Good morning and welcome to this week’s Thinking Out Loud post, where I link up with Amanda to share some of my thoughts with you. Over the last few days, I have been thinking about the power of our physical experiences.
I’m sure you know how powerful the connection between the physical sensations of our bodies and the feelings and memories of our minds can be. Do you ever catch a whiff of a scent or a taste of something that brings you right back to a specific place in time? I know that I do, and many of my most disordered days are permanently marked by the sensations of my illness. I am often reminded of these things that I so easily associate with anorexia, the things that still send shivers down my spine when I encounter them today.
Anorexia tasted like Diet Dr. Pepper. It tasted like diet yogurt. Anorexia tasted like Splenda in weak summer camp coffee, and like strawberry chewing gum. It tasted like sugar-free vanilla syrup, large Diet Cokes from McDonald’s, and plain vinegar.
Anorexia tasted like carrots weighed on a scale and cereal measured by the tablespoon. It tasted like PAM cooking spray, like Kraft Lite Raspberry Vinaigrette.
Anorexia tasted artificial, an attempt at authenticity that did not quite make the cut.
Anorexia felt like pelvic bones on hard benches. It felt like ribs beneath skin. It felt like cold that ran so deep it chilled the marrow inside each bone. Anorexia felt like numb fingers and toes, like chapped lips and cracked skin. It felt like hunger pangs at 4 in the morning. It felt like dense, coma-like sleep, while simultaneously feeling like no sleep at all. Anorexia felt like feet pounding pavement, like weights lifted above a body that struggled to support itself. It felt like sores rubbed on skin from hours spent on an exercise bike, like hip and back pain ignored and pushed through. Anorexia felt like handfuls of hair coming out in the shower, like cold feet discreetly stepping on a hard, plastic scale each and every day. Anorexia felt like crippling anxiety, tremendous fear, bitter hatred, and crushing pain. It felt like a bottomless pit that I had somehow fallen in, like a steel trap that gripped my body and mind.
Anorexia looked like fear. It looked like rashes and burns on my skin, which was sallow and hanging off of my body like old meat in a butcher shop. It looked like an angular nose, sharp collar bones, and a cloudy gaze in eyes that had once been deep, brown, and full of life. Anorexia looked like split ends and bald spots. Anorexia looked like phony smiles plastered on a narrow face. It looked like loose clothes draped over a mannequin of a frame. It looked like sadness, like despair, like death.
Recovery tastes like dark chocolate. It tastes like fresh vegetables, like ice cream, and like Thanksgiving leftovers.
Recovery tastes like big salads, like hot soup, and real sugar. It tastes like pastries, like bacon, like sushi, and like turkey sandwiches.
Recovery tastes like homemade lasagna, onions grown in the garden, and spicy Thai food. It tastes sweet, salty, and smooth. Recovery tastes real.
Recovery feels like a good night’s sleep. It feels like healthy hair, like warm blankets, like clothes that no longer merely hang. Recovery feels like a cat’s soft fur, like a warm bath, like a deep stretch.
Recovery feels like a pen held in the hand writing in a journal, like the smooth pages of a book. Recovery feels like genuine joy, like hope, and like happiness. It feels like sadness, anger, and fear sometimes, too. Recovery feels like everything all at once, because recovery makes feeling things possible again.
Recovery looks like a bright smile. It looks like life behind eyes that are wide open, like soft lips that no longer flake away. It looks like skin that glows and a body that heals itself.
Recovery looks like sunlight in blue sky. It looks like a new beginning that contains countless blessings and unimagined possibilities.
As often as I encounter the jarring physical reminders of my sickest days, I encounter a good bit of reminders of recovery as well. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have so many unpleasant memories associated with the worst of my eating disorder, but perhaps it is a blessing that I do. Recovery looks and feels so marvelously different than anorexia, and maybe it is for the best that I am constantly reminded of that.