Just Eat

It’s Eating disorder Awareness Week… I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal to most people. “Just eat”… “I wish I had THAT problem” … Two of the most frustrating, rude, cavalier and insensitive phrases I hear whenever ED’s come up. Eating disorders are serious. Serious like addiction. And it’s not because “we” are selfish, vain or conceited. It’s because we have no self love, self worth and no grace. It’s because we feel out of control in life and take it out on our bodies. Because we feel guilt when we take care of ourselves. Eating disorders are not a joke.

(I rewrote the paragraph above a few times changing the “we” to “they” and the “our” to “their” because I’m struggling with whether or not I want to own my own struggles right now. #VigorousHonesty)

Eating disorders come in many forms, restricting, binging, purging, over exercising… these are the symptoms, the whiskey to the alcoholic, the meth to the addict, the abuser to the abused. If you’ve ever known or loved someone who struggled with addiction, you’ve probably thought, “Why can’t they see what their doing to themselves?”

“Why don’t they just stop?”

“Why doesn’t she leave him?”

“She doesn’t love me enough to quit.”

That’s pretty much the same thoughts you might have when you are close to someone with an eating disorder. It’s frustrating. Maybe a little more frustrating because it’s harder to understand. Harder to relate to. I grew up in a home where addiction was talked about often. My dad is over 30 years sober and has worked in treatment for my entire life. My sister has been in rehab a few times, my mom, too. Addiction, recovery, 12 Steps, meetings, amends…. This is all the norm to me. Addiction, we can handle. We have the tools. But about 12 years ago when I was diagnosed as “Anorexic with purging”, none of us had any idea how to deal. My dad was very proactive, he got me help immediately. A therapist, treatment… What I didn’t have was anyone in my life who understood. In a world where everyone was on the Atkin’s Diet, I didn’t fit in. It was really lonely. For me, going to a 12-Step meeting was not useful. I didn’t use. Not like them. For me, not eating served the same purpose, however, I was not offered the same grace. People rolled their eyes, because their addiction was “worse”. Because “all” I had to do was “just eat”. (I am rolling my eyes as I type this!)

I have forgiven everyone who’s ever belittled my disease because I understand that you DON’T understand. I would like to give a little insight though. So maybe you can have more grace with someone who is walking a road you’ve never walked.

I have a friend, a good friend who also has an eating disorder, and she is the only person besides my therapist who “gets it”. The irony is that she over eats and I under eat. (I’m actually in recovery… see here is where it’s hard to compare addiction and ED’s because when an alcoholic drinks, they’re no longer sober. If I have a bad eating day, I’m not off the wagon necessarily. It’s not THAT simple. Hence ED awareness week.) However, if you sit us both down and talk with us, or, hear us talk with each other, it’s the same words, it’s the same feelings. We just have literally opposite reactions. When I am sad, I lose 15 pounds. When she is sad, she gains 15 pounds. I’m not saying like I feel sad today and magically 15 pounds evaporate. I mean like, when I am going through depression, stress, anxiety, etc. I can’t eat. Like physically, I cannot swallow food. I will chew for ages and just can’t swallow. And I and not necessarily even upset about my body during these times. In fact, if I’m in that place, I am not even thinking about my body. I am too absorbed in my misery. Yes throughout my life I have acted out my ED because I have had a “fat” day (a word I avoid). I have also noticed that my “fat days” directly correlate to my emotions. The scale has not changed, but for some reason today I fucking HATE my body. Nothing looks right, nothing feels right. I want to rip off my skin. I literally want to take scissors to my thighs. I want to vacuum the fat from my belly. These are the images I get when I look in the mirror on a “fat day.” Meanwhile my brain is saying, “You’re worthless, you’re weak, you’re not lovable, nobody takes you seriously, you deserve to feel lonely, nobody needs you. You’re too outspoken, you’re too opinionated. You’re not smart enough or pretty enough. You’re just not enough. Oh- except your thighs, those are too much. Jeez, Justine, what’s wrong with you? You’re a shitty anorexic. You ate WAY too much yesterday and LOOK at your ass! You can’t even eat right. You’re so stupid. You need to control yourself. You are an embarrassment.” You see how it’s not actually about my body? My body is the scapegoat. Internally I feel like I can’t fix my uselessness, and all the things wrong with who I am, but, I CAN fix my thighs. So here I am desperately hating myself, and truly needing someone to love me, someone to affirm me. Not my body. ME. and I don’t know how to ask for that. And I sure as hell don’t believe I deserve it. So I am sad. So I can’t eat. And not eating serves a purpose. Not eating ,makes me feel successful subconsciously. Eating literally makes me nauseous, so NOT eating makes me feel better.

