Everything seems so busy this week! I shouldn’t actually be writing now, but writing is presently my favorite way to start the day, so humph. There’s a lot of important things I did this summer, but there’s a whole other imaginary, unorganized pile waiting for me calling, “Hey, you didn’t get to me yet!” Yesterday, though,was pretty cool. I walked into a room and a few people I hadn’t seen in a year called me by name: “Hi, Laura!” It was really nice! I didn’t necessarily remember other people’s names, though. In fact I felt very shy about saying their names back. So, two people called me by name, and I said, “Hi, how are you?” Then a woman kindly introduced herself to me. I didn’t know how to reply so I was like…”Hi” and then “I’m Laura” with a laugh since it was pretty obvious by then. Oh, well, guess it’s good I smiled and gave eye contact. Even that used to be hard.
Growing up I came to think that crushes could replace each other. Get a fresh, new crush for all the grades in school, better yet multiple, because nobody is real and going to last. With good intentions, I remember one therapist telling me when I was hung up on a guy, something along the lines of, Not to worry–he isn’t the only one. But I wasn’t satisfied with my therapist’s answer and stayed stuck on “Bob” until devising a deeper explanation. Eventually, I decided Bob was a cousin in my previous life. At first I thought he’d been a close friend who left me behind. Then I changed my mind to boyfriend (but interestingly never husband), until finally landing at cousin. The reason I ended up at cousin is because the two of us seemed related–not directly–but it is clear that I liked Bob because of something left-over; my experience with him was painfully raw to the point of debilitating, which is not the same as life-giving long-term. The crush after Bob I initially told myself had been a brother or husband. However I later decided, No, he was a “bad” uncle. In fact, I had a dream with this person, “Mark,” and he acted as a greedy superior, but gave me important sustenance I needed for my family to survive, which probably explains my prior attachment to him in this life. Nevertheless, whatever happened then did not give Mark permission to try and control me! Before Bob and Mark came “Sam,” whom I originally pinpointed as having been my father. Sam, I more recently decided, was my rival fraternal twin brother. Why else did I see into “him” from the back without first receiving a forward introduction?
I have no human, familial brothers. However, my dad’s mom had lots of brothers. My dad’s dad had brothers too. I never met any of these brothers; they died before I was born. On the other side, Mom’s mom was pretty much neglected by her dad, a tidbit referred to in my book. Even though I didn’t know any of these great uncles, great-grandparents, etc. it isn’t surprising that I perceive them in various guys I’ve been drawn to. My purpose in writing is that not every crush is the same. No, not at all! Intense crushes require effort and investigation in order to understand emotionally. From that point, the right bond will be made (which isn’t necessarily lover), or the bond tapers off and gets less stuck. Other crushes, of course, are unimportant bullies. Still yet, I’ve become curious about someone because it appeared his family already had a relationship to mine on some level, such as through a deceased grandparent. Then again, there are also new folks who come along and bring with them a purely mystical reason for wanting without logical explanation beyond. I honestly believe that once history is worked through, the kind of person desired becomes obvious, whether it is a previous crush, new ability to make room, some flexible combination or at the very least taking in what is already there, which could be a whole lot.
Yesterday, I wondered what it would have been like to be a son instead of a daughter. I don’t want to be a man and am happy with my womanhood. Why, then, do I still shun it away 11-12 years after being diagnosed with anorexia nervosa? This week I got fitted for bras. When I was still sick/underdeveloped I could get by with something cheap from almost anywhere, but for me today bras are quite pricy and can only come from one place. When asked my size, I said the right bandwidth but a combination of letters I knew was too small because I’m ashamed of my cup size. I realized after getting my new bras with the correct fitting that it was wrong to keep jamming myself in. Maybe that sounds comical, and I’ve been made fun of (slash complimented) for being full there, but it’s unhealthy and disheartening to stuff my body too tight and feel the need to hide this expression out of my control. I hope one day I’ll be completely comfortable and stop trying to push her away…
I’ve attempted my beet story below before. Last week it came up again. Much of this writing relates to Sick.
I didn’t know how to cook, and ended up experimenting with purple (“red”) beets. I peeled the beets and cut them up. That took a while since beets are hard. I tried to steam the beets. They were taking a really long time because I fretted over using the lowest heat possible. More people entered the small kitchen, and things got tense. My dad started to prepare his pasta. My mom had her bread in the toaster. I became concerned about mixing utensils and my food getting messed up by particles from theirs, which nobody understood. I remember sitting down, and trying to eat the beets but they were still too hard, then people lost patience. I ran into my closet, screaming not because I was purposely starving myself like the anorexic people saw me as, but because I was starving. Everybody thought I should eat and get “healthy” as soon as possible, but nobody, it seemed, intended that I be genuinely fed.
My story about steaming beets is one of numerous interrelated tales that took place at the condo in Maryland. I remember, for instance, when I was with my sister outside on a bench after attempting to eat something that would impress other people. Then I got ill. I couldn’t eat whatever, gain weight and be so-called normal. For a time I had to go on a very special regimen. After being so restricted it’s no wonder that once I finally took risks with other foods I just wanted to eat! It took at least four years from the time I got down to my lowest weight at 18-19, then reached my highest and finally dipped back to a healthy, comfortable and maintainable place by 22.5.
There’s a very particular radius containing specific landmarks where a lot of things happened. Some of these landmarks include: the condo, the shopping center, the middle school, the high school, and the doctors office. In my head each place is distinctly concentrated because my experiences were so divergent. At the heart of this space things went well for a period. As the circumference broadens, memories of anorexia take over and the remainder of my unhappiness trails throughout. Today, I was in the parking lot of the shopping center. Suddenly I sensed a broad darkness circulating above me, containing the entire span of the condo, the shopping center, the middle school, the high school and the doctors office. Following the release of this ominous mushroom, it was as though I finally came together for the first time. The reason for this mushroom is not random. Earlier, I was walking at the water. For a while I stood there observing. Then out she came! This girl I’ve been holding so long. I saw her, curled up in a ball, trying so hard to look and decipher herself entirely contrary to the way she was taught life works: get good grades to define yourself here, add a little bit more up on the basketball court there, etc. I took very good care of this girl, but am quite relieved now that she is free.
They chose their world over remembering our friendship now that I wasn’t part of their everyday lives. What’s annoying is how they stole what I’d brought to the group…but neglected me! The nicknames I made up for various girls. The fascination with sport(s). The childish inside-jokes. They didn’t need me there to take these things. Better to forget Laura, close her off completely and act like it was all their own. Because I didn’t need anybody, right, and was just spoiled rotten to get to move to California even though one of the main reasons why my family left is because things weren’t going well in the sense that people were unhealthy/unhappy, so we wanted something different and very far away.
