TRIGGER WARNING: This post contains mention of prescription dug use, unhealthy eating habits and medical conditions including body dismorphia
I’m writing this post under the influence. I’ve had a hell of a month, and between two rounds of trans-atlantic travel, being a part of multiple wedding parties, working with a group I’ve never worked with before in a foreign country, writing up my research for publication, getting my students’ studies finalized and wrapped up and then coming home to run an all day bachelorette party that involved hours standing in the sun this weekend, my routine has disintegrated, my eating habit has basically disappeared and every part of me hurts all the time. I don’t think I’d still be standing if not for the magic of vicoden. I’m still angry about the fact fybromialgia turned out to be a real condition instead of just being some myth unemployed idiots whined about on the internet, but having a name for the incredible amount of pain and exhaustion I deal with has at least helped me to control it. When I wake up and sleep at the same time each day, do the same low intensity strength training exercises and stretches followed by a half hour on an elliptical at the gym, and when I eat at least 800 calories a day, I feel almost normal.
After years of denying my body food, I now, ironically, have been diagnosed with celiac sprue so I can’t eat anything with wheat or gluten, have genetic high cholesterol so I can’t eat anything fried or delicious, can’t handle dairy in any form and chocolate actually gives me migraines. It is so much work to hit 800 calories when the only things I can eat without further wrecking my mess of a body are salads and grilled chicken breasts. It is so much work to pre-plan my meals. It is so much work to make sure I have snacks around so I can actually hit that magic number. It is so much work to cook meals for myself and my husband that fit my dietary needs but still taste like actual food. It is so much work to actually put food in my mouth, chew and swallow.
And so this past month while life has been so crazy and I’ve felt so unstable, I haven’t. I just haven’t really eaten. I eat when I’m with other people because if I try to explain how much work it is to eat, people just feel bad for me. I don’t want their pity over the fact that I can’t eat cake. I don’t want the fucking cake. What I want is to not have to explain my way out of the cake. I want to be allowed to sip a cup of warm tea and actually enjoy it because I know that it’s not going to hurt me without dealing with the pitying looks and comments. I want to be able to interact with friends and coworkers without food consumption as our primary activity. It is so hard to eat when I know that one missed ingredient will mean weeks of misery. I order a salad. I poke at it while everyone around me talks. When we can finally leave, I send half of it back.
I am lighter than I’ve been in years. I haven’t gone to the gym in a month, but every time I eat out, which seems to be a requirement of my job right now, I have fits of involuntary bulimia and I absorb nothing. My skin looks terrible; I am haggard. I pile on the makeup. I plaster on the smile. I pop another vicoden and wait until it doesn’t hurt to stand. I wait until I’m able to move my fingers and button my own jeans. I lie very, very still to keep from vomiting from the pain until the medicine is absorbed, and then, finally, the pain retreats into the background. I know it’s there, but I don’t care about it. I push through. I stand for hours in my heals. I present. I answer questions. I smile. I nurture students as they cry from stress. I don’t eat. I vomit from pain. I lock myself in my office for half an hour and sit very, very still until another magical pill starts to kick in. I pretend I’m not getting addicted. I pretend that I’m only taking more because today is a very hard day, this week was a very hard week.
I come home before my husband and stare at my naked body in the mirror. I am so thin. My stomach is flat. I can count ribs. I grab my hip bones and cling to them for reassurance. My hair is thin, my face is drooping from exhaustion. My ass looks amazing. I am so fucking tired and every part of me hurts. I know I need to eat, so I make a cup of tea. It’s so much easier than chewing. Eating feels like wasted effort when no one is around to see me do it. I take my muscle relaxants so I can hopefully sleep through the night without being woken up by the muscle spasms that leave me sobbing in pain. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be able to get back to my routine. Maybe tomorrow I’ll find a way to say no to that next project so I can spend an extra hour on myself and get back to a place where I don’t have to choose between crushing pain or mind-numbing drug use. I know I won’t though. I’m not going to play the disability card and let anyone think I can’t handle anything and everything that they or the world can throw at me. I’m going to lean in as hard and as far as I can for just as long as the drugs hold out. I am successful. I am thin. I am fucking miserable. But if nothing else, for that first hour or so after the drugs kick in, I’m also comfortably numb.