It’s been weeks since I’ve allowed myself to write. More than that. About myself, that is. Now that I’m healthy my words lack meaning. Who wants to hear about how great my life is going? Good art never came from happy people! (No offense to happy artists. Hey, I’m one of them now.)
I’m writing constantly. Every second is a new piece of dialogue between two people who are not Bella Florence. But my journal is bare. It’s not that I’m not struggling; I am. But not enough to write about. I’m ashamed of my struggles because they’ve become so insignificant. It feels self-indulgent to write pages about dotting my i’s and crossing my t’s:
Should I drink this latte? I’m weight-restored. I don’t need it. Let’s go back to black coffee. Fuck it, I like soy, I should drink it.
No thoughts are stupid.
All my thoughts are valid.
So are all my fears.
They need to be attended to.
But they don’t need to be attended to in public.
It’s become easy enough to shut the voices down. It’s become easy enough to feed myself. I actually enjoy it. A friend of mine with a similar history told me once that she really missed food. Then I realized, I did too. I was a total foodie growing up. I’m from New Orleans, where the food can’t be beat. In my sicker days, I wouldn’t even smell food. I held my breath when passing Halal carts on the street, as if the aroma held nicotine.; admitting that I liked it showed weakness.
We’re supposed to eat food; we need it to live. It’s ok to enjoy it. But it’s scary that I enjoy it. It’s not like I’m eating junk food. I’m actually the picture of health. But it’s scary to be taking good care of myself.
Since when do I deserve good self-care? Why am I happy? How did this happen? This is so weird. I don’t understand it. What the fuck is going on? Who am I?
I used to smile all the time. People would comment that I always had this huge smile on my face. At the beginning of senior year, right before I went to treatment, my ballet teacher asked, “Bella, are you just the happiest person ever?” I was stunned. He got that vibe from my “warm smile” that I “used so well.” Meanwhile, I was starving myself to death. And hoping it would work.
Now I’m smiling that same warm smile, but it’s real.
There’s still a voice in the back of my head telling me that needing food is a conspiracy, that people are secretly judging me every time I eat. But whatever. If that actually happens, I’ll just remove myself from the situation. Not needing food is the real conspiracy. I need to take care of myself. Extra good care of myself. Because I have a self-harm history. Skipping meals is not an option for me. For me, under-eating is like an alcoholic having a glass of wine. Other people can skip a meal and make up for it later. If I skip a meal, even if I “make up for it later,” I’m sending myself a message that it’s okay to neglect my needs. And I could easily fall back into the addiction cycle.
I don’t want to have an eating disorder anymore. I’m so done with it. I’m so fucking done with it. It takes a lot to trigger me now. I see other girls struggle and I don’t find it desirable; I’m not tempted to go back to old habits. But at the same time, I love my eating disorder. I love it. It has made me who I am. It has. I fully credit it with that. And I love who I am now because of it. So I wouldn’t change a thing about my past. But I think it is time for me to wish it goodbye forever. I want to turn my experiences into art and advocacy, but I don’t want it to infiltrate into my personal life. I just want it out. I don’t know if it can ever really be out. It may live in my head forever. But I can at least make it clear that I will no longer tend to it, no longer take care of it. I’ll keep dotting my i’s and crossing my t’s to take care of Healthy Bella, but I’m not going to take care of it.
I’ve certainly played the victim. I’ve certainly used my eating disorder as an excuse. I’m not comfortable talking about diets because I have an eating disorder. I’m not comfortable going to that pizza party because I have an eating disorder. I’m not comfortable eating ice cream because I have an eating disorder. But that’s past tense now.
I’m going to honor my eating disorder as an artist and an advocate. But I don’t want it to be a sensitive subject anymore. I don’t want it to be something I’m ashamed of. Just let it be a thing that was. I had anorexia. Like, I had mono. Or, I had measles. I had anorexia. But I’m better now.
If I said, “this is it, this is goodbye. No more blog posts, no more journal entries, no more struggles,” I’d be an idiot. I had an addiction. So every single day I have to attend to it. Every single day I have to meditate and remember why I stay clean. Plus, I’m trying not to make extreme declarations anymore. Saving those for the stage. This isn’t the end of my journey by any means. It’s just the beginning.
2 years ago on this day, I was diagnosed with anorexia. 1 year ago I celebrated Thanksgiving from a fucking hospital where I couldn’t even flush my own toilet. Today, I’m taking the train out to Rye to have turkey with my family. Huh. Hard work does pay off.