“Showroom of Perfections” – What Now?

8 05 2011


A day without bulimia is so much longer. It stretches out and never seems to end.

I have hours, hours I don’t know what to do with myself. I used to fill every minute with food – acquiring it, eating it and barfing it – and of course lying about it and covering up – a full-time job that kept me very busy.

The day after I come home from India, I quit my job with the crazy Moroccans, but now I am franticly trying to find work. Something, anything, that will get me out of the house and make me feel needed. Being at home has meant food for so many years.

I don’t know what to do with myself.

I can’t read magazines anymore. Not only fashion magazines, that trigger me with competition, comparing and skinny models, but even the New Yorker, Harper’s Bazaar, the NY Times and the LA Weekly – I cannot focus on the words and the pictures. The worst is books – books were my friends and companions. But I used to read while I binged and now I can’t sit down and be calm enough to just sit there.

I know this must sound totally crazy, but the amounts of food I put away used to give me a feeling of accomplishment – I produced something (vomit and empty containers) that made the guilt about reading instead of working, working out or socializing, acceptable. I’m so puritan in my work ethic that I have to produce something to have the right to read.

I loved books all me life since age seven and was always able to lose myself in them. But now, I can’t even watch movies with my daughter. I can’t do anything that’s passive. I can’t sit still. I can’t read anymore, I can’t watch movies; I have to be useful, no matter how.

I’ve been reading all my life – growing up without a TV. But those 19 years of reading and gathering information from books and magazines is now irreversibly connected to food. It’s a link that is so strong that I cannot imagine how I will ever be able to break it. Books and magazines were such a huge part of my life and the reason that I know so much about so many things and why I’m smart and informed about culture and politics, literature, art and fashion.

What now? Am I going to be a typical American without a clue?

I’ve never watched a movie without binging, I never read a magazine without a bowl of pasta with butter and cheese and sugar on top. Every book I read over the past 19 years – and I read hundreds of them – is tainted by ungodly amount of foods.

This has been my life. And now it isn’t anymore.

I don’t know where this tremendous change comes from. But I do know that my old life is over. Over like a dead friend. Over like a faded picture of my daughter as a toddler. It’s in the past. And they say, that not even God can change the past.

I’m a totally different person, but with the same fears and insecurities, aware and in my face like a burning magnifying class. It is hell, but hell with hope.

Now when I go shopping for food – I have to, since my daughter still needs to eat and wants to live, and to my surprise, so do I- is a pain in the ass, a useless chore I perform with resentment and fear of fucking up.

I wander through the isles of Trader Joe, listless, irritated and bored. What in the world can I buy that is just food and not the drug it has been? I have absolutely no interest. I know I have to eat, but I don’t care what.

And there is always this panic that I might get triggered. I’ve binged on everything from broccoli to oatmeal cookies, from pasta to salads that I turned into a soup of forbidden ingredients, like mayonnaise and cans of beans and corn with slivered almonds and dried fruit and cheese. Nothing, organic, healthy or expensive was safe from abuse.

Now I’m buying lettuce leaves, tomatoes and chicken, no dressing and it fills me with dread to look forward to eat not to knock me out, but to live and have energy to do – what? But what I hate most of all, is that I have joined the masses of people who actually care what they eat, how much they weigh and think about diets. Because it is good for me and provides nourishment. Bah!!! Nourishment. Who the fuck cares?

Well, I do. I care about those things now.

I buy safe foods, but let me tell you, since I abused every food there is, there isn’t anything safe now. I’ve managed to make a binge-fest out of olive oil drenched vegetables. I’ve loaded my shopping cart up with innocent bagels and then turned them into bullets directed at my health by drenching them with butter, finishing a whole pack of bagels with a quarter pound of butter in one evening.

Nothing is safe, goddamn it.

I buy watermelons, apples and protein drinks, but when my daughter raids the fridge, she screams: “What the hell? I’m hungry. Where is the real food, mom?”

She’s in the water polo team in South Pas and she comes home starved and in need of calories to make up for the hours she’s spent in the pool fighting and kicking, swimming and treading water. She needs food that supplies her with calories and substance. She needs it and deserves it and I’m terrified of buying it.

