Friday, June 22, 2007
Body ambivalence
I am 36 years old. I will be 37 in six months and 1 day.

For all of the progress I've made in the past two years, especially since I didn't even start recovery until after 17 years of on and off bulimia, I've gotta tell you, there is a huge part of me that feels so damn stupid.

Despite knowing a community of intelligent, thoughtful and strong women with eating disorders, I still have a voice in my head saying EDs are for Nicole Richie and your sorority sister. Not smart, funny women like us.

So often when I disclose, people say things like, "I had a period of bulimia in high school." or "I had anorexia in my freshman year of college."

How juvenile do I feel as a 36 year old married woman, with a house and a job and all the responsibility that goes with it, sticking my finger down my throat.

When things become stressful in my life, I binge and purge. The last couple of years were more than a little stressful. My bulimia went into full raging lifestyle trend. I know it's my coping mechanism and I know it worked for a long time. It's not working anymore. For one, I do feel like an idiot. Am I still going to be throwing up at 40? 50? How completely ridiculous will that be? Is it any more ridiculous than at 36?

I am so honored and amazed at the women in the eating disorder recovery community. Most of them (though not all) are younger than I am and they are figuring it out. They are taking care of this demon, this obnoxious monster in our heads before their 30th year. I am truly so impressed by them.

I feel as though in many ways, throughout my life, my body has betrayed me, and yet, in many ways throughout my life, my body has done all kinds of things to protect me too. This is an important lesson I am just recently learning. The hatred for my body has been so intense, there hasn't been (isn't really) a whole lot of room for loving it.

Tattooing my body is one way I am trying to love it better - learning to even look at it. I am turning my body into a work of art, even as it starts to wrinkle and the lines made by bedsheets last past when I arrive at work in the morning... I am choosing the artwork and how it is done.

I am choosing this body of mine. Which is a step in a direction. Which is better than sinking.

By the way I love this book on writers and tattoos.

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Blogger geogrrl said...

I know what you mean about body ambivalence. I didn't develop an eating disorder, but I've never loved, or even liked, my body much. I was always made to feel I was too big, too fat.

Yet, with a few exceptions, it has run very well for over 40 years and is low maintenance. I see so many people, much slimmer/smaller than I am, who have all kinds of health problems, often serious/debilitating. Those times make me stop in my tracks for a moment and thank whatever for giving me a strong, healthy body.

*Sigh* Unfortunately, that feeling doesn't last long.

Blogger æ said...

I'm impressed that you're talking about it. I really do think that those of us who are still wrestling with the EDs, and wrestling hard, as in being in counseling, working at the roots, etc, are getting more and will get more than the folks who shoved it under the rug at 18. I also think that a lot of people (for instance the celebrity ED folks) talk about EDs in the past tense because it's easier than admitting it's still around.

I know I've done that.

Doesn't make it any easier though. In fact, it feels harder I guess.

(Thanks for your recent comments on my blog. I've noticed you around the "neighborhood" lately and really appreciate what you contribute.)


Blogger sarah said...

hi faith,
35 here, still mired in ed-nosity (as pav calls it). so, umm, yeah, I hear you, loud and clear, woman. ugh. I feel way too old to be doing this, somedays, and other days, I wonder if I do this because I feel old, in that way that as we age, we grasp and cling to our youth - dyeing our hair, face-lifting, botox-ing, etc...maybe, is my obsession with weight and body image one more way that I try to stall time? dunno.

Similarly, I find myself strangely fascinated with very teenager-y things, at times; such as MTV reality tv shows - quel horreur!

Would love to see pics of your tattoos, if you're up for sharing. I love body art. Too fearful for more than one on my body, but I admire those that decorate more freely.

Blogger MonkeyGurrrrrl said...

Faithy, does it help to know that the *only* thing that stopped me from the purging was getting pregnant? There were these pamphlets at the pharmacy (where I was getting prenatal vits early on), on how to deal with various health issues and pregnancy.

There was an answer to everything imaginable, so I took one on bulimia. EVERY OTHER CONDITION (anorexia, herpes, diabetes, alcoholism, whatever) had ways to grow and birth a healthy baby. The bulimia one pretty much said you have to stop - there is NO WAY you can be bulimic and birth a babe (like that alliteration?!) So, after 17 years, I had to stop. I'm still tempted, but with MUCH less privacy than ever, it is just too hard.

So, you're young. You can always breed. :)

Blogger billie said...

