A person with anorexia nervosa writes about her memories of Goddard January 2005 residency that popped into her head while browsing the Internet and drinking tea

I’ve been sitting here drinking a cup of tea, and my mind got to wandering.

Well, no, let me make a confession.  I was drinking tea and doing something I admit I occasionally do: I was browsing the Internet looking around at sites that tell you ways you can lose weight.  Are you surprised?  Well, you shouldn’t be.  I think a lot of people do this, not only people with diagnosed eating disorders.  Do you?  Do you then erase your history trail so your spouse or kids won’t see where you’ve been browsing?  Anyway, I have never been to a pro-_n_ site.  Why?  For one thing, viruses.  For another thing, I don’t know how well they keep your e-mail addy, etc, private, if they follow whatever privacy policies they claim to have, or if they put weird cookies in there.  I don’t want to “join” these clubs, never did, and never will.  Scratch that third one, that is, “never will,” cuz really, I can’t predict anything.  Life can and does take funny turns.  I don’t have a bit of pro-_n_ in me and I do not in any way think of anorexia as “lifestyle.”  I think many people, whether they have anorexia or any other type of eating disorder or if they do not have an eating disorder, any of these, if they have spent all their lives, or just about all their lives dieting…this is not “lifestyle” this is suffering.  This is being tortured by this thing “diet.”  I am tortured by it daily.  I am tortured by it 24/7…are you?

What is “lifestyle,” anyway?  Low-carb lifestyle?  Oh bullshit.  It is just food choice.  Living alone, for me, has something to do with lifestyle.  I spend just about every day alone with no human contact.  Lately, this has pleased me.  I was standing in the kitchen maybe 45 minutes ago thinking, “Oh thank goodness I live alone! I might have this eating disorder, but I am SO much better off now than when I lived with other people!  I have my privacy, I can do whatever I want…no one snoops around or asks to borrow things…no booze bottles…no one steals my stuff or opens my mail…tries to convert me to their religion…sits around and doesn’t say a freaking word to me…And no therapist to send me to a group home!  I am free!”

Lifestyle…lifestyle can be culture.  I grew up in a Jewish family with Jewish culture and religious practices and that was our lifestyle.  The fact that my parents shamed me and used our Jewish beliefs as a way to do this…shaming is not lifestyle…it is abuse and abuse is not lifestyle just as dieting, restricting, and starving is not lifestyle…get it?  No, I am not pro-_n_.

Sometimes, I live in this persona, and sometimes, I don’t.  I can switch in and out of it within seconds, or I might stay in it for days without end.  It was the acupuncturist who pointed out to me, that right while we were speaking I was switching in and out of it.

I probably go back and forth while writing in here.   Oh, I know I do and you know it too.  A milder form of it is called indecision, but this is not mild.  I don’t even notice it, though.  I can’t even get into how it feels.  It doesn’t feel, really.  I’m talking about how I think and process information.  It’s not surprising to me and it’s not frustrating and it’s not confusing.  I find it very, very funny.  I spend a lot of time poking fun at myself, seeing myself from afar, and this is one way I survive, and one way that I communicate just how painful and sad it is to live with this disorder.  I enjoy making you laugh at me and laugh with me, cuz this disorder is so damn illogical.

So you might as well laugh at me, sitting here with my tea just a bit ago, Googling this and that, trying to find what I can add to my multi-faceted repertoire of things I can do to lose weight.   You can imagine the clicks, back and forth, brows furrowed, uh-huh, uh-huh, maybe I’ll give it a try…write this down…now Google this…damn these pop-up surveys!

Okay, so…a couple of memories popped into my head.  (Change of verb tense.)  2005.  Goddard College winter residency, Plainfield, Vermont.  I had to drop semester #2 near the end cuz I ended up hospitalized.  Unlike way back when, everyone was very, very cool about this and understanding.  I had it rough my first two semesters.  I had just been widowed in 2003, that is, my boyfriend died suddenly right after my graduation from Emerson College.  I’d finished up, actually, after the graduation ceremony in May.  I had maybe a course or two more to do.  I think the last one was American Government.  It was a great one to end up with.  Our instructor was a lawyer and thank goodness he was an anti-Bush liberal.  He was arrogant.  He was anti-cop.  I had loads of fun with him in class.  We challenged each other.  It was back and forth.  Wicked obnoxious, I must say.  I had to memorize a lot of laws and amendments and stuff.  I wrote these on flash cards.  Joe and I sat at Dunkin Donuts every day and he’d quiz me, sipping on a gigantic iced tea and smoking.  Occasionally, he corrected me, but I had these laws down pretty well.