My sense of Laura got stitched into setting. Through the process of becoming that world, I lost everything that makes me. Throw “Laura” away and take this other version instead because it’s better. She’s a small, comical girl everyone wants to pinch at and to take from. She doesn’t need anything so just eat from her lunchbox. She won’t notice anyways. In truth I needed those people more than I needed to feed myself because I felt so scared and alone. Today, I cannot push up against their webbing anymore. It took a while to stop rubbing and let fully sink in: Fifteen years ago, I was one of “them,” I belonged with those people and had my place. Of course there were other groups too but everybody thought I was cool. People saw me was an attractive substitute version of myself—not at all reflective of the depth, potential, creativity, passion and underground worlds I manifest. This life and kind of fun wrote all over me, creating distance at heart. It will kill me to keep feeling sorry about missing my social heyday when it’s in fact nothing compared to the gold mine I’ve unlocked from inside.
My first name is easy: Laura. I’ve always just gone by Laura. In 2010, I started to integrate Susanne (pronounced a tad softer than Suzanne, but not Susan). For a lot of girls or young women, I think it’s a phase to start including their middle name, such as on social media. For me, though, incorporating Susanne, my middle name, rectified an important distinction.
When I think of “Laura Yochelson,” I get stuck in the way other people see that girl as an eight, nine, 10 year-old. Laura Yochelson, yes, she played basketball and she was a good student with lots of friends. However, in preschool and kindergarten, when all most people could get out was Laura, I was viewed entirely differently. I like that Laura more than Laura Yochelson because she feels more natural to me and, hence, safe.
As I got older and other people had the same name or similar names things started to get confusing, so it’s no wonder Laura became overridden by “Laura Yochelson” almost totally. Laura Yochelson makes me think of the color blue. Laura Susanne Yochelson is purple. She can even be pink, and unlike Laura Yochelson, isn’t netted by red. One belongs within the other, but both are not the same. I need people to think of me as Laura Susanne Yochelson because she is how I would like to be perceived. Since my name isn’t Laura-Susanne, I still go by Laura when it’s without the Yochelson.
In short, constantly rechecking myself until she’s gone.
This is scary and hard to write, but I’m going to try anyways. In Sick I describe OCD via thoughts, rituals, calculations and feelings of being followed. More specifically, that sense from behind like “they’re” coming after me. (Throughout anorexia nervosa, “they’re” refers more specifically to the voices telling me I shouldn’t eat to guard against going spoiled.) A perfectly round apocalypse in the upper back. I’ve done something terribly wrong and my ability to culminate in speech is consequently being deafened. “They’re” going to get me and take her away. To the extent I am able to navigate this “they’re” biochemical loophole dictates my appearance to the world as a person. Most people can’t tell if I fake it/readjust/hold back from the inside coming out in order to quell the tension I experience as if darts are being shot from the outside in, keeping me twisted tight, tight, tight like a rope that can’t be squeezed out anymore. When I was being made, a baby or child some “energy” stomped on me with a very heavy foot, and the impounded imprint from a harsh heel that dug too deep permanently distorted the perception.
I’ve been told that in my soul this life I’m a wild stallion running free. It’s hard to imagine how much farther I’d be if I didn’t have this other stuff to deal with. Then again, I think working through it is my way of test-riding… Can’t wait to experience the real thing soon.
One of my summer projects has been working with a graphic designer. We collaborated on creating logos. With these logos specific templates are being designed that can be used for a business card, bookmark, flyer, social media, etc. The process of working with her has been helpful to me for a variety of reasons. In particular, for the first time I’ve found a way to represent myself that identifies with more than eating disorders, but doesn’t neglect them.
Originally, I played around with two separate sets of terms for my logo. For the first set, I thought about combining “author” and “teacher,” but that seemed too serious to describe me! That is why, more recently, I added the creative “artist” to my title, so I am now “Author, Teacher, Artist.” For the second set of terms, I chose words to clarify the approach I wanted to incorporate in the design, and to encompass the message in my work as a writer, presenter, movement instructor, potential massage therapist/esthetician, etc. I brainstormed a list including “beauty,” “environment,” “health,” “lifestyle,” “spirituality,” “wellness,” and others. I was originally going to combine “environment” with “body” and “healing,” but as such came out too long and potentially complicated. Anyways, if somebody is into “body & healing,” which is what I selected, they are most likely aware and into the environment too, hence my decision to include green in the design.
For the colors I selected not only green, but also orange and purple. I thought about what these colors mean to me on a high level, and they evoke depth when combined. I also considered blue and red alongside yellow. But blue is already so popular, red is personally quite intense, yellow can be hard to see and, actually, is already special as the main color of my first book cover. I also enjoy the combination of pink and silver, but these seemed a little fancy, and perhaps too girl-oriented; the font is elegant/fun instead.
After the designer and I talked, she developed images representative of my ideas and what we discussed. I decided on the design of three blended stripes, which somewhat resembles the qualities of a shooting star. I also considered the image of a fish or dolphin. Even though my take with the designer was totally unique, fish and dolphin are already famously recognized in other forms, such as sports mascots, recreational parks or restaurants. I wanted a symbol that is gentle and meaningful yet didn’t make someone immediately think of a popular association when they saw it. The designer also developed a uniquely shaped box that includes my initials, LSY, traced in white.
At this point we’re still working on the business card, so nothing is completely final yet. I will be in charge of the printing, and the designer is providing suggestions, so I’m getting excited to begin carrying these around, because then I’ll no longer have to explain myself through cards that include the term “eating disorder,” although if anorexia nervosa is something I want to bring up upon first meeting someone, that’s fine too!
I once had a friend named Kathy. Kathy and I became friends because we saw each other everyday. When Kathy came over, she always compared my family’s house to hers. She liked where I lived more and was jealous. Even though it made me feel bad, I told myself Kathy wasn’t being mean, she was just insecure.
When I joined a club at school and Kathy was already more advanced, she didn’t make an effort to introduce me to her friends. I told myself that I only needed Kathy to be there in order to feel okay in the club, even if she purposely left me out.
Later, Kathy wanted to get together. She was alone and didn’t know people. For several months, I made an effort to reach out. We met regularly. My family also provided support. But it wasn’t long before Kathy told me to my face that she didn’t want to hang out anymore. She made up an excuse by explaining that someone else said she couldn’t be my friend. Anyways, by now, Kathy had new friends with boyfriends who went out late and were super into sex/acting sexually. So long as she provided the impression of being one of them, Kathy didn’t need people like me.
This summer I wanted to go in the water in a bathing suit. I wanted to play in the waves, swim and dive. A couple weeks ago I got board shorts on sale and like them a lot. I do have a bathing suit, but I didn’t wear it. I went in the water with my clothes on, but not all the way, since I didn’t want to get soaked. I also wanted to surf, which I did somewhat as a tween/teen, but haven’t since then. There are specific places related to the water and living here previously that I will visit soon. Two weeks ago I did something special for myself when I got a makeover, then gave a signed copy of my book to the store, and purchased new clothes, all reasonably priced!