Hey Faith,
I ponder if you could be pleased that you found some success with your ED in your 30's and didn't drag it along with you until your 40's or 50's or, say, takes a strong heart to deal with these issues...and my guess is that from within the well that brings this enlightenment will come other wisdom. It's often a bitch, but it does get easier. And you are living proof.
Keep the faith, Billie

Blogger Carrie Arnold said...


The point is this. You're seeking help. You're getting better. Seventeen years is a long time, yes. And it's sad how much EDs can take from our lives.

But seventeen years is better than 20 years. Accepting that you've fucked up the past was a huge step for me. I can't do anything about it. I know that wallowing in the ED brings me nothing. Seeing the past, that haunted past, does make me discouraged. And I use that as a way to push forward, to say: I don't want any more of *that*.

EDs happen at any stage of life. You're getting help. That's what counts. I know lots of people who deny their problems to the grave. Better to be a 30-something who is seeking help for bulimia than a 30-something who denies she's bulimic.

You're doing the right thing. You can feel odd and too old. That's okay. And you can still get better.

Hugs, Carrie

Blogger HPS said...

hi faith,
sadly, my brain is jello at the moment - very sleepy jello - and i don't have much constructive to say, except that reading this post and the above comments made my mental wheels churn quite a lot.

thanks for the reading recommendation. i've been wanting to get a tattoo, as a body love kind of thing, but it turns out that all MY original ideas - butterfly, flower, sun - were stolen by fifty billion '90s hipsters. can i ask what kinds of tattoos you have? (also i want a tattoo just so i can talk about my "tats" =) )
be well. xoxox - pav

Blogger Wendy said...

The thing that helped me was to think about something other than myself. I didn't have an eating disorder, but probably a total obsession with weight and image. But when I became a mother and thought about someone other than myself, thought about something outside of myself, it all changed.

I guess when it comes down to it, it is all about control--or at least that is what they tell you--and when something other than one's self becomes upmost and more certain, then things shift.

Not that you need to have a baby or anything!

Still, I appreciate you talking about this. I wonder sometimes if we should talk more about our food/weight/body issues more, or if we should talk about them less. For me, the more I talk, the more I worry.


Blogger Faith said...

Wendy and MG - there will be no breeding - not that that is a cure-all for EDs but I'm still not having the chillins. I'm happy just being an auntie.

AE - Thanks for the support. I'm enjoying the neighborhood and I feel welcomed - hope I haven't cut in on anything...

Lulu - happy to show photos. I'll put some more up in the coming weeks.

Pav - I currently have the outline of a storybook forest. It's a long story but I'm going to post about it shortly - promise.

Carrie, Billie and Geogrrl - I'm definitely working on it. I'm doing what I can with what I have at the moment. I know that has to be good enough. I'm definitely trying to beat myself up less.

Thanks all for your support!

Blogger æ said...

cut in on? no way. I love it.

Glad to have you here--the more of us looking for answers and wanting more from our lives, the better.


Blogger Sarah said...

Faith, it's awesome to have you in the neighborhood. We throw some awesome comment parties!

I wanted to touch on this that you wrote:

"I feel as though in many ways, throughout my life, my body has betrayed me, and yet, in many ways throughout my life, my body has done all kinds of things to protect me too. This is an important lesson I am just recently learning."

I related so much to this. Lately I've really been noticing things about my body that I LIKE, and it's a weird, wonderful, new experience. For example, my legs are strong from years of dance class, and they carry me where I need to go.

This idea of loving my body is unfamiliar but exciting. Thanks for expressing it so well.


Blogger Heather said...

Hi Faith, I'm new around here...just discovered all these amazing ED bloggers. I fought with b&p for 8 years, I'd say. I'm no longer purging, but the bingemonster still strikes. I still hate my body...I still hate that food controls me. I am grateful, though, that strong women like you are willing to share your struggle. It strengthens me. I thank you for that.

Blogger anony123 said...

Hey Faith,

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I've just started reading yours and I'm really looking forward to getting to know you.

When the voice in my head tells me that EDs are for Nicole Richie and sorority girls (which it does often, and I have a serious dislike for sorority girls) I tell myself that it's just trying to make me hate myself more. More than that, sharing one characteristic with someone does not mean you share all characteristics with them.

I'm looking forward to reading more!


Blogger Dreaming again said...

Well ... I'm that 43 year old ...I started at 14's taken up more than 2/3 of my life.

Having kids only stopped me while I was pregnant. My 16 and 18 year old know I have an eating disorder and get frustrated when they see I've started restricting again.

I had my therapist look me in the eye and tell me I would not make it to 50 the day before my 43rd birthday a few weeks ago ... it doesn't seem like that long that 50 was eons away it's tomorrow.

Feeling stupid? Yeah ... I should be over this already ...

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