The train that runs though Dahlia and Grey Avenue toots its whistle in-between the rhythmic dripping of the melting icicles above my window pain as the morning sun starts to rise. I lie awake, I have been for while, listening to the whispers of the parents in the family as they put the finishing touches on the presents under the tree. Every once in while, someone bumps into an ornament and you can hear them aggressively whisper “shit”. My little cousin still believes in santa and that is not to be ruined this christmas by the sudden sound of a braking bulb.
The house seems completely quiet and still except for the occasional whisper, and of course the subtle yet persisting humming noise that seems to fill the air every christmas. It’s the hum of the unrealistically high expectations I have for the holiday, forced kindness and the solemn anticipation of 11:59pm Christmas night, when it feels as though it is no longer the holiday season.
Profound connections and intuition have been the source of my anxiety since I was young, and is the leading reason why I suffer from anorexia. To my mind, people radiate emotion and thought. I absorb what is radiated. The hum. December 25th it sounds. Low and seemingly infinite. Intuition is both a treasured talent, and torture. Throughout my life it has given me the power to think introspectively and find beautiful self truths. It has given me the power to thrive purely on the joy of others and share in moments of magic. However, it can cause your soul to feel bruised as if it’s been hit time and time again yet unexpectedly and unsystematically. This is why christmas is a challenge for me. The struggle does not stem form the smell of sugar cookies and honey baked ham, but rather the inorganic and anxious nature of the holiday season manifested in the noise I hear. The hum nags as people burry sadness, or any authentic emotion, in an attempt to spread the holiday cheer that is so stubbornly expected. The human race, as a species, is smart enough to know that glossy toy boxes and the sparkle of diamonds are not selfless tokens of love and appreciation. Yet bathed in willful ignorance, like zombies, we/I participate.
With a tight fist I cling to nutrition facts and tiny portion sizes in an attempt to quiet the noise. This method of coping originated years ago when I craved for a lesser distance between me and the masses of people who walk around incognizant to the invisible forces of human emotion. After failing to change how my mind fundamentally worked I knew I would have to change something else in order to achieve my goal. At age 12, body and mind separated me as I walked around taller, thicker and more developed than my peers, a physical manifestation of my not fitting in. My eating disorder seemed, and still seems, to continuously offer a partial solution. “Listen to me, and only the mind will separate”.
Everyone settles into the living room. Aunt Kate has a designated spot on the couch because of her bad knees, mom finds the seat closest to the end table so she can organize her presents by shape, and I find a place next to the heating vent because I am eternally in a state of freezing. The rest of the family seems to move about the room in controlled chaos, handing out presents and refilling coffee mugs. As I sit their noting the facial expressions and reactions of myself and my family, I notice a new smell in the air. Mom had been up since 6am prepping the ham, and it had already been in the oven for a few hours. When the smells begin to creep into the living room, my heart rate quickens. My stomach churns, but in a way that indicates fear and not hunger. I take a break from conversation and gift giving to check the weather on my phone. Is to too cold and icy to go for a run? I google the calorie count in a slice of ham. How many slices can I eat tonight? I replace the noise of the “holiday hum” with this familiar noise I so often default to. I start to believe that food is the authority.
That is where many of us, both people who have eating disorders and those trying to comprehend the disease, go wrong. An ED is a disease of manifestations and deep feelings of inadequacy, not a disease of food alone.
My paralyzing fear of feeling unsafe in an environment simply because I am different is manifested in my paralyzing fear of gaining weight.
My addiction to exercise and laxatives is my attempt at working through the affects of overwhelming emotion on an intuitive mind.
My avoidance of adequate caloric intake is a rebellion against cultural norms that tell me I must feel a certain way, and live a certain, habitual life, that leaves me empty.
Filled with confusion as to why I feel so frantic, I stop asking google ridiculous questions and put down my phone. My shoulders hurt from tensing them up for so long, I must not have realized I was doing it. I relax them and a tear falls down the side of my cheek, but stops when it hits my nose ring. I wipe it away and hope that if anyone saw that, I could pass it off as playing with my piercing. I am sitting on a mountain of mixed emotions I must start to be mindful of. Food is not the authority here. My emotions are. I am.