I send love to her
By Michelle Goldblum
I send love to her. To the 8-year-old who was the tallest in her class.
I send love to her. To the 12-year-old who needed to wear a maternity dress to her 8th grade dinner dance.
I send love to her. To the 16-year-old who starved. To the 19-year-old who purged. To the 21-year-old who was searching for love in dangerous places, not yet realizing that she was love itself.
My codependent relationship with my body began when I was about 7 or 8. Being the tallest girl in my class and day camp meant always being the “dad” whenever my friends and I played house, always pushing others on the swings, always carrying others on my shoulders in the pool. I was different. I was bigger. And when surrounded by small, blond, gymnastics-loving peers, big meant bad. Different was bad.
In 5th or 6th grade, I learned that if I was popular, it was more OK that I was big. So, popular became my everything. Being popular became the reason I was put on this earth. I learned to manipulate. I formed the “necklace group” and with it, the power to leave girls out of Friday night sleepovers and speaker-phone, 3-way calling nightmares. As I got older, different words filled the “If I _____” equation. If I had the most expensive Bat Mitzah party. If I had the Prada backpack. If I drove this car, or went on this vacation, or got into this school. My world, my worth, was always, always equated with appearances.
So I had the things. I got into the school. I drove the car. And I was bigger than ever. The more I manipulated, the more popular I became, the more brand names I gathered, the more I was eating. Sneaking a second snack, a third snack, half a pizza pie. Eating quickly, stuffing handfuls of goldfish in my mouth while standing in my friend’s kitchen getting a glass of water. Until one day, I decided to stop. Stop eating altogether. It simply seemed easier than trying to weigh and measure, or keep track of calories. It seemed like the easier way out. So I researched – must have been Encarta’d at that time (!)- what it meant to be anorexic. What did these mysterious creatures do? How did they do it? I researched, I learned, and I copied. And I succeeded. And I almost died.
Years up of ups and downs followed. Gain, loss, gain. Restricting and bingeing. 2AM 7-11 runs and 7AM treadmill wake-up calls. Pain, suffering, few highs and many, many lows. Culminating in a visit to an eating disorder facility and a spiritual approach to my food addiction that changed my life.
What I learned: It’s not about the food. The food is a way to numb what it is about. It’s not about the weight. The weight is simply an indicator that its time to look inward. Look inward and forgive. Look inward and heal. Look inward and love.
Once I became aware that I was using food to numb, I saw just how often I went there. I went to numb any time I felt lonely, or angry, or scared, or fat. That uncomfortable sensation of feeling fat was the absolute worst, most impossible to sit through without numbing. And that feeling entered my consciousness hundreds of times throughout the day. A glance at my reflection in a store window, when a guy didn’t meet my eyes as we passed on the sidewalk, when a store clerk didn’t give me the amount of attention I was sure she would give to a thinner girl, when something was too tight, when I looked at my thighs while I seated, when comparing myself to my friends, to my peers, to strangers. Hundreds. Of. Times. Every day.
So I developed tools. I developed a support network. I developed a community of people who understood and shared my struggles with food. I developed the ability to PAUSE and sit with the discomfort. That, I have learned, that is the secret to healing. Learning to stop, sit, and love through the discomfort. Love through the pain. Pour a bucket of love into the wound and let it wash through you. Through me.
It’s hard. It’s still hard. Every day is a journey. Every day brings with it feelings of discomfort, feelings of confusion, feelings period. And every day I wake up with the intention to sit through those feelings and feel them without eating. Let them run their course without taking a compulsive bite. Let them arise and then dissipate without stuffing their existence.
Someone once told me that their journey with food bore similar to a piece of loose-leaf paper. She ripped off the edge of the paper – you know that part that is all messy, straight from the notebook – she ripped off the edge and handed it to me. “This is the food,” she said. “The rest of the paper – the rest of this sheet, this is the real issue. This is where the real work begins.” Once I stopped numbing with the food, I was able to begin looking at the reasons I was numbing. Look at them and love them. Look at them and love myself for having them. The uncomfortable place is the classroom. It’s where the miracles happen. It is where true self-discovery catalyzes to allow for deep self-love. It’s the birthplace of joy – meet me there.