I cried for the entirety of our fifty minute therapy session, crumpled tissues piling high next to me, after she asked me what it was exactly about the eating disorder that I did not want to go back to.
As I described to her in between sobs what is is to survive ten years of violence inflicted upon your own body, something inside of me seemed to break. Remembering the nights of raw throated agony as I kneeled before a toilet bowl to pay my penance for my sins / the days of primal hunger as my stomach burned and my muscles ached, there was a sense of sheer terror that I would ever return to that life of suffering.
And yet it pulls at me, the Monster, always calling me backwards towards sickness, towards dying, towards pain. It roars in my head that there is something unclean running through my veins that must be dug out; that I have, merely by existing, perpetrated the greatest of all crimes, transgressed the laws of the gods, and I must spend the rest of my days on my knees repenting.
I have spent a lifetime, all of my short twenty-six years on this earth, atoning for sins that I have never even committed.
Are the gods satisfied yet?
"Maybe," she says slowly, weighing her words, "maybe, you have suffered enough."
I grab another tissue and hug my knees to my chest.
It is deeply violent to deprive your body of the necessary calories it needs to survive, to heave and convulse before a toilet bowl altar, to run until your body is on the verge of collapse. What is it to live through trauma that is of your own making? What is it to live through such extreme violence at your own hands?
For so long I have numbed myself to the reality of what I was doing, but I felt the gravity of it all in that moment, telling her about how I used to lay in bed, counting my too-slow heartbeats to make sure I was still alive, all the while praying that I was not. Because, I tell her, to wake up and live another day meant listening to the Monster's orders, being a slave to Its sadistic whims and I couldn't bear that one more day.
I choke down more tears.
Reliving those days, those haunted days, brings up gut-wrenching pain.
Yet I have begun to listen to the Monster again lately, buying into Its silver-tongued promises and rose-colored visions of safety and control. I know better, know that the life it offers is a life against my values.
It's just one snack.
And I can feel myself falling again, spiraling into the dark place where I cannot choose for myself but can only obey / obey / obey the Monster.
This is not the life that I want. I don't want to go back to living as the dead, to walking around half-girl, half-ghost. I am terrified of being forced into living against myself again, committing violence against my body, directed by my mind.
She tells me that I have a choice in this, that I am giving away my power too easily, and I don't know that I believe her. I want to, but it doesn't feel true.
Just eat your food, Lindsay, I tell myself, eat your damn food.
I am sitting at a restaurant with friends, smiling and laughing and talking as though I were not starving myself to death.
The full plate of food in front of me makes my stomach growl and the hunger pangs grow stronger.
I can hear the therapist's voice in my head, Think about the life that you want. This is not what you want.
But the voice of the Monster is loud and strong, and I feel small and weak in comparison.
"I don't know how to want to eat," I tell her.
"You won't want to," she says, "You just have to go through the motions for a while before it gets easier."
I open the door to the refrigerator, close it, and then open it again.
I do not want to eat.
But I am so very tired of pain, always pain.
I am so very tired of dying.
I am so very tired of the hellish existence of my eating disorder.
I make no promises for tomorrow, I tell her. I’m not committing myself to recovery and rainbows and sunshine. I don’t know that I am even capable of beating back the Monster for any extended length of time. The Monster’s grip on me is tight.
But maybe - I hesitate before continuing - maybe just for this one meal, I have suffered enough.