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The One With All The Triggers

July 17, 2012
by

Trigger warning: Just all over the place. I’m sorry. I’m triggered.

Sometimes something jumps up and bites you, and you don’t see it coming until its too late.

For me this week, it was a story. Beautifully written, utterly heartbreaking.

It made me remember hiding a whole month’s worth of allowance, plus fifty cents from the tooth fairy, in a piece of my mom’s best stationary, taping down the quarters, stealing a stamp, and ordering an 800-calorie diet plan with some nasty powder that made me throw up. I was ten.

I wanted to be as thin as my little sister, who was inches taller than me and as beautiful as Brooke Shields without even trying. Everyone said so.

It made me remember sitting on the floor of the shower, sobbing while I tried to shelter a double handful of stolen, soggy Oreos from the steam and the spray as I shoved them into my mouth and chewed and chewed, then spit the brown cookie juice down the drain. My mother kept a mason jar that she took to some weird weight-loss-cult meetings where women got together and did this: chewed without swallowing and collected their chewings. I still don’t know why or what they did with them.

It made me remember spending money I didn’t have on point programs and pills that made me shit my pants and strange, alien-looking torture devices. It made me remember choking down spoonfuls of apple cider vinegar, standing over the sink in case my stomach rebelled. I still can’t eat oregano or even stand the stench smell of it after forcing myself to swallow capsules full of it, the oily, pizza flavor rising up the back of my throat and making me nauseous all the time.

It’s weird when those feelings come up — memories that I haven’t remembered in years. Decades.

The book was Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. She wrote Speak as well, which is as beautiful and probably just as triggering for people whose past problems aren’t about food and numbers. Wintergirls is about eating disorders, and it was a hard book to read. Harder than I anticipated.

But I’m not sorry I read it. It’s scary and very true and, in the end, it’s full of hope. I think if it had been around when I was a teenager, and if I had read it, maybe I would have skipped my whole Susan Powter phase. That was the one where I pinched my side with purple calipers until my fat was bruised. I might have also skipped over obsessing about the one handful of fat I had on my stomach, that was only visible when I lay on my side. Or at least I would have recognized that those things — those thoughts — weren’t healthy.

Just like the girl in the story, I know how many calories are inside everything I eat. I started learning with that first 800-calorie diet in 1982. How do you unknow three full decades of information about fat grams and protein percentages and carb counts? The truth is, you don’t. You acknowledge that you used to be a girl who needed that data. And now you’re not.

I don’t even know whether or not to recommend Wintergirls. When I write about it for my book blog, I’ll talk about how girls who struggle with food and their parents should read it if they need a once-removed entry into figuring out what’s going on inside. I bet it’s been a path to help and healing and recovery to many readers. The story isn’t a pretty one, or a sweet one. It’s beautifully written, but it hurts to read. Sometimes the truth is that way.

The last two times I was in the pool, I had to remind myself with every stroke that I’m not trying to lose weight. I swim because it feels good. I swim because when I’m in the water, I feel strong and graceful and accomplished. I’m careful. I don’t let myself confuse exercise and fitness with self-punishment. I don’t let myself count calories in and calories out and try to make them equate.

I am strong and graceful, and I am getting stronger. I feel good. I deserve to feel good. My body is just my body. It isn’t a measure of my success as a human being. It isn’t a punishment for some awful wrong I did in a past life. It isn’t perfect or disgusting. It just is.

The whole country, including the White House, is at war with my body, but I don’t have to be.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. July 17, 2012 10:54 am

    ”The last two times I was in the pool, I had to remind myself with every stroke that I’m not trying to lose weight. I swim because it feels good. I swim because when I’m in the water, I feel strong and graceful and accomplished. I’m careful. I don’t let myself confuse exercise and fitness with self-punishment. I don’t let myself count calories in and calories out and try to make them equate.

    I am strong and graceful, and I am getting stronger. I feel good. I deserve to feel good. My body is just my body. It isn’t a measure of my success as a human being. It isn’t a punishment for some awful wrong I did in a past life. It isn’t perfect or disgusting. It just is.”

