“Mom, I can’t believe I forgot to tell you,” my son said to me a few days ago. He startled me, as just moments earlier he was planted firmly at the counter engrossed in some podcast he was watching on his phone.
“Tell me what?” I asked casually, continuing my despised task of unloading the dishwasher. I’ve learned when either boy is willing to share a tidbit what goes on in their strange, cryptic teenaged lives, I will get more info if I don’t appear too eager.
“This woman came into the store today,” he continued, referring to his summer gig at a local grocery, “Oh my God, she was so anorexic.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, immediately stopping my chore and turning to look at him.
“I mean, Mom, it was so hard to look at her. SO hard,” his voice getting louder as it does when he wants me to pay attention to what he is saying.
“That is so sad,” I said quietly, feeling instant compassion for this unknown woman.
“No, you don’t’ get it,” he said, “it was so gross.”
“Hey bud,” I said, making sure I had his attention, “I do get it. You know that is how some people felt when they looked at me?”
He was quiet, his brow furrowed and I could tell he was thinking about my words.
“Oh, I guess that’s true,” he muttered before popping his ear pods back in, a signal our conversation was over.
Perhaps, over the past couple of years, as I have recovered and life has normalized, their memories of having an anorexic mom have faded. Maybe my kids have forgotten how I used to look.
I have never forgotten.
When I had reached out to therapist Kelly for help that hot July day in 2016, I was no different than the woman my son described. I dreamed of being able to walk through a grocery store in a sleeveless tank on a hot summer day instead of bundled in long sleeves to cover my bony arms . I would have given anything to slip unnoticed through the aisles, leisurely picking through produce and comparing prices. Without the heavy feeling of judgment weighing down upon me, causing me to scurry in and out of the store as if I was executing a grand plan of shoplifting bananas. I told myself I would do anything Kelly suggested so I would not look “gross” to those around me.
Well I’d do almost anything.
"I would encourage you to check yourself into an inpatient program.”Kelly said to me after our brief phone consultation.
“Wait? What?” I stammered, her words drowned out by the static in my head that sounded like our old family television when it lost its signal. I was shocked at her words as I hadn’t even told her the whole truth.
“From what you have told me, I believe your situation is too severe. I cannot help you,”Kelly stated, her voice calm yet firm. " I can give you a referral to a very good program in town."
I began to panic, the car shrinking around me, making me feel like I was trapped in a hot metal box. My mind was rushing with anything I could say that would change her quick diagnosis. I needed her understand she had mis read our conversation. I was not THAT bad. I wanted her to tell me she was wrong. That she could help me.
But mostly, I needed her to stay on the line because I was afraid if she hung up, that would end the only call for help I would ever make.