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Tuesday , December 14, 2010

A NOGOODFORME MAGNUM OPUS: "Let It Beat," by Laura Jane Faulds

"Let It Beat" by Laura Jane Faulds is dedicated to everybody in my life who loves me, including myself. I love you too.

ljlj.jpg

The photograph of me seen at left was taken in June of 2006, two months before I got sick. The photograph of me seen at right was taken seven months later.

I was initially hesitant to post these photographs, mostly because I consider it "beneath me" to use such a hackneyed, emotionally manipulative device as "the before and after photo." And it's true- I don't need these photos to make my point. But I want you to look at them.

Not because of the obvious; yes, I get it, we all do- it's shocking. It's jarring; revolting, even. My face got gaunt. Anorexia is sad.

But what I really want you to look at- to see- is my eyes. My eyes say everything. It is a blessing and a curse if I ever knew one.

Look at the girl on the left. Look at those eyes! Look at them!!!

She is alive. She is hopeful, focused, expectant. She is a ferocious little scamp, I remember being her: bong hits and booze runs and Brooklyn. I was a jerk, a card. I was angry at the world every day; I felt it missed the point. I was less loud, shyer, but was still- just the same- loud and shy; loud but shy. Look at that girl. That girl was going places, and everybody knew it.

Instead, two months later, I got sick. Five months after that, I turned into the girl on the right. I don't need to tell you what is in that girl's eyes. You can see it for yourself, clear like a windowpane. There is nothing to explain; no words but that, but nothing. When you look into that girl's eyes, you see nothing, because there is nothing inside her.

She's not dead, but she isn't alive, either. She's just, kind of, nothing.

PART ONE: TELL IT TO THE JUDGE, COCONUT FUDGE

They.

They, they, they: always taking the heat for everybody else's transgressions. It's so easy, to blame it all on them. All "they" ever do is mess with your shit- knock you down when you're standing tall; pull on your hair while you're sleeping.

This could have been the blame game. I wanted to write a step-by-step guide pointed gracefully, but vengefully, at every one of "them". All the people who have said the wrong thing, tripped me up, held me back. Like picture me holding a silver, cigar-sized James Bond-y pistol, and I'm shooting it at my enemies, at "them," so elegantly- the perfect shot.

I have dealt with all of it: the judgment, the lack of compassion, the callousness, the shaming and the blame, the me becoming "them," to them. I wanted to shout out all the things they ever did that made it worse for me, so that the world could take heed and never do them again. I thought that if I figured out a way to explain it all, very slowly and clearly- what not to do- then maybe all the other people suffering would heal faster, and everybody would know, and that maybe, somehow, I could make it go away. Because I really want to make it go away.

But, the worst things that have happened to me over the course of my illness have, in most cases, been the best- the most helpful, at least. I cannot write a step-by-step guide that teaches the world how to Eradicate Anorexia Forever; I have no idea. There's no nifty solution for solving this one. All I can do is do what I can do, which is write about the two things I know how to write about: music, and myself.

My relationship to the music I love is visceral, passionate, and very intimate. I struggle with accepting the dissonance of it: sometimes, I feel so flawlessly represented by this gang of terrific dudes from England in the 1960s that I get confused, and think they are me. It's weird. I've let my life and experience living it be defined and expressed by Beatles songs for ten years now, and I can see how that inclination- to have something else mean something more about me than my actual self- has facilitated a smooth transition into my being immutably controlled by anorexia.

I am really, really talented at having anorexia. I may be a good writer, but I'm the best anorexic. I am the textbook restricting type anorexic- really hardcore. I never binge or purge, I never "slip up." Though the root causes of why this illness is so attractive to me make a lot of sense, its mechanisms run entirely incongruent to every other aspect of my personality. In my life, I am the textbook nothing. I'm not even weird enough to be a textbook weirdo! But within the confines of my illness, I am the most boring, typical person in the world. I am the Jane Doe of caloric restriction.

