I told my mom during dinner 2 days before Mother’s Day that I was struggling with food. I couldn’t bring myself to say the words “eating disorder” but I know she got the point.

And then I told her I’d permanently marked my ribs 4 years ago with a fairly sizable tattoo.

Happy Mother’s Day! I’m failing at life!

She responded with supportive words. I actually felt relieved that it’s not this huge secret and that she didn’t make anything a big deal. But I simultaneously feel guilty and sad and anxious. She told me my dad, while concerned, doesn’t view this as a problem (read: I am not skinny enough for a problem), and thinks that it’s all in my head (read: crazy, & easily solvable).

Apparently your ribs are one of the most painful places to get a tattoo. I never flinched. It’s interesting to look back now and realize that it might have been so easy because I was/am disconnected from my body. Constantly ignoring all of its signals and needs. The bartender, who had tattoo sleeves on both arms, heard me tell my mom and exclaimed, “didn’t that hurt so bad!?”

I barely felt it.

I don’t think I want to continue to not feel things. I just want to be. But I feel so trapped and scared. Sometimes it’s so uncomfortable I can’t stand it.

This morning, on Mother’s Day, my first born woke me up crying at 4:54am. Upon checking on her, she said she needed a hug. Chick, I know. I get that. I am so tired I could have really used another hour or two of sleep. I’m betting the husband was planning on letting me sleep in. But it’s ok. I have had more nightmares in the past couple weeks leading to waking up in a panic and unsure what is reality and what is not. My heart races, there is a huge pit in my stomach, and I spend the whole day with that fear even though I come to figure out it was just a dream. I wake up needing a hug too.

On Thursday tears finally came. They were tears of shame, fear and loneliness. Shame because I was confronted about purging; one of my biggest fears. Shame because I let my family down and I could hear the concern and disappointment in my husband’s voice which was gut-wrenching. Fear because I felt like that behavior was being taken away without it being my choice. Fear because the one action my husband wanted me to do was to call the psychiatrist. It felt like an ultimatum, even though it wasn’t actually one. I felt backed into a corner with no one on my side.  The eating disorder felt backed into a corner, and it feels terrible. The eating disorder part of me is still sick about it. I almost called to cancel approximately 5 times since making the appointment.

We made the phone call hours later during session. Which was the plan before I was outed, but I always have to feel like it’s my choice, and at that point I just felt like everybody was saying I didn’t have a choice anymore. I had too much anxiety to be the one to physically make the phone call, so my therapist did. She had to leave a message because no one answered. “Call back within the hour, please.” I almost got out of there without an appointment but they fucking called back with 9 minutes to spare. Fear took over and I couldn’t say anything except respond to a handful of questions with “no.”

I don’t remember a lot of my session Thursday because I spent most of it trying not to cry and then actually crying. At some point, my therapist invaded my massive bubble of personal space, put her hands on my knee, and said some things. I have no idea what she said. I was too focused on trying very hard to reject that feeling of someone caring. And then there were a lot of tears. The eating disorder part of me was completely freaking out: This feels like failing. I’m crazy. I’m not thin enough to even have an eating disorder and now a psychiatrist gets to think, yup fucking crazy–not even thin but all sorts of fucked up. 

The wise part of me is thankful for breaking down the walls. Caring physical touch is so hard for me. I’ve been dodging it as best I can since at least high school. But I’m starting to think it’s almost necessary. My brain literally is like what the fuck is this, and then it’s like, wait, breathe, this person cares. Really cares. I guess if I perceive that someone cares, it chips away at the eating disorder so without even thinking about it, I push away when things get too close for the eating disorder’s comfort. For me, it’s hardest for the eating disorder to break through physical touch. I can’t come up with any more excuses for why someone doesn’t care and I can’t throw up any more walls when physical touch is happening. And that’s scary.

That must be why my brain can’t make sense of unsafe physical touch. If physical touch is something that truly signifies, to me, love, then using that in an unkind way will wreck me.

I don’t allow safe physical touch generally because I’m protecting myself from getting hurt. If I don’t let you in, you can’t hurt me. Letting someone in actually feels wrong to me. Like I’m not allowed to go down that path. I have all kinds of GET THE F AWAY alerts going off when strangers or acquaintances or sometimes even friends merely touch my shoulder.

This bothers me so much. I don’t want to be like this. I actually want that. It’s actually my first instinct to do that, or accept it, but then something else happens that comes from a place of fear and wins over that first instinct. I want to feel loved. But I can’t accept it.

I want to be the kind of mother that is able to recognize what kind of love my own kids need, and offer it always. Sometimes, when I’m really hating myself, it takes everything I have in me to hold my children for as long as they need. I don’t want it to be a chore. I want it to go back to just coming naturally. But it’s difficult when I have this gigantic personal space barrier up all the time.

I’ve been really focused on food-related baby steps. Maybe this week my baby step is to practice leaning in when someone is trying to show love instead of letting the automatic rejection happen. I often pick up a kid to avoid a good-bye hug or avoid eye contact so it can’t happen. Maybe I can at least make eye contact upon greeting and saying good bye.

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