Recently, I a ran into an acquaintance I had not seen in a while. While we often see each other at yoga class, it had been a long stretch of time. Did you lose weight? She asked. I'd like to stand on a soap box, but we've all done it. I say it to my brother all the time. But he does so much Crossfit.
Yeah I did, about 12 lbs in the last year.
Of course, I had seen her in the last year, which she quickly reminded me. Maybe it had been a month. Two, tops.
I almost didn't recognize you. She said.
Since that conversation, I've lost more weight. And I'd like to say that I recognize myself, but I don't know if that's true.
Because if I did--would I constantly feel like I'm betraying the me I used to be. The me, she expected to see but didn't? To be clear, the me that had an eating disorder. The me who binged. Purged. And was ruled by food.
Lately the weight has been slipping off. It's not ideal. The weight should come off a bit slower. At some point, I'd like to arrive somewhere where the weight doesn't come off, it just is. Where the yoga and weight lifting I do, the sugar I don't eat, and the bacon cheeseburgers I do, arrive together and say, hey we're staying here. Because post easting disorder, the body, and your metabolism, becomes whatever it is supposed to be without the binges. Without the diets. I eat three meals and two snacks a day. Sometimes more. But lately, it's been less. I've been stressed over numerous things and have lost my appetite. That's never happened before. Because I always got my emotional support from food. Now, I don't. It's weird. I meditate. I find a place to cry. I go to yoga. I weightlift to Eminem while thinking Fuck The Patriarchy.
I told my therapist I'd been force feeding myself. I just wasn't hungry. At all. And it's a problem because I can't skip a meal the way someone who has never had an eating disorder can. I'm still working on separating my value from a number on the scale. I'm also not supposed to weigh myself. But I do.
She didn't like that language. It's a bit loaded. What we say to ourselves matters. So we arrived at I need to intake calories right now so I can prevent myself from future vulnerabilities.
Hey, I haven't been to Westville in a while, are you free Saturday to meet and eat calories so I can prevent myself from future vulnerabilities?
Rolls off the tongue.
He looks me up and down. We've just had sex. I catch his eye and he smiles, caught. I love your figure he said. I told him he sounded like a grandmother.
Your body does not disappoint. This is a different guy. He's new. For now. All of this kind of dating is new, honestly. I told him I was glad my body turns him on, because I am, and then we talked about how he pushed me up against a wall on the dance floor and told me not to move.
But would he have pushed me up against a wall last year? I first hit on him, online, because I thought he was hot. Shortly after, he saw me at a party, in high waisted shorts, and he hit on me back. Because of course my personality looks good in high waisted shorts.
I don't want the compliments to stop. I don't want the person I'm seeing, who sees me in various states of undress, to stop telling me he loves my legs. I love that he loves my legs.
It's just that I want to tell other me that I'm sorry that no one said it a year ago.
To be fair, I have been complimented on my body at every weight I've ever had. And that weight has gone from 114-157, while I've stayed the same height. I've been called sexy and felt sexy at times. But it was limited. Because I didn't like myself.
Since I've lost weight, I do get asked out more now. That's a fact. It's not fact I wholly know what to do with, even though I truly know and believe sexiness isn't about size. Intelligence is sexy. A sense of humor is sexy. Confidence is sexy. I'm over a year in recovery and I don't hate myself. You can't date effectively if you hate yourself. You can date, but it's not pretty. I promise you that. But now I get to date without this one piece of luggage. And I'm so sorry to me 17lbs a go that had to drag carry-on bag with her at all moments. I'm so very sorry. I wish I'd loved you then. More than you'll ever know.
For the first time in my life, I'm dating without an eating disorder. I'm walking hand in hand through a museum or dancing on a packed dance floor to Caribbean music. I am more confident because I'm more at peace with myself and with my life. I can relax fully around someone. My life doesn't revolve around food and my weight. Some lingering thoughts creep in. Who am I to deserve this person? Or hell, any good things? But I try not to attach to them too hard. I care about myself. I'm not living on the compliments of others. They compliment the full life I'd like to think I have. Or at least the full life I'm working towards.
And it's great because dating is easy and fun and no one ever gets hurt.
Here's another one. The room is illuminated by Christmas lights and candles. I'm on my stomach, in my underwear, and he's giving me a back massage and asking me questions about my life, about college. I tell him that I was a really different person back then, sure I was a lot of what I am now, but he met me at a really good time in my life. Specifically, I'm happier now than I've ever been.