I received a lot of submissions for this project, all of which were immensely valuable, all of which I have taken into consideration, all of which have meant more to me than anything else ever has, pretty much. But the most important and enlightening response of all came from a fellow "anorexi-genius" ("genio-rexic"?), who wrote me saying that "at any given moment, 90% of my brain is freaking out about food in the most boring, repetitive way. I can function so well with that remaining 10%, and give so much of myself to other people, that working at full capacity is inconceivable anymore."

Over the past three years, functioning at 10% of my brain's capacity would be classified as a good day. I have spent the past three years of my life functioning at zero. Today, right now, through all these deep summer days I've spent, waiting to age and writing "Let It Beat," I am functioning at 50%.

At twenty-four years old, I am no longer ashamed to admit that, by arranging words in this weird way of mine, I can say a lot about a lot, to and for, a lot of people. The most I can do to Eradicate Anorexia Forever is write about it. People will read it, and it will not do nothing. I can know this for sure, because, at very least, I am doing it for myself.

Here's to you, Laura Jane Faulds; Happy 24th on the 24th! Inside of you, it has come, it is always happening: you are Eradicating Anorexia Forever.

PART TWO: SOME FUNNY STUFF IS GOING ON HERE

People in my life don't like to admit to themselves that it could be true, because I'm Laura Jane. But all Those Things, the little ones, you've heard them before- in Seventeen magazine eating disorder exposes and other such oversimplified and offensive representations of my illness- Those Things That Happen To Anorexics. It happened to me.

My hair has fallen out. I have grown fur all over my body. I often have no sensation in my hands and feet. My hands are purple and chapped. I can count my ribs, every knot on my spine. My collarbone sticks out further than my shoulders; my hipbones are worse. All my organs don't work. They're junk. I have cardiac arrhythmia. I black out every time I stand up. My stomach is distended. My joints swell; I bruise in a heartbeat. I have anemia. At twenty-four years old, I am pre-osteoporotic, which is damage that cannot be undone. For the rest of my life, I will be pre-osteoporotic.

Nobody really wants to know that about me. I'm not particularly thrilled to share it with the Universe, either. But I must come fully clean about the filthiest truths of what this illness is. I don't have special, cool, Beatles-themed Laura Jane anorexia. I have the same anorexia as everybody else. It's foul. It is monstrous.

All the relationships ruined, jobs lost. The 911 calls, the smashed dishes, the slammed doors. Blank stares, cigarette burns, broken hearts, lying and hollering and hollering lies. All the words I never wrote, all the cancelled plans, the hundreds of thousands of moments, minutes, and days I have thrown away. All the sentences I would have spoke, the people I might have met. The Life I May Have Led. Tiny clothes, ripped up because they didn't fit. All the men I have seduced and discarded, used and abused in the name of black-hearted vindication- wanting so terribly to kill them, for liking me, for being such messed-up misogynists that they would think an anorexic chick was hot. All the harm I've caused; the negativity I have put out into the world. The friends, admirers, acquaintances, the anybodys- all the people I have punished, for not doing a good enough job of saving my life. Wasted days, wasted years. All the killed magic, the resentment, the hate.

But the worst thing of all:

How you stop belonging to yourself. You are everybody else's tragedy. You are a toy and you are a show, because you are wrong. You're not Laura Jane; you're the anorexic chick. You are the girl ordering the shittiest-sounding salad on the menu, and then asking for it without nuts or avocado, dressing on the side. They know. You ask for your iced coffee unsweetened, then dump in eight packs of Splenda. They know. They can't see what you write. You are the girl pacing through the grocery store, your hell. You are holding back tears, tugging on your hair, grinding your teeth. Your pain is palpable. You pick things up; you put them back; you grab them again. You are having a panic attack, but you're not even that- you're the anorexic having a panic attack in the grocery store. You are taking deep breaths to keep yourself from screaming, wondering what the fuck you can do. There is no answer. You aren't allowed anything. You are inside of this, and they are watching you. You are an effigy, a farce. They know.

