One rule that I have kept around for myself as an adult is that I am not allowed to eat in bed.
It used to be about cleanliness; not getting crumbs in the sheets and subsequently on my arms and thighs. It was also (and more honestly) about not leaving behind the evidence of my hunger. I was a fat kid, and I’m a fat adult. In my teenage years I learned that you could lose weight at a rapid pace if you just stopped eating. Hunger was mind over matter. You could trick yourself into not feeling the sharp pains in your stomach; eventually the growls and whistles would dim. As an anorexic teen, I would lie in bed and pull my fingers around my jutting rib cage and the sharp ascent of my hip bones. My bones, proudly announcing themselves through my skin, were my crown. I wore absence with pride.
As a poet, I am fascinated by two things currently: the mouth and what passes through it. In recovery from an eating disorder and in recovery from addiction, there are things that I don’t put in my mouth anymore after years of needing to. There are also things that go into my mouth that haven’t in years.
I am also writing about truth, and teeth, and language. What it means to say something for the first time and to say it again and again so that it no longer becomes foreign to me, so that it can pass through me. I am writing and speaking for the first time about things I’ve never acknowledged. This action is driven by hunger. Hunger for what? My body, my story, for an exhale, for relief.
A friend recently listed a few key elements to my poems. Two of them that stood out were “the fruit and the plea.” Hunger is a plea. It is the stomach screaming “please give me something more. No more air, no more silence. More.” Hunger is also as much about the brain as it is about the stomach. Not in the dismissive mind over matter mantra I once carried, my brain and mind are hungry for care that has been absent. They want to be listened to and taken care of instead of abused and shamed. The way that I fill that need and provide that nourishment is through poetry and therapy. I tell the truth. I let myself feel the things that scare and harm me, and I train myself to be good in the aftermath.
I am adopting a whole new language for myself.
Being an addict and having an eating disorder were both intrinsically about not knowing how to live in a body I was ashamed of. I was ashamed of it because it was black, it was scarred, it was fat, it was woman, it was too much. Now I am a long term occupant in this house and I’m teaching her how to talk and walk and shower and eat. Sometimes she’s hungry and that means having a bar of chocolate bedside, or a cup of tea that will undoubtedly go cold and be hastily guzzled in the morning.
I’m afraid if I keep going here I’ll reveal too much about the project I am working on, one that I am incredibly proud of. So I’m gonna go drink some tea while it’s still hot and try to savor this chocolate because it was on sale and it’s my favorite brand. But what I will leave you with is that for years I couldn’t have peanut butter in my apartment because it was my favorite thing to binge on. I don’t know if you know how hard it is to purge peanut butter, but it is disgusting and grueling. My body hasn’t fully recovered from years of training my throat and stomach muscles to expel whatever I forced down on command. I can, however, keep peanut butter around now. I can eat a meal and not tally the calories mentally. I can give myself what I’ve been asking for.