At home, I took down all the childhood pictures. I organized these pictures in 2009, and finally got sick of looking at them. I need a new bed/mattress and artwork, but that may not happen for a while. I also want to improve my diet, and already know what I’m going to do. However, there is an issue because I cook a vegetable in advance then never want to eat it. I try not to waste food, and still think it is good to practice, but this whole cycle is annoying. It isn’t like I’m not eating or eating junk, I just need new options without creating more work.
I surreptitiously told myself that, in conjunction with my second book coming out, I was going to be ready to meet someone. Well, I’ve always been ready, but then again not really. At this point I’m not realistically interested in any guy I’ve previously had a crush on from school, work, etc. At the beginning of summer or during various points I may have felt more optimistic about one or two of these people, and even if it was hard to confess my feelings (or, on the contrary, to hold them in), I realize the best way for something to happen is by me liking differently. Some of the guys I’ve previously “liked”–recent, far-off, whatever–I don’t want anything to do with, but not in a nasty way. I put “like” in quotations because there are some people I’ve liked as in an attraction out of my control but not a relation I want intuitively. This is a potentially manipulative other I am interested in out of need as opposed to desire; I have to get “my” feelings out or plainly get out because due to a characteristic vulnerability he’s gotten in and, ultimately, using me.
I’ve gotten so good at getting around without a relationship and do rely on having my own space, so it will be interesting to see if when seriously presented with an opportunity I’ll actually want it. I have been rejected (which generally results in me feeling more relieved/glad this nonsense is finally over than disappointed), and I do reject people or opportunities, but again, not in a nasty way. Part of the reason why I don’t “try” harder is because I fear those things I need being taken away; I became so traumatized throughout anorexia; in the wrong relationship I easily become very unhappy and trapped. Then again, it isn’t that I don’t try, but I’d rather have no boyfriend than be tied down by too many relationships, especially those that feel forced.
At this point in life my most real moments have been with myself. Hence, does the type of relationship I’ve written about mean enough to truly want? Of course there are moments when I just want him, but this kind of “he,” I know, is already with me and I, literally, cannot look outside my heart for another. Certain people make me feel more passionate than others but if I can’t access that passion with a particular individual, or if he doesn’t give me room to move with it, then of course I’d rather be alone. I used to do certain things to try and make myself more desirable. Today, if something I do makes me come off as attractive, cool, but I do it for a bigger reason than to look good or win somebody else.
Well, I finally turned in a revised galley. I began my initial design/publishing process in October 2013 and am satisfied, honestly, with everything since then. The cover is complete. Hence, late September, October or even early November 2014 should be good timing for my book to be ready/available. I already have several upcoming events lined up for Sick and additional in process but am eager to share my new fiction book regarding romance and relationships. It’s going to be weird, I think, not having this second book to come back to; I have trained myself to be so focused and almost reliant on the process of working through it. I’m hoping not to start a third book right away so that I can get out without thinking about writing more, but will happily continue blogging and doing articles.
This year is going to be really busy! Three quarters of next month I will be in Washington, DC area training, giving talks and teaching. I will visit again in December related to a trip to Florida. Before summer 2015 I would also like to visit a couple places in Colorado because there are several schools there I am curious about. I remember going to Boulder on our move to San Diego in 2001. I liked it. I would miss the ocean a lot, but the programs I am interested in are quite special and from what I can gage at this point not much like them is available elsewhere. For instance, if go forward with adding esthetician to my repertoire, they have unique, holistic schools. However if I decide to move forward with massage that can be done locally. So there is quite a difference but I want this badly enough at least to compare fairly. It really isn’t about rushing to get certified or licensed because I already have other skills; I want where I go to be what’s most healing.
For transitioning reasons, summer has seemed stressful but I’ve also done some great things for myself and, just this week, met a couple new and supportive people. In the meantime I aspire to be out of my childhood troubles and comfortable with or without that version of myself. I also don’t want to get stuck in relationships where sharing my feelings is prohibited at worst, strangely odd at best. Part of me wants to make the most of prior affiliations, another part just wants the relief of things being over that I never got a chance to appreciate as complete. I’m getting less sensitive on the topic of eating disorders and feeling grateful that sharing my own experiences is helping people.
As a child and tween in Maryland, I wasn’t at all needy for a boyfriend. As I’ve written before, a lot of boys just liked me, based on my basketball version. I never had to master the act that most girls do to attract boys because of the way my tough, smart and funny personality insulated others from my shunned insecurities.
As 12 year-old in California it became apparent that liking a boy wasn’t enough to make me feel more sexy than ashamed or comfortable impressing him in that way. I’m writing about this now, because last night a cute guy seemed to be looking at me. But I couldn’t act more sexy as if to say “I’m interested!” or get through underneath his sunglasses and hat. That just isn’t who I am, I thought. So, I smiled, looked away and kept going. I love to be sexy on my own and to fantasize, but for “sexy” to be another’s first impression is something I’ll have to get more used to being comfortable with.
What I wanted: to be a WNBA player.
What happened: I basically quit basketball in middle school.
What one parent wants: to pay for me to get the master’s I don’t want.
What another parent wants: for me to make more money.
Who I probably could have been: applied and gone to an Ivy League like my dad’s side, even though he reassured me that summa cum laude from American University is very highly recognized.
What I should have done: Been more patient with my book until it was more ideal.
What happened: Some people were critical, but I didn’t lose momentum or time and started right away on my second book.
I’ve only sung once, on my own, in front of a crowd. But people who heard were complimentary. My voice is pretty soft. On my own I love to sing or pretend. It is hard for me to sing with others around. It must feel so powerful to be a singer who is really tuned in and able to sing, like, from the gut. I wouldn’t want to be a famous singer and lose my writing. Then again, the idea of having my own recording studio and CD is pretty awesome. I’ve never had singing lessons, though, and would want to write my own lyrics. Along those lines I’d like an instrument to go along with my voice. I want to drum with my hands, learn piano and play guitar.
I’ve done drawing, painting and photography more than singing in the past. It would be hard for me to take up drawing and painting intensely because of the concentration and focus I put into writing. A more reasonable start might be ceramics or craft and jewelry making.
My dad’s mom gardened. She did the roses at her apartment complex and planted trees at our house. I don’t have much experience gardening, but because my grandmother was good, I’d probably be too.
I don’t like to be friends, colleagues, etc. with someone who supports another person the first person knows hurt me.
Is that being too mean or picky?
No, because it takes a lot to “hurt” me. For better or worse, I prefer to be on good terms with everybody. In fact, I’m often on good terms–or just plain no terms–with people who hurt me.
But when I trust someone to be my friend first, and for whatever reason (s)he hails the other person or circumstances in front of my face, I leave both.
