to get through a relatively small meal, because it’s just so hard to chew and swallow, and the fork seems so heavy on the way to your mouth…
Sometimes I wish I didn’t need food to fuel my body. It seems like a chore I have to get through. Sometimes eating seems like a waste of time. There have been a lot of days, especially recently, when I only ate because I’m on my feet and moving all the time at work, and if I get too lightheaded, it spells bad news. I think I’m more careful with that than I am with driving, actually. On my days off I’ll run errands without bothering to get proper meals. I know my head is fuzzy. I don’t really like it. I like choking down food when I have no appetite even less, though.
I also know how easy it is to evade others’ concern. Even the ones who know I have problems with eating enough… and actually, that’s lots of people, because when I’m doing better, when I’m feeling stronger, I talk about these darker times. Not in very great detail, but I talk. I’ve even asked people to check up on my eating for me, when I’ve been worried that I’m about to spiral down again.
That’s only when the problem is distant, though. When it actually creeps upon me, I fall silent. I stop even mentioning meals to people, because I’m afraid if I talk about food they’ll remember they’re supposed to check on me, and I don’t want them to. I don’t want anyone to make me start eating again.
It’s so easy. People forget so quickly. I can skip as many meals as I like, and they’ll never notice unless I let the physical symptoms escalate beyond what I can hide. That’s the real reason I always make sure I’m fit to work.
This, then, is one more reason I’m going home. I’m realizing now that I also need to clarify with my family just what I will try to get away with, when it comes to food. I’m putting myself in circumstances where help will already be there, whether I’m ready to ask for it or not.
Toward the end of the book, I felt lucky/guilty. I’m not obsessed with numbers or a need to drive my weight lower and lower. I don’t cut. My problem, my illness… it’s not as bad as so many others’ out there, past and present.
My illness might be presenting differently, but it’s deadly. It’s easy for me to forget, on better days, how seriously I’ve thought about throwing my entire life away. It’s easy for me not to take myself or my problems seriously. They are serious. That’s why I’m getting help. I need to remember that. I need to stop comparing, and I can’t take on guilt for not appearing as bad as somebody else.
I just need to get better.