They say no one ever quite forgets their first love. Maybe because long after it ends, our first love holds some type of power over us. A haunting, bittersweet grip on our psyches, pulling us back to what was —what could never be again. But why? Why should this one lodge in our brains be any different than the others? Even when the others were longer, better, more right? Probably because nothing is quite as intense as our first. For me, it was Friday, October 20, 2006. I was 17 years-old about to meet mine. Close to everyone I knew had a boyfriend. Except for me. I always felt like a permanent third wheel. But all of that was about to change. At the time, my high school best friend, Hannah was dating this guy, Lee. Technically, he was a freshman at some local community college. Formally, a high school senior, Lee was always a year ahead. But now that his grade was out, mine was officially in. I couldn't believe it was finally my last year at Cherry Hill East. It's like, I knew we'd eventually get here. But it always felt so far away. I didn't think the time would actually come. It's weird thinking about that now. And rather hard to explain. I'm sure you know what I mean. Anyway, Lee and I were friends. All of us were. My group —about eight gal pals and I used to hang out together on random drunken-fun school nights —basically, all of my junior year. Weekends too, of course. Lee had been trying to set me up with one of his friends. But so far, none were up to par. I wouldn’t call myself picky. It's just, back then, I was still a virgin —something most girls weren't. It was senior year, after all. And a lot of people I knew had lost it years ago. I guess I've always been a late bloomer. Because I had just started getting boobs —something I longed for as long as I can remember. Now, I was not by any means a prude. But as non-traditional as I've always been, I kind of wanted my first time to be with someone special. And it seemed like that someone was also very far away. There was this one guy. But he was only nice to me behind closed doors. I knew my first could not be with him. He was from the other side of town. An innate bad boy. A player for sure. But for some reason, he seemed to like me. Because we had been on and off for the past three years. And since you know I was still a virgin, you also know we clearly never slept together. That made me think he liked me for me. But you'll later learn, it wasn't so black and white. Nothing ever is. And at the time, I hadn't heard from Troy (his name) in a few weeks. And so, Lee promised he'd find me, someone, better. Thus far, he wasn't having much luck. He kept saying I was too pretty for most of the guys he knew. But he wasn't about to give up and I was more determined than ever. So one night, a week before Halloween, Hannah and I are at Lee's parent's house. That's when this guy, Lee's friend Zander comes by. Apparently, this kid had his license taken away (too many DUI's). Lee also said he had to get a new cell phone —basically every other week because he'd get rage drunk and throw it against a wall. So yeah, keep that in mind. Because Lee didn't think I'd want another bad boy. Except at the time, I didn't know what I wanted. I remember saying, "I'll know when I know." And this is how it goes.
Dear Food. For years I restricted you and then binged on you —part of me struggling to give myself enough of you and the other, demanding I get rid of you. I know so much more now than I did when my eating disorder (ED) first started. But it still creeps up. Who am I kidding though? Myself probably. Because I spend the majority of my day either feeling fat or obsessing about how much I weigh; trying to keep my P.T.S.D. induced flashbacks at bay. Whether I'm body checking, on the scale or trying not to open the flood gates, sometimes I eat even when I'm not hungry. I say flood gates because once I start, I find that it's hard to stop. So if I don't start, I don't have to worry about not stopping. A lot of people say, one bite won't hurt. But for me it does. Because I can't just eat one. Because I need the whole thing. I like foods that take a while to eat. Because I love eating. At the same time, I hate how this shit makes me feel. And yes, I know we need food to survive. But when I'm eating and eating and eating, I don't want to stop. And when I don't stop, afterward, I'm full. Really full. Too full. I have to lay down. That's usually when the food shame begins. Because my brain starts talking shit about how gross I am. Why did you eat that, Macey? The thing is, I know about trauma, dissociation, and how bingeing can’t be “fixed” with restriction. I know all this crap is interconnected. But I do it anyway. The worst part is —when I restrict and then finally eat, I tend to go overboard. Binge. Because I basically starved myself all day. So when I eventually allow myself to eat, I'm so excited that I can't stop. I need everything. So I eat everything. And then I feel bad. Shame. So I tell myself I won't eat a lot tomorrow, which usually turns to nothing. Restricting and then binging. It's the same thing all over again. And this is how it goes.