That's a huge reason I'm attracted to you. He says. You're so happy.
What he means, and he clarifies, is that he likes that I try to have a positive outlook. He says the nicest things to me. And for the most part, because this new one is smooth, I believe him.
But I used to have debilitating depression. And no one said such nice things to her. Her longest relationship was with someone who was verbally abusive. She also said a lot of mean things to herself.
I'm sorry, I whisper to her through the mood lighting. I still love you too. I didn't mean to betray you. I wanted these things for you. I wanted so much for you. I'm sorry I got them and you didn't. I want him to care about you too. The unhappy one.
I'm the one who brought up happiness in the first place. Of course, we all know happiness doesn't mean being happy all the time. Happiness, I truly believe, is recognizing sadness is part of life. That it all ebbs and flows. Rodney Yee, the yoga teacher, once told his students, "Just because you're free, it doesn't mean you don't suffer. It just means you're free."
When I was 27, I sat crying in my then therapist's office. This is a familiar scene. It still is. That day I was crying especially hard. I'd been in therapy and on the right medication for probably over two years. I was crying because I didn't know life could be like this. That life without depression existed
In the interest of both honesty and accuracy, I do not suffer from depression, clinically speaking. I'm Bi-Polar II.
Most people are familiar with Bi-Polar I. It has highs and lows and most people are diagnosed in the high, when they are manic. If you have Bi-polar II, you only swing down. What makes it different from depression, is that you can swing out without medication. It's why it's harder to diagnose and why if you are treating it with an anti-depressant, you might erroneously think it's working. You'll feel better at some point. But with an anti-depressant, it won't and it can't last. In short, it never did.
Sometimes I would swing down for weeks at a time. I would barely leave home. Other times I would swing down two days out of every week. I might be fine for a month or two. It was really easy to hide it because I just didn't interact with anyone when I swung down. Adderall, which I was often on for ADD, can temporarily alleviate many symptoms of depression and Bi Polar II. That's how I got to class and through most of college. But if someone had come into my room during the down, I'm not sure they would've recognized me. Only I saw her. Only I see her now.
When I was 25, I got the correct diagnosis.
And here I was, two years later, crying because I understood, what everyone, myself included, says now. It can get better. My therapist told me that that can be one of the first big signs that you're really getting better. You cry about what you missed.
When I was 29, I started treatment for my eating disorder. When I was 30, I entered recovery. I'm 31 now. I've been in recovery for over a year. Sometimes I cry because it's better here. Because I'm here, and she isn't.
And sometimes I think I've betrayed both of those versions of myself. Everyone I currently date, I want to yell at them, that if they like me now than they should have liked me then. Even though I didn't like me then. But I am fiercely protective of her. I love her. Not because I'm sorry, which I am. But because I can.
My therapist asks me what I'd tell her, me in college, if I could. I think about it.
I don't know how you did it. All the decks were stacked against you, and the thing is, you made amazing memories and had a lot of fun. You have the most incredible friendships that still sustain you. You got a 4.0 your senior year. You did all that against some really, really shitty odds, and you were in so much pain. I'm so, so proud of you.
Tears are streaming down my face, but I see her now. I really, really see her.
A friend says we're all learning how to date. Each date, each time. And I guess even if you get married, or are in any long term partnership, you're always trying to figure out how to be a person, for yourself and to the people you care about. But it feels different, to me. Navigating the potential to care about someone when I just learned to care about myself. When I do start to like someone, I go all in too fast. Maybe, I think I have to catch up for all the time I've lost. Maybe I think it's going to disappear because I think it's not really there.
When someone likes me, I feel like I’m sitting in the cafeteria in a teen movie. The hot guy just waved at me, so I instinctively look over my shoulder to see the person who must be standing behind me.
That’s how it feels when he calls me baby.
How long do I wait to tell someone I had an eating disorder? Or that I'm Bi Polar II? Is now a good time to bring up sexual assault? That feels like a different essay.
But If I haven't told them yet, do they see me?
I was sure I wouldn't be able to have an orgasm until he knew at least 2 out of those 3.
And luckily, I was wrong. Because what I do know, is that all three of us, me then, me not long ago, and me now, we all deserve a good orgasm.
That I recognize.