I am empty. A hole as big as the moon inside of me. Bottomless, so I cannot fill it. Nothing in my realm of experience offers knowledge of how to replenish the void that swallowed my soul.
I hurt. Each new injury either self-inflicted or by another—emotional or physical—stretches and extends the cavity. Like the tearing of skin and muscle during childbirth, the lesions remain split, everlasting reminders of how I was once whole, but now am resistant to mending.
The hurt morphs into deep despair and I see no way out. My therapist wants me to focus on flames of hope.
How can I, when there is not even a flicker?
I am hungry. The hunger fatigues me. Makes me weak. The lightheadedness causes me to sway when I walk, and my heart palpitates with the least amount of effort. And yet, I search out food, but I “eat” only vicariously by watching cooking shows and reading cookbooks.
I want to eat. I am a first-generation Italian. Growing up, I salivated over my mother’s pasta dishes. A plate of spaghetti is within my reach. I do not dare take even a morsel for fear of never stopping. My tongue rolls around in my mouth, but I am so dehydrated, I cannot salivate.
At age 16, I was I was 5 feet, 7 inches, and weighed 130 pounds. I went to school one day and learned that one of my teachers had died of anorexia nervosa.
Death by starvation—that was my first awareness that I could determine my destiny by what I ate. Like a wonderful, almost lewd secret, I held the knowledge that if nowhere else in my life, I had complete control over my body.
And so I began a course of losing weight by eliminating my intake of food. My first objective was 110 pounds, which I maintained for years even after the birth of two sons.
By the age of 40, I left my marriage, abandoned my children when I married a second time, and tried to kill myself by asphyxiation. I weighed 103 pounds.
I stopped menstruating, my hair grayed prematurely, and my sagging skin had jaundiced. I consumed between 300 and 500 calories daily. My ambition was to dip below the 100-pound mark. The morning I did, my new target weight became 95.
All the while, I obsessed about being able to eat a plate of spaghetti. I believed that if I could fill the cavernous hole inside of me with pasta like my mother made, I wouldn’t have to think about being hungry anymore.
As it turned out, the “food” I needed was not for the body and it did not come out of my mother’s kitchen. I was starving for self-love.
There is no miracle cure for eating disorders. There is recovery. My healing began with six months in a clinic that specialized in addictions, after which I spent years seeking out numerous therapies and ideologies, both Eastern and Western, discovering the practices that helped me the most.
As my holistic evolution continues, my practical methods might change but the two beliefs that make up my foundation are living in the now and giving myself over to a Higher Source.
These principles are reminders that in all the moments of my days, I can choose love over anything else in any one of its many forms. And as I do, I watch the thousands of instants coalesce into a whole that is the greater reality of my life.
Postscript: I remember all too keenly the destructive behaviors symptomatic of anorexia and bulimia and the many times I wished I had a stranger I could vent to who understood the struggle. Please feel free to write me via firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise to read and respond with an open heart.