I want to learn how to do my nails because I’m bad at it. I want to paint a flower on my thumb like I got for the eighth grade dance. I want to understand my feet.
I want to learn how to do make-up. I’m better at make-up than nails because I experiment everyday with my face. I don’t wear that much make-up and am generally more interested in the regimen that comes before. In fact, I think I look better with less make-up because when it falls I look sad and old. But what I put on has to be exact.
I want to learn sugaring. I want to learn these three things, for starters, not because I’m conceited or don’t enjoy my appointments but because I want to feel more competent. I want to not have to wait until my nails get way gross and my skin gets noticeably hairy; I want to learn what makes me feel pretty because I am tired of paying for myself.
During a period in my childhood I preferred Kamino, which is by nature more alluring. With age I came to appreciate Yochelson’s footing and sophistication.
This isn’t based on my own family; just a culmination of ideas.
Bossy family members feel threatened by the sick person because they cannot authorize her. Bullying family members are hostile. Healthy family members confuse the sick person who thinks she is like them. Older family members are less sensitive. Popular or cool family members are difficult to communicate with because they feel fake. Likewise, secretive family members never express direct concern or face the gal and are ultimately off-base.
Note about bossy family members
Earlier on I had a tendency to draw bossy people into my life. I let girls who wanted to hang out with me push me around. People liked to pull at me; I remember complaining to my mom about my arm hurting.
While cooking, a bossy family member might “force” another to test some of his or her food to see if it is ready. If the other person refuses to try, turmoil ensues.
Does it make me feel bad to see other girls, and their pictures with their boyfriends on the Internet?
For a woman who doesn’t have a boyfriend, she features herself as the center in a group of men.
For a woman who does, 100 people support a picture just because they’re together.
For a typical woman my age I think her relationship is about the image of being taken. If she is, she’s desirable. If she isn’t, she must make herself wanted through the appearance of being threatening via a combination of having numerous men allies and highly attractive, close women friends plus taking part in an active, ideal, essentially famous-looking life located somewhere important-sounding.
I see women and their pictures with men/boyfriends. Much of the time I’m not jealous, let alone impressed. Boosting one’s self through the momentary reactions of others to a photograph that says “we’re together” cuts off the breathing room for a relationship to evolve individually. Does anybody notice whether his arm is around her shoulder like a buddy or nestling the waist? If they’re kissing, is he embracing her or posing? She has her hand on the front of his body and looks so in love, but he just stands there and doesn’t seem to care. Maybe it’s healthy every other girl I know is proud enough to post her relationship online. At this point, she’s still oblivious to any apparent incongruence, and of course it’s cool to show-off.
To conclude, I’m tired of not receiving the same social support as girls who have boyfriends. Since I don’t have a boyfriend, people assume I’m not as happy or satisfied as I could be. People laugh or call me slow. But those other girls with their boyfriends are by no means ahead.
I shared about my book with handfuls of folks relevant to the story. Many of these folks I hadn’t seen in years. Some of them I gave free copies to. I thought they would care more; that I would get a heartfelt message in return, or a follow-up. But, if anything, the answer I received was, “Sorry, I haven’t had time to read it yet.” Then she avoided me. I’ve seen my characters from my story inaccurately mixed and used without reference, yet Sick explicitly states that names have been changed to protect others; certain settings are altered. (I was hurt by what appeared to be an attempted present day reenactment of a meaningless, ultimately irrelevant childhood feud.) It also bothers me when someone doesn’t read all the way through. For instance, to the diagnosis of my eating disorder, just because they judge it as irrelevant to them. Or maybe they stop at when I became a vegetarian because they like that, although later I explain about needing to eat animal foods.
San Diego is much different than Maryland or DC. Many more attractive men surround me. I see someone I “could like” at the beach, in the grocery store or walking around a nearby shopping center. Everyday, based on the regular places I go, there are numerous opportunities. When I lived on the east coast and saw someone I might like, l felt instant pressure. Here, I’m learning not to trouble myself so much.
In college, I had one crush my first semester. He ended up transferring. Then, after my year off, I studied in a program that drew more women. The last semester I almost liked someone younger, but not really, mostly because of the way his various features reminded me of another.
I met additional men through my work as a personal trainer. Although it seems like this type would fit well due to my own interest in fitness and nutrition, and I did develop two serious crushes over a period of four years, they were wrong. I don’t mean “wrong” in a judgmental kind of way, because I truly did put effort into getting to know each. One came roughly a year after the other. In between, there actually was someone I liked at school, only because he came at that time right before I got my first period.
Following my two serious crushes, I couldn’t desire another or be attracted and consumed myself, emotionally, back-and-forth. One night I decided to write down every guy I’d ever liked. I listed my crushes in one column, and all of the boys who’d historically liked me in another. Based on this chart, I circled the people who really stood out. I directly contacted one. It soon became obvious that he was just more of the same.
Then, something happened. Someone came into my life who was exactly like one of my two serious crushes. I got confused. I wanted him to be a better version of the same person, but facing him through me “God” indicated he wasn’t.
Now it is summer 2014. According to my age, surroundings and astrology, this was or is supposed to be my time, yet regardless of how much others are impressed by what I’ve accomplished, I’m only 50% of where I’d like to be distinct from a relationship. Four years ago I met with a shaman who told me I wasn’t going to date; there is only one person and I have one baby. But my location, today, doesn’t correlate with her reading of around Canada, where she said my husband, children and I escaped to in the last life from eastern Europe, but then I left my family and died on my mission to help “my people” who made it to the United States. (In the life before that I lived in Russia and fought tyranny, she explained.) Although a couple months after meeting with the shaman I did take a retreat in the Berkshires, Boulder (after Miami) is most likely my next trip. I’m also over liking men because they share my religion, even if others prefer it that way.
A childhood that holds nightmarish meaning, is but a tiny fraction of the life grown out of it for them, cut-off from me.
To them, I’m an unfulfilled legend or begone from history.
To me, I have nothing but not making it.
Ellie is in the process of writing a memoir on anorexia nervosa and blogs at http://ellieherman001.wordpress.com. Ellie is also a student at Albright College, where she studies psychology. For this guest post, she bravely shared an excerpt of her writing.
Eating disorders use several different torture methods to bring pain to the afflicted.
Hunger Pains. You think you know what it feels like to be hungry, but having an empty stomach is a pain that completely overrides that of skipping lunch. Pangs shoot through your abdomen, and you know exactly what the cause is. If you occupy yourself, you can usually train your mind not to notice these pangs though… or maybe your stomach just stops twisting itself in screaming protest because it learns that your stubborn self will not be delivering the food it demands any time soon. When your stomach is empty, there’s a dull sensation that persists even when the pangs stop though. This is not over-powered by the mind and is not something that can be trained to subdue. The dullness will last as a silent shriek from your body.