Meanwhile my friend who over eats has the SAME thoughts, only her coping skill is to make herself feel better by eating. Because when she is eating it FEELS GOOD. It smells good, and looks good and fills her. It literally fills the emptiness. So she will eat fast food, and thus PROVE to herself, all the things her brain has been chanting. That she isn’t strong enough to lose the weight, that she is worthless, that she’s fat. That she doesn’t “deserve” to be healthy, because if she did deserve it, she could eat like a “normal” person. She “proves” her worthlessness to herself every time she gets on a scale and hasn’t lost any weight. Every time her doctor is disappointed. Every time her nutritionist overwhelms her with lists of food she “can’t” have. It’s overwhelming. And what’s the point anyway, right? She feels like a failure. Maybe she is? Oh, is that a Mc Donald’s? French fries will help. And she’ll try again tomorrow.

I don’t know if my sharing this is helpful. I just thought, in the spirit of the week, maybe I can shine some light on a subject that you just can’t grasp at face value.

I want you all to know that I have been working my recovery, seeing my therapist, and learning to love myself. To change the way I talk to myself. To recognize the red flags and seek help when I start going down the rabbit hole. My recovery really doesn’t have a whole lot to do with food. Food is just the way I show the sickness. As a mom I have been good at maintaining a healthy weight… but masking the real issue. I am in a place where I want recovery, and I understand that just because I am not acting out my ED, does not mean I am cured. I understand that every single day I need to work to make the right choices. Because, magically, when I am doing what is right and healthy for me, I don’t hate myself so much. In fact, I start seeing the good. I have recognized that my decisions directly effect my self worth. And I am worth being happy. I am worth love. I am lovable. And so are you.

Started From The Bottom Now We’re Here

 

Art by ShonRochelle
Art by ShonRochelle

We were twins. OK maybe not “technically”, but I never knew life without her. I was 15 months old when she was born. Contrary to popular rumor, (that was probably started by a grandma somewhere who had severe empty nest syndrome) breastfeeding IS NOT birth control! She is proof!

 

Art by ShonRochelle
Art by ShonRochelle

As children we were attached, if one of us got time out, the other went to sit in time out as well. We were partners in crime, at ages 4 and 5 we conspired to steal and eat our grandmothers chocolate cake while our dad was in the shower… he figured it out, but I don’t think he got any cake. I may have tattled on her when she decided to cut her own hair, little did we know, she actually has a talent as a hair stylist. We played together at recess, and all of our friends were mutual.

Charcoal by ShonRochelle
Charcoal by ShonRochelle

 

We couldn’t have been more different, in fact we still are polar opposites, she is everything I am not, blond, tall, big blue eyes, big butt (If this is being read in a future where anorexia is back “in”, just bear in mind that big butts are all the rage right now), she’s a dancer, a singer AND an artist. She is has a big personality, as a Gemini she is nearly impossible to pin down, she’s always wherever the drama is, and will surprise the shit out of you when she is suddenly completely down to earth, understanding, and will bend over backwards to help you because most of the time she is blunt and tactless… although always truthful… whether you like it or not. (That last part may be a family trait, come to think of it.)

Abstract by ShonRochelle
Abstract by ShonRochelle

 

I am 5 feet (short) tall, I have brown eyes that I call hazel because sometimes they change, and it makes me feel like I have some individual, and defining characteristic that the rest of us brown eyed girls never get complemented on. I have brown hair, no rhythm, and I can draw stick figures, which is the extent of my artistic ability. My only claim to fame is that I am a writer. I am a Pisces. And growing up I was very sweet, quiet, overly emotional, and sensitive. Even though I was the older sister, I relied on her to be the things I wasn’t, SHE stood up for ME, when I was bullied, she came to my rescue when I got hurt or cried, she was basically my big sister. MY whole life I have gotten away with being… a princess, I guess. I managed to always find someone to do what needed to be done, my sister and my friends used to have homework pow wows where we would all do all of my math homework for the week (I was in independent studies, and I am terrible at math, if we wanted to hang out, we as a group would do my homework.) To this day I do not have a drivers license (long story), even in my jobs I have managed to get away with not doing things… or doing things that I shouldn’t. There have been times where I get so frustrated because it always seemed like it was easier for people to do things FOR me, instead of teach me how to do it. I have had to force people to teach me things, or I have become a master at Googling. It’s not that I am not smart, it’s that people seem to LIKE helping me. All of this started with my sister, who probably didn’t want to be the youngest, or maybe she noticed my weakness, and instead of exploiting them, she spent years helping me cover them up.

