So far, the commitment I made last week is working. Making it to Day 6 may not be an unprecedented accomplishment, even for me, but I’m feeling pretty confident about it. And I have no doubt that the only reason I am here is because I made that commitment, and because I have recommitted to Bright Line Eating every day since.
The next task ahead of me is telling someone in my family. Since I’ll be leaving for the wilds of northern Ontario at the end of this week, I can’t put off the decision any longer.
Who to tell?
I am fortunate. I have a wonderful family, with plenty of options to choose from: 2 parents, 3 younger sisters, and 4 grandparents. We can immediately disregard the numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins, the brothers-in-law (thought I’ve grown very used to them over the years), and the 8 nieces an nephews – the oldest of whom is 11.
Of all my grandparents, there is only 1 with whom I have the sort of relationship that would justify this sort of disclosure: my maternal grandmother, Nana. Who, by the way, I will be visiting on my trip up north. But after a few minutes’ consideration, I’m ruling her out, as well. She might have listened, and she might have been sympathetic. But it’s equally likely that she would have either changed the subject or told me I was crazy. So that’s not happening.
That leaves my parents, and my sisters.
Option 1: Dad
First, my father. I love him to pieces. He would be the most interested in my story, because he’s interested in every detail of my life. My continual insistence on privacy has frustrated him to no end. He just wants to know everything: what I’m thinking, what I’m doing, how I’m feeling. He takes medication that interferes with his sleep, so he always seems to be in the living room watching TV when get up to use the washroom in the middle of the night; and it is only with great difficulty that I have finally convinced him not to try to engage me in conversation in my half-awake, grumpy state.
He would also be the most sympathetic. My dad loves food. His weight bothers him. He doesn’t have the same sort of addiction I have, but he does have an appetite that never seems to be satisfied. He would feel my pain, even if he didn’t quite understand it.
However, he has a lot on his plate, right now. He has his own health issues, and I don’t want to burden him any further. Also, he would have difficulty keeping this story to himself. He would probably promise to, if I asked him, but there’s a good chance he’d forget. The same medication that keeps him awake at night is also, I think, interfering with his memory. Granted, even if he did repeat what I told him, he’d probably get several of the details wrong.
Option 2: My Mom
As I’ve grown older, and heard women my age talk about their relationships with their mothers, I’ve become even more grateful for mine. I don’t know how I would have dealt with anyone else. We call her the rock. Where Dad is emotional, she is rational. Where he is overly involved, she is, if not distant, then let’s say easygoing. She has her own life – her children are a part of it, but they are not it. She has respected my space and my privacy with more determined stoicism than any other mother who ever loved her children possibly could. She has never once commented on my weight, excepting a time or two when I brought it up myself. I can hardly remember her saying anything about my appearance, except to occasionally say if she liked an article of clothing, or the way I’d done my hair.
She’s watched me go through diet after diet, never questioning my choices. My food scale made an appearance without any remark. She makes sure I know I’m welcome to anything she makes, but never pushes. She never asks why, she never takes my refusals personally, and she doesn’t blink when the answers vary from week to week, without explanation.
She must wonder why someone who seems so health-conscious cannot control her weight. She must have suspicions – I think. But I don’t know. She never looks at me suspiciously, or disapprovingly, no matter what I do. She is not easy to read. And like me, she is very private. My secrets wouldn’t be spread through her. She would be a good choice, in many ways.
She also has a lot of my Nana in her. The same no-nonsense attitude, perhaps a little softened. She wouldn’t dismiss me. However, she may not accept my story of food addiction and disordered eating as easily as she would accept the details of the BLE food plan.
My mother grew up in a family of 7 children, raised on a mill-worker’s salary. Food may not have been scarce, but as she puts it, you ate what was in front of you quickly, before someone else did. She likes cooking, and eating, but any time her weight bothers her, she just eats a little less. She doesn’t look for someone else to blame, she fixes it herself.
Just like she has a lot of Nana in her, I have a lot of her in me. So I know what her general thoughts on things like eating disorders are, even though we’ve never discussed them. They’re what mine were, before I fell into one of my own. Anorexia, bulimia, alcoholism, drug addiction; they’re all the same: imaginary illnesses, invented by self-absorbed people to absolve themselves of personal responsibility.
I don’t know how I could correctly explain myself to her. How I could make it clear that I’m not blaming anyone else for my problem. That I feel more guilt and shame over my behaviour than she’s ever had cause to feel in her entire life. How do I describe the loss of control, the deep self-loathing mixed in with gross self-indulgence? It’s a foreign concept to her. It’s melodrama. It’s a ‘first-world problem’. Excuses. Rationalization.
I don’t make sense to my mother, in a lot of ways. She doesn’t understand why I bother to sew. Why I like growing things – from plants to sourdough starters to SCOBYs. Why I went back to school. Why I like writing stories and reading novels and creating policy proposals for political parties that will never be in power. She doesn’t get any of these things. But she likes that I do. She’s proud of me. She thinks I’m smart and artistic and she brags about me to her friends. She has never been ashamed of me. And I am so afraid that she will be.
Why Telling Someone is so Hard
I’ve been at a school, for 5 years, that takes non-judgment to the extreme. Naturopathic students are taught from day 1 how to relate to patients with unconditional positive regard. They are collectively the most compassionate group of people I’ve ever known. And now I am surrounded by the Bright Line Eating community – people who aren’t just professionally compassionate, but who actually understand. We’re all going through, or have gone through, the same thing, more or less. In these 2 communities, I’ve shared my story. I’ve reached out for help. I’ve offered help to others. But outside those protected environments is a world that looks on us differently. I don’t yet know how we are supposed to relate to them. For the most part, I can disregard their opinions. But not those of my own family.
I was supposed to get through all my sisters today, too, but obviously I won’t. Even with parents as wonderful as mine, the more I think about telling them, the more difficulties I see. The more impossible it seems. But I am committed to doing it. It’s important – not just for me, either. If I’m keeping something like this from them, what might they be hiding from me? Maybe they think I wouldn’t care about their problems, either. Maybe we’re all afraid of each other, and suffering alone, when we don’t need to.
No decisions have been made tonight. But they will be. Soon.