But last week, I did my usually sprint into the office to grab the bathroom key before my appointment and was stopped short. By a very old woman, leaning against a walker and talking with Dr. S's secretary/office manager/all-around wonderful person.
I was a bit flustered by her being there. Is she a patient? Is she someone's grandmother, paying a bill or arranging for an appointment? Dear God, don't let her be a patient! She must be 80; she should be home surrounded by her loving grandchildren and great grandchildren, baking pies and cookies — NOT battling an eating disorder!
I did not ask Dr. S about her (and I know he wouldn't be able to tell me anything.) BUT had I even mentioned her age, I know he would have said, Of course people in their 70s and 80s battle eating disorders. Or something like that. Since I also knew this deep down, but did not want my knowledge confirmed, I didn't say anything.
I don't want to face the reality that an elderly woman could be battling anorexia or bulimia. I don't want to know that on so many different levels . . .
I haven't been able to get the stooped, elderly woman out of my mind. Was she a patient? No, that's not possible. She was too old. WAS she anorexic? Bulimic? Was she still fighting her demons? WHO WAS SHE???
I know I'll never know.
Sometimes I think of my own situation. I am 45 and still struggling with anorexia nervosa. I am still trying to climb my way out of a relapse. After gaining some weight at a PHP this summer, I've lost most of it and am only maintaining.
Each day I try to eat more to gain weight. This past week has been back and forth. I'll eat well and then panic, swallowing a bunch of laxatives and watching all my efforts go down the drain. Other days, I try to eat what feels a little safer and only add a few hundred extra calories.
Then the war starts in my head. You are getting TOO FAT! See that huge stomach and thighs? Feel that pudgy waist? You are a BIG FAT LOSER?
Get some laxatives and cleanse yourself of all this dirty food. Then go back to the basics. Eat as little food as possible. YOU ARE FAT FAT FAT! Everyone around you thinks that. They just won't tell you — yet.
You don't need food and you don't deserve food.
But eating less is not healthy. I need to be healthy in order to complete my graduate classes and have some sort of a future. To have a life with my husband. To enjoy the fullness of living.
To be less afraid and less anxious.
My mind is constantly this war zone. I sometimes feel as if I am going to shatter in a million different pieces, literally implode upon myself until I'm nothing but a pile of broken dreams and promises. No future.
Then I think of the old woman. I imagine I am her . . .
The year 2050. I am 85. Hopes of recovery are long gone. Counting calories and losing weight has defined me for decades. I am told I am too thin, but I don't believe it. I still could stand to lose a few more pounds. My gaunt face looks at the doctor's face and I laugh.
I am thin. THIN THIN THIN
This is the most important thing about me. Everything else has faded, sucked into the black hole of anorexia. There is nothing left. I never finished graduate school. I became too weak and had to drop out. I've been living on odd jobs and finally, at some point, disability. My husband has left me and I have few friends.
I am alone.
Dear God, please let her be somebody's grandmother. She can't have an eating disorder. She doesn't have anorexia or bulimia. Maybe she was friends with Dr. S's secretary and just stopped by. Maybe she was there to thank Dr. S for the recovery of her granddaughter or grandson.