The Mirror

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© Thann Clark

I see a fat girl in the mirror.

Her hair has been long and short, white platinum blonde to dark brown.  Her warpaint (or makeup, if you want to call it that) changed over the years, but she is still fat. Sweatshirts and loose clothing in somber tones to prevent attention being drawn to the body she hates has been her uniform.

Even when I am told by others that I am beginning to look too thin, she is still taunting me from her reflective hell.

She won’t go away.

Ever.

This is what having an eating disorder means to me.

Whatever you choose to call my particular disorder (diabulimia, skipping shots, or “Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified“), it’s something that will never leave me. When friends and family and acquaintances say: “You look great! Wow!”, my first thought is:

“Are you lying to me?”

It doesn’t matter that my second thought is about how good I might feel today or that I know that I do look great. The self-consciousness that came with being overweight as a teenager is forever frozen in my head. You are lying to me. I may be a healthy weight, but I still think you are telling me that I could look…better.

Am I lying to myself?

Diabulimia was my way of exerting some control over the chaos in my life. I may not have been able to choose my diabetes, but I was mightily sure that I could choose if I was going to take insulin.

Take that, diabetes. You don’t control me.

And I got thin. At such a price. I am still ashamed.

Yes, I no longer omit insulin. That’s not an option for me. I understand the toll withholding the life-giving drug does to my body. I have thrown out the baggy clothes. I force myself to wear clothes that show I am thinner. I am still uncomfortable in them, as if they are the Emperor’s new clothes and someone will see the fat girl parading around instead of me.

I have kept the weight off for the last two decades, always taking insulin. Eating (for the most part) what I want, when I want. Not denying myself a taste or two if it was worth it.

But there are days where the fat girl in the mirror mocks me. It’s those days that my blood sugars stay within range, but I’m living on coffee in the morning and snacking lightly through the day. I’m not denying myself nourishment; I believe that I’m not hungry. If I’m under stress, I forget to eat, but if I go low, I’ll grab a juice to bring me up. (A juice with added vitamins, so it’s not wasted calories. I detest wasted calories.)

The scale was not a tool that I allowed in my house for years, and once we got one, I try not to step on it too often (unlike in the past, where I would weigh myself every few hours…).

Like an addict, I know that I have to take one day at a time. Unlike those with an alcohol or drug addiction, I cannot avoid places where the addiction can rear its ugly head. My addiction is everywhere and with it comes insulin.

I am the fat girl in the mirror.

I will always be the fat girl in the mirror. She will be there. Always. Most mornings, she is talked back into the fog and I remind myself of the promise I made: Do everything to stay healthy so that diabetes doesn’t rob me of my life. Every day I make a choice. It’s the hard choice, not the easy choice. Don’t think it’s easy.

Wouldn’t you love a tidy end to this post? Something witty? Banal? Me telling you that I have conquered this eating disorder and think I’m a success.

My diabulimia, while dormant, will never end. I will never say I’m cured. Food will forever be something that I love and hate.

All I can do is help others understand that there is an alternative to skipping shots, even if I will forever see a fat girl in the mirror. I’ve gotten used to seeing her. She’s my reminder.

I’d rather see a fat girl than no one at all.

NEDAwarenessLogo

This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. I’m sharing this post with you to show that many of us still struggle with body image issues, years after we are supposedly “cured”. There is help and treatment, but the best thing that friends and family can do is to learn more about the devastating mental and physical consequences of an eating disorder.  The disease may begin with a preoccupation with food and weight, but it grows to be so much more. There are many organizations that can help, including some specifically for diabulimia: The Diabulimia Helpline and We Are Diabetes

To learn more about my experience, read this

12 comments

  1. kelly2k

    Thank you for sharing and being so open and honest about your struggle with diabulimia.
    By being so open and honest and writing from your heart you are helping so many.
    Also: I love you & I’m so very proud of you.
    Xoxo

  2. Sean

    The world is a lucky and better place to have you in it. Thank you for helping to spread awareness and understanding–we need more of both. I’m so sorry that these struggles must always accompany you. I hope that it offers at least some small measure of help that there are so many, online and in person, who support you and who love you.

  3. Scott E

    I never saw that girl in the mirror, though (at risk of sounding trite or patronizing) the girl I met does look great. Also, I also never saw this part of what goes on in that girl’s — or any other girl’s (or boy’s who deals with this) mind to this extent and to this level of detail.

    Though I don’t know that anyone can truly understand what you have, and continue to, deal with without going through it themselves, I think reading this comes awfully close. This has definitely made me more understanding of these types of struggles (though I can’t quite come up with the “correct” word for it), and I believe that will make me a better and more empathetic person going forward. So I’ll conclude by saying Well Done… and Thank You.

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  5. Jenn @ Juggling Life

    I have seen the difference a higher weight means in my daughter, in recovery from anorexia. It is possible to be free, but you will have to weigh more. I know it’s a scary thought, but so is living in purgatory as you are. I hope you can find full recovery one day and I am happy to hear you are no longer practicing diabulimia.

  6. Scott K. Johnson

    Thank you for being brave enough to talk about this, Christel. That alone is a huge service to so many who are struggling to find their way through it, and to those of us struggling to help them.

    And that picture is absolutely incredible.

  7. Shan Mal

    “I’d rather see a fat girl than no one at all.” Exactly my recent thoughts on my struggle with diabulimia. Very well written and honest, thank you.

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