I wonder if anyone else can understand what it’s like living inside of a head with a disease that tells you the answer to all of your problems is to just quit eating. Constantly living on the edge where a simple workout turns into 3-a-days. And a simple “I think I’ll watch what I eat” turns into calorie counting, waking up to go to bathroom and doing squats on the way, and being unable to enjoy a minute of mental silence without running through a list of all your body flaws.
Not those that you can’t change — those are fine. But the ones that you can. The fat — real or imagined — on your sides. The slack in your arms.
Constantly, relentlessly obsessing over every calorie. Every crunch. The only stable, the only regular, is that it is never enough.
A few years ago, after a mistake I knew better than to make — not even a big one, but I have never, ever cut myself any slack — I was left feeling vindicated in my self-hate, my self-loathing, the one that is so inevitable, so ingrained in my DNA, I could no more have ran from it then I could have brown eyes. My disease, this thing that wreaks havoc inside, was like… see there, you are unovable as you believe yourself to be. When will you learn it?
You see, at long last, once again, it got what it wanted.
For the first time since I was 18, the starving turned to eating. The post-traumatic stress that was inflicted upon me by the Dickson County Probate Court and Andy Jackson following my Uncle’s death that had led to a punitive state — only I didn’t know then what I was punishing for myself for, this time I did — led to a desire to punish myself in a way that looked outwardly different to the world.
Like, I should have known. I should have listened to the voices around me that shun me. That tell me I’m an embarrassment. That I’m not worthy of their recognition. I don’t even warrant social media acknowledgement. “We’re all ashamed of you, Candi, how could you not see it?” it cries in your head non stop.
The world is ashamed of you!
So you ask yourself, how could you not see it?
But, I didn’t. See, for a second — just like always — I believed that I was worthwhile. I believed someone else when they said I was worthwhile. But just like always, and just like before, I was wrong.
At least that’s what the disease — that untreated disease of alcoholism — tells me.
There’s something humorous about watching your mistakes turn into public shaming like wedding announcements, because, you know — it’s always a country song.
And, just like my writing, my world — my life — has always been a gotdamn country song!
And this last one, this last “you should have known better” only reiterated the one before that — the one that really hurt — and I reached the place where starving wasn’t enough.
I wanted a different kind of cut.
I don’t know if it’s a protective layer that you want to cover yourself with so that no one can ever hurt you again and you intend to insulate yourself in an armor of ugly, or if it’s a desire to make the exterior match what you feel on the interior — but either way, you replace diets with chips. Food instead of starvation.
Fat, like hunger and alcohol, became my friend.
1 pound turns to 2. 2 turns to 10. And 10 to 15. And I know, it’s time.
It’s time to stop.
Only I live in a world where one is just as dangerous as the other. The times, the years, I’ve locked myself in the house, so afraid for someone to see how “fat” I was. Days I couldn’t leave because I was just too big to be outdoors. I could wear a 10/12 in little girls and I went to the store at 2 a.m. because I didn’t want anyone to see that, in my head, I was obese.
At my lowest, I barely cracked 100 lbs — and that’s tiny for someone with my father’s (read: sperm donor’s) muscle mass — but in my head, I was just too large, at times, to leave.
As strange as it may seem, camera phones were the first thing to ever offer a semi-sense of reality. I would see a picture and think… that’s too skinny, there’s no way that’s me! Yet, in the absence of my best friend, alcohol, this self-torture was all I had. The episodes that I had in my younger life, was now not only reappearing, but dominating.
The boyfriend that told me I had lost too much weight just was really worried he would lose me if I got hotter than him — these are the things that you tell yourself.
The friends that tell you they’re worried about you because you’re exercising too much, are really just envious because they don’t.
Your mind tells you that you must mistrust everybody that you know.
It’s lonely. And torturous.
Like any lifelong illness, you’re never cured. It never goes away. There are times when it seems somewhat suppressed. And there are times where it takes over your mind.
And as I stand on the cliff of something as simple as exercise, I wonder how many truly understand what it’s like to live in a world where, as you age and your willpower — or maybe your self-loathing — fade and you find that you have no defense against food, and you live in a mind where even five pounds is dangerous, the only way you have to safeguard yourself against it — is to isolate.
The world eats. The world is fat. And that, makes the world dangerous. Because in your head, to be fat is to die.
Some miscommunicated message that you internalized as a child, told you that the one thing good little girls couldn’t be was huge. I know now, through my years of study, that it’s about control. That when little girls can’t control anything around them — death, divorce, abuse — they learn early on what they can: food.
Still, a decade after telling God that if He would show me another way to live life without alcohol, I would take it, here I am wondering if, in my mind, the answer to all that ails me will always be “just don’t eat.”
Through the power of God and some pretty amazing people, I learned that secrets can only make you sick so long as you keep them. Also, I learned about a decade ago when I began the journey to sobriety, that one of the best gifts I had, was when I just rared back and wrote. Through the raw, through the real, I found a way to connect with others. And as I began working on my memoirs of surviving the suicide of someone you love, and my struggles with alcoholism and eating disorders, I promised myself that I would, someday, complete them.
And they’ve been pushed aside for a while now, because I always knew that, in order to finish my tale, I would have to complete them. But my journey never felt complete.
It still doesn’t.
But the internet and social media has given me a platform that I never thought possible, and I have been dabbling into reflective writing again. I am not ashamed of the things that I say, nor do I care about anyone who tries to shame me with them, because as I always say, “You better enjoy my words for free now, because one day, you’re going to have to pay for them!”
And I learned in a 12-step setting a while ago, that the only way to get one step ahead of this sickness, is to tell on it. So, that’s what I’m doing.
Because I believe in a life, and a world, where alcoholism, eating disorders, guilt, shame, and self-hatred will not win.
And neither will Donald Trump. Because y’all know I couldn’t go a day without taking a shot at Donald Trump.