I’ve been a pack a day smoker for a while, and I hadn’t had a cigarette all day. Maybe there was one in the morning but that had been about 11 hours ago. It was ‘try and quit’ day number 4. Or something, they were all blurring together. I was on edge. Worse than that though, I was eating so fucking much. It was compulsive, I’ve been watching my arms and piggy fingers reaching for things and shoving them into my mouth. I hate myself for it. The fear of this is what kept me smoking the better part of 9 years - starting when I was 14 and all my compulsions were taking root. Exciting age, puberty.
So, I’m 23 now, I’m trying to quit. Trying to get back into shape. I don’t know why I say “back.” I’ve never been in shape, either bony or flabby. But I really wanted this. I wanted that strong form. I wanted to be proud of myself. I don’t know why I am using past tense. I still want that.
I had almost forgotten about this writing class I signed up for, but I had put it in my calendar. I saw John beforehand and he asked how I was doing. I laughed and told him I was fucking struggling. It was true, I tried to play it down but he knew. He’s quit a few times. He didn’t quite get the eating stuff though, how mortifying it is. He’s never been in a career where your waistline can dictate whether you are cast as the lead or the quirky friend. Maybe its a woman thing, I’ve known a few guys through the modeling world and the LGBT community that get it. But it’s mostly women. So much for all that PC love your body crap. I agree with it, but I haven’t yet been able to tap into it. I’m rambling, I want a fucking cigarette so I don’t stuff my face.
So there I am, walking in, edgy, self-loathing, wearing one of my baggier sweaters because I am mortified at my stomach shape. It’s puffing out from the compulsive ‘trying to quit smoking’ snacking. I’m flustered. I almost walk past. I ask if this is Method Writing. And the man sitting at the table looks at me, then says “No, this Aerobic Lamaz.” I don’t know what that means but it’s obviously a joke so I smile. I have to pull a tight, polite smile most days. especially when I have to talk to men. Inside I am burning up “Please, not today.”
He then asks me if I know what that is. Cool, I’ve been condescended to before. Let’s have it. No, I don’t know what it means. It’s explained to me. Something about therapeutic breathing during birth. I don’t know what I said to that, my fucking head exploded but I’m not sure if it showed. All that the cruel voice inside my head heard was “birth” meaning “pregnancy.” Why the fuck is he telling me this. Why would I need to know about birth. My thoughts scramble but the inevitable connection is made. He thinks I’m fucking pregnant. I can’t even spell it right. I hate that association so much. I am getting fat. I want to fucking die. Why would he say that to a woman in her 20s.
I try to walk through it and resist the voice telling me I’m going to have a terrible time. It was just a joke. It was just a fucking joke right. God damn it. He can’t possibly have known how I feel about myself right now. If he knew, he never would have said anything. I’m sure. I’m sure.
We were learning each others names. It’s role call for adults. He gets to me and announces to the whole class that I had shown up for the whatever birth breath thing that only a fucking pregnant woman would show up to. He then has me explain to the whole fucking class whatever it was that he told me, the fucking Aerobic Lamaz shit whatever that was. I now have to associate myself with that shit to everyone. I put on the bravest face I can. When everyone laughs I held back tears and smile. Damn, I’m good. I’ve been repressing emotions for 23 years motherfucker. 10 years in therapy and 2 in AA can’t fucking stop how fucking good I am at jamming that shit down deep. I laugh along. I curse this fucking situation. That joke just had to be made a second time. With an audience.
Okay, I remind myself, they can’t possible know. They don’t know about the tape measure keep in a basket in my room. They can’t possibly know about how I’ve been slinking past my scale too afraid to see what it says. Fucking fear. Its pathetic. I know. Of course I know. I still find myself kneeling on the bathroom floor. At home, in airports bathrooms trying to be quiet in the stall. Taking a break from an AA meeting to, quietly as I can, upheave the burden. They don’t know that my usual 25” has gone up to 27”. I'm fighting myself.
For those who have not had an eating disorder, that probably sounds fucking conceited to you. Totally. I get it. When I was 11 and they told us about this stuff called anorexia and bulimia I thought it was just “those types” of girls who got it. You know those types. The ones who care so much about their looks. The types who are stupid and self loathing enough to do some weird fucked up shit to a supposedly natural and necessary human process like eating. When I was 11, I had a bad haircut and a bunch of band t-shirts and cargo pants from the boys section in Target. I got good grades and was called names like ‘prude’ and ‘nerd.’ I was at no risk for that shit. I didn’t care.
Between 12 and 14 I found booze, drugs, sex and cigarettes etc. I was at boarding school in the south of England to stay away from my parents’ disintegrating marriage. It was my choice, I was grown up, I had to make choices for myself. Nobody else was there for me. I was in control. I had to be. And I never thought it would happen to me. That I would do this to myself.
It’s been 664 days since I got clean and sober from drugs and alcohol. In that time I leant heavily into the cigarettes, and when the sugar cravings from the coke withdrawal subsided I finally went through a grace period. For a time I was not finding myself walking toward the bathroom with that weird, hypnotic determination and turning on the faucet so my room mates wouldn’t hear.
But I was going through those nicotine withdrawals. I couldn’t fucking control myself in the kitchen, or later knelt on the bathroom floor. Filled with shame. It’s all fear based. I know. I’m trying to deal with it. It rears its ugly head. Up to 4% of women in this country are affected by this shit. That’s a small fraction but way too high. I don’t always know how to deal with it. I don’t expect anyone else to. Something comes unhinged when that poisonous voice picks up some fuel from some offhanded joke. I realize my head is the most dangerous place I can be.
I’m writing about this for a class. That same class. This is what showed up. So I’m just fucking saying something. I was taught to do that. Just say something. Nobody’s at fault. Just say something. I am worried I sound like a fucking asshole. Like one of ‘those girls’ - but its what came up, no pun intended.
I still haven’t quit smoking.