Day in the Life: A Trip to the Supermarket

I decide to go to the supermarket to buy food I will barely eat.  It is a 20-minute walk via the “shortcut,” a walk on the footbridge over the Charles River.  I have done this route many times.  Today, I am taking my rolling backpack and a pack I will carry on my back as well.  I plan to buy, among other things, a fair amount of canned food and dairy, including eggs, and a glass baking pan to make a turkey-lentil-rice dish I’ve been dreaming up.

It is a warm and windy afternoon.  I have eaten a meal today and taken vitamins.  I rarely take vitamins anymore, because they are only effective if you take them with a meal, and I don’t eat meals anymore, but today something got into me and I ate an entire meal, or at least the equivalent of one.  So I knew I had enough energy and strength to make this trip without Gatorade as a backup.

The supermarket is in the same shopping center as my gym.  I keep wondering if someone who goes to my gym shops at the same supermarket and sees me there.  When I work out, I cannot hide my body very easily, even in loose clothing.  Sometimes, I wear long sleeves and wind pants.  Other times, I just don’t bother covering myself.  It’s obvious something’s not right.

The last time I went to the gym I was working out three or four times a week between mid-June and the end of July.  Very few people knew this, even my closest friends.  While many of my friends who were trying to lose weight were having trouble getting up the motivation to exercise, I had  motivation to spare.  I wasn’t doing it specifically to burn calories, but to do something with all the energy I had from eating all the food they were making me eat.

Bullshit.  The truth is, as soon as I saw the scale go up, as soon as I saw the flesh on my body, I panicked, and would do whatever it took to get rid of it.

I worked out vigorously.  Where I was originally using 15-pound resistance, I worked my way up to 45 pounds.   Forty pounds became 70.  I increased my walking speed from 3.5 miles per hour to 4.1.  I taught myself new exercises, and incorporated some of my old routines into the current routine I was doing.  I developed solid muscles all over my body.  And on a skinny person, muscles are very, very noticeable.  I had to hide my new biceps from my therapist because I was afraid she’d ask questions.  So I wore long sleeves.

This didn’t last long.  When the starvation returned at the end of July, I knew I was too malnourished to support a vigorous workout, so I stopped going to the gym.  When you don’t eat enough, your body takes nutrients from itself–from fat stores, from hair, from bones, from all the organs including muscles.  So I lost muscle mass.  A lot of muscle mass to the point that I can now roll up my sleeves and I no longer have to worry about my T seeing enlarged biceps.  Really.

I arrive at the supermarket and grab a carriage.  I place my rolling backpack on the underneath thingy and wheel the carriage into the supermarket.  This time, I’m less self-conscious about what I’m buying and who is seeing me than I usually am.  Relieved, I turn up my MP3 player and head into the dairy department.

Yogurt.  Nonfat.  Plain.  Uh-oh, someone’s there.  Who is this skinny girl buying yogurt, anyway?  What right does she have to buy nonfat?  And plain?  Why the heck doesn’t she buy vanilla like a normal person?

Fuck off, fat lady.  I grab two quart tubs and move on.

Other groceries are easier.  I dodge more fat people in the aisles.  I bump into a guy.  He gives me a look: You’re so skinny–you had plenty of room to get by. I apologize.  He obviously isn’t accepting my apology.  Well, fuck you.

I turn up Indigo Girls even louder.  What brand of tuna is the best?  Who knows.

Finally, I get to the register.  I empty my cart.  I easily slip between the cart and the candy display.  I remember a time that I barely fit between the cash registers, for godsakes.  Okay, that’s an exaggeration.  But I was once fat.  Once.

I pay for my groceries.  This is complicated.  Store card, food stamps card, debit card, coupon, receipt.  Meanwhile, the bagger has bagged my groceries in plastic.  I did not want bags.

Why the heck did he bag them without even asking me if I wanted bags, or even if I wanted “paper or plastic”?  Why did he just assume I wanted plastic bags?  I am pissed.

“I didn’t want–”  I stopped myself.  “Okay, okay, you’ve already bagged them.  I’ll take the plastic.  Fine.”  I went on and dealt with the plastic, that will pollute our earth and never go away.

I pack my groceries into my rolling backpack, most of them.  Most of them I keep in the plastic, just for the heck of it.  I place the glass baking dish and eggs in the backpack I am carrying on my back.  I return my carriage and off I go.

I know I am carrying one hell of a lot of stuff.  The canned goods are heavy, and yes–I have soda on me, too.  Diet, of course.  I ask myself if I would be able to carry the rolling backpack up the stairs after I get off the footbridge.  With my weakened arms?  Probably not. Added to that is my general state of body weakness.  I could easily lose my balance, fall, and injure myself.  Going up the stairs, unless I have help from some stranger, would definitely be unwise.  And what were the chances of running into a stranger who could–and would–offer to help?  So, reluctantly, I go around the long way.  This is adding about 15 minutes to my trip, especially considering I’m slow with the heavy load.  I curse my eating disorder the entire way home as Indigo Girls sing and strum mightily.