You know, I noticed something:  Not long before he died, he began to make a point of always wearing a watch.  He’d smoke a cigarette, then check his watch.  Once, he wasn’t wearing it, and right after he finished his cigarette, he asked me what time it was.  He asked me a couple more times.  I noticed the pattern after a while.  A half hour later, exactly a half hour, he lit up again.  I noticed that he smoked fewer cigarettes each day, a lot fewer, than, say, two years ago, or even a few months ago.

Yes, he was making an effort.  And there may have been a reason for this.  You know something?  In the seventeen years that I knew him, this was the only time that I knew of that he made an effort to cut back.

You know, it had only been months previously…I am not actually sure when this was…I stayed overnight at his place…at night, while he slept, not only did he cough…no, not cough exactly…he struggled to inhale and exhale, to breathe.  He struggled noisily.  He vocalized.  This went on for a bit, then he returned to normal sleep.  In the morning, I told him that this had happened.   I told him that this happened all night long.  Then I didn’t say anything more about it.  Yeah, he heard me.

How he felt in those last months, whether he felt fine or yucky or had some anticipation or funny feeling…whether he recognized this feeling…if he had chest pains maybe he thought it was heartburn, cuz he used to have terrible heartburn…

Why on earth am I thinking about this and does it matter?  He died in an instant and everyone told me that most likely he didn’t even know what hit him.

That was August 19, 2003.  I spent the fall in a daze, then in January started grad school, still in a daze.  Not only that, but on freaking Seroquel, my body out of control gaining weight gaining weight gaining weight.  Like my fucking life.  I’m widowed and ashamed of my body and can’t even hide it in a coat at this point.  Every day drags and goes in Seroquel drugged slow-motion and I don’t even bother trying to be the overachiever I used to be.  Just adequate.  Barely adequate.  Not only at school, but at life itself.  Barely making it, barely hanging on.  I guess that’s why I ended up hospitalized.  And put on 900 mgs Seroquel a day, an unheard of dose.

2005 residency.  I’m going to finish up fall semester, that is, second semester, in the first few months of 2005.  I’m here at this January residency but am not officially doing the spring semester cuz I’m still doing fall.  Got it?  So I kind of feel like a failure and a tag-a-long to begin with and out of place and never mind a social misfit.  I developed a bad, bad cold virus while I was there, and a cough that went on all night one night.  Thankfully, I had a single at the dorm otherwise a roommate would have been kept up all night.  (I know, switch of verb tense.)

So here I am, walking from the dorm, which I think is called Kilpatrick or something like that, to the dining hall and main building where a lot of stuff happens, including all the readings, and a student stops me (unfortunately, I remember her first name, and wish I didn’t) and says to me, “You gained some serious weight, girl.”

And yes, a few days later, she said the exact same thing to me.  Again.  This was a Goddard student.  And this, people, crushed me.  It still hurts to this day.  I remember how it felt then and I remember how it felt a little while ago when the memory came back to me in the form of a very clear picture, while I sat here drinking my tea and browsing the web.

Yeah, I lost that serious weight.  Being overweight, having a body that I was ashamed of, my anger over the Seroquel weight gain experience, and the way society and everyone treats people who are overweight, and that included me, was one of the things that drove me to diet myself down to this weight that I am at now.

To be honest, it was that exact remark, “You gained some serious weight, girl,” that was the one reason that I switched to the Port Townsend, Washington campus.  Our director kindly allowed me to do this.  I didn’t mention the weight remark.  There were practical reasons why it made sense to switch.  But the actual reason why I came to this decision?  Yep.  I admit it.  (I was always happy at Port Townsend, and ended up loving it there, by the way.  It was, in a way, a new life.)

