Anxiety, Mexican Food, My Best Friend and the Freak Show

With the apathy I receive from my mother in regards to my eating disorder, it is nice to have someone that shows even the slightest interest or care. Being a senior in college, Emily, my best friend and I, have been glued to the hip since fourth grade. We are practically like an old married couple. I have heard over and over again from one lady in particular that, “You have to want to change. I can sit here all day and tell you that you have to eat, but until you go back into treatment or at least care, there is nothing I can do.” Unfortunately, I still feel “safe” and “comfortable” being right in the clutches of this tormenting hell. (I feel like I might have gone off on a tangent).

Anyways, yesterday, after work, Emily and I decided to go get our nails done. We hadn’t gotten them done in a while and hell, yesterday was pay day so why not. Afterwards we decided to go get dinner, and her favorite was Mexican, so reluctantly, I caved. 

We walked into the restaurant with our freshly done toes, and then it hit me. Not like a wave, not like a rush of wind, it hit my like a damn Ferrari speeding along the Autobahn. People. People Everywhere. This place was ridiculously packed. My eyes bolted from wall to wall, stopping on any and every face. I felt hot, dizzy, nauseous, I wanted to throw up, cry, anything. 

Emily could tell, she said we would run some errands for a bit, then come back when it was more cleared out. I nodded so quickly I’m pretty sure I gave myself whiplash. 

We spent an hour or so running around doing errands and buying stuff neither of us needed, a movie, a phone case for her new phone, another iPod running sleeve for my rough wear and tear. Then made the long, painful trudge back to the restaurant. This time it was a little more empty, I told myself I could handle this. 

As we followed the waitress to our table it was happening again. I made the safari through the chairs, bobbing in and weaving out of people, flinching from wispy pony tails, dodging purses, avoiding trays of drinks being sent my direction. The flood of dizzy nausea was filling like a water balloon. Starting at my toes to my knees, then my stomach, I was slowly filling with anxiety and jitters and the voice. Oh Lord, The Voice. She came back 110% percent. It only got worse when the waitress stopped in the very center of the chaos and gestured to a table in the dead middle of the restaurant, without realizing, I muttered the words, “Oh Fuck.” . My body was no longer filling with anxiety, dread, fear, guilt, shame. It had miraculously just topped itself off and at any minute now was going to come streaming out of my eyes like a car gas tank that hadn’t stopped on its own. I was in the spotlight, you know what I’m talking about, everyone was staring. The old lady over Emily’s left shoulder, the couple over in the corner, the petite blonde college girl, they were all staring in disdain, judgement written on their faces. It felt like a freak show, and here I was center ring, “Come one, come all, watch the fat girl eat her food. Watch and judge, for she doesn’t need or deserve food.” 

Emily could tell, I’d imagine my facial expression could have killed, my pores probably oozed mental freak out, and my eyes darting from face to face probably screamed “FUCK”. She looked at me and asked if I wanted to move to a booth in the back, my frantic nods and wide eyes immediately gave the answer. Em asked the waitress, who gladly agreed, and I curled into my booth, trying my best to not freak out. 

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“I Understand.”

Those words, around me, can get you into a whole world of trouble. You might as well wander a land mine field blindfolded and hope for the best. It is an eruption waiting to happen, walking barefoot in the dark in a room of legos; it is inevitable that something bad will be the outcome of using those words.

Whether it is the loss of a child or loved one, being diagnosed with cancer, or talking to someone with a mental illness, it is very gutsy to use the words “I understand”.

“I understand,” is something that people with an eating disorder do not want to hear. “I got sick once for a week and lost weight.” “I fasted before.” All of these are not ok. Unless you, personally have struggled, battled, suffered, with an eating disorder and the dark hell, and torment it resides inside of you, then no, you do not understand. The devil on your shoulder that criticizes, judges, dictates, demands, guilts, defends, and antagonizes.

“I hate, hate grocery shopping.” “I understand.” Hah, no, no you don’t. The aspects you hate are seeing people you know, having to make polite chit chat, having to dodge in and out of people, spending money, and having to deal with people. The aspects I hate are the picking up food, putting it back, picking up, putting back. Reading labels, putting it back, counting calories which leads to miles, putting it back. Visualizing how difficult it will be to purge the foods I’m buying and dealing with my anxiety, shaking, panic attack, and sweats. After over an hour of wandering up one aisle, down another, mentally freaking out, I left with fresh fruits and plain Greek yogurt.