Heart pains. These don’t manifest until the disorder has well-established itself as a part of you. Your body is depleted of nutrients, energy, flesh, and muscle. It shouldn’t be pushed, physically, to do much of anything in this state, but the anorexic mind knows no boundaries to the things it decides to do to the body. The mind wants it to move, to burn more energy, to whittle away. The heart, being a muscle, pulls at any resources it can: the stomach (empty), the muscles (dilapidated), and is forced, then, to pull only from itself. It’s been weakened too by the lack of nourishment, and as it pulls on itself its owner feels its strain. Close to the skin because there is no flesh even on the chest to cushion it, the heart makes itself all too known to the anorexic mind. Painful pounding, painful pulling.
Cramps. These usually happen at night. You’ll wake up and realize that a pain is shooting through your calf. Surely there is someone stabbing you. Surely your leg is missing. Or, maybe it’s a pain in your toe this time. You realize you can’t move your toes; they’re locked in a binding cramp. These cramps are not coincidental. This does not just happen regularly to everyone. Your body is deprived and yanking at strings, and muscles are made of strings. “Potassium,” it says in its dying voice. “Need potassium.” And it draws it from the fibers of your thin legs as a last resort.
Guilt. You feel bad about what you ate. You feel bad because you ate something out of your normal “routine.” You ate something that wasn’t “safe.” You ate something good, something delectable, something sinful. It was likely delicious, but you feel like you shouldn’t have eaten it. Surely it has already ruined your discipline. Surely your stomach is now a beer belly. Surely the people who saw you eat it have now disowned you. The guilt of eating is a pain like no other.
Guilt. You feel bad about not eating. Your body is pleading for nourishment. It really doesn’t care what type at this point…what it wouldn’t do for a calorie. But, you’ll deny it that luxury for as long as you possibly can. It doesn’t feel good. You’re only convincing yourself that it feels right. Deep down you feel bad about not putting that food in your mouth, allowing your body its deepest desire, granting your family and friends confidence in your ability to overcome this demon. The guilt of not eating pains you and others who watch you shrink.
Others’ eyes. People look at you differently when you’re too skinny and when you’ve gained weight. When you’re too skinny, it’s a pity look. Their eyes plead with you to eat. The sorrow there is usually genuine; they’d gladly give you any food they have on their persons. Family’s eyes are the worst. Filled with love and pain and fear for your whittled future, these eyes will haunt you even after reaching a stable body weight. You caused that fear, that longing, that feeling out of control. In reaching for your own control, you take it from your loved ones, leaving them in the same pool of emotion that you put yourself in.
Fullness. When you do start putting food into your malnourished body, it is shocked. Your stomach simply is not used to having mass in it, and it contracts with surprising strength for its shrunken size. The pain can make you think eating is wrong, too much for your body, an unfortunate side effect to doing exactly what you need to do: eat more. Your little stomach stretches itself, trying to accommodate the new nourishment in its clutches, but this stretch can be excruciating. You feel full after a few bites of a meal.
In elementary and middle school, various girls called me by best friend. With one I shared lockets. However the two of us became more distant by age nine due to my engagement with basketball. When my family moved, neither of us made an effort to keep in touch. Ironically the main similarity we shared is that both of us wanted to grow apart from our childhoods. Yet, our approaches to doing so were contradictory.
In first grade, I reasonably considered the person I got to know the best soonest to be my best friend. As I got older she continued to seem safer because, like the girl I shared lockets with, she didn’t do competitive sports. (I did.) By third grade more people wanted to be my best friend. In sixth grade I had separate groups of best friends that didn’t get along with each other. This is in part how I ended up learning about “my” surprise party from somebody who felt excluded. Often, when I received an invitation, it mentioned not to discuss it at school since not everybody got one. Sometimes, I felt a girl who called me “best friend” did so because she wanted to own me.
As an adult, it sounds childish to still hear people qualify or measure when it comes to friendship. Referring to someone else as “my best friend” while in conversation with another close friend is potentially hurtful. Of course, people like to splash their various entitled friends online because it makes them look special, too.
Not everybody has a best friend (or multiple) from kindergarten, college, the neighborhood or whatever. It’s okay to be that person who doesn’t.
More recently, I’ve come in touch with myself as an eighth grader. She is sad and alone, but not sick yet. What’s missing is the life she got used to falling back on that became too much a part of her. She cannot yet determinate the impending crisis this other version shall impose and, consequently, feels stung by a sense of ambiguity. She doesn’t talk to her old friends, or see them, because doing so doesn’t make sense; she wants freedom from that period. At school she is liked but cannot see it. She is beginning to open up to something more new and girly that basketball previously forbid, which is positive. However her physicality is clobbered. More specifically, she is incarcerated by everything she wants but isn’t allowed and doesn’t understand why or what she did wrong to need this deprivation.
- A stranger yelled at me from his car, “Hey, do you have a boyfriend?” I rolled up the window, pretended not to hear then looked away.
- He brought up sex in conversation without having formally asked me out…I ignored the rest of his messages.
- He gave me a sad, distant look. I smiled back.
- He had just gotten out of the water with two other friends and their surfboards. I walked by. One said, “Hey.” I whispered back “hi” and didn’t know what else.
- He judged me, so I explained I’m a writer. And I write books.
- He walked down the aisle, I sensed him tuning into my conversation, then he came behind me to checkout even though other lines were free. I was tired and didn’t give eye contact.
- I asked him about a simple item. He unnecessarily had me follow him around the store then asked me a question. I reacted: “Um, no.”
- I teased back at older men who teased me. Because otherwise he likes “you” and is taking advantage.
- It slipped that he has a girlfriend, but then he tried to ask me out/get closer. I wasn’t interested.
- Realized that since I’ve known him five years, and what’s between us hasn’t gone anywhere, he just makes me stuck. I disconnected completely.
- We made a plan to see each other for the first time in years but then he deferred. A couple years later when he tried to add me back, I didn’t accept.
- Force yourself to reach out and say something/break it off if you want a fair chance.
- If he suddenly starts wearing sunglasses he is trying to appear nonchalant but is ashamed.
- If he keeps restyling his hair and is noticeably stylish, he isn’t good-looking without being fake.
- If he says “call me” multiple times then he is cool, not classy.
- If it is clear he likes you, but you don’t, it’s okay to not want to hang out.
- Just because he got good grades, or would like people to think he’s smart, doesn’t mean he is able to communicate.
- Just because he’s older–maybe even a bit older–doesn’t mean he’s mature.
She doesn’t feel bad about basketball or childhood friends.
She’s plenty cool today.
She doesn’t fret over her appearance.
She has fun experimenting with different tastes and styles.
She doesn’t need to be on top of everything.
She’s very good at what she likes to do and gets by fine with the rest.
She doesn’t regret having been sick.
She has an eye-opening story to share.
She doesn’t second-guess every word that comes out of her head.
