Today I am wearing grey. And black. Today is a grey and black day.
Today I am too fat to leave my house.
To be honest it’s not the best day for it, I really wanted to go out to study today – perhaps go to a nice coffee shop and into uni. And I’d quite like to go for a walk, get some fresh air and exercise. But I can’t. Because I can’t fit out of my front door.
And even if I could get out of the front door there wouldn’t be enough room for me on the bus. And even if I could get on the bus I wouldn’t fit in the coffee shop. And even if I did fit in the coffee shop I wouldn’t fit in a chair. And even if I did fit in the chair I would break it. And even if I didn’t break it I would disgust people, put them off their lovely food and drink, ruin their Saturday.
You see today I really am too fat to leave my house.
But so I’m not stuck here forever, I need to work out how I got here. What has happened this week to make me this fat?
This week I haven’t planned meals or cooked properly. I have struggled with wanting to starve myself, and wanting to stuff myself. I have fantasised about flushing out my stomach by drinking water and vomiting. Unwanted thoughts have started to flood my mind again. And yesterday I over ate. Yesterday I used a room at work for studying exam revision notes, and I picked on biscuits and sweets. Not loads at once but a grazed binge over the morning. Each time I felt disgusted with myself. I forced down a jacket potato for lunch, and a healthier dinner of quorn chilli with spiralised butternut squash, but it wasn’t easy at all. Food dominated my mind yesterday. But why? What triggered this?
Let’s go back to last Saturday. Last Saturday I took myself off to Scarborough for the day. I got to the beach early before the masses arrived and enjoyed the wind on my face as I walked. I went up to the castle too. In fact I walked around 7.5 miles, which I was pretty pleased with. I found a quiet spot high up on the hill to sit with my sketch book, watching the world go by. Last Saturday I wasn’t anywhere near as fat as I am today.
I think I started getting fatter on Tuesday.
Firstly, someone commented that I looked like I had lost weight. Which I have – about 15lbs. But I don’t want people to notice. I don’t want to think about losing my protective layer. I reminded myself (and them) that I still have 40-50 lbs to lose. ‘No, have you really? It can’t be that much surely?’. Yes, yes it is. Of course they probably aren’t realising that in reminding myself of that fact I’m actually making myself feel safer. But of course, at the same time I am also making myself fatter.
It astounds me that even this far on in recovery from my eating disorder I still have difficult times.
Later that morning, I facilitated a meeting at work with very lovely people. Someone brought in cookies, big cookies. But they also very kindly brought lovely peaches. I chose to eat peaches instead of cookies. I knew this was a good choice and I was happy about it. They were yummy! I still felt uncomfortable watching others eat the cookies but the meeting distracted me enough to be OK.
But after the meeting there were cookies leftover and noone wanted to take them home. I started to feel anxious. I began thinking about the sugar and fat in the cookies, and then became aware of the fat on my body. I became more anxious. I had to cover this up. I was at work for goodness sake, I had to keep myself together. I started to feel the fat in my blood stream, and I became nauseated. I picked up the bags of cookies and handed to them to someone, asking if they could take them away from me as I was struggling.
But they didn’t understand me. They didn’t realise what I meant. And why on earth should they? It isn’t their responsibility. I watched as my remaining colleagues ate the rest of the cookies in front of me. And the fat in my bloodstream felt thicker. And I started to get fatter.
Eating my lunch that day was difficult. I didn’t want to feel food in my mouth. I had to force myself to swallow it. It’s incredibly difficult to eat when I am aware of the fat in my blood and on my body, but I know that one of the most important things in my recovery is eating regularly. I lived with a starve/binge/purge cycle for a very long time, and I don’t want to go back to that. I’m NOT going to go back to that. So I forced myself to eat lunch with everyone at work. An achievement indeed.
On Thursday evening I went to a counselling assessment. I thought that it might be useful to have some sessions over the next 6 months leading up to heart surgery – to give me a space where I can talk about things that I don’t want to burden my friends and family with. But on reflection it has been another trigger for me being so fat today.
The counsellor seemed shocked when I told him about the upcoming heart surgery. In fact he told me he was shocked. But I didn’t actually want to talk about the medical stuff. I found myself saying the usual old spin that I tell people, not actually talking about my feelings, getting under the surface. He asked me lots of questions about it and had made some assumptions. He even asked if I didn’t have the surgery was my death imminent? I found myself reassuring him that the surgery was hopefully going to fix me. He asked if I’d had therapy before and why. He asked me about my sexuality and relationships. I wasn’t prepared for those questions and didn’t want to answer. I didn’t feel safe to. I was in a small room, with a man I didn’t know, asking me questions about things that make me feel vulnerable. He was nice enough, it wasn’t his fault. I had intentionally put myself into that situation because I thought it would be helpful, but it wasn’t.
So where did that leave me? Fatter of course. I needed to be fatter. To protect me again.
That explains the overeating yesterday then!
So I have reflected, and right now I am aware of being in that isolated place between wanting to lose weight to be healthy, in fact needing to lose weight for the heart surgery, and yet wanting to hang onto my fat to keep me safe. Fear of not losing fat, fear of losing fat. Fear of staying hidden, fear of being exposed.
The frightening thing is that even though I use my fat as protection, it is also the very thing that exposes me.
My fat cannot itself be hidden, not even under these black and grey baggy clothes, and it says a lot about me. It shows that I haven’t always made good choices with food, that I have eaten too much. Perhaps it says that I am greedy, or lack self-control. Maybe it screams out all my secrets, all my darkest thoughts and fears. Or maybe it says nothing at all – it is just fat, does it really have a voice of its own?
I definitely do need a space where I can go to regularly to talk about things, to help me process the choices I need to make, work out the consequences. But I need it to be with someone else who loves Jesus, because I know that He is the only one who can help me navigate all of this stuff and heal me. He is the only one who can set me free from my fears.
I learned during the therapy for my ED that I need to keep reminding myself that I am constantly making choices, I am not trapped. Which means that I can choose to eat or not eat. I can choose to have the heart surgery or not. I can chose how I look at things, and how I feel about things. And my mum taught me that I can make any choice I want to, I just have to be prepared to accept the consequences of those choices. Lord, I miss her so much.
Perhaps I am so much fatter than I was last Saturday because this week, prompted by all the triggers, I have chosen to look at my fat? Perhaps last Saturday I wasn’t looking at my fat because I was focused on other things?
Perhaps this means that even today, I don’t have to be this fat. I don’t have to be stuck in my house. I CAN choose to push through all this, to look away from the fat and squeeze myself out of my front door. It might be uncomfortable, even painful, to get out but the choice is mine to make. And the consequences of at least trying are surely better than the consequences of keeping myself stuck?
Love L x