National Daddy Issues Week. National Sexual Assault Awareness Week. National Too Pale To Go To The Beach week. But I’m pregnant with a daughter. A girl and, honestly, I am a little terrified about doing right by her. This has made me think, really think about how I turned everything inward, how everything became about fat and shame and how I almost died from the disease. Nothing else killed me. Not cutting, not putting myself in dangerous situations, none of it. The only thing that almost did me in is the mental illness with the highest mortality rate. Eating Disorders. It’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week and I feel like we’re all pretty damn aware. But what I ponder is how to prevent it … it wasn’t just pretty skinny models that I knew I could never be that caused it. It wasn’t just my mother’s incessant dieting, always striving to lose those last ten pounds and be happy. It wasn’t just one thing…and it certainly wasn’t one obvious thing. How did I make the connection between being thin and being worthy? How did every bump or bubble of flesh become bad, become shame?
I was a skinny kid. I was a skinny preteen. It was only in the throngs of the bulimic cycles that I was ever ‘fat’ which was really more puffy and swollen. I vow to never say I am ‘fat’ around my children, even if I am. I vow to never put myself down or complain about my looks although I certainly still feel as I have many complaints. But even that, even that isn’t enough. How do we guard our girls and boys from trying to disappear? I remember being in college and seeing Tennessee Williams one-act Talk To Me Like The Rain And Let Me Listen. It was a profound experience for me:
I’ll run my hands down my body and feel how amazingly light and thin I have grown. Oh, my, how thin I will be. Almost transparent. Not hardly real any more. Then I will realize, I will know, sort of dimly, that I have been staying on here in this little hotel, without any — social connections, responsibilities, anxieties or disturbances of any kind — for just about fifty years. Half a century. Practically a lifetime. I won’t even remember the names of the people I knew before I came here nor how it feels to be someone waiting for someone that — may not come … Then I will know — looking in the mirror — the first time has come for me to walk out alone once more on the esplanade with the strong wind beating on me, the white clean wind that blows from the edge of the world, from even further than that, from the cool outer edges of space, from even beyond whatever there is beyond the edges of space …Then I’ll go out and walk on the esplanade. I’ll walk alone and be blown thinner and thinner.And thinner and thinner and thinner and thinner and thinner!— Till finally I won’t have any body at all, and the wind picks me up in its cool white arms forever, and takes me away!
Yes. Exactly. And even now, even ‘cured’ from my ED for ten plus years I still read that and think yes, exactly. I still want to be thinner and thinner and thinner until I am paper-thin and will just blow away.
I don’t. I know it’s unhealthy. I do not participate in eating disordered behaviors. I do not starve myself or vomit. I do not. I don’t even feel the desire to do so…but to be so thin. So free. So pure. That I still want.
It’s National Eating Disorders Week and I am aware. I’m just unsure what to do with that awareness.
THIS is the book that was the closest to my ED experience. It’s an incredible raw look at life with and eating disorder. If you suffered or you know someone who is and you want to understand, a little, what it’s like this is a great and difficult read.
Stephanie Stearns Dulli is alternately confident and riddled with anxiety. Perfect qualifications for the two major careers in her life: once professional actress in LA and now stay at home mom in DC. Since leaving LA and the acting world behind (for now), Stephanie has found other ways to be creative. After starting her blog five years ago, she began working as an on-camera iVoice for iVillage.com. She currently blogs at Stephanie Says about where you will find pop culture, fashion, photography, and is the director of the Washington, D.C. Listen to Your Mother show.