She enjoys being known as an author who is authentic.
She doesn’t walk to quell anxiety and think things through.
She surfs and does water sports–almost carelessly–instead.
She isn’t tied down by boys from the past or soul mates.
She meets new people everyday.
She isn’t torn between the east and west coast.
She has her own place.
She is obsessed with her family/husband/kids; constructing a profession through this life. Of course she appears popular and successful because her entire social network makes for an impressive patronage. To me this isn’t the same as having one’s own trade. This is taking everything she already has and using it to build “me” up: according to a mission that doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have everything else she does! Why not just admit that she needs all of those things to be held together, instead of perpetuating herself?
1. Passed a certification test to further my fitness/wellness career
2. Featured in the following media outlets:
- Montgomery College Germantown newspaper
- rebellesociety.com (“Rebelle SocietyTM“)
- LA Talk Radio
- Beutiful Magazine
- American University Magazine ~ class notes
- San Diego County Library
- helloperfect.com (“Hello Perfect®”)
3. Collaborated with graphic artist(s) on design & materials. Additionally made strides in reaching out/distributing products.
4. Presented at:
- two educational institutions ~ SDSU and Montgomery College Germantown
- two businesses ~ SoulScape Gift and Bookstore & Glimpse Living
- two libraries ~ Del Mar Library and Cardiff Library
5. Improved my writing and received new interest in various aspects of my work
I furthermore stayed consistent with keeping up this website; focusing on my second book; training/teaching and my overall direction independently and professionally. Per “non-accomplishments,” I deleted most social media accounts and attended only one networking event. At that event, at least three people took away copies of my book.
1. Spent time at the water
2. Visited meaningful places more regularly, including a park from growing up for the first time in 14 years
3. Dedicated myself to gaining closure on and ultimately outgrowing my seemingly failed and out-of-date childhood (most noticeably basketball, high school, friendships)
4. Admitted my feelings or impressions separately to two people; learned to keep my options open for what I want instead
5. Went for my first Brazilian wax
The topic of “period” is one I revisit every couple months. In Sick, I share the pressure I experienced to try and force a period. By my late teens, the message was, if you don’t get it now, you never will. I wanted to share some special details continuing beyond the end of Sick, here.
I got my period “naturally” late, late 20 to early 21. I remember because I was working on swimming lessons. Before then, I had my worst relapse of anorexia. At 18, I reached my lowest weight of around 77 pounds. I got really low again the summer I turned 19. A couple years later, I reached my high of around 156 in December 2010/January 2011. Over six months to a year I got that down to 150. Then 145 and finally mid to upper 130’s. I’ve probably been/might be/could get a little below that; I don’t know what I weigh now but am in a good range.
Before gaining “excess” weight, I got my period between 125 and 135. Initially I continued to work out hard, like trying to throw the blood away rather than let it spill. I assume a lot of ladies who don’t like themselves do that, and a lot of girls with feelings for boys who mock menstruation…
In the beginning, the process of gaining weight was slow. Reaching 90 pounds was a really big deal. With varied and experimental professional assistance I got to 100, 115, even an inadvertently impressive trim and muscular 120. The more people liked my unfinished size, the harder it became to help myself. After around ten months of being 120-110 from May 2009 to February 2010 and getting more and more fit, I started to have severe difficulties. I quit my job at the gym, needed to get treated for sensitivities and worked with a chiropractor on hormonal issues as well.
By the end of March I was healthier and gaining weight. By May 2010, I slowed down a little physically and in July halted everything except yoga, walking and massage (to a certain extent). When summer started people thought I looked really good. But I continued to gain weight–a lot piled on quickly– until about January 2011, when I finally weighed myself then freaked out and joined a gym.
The bulk of my weight was thus gained between late 20 and mid-21. At 22, I caught a bug in the process of pushing too hard in a non-conducive environment. My digestion became totally thrown off. I also had been experiencing debilitating cramps/nausea with my period and hence began work with an acupuncturist, additionally to provide assistance emotionally.
Finally, I returned to moving and being able to enjoy my physicality in winter 2011-2012. Exercise came quickly when I was well. I even took various running and aerobics electives my senior year of college, which was a big deal since I first became anorexic as a cross-country runner.
Today I don’t run or do conventional training, but I like exercise that keeps me stable. Not only do I benefit, but I also teach. And my cycle is regular. There’s still progress to be made in understanding hormones and deficiencies, but I’m on the right path, overall, with my body and healing.
Today I received sugaring on my skin and body for the first time. The esthetician played music I listened to as an eighth grader, which made the experience laughable and clearing. When it comes to health and appearances, I generally focus most on the face. Each time I make contact with the remnants of “Laura” stuck underneath “there,” she emerges a little more. The face is different than designing my hair or make-up. Although these things are fun and relevant, they are also more superficial.
Disappointment has hit me hardest in the area of childhood friendships. This is why in my second book, the main character’s friends let her down. In Sick I share how, when visiting the east coast during high school, my childhood friends didn’t understand the seriousness of my eating disorder. I only told a few people and responses I received reiterated the same story in which she tried to make me feel better by sharing about her temporary diet and weight loss. The main difference is that she didn’t receive the official diagnosis of various mental disorders. I WAS TRAUMATIZED BY MINE. If she did have something, whatever, she still had a life and boyfriend separate from it! Many of these girls had good intentions, but most of them wanted to make me like them. I tried so hard to be grateful and to be normal and to forget about food when they invited me out but let’s face it none of this was fun. As for guys, they just asked about basketball. Now that I didn’t play, nobody needed me; I didn’t matter.
Some of my disappointment isn’t at all tied to the eating disorder. It comes in, more, with a few people I was really close with before. I took what we had so seriously, and they just needed a replacement for high school or, maybe, were relieved that I left and was no longer there to contend with academically, athletically and socially.
Being a basketball player “made” my interactions with boys in elementary school. I was friends with almost every boy, “liked” by several and the only girl to ever eat lunch at their table. But I remember when a group of boys came to the house I made up an excuse for why I couldn’t participate in their game because my parents didn’t like it. When I moved and gave up basketball, I didn’t feel the same kinship. Part of this has to do with being inordinately allured and intimidated by southern California. Another part has to do with puberty. Mostly, I think, boys seeming far off is representative of my superficial associations with men, beginning in the family. As an adult today, I don’t want more there. I’m not stuck in this phase anymore.
The notes begin long, then I get into brief symbolism. Different dreams refer to a him or he, but often I don’t mean the same person.
I’m at a mall. From a distance, I look out the window and see ominous mountains. As I get closer, I realize there are buds and bushes. One of my friends–a famous actress in reality–offers support. Once more, at the mall, this time near a stairwell. On one side is a food store, the other a lingerie shop. I feel stuck then take the stairs. Later, I go grocery shopping. There are green beans. The parking lot is underground, gray and slanted. I find my way back to sunlight and feel relieved. Yet in another dream I offer a demonstration related to food. A teasing dude drives away with two others.