Achievement. Busyness. Perfection. That's what high-functioning anxiety looks like. That's what I look like. Because I'm trying to hide the crazy inside. But when it creeps to the surface, it transforms into nervous habits. Nail biting. Foot tapping. Hair flipping. I'm trying to soothe myself from myself. And I hope no one notices. But if you look close enough, you can see it. You can see it through unanswered text messages. Flakiness. Nervous laughter. The panic that flashes through my eyes when a plan changes. When anything changes. Because I hate change. I think it goes back to childhood. Because when something changed back then, my entire life went up in smoke. Because change to me, at the time, meant divorce, foreclosure, and loneliness. I suppose I fear that's what will happen when or if things change. So I pretend I'm OK. I pretend so no one realizes I am, in fact, a fraud —at least that's what it feels like a lot of the time. Because high-functioning anxiety tastes like a snake slithering up my back, clamping its jaws shut where my shoulders meet my neck. It's the punch-in-the-gut stomach aches —like my body is confusing answering an email or picking up the phone with being attacked by a lion. Because I'm a bad friend. I'm a bad person. I'm not good enough. Why couldn't I finish that thing I was supposed to finish? Better yet, why couldn't I start? Because if you don't start then you don't have to think about stopping. About failing. Because I'm afraid to fail. And I know you can't get something wrong if you don't do that something, right? Because the imposter inside tells me what's the point anyway? All the while, I appear perfectly calm. Because high functioning anxiety is like an attack hidden by smiles, concealed by a mask of the girl I wish I really was. And yeah, it's not all day every day but it does, in fact, creep up. And when it creeps up, it’s always me wanting to stay busy but also avoiding. Avoiding to the point that sometimes important things don’t always get done. Because that part of me would rather let things pile up than admit I'm overwhelmed. Because I have to be everything for everyone, right? Wrong...
It all started because I had nowhere else to go. Well, technically I was still a resident at that Delray Beach halfway house I had been living at for the past few weeks. It's just, my tenant status was about to erupt. And my world was about to go up in smoke. As if it hadn't already. Because that's just it. It was all smoke and mirrors. You can only fake it 'till you make it for so long. And after failing a surprise drug test, instead of getting kicked out (which is normally how it goes down), the house manager said she saw something in me that she didn't see in anyone else. So she decided to put me on probation rather than kicking me to the curb. You'd think I would have been happy. I guess a part of me was. But for some reason, I was pissed. Truth is, I was in a full-blown relapse. Wanting —turned into doing and before I knew it, I was doing it every single day. It didn't help that my new boyfriend was a straight up junkie. Like between the two of us, we couldn't fucking stop. And then, the other night like a few days ago, when I couldn't fall asleep, instead of counting sheep, I spiraled. It felt like I was back there on that awful fucking night. Long story short, I found an article of this guy I used to know. And I say that with a mouth full of rage. Because this particular guy was just sentenced to 35 years in federal prison. What did he do? Well, he raped this 23-year-old girl. And he also raped me. It's not exactly what you're thinking. I'm sorry to say it's probably worse. So when I found out that he's been doing the same shit this entire time to even more vulnerable girls —well, it pissed me off even more. The worst part is, I've never really talked about this shit like ever. I don't even like to think about it. But seeing his photo and his victim's description of the attack, it made me even madder that I didn't speak up before. Because everything she said —like her description of the event, it gave me the fucking chills. Because it's quite literally what happened to me. Here's what you need to know.
I recently saw an article about Demi Lovato. I mean, her shit is everywhere. But it was the headline that got me. It got me thinking and here I am writing about that exact same thing. Because this shit is important. Because gaining weight in early recovery (recovery in general) is usually inevitable. For me, I was doing drugs instead of eating. And it's true. I was skinnier when I was snorting pills. But I couldn't have been more unhealthy. And that's the thing. Skinny doesn't mean healthy. And gaining weight —especially when you're off drugs (alcohol too) does not mean you're unhealthy either. Today though, I want to talk about gaining weight in general. Like gaining weight as a sober girl with temptation everywhere. Nearly 20 percent of individuals who have been able to overcome their drug addiction have also found themselves gaining a decent amount of weight. Unfortunately, many more will struggle with an eating disorder, compulsive overeating or what is now being called a food addiction. It's a balancing act. And I know it's hard. Because I lived it. I'm still living it. But being healthy in recovery is way more important than a few extra pounds. So eat the damn cake and then read this.
