I spent a large portion of yesterday reading articles on orthorexia. Many of them referred to Dr. Bratman’s work on the subject, about how debilitating the disease can be – psychologically, physically, socially. I don’t think I am that far gone anymore (the permitted and restricted food lists aren’t so extreme as to concern the normal people, I fight through the anxiety of eating in front of other people and having them ask questions about what I am eating, I have incorporated the occasional cheat meal without feelings of guilt or debilitating fear). I might be past it altogether, but I have questioned the line between healthy eating/living and an eating disorder during the last two and a half years of self-imposed and self-monitored recovery stints, and so I can’t really be sure about what the line looks like or whether someone else (doctor, dietitian, therapist) knows what the line looks like or if I need to be the one to draw, accept and find happiness/calm in my own line (I like the sound of that last one, but two problems: it is part of my personality to be self-critical and if I’m wrong, I very well could be a functional anorexic)…
The one thing that made me believe that the line is still blurry and that I’m still fucked is this story from Bratman’s original “Orthorexia” essay:
“[Mr. Davis,’ an elderly gentleman (whom I had been visiting as a volunteer home-health aide) offered me a piece of Kraft Swiss cheese. Normally, I wouldn’t have considered accepting. I did not eat cheese, much less pasteurized, processed and artificially flavoured cheese. … But, Mr. Davis was earnest and persistent in his expression of gratitude, and would have taken as a personal rebuke my refusal of the cheese. Shaking with trepidation, I chewed the dread processed product. … I could not let go. I actually quit visiting Davis to avoid further defiling myself. This was a shameful moment, a sign that I was drowning.”
I would have done the same. The food tracking system could not fit in the cheese easily and even if it did, how vehemently would I have refused? Or, would I have held it against him in some inconsiderate way, saying that he didn’t consider my feelings (even though I would be entirely ignoring his cultural background)? The food tracking system prevents me from eating cake or cookies or anything of the sort (totally logically, because how would it fit? – no one has ever sat down and explained that part), and I don’t think that this is a false excuse, but I can’t be sure. Is the food tracking system stopping my growth at this point or is it the eating disorder? And why does anyone need to eat cake?
I know that I have a personality that will continue to grab hold of these disastrously debilitating de-stressors – sleep disorder, isolation, eating disorder, anger – unless I do something about it. They are the things that the blackness grabs hold of in times of perceived need, “for survival,” it says. So I know that I will never be able to escape it by just addressing the eating disorder. But that’s where it’s bleeding right now.
When it comes to the eating disorder, does that mean getting rid of the food tracking system (a controlling system which for a personality that gravitates towards control in times of stress, is like setting an ADHD kid loose in a carnival and telling him to do math homework)? Does that mean learning to eat intuitively again? Does it mean developing 90%-10% moderation and working it into the system, accepting that the system can be a positive way of life and just being fucking happy with myself and not questioning my motives or reasons and just being? Driving home, I get anxious just thinking about food – not being hungry or anything, but just the word “food” twists my guts until they wrap around my heart. So is this not eating disorder shit anymore and is it purely anxiety shit? Are my eating habits actually normal-ish and I can and should be okay with them (it almost is hypochondriac-ish, rather be fucked up than realize that I feel empty inside)?
Where the fuck is the support to help me answer these questions? I have family and friends that care, but they don’t have the answers to this and I don’t think they’ve spent a lot of time looking (that’s my job for them). I can’t find support at school, where I may as well be physically emaciated again, since that’s the only time they would realize my emotional emaciation. I have been to doctors, naturopaths, therapists, de-stressing kings and queens, but I don’t feel like the progress I’ve made has been their doing (the pushing through the blacklist, opening up time/quantity/distribution restrictions, lessening the anxieties – that’s been me!). Even the articles that I read, all of which appeared reputable (National Eating Disorders Association, the aforementioned Dr. Bratman)… all of these fucking pages of information about how this is an undiagnosed disease and stories of emotional harm and death and WHERE THE FUCK IS THE HELP? Three things; three goddamned things: cognitive behavioural therapy, exposure therapy and mindfulness. 7 words, 63 characters with spaces – not even enough for a decent tweet. It took me less than twelve seconds to type that – and I’ve had two doctors tell me that cognitive behavioural therapy doesn’t often work with eating disorders.
Great. Awesome. Fuck me. I’m out saving the world (something that I love to do) and out of all these things, I have two things, five words. So before I can even approach the blackness, I can’t even move the shield it’s currently using. How am I expected to fix the broken heart when blood still gushes out from every wound? I have people who cry for me, who care for me, who understand that I’m bleeding and that I need medical attention, but no one who packs the gauze on. Please somebody save me before… I don’t know what, but it’s by sheer will/stubbornness/stupidity/automaton-ness that those dots haven’t been filled by something darker.