1. Come out with my second book. After that, I would like to continue presenting about my work but take a break from writing books. Instead, I will focus on writing articles, interviews and solidifying my skill set.
2. Begin massage school. On some level I would like to combine massage with esthetician, while still continuing along my current teaching path.
3. I’m already at the water to walk, which is highly inspiring and enjoyable! I’ve surfed and swum in the past, and look forward to doing more.
I turn 25 July 18!
I put “I like” in quotations because I don’t like because I want, it’s more that I feel compelled to get this bug out of my system.
First, his identity is more social/approval/place oriented than individual. He’s very caught up in his own life, which includes perpetually showing it (personal, professional, whatever) off on the Internet. I’m too real for him, yet, end up feeling tiny and unwanted in comparison to the world he “belongs” in and, ultimately, associates himself as being!
Second, he is convenient and that somehow makes him seem like the only option. I meet him through school, a business relationship, or the past in general makes him familiar. If he comes from the past, he may be inconvenient in terms of location. Either way, focusing on him hinders my ability to meet someone new, such as through an activity I enjoy doing or would like to pursue. In this way, he doesn’t let me acknowledge how much I’ve grown.
I get along with him because we’re similar now or, more so, because he resembles someone I used to be. In reality, he doesn’t move me closer towards what I would like to see for myself.
I wish people had noticed more, instead of feeding off my tom-boy phenomena. She isn’t the same person to me. Others saw it as a joke. Like, you should wear “real” clothes and not just basketball stuff, Laura. I thought that sport was supposed to be for me. Then, why did it take so much away?
My new routine, somedays, is to get up early and walk before breakfast. I drive to a tranquil place where I can walk with the sounds and scenery, before traffic. When I had an eating disorder I wouldn’t have been able to do this. I would have obsessed over not eating and hence becoming repossessed (by a mental illness that, unfortunately, I still had). At the same time I couldn’t stop measuring. For instance, “If I didn’t eat this morning, then I can’t eat the next morning.” I’d calculate my walking distances and have to go more each time, then push my after-walking-food off until brunch became waiting to eat until lunch, etc. In my book, Sick, I wrote about following a similar pattern, such as in ninth grade. Mom made me a turkey sandwich. First, I asked that she change the type of bread to something more whole-sounding. Then, I started to tear the crust–no matter what kind of bread. Next, I scraped away the turkey edges. I took everything apart until finally deciding, “No more sandwiches! I can’t eat bread!”
(Too bad barren turkey tormented me too.)
Recently, I spoke with yogi and writer Paula Carrasquillo. Paula is the author of Escaping the Boy: My Life with a Sociopath. During our interview and in writing, Paula shared with me about Escaping the Boy and, also, a new book that she is coming out with. Additionally, Paula is soon to be certified as a yoga teacher and through her work is dedicated to making yoga more accessible, especially for women who have struggled in abusive relationships. Finally, we discussed what Paula sees for herself and hopes to achieve in the future.
Paula started writing in college as an undergrad. “I didn’t really write that much,” she said. “I was still really apprehensive. It was a scary idea to really purge myself.”
“I was inspired by author Kate Chopin and her novel, The Awakening,” Paula told me. “This woman finds herself in a place she can’t escape.” Still, Paula never imagined she would want to publish and wasn’t sure people would see the value in what she had to say. “But people are interested,” she realizes today. And although Paula doesn’t put out everything she writes, she has a dedicated group of followers on social media, including her blog paularenee.wordpress.com.
Paula’s writing process for Escaping the Boy began with recording her own story. She was “encouraged by family and people at work” to keep going and share about her reactions to a toxic relationship.
“I was driven to share my reactions and confusion in order to make sense of what made no sense to me. I was suffering from cognitive dissonance without knowing I was suffering from cognitive dissonance. After 12 months of unsuccessful attempts to make sense of my toxic past by talking about it, my only outlet, my last resort, was to write about it, because I didn’t want to continue to burden my family and friends with my ruminations, paranoia and hyper vigilance.”
“Was it this one person or was it me?” At first Paula was unsure because she’s hadn’t experienced a person like this man in her life before. “I stuck it out in the relationship because nothing made sense. I didn’t want to abandon and give up on a person because of a few perceived flaws. In a state of cognitive dissonance, I was unable to analyze these flaws for what they were. His flaws went deep, deep into a pathology and disorder that had the potential to destroy me and my son more if I remained.”
Paula continued to describe more about the boy in her book: “He seemed on the surface to be well-adjusted, but the closer I got to him the more I realized his life was a facade. I grew more and more frightened by him and his rages and his inability to discuss and collaborate. Everything had to be his way or I was considered hateful, unloving and ungrateful. I was made to feel like all of the relationship issues were solely my fault. He took no accountability and would go as far as making claims that I was sick and needed psychiatric help and possibly in-patient treatment.”
Prior to writing her story, Paula conducted research on psychology, narcissists and sociopaths, “as a result of the sociopath claiming I was the one with serious mental defects,” she explained. “Once I started writing, I put down the research so I wasn’t directly influenced as I wrote and recalled instances of abuse and trauma. After I completed the first draft, I read The Sociopath Next Door, by Martha Stout PhD. It was validating and helped me to finalize my novelette’s title and write my introduction with confidence.”
Paula started yoga five months before she started writing her story. “Yoga came first. If it hadn’t been for my yoga practice, I may not have been at a necessary place of self-awareness to write.”
In the last portion of our discussion Paula shared more about her experiences in yoga:
“Yoga helped me gain more self-awareness and an appreciation for all of my feelings and emotions. The sociopath tried to minimize and squash my value. Yoga has taught me that no one, especially ourselves, should be given the power to dismiss us as humans. When we devalue a person’s emotions, we devalue them as a person. I want to help other victims and survivors learn to recognize when they’ve been devalued and to realize that there is an enormous amount of hope for successfully overcoming all of the abuse and trauma just by allowing themselves to feel and not deny what they feel.”
This week I visited the neighborhood where I lived from zero until I turned almost 12. Even though I went to college relatively close to this neighborhood, I didn’t actually visit until towards the end of writing my first book, three or four years later. Actually, Monday was the first time I parked the car and got out. Sometimes, doing this type of thing makes me anxious. In one of my jobs, when someone pointed out where the employees park, I remember feeling so embarrassed and ashamed. As though, “I’ll get it wrong,” in a way I thought must sound stupid and not make sense! However, this week I parked the car, got out and ventured towards the park where I used to go with my dad and sister as a child. It was getting dark, so I didn’t actually make it to the park and let myself cry without people around instead. In place I stood, listening to water and leaves and birds, surrounded by magnificent trees and rocks. Finally, I felt nourished. I also felt inspired and open. Of course, I briefly looked at the old house too. And, for the first time, I went back to where I grew up only to realize, “This isn’t real!” There is no “real” place. That neighborhood is no longer where I belong and, in truth, it only felt like home in the very beginning before Grandpa died. Because if it had been my home I would not have feared the forest, my family would have been happier, and we wouldn’t have moved 3,000 miles away in order to make a new life, albeit unlucky. Nothing ever came together in the way I wanted besides, arguably, “anorexia.”
