I was “better” when I threw up.

I was thinking about uploading to Google Docs a draft of a book I wrote with an eye to asking someone to take a look at it. I know Google is an easy way to share documents. That is, I sort of know it. I’ve edited documents other people have posted and sent me invitations too, mostly works that I had published and needed to have a final look at. I’ve not, however, set up a document myself and I’m a bit nervous. It occurs to me that hesitation and trepidation are a big change to my historical behaviours.

I used to charge in. I used to assume I could do anything. Smart was the one thing I was sure I was, even if I didn’t take any pride in it because it wasn’t something I had to work for. I thought that one shouldn’t have pride in innate gifts; it seemed arrogant somehow.

But I used to take on more things, and take them on more quickly. I’m hesitant now, slow to make decisions, slow to act, and afraid of making a mistake. I’m anxious about a lot of things that didn’t used to bother me quite so much. And it occurred to me that it was because I’m not currently throwing up. We can’t simply abandon coping mechanisms. We need replacement behaviours.

I’ve been relatively sober in my bulimia for four years now. I throw up on average about once every four months, purge in alternative ways once or twice a month. Considering that before that point I was throwing up multiple times a day, this is nothing short of miraculous.

I do not want to go back. It is the one thing I want more than anything else. It’s still a risk. I still struggle. Sober in behaviour is not sober in thought and changing the eating disorder thoughts is still a hardcore grind. I think “fat” thoughts every day. I obsess over my body, over the size and shape of it, over the lack of visible bones.

Still, that is getting easier. In the last month, although often I hate my body, hate the weight I’m at, hate that I can feel flesh, I’ve been more at ease in my skin. I’m feeling glimmers of tolerance. So, that’s progress. Learning to live with the body I have and not judging myself as deficient and worthless because it’s not perfect is hard, but I sort of feel that maybe I’m starting to learn to think differently.

The eating disorder served a purpose. It was a dysfunctional adaptation and it was definitely killing me, but it did, for long stretches of time, do what it was supposed to do. It kept the anxiety at bay. It kept me functional.

It channeled the fears of failure, of other people, of open spaces, of illness, of loss, of insufficiency, of so many things into cycles of bingeing and purging. I never had to learn how to deal with them; the eating disorder took care of it for me.

And now the crutch is gone. The damage is done, and the need for repairs remain but that incredibly harmful coping behaviour is currently absent, making the reasons for its necessity more readily apparent. There is work to do.

I’m hard on myself for what I perceive as a lack of drive. I’m not working outside the home, I don’t socialize much, I stay at home a lot and even there, I’m not particularly productive. It does, however, take a fair bit of push and energy to get through the days. The anxiety that I staved off with my eating disorder is an oppressive weight at times. Learning to function with anxiety and depression and not subvert it into eating disorder behaviours is hard. I only really realized the challenges learning to cope would pose when I stopped throwing up. But I didn’t connect the two – the functional reality of no eating disorder behaviour and persistent feelings of high anxiety – in my gut until today, even though I’ve said “I need coping skills” out loud, quite often. I said my eating disorder was, in part, a coping skill set but I didn’t feel it. Didn’t get what that fully entailed.

Some thoughts are like that. You can have them, they drift around, but it takes a while for them to make an impact. You have to ruminate on them for a bit.

I don’t miss throwing up. I’m pretty sure I’d die if I went back to it as my full-time job. But I miss how it used to lift some of the weight. It’s the weight that gets overwhelming sometimes. Contributes to my depression some, I think. It’s a thrill how interconnected mental illnesses are, one big messy blob of neuroses. And I miss some of the effects on my psyche. I miss having more courage and drive and determination. Sure, I crashed and burned every three years or so, but what productive years they were.

I suspect things are not going to change overly much, even with this realization. I think my day to day will look the same. I will not turn back into the woman who pushed through life frenetically. But with the lightbulb moment comes an ease; I can be kinder to myself about it. My new reality is a kinder, slower, easier one. It has a fundamental calmness to it that exists, I’m shocked to realize, by design. I’m not really constitutionally suited for the race and frenzy that is so much of modern life. It makes me ill, trying to fit into it.

That’s what has to change. Not the living small and quiet and within my mental means. Not the increased caution – though I do watch it to make sure it doesn’t drift into paralysis. But the thoughts about what being those things means. I have looked at it as meaning I’m a failure for a long time. Perhaps living in a way that accommodates and suits my needs and nature is winning.

3 thoughts on “I was “better” when I threw up.

  1. You are doing so well Michelle. I’m proud of the changes that you’ve made. The reality that you are sustaining those changes despite how difficult it is to live without them. Big respect to you.

    Like

  2. Such a raw and transparent post. Thank you for being you. Finding new coping mechanisms is hard. I’ve struggled a fair bit with similar things, but am so glad for those small moments where you start to recognize your progress.

    Liked by 1 person

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