To them, you're not the James Joyce of fashion bloggers.

You're the Nicole Richie of the Hazelton Lanes Whole Foods.

PART THREE: SONGS ABOUT DEATH AND DYING

"Dandelion" is my favourite song by the Rolling Stones song because it features killer back-up vocals courtesy of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Hearing John Lennon's nasal, lackadaisical "Awwwww-aw-aw" amid the sexy thick of Jaggerland is comforting to me. The Beatles are always comforting for me, but finding that solace in someplace unexpected feels lightly serendipitous, like bumping into your best friend on the street on a bad day.

For the past three years, my life has been "Dandelion." The "we of me" has existed only as a backup vocalist. Anorexia is the frontman; we are the worst band in the world. The moments when my illness has relented enough for me to interact directly with myself have been stolen. They are a gift. Since I've been sick, one-on-one time with LJ is only a surprise.

__

For me, it came down to days. It must have been inside me since I was born, but it may never have been come to be if things hadn't lined up the way they did, which they did, which at once proves that astrology is real, and that it is as it is, and as it isn't, it ain't.

August 1st, 2006 happened to be one of the hottest August Firsts in the past hundred years of New York City history. It also happened to be the day I moved from my apartment in East Williamsburg to a new place in Bushwick. It happened to be the day my parents and I moved everything I own up four long flights of stairs. It happened to be one month after I turned twenty-one, one month before I began my senior year of college. Right after my long-term boyfriend and I broke up, right when I wanted to lose fifteen pounds, right when I met a scuzzy thirty-four year old Aquarius who understood how cool it was that I liked Herman's Hermits and made out with me as my prize. On August 1st, I got such bad heatstroke that I couldn't eat. I was stoked about it. My best friend got hooked on heroin. My roommate was a well-intentioned but insecure gay dude who so desperately wanted to make Laura Jane Inner Circle that he was willing to fake an eating disorder to make the cut. Parsons School of Design is conveniently bookended by Jamba Juices. Whatever will be, is.

By December, I was the anorexic chick. I was the only person at the gym on a Friday night. Every day- one hour on the elliptical machine, forty-five minutes on the bike, 1000 sit-ups. I weighed myself every morning, burned more calories than I ate, ate nothing, lost my mind, was terrified, but was hooked. Anorexia, then, was the dude of my dreams. Three months ago, I was sick, and I hated it. I felt powerless, because I was powerless. But that December, I was powerful. Anorexia is about control above all else; when it happens for the first time, you can't see that it's an illusion. It's sorcery, and you are bewitched. Spellbound. That December, zero percent of me wanted to recover. I had no idea there was anything I even needed to recover from.

Because I was dead in the eyes while I was living it, I lied a lot. I had ready-made excuses and alibis for everything. I would purposely brainiac up convoluted explanations for why I couldn't eat, and I would deliver them purposely long-windedly, so that people would get bored of listening to me, and move on. Everybody guessed, but nobody knew. Now, everybody knows. Because I am telling you it.

I've "recovered" twice before, but, until now, I never did. Twice, I ate the food "they" said I had to, smiled and cried and said smart breakthrough-y adages and swore it had dried up, but I was only biding my time. Inwardly, I was plotting and scheming, waiting impatiently to get back to where I once belonged. The rules, the rituals, the habits, the power, the purpose, the fun. And then I did.

If you are reading this, chances are, you've been reading nogoodforme.com regularly for awhile. Good on you! Congratulations on being cool and smart. Nogoodforme.com is the best website on the entire Internet.

If you are reading this, chances are, you know who I am, and are interested to hear what I have to say about this subject. Chances are, this is based on your having read things I've written in the past, and liking them. Chances are, some of the things that I've written and you've read (and liked I hope!) were written between July of 2008 and April of 2009.

