Have you ever watched a movie or seen a show and thought to yourself, “Damn, that’s me! That’s my life!” I know it happens all the time because the human condition is a shared one. We don’t live in a vacuum and life is just a series of conditions, right?
The other day, I watched a movie and I saw me, exactly who I once was and it scared me because, by the way it was written, it was someone else too. Someone else had been where I had been and that made me think again about whether or not my girls might some day go down that same path. It was the Netflix Original To the Bone.
I see me, or rather, who I used to be. The anorexic girl. The one with the conflicted home life. The Unpresent dad, the checked out Mom who tried to help in her own way, while at the same time refusing to admit that there’s a problem at all.
Denial. It where we thrived. My job was to keep my dirty secret. Their job was to pretend it wasn’t happening. I fell through the cracks of a childhood held together by rubber bands and chewing gum.
I was alone, so very alone with my disease. People don’t really want to know when these sorts of things are happening, even if they suspect or even glimpse it with their own eyes, it’s too uncomfortable to discuss; to face head on. So we all pretend it’s not happening. Meanwhile, a child is dying.
It won’t go away. It doesn’t just stop. Sometimes, the darkness is so enveloping and the loneliness so crippling that you hope they don’t notice. You’d rather just disappear into the abyss without any fanfare or long, drawn out goodbyes. You want to cease to exist and other people’s concern only serves to prolong your agony.
The worst part for me was realizing that I was so good at it. Worse, I was so good at hiding it and it turned me into someone I despised because the only way to survive is to lie. Soon, you’re lying about everything to keep the one secret that you hold dearest to your heart.
There are never good days. It’s just a series of days you control better than others. You are being held at gun point in a prison of your own making; your head. There is no escape. There is no chance for parole. There is just a life sentence and, if you’re lucky, a life lived in daily recovery. Every day, for the rest of your life, you have to choose life because the alternative is that you die. You will literally die.
Though it may seem soothing and tempting, the thought of no longer having to endure; but the fucking guilt of it all is unbearable so every day, you get up, and you make the choice to live or to die.
For 8 years, I restricted and threw up every single day. Every single thing I ate. I threw up. I never binged, unless it was on alcohol and that was more to forget the world of shit I was living in, the complete loss of control and the fact that I was really hungry. I was starving in every sense of the word.
Five years before that, I began dieting. It was my gateway drug to starvation. I was 12-years-old when my journey started. 12, the magical age of awkward bodies caught between a child and a woman. My dad suggested that maybe I needed to “run more”. That was enough especially at that time in adolescence when you gain weight, right before you begin to develop and everything goes to the right place. You know, the exact same age as my daughter is today.
I’ve spent my entire motherhood tenure doing everything I can to not repeat this cycle. Here we are. This precipice that silently scares me to death. I’m constantly looking for all the signs. But I’ve done a good job. She thinks she’s perfect. She loves herself and her body. Then, it happened, beyond my control.
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As we were leaving the pediatricians office after her well visit last week, our dr was telling the girls where they rank on the charts. My 12-year-old has consistently ranked around the 98th percentile since birth. But this time, the new dr ( a female and girl Mom) told her “your BMI is a little high, so technically you are overweight.”
I shot her a death stare as I wanted to murder her on the spot but didn’t want to make a big deal of it in front of the girls. She continued, but that’s to be expected in a girl your age because most girls put on a little weight during puberty before everything goes where it’s supposed to go.
I saw the gut punch on my daughters face. I felt the humiliation of being told that you’re not perfect. Then, I saw her second guess what she’s always known about herself … we she good enough?
I spent the ride home assuring her that the doctor said this was normal at this age. I assured her that she eats right and is very active and an athlete. She trusts me because I’m her mother. She accepted my words. But I know that now, forever, the seed of doubt has been planted and that crushes me.
Words have weight. Thoughts sometimes should be kept inside your head. Actions are forever.
I know there has been some controversy about the movie To the Bone. But coming from someone who knows, I think it was far from making anorexia seem desirable, or acting as if it stems from a desire to “look skinny.” The writing is sensitive but unsparingly real because it comes from personal experience. There were lines in there that only someone who has suffered from eating disorders would say or know. An anorexic can spot another anorexic from a mile away.
It’s the directorial film debut of Marti Noxon, a writer and executive producer on such shows as UnREAL and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and to write To the Bone she drew on her own battle with anorexia. (The film’s credits note that it is based on actual events.) I wouldn’t recommend you show it to your teen daughter but as a parent of a teen girl, or someone who loves someone living with this disorder or even for the girl surviving it…this movie, in my opinion, is a must see.
Disclosure: I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team, so I binge a lot of Netflix, but my opinion about To the Bone and my personal experience with eating disorders are all my own.