I am River

I am River.

I’m a fat fucking loser. I hate myself, every minute of every day. It feels like I’m constantly being crushed by myself.

I have an eating disorder. It’s my fault that I have it. I chose to starve myself because I wanted to make my parents angry. I wanted to make everyone angry. I wanted to make everyone as afraid as I am. But now it’s not a choice. It doesn’t feel like a choice.

I don’t get to make any decisions. The eating disorder makes all of my decisions. I know I want to be a child. I want to be small and skinny. Light. Invisible. Weightless. My eating disorder is so loud. I don’t think it started that way. At first, it was just a whisper. It was sweet and it promised me all the things I wanted. I wanted to be safe. I wanted to be a kid. A real kid. I didn’t want to think about scary, adult things. I didn’t want to have to make hard decisions and I didn’t want to be responsible for my choices.

The disorder promised me all of those things, as long as I followed its rules. Then there were more rules. At some point,  I think I didn’t want it anymore, but it’s stronger than me. It’s louder than me. And I needed it to drown out everything else, everything that scared me. And it worked, so I guess I became superstitious. Now I’m a slave to it.

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Losing Control

Dear Therapist,

I haven’t been restricting as much. I know this is what you want but I hate it. I feel so fat. I feel like such a worthless piece of shit loser. The number is technically still “restricting” but it feels too high. 

It IS too high. It’s not real anorexia. I’m on a diet. A fucking DIET! This is bullshit. I am shit. I hate myself and I hate that it feels like I’m losing control. I cannot give this up yet. I am not skinny enough yet. 

I worry that this treatment is working. I worry I am relaxing too much around food. I’m breaking my own rules and loosening my grip. 

And now I will get fat. I will never get to be skinny. 

I hate you. I hate me. I hate everything. 

-River

Honesty

You told me to be honest. Well, you asked. I don’t know, you said something about honesty.

So I told you the truth. I said I WANT to be anorexic. I WANT to prove I am someone special, someone strong, someone worthy. I am not a “dieter” – nothing so common, so mediocre, so temporary.

You said I already AM anorexic. You brought down the DSM-V from the top shelf and read out the words that I know you don’t even believe in. You said numbers are stupid and categories are dangerous.

Still, you said that my diagnosis is anorexia. That’s what you would call me: anorexic.

But it doesn’t matter.

I am not anorexic ENOUGH. Not yet.

But then you got upset. And, yes, there IS room for both my truth and yours. You pointed out that maybe your truth got a little bigger than mine and I agree. You’re allowed to be angry that I hurt myself, but I’m allowed to feel upset about your emotions.

Because this is what’s real. This is what’s me. And if you cannot sit with that…if you cannot see me in the difficult moments that upset you…

you cannot see me at all.

-River

The Year of Sadness

Yesterday’s post actually started out as “The Year of Sadness”. I wanted to preface it by explaining how last year had been The Year of Anger, but then I had so much to say about anger that I quickly realized I’d written a whole post already! But I do want to talk about the sadness…

Friday’s session went something like this: I suddenly “came to” and realized I was sitting on the hardwood floor of the therapist’s office in a black dress I didn’t remember putting on. In fact, when I fumbled through my memory to recall that last time I distinctly remembered being “me”, I had to go all the way to Tuesday evening. I know I’ve been out on and off since then, but at that moment – nothing was registering.

The therapist immediately noted my confusion. She said, “Hi. I have been talking to Anna for this session, but I asked for you. We only have a few minutes left. I wanted to check in with you…I’m worried.”

I tried to speak and stumbled over my words like some kind of drunk toddler. I was struggling to orient myself to time and place and everything felt weird. I wasn’t sure why Anna had been out – that seemed odd and unsettling to me. The therapist reassured me everything was okay, but I wasn’t so sure.

Regardless, I had to leave so I did, but she said she could call me later that evening. When she did call, Wife wasn’t home yet and I was still an incoherent mess. It’s hard to remember what I said or what she said, but I know it was somehow a productive (albeit frustrating) conversation, wrought with helplessness for both of us.

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Misery

I am perfect with food. I always eat exactly as planned. I drink tons of water and green tea to stay hydrated. I make sure we get plenty of exercise. 

Yet still. The scale doesn’t move. Our weight remains the same. People say we are physically smaller. We “look” thinner? Fine, whatever. But we have not lost a single pound in June. 

How? Why?? What am I doing wrong?! I am perfect. Controlled. Predictable. Disciplined. If we go off course, it is rare and due to a situation out of my ability to control. Not enough to explain the stop in weight loss. 

Wife says it may be stress. Hormones. Lack of sleep. Etc. 

I hope so. I hope it settles down soon. I am in misery. A horse with a broken ankle. If I am not losing weight, I see no point in existing. None at all. 

Someone just shoot me, please. 

Mercy, they say. 

Help. 

-River 

I Met The Therapist

I went to our therapy session today. Well Julia went and then I came out. I wasn’t planning on it, but then the therapist said my name. She knew I was out at the end of last session. Or she suspected. Can’t tell. Either way, I did not want people talking about me again. So I came out to see if I could talk myself.