Every single last word of that bulk of writing was written by a human being who was fatally ill, completely insane, and dying of starvation.

Since two months ago, when I was bumped up a class from "90% Of My Mental Energy Being Devoted To Being An Awesome Anorexic" to "A Comparatively Meager 50% Of My Mental Energy Being Devoted To Being An Awesome Anorexic," I have written the best writing of my life by a long shot. I have accomplished more in these nine weeks than I did in twenty-three years and ten months. Things that I want to have happen for me are happening.

If I was able to write what I wrote at 90%, and two months of existing at 50% have been this productive, how can I really fuck with that? The thought of myself functioning with none of my mental energy obsessively focused on sustaining a state of self-starvation is, while still unbelievable, so CRAZY EXCITING that it makes me want to cry, die, jump, puke, call everyone I've ever met in my life, cry more, hug strangers, grin so big my face would distort, fake surf on my bed, run up and down the street, come home, listen to every song I've ever loved really, really loud, and dance to them, forever.

PART FOUR: GO TO HELL, ARCHIE BELL AND THE DRELLS

These are my days.

Oh God the end of June. We are symmetry. I came to exist alongside this first hit of sticky hot. I was born for the summertime: Baby Lemonade on a Sunny Afternoon. Yesterday was the first day the heat went white, a hot that makes every room an attic. The sweat comes down either side of your nose in teardrops. It is weird to touch your face and feel your own skin so hot. You go to bed red and wake up bronze. You get dirty fast, but don't care. The days are long; the nights are longer. One day, I will live somewhere where it is hot forever. Dyed-in-the-wool Northerners always make that stupid point about how you can't appreciate summer without living through the winter first, but I contest that. I will always appreciate summer.

So these are the days when I get to exist in heaven. Every day is shorts weather; every song sounds the best it has ever sounded. I live conveniently close to a 7-11; I smile at strangers, and sing along to the songs. I have a patio, and tomorrow is my champagne birthday!

I just wish it didn't have to be underscored by Anorexi-Me rudely berating Actual Me for being so happy and alive. It's a drag, in the "Paul McCartney commenting on John Lennon's death" way (I mean this) It never goes away. I can't do anything right.

I gained some weight recently. It happened suddenly. You think changes happen gradually, but they don't. They happen in a second. You can see it happen. I woke up, and wasn't me anymore. This body is a stranger. I feel like I am living inside somebody else. I don't know how to accept myself as anything but a skeleton, an alien. On the streetcar today, I sat behind a very old man who was obviously dying. I watched his backbones work; you can see them in a bony body, like watch cogs. I was jealous of him. I am obsessed with watching my body turn inhuman; it's really perverse. All that nasty body shit, those sick thrills, it's the "Hey Jude" of my eating disordered experience. Feeling the jut of a new bone is like hearing your new favourite song.

Actually, anorexia recovery is turning me into a really diplomatic person, because I am constantly mediating the catty little quarrels that take place between Actual Me and Anorexi-Me. Anorexia thinks Laura Jane is a Judas; Laura Jane thinks Anorexia is a life-ruining bitch. Sadly, I believe them both.

Two days ago, it took me two hours of emotional preparation to get myself to a place where I could handle eating one-tenth of a teaspoon of peanut butter out of the jar. I did it to prove to myself that I could. I could. Then I flipped the fuck out and took a thousand pictures of myself, looked like that giant stranger in all of them, and cried. Within me, it was as much a failure as it was a victory. 50% of me continues to believe that having anorexia is the coolest thing in the world, the resounding right choice, the only way to live. Every day, I am fucking it all up. And all I can do is deal.

"They" say that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

It just strikes me as really unnecessary, to think, that any person could ever need to be this strong.

PART FIVE: STRAWBERRY LAURA JANE FAULDS FOREVER

I initially wanted to end all this with my final Lesson Learned being:

"Life is not a Beatles song."

