Advice from the Throes of Quasi-Sanity
By Emily Petit, 19, Massachusetts
Like any and every human being, I love to eat. I like the way food feels in my mouth and I like the way it feels in my stomach. Why wouldn’t I, right?
Well, the guilt that fills the corners of my mouth with every bite, the shame that wraps itself around the food tumbling into my body–that almost cancels out any natural human pleasure that comes with the act of eating.
Almost five years ago, when I was fifteen years old, I had the not-so-out-of-the-sorry-ordinary thoughts that come with being a young woman in today’s world: I would be a better person if I could lose this weight. I’m worth next to nothing with all this ugly fat. All this FAT. ALL THIS fat. ALL. THIS. FAT.
I’M SO FAT.
My mother and father were going through a horrific–and I do mean horrific–divorce at the time. Everything felt out of control, and I was sick and tired of other people not seeing that I was burning to a crisp inside and that I felt like my entire life was falling to pieces.
So what was I supposed to do? Just sit there and watch my universe rot like a corpse? Sit there and take the back-handed blows from the terror of my father’s rages and my mother’s constant fear? Sit there and pretend I was a happy, lively, promising person?
Yeah, right, sure.
All I wanted was for other people to see. I wanted to be just as ugly outside as inside. I wanted to be broken. I wanted to be hurt. I wanted to be seen, pitied, loved, hated--whatever it took: I wanted to be thin.
I was not beautiful enough to be a child. I was not dignified or whole enough to be a woman. I was just empty.
And I was hungry.
So what does a person do when she’s hungry? She fights fire with fire. That first rush of hunger, that rush that tells you in no uncertain terms that you are winning–it’s a high you can’t get from yoga breathing, or from a long walk, or from listening to Windham Hill albums, or from reading the Bible. Hunger is the ultimate high. Hunger brings you to life –a kind of life you thought would never be yours again.
On the other hand…does that high really mean that you are victorious?
Hunger may be the ultimate high, but it’s a high that cancels out a multitude of smaller, worthier highs–the things that build your life and your person and make you whole. Hunger, you see, is not a part of you–it’s separate. Sure, it is beautiful, but it isn’t you. Hanging out with hunger really does give you the most glorious high; it is the most magnificent friend, nothing but beautiful, anything and everything you wish you could be. But is it worth hanging out with a high that doesn’t belong to you and will never be inside of you in the way that your own self is inside of you? Is it worth abandoning the pieces of your core being that make up the life that makes up you?
Well, I sure thought so.
And here’s the truth: right now, I’m sane. At least, I think I’m sane. I can say to myself and to you that hunger will not take away your problems–it will only break you, break your health, break your strengths, and unpeel your weaknesses from their cobwebbed corners (and if they’re not in cobwebbed corners, it will put them in a $2,000-a-night suite complete with flat-screen cable and feather pillows). In the end, hunger will ruin the now, the yesterday, the tomorrow.
Hunger is the end that feels like rebirth. Hunger is the ultimate high, the ultimate splendor, and the ultimate death.
And hey, right here, right now, it’s great to be able to say that. But there’s going to come a time–I know there will; there always does–where hunger is my mother and my god and my best friend. That time could be next year. That time could be tomorrow afternoon. That time could be ten minutes from this one.
I will no longer be me, and I will no longer have this logic. I am writing this in a moment of certainty, a calm colorless moment of health and sanity. Hunger is not the weapon or the spell or the friend you believe it to be: it’s a jerk. It makes you tired. It takes away your patience, humor, and creativity. If you don’t think you have any of those things, it will take away any chance you have of loving what you do have–all that you know and all that has yet to be revealed.
When that hunger comes back, I will not be able to tell you this. Nor will I be able to tell myself. There will come a point where I remember writing this to you, and I will rave against these words, scoffing, raging, maybe even laughing. I’ll go hungry, and I will be entirely convinced that I love myself again.
I love myself now. Here. In this moment of sanity.
But hunger does not love me. Not ever.
I like to think this love for myself will last–and perhaps, via a wild, cartwheeling epiphany, it will.
But in the likely event that I shed that love, that I lose myself, here is my advice, the advice that emerges only in those precious hours of sanity:
Hunger doesn’t work.
Leave a Response