I've always wondered what it would be like to look at myself and see what's actually there. When I stare back at my reflection in the full-length mirror that hangs from my bathroom wall, I don't see what you see. The eating disorder community calls this body dysmorphic disorder. I call it my every day. I've also wondered what it would be like to not compulsively obsess about my appearance. Because I'm not vain but my eating disorder would tell you otherwise. Even though I'm not "active" in it anymore, I find that it still creeps up. Because when I wake up each morning, I run to the scale. Depending on what reads back will, in fact, tell me how good of a day I will have. Slowly though, I'm learning that my value and self-worth doesn't change when or if my weight does. If anything, you become smarter when you finally see all of the lies about body size equaling happiness. But to me when I'm in the thick of it, it takes over. It's no longer about facts. It's not rational. Because most of us know it sounds crazy. Hell, it is crazy. But it's real and we simply can't help it. We can, however, control it or at least attempt too. Because I'm not lying when I say I don't see what you see. I never have. And for some reason, I still fear getting fat even though I've never been overweight a day in my life. So here are three reasons why I shouldn't fear any of that. And for the record, neither should you.
Regardless of the politics, it was still hard. In short, I hated being home. It was a shocking reminder of how messed up my family life had become and I didn’t want to deal with that or feel any of these feelings. I mean, what teenager would anyway? I remember wishing I was anywhere, but here —be careful what you wish for. At the time, I was a freshman in high school. I lived in an affluent suburb of South Jersey and up until this point, everything was fairly "normal" —except, a few somethings were about to go really wrong. It would later be revealed that my once perfect existence was really all smoke and mirrors. But let's start at the beginning.
I remember love. I remember laughter. But I also recall resentment and tears. I will say that growing up, I never went without. In fact, I always had too much. And I think that's how my addiction ultimately began. My family was loving. My mom, selfless. My dad, the provider. And, my sister, my role model. We were small but close-knit. I'd like to say fierce. They always had my back. They were (and still are) a bit overprotective but you'll never hear me say they didn't care. So if you're wondering why I am the way I am today, read this.
Home —what was that? I hadn’t had one in what felt like forever. The only thing I had was fear. Except, today, I was an official resident at my very first drug treatment center. I made it through the intervention, the detox —both which I never thought would happen, and now this. I remember arriving in the druggy buggy (our way of saying a white van) directly from the county ran detox that I didn't want to admit, saved my life. I remember them searching me. For once, I had nothing to hide. I remember them finishing up the in-take process and taking me to my new home away from home. I was ready.
I arrive home and to my surprise, I beat my sister there. I was so depressed just thinking about what was to come. I had a feeling this was the end. And so, I tried to drown my anxiety by taking more pills. I snort three in one line. I instantly felt better. As the powder hit my bloodstream, I could breathe. It would later be revealed that all of this was leading up to my intervention, which ultimately drove me to detox and rehab for the very first time. This is what you need to know.
I was the girl hiding in her closet at 2:00 a.m. doing crunches because I couldn’t sleep. I was private to the point of fault. No one could see me work out and I hated the idea of anyone watching me eat. Except, when I finally made the decision to seek treatment, I knew I had to change my behavior. I needed to alter how I looked at fitness and my relationship with food. At the end of the day, I wanted to not only look good but feel good too. So, let's start at the beginning.
I don’t remember when, but at some point, I realized what I was feeling and going through was not normal nor healthy. It was hard to admit that I was drowning. But, if I was going to get help, if I was going to feel happy again and be able to stay afloat, I needed to admit that something was wrong. I was not okay.
This disease is not solely based on the pursuit to “look beautiful" —for those who have some type of eating disorder, it's so much more than that. Honestly, it’s as if you're in an abusive relationship. One minute it’s spewing hateful thoughts about you and the next it’s apologetically, promising that if you listen to what it says you will achieve happiness. One thing I always wish people knew about living with this type of mental illness is that it casts a shadow on everything in your life, no matter how small it may seem from the outside world. So, this is what it's really like to live with an eating disorder —at least from my perception.
Sometimes, an eating disorder isn't so far away. It's the skinny girl you hear at sixth period throwing up in the bathroom because she swears she's fat. It's 30 million people worldwide. And more times than not, it's the one you thought had it all together.
Like any teenage girl, I wanted to be thin. The more my bones protruded out of my emaciated skin, the prettier I thought I was. Everyone has something. What's yours?