No need to get locked into this more than I already am—he’s the one with god-speed, anyways. He should have made me out like I did him. Should have been there for me when I was struggling and REALLY needed him. Then again, how could he have “known”? His life is mostly about killing sense, after all. Meanwhile, I want to base the glue of our relationship on feelings and visions because we meet in that unique, unfamiliar fashion. To explain the world as it surrounds himself: he doesn’t have my gifts. There is a chance to show I really care and have the guts he lacks without “forcing.” He doesn’t have my answers unless I want for him to. I needed him when he wasn’t there, but I don’t have to be that person (who isn’t there) to him. Still if I really think he doesn’t care, is incapable and will land me in traps, then this is a waste of time.
Is being rejected the same as liking the wrong person? Here’s why I don’t think so.
As a tween, I liked “Tim.” I was at the top of my class in grades. He was near the bottom. But Tim seemed little–like he could be nice–and at the time I thought of myself as being insufficient and unimportant. However, it is because he was small that Tim did hurt me. Tim didn’t reject me because as I recall we did dance, but he talked behind my back, which for an insecure, vulnerable girl already thinking “I’m fat” at 5’2″ and barely 102 pounds pushed me under the line–in the wrong direction! Maybe, after all, Tim didn’t want me (I assumed he didn’t want me) because of those “extra” few pounds on my stomach! Then again, how could I possibly have expected more? I liked this boy as the consequence of my own quaggy nature–evidently, considering the fact that he had to hurt someone smarter such as myself! Following the incident in which he talked behind my back I never spoke to Tim again or even gave eye contact (besides maybe a mean look, but we barely ran into each other since I took more advanced classes). Because, the truth is, Tim got me excited but I wasn’t actually interested. As I explain in my book, I relied on the feelings crushes stimulated to escape dealing with anxiety.
Just because I didn’t get boyfriends doesn’t mean I don’t take risks with “boys.” People wanted me to go to high school dances, but I never went to a dance again after middle school! For example, I remember a guy my therapist was convinced liked me asked me one day senior year in the parking lot on the way to his truck, “Well, aren’t you going to go the dance, Laura? You should go with us…” But I’d already gone out with his group of friends once, knew the blonde girl he was more interested in, and didn’t want to get involved.
In particular, I think it is chicken when I admit what I experience and own up to my feelings and the other person can’t. So what if he claims to be seeing someone else, then why’d he unnecessarily act interested in me? To me, this is not rejection. This is liking the wrong person. Rejection would come from the right person who apologizes, takes ownership and says, “I didn’t realize I was crossing the line. I appreciate and relate to certain aspects of you but am seeing someone else.” Not the “but we can be friends” bogus when he truthfully doesn’t care.
I naively overrated my elementary school peers, but, at the same time, they were my “real” friends that made me cool and on top of the world in ways I couldn’t ever find again. Nonetheless I was able to open up to a much softer and more eloquent Laura long after leaving those people behind; she’s the version I started out as anyways, and I mean before doing ballet. That girl who sat on the porch and looked out at the forest as she painted rocks, did bead projects with the babysitter that then got ironed into hearts and made braids out of gimp.
Beginning in middle school, but especially throughout high school, I felt under considerable pressure “to get” boyfriends. This concept consumed me. As if I’d be unworthy without them! To me, the idea of not formally meeting but potentially being around a new person I might experience an attraction to provides healthy incentive to fine-tune my appearances and demeanor regularly. However, getting a boyfriend is not necessarily a reality I’m inclined to take on. I have more freedom today because younger versions of “Laura” are clear to me without being tied up in “someone else’s.” By college I already felt older and different (enough) due to my experiences with an eating disorder to admit to myself, at least by the end of it, that I don’t want to meet someone (through school) and crave more comfort and familiarity with my own lifestyle before getting involved personally. Just because I didn’t get boyfriends doesn’t mean I don’t admit or explore feelings, if only for the sake of self-growth and drawing the line professionally. I don’t think of myself as being behind or otherwise inexperienced at life. Furthermore, because I didn’t get boyfriends doesn’t mean I discredit sexuality and don’t want love. It does mean; however, that I don’t concern myself over guys like I used to. I have different priorities than many people my age, and undoubtedly a different vision for myself too!
People were so surprised. “This can’t happen to Laura. She’s an A student. She’s a great athlete. Friends and adults like her.” But as I share in my book Sick there is plenty happening earlier that explains why I became so vulnerable to my own body, to the obsessive calculating in my head and to this deadly disease.
Two themes I cover in the beginning of Sick are the death of my grandfather and being a basketball player. The death of Grandpa Sid results in me taking on too many responsibilities. I feel there isn’t a spot for me in the family, which perhaps explains in part why I became so “passionate” about basketball.
There was generally focus on being competitive as in “the best.” This focus is due to several reasons, including the locations where I grew up and the fact that something else in me couldn’t come to fruition, which is why I had to beat others as a way to define myself. At the same time I was really good at getting people to like me but felt unwanted and excessive. I excel and become so obsessed with certain things as a way to prove that slipshod secrets are meant to stay on the side.
The other day I found myself surrounded by a group of teenagers. Seeing them made me think about the one I would have liked at their age. He appears happy and Californian with darker hair—slow growing like I used to be. By Californian I mean sunny, good-looking but not self-serving, oceanic and clear. Unfortunately, as it turns out, the more I became closed off with anxiety, OCD and anorexia, the less I became interested in “open” guys. I fell for more troubled, secretive and angry underneath types that I didn’t understand as if to express own undersurface of shame. In short, I liked boys who made me feel bad. Thankfully, rather than get involved with someone else, I first learned to stop cheating myself.
When my family moved to California after sixth grade, I had one friend from Maryland over the years who visited me, “January.” January came twice. Meanwhile, my friend “Angel” and I lost touch. Nevertheless, in writing Sick, I decided to share how Angel took care of me. It was kind of her family to have me at their house a couple nights while my parents sorted out final details with the movers. I still told Angel about my book and think she read it. When January visited, she did not come alone but with family. I invited other people to stay who didn’t, briefly alluded to in Chapter 44. I remember, the first time January came was probably 2002. I used to keep a picture of Dad, January and me at the top of a hill overlooking my favorite water. I wore a sweatshirt from the middle school I, evidently, no longer attended in Maryland. Is it not sad? Because here I was with this amazing opportunity at a new and better life, but dressing like I didn’t want it!