The first time I grasped that I was deeply crazy was when I began to eat huge amounts of food. I indulged especially in sweets. If I were to make a pie chart of my life (and refrain from eating it), I’m sure it would show huge chunks of time in the bulimia/anorexia’ zone. The worst of my food disorders followed me through adolescence; years seventeen through twenty two. I was a “student” out in the world, trying to maneuver by being on college campuses.
I had a sneaky way of being anorexic. I deluded myself into thinking that this was a spiritual discipline. Macrobiotics. It would get me high, exalt me spiritually. By eating small portions of brown rice and onions, chickpeas in barley, I was the paragon of yogic discipline. This was who I wanted myself to be. I got skinny. I weighed 125. On top of this I was taking LSD, DMT and smoking weed. I was deep into my purpose, my destiny of becoming a musician of salvation and a figure of reverence. I hope you can hear the self mockery in my tone.
Then I came to a breaking point. After a year of eating a strict Macrobiotic diet I had such a craving for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that I bought the ingredients and took them back to my hidey hole. “What are you doing?” I asked myself. “This is a self betrayal, this is the opposite of Macrobiotic discipline. You asshole, what a failure you are!” So I ate it. Then I ate something else sweet and gooey. Then I couldn’t stop eating every kind of junk food on the planet. I had been like a coiled spring ready to bounce. Boing!
I was so ashamed of myself. This was 1967, before eating disorders had been invented. I was a pioneer. My bulimia wasn’t the pukey kind. It was the Exercise Freakishly type of bulimia, the one where on alternate days I would purge with sweat and effort, then follow with a day of relentless eating: an entire apple pie, backed up by a half gallon of ice cream. After that came the cookies, and so forth. One day exercising. One day binge eating. Back and forth, one followed the other, for more than a year. It was insane and I knew it. I got so unhealthy that I could pull out hands full of my own hair! I looked for help. I went to the college shrink. I was desperate. He said, “I don’t know what’s happening to you and I can’t help you.”
Ironically, I lost weight. My waist was a twenty nine or thirty. I was not a registered student any more, I had dropped out. I was living in a vacant student’s quarter, avoiding the security guys and bedding down with a pad and sleeping bag. I got money from my dad. I worked as a stable boy at a local horse ranch. I had my drums stashed at the university’s music building in a practice room. I practiced there for hours every day, getting high by all means and experimenting with the limits of my technique. That was the point of not attending classes. I let my dad pay for semesters at Western Reserve and then I would slip down to Antioch College in Yellow Springs from Cleveland and hang out with people who talked to trees. I practiced with relentless vigor, working through the famous “Stick Control” book and listening to Coltrane records.
Wait a minute. I’m conflating two different periods of time. It doesn’t matter. That’s the way memory works. It’s all narrative but sometimes the pages are out of order. I find myself more objective about my life as I get older. My life has been so bizarre that it qualifies as the stuff of novels. That poor guy (that is, myself) didn’t know what lay ahead. He thought that if he took enough acid, did yoga and meditation, ate rice and played the drums then he would launch himself into nirvana. It’s not a bad plan, really. The problem was that I was fractured psychologically, harboring behaviors that would shame me again and again. They would almost kill me.
These were adolescent ordeals, but they were precursors to my future. In 1967 my eighteen year old self dreamed of cosmic unity while the biggest thing that lay ahead of me was heroin addiction. I interrogated my psyche by reading Jung and Freud. After that came years of therapy. I was determined to save myself.
It took a long time, but none of it can be repudiated. I am lucky to be alive and well.
I’m still slightly food disordered. I control, compensate, manage. Mostly I exercise and pray.
Arthur Rosch is a novelist, musician, photographer and poet. His works are funny, memorable and often compelling. One reviewer said “He’s wicked and feisty, but when he gets you by the guts, he never lets go.” Listeners to his music have compared him to Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, Randy Newman or Mose Allison. These comparisons are flattering but deceptive. Rosch is a stylist, a complete original. His material ranges from sly wit to gripping political commentary.
Arthur was born in the heart of Illinois and grew up in the western suburbs of St. Louis. In his teens he discovered his creative potential while hoping to please a girl. Though she left the scene, Arthur’s creativity stayed behind. In his early twenties he moved to San Francisco and took part in the thriving arts scene. His first literary sale was to Playboy Magazine. The piece went on to receive Playboy’s “Best Story of the Year” award. Arthur also has writing credits in Exquisite Corpse, Shutterbug, eDigital, and Cat Fancy Magazine. He has written five novels, a memoir and a large collection of poetry. His autobiographical novel, “Confessions Of An Honest Man” won the Honorable Mention award from Writer’s Digest in 2016.
More of his work can be found at www.artrosh.com
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