~ trigger warning, eating disorder behaviour ~
If you don’t have an eating disorder that requires you to throw up the foods you eat, either regular meals that end badly or binges, you may not understand the thrill that comes from being able to abstain from doing so for protracted periods.
It has been two months since I’ve thrown up anything. Prior to that, I went four months which followed abstaining for three which has been the pattern since I left rehab in March of 2015. I am at the point where I feel comfortable, albeit terrified, saying that I’m not going to go back to doing it full-time.
I think at any rate, that I won’t; I hope I won’t.
I’m grateful in ways beyond measure.
I’m grateful that there’s the possibility that I won’t lose any more teeth. I’m grateful that my joints aren’t swollen and aching all the time. I’m grateful my arm doesn’t smell like vomit from the chyme and saliva that covers it when I shove my fingers down my throat. I’m grateful that I’m cutting less, since my pattern for purging almost always started with a session of facial mutilation. I’m grateful I’m no longer spending between twenty and one hundred dollars a day on food to binge and purge on. I’m grateful that I don’t check out the bathrooms of every restaurant I go to for discreet stalls.
My brain is still not my own. I still think all the time, almost every moment, about being thinner. I still obsess over how much physical space I’m taking up in the word. I still agonize over whether my bones are visible enough.
Changing the behaviours are one thing; changing the thoughts and getting your brain back is something else again, something much harder.
I suspect it will take time. The longer I go without throwing up, the more I eat regularly, the more often I correct my thought patterns when I’m obsessing about my size or the size of my clothes, the more likely it is that the thoughts will gradually start to abate. As I well know, what you don’t feed can’t thrive.
The thing I’ve come to realize about changes is that they need to be slow, steady, and incremental to be effective and long-lasting. I’ve done the big dramatic changes, the New Year’s life adjustments that never take hold. You change up the behaviours you don’t like in a big and unsustainable way. For instance, carbs. I’m a big carbivore. My go-to diet is largely built around white flour and has been for some time. I know this is not the best way to eat. Periodically, I revolt and decide to change, to make my eating better, more perfect. No white foods, no simple carbs. No bagels, no processed cereal, no candy, no potatoes, no pasta. If I’m lucky, I last a week. Then I drift back into older patterns and use the failure to beat myself up, without acknowledging the fact that it was too much for one go, too harsh, and too hard to adapt to.
For change to be successful, it has to – for the most part – come in smaller, sustainable units. We don’t do change that well as a species; I don’t do change that well when it’s too large.
Slow and steady really does win the race.
I’m simply impatient. It took thirty-eight years to grow an eating disorder brain; it’s unreasonable to expect it to change instantly because I make a resolution and yet I do. I want what I want, and I want it now. I’m tired of battles.
I’m tired of the struggle, tired of the ugly thoughts, tired of that voice in my brain that points out ad nauseum all the ways in which I’m wrong. But I’m not tired to the death, which is a good thing since I’ve been there before and it’s ugly and dark.
The only thing I want more than to give up is to not give up, the only thing that I want more than to be left alone to wallow in my eating disorder is change. I’m grateful for that alteration in my thinking. Small consistent changes and persistence, as it turns out, are some of the most important games in town.