Session Three: Saturday, October 3
A wave of panic sends me running into the living room, my heart pounding faster than I can keep time. My mom comes rushing in.
I tell her that they don’t fit — my shorts don’t fit. It’s only been three days since I broke the rules, and my shorts don’t fit.
My mom, already able to see the humor in the situation, chuckles and asks if I’d like to borrow a pair of shorts.
For me, however, it is still the end of the world. “Please.”
She leaves the room and I am alone. With fear filling my lungs, I breathe out anxiety and turn to face the full-length mirror planted in the hallway. I begin to take apart what I see.
I look at my round face and double chin; I see my heavy arms and full chest; I place my hands on my wide, bulky hips. I hate my new body.
My mother comes back into the room holding a pair of dark denim cutoffs.
I grab the shorts from her open hand, pull them over my legs and zip them closed.
“How do they fit?” She asks.
“They’ll do the job.”
My phone vibrates as a new text message comes in. “Are you ready?” My friend is on her way to pick me up for happy hour drinks. I wipe away the tear stains on my cheek and turn to face my reflection. I know what I have to do.
I feel a knot form in the pit of my stomach as I draw my weapon.
Are you really having a panic attack over a pair of shorts that don’t fit? You are being ridiculous.
I then look back on the last few days; the pleasure of eating food, the wonder of having energy. I recall how invigorating it was the first time I broke the rules, three days ago. I gather myself, I pull my hair back and respond, “I sure am.”
Session Four: Monday, October 5
Lesson: I will start to love myself
“My weapon worked. My humor.”
I tell my therapist about the events of Saturday night — how I panicked when I couldn’t fit into my clothes, how I fought back with humor, and won, how I didn’t like what I saw, but was able to leave the house.
“I accept my new body.” My new body. That is what I have decided to call it. “I don’t like it, and I sure as hell don’t love it, but I accept it.”
“To be honest, if you came in here and told me you loved it, I would have told you you were full of it.” We both laugh, and she continues, “You are going to feel uncomfortable, but you must realize that that is the eating disorder that is making you feel that way. Now, tell me, when you were out with your friends that night, were you able to be present in the moment?”
I think back on Saturday night say. “Yes and no…yes because it was like I was reclaiming a part of life I missed out on.”
“What do you mean?”
I tell her how in high school I was never really the most social person, how during sophomore year I started binge eating, starving myself all day and eating only at night. I tell her how this made me groggy, lethargic and unsociable at school, and how I avoided making social plans in the evening at the risk of not being able to binge. I tell her that although I knew these people from high school, I was never actually friends with them in high school, because I didn’t know how to make friends. And I tell her how on Saturday, for the first time I felt what it must have been like to be a normal, social teenager.
“I know I must sound pathetic, because I’m nearly 27…but that’s what it felt like, and it was really nice.”
“You don’t sound pathetic at all. And you are saying all this with a smile..but I see the sadness in your eyes. This is something you regret missing out on. Something you feel was unjustly taken from you.”
I nod yes.
“And now why did you say no? That you also didn’t feel present?”
“Well, because like I said earlier, I don’t love my body. I’m not confident. I’m doing these things, and I’m enjoying being social, but I feel out of my body. And I feel ugly. Since Saturday I’ve been examining myself every chance I get–every mirror is a new opportunity. And the gym is like my mecca; I stare at that thing for minutes on end at all angles, completely indifferent to all the weird looks I get.”
She laughs. “Well first, on a technical note, you need to pull away from the mirrors–they are triggering. If you can, take the mirrors down in your house, and put away all of your old clothes.”
“Well, the first part might be hard since my closet door is literally one huge mirror, but I will do my best.”
She laughs again. “And second you must remember that it is not you that feels ugly or uncomfortable, it’s the eating disorder telling you to feel that way.”
“That discomfort…is it saying anything?”
I think for a moment and respond, “Yeah. It says I want my old body back.“
“Okay, anything else?”
I nod my head no.
“And what does it sound like, when it speaks?”
I stop to listen. “It sounds young..maybe around 13. Sad..whiny…insecure… and…”
My smile fades as I pause, terrified at what I am hearing. Suddenly, the terror turns to sadness, great sadness–a sadness so strong it feels as though my heart is being pulled from my chest. A familiar sadness.
I look up at my therapist shocked at what I’ve discovered. Feeling tears form for the first time since I began treatment I say, “It’s me…the voice, it’s me at 12 years old…and she’s so sad. She’s so so sad.”
I let the tears fall as I realize the truth: All this time, she’s been inside me. The girl that is ashamed of her own shadow, the girl who feels unwanted, unworthy. The 12-year-old in Israel. She is still there.
Now feeling both guilt and shame, I try to hold back the tears, but they continue to fall.
My therapist looks at me, her eyes full of love and compassion. “Talia, is she saying anything else?”
I look down at the floor, and nod yes, yes she is.
“What is she saying?”
“She says, I hate myself.“