Eating disorders are about “shoulds,” but the rules turn into bars that trap you. I’m escaping: I’ve been easing my way back to the real world, but because some of me is still captive, some of the behaviours remain and try to exercise influence.
They offer opinions on how I’m “supposed” to live my life. There’s a “correct” way to do things (I know this will surprise some people), and not doing things “correctly” leads to negative consequences. What those consequences will be is a mystery, but the fear and anxiety are real, and they drive the compulsive behaviours. [i]
Which explains why I was still slogging through emails at ten this morning even though I wasn’t enjoying it anymore and mostly wanted to be doing something else.
But rules are important. And emails are very important.
I had a weird, “you should throw up lunch” moment after eating noodles the other day. It surprised me: I haven’t had a direct attack by my eating disorder in quite some time. I was, for a moment, tempted. Not by the vomiting, but by the promise of a lifestyle.
Recovery is an odd thing, and the longer you’ve lived with the behaviour you’re abandoning, the odder it is. It leaves you at a loss. There’s a hole where the problem was. Depending on one’s nature and the timeline, the hole can be large and hard to fill. In the early days of eating regularly and not throwing up, it felt like my entire body was an empty space where chaotic thoughts and emotions rattled around unrestrained.
The hole is smaller now, but it still exists.
Chaos is scary. Eating disorders promise structure.
I suppose that’s why I was tempted. The eating disorder was terrible, but it was also security. I understood that world and my role. I felt safe in hell and could perform in the other areas of my life (not as well as I imagined I was, however). It gave me purpose, even if the meaning it bestowed was based on a lie.
We all want a life of meaning.
You need to be thin. That’s the lie that it tells. Sometimes, it pretties things up with more words, but at the end of the day, “thin” is the lie it tries to sell as the truth.
I know it’s a lie because I’ve been very thin. Eating disorder thin. It didn’t make me happy: it didn’t make my life perfect. I see the pictures: sometimes I see the “too thinness.” Other times, all I feel is nostalgic regret.
I still have a way to go.
More protein would likely improve things and cancel out the latent vomit-wishes. [ii] Simple carbs are often a problem. Even if they don’t make my eating disorder pop back up from her hopefully fatal slumber, too many of them will make my mood tank. I also think more clearly with more protein on board. If only carbs weren’t so easy and tasty. If only I liked to eat other things.
That’s a slight exaggeration. I don’t hate non-pasta and non-fruit. I find eating easy to make difficult. I’ll eat, but poorly. Which probably doesn’t help my chronic pain situation.
Then again, shooting myself in the foot is a long-standing habit. I’m comfortable doing it: who wants to aim at targets they can’t hit?
The short-term solution was in the breakfast aisle: I switched my cereal to Vector by Kellogg’s. It’s got more protein than the norm for bowls of carbs, and the taste is surprisingly pleasant: I was expecting nasty, mostly because consumption is a “have-to.”
The long-term solution is to accept reality. Accept that I have to eat a variety of foods. Accept my new shape and the lack of neuroses-designed structure. Acceptance is more complicated than it sounds, and it’s a process. I’m at an odd stage: the eating disorder doesn’t fit properly, but the new frame doesn’t feel right, either.
No structure anywhere.
The new frame has jagged bits and pieces that rub the wrong way. And, by “jagged bits,” I mean flesh on the hips, stomach, ass, and thighs. It’s hard to accept. I still hate flesh. [iii]
Life can be challenging without my eating disorder, who will sometimes whisper at me when the box of cavatappi comes out. She tells me life flowed when she was in charge. She tells me things were light and easy before. Part of me wants to believe her. It’s hard, being a grown-up, having to believe truth over lies.
Unfortunately for my eating disorder, despite the weird regrets and inappropriate nostalgia, I do remember. My memories bring the truth and shine a light on her nostalgic lies.
I may be struggling with this, that, and the other right now, but things have definitely been worse.
[i] They feel real, even if they aren’t based on reality.
[ii] Most people with eating disorders are protein deficient. I have no proof of this. I’m globalizing, based on my experiences. I tried to find an article or study, but bailed after a couple of Google pages. I doubt there is one: that’s a global answer, and most doctors and researchers are concerned with their narrow specialties.
[iii] My proofreading program hates it when I use the word “hate.” It tries to offer more dispassionate options.