For a friend

I'm going to write a few posts about compulsive eating. This isn't an easy thing to do. A big part of my book described what it feels like to live in the nightmare of an eating disorder. I remember how hard that writing was, even though all I had to do was tell the truth.

I had to go sit in a public place to write those passages. One, I was afraid to explore that territory without some sort of unconcerned human touchstone around me. Two, it kept me from bawling my eyes out, which makes the page blur and slows the writing awfully. I wrote through the nightmare quick and cold.

Those feelings and behaviors — shame, secrecy, suicidal disgust — are evaporated from today's life, and I only reluctantly let any of it breathe down my neck again. I really don't want to remember.

But this is for someone I care about. I know you're reading; you know who you are.

I know you are afraid of your body. I know that no matter how much you accomplish, you feel like your life is happening without you. I know you think your shame and disappointment have stained and ruined your life. My friend, I know you are in pain.

I know how much energy you spend thinking about your weight. I know you exhaust yourself with it. I know you exhaust yourself under the burden of thinking your body is unacceptable.

I know that you are terrified by food. I know that pleasure and pain and food can become so tangled that you don't know how to have one without the others. I know how much this scares you.

I know how smart you are. I know you don't want to validate the ignorant stereotype that all fat people have eating disorders and are depressed and in shame. So you work very hard to cover up that this is your reality. You work very hard not to be unfair to anyone else. You work very hard not to have anyone worry about you.

My dear, dear friend. I am not worried about you. I am not even sad for you. I know you have the strength to be happy. You think you are in a closed, airless room. But I know that happiness is like an open door you can't see.

I love you. When you find that open door, you are going to be even more amazing to yourself.

Baby, nobody can love you enough to make up for any hate you bear toward yourself. You cannot divorce some part of yourself and say, "I love myself, but I hate this part." The conflict is unbearable and sooner or later will fracture you.

I want more than anything to see you feeling your way around that airless room for the open door. Acceptance is not easy. It does not mean giving up. It does not mean automatic approval of every character trait.

Acceptance is not giving in. Acceptance is not overlooking. Acceptance is aggressive and requires persistence.

Acceptance means that you welcome yourself, as you are today, fully into your own life. Acceptance says: "OK, that's the honest status; I can look that in the face. Now, I have new things to try today with all my heart and might, and what I know about myself, it DOES NOT STOP ME."

My friend, I more than want to cheer you on. Of course I want to hear what you are trying — what you attempt even if you do not quite believe in yourself. But this too: I accept you. You hear me? I accept you. You are welcome, as you are, with what I know about you, in my life. I won't pretend your eating disorder isn't happening. I won't pretend your destructive, unhappy thoughts aren't real.

But I won't make your resolving them a precondition of our spending time together. And I won't let them be how we spend our time.

I propose instead that we go shoe shopping.

You say when.