letting it go

november 15, 2017


recovering from an eating disorder is hard work. it’s a daily slog, and can be tiring as hell. complaining about it remind me that i’m fortunate. i’m here to complain, and too many others i’ve known and cared for aren’t. those thoughts, however, do more than that. they set off another round of self-criticism and negative judgments. according to my eating disorder, i’m doing healing wrong.

there are moments when i want to give up on trying to walk away from this disease. it seems too hard. instead of continuing to work on getting better, all i want is to return to the ease of the familiar. i‘m a subconscious self-saboteur as well; i engage in harmful behaviours that, in the aftermath, i recognize as being eating disorder based. things like buying lots of trigger foods while grocery shopping. letting myself get too hungry. spending too much time looking at celebrity bodies and comparing. none of these behaviours have positive outcomes. i’m hoping that as time passes, i’ll learn to recognize the sneak attacks. for now, they serve to remind me, should i start to forget, that my eating disorder is sly and it’s definitely trying to kill me.

i often talk about my eating disorder as an entity distinct from myself. i know it’s not; i don’t suffer from multiple personality disorder. we all have multiple areas of our minds that speak to us. talking about my eating disorder as a distinct voice is a way to explain the dialogue that fills up the spaces in my brain.

my recovery action plan is simple. not easy, but simple. i am not going to throw up anymore. pretty straightforward. i’m at the end, or at least that’s what it feels like. i don’t want to purge anymore. i’m tired of it. i want to be done. i’m sick of the effort and the grossness and the mental anguish. i need my life to be different. i don’t want to be full of self-hatred. it’s depressing.

there are the physical consequences to consider as well; the effects my bulimia has had on my mouth is always in my thoughts. i can’t afford to lose any more teeth. eating was challenging enough when i had a full set. the dental damage from my eating disorder is extreme. root canals and extractions have become routine, though no less traumatizing for that. the pain from the dental issues is not pleasant, and has to be dealt with, but there are emotional consequences as well. it’s hard to let go of guilt and self-condemnation when the long-term physical consequences of my eating disorder make themselves known. i’m trying to. i remind myself that, other considerations aside, my eating disorder did serve me in one respect: i survived. it was a defective coping method, harmful and damaging, but it helped keep me alive. there’s irony in that.

part one of the plan is no purging, and part two is trying not to binge. the challenge there is my anxiety. a times it feels like it’s impossible to bear. often i want to drown out the noise and make it all go away and i historically my bulimia has done that. so new coping skills are required. meditation seems to be helping. i also need to readjust my relationship with food. i’ve got issues there.  finally, i will have to work on the sources of my emotional distress. this is not a one, two and we’re done project.

i’m trying to change the way i think about food. i’m trying to get rid of the black and white, good and bad categorizations. the way i have historically categorized food isn’t reflective of health concerns like trans-fats or sodium, nor is it related to taste preferences. the evaluations are solely fat and calorie based. that needs to stop. i’m trying moderation on for size instead; i’m trying to shift away from the extremes my eating disorder has brought to my relationship with food.

so, three reasonable meals a day, and i’m making an effort with snacks. those are harder. that little voice pops up when i contemplate non-mealtime consumption. a friendly reminder that i probably don’t need food just because i’m hungry. a nudge so i remember what i’m trying to forget – that according to my eating disorder, hungry is good and satiety leads to fat. a reminder that less is better.

my eating disorder voice is persistent, i’ll give it that. i’ve tr not to ignore it, however, since challenging the points of view it presents is imperative to getting better. i need new trains of thought. caving to its seemingly small demands is a slippery slope and i know it.  i’m nowhere close to healed, but i’m on the path, i think. i still restrict a bit but it’s minor, nowhere near to the degree i’ve restricted in the past. one step at a time.

i also still have quite a few of what i’d call “food quirks”. i drink too much diet pop, and stress about the idea of letting that go. it’s a huge part of my food comfort zone. i’m obsessive about having a small piece of chocolate with my morning coffee every day. if that little routine is broken, i feel out of sorts and edgy. i still only eat the outside layer of ice cream bars. i’m only comfortable eating half of the hamburger bun.

liquid calories are and extreme challenge, though i’m making progress. i find i like soup. caloric liquids were one of the first food groups i eliminated and they are proving to be challenging to re-introduce. although i modified the liquid calorie rule as an adult to accommodate alcohol (it replaced the close-proximity meals and snacks), i’ve avoided drinking nutrients for almost three decades. that’s a lot of training to undo.

a phobia of liquid calories is a strange thing to have. it’s hard to share so historically i haven’t. i don’t say that liquids with calories freak me out. instead it’s “i don’t like juice”; “i’m a little lactose intolerant”; and “i don’t like that kind of soup”. just a few more falsehoods for the file of lies i’ve told in support of my eating disorder.

the fact that disordered eating behaviour was caused by my eating disorder doesn’t stop it from criticizing me about my behavioural patterns. eating disorders are not concerned with fairness or logic. truthfully, there is almost nothing – my appearance, my actions, or my choices –  that my eating disorder doesn’t criticize.

we’ve been together for a long time but i’m also starting to learn that my eating disorder is a lousy friend. remembering that makes it easier to believe that my eating disorder is trying to kill me. the memories of what life is like when i’m actively bingeing and purging reminds me that the hard work is worth it. the dream about what life could be like if i was free keeps me moving forward.

By Em

I like writing. Words help me unpack my thoughts so things start to make sense. I suppose that once I figure out life, the universe, and everything (my thanks to Douglas Adams), I'll have nothing left to say. "Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing, and learn as you go." E. L. Doctorow

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