Food has not always been my friend, and is something I still grapple with. My food ‘issues’ were always just underlying until 2016 when as my life became more difficult I used food as a way to control things (bad idea). At one point, I realized I had developed something called Orthorexia, and gaaaaaaawd does is it sickening to think of, or talk about. But, similar to painting, writing has also opened a therapeutic place for me. Writing about past experiences somehow allows me to move on, knowing that my feelings and memories are documented, so if I forget them they will be kept somewhere.
This specific memory occurred in 2018, at the pinnacle of me knowing I had to try and change, even if I didn't know what that would mean for my physical appearance, or mental state. My mom, sister and I spontaneously decided to take an overnight trip to Fargo. This 'girls trip' was to be a dose of extra time together before my sister, brother-in-law, and niece moved to Omaha. I knew how badly I wanted this to be an enjoyable relaxing experience— I wanted to be a normal sister, a normal daughter and a normal auntie.
We spent the second day at the mall in Fargo, stopping for lunch in the food court as they had options for everyone, silently we all knew I was the one who needed to have ‘options’. Choice isn’t easy for me when I have a sane mind. By the time I had decided what to have the others were sitting eating. They also knew that waiting for me to start would only make me increasingly more anxious.
I negotiated with myself, something that I didn’t know then, but would be the key component in helping me change into who I wanted to become. To choose a sandwich over salad was just shy of impossible, as this would be breaking of my numerous food ‘rules’.
I decided to go to the locally owned sandwich counter, they grilled the sandwiches, and you could order 1/2 of any sandwich. My thought process liked this— I could commit to a 1/2 sandwich, because god knows I wouldn't permit myself to even consider a whole sandwich. The clincher was that second half wouldn’t be left on my plate, taunting me to go on and just eat it thus, saving myself additional internal debates. So, I nervously ordered, found my family and sat down. Then the real hell began. This was my internal dialogue, ‘Oh. I have to eat this. Why the fuck didn’t I get a salad?’ Physical symptoms of my anxiety started to become visually evident, and not just to my family, but to the packed food court. I could feel eyes belonging to strangers fall on me.
My mom, sister, and niece sat there watching me, I could see their hearts open to my frustration. Here we were, in the middle of a food court, me shaking with fear, anxiety, desire and anger. I knew I wanted to eat, but I was afraid. Tears streaming down my face, snot was coming out of my nose, my eyes skeptically darting from my lunch to my sister and mom. At then a new voice entered my head ‘Do not let your niece know you as this. Eat. It’s ok, just take one bite.’
And what humbles me is that my mom and sister sat there, willing to sit with me, careless of those around us who might be watching me evidently distressed over my lunch, my thinness the clue that food was not pleasurable. As they sat there, watching me, offering silent support I wanted to eat for them, for me, to be able to have lunch, and move on with my day.
I picked up the sandwich and took a bite and then a new wave of anxiety flooded my veins, it tasted delicious. I couldn’t handle the goodness. In that moment I was surrounded by relief, pleasure, and pride in that I was one bite, one meal, one moment closer to exiting the trap I caught myself in.