My point, I thought, would have been that, as much comfort as I derive from Paul McCartney being a hot-shot melody boy and George being sexy and Ringo being a chill good person and John Lennon being as crazy as I am and all of them having "come together" to write me my favourite songs, I can't ask for that from the day-to-day.

I wanted to make a sobering "Life is hard" point, about how happiness comes in moments. That life will rarely be as killer as it is when I am existing inside one, one of those times when I hear one of those songs for the billionth time and it means something entirely new, something about me, something perfect, something that proves life is actually perfect and amazing, and I am being perfect and amazing inside of it.

I thought that I would write this, and realize, and accept, that life can only be that when it is that, and the rest of it will be boring and unpleasant and scary and hard and long when I want it to be short, short when I need it to feel long, long, long.

Well, obviously, Laura Jane- Life is not a Beatles song. A Beatles song is a Beatles song, and life is life. And why would I want my life to be a Beatles song anyway? My life is more than a Beatles song.

Your life, Laura Jane Faulds, you stupid genius 24-year-old idiot, is, and always will be:

Life plus a Beatles song.

__

Q.E.D,
Laura Jane Faulds,
June 23rd, 2009, 4:42 PM.

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30 Comments!!

Just wanted to say a big huge CONGRATS on the book! I look forward to reading it, and I love your blog and your column. Can't wait for the new blog

yo, this is amazing. seriously seriously amazing. you're so fucking strong and so fucking right for writing this. thank you, laura jane.

Thank you, Laura Jane. Happy birthday.

Thank you for posting this, Laura Jane. Forgive my possible cheesiness, but it was so brave and smart.

Happy birthday!

arrrrggghhhhh, lj, i'm so proud of you for writing this - and i hope that comes off not all lame-o and condescending, but more like it's being spoken by some habitually wisecracking uncle in a rare moment of utter sincerity. seriously: i'm so proud to know you.

love,
uncle black eyes

I have a book coming out?!?!?!?!!?!?!

Amazing post. Maybe it's not the best parallel, but reading your piece reminded me of my own struggle with depression- ruined relationships, canceled plans, total isolation. It's hard to look back on all that wasted time and wonder what could have been. Reading this reminds me how awful the lowest points were, and it almost makes me want to cry.

But it's been nearly two years, and I'm starting to feel like me again. It's sort of like seeing a long-lost friend and remembering why you thought they were so cool in the first place. And from what I gather, you're starting to see that in yourself too. You should be very proud of yourself. Happy Birthday, Laura Jane: what a long, strange trip it's been.

lovely lovely laura jane! even though i am still getting to know you, i am so glad to have met a beautiful, courageous woman. stay strong! xoxo

great job, LJ! love you! happy 24!!

Thank you for writing this piece, truly, I can only imagine how hard it must be to share this moment with us. It has been a few years since I have weaned off of my illness, and it is a daily struggle to balance logic and a desire for the past. I wish you so much strength and insight; your words are immensely helpful.

By anonymous on June 24, 2009 6:33 PM

I remember when I was in my teens and started starving myself to try to get thin sometimes for wrestling.
Here is what I felt:
Excitement from the bod mod aspect of cutting weight.
Anxiety and feeling bad about myself if I stopped.
Unconsciously feeling that I would reach higher social status if I continued.
An almost religious ritual feeling to the whole thing.

I don't remember much else. I certainly was never really anorexic but I think I got a taste of it. I think I know why people get caught up in it.

Anxiety has driven me to do other things that were not good for me too. OCD kinds of things.

I don't let anxiety run my life anymore. But it's still there. It's hard sometimes not to fall into ritualistic behavior. It's as if I have to make a sacrifice to the gods to ward off the bad feelings.

