harmful behaviours are trying to sneak in through the back door



i lost another tooth this week, and by “lost” i mean the dentist took it out and threw it away. there was too much eating disorder damage to repair. i believe that’s tooth number nine. i feel like wallowing over that number; it makes me sad. sometimes i think about getting the various numbers and stats related to my eating disorder printed on a shirt so i could wear it around as a warning.

mental illnesses are invisible much of the time and people underestimate the damage they do. advertising in glitter print on a cotton t would be helpful, enlightening, and moderately stylish.

on the bright side, i had three posts for implants put in at the same time. i’ve started the process of replacing the teeth that are gone. just the posts for now – the teeth proper get added later once the implants bond with the bone. i’m good with waiting because there’s a limit to how much pain i’m down for at any given time.

tooth extractions hurt like a son of a bitch, at least once you wake up and the freezing wears off. i’ve also learned that getting an implant drilled into your jawbone is less than fabulous. luckily, they send you home from the surgeon’s office with a nice supply of different types of pills in a variety of ugly bottles. i’ve been rattling since thursday afternoon.

i enjoy the mood-altering effects of the opioids and the way they turn down the volume on my brain, but there is a downside: the pain meds completely eliminate my appetite. this has my eating disorder sitting up and shrieking “hooray”. if i’m not hungry then i have a legitimate reason i can use to justify not eating. the eating disorder is also enjoying the fact that i’m currently restricted to a soft food, mostly smoothies diet. it’s far easier to limit your caloric intake that way.

the days leading up to the dental surgery were challenging. my bulimia kept reminding me that i was on a deadline; soon, i wouldn’t be able to throw up even if i wanted to. even if i needed to. i mean i could, i suppose, and i’ve definitely done stupid things in the service of my illness in the past but vomiting over open and stitched holes in your mouth is a basically a “no”. the risk of infection, the bleeding and the pain, and the having to explain the damage to medical staff helps me hold off. i’m tired of being treated poorly by medical professionals.

in the days before the appointment, my eating disorder really wanted me to get in a few binges and purges, but i resisted. six months of sober eating is a hard thing to throw away, even when part of you really wants to. now that my food choices are restricted, however, my eating disorder is thrilled.


i could counteract the weight-loss effects of consuming mostly smoothies by buffing them up with protein powder, i suppose, but there is part of me that doesn’t want to do that. abstinence* is not the same as healing. part of me that is still convinced that happiness comes from double-digit numbers on the scale.

another part knows that happiness comes from healing. the implants are going to make me happier. repairing the damage i’ve caused is part of the process. it’s hard to live with the physical reminders of the harm you’ve caused yourself. i see the facial scars from self-mutilation every time i look in the mirror. i see the missing teeth every time i open my mouth. i’ve covered up a lot of my cutting scars with tattoos. it was an excellent call; i feel better with the scars hidden under images that are beautiful.

sometimes, i’m strangely proud of my scars and missing teeth. the damage is horrible, but i’m still here to complain about it and for many, that is no longer true. they are battle scars, earned as i fought for my life. it was a defective technique, true, but it kept me going.

other times, i feel buried under the guilt that rises up when i see the marks and holes in my mouth. i think about all the horrid things i’ve done to myself. when i get like that, i forget that i survived. the physical damage becomes a way to beat myself down. it opens up the path for the eating disorder to criticize and berate me over my poor choices and lack of self-control.

i also feel pretty horrible about the cost. not the mental cost or the physical cost or the psychic cost of hurting yourself to such a degree. the actual, money amount. dentists and doctors don’t work for free. eating disorders are not cheap.

dental repair work is especially expensive when one’s dental insurance is non-existent. extractions done under sedation are costly, and i could buy a car for what the implant total will finally come to. visa is very fond of me this week and i’ll be able to see a lot of free movies with points this year.

no popcorn, however. no rice, no crunchy foods, no crumbly foods. nothing that could get into the open wounds in my gums and cause harm. scrambled eggs, pottles of yogurt and custard, and smoothies are basically my menu for the next little while.

not a lot of choices there, or calories, and i’ve lost weight after only two days. my eating disorder gives me a metaphorical pat on the back. i consider giving it a punch to the head.

in addition to the low-cal fare, i’m also dealing with the appetite-suppressing effects of pain pills.  that effect is one reason why i generally avoid them, but i’m not feeling particularly brave about the pain. eating disorder is a happy camper indeed.

this is when i start getting into fights with myself. this is where long and involved conversations with my eating disorder and my critical inside voice happen. this is where i drag out affirmations i don’t believe in as yet, but still say because everyone says that ultimately, they’ll help. this is where i remind myself that fat is not a feeling, and that i really do want to heal.

this is where i remind myself to stop counting my rib bones in the mirror. this is where i remind myself that eating is not a sin. this is where i remind myself that i am more than just numbers on a scale; that those numbers don’t define me. they don’t describe the kind of person i am. they don’t measure kindness, or empathy, or intelligence. your weight doesn’t tell you if you’re a good friend and daughter and sister and parent. the numbers on a scale are a reflection of the force gravity is exerting on my body, nothing more.

this is also where the eating disorder fights back. this is where it tells me that in fact, my weight is who i am. this is where it tells me that people will judge me and find me wanting for my lack of perfection. this is where it points out that i’m a failure. this is where it criticizes me for my tooth-loss, ignoring the fact that the loss is directly attributable to the bulimia.

it’s loud being in my head sometimes. i have the nice pills from the surgeon and i start to think that maybe another pill would be a good idea, so that all my problems would melt away for the next four to six hours, and i could pretend that mellow and calm and quiet is my default state.

i won’t go off the direction though. i’m careful with mood-altering things. i want to heal, not to substitute one addictive and unhealthy behaviour for another.


*my previous blog post on abstinent behaviour and eating disorders

(april 21, 2018)






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