Today, I saw myself in the mirror while at the gym. I was doing the chest fly. It came easier to me than it used to. I chalk this up to the fact that I used crutches for a couple of weeks. I was able to put the chest fly up at a higher weight than I ever had before.
I should have been proud of myself. But instead, I was distracted by my image in the mirror. What I saw gazing back at me was a very tiny woman. Or maybe she was a girl, just a skinny, skinny girl, frightfully thin. She was so thin that you could see many, many veins under her flesh, both in her arms and legs. She didn’t look at all attractive. She didn’t look happy. She looked as distracted as I was. With every movement I made, she moved as well. She looked weak in spirit and heart. She was so skinny that she looked like a freak. Yes, a freak. Perhaps she was ill.
In fact, this woman is ill. She has an illness called anorexia nervosa. It makes you skinny. It is a fatal illness, meaning that you die of it. If you have never heard of it or don’t know about it, look it up on the Internet. That’s A.N.O.R.E.X.I.A. N.E.R.V.O.S.A. Teenage girls get it and I am a freak because I’m 53.
The problem is, that I saw myself as frightfully thin, and wanted, at that very moment, to lose more weight. That, I guess, is anorexia defined.
Tomorrow, when I hop into the shower, I will forget that moment at the gym, because while washing myself, I will not see the thin woman anymore. I will see a fat woman. I will feel the flesh on my body, and hate my body, and hate the fleshy parts, and the protruding fat, and puffiness, and swelling. I will wash my armpits, which are so concave that I can barely get into them to soap them up, and feel the flesh around them, and chastise myself for the few pounds I may or may not have gained. I will feel my ribs and think that there is too much flesh between them. I will feel my neck area and it will feel as though I have several double chins. My face will have cheeks I don’t have. Whatever I see is bad enough; what I don’t see is ten times worse. And to compound the problem, I see very little without my glasses, which I don’t wear while showering. Fat! Fat! Fat!
Is this why I want to lose weight? Is it because of the fat woman I know and have grown to hate? Or is it because of the lure of something else, something dangling just before me, always out of reach, the next pound lower….Is it the process that is such a temptation for me?
Yes, I think it is the latter. Starvation is like stepping down a staircase. You do it one step at a time. Lower, lower, lower….
I do know what is at the bottom of the staircase, the place where you end up when you can step down no further. It is called Death and any anorexic who goes all the way down the staircase ends up dead.
I think somewhere going down the staircase you reach sea level. You can go under the ocean or stay above it. You can tread water. You can tiptoe around the ocean. You can put your toes into it. You can splash in it. You can tell yourself you’re afraid of the water and its creatures, turn around, get into your car, and drive the hell home from the beach.
Sadly, I think stepped down the stairs too far, and am underwater now.
But just about every staircase has a railing somewhere. If I could tell myself something right here, right now, I’d tell myself to hold onto the railing. There is a powerful undercurrent going on here, the temptations of starvation, and I will get dragged to the bottom if I don’t hold onto something. What is this railing, this something? What one thing can I count on to keep me from sinking any further into the undertow than I already am? What, what, will turn me back…to life?