Okay, another thing that happened January 2005 residency.  I’m sitting at a table in the dining commons.  Our residency, that is, the creative writing residency, happens at the same time as the health arts and sciences residency.  Now, these people talk about nutrition all the time.  Oh, great.  Sometimes, they talk about how people are pigs and can’t control themselves and overeat.  I am not, not, not kidding you.  I ended up sitting with these people and had to listen to this crap.  I felt like shit to begin with, now I feel doubly shit.  These assholes don’t even know a damn thing about what they are talking about!  Do they know anything at all about nutrition or eating disorders, or are they talking off the top of their heads?  Do they write articles, like, say, those fad diets you see on the Internet?  I listen to them rant on and on about bullshit nutrition, what you should and should not eat, and looking back, OH MY GOD I FEEL DAMN SORRY FOR THEIR KIDS WHO HAVE TO LISTEN TO THIS BULLSHIT YEAR-ROUND…lecturing on and on, judgmental…I don’t mean to say bad stuff about my own school, but I sat with these people a lot, because I couldn’t find anyone in the writing program to sit with.  I just didn’t know people.  I was shy.  So I ended up sitting with the diet fanatics.

So one day, I am sitting with them eating a sandwich.  I don’t remember what kind of sandwich.  I guess peanut butter.  Yeah, let’s say peanut butter.  This memory was buried deep, deep inside me and I didn’t remember until I was sitting here with my tea, which I finished quite a bit ago while I was writing to y9u.  So I’m eating a sandwich, and one of the diet nuts blurts out, “You shouldn’t be eating that sandwich!  You should never eat peanut butter and bread at the same time!”

She goes on and on.  Don’t eat meat with this, don’t eat this with that, on and on.  Lecturing me.

Listen, lady:  Like I concluded when I was a patient at Alcott last month where I was being treated for anorexia nervosa after nearly starving myself to death, DO YOU HEAR ME?…You keep you eyes on your tray, and I’ll keep my eyes on my tray.

Just shut up.

So that was January 2005 residency.  For me, it had very little to do with writing.

It’s a little late to go back to my web-browsing.  But I was pretty much done with it, anyway.  I’m pissed with myself for not being skinny enough and I feel like my face is too fat.

When I was a little kid, my mom shamed me because of my breast size.  She shamed me as soon as I started “developing.”  She shamed me because my hips were getting wider.  Everything.  When I was smaller, she made me ashamed of my body in other ways too complicated to get into.  And she shamed me by force-feeding me and shaming me by commenting on my food habits and manipulating me into eating food that repulsed me.

All my life, I’ve been ashamed of my body.

When I went to the self-help group for people who suffered from compulsive overeating, I met people who were very, very overweight, and this was the first time that I had ever known anyone over 300 pounds that I knew of.  I met people over 400 pounds.  I met people who were diabetic.  I learned that diabetes and overweight were often closely related.  I learned that some people manipulated their insulin when they overate.  This is difficult to explain.  I think most people understand how diabetes works.  Some people who are diabetic and suffer from severe overeating “compensate” with their insulin.  It’s dangerous.  Very.  It’s playing with fire just like I play with fire when I starve.  Not only that, people who are dangerously overweight have to live in large bodies and many health risks.  They are stuck in these bodies and can’t get out of them, can’t peel off the costume when they get tired of it.  They live with constant discrimination from society, wherever they go.  Now, I’m not only talking about clothing stores.  I’m not just talking about the gross insults that were spewed at me during the 2005 winter residency in Plainfield.  It’s subtleties.  The way everyday people use words and language.  Strangers and friends and family alike.  I know this because I lived in a large body in 2005.  I know language and I heard how it was used toward me and about me.  (Yes, by you, too, Dr. P, by the way, and a bunch of other mental health professionals.)  I wasn’t 197 pounds for very long, but I got a hint of what being overweight and discriminated against was all about.

Just like the world treated me in 2005, I am sitting here, my teabag now drying out, and treating myself the very same way.  Spewing horrible insults at myself.  I mean worse than any human has ever said to me.   I am the worst.  I looked online and said, yep, shouldn’t eat that.  This will give me BELLY FAT.  I mean, have you ever heard anything more insane?

I think I really better get to church tomorrow.  It’s late.

Also, I need to give this entry a title.  Any ideas?

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