A Day in the Life: Recovering from an Eating Disorder, Part I
Disclaimer for readers: although the context of this post is that of present day, it does not necessarily represent my current state of recovery.
Disclaimer for relaters: it gets better.
5:00 AM: my alarm goes off and for the first three seconds of the day, I am normal. My only thoughts are, “fuck this, I need to sleep.”
With one eye open, I sit up and dismiss my alarm. I set my phone back down on the night stand and let my legs dangle off the side of the bed. Jesse comes around the corner, already having been up for 30 minutes getting ready for work; I jump up off the bed and wrap my arms around him, screeching “goooooood morninggggg!”
“How and more importantly, WHY, are you so happy every morning?” he asks, genuinely puzzled and slightly disgusted.
“Because breakfast!” I replied. My second thought of the day. The end of normalcy.
Jesse leaves for work and I plop myself on the couch, grabbing a notebook and pen from my desk on the way. I wiggle the notebook around in my lap until it forms a solid, sturdy writing surface. In the top center of the page, I write in half-cursive, half-print: TO DO TODAY.
- Pluck my eyebrows
- Plan breakfast
- Schedule tonight's kickboxing class
- Run through 10AM work presentation
- Prep for staff meeting
- Plan and pack lunch
- Plan and pack snacks
- Plan dinner
- Calculate planned daily calories
- Look up how many calories kickboxing burns
- Calculate acceptable daily calories
- Buy Mother’s Day gift
- Get gas
- Plan dessert if calories allow for it
Satisfied with having a plan, I set the notebook and pen back down on my desk, skillfully aligning the pen with the edge of the notebook. I rearrange them at least twice. I pour myself a cup of coffee, no milk no sugar, and make my way to the bathroom. One packet of Stevia; 0 calories. I set the mug on the counter, open the medicine cabinet and reach for the tweezers, my hand guiding itself.
I turn backwards to pull myself up onto the counter and swing my legs around to face the mirror. I get comfy with my legs Indian style and crane my neck to get my face as close to the mirror as possible. I spend the next 10 minutes perfecting my eyebrows. The first few plucks are sudden, but it soon weakens to a dull pain. I am on autopilot now and my brain starts to wander; I begin to think about breakfast. I initiate conversation with my reflection.
“Okay let’s think. You’ve been craving cereal lately, so that’s one breakfast option for today. One bowl of cereal is 202.5 calories. You’ll have to check how many calories kickboxing will burn, underestimating to be safe.”
Safe from what? From self-loathing due to overestimating? From eating an undeserved 200 calories?
“You could also eat oatmeal and toast, that’s only 195 calories. Too bad you can’t eat eggs anymore, that’s only 140 calories. But single handedly saving the animals is more important than your flat stomach! Okay let’s do this; if kickboxing burns over 300 calories, you can have cereal. If it burns less than 300 calories, you’ll have oatmeal and toast. Deal? Deal.”
Good thing we both agree; nobody likes an argument at 5:30 AM.
I finish up my left eyebrow, accepting that it will never look as perfect as the right, and place the tweezers back in the home I chose for them. I close the mirror and hop off the counter, taking a long, savoring sip of coffee. I feel it starting to get cold and chug 2/3 of it.
I slide my Muk Luks across the hardwood floor, unhurriedly strolling to the bedroom, my eyes affixed to the glowing screen in my hands. “Hiw many csmories does kickbzing burn” close enough. Search. I scroll past all of usual results; www.livestrong.com, www.sparkpeople.com, www.myfitnesspal.com,. I finally stop and click on www.bodybuilding.com, knowing it typically provides the most accurate calorie counts. If a stranger looked at my browser history, they’d probably think I was a 250 lb. 6’5 Icelandic man training for a fitness competition.
I fill in the parameters on the calorie calculation page.
Weight: I click my cursor into the free text box, my previous entries suddenly appearing below:
126 doesn’t appear. I type it in myself.
Result: 545 calories per one hour of kickboxing.
I toss my phone on the bed, throw the rest of my coffee back, and turn toward my full length mirror. I pull my night shirt up just under my ribs; turn to the left, to the right. My heart rate quickens and I drop my shirt back down to my hips. I stare at my reflection, disappointed. I was sure my stomach would look flatter this morning. I feel it rumble with a sensation that used to imply achievement, but now suggests some sort of permission to indulge. I can't decide which is worse. Maybe I should just skip breakfast. I can always pack an extra Clementine if I get hungry before lunch.
Really? A clementine? Gee, how filling. Great idea. Maybe you should back a Ziploc bag of air too. Just in case.
Unsure of what to do, I sit down on the bed, pulling my sleeping cat onto my lap. He opens his beautiful, dichromatic eyes and starts kneading my stomach. I want to be mad and push his paws away. But instead, I stare at him with an affection that any pet owner knows. What a consolation it is to hold a creature that loves you perpetually.
I sigh, slide the cat slowly back onto the bed, and stand up. I pull a throw blanket off the top of my dresser and toss it over my free-standing full length mirror as I leave the room. I pour myself a bowl of cereal, measuring ½ cup at a time. I slide into a chair at the dining room table and pick up my spoon. I pause, return the spoon to the tabletop, and convince myself that I forgot something in my room. Earrings, that's what I forgot. Earrings.
I turn the corner into the bedroom and pretend to scratch my ribs, lifting my shirt up in the process. I catch a glimpse of my midsection in the sliver of mirror between the drapes of the blanket hanging over it. Nothing has changed. I pick out a pair of gold leaf earrings, turn the light off, and return to the dining room.
No one is winning this civil war.
Following my usual cereal eating ritual, I gently press my spoon down on the top of the cereal, letting the milk flood into my spoon. I repeat this until the milk is gone and soggy cereal is all that remains. I quickly wolf down the rest and put my bowl in the sink, filling it with water so the cereal remnants don’t become concrete.
Look at you, you are nailing your morning! A bowl of cereal for breakfast and you’re ready to go.
I stand in the middle of my tiled kitchen floor, questioning my next move. “Why can’t I just eat a normal breakfast, like a normal person, and then move on with my normal day?” I asked the cat, as if expecting him to reply with a lengthy, philosophical answer in a British accent; because how else would a cat speak?
The cereal was delicious, but it opened the door. What next? I grab a couple of vegan oatmeal raisin cookies and the notebook and pen from my desk. I sit back down on the couch and add to my list:
15. Adjust lunch plan due to extra cookies for breakfast
16. Call to confirm tomorrow’s therapist appointment
The cat jumps up onto my lap, the way they always do when you need them.