While I may be ED-NOS and overweight, I understand your struggle just as well as you have written it. This brought tears to my eyes, because I have been eating disordered since I was 15, and since I was 18 (now near 22), I have been in the grips of the hell of an eating disorder really throwing me about taking control, ever since I went to college, where I too found that a day of 20 or 30% functioning was a good day.

Continue to fight, you deserve it. I hope you find more victories, and more joys. Happy birthday, you beautiful woman.

99.9% of the world loves you, and that little percent that doesn't is an ignorant ass that couldn't see the forest beyond all the trees anyways.

I hope you know how beautiful you are, how singularly cool you are, how inspiring all your work has been to me, and how much I anticipated reading this article only to find it even more poignant/impactful/uplifting in that unexpected, uniquely Laura Jane way than I had hoped.

The world needs you alive and healthy, and I'm so glad to hear you're getting there.

Much love on your 24th!!

Laura Jane...thank you for being honest and brave for yourself and for us. I've been having a rough few months and honestly (in the least stalker sounding way possible) your more recent writings/posts have been a real comfort. On days when I don't feel much like smiling let alone laughing I will catch myself chuckling about your in depth explanation of a Beatles song I've been listening to since I was 5. so, thank you for that.

I hate that you have to struggle with this. I'm sending you some good old Gemini vibes from down here in LA and putting all my money on "Actual Laura Jane".

Happy Birthday!

PS: hey, hey now you're officially "24 and so much more".

happy birthday! you are awesome for writing this. and you just made me cry a little.

By andreajean on June 24, 2009 9:43 PM

My brain is overflowing right now, but the one thing I absolutely must say before the day is out:

HAPPY MOTHERFUCKING BIRTHDAY, LAURA JANE FAULDS! Rock out on yr champagne motherfucking birthday. 24 and so much more!

By mandy s. on June 24, 2009 10:50 PM

Happy birthday! I'm looking forward to reading the stuff you write at 51% and beyond.

By Elena on June 25, 2009 1:40 AM

Reading this was beautiful and precious and good. Happy Birthday and good luck to you.

baby, this is wonderful. you look just like my mama in that first picture, and my mama is beautiful. i think you should write a book, about the beatles and anorexia and your awesome little existence. i would shelve it at the library, in the 14-day nonfiction and sneak peeks and take it out at the end of my shift. all your stars were out when you wrote this. happy happiest birthday!!!

By laura louise on June 25, 2009 10:51 AM

Laura Jane,

Happy Belated Birthday! You are on the road to something so wonderful -- I'm just lucky to be able to read about it....

The movement you need is on your shoulder....(know you know real story behind those words) It's very true.

God bless! Keep writing about it -- get it all out there.

Love,
Nicole

By Nicole on June 25, 2009 2:51 PM

Your writing is incredible.

not at all surprisingly beautiful, moma

I can't believe I missed commenting on this on your actual birthday. Happy Belated Birthday!!

This broke my heart-- but in a good, hopeful way. We're all pulling for you!

Happy Birthday, Laura Jane. Your writing has always been compelling and revealing and like being allowed entry into a really cool club, but I think you've hit a new high mark with the telling of your story. Anorexia isn't a cool club, but the way you've put yourself out there is very daring. And I admire you for it.

By tricia on June 29, 2009 6:59 PM

i just saw this and i have to say thank you. i mightve been on the brink of something if it wasnt for this slap of reality.

life > beatles song

brilliant.

By ashley on July 16, 2009 10:59 PM

thank you laura jane

Of course!

It is so nice to read this positive story ... and ... to think back on my own experience. For me, at least, no matter how "recovered" one might be, something irrational inside screams in a very small voice ... "I want it back". And I know all the hard fought battles are won, but the disordered thinking that led to an anorexic choice is only forever imprisoned, but not banished from me entirely. Thoughts might become history, but they don't disappear. Still, their power is gone.

Thanks again.

I never think "I want it back"

People in every country receive the credit loans from different creditors, because it's easy and fast.



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