The Mirror

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© Thann Clark

I see a fat girl in the mirror.

Her hair has been long and short, white platinum blonde to dark brown.  Her warpaint (or makeup, if you want to call it that) changed over the years, but she is still fat. Sweatshirts and loose clothing in somber tones to prevent attention being drawn to the body she hates has been her uniform.

Even when I am told by others that I am beginning to look too thin, she is still taunting me from her reflective hell.

She won’t go away.

Ever.

This is what having an eating disorder means to me.

Whatever you choose to call my particular disorder (diabulimia, skipping shots, or “Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified“), it’s something that will never leave me. When friends and family and acquaintances say: “You look great! Wow!”, my first thought is:

“Are you lying to me?”

It doesn’t matter that my second thought is about how good I might feel today or that I know that I do look great. The self-consciousness that came with being overweight as a teenager is forever frozen in my head. You are lying to me. I may be a healthy weight, but I still think you are telling me that I could look…better.

Am I lying to myself?

Diabulimia was my way of exerting some control over the chaos in my life. I may not have been able to choose my diabetes, but I was mightily sure that I could choose if I was going to take insulin.

Take that, diabetes. You don’t control me.

And I got thin. At such a price. I am still ashamed.

Yes, I no longer omit insulin. That’s not an option for me. I understand the toll withholding the life-giving drug does to my body. I have thrown out the baggy clothes. I force myself to wear clothes that show I am thinner. I am still uncomfortable in them, as if they are the Emperor’s new clothes and someone will see the fat girl parading around instead of me.

I have kept the weight off for the last two decades, always taking insulin. Eating (for the most part) what I want, when I want. Not denying myself a taste or two if it was worth it.

But there are days where the fat girl in the mirror mocks me. It’s those days that my blood sugars stay within range, but I’m living on coffee in the morning and snacking lightly through the day. I’m not denying myself nourishment; I believe that I’m not hungry. If I’m under stress, I forget to eat, but if I go low, I’ll grab a juice to bring me up. (A juice with added vitamins, so it’s not wasted calories. I detest wasted calories.)

The scale was not a tool that I allowed in my house for years, and once we got one, I try not to step on it too often (unlike in the past, where I would weigh myself every few hours…).

Like an addict, I know that I have to take one day at a time. Unlike those with an alcohol or drug addiction, I cannot avoid places where the addiction can rear its ugly head. My addiction is everywhere and with it comes insulin.

I am the fat girl in the mirror.

I will always be the fat girl in the mirror. She will be there. Always. Most mornings, she is talked back into the fog and I remind myself of the promise I made: Do everything to stay healthy so that diabetes doesn’t rob me of my life. Every day I make a choice. It’s the hard choice, not the easy choice. Don’t think it’s easy.

Wouldn’t you love a tidy end to this post? Something witty? Banal? Me telling you that I have conquered this eating disorder and think I’m a success.

My diabulimia, while dormant, will never end. I will never say I’m cured. Food will forever be something that I love and hate.

All I can do is help others understand that there is an alternative to skipping shots, even if I will forever see a fat girl in the mirror. I’ve gotten used to seeing her. She’s my reminder.

I’d rather see a fat girl than no one at all.

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This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. I’m sharing this post with you to show that many of us still struggle with body image issues, years after we are supposedly “cured”. There is help and treatment, but the best thing that friends and family can do is to learn more about the devastating mental and physical consequences of an eating disorder.  The disease may begin with a preoccupation with food and weight, but it grows to be so much more. There are many organizations that can help, including some specifically for diabulimia: The Diabulimia Helpline and We Are Diabetes

To learn more about my experience, read this