I don’t trust myself yet. And I wonder if I ever will. But I also know that avoidance is not working out. I want to be a good mother. I want to eat like a normal person, but I’m not normal at all.

This anxiety drives me deeper into my fear of relapse. But the power that kept me in my seat when I wanted to barf that innocent sandwich on the plane is inside me now. I wish I could go back to using Trader Joes as my drug dealer, but I can’t.

I am changed and no matter how painful this is; I want this recovery more than I want to die, more than I want Payne, more than I want comfort and ease. More than everything I ever wanted.

I buy what my daughter needs and what I need too. I just do it. I cook meals for us and, almost magically, I can stop eating before I get too full to justify a purge. I don’t know where this power comes from but it is there, guiding me when I shop and cook.

I volunteer at the Kabbalah Center – anything to keep me away from my house and the kitchen table. They ask me to do ridiculous and totally useless tasks, like rearranging their supply closets and folding hundreds of napkins. No person in his or her right mind would do this. But I’m not in my mind at all, right or wrong, so I don’t care. All I want is to add another day of luminous and spiritual recovery.

And then the magic really starts: I go for my swim in the morning and look in the mirror – I’ve thrown my scale in the trash and don’t measure my waist and thighs anymore – I’m slim. I haven’t gained any weight. Actually, I’ve lost some. That’s just so unbelievable and so unexpected, I’m delirious with joy, hope and gratidude.

But then I start to stutter. It’s an old nightmare from my childhood, from second grade. It was so bad then, that they put me in the school for retarded kids. I spent second grade in “Special Ed”, surrounded by violent and retarded kids and all I did for one year, was cutting out hearts and flowers from construction paper making sure to be  invisible.

Finally, they tested my IQ and placed me right back into the “Normal Kids School”. I got speech therapy and the stutter, the lisp and the other so embarrassing speech impediments I was so ashamed of to the point of almost going mute, slowly disappeared. After this I soared. I had my own TV-Show for a few years and nothing but excellent grades.

This stuttering freaks me out. I start a conversation with somebody and suddenly, I can’t get the words out. I feel retarded and ashamed and of course the fear of it makes me stutter even more. It doesn’t occur to me that this is totally normal for a person undergoing such an immense change and the stress this involves. I should be in rehab. I should be in therapy. I should be on meds.

Bulimia is such a shameful illness that asking for help feels like begging to be removed from death row. I did this to myself and now I have to handle this on my own, no matter how difficult it is.

I don’t tell anybody. This has been my secret for so long and I’m not about to reveal it now.

I’m irritated and inpatient with Payne. When he runs his ideas by me for his next book or movie, resentment and anger creep up inside me and fill me until I’m ready to explode. I’m so over being the audience to his brilliance. I have ideas that come from inside of me, now that I’m not always either eating or dizzy and high from vomiting. But he will have none of it. When I try to talk he interrupts me and then I start to stutter and shut up.

Arianna Huffington calls me and asks if I want to write a column on style. I get on it immediately, but my contributions feel hollow and fake, because what I really want to write about is this. The agony and the overwhelming joy of recovery. I resent that I can’t write about drinking or shooting drugs like everybody else, that what I have to say is so uncool and so not in style. So I write halfhearted blogs about clothes and style and age and rock star weddings, while my real voice inside me screams to be heard.

The only release I have, is my correspondence with my Kabbalah coach. I write pages and pages of how I feel, how happy and confused and frustrated I am and how this affects my relationships with my daughter and with Payne. I am honest because I pay her to read this and to respond. I pour my heart out in those pages and don’t hold back.

Everywhere else, I’m confused, insecure and terrified.

Because of my volunteer work at the Kabbalah Center, I get a few classes for free. I learn how to meditate and to connect to the light inside me. One night, after one of those classes, I pet my cat and all of a sudden, I know how he feels inside his own body. I can taste the inside of my cat’s mouth and how he experiences his own body and being. My world is infused with magic. My horizon widens. Instead of being constricted by food and the toilet bowl, my mind moves around and experiences trees and plants and people. I feel what they feel and I experience compassion and forgiveness. My bitterness and jealousy fades into a silent understanding of their own pain and suffering. I’m no different from anybody else. I’m human.



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