The time I tricked myself: The story of my eating disorder.
“Your poem doesn’t start, until you start telling the truth.” - Jasmine Mans.
Mine started out of fear.
So finals are finished and I have some time before I need to fly home, and what do I notice one hungover morning, while brushing my teeth, sans shirt? That since before I can remember, I have had a small collection of fat, where I would rather have had a completed six pack instead of my existing four pack. I was an athlete in high school, and maintained my small, but muscular physique for the four months I had been away at university. I went to the gym routinely, ran long distance, and boxed whenever I wanted a change. Needless to say, my health was still intact. Now mind you, I am from a small town and was the only person to get on a plane to attend university. I felt at minimum, I would have a few eyes on me when I returned, an expectation of stories about the big city, what it’s like to be so far away from mom and dad, you know, the usual. That particular moment in the mirror was where all of this started. For the first time I noticed my body outside of a functional context, and it wasn’t good enough.
This storm was abrasive, and fast. And I was in the centre of it. It felt silent, with rounded edges, and a slow deep beat. ‘Progress’ became the name of the game, and food became the enemy of that progress. My consumption lessened pretty quickly, at first I just cut out everything I knew was ‘bad’. Then I gradually cut out almost every food group. First it was meat, then dairy, then gluten, then sugar and then I became raw. Then I became a person who would consume a half a Granny Smith apple for lunch ( I wasn’t up for breakfast) and then a single dried apricot for dinner. My sleep schedule inverted, I would stay up all night locked in my room, watching Victoria Secret fashion shows and eventually began craving the feeling of hunger. It became completely mental. All of my roommates were away. My friends were either busy studying for exams or had left the city for the holidays, I was left quite literally on my own, left to these devices I’d grown so dependent upon. It was math for me. It was all an equation. Counting. Every. Single. Calorie. My gym routine increased as well.
When my return date home ventured closer everything became amplified. I cut out liquids, and then anxiety attacks started their grip. At one point, eight or nine days before my return, I hadn’t had what I would have described as a good day. So at 3 o’clock in the morning I went to the gym in our building and started to work out. I worked out hard for an hour, burning upwards of 1000 calories on a treadmill, listening to pop songs about being young and hot and feeling really content with myself. The goal then became zero. I wanted output to equal input. 0/0. This was the rock at the bottom they tell you about.
A few days after the zero goal initiated, on top of all the fighting with my body that had taken place over the previous weeks, everything became silent. A euphoria rushed throughout my body like nothing before, I was quite literally high. I later found out why and how that happened and what a deeply dangerous place that is to exist. It’s a final attempt to keep things peaceful by an otherwise intensely uncomfortable body. Then I flew home. Gleefully limiting myself to a Starbucks tea.
My father picked me up at the airport. Nothing was out the ordinary, big hugs, 'missed you', 'thanks for the muffins', 'my bags shouldn’t be too long' - kind of a deal. I got home and hugged my mother and the first thing she uttered to me was 'wow you’re so small!'The rest is a blur. Excluding one particular moment.
One beautifully snowy evening, my mother baked these insanely delicious ginger cookies. Then, in her motherly nature as we sit down to watch Love Actually, a cinematic masterpiece if you haven’t yet had the pleasure, she casually offered me an ice cream sandwich made from her delicious cookies. I could not say yes. I tensed up, and I said there was ‘no way I could do it.’ The look in her eyes was devastating. It was a mother, looking at her broken son, trying to help him the only way she knew how. But I didn’t really know that at the time. I just knew I didn’t want the cookie. That’s all I knew and that’s all I saw.
Cut to summer vacation, I am back home and in a slightly healthier mindset, but still gripped by the anxiety of food. I’m having a conversation with a friend to whom I vowed never to gain the ‘freshman 15’ when we went to college. She was supportive, but concerned. She said her mother noticed how thin I was when I was home for Christmas, which shocked me because I didn’t think I was that skinny. I thought I was fine. Then she said something that resonated so deeply with me, I almost immediately halted. She said, "think about what this is doing to your mother". That’s all she said. A fucking stunning comment about my rural mother who wants to nurture the high heavens into her son, and this is what I was doing. Those eight words meant the world to me. It became bigger than me, and that was what shifted my perspective, almost entirely.
I guess because I’m a cisgender boy this story comes from a ‘different’ perspective. But my argument to that, is that every story comes from a different perspective. It’s one voice in a sea of voices that, regardless of gender identity, should be heard. My point is, this is all too prevalent. And I want to help change that.
Thanks for listening.
Jonathan Macdonald studied law and acting to complete a BFA in Theatre Performance and Concentration in Human Rights Law from Concordia University and California State University, Fullerton. He currently resides in Toronto, Ontario.