I didn’t say anything for a long time. She asked me what I was feeling and I said, “Scared” so she asked why and I said “I don’t think I’m supposed to talk.” She asked if that came from inside or outside. I said “both”. I said that I wasn’t going to let anyone else talk. She wanted to know why.

I felt cold. She said I didn’t have to talk at all, but that she was curious about me. She asked if there was anything she should know about me. I told her that I keep order and control. It’s not just about the food. It’s about many things. It’s important. Life or death.

She asked if I thought it was working. I said yes. She said that she believed what I’m doing is really important, but that perhaps it isn’t effective anymore. And maybe I don’t need to keep order anymore. Then she asked if I wanted to be happy. Or relaxed. Why would I want to do that? I was not made to be happy or relaxed. I was made to keep us safe. And alive.

She said she thinks that might be true, but that there are other things about me beyond those things and that I don’t just need to survive. I think she’s wrong but I like that she said that though. I almost cried because I felt a lot of emotion about the things she was saying.

She made me feel okay. Like it was okay to talk. But I don’t think it is. Maybe this is a trick. Sometimes people say very nice things as part of a trick. That’s how I ended up in a hospital being forced to eat terrible awful food. And Zooey was nice. She said she wanted to know me better so I spoke to her in person one time. She left us two weeks later.

She can’t make me eat more. No one can. But she said maybe she can help the Others to feel more calm and less stressed, so that my job is easier. I would like that. Oh, and I told her the story of why my name is River. She thanked me for sharing and said it helps her understand a lot of things. I don’t know what that means, but I think it’s a good thing.

I might talk to her again. Julia is upset that I stepped out in front of her, but I only did that because I wanted some privacy. I think everyone deserves privacy sometimes.

So I might say more. But I won’t eat more. I’ll just talk.

-River

My Plea

To the system,

I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to calm down. All I know is that if this doesn’t stop and I can’t get control of the eating again, I will most definitely lose my mind. We will lose it all. 

This is no good. This is not right. Can you not see??

A week is too long. 10 days?! Ha! What is this? Why do I not matter? How is this not important?!!! 

Everything is wrong. Spinning. Loud. Insane. Stop. Put down the spoon. Think! Let me decide. Let me choose. This is not for you. You…are not strong. You are not wise. You will ruin everything. 

Everything. Everything is fragile. In balance. A choreographed dance. Listen to me! I am the dancer. I can walk this thin line. I can hold us up. I will keep us light. 

Lightness. Air. Safety. High…up up up up. Feel the wind, my dears. Float. Fly with me. 

I leave you alone. Do as you will: 

Hide your blades. Smoke your smokes. Have your sex. Read your books. Phone your friend. Color your picture. Sit in that comfy chair and tell all our secrets. Tell all your lies. Yell. Scream. Cry. Laugh. 

I don’t give a fuck about any of that. 

Just let me control the food. Please. Give this back to me before it’s too late. I ask for nothing else. Nothing. 

Allow me this. Give it back. Let me matter. 

Sincerely,

River

Meltdown

I don’t know how many of you struggle with disordered eating, but let me tell you – it is my very least favorite thing that I/we’ve ever had to face. It is a demon unlike any other and it has a way of permeating every moment of your life in a way that feels very similar to drowning.

For the system, our eating issues are mainly present in a teenaged part, River. She developed an eating disorder when she was the main fronting part back in the mid-late 90’s. In fact, our very first hospitalizations were centered around eating disorder recovery. It was seemingly the worst between the ages of 13 and 16. But being hospitalized and essentially forced to eat pushed River back inside and left room for another part to figure out how to get through this crazy life. This is around the time Julia took over as the full-time fronting part and our coping skills switched from starvation to self-mutilation. Not ideal, but somehow less deadly.

The severe distortions and behavior patterns around eating remained mostly dormant for a long time. I now know there were issues of purging in college, but I’m still not clear on what exactly was going on. And I’m fairly certain there has always been an underlying theme of “food is bad”, but it presented itself in less serious manifestations.

That is until five months ago.

I’m almost 100% sure that the exact moment River reappeared as a fronting part was the day my wife lost her job. I think that experience was intensely triggering to a system that has spent a good amount of time homeless and without proper access to food. Since River has started fronting again, I’ve also realized how truly fucking nuts my parents were around food. I now have memories of myself as a kid foraging for food and only finding packets of pudding to eat. In the powder form. Or the powder mix for corn muffins. Or dry pasta. Or plain mustard. It’s awful and devastating.

Then, a week later, when we were preparing for admission to a residential trauma treatment program, Zooey had to fill out this form to fax in. Although we hadn’t experienced truly disordered eating in a while, Zooey said she was going to check off “eating disorder” because of the unresolved nature of River’s issues around food. Then she asked me what I weigh (required on the form). I told her and it didn’t really bother me. But it bothered River a whole lot and I think that was the final trigger for her. Since that day, she’s been almost 100% controlling our food and liquid intake.

Not fun. And nowhere near enough intake.

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