Some people tear up at the movies, some at weddings, some when lost, alone, in the woods at night. And, although I can not deny that last one (I HATE THE DARK), the quickest, most reliable way to get me to cry is with this simple, well known phrase.
“Hi I’m [fill in any name here], I’m just going to take your height, weight and blood pressure,” says every nurse, medical assistant or tech of some kind (as long as they’re wearing scrubs) when you are first entering the hospital or doctor’s office. Cue deep breath, sudden rise in blood pressure, dilating pupils and (you guessed it) lots of tears.
It is supposed to be the easiest part of the whole visit. Height and weight, the basics. But for me, and for many who have or are suffering from an eating disorder, it is by far the most dreaded.
I’m afraid of scales, and not the type found on fish. I’m okay with the fishy scale. It might be slimy and sticky, but no matter how gross (or beautiful) it doesn’t pass any judgement on your worth.
The other kind of scale though, the bathroom or doctor’s office kind, those are the ones that get me.
I can’t remember the first time that I stepped on a scale and held my breath, fingers trembling, as I looked down for the almighty verdict. It was always guilty. I do remember, however, it gradually becoming part of my daily routine.
At 15-years-old I’d take a shower before school, dry off and before heading back to my room to dress for the day, I’d step on to our new fancy scale that had the power of telling you your percent fat, muscle bone, water….everything you could ever want to know about yourself. The most important thing it told me was the simplest function (and the only part I really cared about) was the weight. The big, boxy, white number that was always too big. I’d try to make it go down by moving my feet really far out or to the top of the scale. Sometimes it helped, a little. Teary-eyed and angry I would scrawl the final number onto the wall and scurry back to my room, promising myself I’d never eat again.
But, of course, I did. (And thank goodness)
As the years passed and I learned that the scale and I were just never going to be happy with one and other, I began to avoid them like the plague.
I never had one in my dorm room. I moved it out of the bathroom when i went home. I for sure did not pack one in my little car when I moved to Maryland. I even avoid making eye contact (I know I should say looking at, but I swear scales can glare at you) with them at friends or relatives homes.
But at the doctors….that’s another story.
It’s tough for me to remember an appointment where the doctor didn’t walk in while I was wiping my face as tears rolled down from very red eyes. They often look startled or confused, like “is this the right room?” They check their chart, just to make sure. Occasionally they’ll ask me, “Is everything okay?” But most often, they ignore it, and simply ask “so what brings you in today?”
While stumbling through an explanation of whatever injury or illness has brought me to see them, my mind is still stuck on the number. How can I weigh that much? How have I let this happen? Why am I so fat? I’m never eating again. Races through my mind over and over and over. Occasionally more tears will run down my face, totally unrelated to whatever the doctor or I happens to be saying, and that’s when, even the most stoic typically lean in, put down their clip board and ask, “are you feeling alright?”
The answer is so clearly no it is always tough to answer.
“No,” I want to tell them. “I don’t like to be weighed. It reminds me of when I measured my worth in pounds. It brings me back to a place where the fact that I have a large frame and weigh more than most girls my age means I’m a failure, I’m ugly, I’m not worth your time. But I’ve been trying not to care. I’ve been working really hard to remember that I can measure myself in other things. That strength, love and smiles are important too. That the fact that I can run 26.2 miles matters.”
But I never say that, and I doubt many others like me who struggle with getting weighed have fully explained either.
Instead, I normally tell the doctor, “I’m fine, sorry,” deep breath, “I just prefer not to be weighed.”
Come back next month for more stories of Life with ED and submit your own via the contact page.