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February 27, 2012

a trigger.

this quarter i've been taking teaching creative writing every saturday from 10-1:15 in the loop. during this past weekend's class, a grease-stained bag from arby's triggered a memory.

we take a break halfway through the class and one of my classmates always comes back with food, usually mexican. this saturday, he apparently wanted arby's. i remember that feeling.

this classmate looks just like a boy who lived down the hall from me in our dorm, a boy i adored when i was twenty-one; i got two memories in one. i watched this guy eat a chicken sandwich, pop, and fries. i couldn't smell any of it, and for that, i was grateful. i don't need to smell it to remember things. walking past an arby's does it. walking past any place that's bad for me makes me remember how much bad i allowed to take over my life.

smelling it wouldn't make me want the food; i haven't had arby's in close to six years, but it would make me think of all the lunch hours i spent in an arby's parking lot while working at a banquet hall in high school. it would make me think of two giant roast beef sandwiches, curly fries, and a chocolate milkshake.

this was my poison.

i watched him eat the chicken sandwich. i looked at the bag with the slogan, "dig in. big grin" printed on the front and back. clever. but i never had a grin on my face while stuffing warm roast beef and fries into my mouth. i was never happy. i didn't eat to be happy. i ate to get away from feeling anything. i numbed myself. that's what binging is. i sat in a four-door burgundy volvo in a parking lot next to an alley and sobbed as i ate. i hid. then i drove back to a job i hated and ate from the stash i hid in my desk drawer.

it's all about hiding. hiding your food, your shame, your sadness, your anger, your confusion.

hyper-awareness. of food. my food, my classmate's food, greasy food, what i'm eating too much of, not enough of, what i'm wearing, what doesn't fit, what i desperately want to fit, how much i'm running, how little i'm running. all of it. i can't turn it off. and the only thing that turns it off is stopping myself, forcing myself to stop, saying the word "stop" out loud, even if it's on a crowded train. writing about it always helps. i put the words down. i look at them with squinted eyes and i sort through them. i make sense of them. bad days trigger spinning and it never shuts off completely. it's just turned down. i'm working on it. day by day, i'm getting stronger.

last week was a rough one:

i had a dental appointment with a specialist i had never met. i have to see him again this weekend.

i experienced nearly every side effect of the medicine he prescribed me. 

i had two huge projects to finish for my classes, one was to write an essay about italy, a time that brought me such joy, a time in my life where i've never felt healthier. i want to get back there.

i had a date with the first man in six years to bring me flowers. i sat across from him in a booth in a small and lovely restaurant and ordered jumbo shrimp with garlic, apple wood-smoked bacon, roasted red peppers, and scallions. i savored every drop. i ate actual food. and as we sat there and talked and laughed, i realized i can't do it again, not for a while. not even with a kind man who is on time, and opens every door, and pays attention to things. because for the first time in my life, i'm taking care of myself and making room for someone else means less room for me.  i know that there will come a day when i will have balance in my life and a partner and it will work. it. but today, i have to protect my life, this life i'm trying to create and make beautiful and rich. and i have to figure out how to do it on my own. because i know i can. 

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