moments like this do I say I'm sorry. I won't treat you like this again, body. Tomorrow I'll be good to you. Tomorrow I'll treat you like I love you. But sure enough, I always fall backwards, my words are just words, well intentioned, but empty. I exist in a continuous cycle of bingeing and starving. I consume thousands of calories in a single night or I hardly eat at all. This is how I've lived for the longest time and since it's all I know, I'm not sure I could change the pattern even if I wanted to. Binge and then starve and then binge again because I'm so hungry from starving myself. My body always communicates its unhappiness of my mistreatment. I am lying on my side my stomach swollen and bulging in the shape of a pregnant women. It writhes in pain, there's no room left inside, I've filled it to the brim. The stomach ache. The nausea. I am nothing but un-glamorous. Or I am the complete opposite of all of that - I've skipped over the middle ground. I am empty. Starved and rumbling, my body pleads for food. I respond with caffeine or cigarettes, just enough to quiet the sound. My body's voice is constantly ignored as I continue to do as I please. I had recently been on a self-prescribed medicinal cocktail of diet pills, water pills and laxatives. "Take two diet pills and two water pills in the morning, then take two diet pills in the late afternoon, two laxatives before bed and hardly eat, and you will transform into your happiest most beautiful self". I wanted to be beautiful more then I wanted to be healthy, and so everyday I willingly took a handful of pills I knew were harmful for me. Every morning after taking the diet pills, my skin got hot and I broke out into a speckled full body rash for twenty minutes. The laxatives continuously woke me up throughout the night with a terrible stomach ache. But still I ignored my body and took them every day for months. Eventually though, my body was finally done asking me nicely to stop and started demanding it. I suddenly got a very painful stomach ache that lasted the course of a week. Sometimes I was in so much pain I had trouble standing up straight. I knew I had to stop taking the pills, I had no choice now, but still I was reluctant. I was losing weight and was terrified that without this magical yet harmful concoction my body would transform back into something terribly unappealing. I was angry at my body for not being able to do as I asked of it. Why couldn't you just digest all of these harmful chemicals like a good little body? When I am eating as normally as I know how to, as much as I like to pretend it is, it's rarely ever healthy fuel for my body. The food I eat is usually processed and full of ingredients I don't know how to pronounce. I don't take the time to try and understand nutrition or what nutrients my body needs to function at its best. I don't even wash my fruits and vegetables. Instead I do as I please, justifying lunch as a protein bar and dinner as one of those supposedly healthy microwavable meals meant for single people. I never ask what my body needs, I just invent the answers myself. And then there's the caffeine. I drink a lot of caffeine, I mean a lot. So much so that I'm genuinely worried for my heart's future. But is that enough of a reason to cut back? For me, no. Because when it comes to the relationship between me and my body, I do as I please and it has no say in the matter.
Five, eight, ten times a day the honeyed sting of a cigarette's chemicals hit my throat and paint my lungs black. Again and again I inhale, inviting cancer to overtake my body. Cigarettes are bad for you, we all know this. But still I smoke. I have since I was seventeen. I do it because I like them. They relax me, they make me happy, they distract me from uncomfortable situations. I'm in a public setting and no one's talking to me, that's okay! I'll go outside and have a cigarette. Uncomfortableness resolved. Well at least for five minutes or so. And I smoke because, oh yeah, I'm addicted to them. I could quit, if I really wanted to. If I cared enough about my body to not want to put harmful cancerous chemicals into it. But I'd rather enjoy my cigarettes and pretend my lungs are still plump pink highly equipped breathing machines. One day I'll quit, I've been saying that for years, but I really do believe it, I'm just not sure when. Maybe when I start giving my body a voice. When I decide its needs are important to me.
Self-inflicted scars of white and scarlet decorate my wrist and thigh. As if to say you were not beautiful on your own, let me fix you up a bit with mismatched lines of mistreatment. Not only is cutting a physically damaging act to my body, permanently altering the appearance of my skin, but it is also a violent expression of self-hatred and sadness. I feel all of these messy painful things inside me and instead of dealing with them, let me impose my pain on you body because you're there and you won't stand up to me. I can run a knife across your flesh and you will cry tears of blood, but you won't say anything. And then I will cry because I'm sorry and I can't believe how I treated you with so much hate. But I'm not sorry enough to never do it again
They say that sleep is important. Lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, moodiness, depression and a slew of other unappealing things. I have known all this for basically forever. So then why do I choose to stay up into the early hours of the morning binge-watching some stupid TV show on Nextflix that I've probably already seen, instead of going to bed so I can get the recommended 7 - 9 hours of sleep, and wake up fully alive to take on the day? Because I like to torture myself, that's why. I stay up late inviting the agonizing weight of heaviness to join me in the morning as I literally pull myself out of bed after hitting snooze again and again until I have a mere twenty minutes to get dressed, eat breakfast and pack my bag for the day. Rushing, that's what I'm always doing. Rushing to get ready, rushing to get out the door, rushing to get to the place I need to go on time. All of which could be prevented by going to bed earlier. Or I do the opposite of all that. On days when I have no particular obligation to wake up for, I'll keep hitting snooze and snooze until I finally pull myself out of bed in the afternoon. My day immediately starts off in a tangle of negativity because I'm mad at myself for all of the wasted hours of the day I spent sleeping when I should have been doing some of the numerous things I wanted to get done that day. And well, since the day's already been partially wasted and I'm in a bad mood and I have no time to go to the gym I might as well eat a cheeseburger paired with some donuts while binge-watching The OC until I have to go to work. And then I promise to try harder tomorrow to do this life thing correctly. It's a fairly unattractive pattern. The body needs sleep, but I choose to ignore the advice of my mother and basically every health professional ever, and deprive my body of this simple necessity it needs to function at its best. It's not something I'm doing intentionally, sleep is just not at the top of my "things that are important to me" list and so it tends to get buried under my indulgence of late night TV and junk food and sleepovers with boys. Staying up late to cuddle and talk with a boy is a marvelous time, but it often leaves me feeling zombie-like the next day. But still, I do it. I'd rather have my emotional needs met then my body's physical needs, because well, my mind screams louder then my body does.