I arrive home to Puzzle.  Home now.  But this isn’t the end of the story.  So keep reading.

I let Puzzle out of her crate, and turn the AC up to 80 degrees.  I have to keep it on for her allergies, otherwise I’d shut if off entirely.  I switch off Indigo Girls.  Take the wallets out of my pockets.  They slide out so easily now that my jeans are so loose.  Only one pair fits now.  Then I empty my groceries.  The dairy goes into the refrigerator, canned onto the counter.  The non-refrigerated stuff I can deal with later.

Then, I place the knapsack I carried on my back onto the counter.  I remove the eggs, carefully unwrap them from the canvas bag I used to protect them, and inspect them for breakage.  Suddenly, whoom!  The knapsack falls.

The glass baking dish shatters into a million pieces.

And no, the glass doesn’t end up all over the floor, to cut into Puzzle’s little paws and unsuspecting bare feet.  No, the shattered glass pieces don’t end up under the refrigerator.  The entire glass baking dish, shattered to bits, is protected, carefully wrapped, against my wishes, in a plastic bag.


My wonderful new book, This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness is now available in e-book form from Chipmunkapublishing.  Click here to download the .pdf file.  To read excerpts at my home site, click here.  The book will be available in paperback form in May 2011.

A Purchase: Some Thoughts

I went out to buy diet soda–again.  This time, as last time, I chose not to go to Tedeschi’s, as they know me, but to CVS, where I can be more anonymous.  There is another convenience store closer by, but they charge $2 a bottle, and CVS has diet soda on sale for $1.25 right now.  That plus at the other convenience store, which is family owned, they are always giving me looks.  I think they give everyone looks.  Maybe not, though.

So I went to CVS, a longer walk to save 70 cents.  As I approached the soda aisle, I saw some kids with their parent blocking the corner.  Annoyed, I walked around an entire aisle to avoid them, then came up the next aisle, and all the way around to the soda.  I don’t want to be seen.

There it was.  Still on sale.  Four for five dollars.  I grabbed a bottle.  Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi.  I checked ten times to make sure it was “diet.”  I snuck around the back way to the registers.  No wait.  Good.  I approached the cashier, a gentleman, maybe 60.  Never seen him before.  Sweet.  I used my debit card, so that I could get a $10 bill for the cab to my primary care doctor’s on Tuesday for weigh-in (I take a cab there and bus home as it is a complicated commute).  He handed me $30.


“That’s what it said.  Thirty.”

“Okay.”  I looked at the sales slip.  Looked again.  “Nope.  I put in ten, and it says ten on here.  You just owe me ten.”

“Well, thanks for your honesty.”

I hand him back the $20 bill.

It isn’t until I eft the store that I realized that he never asked me for my CVS card, and I didn’t get the 75 cent discount.  They are supposed to ask for the card so customers can get the discount.  Was I supposed to remember the card myself?  Probably.  But I didn’t.  I expected the discount without it.

Was the guy new?  Probably not.  That particular CVS isn’t doing well enough to be hiring new people, as far as I know.  Maybe he isn’t accustomed to working the registers.  Maybe he normally works “out back.”  I can only speculate.  Maybe he just didn’t know the complexities of cash register work.

What I know he didn’t know was that I, his customer, was going to go home and fill up on diet soda so that I would feel full enough so that I wouldn’t eat anything, because I hadn’t eaten dinner.  What he didn’t know was that I starve myself.  What he didn’t know is that I am a lot skinnier than I appeared to him in the store tonight.

Or maybe I didn’t fool him.  Maybe he knew. Maybe he has a daughter, a niece, a friend, a wife, a lover, a son, who is anorexic.  Maybe he himself has an eating disorder.  Maybe he is going to leave work, stop at Tedeschi’s, buy a couple of cheesecakes and three bags of chips,  go home, gorge himself, and then puke his guts out.

We don’t know.  Eating disorders are for the most part invisible.  There are an incredible amount of people out there with eating disorders who are doing ED behaviors in secret.  Even people who are unusually heavy or thin can hide their eating disorders–or the severity of their disorders–from everyone, professionals included.

When I first developed anorexia in 1980, no one suspected–not even me!  I had never heard of anorexia, and I’ll bet half of the people around me hadn’t heard of it, either.  Some noticed that I had lost weight, others did not.  One person–one–remarked that I may have lost a bit too much weight, and showed concern on her face.  This was someone on the music faculty at my college.

I’d like to talk to her now.  I’d like to tell her that I wish I’d spoken up.  I’d like to tell her that I wish I’d cried out for help just then, and told her about the obsession, the restricting, the fact that I ate so little, and wanted to lose more and more, and how deeply unhappy I was.  I wish I’d asked her what my problem was called.  Maybe she would have told me it was called “Anorexia Nervosa.”  Maybe she would have told me there was such thing as eating disorders, and that I was not alone.  Maybe she would have known where I could have gone to get help for it.

