When I was a kid I moved from house to house within the first 5 years of my life. I was born in Washington and stayed in the hospital for weeks after my birth. Then I went home. Then we moved to Helena, Montana. Then we moved to Bozeman, Montana. Then we moved to Texas. Then my parents separated for the first time and we moved back to Helena, Montana. Then we moved to Washington, where I have stayed ever since. I didn’t understand why we moved. It was just part of my life. U-Hauls were a common sight and I knew how to pack up my room at a very young age. I still don’t know why we moved so much, I just know that when we moved without my dad for the first time I didn’t understand anything. I carried around a Winnie the Pooh plush doll everywhere I went. When we’d visit my dad’s family Pooh came with me and I never let him go. Relatives were not allowed to touch him. His face is squished against my side, pushing all of the fluff inside to allow for this. When I moved in with my grandparents on my mom’s side I carried him even downstairs from my room to the living room.
Sounds like a normal thing, right? A kid attached to a stuffed animal. It is pretty normal. A lot of kids have a favorite toy they don’t want to let go. For my little brother it was a leopard plush that came with matching leopard slippers that he never wore. When he got it for Christmas he made my mom open it right away and once he had it in his arms he declared, “I’m done opening presents now.” For my fiancé I’ve been told it was a yellow gummy bear that he was devastated to lose.
All kids latch onto something comforting because life is scary and they’re just learning about it. I imagine it’s pretty overwhelming, and I know I don’t deal with things very well. When I grew older I stopped carrying Pooh around, but I made a new friend. My imaginary friends from what I can remember all sounded and said the same things Ana says to me even though I imagined them with different names and looks. They were always very skinny.
My eating disorder replaced Pooh bear. Restricting when things were changing and scary didn’t just give me control, it comforted me. Controlling my food intake and weight was comforting. When life was changing in ways I didn’t want it to it made me feel comforted to know that I still had control over some parts of my life; that I wasn’t completely at the mercy of others’ decisions.
It made me feel like I could do things. I had failed to win my dad’s love and now he was leaving. I had failed to take care of my brother because I was talking to my mom and now he was bleeding. I had failed to make my mom happy and now she was crying and stealing away to her room with the phone to talk for hours with her friends about the divorce. My projects in school got me A’s but were never pretty enough or clever enough or written the perfect way. I always seemed to do the wrong things when I hung out with my friends. Maybe I got too into our imagination game or I didn’t understand the rules of kick ball well enough to actually play. But I could lose weight. I could follow whatever food and exercise guidelines that I made up for myself. And if I failed at that then I was the biggest failure ever because I had already failed at everything else.
My disorder was a source of comfort. It made me feel like I wasn’t worthless. It was that comforting thing that I needed because I didn’t know how to cope with anything else. Recovering isn’t just about restoring weight. That’s a tiny part of it. The rest is addressing all of my issues that made me feel worthless and learning how to cope with things. I dealt with my issues by focusing on food and weight because I didn’t want to think about anything else, and to my mind at the end of the day all I had left was my intake and weight. Like when we kept moving and my parents separated for the first time all I had was my Pooh bear.