My hair is falling out.
I started noticing the thinning more and more over the past two months, and the increase in strands sticking to my sweaty arms mid-workout or in my palms as I lather and rinse.
It’s stress, I could say. Because, I’m stressed.
It’s heredity, I could say. Because, fine, thinning hair runs in my family.
It’s hormonal, I could say. Because I’ve had an IUD removed and my body is adjusting.
But, it’s not. It’s because I have an eating disorder that comes and goes and disguises itself as self-control, as power, as an integral part of who I am.
And it’s why I don’t want to write this blog post. It tells me, I’ll regret it.
Don’t talk about it, if you do, that will be all that they’ll see. An eating disorder. They’ll pay even more attention to your body, to your food choices, to you – when all you really want, is to be invisible. And isn’t that why I’m here?
So, be quiet.
Over the past few months, as I’ve felt it rising up in the midst of stress, the familiar voice, the irrational sense of worthlessness…I’ve started to tell it to shut-up. I’ve been talking it down, inside, and I’ve been saying it outloud, sucking the wind of secrecy from it’s sails. Vinnie doesn’t push me, but he listens and encourages – and he knows it’s not who I am, it’s simply something I struggle with.
(And everyone has something they struggle with. Everyone.)
Reading this article, I saw myself in the author’s words and felt the visceral reaction I have when anyone focuses on weight, mine or their own or anyones, even when they are intending it as a compliment.
I cringe when the people I love do diets or focus on weight loss for anything other than medically necessary reasons. I want to plug my ears. And I am learning to, internally. I have to shut it down. Listening to it can be a trigger.
Of course, there are people I love who are striving to be healthier and it IS important for them to lose weight to achieve that goal, these are not the people I’m tuning out. (I’m actually a pretty good cheerleader for that, I think. But the focus for me, is on them being happier, not on their weight.)
During one of the most stressful wedding seasons of my life, a friend I hadn’t seen in a month or so, stopped me, even touched her hands on my waist and raved about how skinny and fabulous I looked. She meant it in the kindest and most encouraging way – because this is what society strives for. Isn’t it? To be a size zero?
I was tired. I was emotionally and physically drained. I went home and cried.
I don’t weigh myself. I won’t even look at the scale when they weigh me for doctor’s appointments. I remember being weighed for a physical in high school and my mother being pulled aside by my doctor and told that she needs to have a talk with me about the number and where I fell on the chart.
And I remember being a twenty-one year old woman, asked to stand on a scale in my parent’s kitchen, to prove that I wasn’t underweight. Numbers are triggers, for me. The scale has never been my friend. And I won’t let it define who I am.
It’s strange to explain, considering I’m talking about an eating disorder, but I actually love my body. It carried and gave birth to four children. It can lift weights and run miles. It can handle eight-hour days of shooting weddings. It can hike mountains. It serves me really well. But, it’s mine. And I don’t like it being the topic of any conversation.
For me, this has always been about being able to control something that is completely my own (my body), and wrestling with the sense of worthlessness that creeps up when I’ve let my self-care fall to the wayside.
It’s not ever-present and it’s something I’ve learned (and am still learning) to manage, but when it washes over, there are days when it is an exhausting battle of logically beating down the voice that tells me I’m unworthy. It’s infuriating to me that, I KNOW, in my brain, how well loved I am, by my husband, my children, my family, my friends – and yet can still feel unworthy of that can of tuna I’m thinking of, MAYBE eating, plain, for lunch.
But, understanding that you’re loved isn’t the same as feeling worthy of that love.
So, that’s what I’m working through, when I’m hiking, when I’m running, when I’m sitting still, when I’m doing the dishes or feeding my children, when I’m laying down to sleep with my heart open and pouring out in silent prayer.
I don’t know if this makes any sense or will even resonate with anyone else, but it’s part of the story of my life that I haven’t always felt strong enough to be open about. I still don’t know that I am. And, for now, I’m not going to go into further details or talk about the things from my past that I’ve already processed through to get to this point, this terrifying place of being willing to press “publish.”
And as the article I shared suggested, (which, please read, if you haven’t) if you want to compliment me, truly, tell me I’m strong-hearted or kind or compassionate. Tell me I’m helpful, I’m useful, I’m fun. Tell me I’m creative or interesting or that I’ve ever done or said something that made you happy.
Just don’t tell me about my body. That’s mine.