• Quote of the Day
    "You are much deeper, much broader, much brighter than any idea you could have of yourself."
    Harry Palmer, posted by Daniel

Mari

MVP
Joined
Jan 28, 2007
Messages
1,171
Points
36
The insignificance of a number
by AISLINN THOMAS, Toronto Globe and Mail
January 14, 2008

No figure from a scale can articulate the fear, hardship and courage of my struggle with anorexia

For some months, I've been experiencing pain from a herniated disc.

At an appointment with a specialist, the physician asked me about my medical history. As I have come to expect, he was more curious than educated about my condition. The ensuing conversation was a minefield.

I told him I am in recovery from anorexia. "Is that all fixed?" he asked.

I tried to explain it is a continuing process, that recovery from an eating disorder is complex. He suggested that, like an addiction, it is something that one struggles with for life. I tried to explain that isn't necessarily the case.

Then he asked me the question I dread the most: "What was your lowest weight, if you don't mind me asking?"

I do mind. While in the acute stages of anorexia weight can be one of several useful measures in determining medical risk, there are many reasons why this question pains me each time I hear it.

I am not in the acute stages of anorexia - my weight has been stable for 2? years. Still, this question evokes a time when my body was the only voice I knew how to use. It reactivates a part of my brain that insists I never did lose enough weight and that my weight never successfully reflected the intensity of pain and crisis I was experiencing.

These are thoughts I know it is best to disregard. When asked this question now, I am acutely aware that no number can articulate the complexity of my experience over the past seven years.

When someone asks me what my weight was, I feel silenced. He or she is not interested in me as a person, is not interested in hearing the real story.

There are, of course, many versions of the real story of my eating disorder: There are two-minute versions and two-hour versions; some that last late into the night; and some that are interrupted by tears or accompanied by impassioned gestures.

There are my favourite versions of the story, which build slowly over time and are shared over the tenacity of friendship. Like most stories, this one never ends; it evolves and changes constantly.

A number cannot summarize or even begin to approach the reality of the fear, hardship, destruction, courage, persistence and insight that has punctuated my life. It doesn't address what has been the gift of my struggle, doesn't speak to the way my fight with anorexia broke me open, tore me apart and made me permeable to the world in a way that I had been running from for years.

It cannot articulate the way my experience has forced me to face the darkest places within myself, and invited me to enter into a process of reconciliation with our uncertain and only world.

A number denies me the opportunity to share something really worth sharing. A number grips my stomach and breaks my heart because I could offer so much more, if you were willing to listen.

Recently, I met with my counsellor for what may be the last time. For years, I've been in therapy and never imagined a time when it wouldn't be necessary for my survival.

My counsellor asked me if I had had any expectations of what my life would look like when I no longer needed therapy.

I told her I didn't. Yet I distinctly remember the time when I was first becoming dedicated to the task of caring for myself. One of the things that got me through this rocky terrain was the illusion that waiting for me, after all this hard and terrifying work, would be a life that was easeful and happy.

My counsellor and I talked about how life will always have its hard parts. More important is how one copes with them.

After the session, I stepped back internally and saw, really saw, that I happen to be coping well, that I am participating in life in a way that was once no more than a distant and vague imagining. I cried at my astonishment. I cried for this confusing and precious journey, and I cried for the realization that I am, and was always, okay.

That evening, I saw the Northern Lights - tall, pale columns extending from where trees meet sky, dancing ever so softly in the night. They were faint enough that I wondered if they were really there and bright enough that I delighted in the presence of such magic. I was utterly captivated. It filled me in a way that made me know I was alive; that made me feel complete in all my fumbling.

In the spaciousness of that moment, past and future dropped away, and right now was rich, and palpable, and enough.

If you asked me to tell you what it was like, I would gladly.

If you asked me to tell you how much I weighed, I would explain that we are all so much more than that; that really, there is no measure. I would ask how much time you had and offer you, instead, a story.

Aislinn Thomas lives in Guelph, Ont.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

ladylore

Account Closed
Joined
Jul 7, 2007
Messages
3,855
Points
0
Mari this is a beautiful post. :) Thank you so much for posting it.

That evening, I saw the Northern Lights - tall, pale columns extending from where trees meet sky, dancing ever so softly in the night. They were faint enough that I wondered if they were really there and bright enough that I delighted in the presence of such magic. I was utterly captivated. It filled me in a way that made me know I was alive; that made me feel complete in all my fumbling.
I have seen them once or twice myself and am in awe of the northern lights. Helps me to remember that there are forces much greater then myself working wonders in my life.

If you asked me to tell you how much I weighed, I would explain that we are all so much more than that; that really, there is no measure. I would ask how much time you had and offer you, instead, a story.

This is a great response to that question.
 

Top Bottom