“It doesn’t matter what the external things is, the value we place on it subjugates us to another…where our heart is set, there our impediment lies.” – Epictetus
“When it comes to your goals and the things you strive for, ask yourself: Am I in control of them or they in control of me?”
I have a journal with writing prompts that I try to get to every day. It’s not to be confused with my regular journal, or the gratitude journal that sits beside my bed. In my quest for mental stability and calmness, I do a lot of writing.
The above prompt got me to thinking about my eating disorder. About the kinds of goals it encourages you to develop. Actually, it’s just one goal. Get thin. It’s the only thing that matters to the eating disorder. Thin, however, is a sliding scale and no matter how much weight you lose, no matter how small you get, you can never get there. It is unachievable.
The goal is not concerned with methods. How you achieve thin is irrelevant. You can kill yourself trying, in fact, the eating disorder thinks that would be best. Death is the eating disorder’s end game, after all.
Which led me to the second part of the prompt, “am I in control of [my goals] or they in control of me?” The goal of thin is definitely in control, or at least it had been, for most of my life.
The original thought – lose weight – was mine perhaps. The seeds were there before the eating disorder developed. I was predisposed to think in ways that would make it possible. Early thoughts went like this: “bad things wouldn’t happen to you if you were thin. You wouldn’t feel awful if you were thin.” It was a lie, of course. Body shape and size can’t protect you from reality.
With an eating disorder, the pursuit of thin becomes the most important thing in your life. The goal itself is in control. Everything else is secondary, even those things that should be more important, like your children. I don’t like knowing that about myself. I don’t like knowing that sometimes, the goals of my eating disorder were more important than my son.
The guilt I have over that is hard to let go of.
When you give over to your eating disorder, it’s in charge, and it fights hard to keep it that way. It doesn’t want to get on board with the idea that you are more than your body. It doesn’t want to eat sensibly. It doesn’t want to hear about consequences attached to eating disorder behaviours. It wants you thin and it wants you to die trying.
The odd part is that “it” – the eating disorder – is actually you; a piece of you, at any rate, a disordered and damaged piece.
The hardest part of recovery for me has been coming to the realization that I’m in control. I’m capable of making different choices. The changes are miserable and frustrating and hard, but they’re doable.
It circles back to goals. What am I striving for and am I in control? To recover, you have to stabilize, but that’s only a stopgap. Stability is only half of the battle. Because maintaining is not the same as living. Living requires moving on. It means you have to live differently than before. You have to think differently than before. That’s impossible without goals.
Stabilize first. That’s what worked for me. But now I need more. An absence of disease is not the same as wellness. I don’t remember where I heard that, but I know that it’s true.
Which means, it is time to set some goals beyond stopping bulimic behaviours. It’s time to set some goals that aren’t eating disorder related. Goals that I’m in charge of. Goals that help me move towards the person I want to be.