I look in the mirror and see a pink swelling mass of a person reflected back at me. Brown hair, blue eyes, and a body that is soft and bulging in the most unappealing places. Every day, sometimes multiple times a day, I stare at myself in the mirror and a tape recorder of scrutiny swirls in my mind. I pinch at my stomach in the place where it protrudes outward in a mass of bulging fat. I turn to the side hoping I will see a thinner version of myself, but all of me is still as big and misplaced. My thighs are too thick and decorated in pockets of fat. My arms dangle by my sides in all their large and un-toned glory. My collarbone doesn't stick out enough. And then theres my boobs, my least favorite part of my body. They hang from my chest like two sad, limp, uneven triangles. They're the reason I have sex with the lights off. They're embarrassing, and I let them know that. I look at my face. I'm told I am pretty, but staring at myself in the mirror I can't see what they see. They are just being kind. I'm not pretty, I'm just pretty in a way that's not ugly. I tell my body everything that is wrong with it. A slew of verbal abuse silently spills from my mouth as I call it name after vicious name. I don't know what it's like to love your body. For as long as forever, I've always wanted it to be different; a make-believe image of perfection I invented in my head. And so, I punish it for not being what I want it to be. I'm sorry body, I will show you love, but only if you look the way I want you to look. And because you don't, I will continue to treat you badly, because well, you're ugly and gross and ugly gross things aren't worth treating well. But at the infrequent times when I'm losing weight, when I look in the mirror and don't absolutely hate what I see, then I begin to show it a bit of love; a reward for behaving. I dress it better, I show it off a little more, I take it to the gym without hesitation, I binge less. Love is supposed to be unconditional, something wrapped in acceptance and compassion, but mine for my body is confined to the strict parameters of my fantasies.
Despite the lack of love and care I treat my body with, I still demand a great deal from it. Call it unrealistic expectations or call me an optimist, but I expect my body to behave as a healthy, well treated, greatly loved machine despite the fact that I have given it no reason to do so. Give me what I want from you body even though I haven't provided you with what you need from me. I am a taker. And I get angry at my body when it can't live up to my invented version of perfection. I can't tell you how many times after a binge I have looked at my stomach in the mirror praying that it looks thin. I just put thousands of calories in my body in the time of an hour and it better not have gained any weight or I will berate it for being fat. A perplexing contradiction that makes no logical sense, but feels so real to me. I've tried again and again to be bulimic, but my body won't let me throw up. I just gag and spit a lot and my face gets really red. I hate my body for not letting me have yet another eating disorder. In truth, it is saving me, but all I see is that it's not doing what I ask it to do. I smoke lots of cigarettes and then I get mad at my body when I'm at the gym and can't run three miles without getting out of breath. I push it and push it and plead with it to act healthy and fit, but the truth is my lungs are speckled with blackness and my stomach is empty from starvation. I'll stay up late binge-watching TV instead of going to bed, knowing I have to wake up early, and when I'm hitting snooze and peeling myself out of bed in the morning, I am upset with my stupid body for not jumping out of bed with a skip in my step and a smile on my face. The binges, the starving, the cigarettes, the lack of sleep all add up to a body that is unable to behave in the most capable way. I abuse my body and still expect it to be a good little thing and give me what I want from it.
I can promise to treat my body better, beg for forgiveness, tell it 'I love you', but we all know that my words are just encircled in emptiness. Countless incidences of broken promises and repeated behavior have proven this to be so. Unlike an abusive relationship between two people, I can't just break up with my body. I can't tell my body, "I'm sorry I keep hurting you and I don't know if I can stop so I'm going to leave. Im going to set you free to find someone who will take better care of you." We are stuck together - until death do us part. And so I have a choice; I can remain on this carousel of abuse or I can learn how to have a healthy relationship with my body. I choose the later, because in truth, all of me is connected: my mind, body and spirit. If I am willing to treat my body with so much cruelty then it is an impossible fantasy for me to expect the other parts of my world, like my mental state, self-worth or relationships with other people, to be healthy. I can't expect other people to treat me better then I am willing to treat myself. Love me for me so that I don't have to learn to love myself - life just doesn't work like that. It won't be easy to behave differently after years of mistreatment, but I have the willingness to change. So for now, there is only action. Conscious contrary action. It is time for me to love my body. It is time for me to be grateful for all that it does for me. My body, in all its crooked vitality, allows me to laugh and make love and smell flowers and hug loved ones and see beautiful things. And that is magic.