Actually, I don’t really know for certain that she knew. I can only guess.  But chances are, she did.

But the subject was dropped.  We went our separate ways.  Nothing more was said of the subject.  When we saw each other again, we talked about music.

Music.  I swear everyone else at the college was clueless.  Totally.  Myself included.

Maybe I still am.


My wonderful new book, This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness is now available in e-book form from Chipmunkapublishing.  Click here to download the .pdf file.  To read excerpts at my home site, click here.  The book will be available in paperback form in May 2011.

My visit to Dr. P

…which was yesterday.

Dr. P and my primary care physician, Dr. K, are in agreement.  I need a “higher level of care” than what I have now.  Dr. P suggested the ED hospital, and I refused to go, saying that the ED hospital constituted “inhumane treatment.” She replied, “It is not inhumane.”

“Dr. P,” I wanted to reply, “you have not been there.”  But I didn’t.

She then suggested various treatment programs.  I did not play the “wild card” that I mentioned in my previous post.  I just quietly refused.

All the emphasis was on weight.  Weight weight weight.  A number.  “You are not gaining weight on you own.  Therefore, you need to go to some ‘higher level of care’ so that you will be forced to gain weight.”  That was the gist of it.  And, “You obviously aren’t eating on your own, therefore, you must have supervision in a program.”

I argued what I have stated here, that “treatment” isn’t the answer.

“Well, what is the answer, then?”

“I don’t know.  But ‘treatment’ isn’t working.  It’s got to be something else.”


At this point, we were talking in circles.  I said, “I am trying desperately to figure this out.”

Meanwhile, she was typing out everything I said into her computer.  Word for word.  I hate that.  She does that sometimes, so that she can argue with me more effectively.

“You know, people in the waiting room have remarked on your weight loss, how extremely thin you are.”

“Many people comment on my weight.  It is rude of them to do so.”

“That is a lame comeback, Julie.  People wouldn’t comment if your weight was normal.”

I wanted to tell Dr. P that her remark about people in the waiting room was kind of rude, crossing boundaries, I think.

Wait, let me back up.  I came in there with a list.  I had written it on a 4×6 piece of note paper that I had neatly folded and put in my wallet.  I read the list to her at the beginning of the session.  Actually, I read the list real fast because she tends to interrupt, and since we only have 20 minutes, if she interrupts, I won’t get through the entire list.  I’ve had sessions where I’ve only gotten to the first item, and have neglected to mention all the others.   So I zoomed through the list.

I won’t tell you all the things right here right now, except to say that much of what I mentioned was positive.  Less depression.  No mood swings.  My meds are working.  The latest increases and decreases seem to have been good decisions.   I did, however, say that I felt extremely hopeless.  And I mentioned that I had lost a huge chunk of my friends.

Eating wasn’t on the list. Nothing whatsoever about it at all.   Of course, this was deliberate.

It’s all a game, Dr. P, all a game.

Manuscript sent to Chipmunkapublishing

Hi everyone, I sent off the final version of my manuscript just now.  It is like letting go of a helium balloon and letting it go wherever it wants to go.  Or at least that’s how it feels right now.

I’m kinda scared.  But relieved, too.  Now I don’t have the pressure of getting it done, of worrying that the publisher might get impatient with me, feeling that I can’t get on with any other projects (except writing to you, of course).

Now, I pretty much answer whatever questions they might have, and sit back and wait and see what happens.  And hope there are no snags.

Snags…my whole life has been a one big snag since I turned 22.

I dealt with it.  I do have two degrees after all.  I have a book on the way.  I met a wonderful man, fell in love with him, and dated him for many years.  I survived his sudden passing.  I have a wonderful dog.  Doesn’t that count for something?

This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness is about what happens when you find out you have a mental illness.  It’s about living with mental illness.  It’s about dealing with it.  It’s about surviving it.

You know, this is weird: Proofreading the book, I can’t help but weep when I read some of the chapters.  It surprises me which ones make me cry.  Some of them make me tear up every time I read through them.  I can’t help it.  I think these chapters are happy–and sad–and I don’t know why.  Some of them are about me being skinny, or at least I’m skinny when the events take place, and these chapters are hard to take.  Some of them I can’t imagine reading aloud.  Not now.  Not now, maybe not ever.

So I’ve let it go.  If I can touch one person, if one person reads it and can relate, or if one person reads it and and is moved in some way, then I’ve done my job.

Proofreading of This Hunger Is Secret is Finished

I have finished proofreading This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness. Finally.

What should have taken about two weeks took about three months, because I have been in a state of starvation.

Every time I go through certain points in the manuscript, I change something minuscule, then I go over it again, and change it back, just for the sake of changing something.  It’s time to let it go.  I plan to send it in to the publisher first thing tomorrow, or maybe later tonight if I get some food into me.  It takes a bit of energy to click on SEND.