Do not tell me you “understand”, when no, no you do not; for your sake, I hope you never do.

Like A Bad Dream

When you have an eating disorder there is no easy way to deal or manage family dinners. It’s even worse when you have to drive nearly two hours to go to a dinner you don’t even want to go to.

As she drove the excruciating long two hours to her Grandmother’s house she wanted nothing more than to just turn around and head home. Her head filled of selfish, self hating, food thoughts and played over a hundred fictional situations in her head, “Let’s waste my own gas and drive two hours out of the way to go sit and eat in front of people. This is dumb, I don’t even want to go eat. I don’t want to sit down with my family and eat.” “I could be home, reading, at the gym, napping, hell, I could be out on the lake. ANYTHING.” They played over and over. The first thing to break her brutal cycle of thoughts, “Can I use your hairspray?”, came a peep from the backseat. In the rear view she sees her little sister, Liz, a spitting image of a younger her. “Huh? Oh sure babe, it should be in my gym bag.” She dug and found it, then continued to sip on her Starbucks cookie crumble frapp, her blue sparkling eyes looking back at her big sister. The cycle of thoughts continued, realizing how very content and satisfied she would have been to just have her coffee and not go to dinner at all.

After arriving to grandma’s she had found the rest of her family had beat her there. Her parents were inside, while her brother, Jon, did flips in the front yard. Talking and polite conversation continued for a few minutes, then it was off to eat. Jonathan, being a teenager, was a bottomless pit, with an appetite that was insatiable. He got to pick dinner, why? she would never know. Without even missing a beat he chose an Asian buffet.

“Why don’t I just jump off a bridge now.” She thought to herself.

When they got to dinner all she could look at were the hoards of people, all swarming the buffet, the tables that had stacks and stacks and plates. The never silent voice of the ED reminded her how all of them were staring at her, watching her. It pointed out that with each plate that the people were stacking up was inches on their waist, miles needing to be ran. The family was seated near the back, while Jonathan and dad went for food, grandma, mom and Liz sat there talking. When it was her turn Liz grabbed her and headed for the sushi. She too grabbed a plate full and some green beans, hoping that for once she would win against the voice that had haunted her for years. As she looked at the sushi, she began to feel physically nauseous, and handed half of them to her brother who was already making is way through his own mound. After picking at two pieces of sushi and the green beans she took a break to calm her anxious self down and make polite conversation.

Her mother and grandmother both looked at her plate of three pieces of sushi and the green beans, and looked at each other. They both knew about her struggle, but were both too busy to ever care to be bothered by it. Like everything else, it was ignored, swept under the rug, and never spoken of. Jonathan showed Grandma the picture we had taken together earlier, of a 14 year old boy with his 21 year old sister on his back, to which she responds with, “Well, yeah, since she barely weighs anything.” That was the start of it. Mom took another glance at her daughter’s plate and said, “I hope you are eating more than that.” All she wanted, was to be home, or at least back in the car drinking her now lukewarm cup of coffee.

On the next trip up to the buffet, hand in hand with her 9 year old sister who eats more than she does. She skimmed the endless rows of “fear foods” and surveyed the other people to see if anyone knew her. She sat back down at the table with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and curry chicken. Also feeding half of that to her brother, she picked at it, while Liz began to put mushrooms on her plate; the two of them loved mushrooms.

Dinner continued like that, a war zone in her own head with each bite she took, feeling nauseous, regret, and embarrassed, still believing she was being watched. Towards the end, the waiter came with a handful of fortune cookies. Jonathan took one, Liz took one, Grandma took one, and she hesitantly did the same . Cracking it open, Jonathan read his, “Your efforts have not gone unnoticed”, it said. She looked down at hers, did an ironic laugh under her breath and looked away, trying to not cry or throw up. She txted Jonathan across the table, it read, “My fortune is dumb as hell.” He read the message then looked across the table, asking aloud, “What was it?”  She looked up, trying to choke back tears, and reluctantly answered, “It says I shouldn’t eat so much.” Another quick glance was exchanged between mom and grandma and they both replied with a “Nuh, Uh.”

“Moderate your appetite so that with a little you may be content.”

Jonathan, laughed and responded with a “We definitely got the wrong ones, here switch with me!”Image

The ride home was nothing but her and ED, arguing the entire way home. The two hour ride made it even worse, and at one point, the tears streaming down her face matched the pace of the rain falling outside against the sunroof.

Man, yesterday sucked.