This is not going to be a gentle post.
It is the follow up to “She, Loneliest of All Skanks…” I started writing it right after I received a large number of emails from people I used to work with. But I rarely allow myself to publish this sort of commentary while I’m angry; for that kind of post helps no one. A few nights ago, I almost broke my own rule. But my Piano Man—my love, my bright, my balance—took the time to let me vent until the fury was spent… and my mind cooled down enough to go to sleep (and dream of alien invasions… I’ve no idea where that dream came from, but that’s a different post).
The lack of gentleness of this particular entry is no longer founded in anger; the heat arises from a mixture of disappointment, bewilderment and disgust. A few days ago, a small group of my former colleagues got together for drinks. I declined the invite because my hands and feet have been hurting a lot lately, and didn’t need the extra stress. After the gathering was done, while I sat down to draft a post about tea, exercise and weight loss, I wasn’t surprised when my inbox began to fill with messages from people I haven’t seen or spoken to in years. After all, I had told the organizer that it was all right to share my contact information, and to let everyone know why I hadn’t come.
I was not surprised by subject lines that wished me “strength” and “luck” and such. But when the headings included the words: “eating disorders” and “shame is natural” and “starving yourself won’t help”, I stopped writing about tea and opened the first message. I continued opening messages… All of them spoke of the supposed eating disorder I’ve been secretly living with.
My first thought—echoed by my Piano Man—was that one of the two attendees (who have regular contact with me) might have said something about my current dietary needs and stomach issues, and everyone mistakenly believed that I’m struggling with an eating disorder. So I contacted the organizer, and asked if she knew anything about the emails. She told me that she had left early due to a small family emergency. But that before she left, someone (let’s call her Misery) was talking about “a woman starving herself because she is ashamed of her body.”
After exchanging several emails with other attendees, the organizer and I put together the following: someone had asked Misery if she was still partnering up with me on the exercise and nutrition plan, which a few of us started a bit over five months ago. Misery said no, “we both gave it up.” The one who asked the question said that Misery must’ve been mistaken, since he was still following my weekly progress online; and on my last update, two days earlier, I said I was almost 15 pounds lighter and growing used to my new dietary requirements. Misery (perhaps provoked by a few drinks and a lot of anger towards herself and the world) said to anyone within earshot that I’ve been living with an eating disorder, which I’ve kept secret; that she stopped partnering with me because my progress reports were a lie.
Her words spread. By the time the get together ended, former colleagues and some strangers who had only heard of my work as a case manager and a counselor were sending me emails (most of them shocked, all full of encouragement) telling me that eating disorders are a disease like any other, that I needed help, and that there was no reason for shame.
The lie and betrayal, my Wicked Luvs, were not the issues that left me fuming. What made me angrier than I have been in a very long time was the fact that Misery knew that I intended to send my résumé to the director of an online coaching agency who attended the gathering. Getting this kind of work isn’t easy, since there are so many of us who can only work from home.
I wrote the poem to keep my brain from imploding, while I waited for the director of the agency to reply to the email I sent explaining that Misery was mistaken… and offering my medical record as proof. If the eating disorder Misery spoke of had been something other than delusion, that alone would not keep anyone from getting a job. However, how can any mental health professional trust an employee to work with clients in need, if the employee in question supposedly can’t even accept reality?
The director emailed me back, and it seems that my explanation took hold. I’m still a tad uneasy about how this whole situation might affect future work prospects. There were a lot of people there…
I’ve yet to hear from Misery, and I doubt that I will. Her ex-husband emailed me to say that “she is heartbroken”, and that he “thinks she’s feeling very sorry for what she said.” I don’t want to be harsh, but I must say that it is quite obvious that Misery isn’t feeling sorry enough. I give many chances before I turn my back for good. I do this because I know myself—my flaws—once I walk away, I can’t force myself to turn back. I’ve tried… I’ve failed… I’ve purged… I stopped caring.
Misery still has a chance. I am curious about her reasons, and in my brain curiosity always keeps the cat from getting killed… But I know that once that curiosity dies off, everything else will fade with it. I wish, I wish, I hope… that Misery will use this time to salvage anything she can.
This mug was a gift from Misery. I believed her then…