Art by ShonRochelle
Art by ShonRochelle

 

What you are not expecting, is that my bombshell little sister was teased mercilessly from 5th grade to 8th grade. She had what you call “baby fat” she didn’t overeat, at least not initially, eventually she did use food as comfort, which only made the situation worse. I don’t even know if she was teased for being “fat”, or if there were other things… but I do know that this was the same age that my sister began to notice that she is not like other girls. While she had typical crushes on boys, she also had crushes on girls. It’s funny, we both had the same feelings, but again, the way things played out couldn’t be more opposite. Her defense mechanism was to be mean. She turned into a bully, a bully that was bullied. I remember people telling me how mean my sister was, and I didn’t get it. She wasn’t mean to me, and she always stood up for me. During that time I was too self absorbed to pay attention to what was going on with my little sister. She was having problems at church and school, and I wasn’t. I was never “popular” but I had a lot of friends, I have the ability to get along with just about anyone. (I think it was more my need to be liked and accepted though, because now, as an adult, I am very particular about my friendships, and I listen to my intuition about people.)

Art by ShonRochelle
Art by ShonRochelle

I was the squeaky wheel in the family. So while everyone was paying attention to me (I had depression, and an eating disorder) and taking me to therapy, and checking in on me… and grounding me (Ask my friends, I spent at least 2 full years grounded). No one paid attention to her. No one saw that she was sad, lonely and confused. I don’t think she even felt like she could say anything, about anything. I don’t know if she felt it would matter? My Sophomore year, her Freshman year was a turning point, I had switched to a new school (yes, I was the diva of the family who needed to change schools… I did this several times before Independent Studies became the obvious solution) and she started selling drugs, my moms medications, I think. She had already been doing other students homework for cash, for a few years. She must have felt gypped when she did my homework, anyway, from what I remember this was the year that she started using. The previous year we had dabbled in drinking and smoked pot, but it was really experimental, at least for me. It’s a trip to me that she managed to get loaded while we lived in our dad’s house. I mean, he was not only sober, but he worked in rehabs our whole lives! Maybe that’s why my vice became an eating disorder, instead? I have to confess I had no clue what was going on with her at this point. We lived in the same house, but we didn’t really talk. She really must have felt invisible then.

 

Art by ShonRochelle
Art by ShonRochelle

It wasn’t until the day she came stumbling home (and by home I mean our mom’s house, we had moved in full time with her at this point) after vanishing for 3 days, and she was a mess. She was obviously loaded, I don’t know what she was using, but it was obvious. She then proceeded to molest my boyfriend at the time. I was horrified, and more horrified, I think because I realized that not only had I not realized she’d been gone so long, no one else had either. This was the first time I called my dad and said that she needed help. This was the first time she went to rehab. Little did I know, she would go 5 more times.

 

Charcoal by ShonRpchelle
Charcoal by ShonRpchelle

I confess that I don’t know her current sobriety date, but I do know it’s been about 4 years, and the last time she went into Treatment it was thanks to a phone call from me to my dad… again. But this time was different than the other times to me, she’s changed. I feel like I have a friend again. The best part is, she is painting again. I mentioned earlier that my sister is an artist, well I feel like it’s an understatement. A lot of people claim artistic ability, her art, is unbelievable. There is something about the way she puts her soul on canvas, actually, she paints the way I write, she completely opens herself up, and puts it out there. There is a vulnerable honesty that I see when I look at her paintings. I am so happy she has found a healthy way to be noticed, and not just to be seen, but to be understood. Something she has needed for years. And as her big sister, I want to publically acknowledge my little sister, her talents, her accomplishments, and her strength.

 

Art by ShonRochelle
Art by ShonRochelle

She came out about 8 years ago, and I think that was one of the proudest moments of my life, I felt like she had finally began to find herself… my heart also broke knowing what a hard road she had in front of her. Some of our family members have completely written her off, she has been shamed, guilted and rebuked for her “choice”. I know, from personal experience that whom you love, is not a choice, yes there are decisions in love, but the heart you are drawn to has nothing to do with gender. I have been bisexual since I can remember, and for whatever reason I never felt like it was wrong. In fact, I felt like denying that part of myself was unnatural. I am happily married and madly in love with my husband, however, it would not have surprised me if my soul mate had been a woman. Even though her path is not easy, I think the one gift I have given my sister is my 100% support. I have fought for equality passionately, because I am fighting not only for what I believe to be “right”, not only for myself, and anyone else who deviates from the norm, I am fighting for my little sister.

 

Art by ShonRochelle
Art by ShonRochelle

Feel free to check out her are pages, you can follow her on

Instagram, her name is Shonlieberman

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