A lot of people publish their stories of recovery, and I believe those stories are brave and valuable, but mine's actually incredibly tedious and lacks the narrative structure that makes for good reading, so, briefly: what happened is I started eating and stopped throwing up, but kept feeling all the varieties of shitty that facilitate addiction. I kept people in my life who made me feel diminished, and then I wondered why I stayed so small. I took personally my assumption that there was something flawed about me that made it impossible for my child, my patients, my parents, my erstwhile best friend, to love me. I gained weight but stayed miniature.
Well, I got a very effective therapist, which is necessary when you no longer have the time to lose ten pounds in response to every perceived slight, and now I'm like every other recovering addict who just has to tuck her head down and say the things that she didn't get to hear or doesn't remember hearing at seven -- that she matters, that it's going to be okay, that her day to day screw ups don't constitute proof of a fundamental inadequacy on her part. I tell myself every day that I matter and I am important, and I feel vaguely ridiculous when I do, and unless you are one of those people who holds those particular truths to be self evident -- in which case I regret to tell you there's nothing for you to see here -- I wholeheartedly recommended this.
Also, I stopped having friends who think they are better than me. I try to be loving to these people, in my head and in my best moments, sometime around 10:30 each morning and again right after therapy -- but I'm pretty much back to not calling people whose actions suggest that they are doing me a favor by giving me the time of day. They fell off easily since in most cases, you know, the relationship is mostly happening in my own damn head in the first place.
Not only that, but I'm done being mad at these people. I go on compassion runs, charging along the treadmill and not being pissed on my own behalf. The opinion of a single person doesn't have the power to determine who I am, what I'm worth.
I have very little to offer adults in the place of functional advice -- most of the "pro-tips" I discover are things like, Stop wearing shoes that make your feet bleed, even if they were a great deal, and Wearing pants with a twenty six inch waist doesn't give you a twenty six inch waist, and Crackers are never a meal, and no one is even impressed with these nuggets of wisdom.
But I will say this, because I don't think I am the only person still getting the hang of this one: No one has to be your friend.
These are, you know, the lessons a more functional person might have internalized at nine or fifteen or twenty two. I thought I had mastered them. I just kept thinking I was done being hurt over being a kid, that I no longer thought of myself as fat and gay -- not sexy femme gay, but awkward, immutably gay, gay the way seventh grade boys mean it when they say it to each other. Gay that has much less to do with actual or perceived sexual orientation and is more shorthand for "I am so disgusted by you that I cannot rest until I am sure that you, too, find yourself disgusting."
Really, of course, I just moved away -- from my parents and the kids with whom I grew up and for whom I could never be good enough. I just learned to avoid the question of whether it was worth being my friend by never really investing much in a friendship. I have ex girlfriends who I never referred to myself as dating; if I called a woman my best friend for fifteen years only to find myself not invited to her wedding, well, we went without speaking for for several weeks first, weeks in which I also had a phone, and that phone had her number programmed into it. Life: you get what you pay for.
But what I believe does matter about me is that the decades of feeling as though I never measure up have wrought something besides a whopping monthly therapy bill, a grimness to my jaw that seems eased exclusively by running, and a postpartum body that people just can't seem to not comment on. I may have nothing to add to your witty banter about media, social or otherwise, and I can't cook for shit, but I'll wipe your incontinent ass no matter how many times you've peed yourself or how high in my throat I'm carrying my existential dread, friends. I got you. Because my ability to love and respect myself is something I am building, not out of a cheery compilation of humblebrags and selfies, but out of the realization that I have intrinsic value, value that exactly equals that of both the most glamorous, perfect-hair-having, etsy-dress-wearing Cool Girl and that of the alert-and-oriented-time-zero flaky guy with an ostomy and seven wet briefs a night. My whole deal now is to see the three of us, not on a continuum of value, but as equally worthy of love. My petty hurts and jealousies, my knee-jerk desire to avoid other people's poop, these things are equally irrelevant. You're a little fecal right now, I'm unable to eat my hamburgers on buns, and that guy can't return a phone call, apaprently, so whatever, man, we all have feet of clay.
And that's the best version of me, the version I'm attempting to be with my kids, my patients, with friends who are more interested in that than in the million of uncool things about me up to and including a distinct lack of vision and commitment when it comes to hating political conservations, a passe kind of soft spot for straight white boys and their white boy tears, and an absolute zero of effs to give about Doctor Who.
In short, not much fun at parties and unlikely to generate a Twitter account worth following. Also, if a gun were held to my left freaking temple I couldn't take a flattering selfie, so there's that.
But on any given day, honestly, I more or less approximate the person I want to be -- a person who cares about none of the above, whose big project is something more along the lines of loving those people who are made available to me or who choose to be around me, to remembering that I'm a person, not a G-D OkCupid profile, and to celebrating the way in which my status as everyone's B-list friend left me vulnerable to the charms of other onetime fat kids and the rest of us who were wearing Goodwill before it was vintage and getting called dykes before "gender fluidity" was "brave" or "honest". I don't know what they told you about yourself, but I've exchanged witty repartee with dudes while assessing their pee-blood for clots, so chances are we can work around your perceived shortcomings.
So, fat kid, left out kid, kid who grew up understanding that people would put up with you never quite getting it, but only as long as you remembered your place:
Your place can be right the eff over here. Because I just went and declared 2016 year of the lame kid with nothing to say at parties, the kid with the boring hair who was furtively lapreading all through Harry Potter Night. Keep it up, friend, whatever it is -- keep doing your thing and tuning out anyone who suggests you're only halfway to adequate as you are, that you can only be accepted conditionally, that you're a thing to be worked with or worked on or made over, that you need to change a goddamn thing. I'll just be over here thinking about how you've been truly awesome all along.