    Omg. I’m crying. I just wrote about being in the pool on my new blog and this is EXACTLY what I want to write in my ”life script”.

    Merci, Shaunta. You made my day.

  2. July 17, 2012 12:02 pm

    Good lord. I can’t just … ugh. I wouldn’t call myself triggered right now, but uncomfortable? Absolutely.

    My psychiatrist once told me that being an Aspie has good and bad sides, but I’ve also found it has weird middle ground. I’ve genuinely never understood what is so damn bad about being fat. But at the same time, I always get blindsided by those nasty bitches who do. It’s like I’m left out of some Universal Truth.

    Let me tell you, that is one thing I am happy to miss the point on. I don’t grasp at all how someone so intelligent, funny and charming could be made to feel so utterly horrible about herself. You deserve so much better.

  3. July 17, 2012 12:20 pm

    I just want to hug you right now. *huggles* You didn’t and don’t deserve any of this.

    Not knowing the nutritional info is one of my favorite things about trying out new recipes or food that I’ve never eaten let alone heard of before. It’s also why I adore repackaging- my brain tricks itself into thinking it’s a new thing.

    I can understand how books, even if the parallels between your and their story isn’t as striking as this time, just tend to suck you in and get you. Many, many sleepless nights from childhood onward are testament to that.

    Your paragraph about swimming? Shows why you’re going to be a shoo-in for the NYT bestseller list. Beautiful to the extreme.

  4. Andrea permalink
    July 17, 2012 2:33 pm

    CC, I wish I had stayed left out of that “universal truth”. I might like people in general better if I hadn’t spent the last year delving into it.

  5. Janet permalink
    July 17, 2012 4:59 pm

    The “universal truth” is that all kinds of people feel bad about themselves and almost all of them will try and find someone to hurt, humiliate or bully just to make themselves feel better. If you look at most Renaissance paintings you can see the women were most definitely more ample and lush in their bodies and the men were all muscular and sexy. Well, I see fewer men being held to the modern ideal of “manhood” and more women being ostracized and abused because they don’t fit the ideal of “womanhood”. I think everyone should just be left alone to be healthy at whatever size they are. I think people need to think more about what constitutes good health, be how you eat or amount of exercise or whatever it takes. I think some people have too much time on their hands and do nothing but criticize others to amuse themselves. I think and eating disorder is an eating disorder is an eating disorder, and any extreme can be unhealthy. I have always said, everything in moderation. Sadly, I didn’t practice what I preached and thus have developed health issues because of an unhealthy lifestyle. This book sounds like it is an eye opener but you can bet that some folks are going to find a way to use it to abuse the fatties, again!

  6. July 17, 2012 6:19 pm

    I absolutely love how supportive and amazing this community is. I almost pulled this post, and now I’m so glad that I didn’t. I love you guys.

  7. The Real Cie permalink
    July 26, 2012 10:50 am

    I work out in the therapy pool at the place where I work. It is hard to convince myself that my workout is just as helpful as a workout on land, and in my case it’s probably better. I have fibromyalgia and some joint problems, as well as a shoulder injury and sciatica. I also have to constantly remind myself that I am not working out to lose weight. I have stuck with it for several months now and am able to move a lot more freely than I had in a while.

  8. Magnus1967@AOL.com permalink
    July 26, 2012 3:01 pm

    I like nothing more than jumping in a pool and creatin a tsunmai. I imagine myself as a force of nature. KERRRRR SPLASH!

    Being SSBHM It is musch easier tio get cleaned up in a swimming pool. The bath tub is just too damn small and the shower can’t get under all my folds to wash out all that funk and rid me of my fat man musk but a cood cholrinated pool will.

    • Mulberry permalink
      July 26, 2012 4:28 pm

      I think they have contests for that. If you can do a fat man belly flop kind of dive, you can indeed create major precipitation around you. Some guys paint a great big design on their chest and stomach to emphasize them.
      Got to commend you on your unique portmanteau/typo. I’m guessing that you meant “chlorinated pool”, but what is “cood”? Could be cool, cold, or good.
      Well, enjoy yourself. Maybe you can get Substantia Jones (Adipositivity) to get some photos of you in mid-dive.

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