A Simple Question

“May I make a suggestion?” my psychologist asks after reviewing my food records from the past week.

“Please,” I prompted.

“Just don’t purge,” she says.

For a split second I think she’s making a joke but I realize very quickly that this is no laughing matter. She’s dead serious. I just stare at her while I process the question. She’s okay with the silence and lets me stare, patiently waiting.

I’m thinking, “Oh sure, if it were that easy I wouldn’t be sitting here having this discussion with you.” But all of a sudden, in a flash, I’m realizing that it really is that easy. Well, maybe not that easy, but it’s surely that simple.

I’m still staring at her, incredulously now, but I start to understand exactly what she’s suggesting.

All of a sudden I feel like a tantrum-y three year old, only my tantrums are binge and purge episodes, my way of dealing when things don’t go the way I want them to.

My psychologist’s suggestion is not meant to belittle the struggles I am facing. I know this. But the simplicity of how to resolve the problem seems so blatantly obvious and I am filled with shame. I cry.

The ways in which I keep myself separated from Source are presenting themselves to me each and every day.

As my awareness expands so too does my understanding that my pain is not an excuse for self-punishment, rather it’s an opportunity to correct the errors of my thinking and bring myself back into alignment with who I truly am.

I am not an entity that needs to be overcome. I am already whole.

I am ready to let go of this “I” that needs to control. This “I” hasn’t done a very a good job at controlling anything anyway. This I know!

As Albert Einstein so wisely stated, “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”

Truly. Let go and let God. Have Your way with me.

 

 

 

Waving the White Flag

Past and future, fear and judgement. Yes, they have ruled my life for the majority of it. They continue to, too, yet I am more acutely aware of this than I ever have been before.

I recall that one of the hardest things I struggled with through treatment and into recovery of my eating disorder was giving up control.

I remembered the past and feared the future.

From the past, I remembered the excess weight. I remembered the words that cut like knives, “You are fat. No wonder you have no friends. You are ugly.”

There were also seemingly innocent words of wisdom shed my way. “You can be anything you want. Don’t ever settle. You are capable of doing anything.”

Two points of view that were completely contradictory and totally confusing. One said I was something to be shamed and the other said that I had complete control over who I was.

The sum of that equation was pretty clear.

If I was capable of being or doing anything, yet I was a disgusting shame, well, I clearly was doing a damn awful job at being the person I should be.

And so, from the past, rules were generated in order to create the perfect future. And every action forward spawned from a place of fearful memory. There was no presence or joy in any action anymore, everything simply became a means to an end which I never, ever was able to reach.

That was the struggle in recovery, to give up the memory and just be, but in many ways, recovery, for me, became more rules.

I was shown how ‘normal’ people ate and thought and acted and how ‘eating disordered’ people ate and thought and acted. I learned strategies for integrating ‘normal’ thought and behavior into my life and, with repetition of these, I managed to become ‘normal’. For a while.

Two years later, I now find myself in a phase of relapse.

I ask myself, “What happened?” And the question comes not from a place of blame but, truly, from a place of curiosity.

Food and eating disorders go hand in hand. But food is not the foe, not mine anyway.

To some degree, food issues and proper nutrition must be addressed, but to a greater degree, I believe, there is an underlying modus operandi that drives the choices I make.

My life underwent a significant and traumatic change almost a year ago and, well, in many ways I’ve tried to effort my way out of it. And in my effort I’ve not managed to do much of anything except push myself into a corner of fear and judgement and condemnation of my actions.

I give thought to the events of the past year and I can see when I started to unravel. I fell back to the past and began fearing the future outcome.

I instigated a huge, fundamental change in my life. It was driven by inspiration, this I know, because I knew in the deepest place in my heart that I was doing what needed to be done. But then the desired outcome, or what I thought would evolve from my actions, didn’t happen. In fact, nothing has happened the way I anticipated that it would.

I fell back to memories – “You are shameful. You are ugly.”

Yet, more memories tell me I have the ability to do anything, to make my life into something.

The equation fell short yet again.

Subconscious memories started replaying – shame, disgust, failure, bad, unworthy, stupid, fat, horrible.

I fell back into major depression. I didn’t want to look, I refused to look. And, the way out? The eating disorder. The food. It has been the doorway out of reality and into dreamland, to get me out of the pain of myself that I don’t want to face.

But that is exactly what I must do. Face it. Regardless of the circumstance, this is the Now.

I can hardly understand it myself because everything is a choice, isn’t it? And if it’s a choice, and I’ve relapsed into my addiction, then isn’t it my fault? And then doesn’t that mean I’m wrong, I’m bad, I’m a disgusting shame?

But, who says? Only my memories say so.

I believe the action of my eating disorder is a response to memories that are replaying in me. The eating disorder is not the problem. The memories that are replaying in me are what are causing the eating disorder.

It is in me. Whatever ‘it’ is, it is in me. I don’t know why, I cannot seek to know why anymore. IT is in me. This is true.

So then, is there a way out?

In a manner of speaking, I believe so. But it’s not in the denial of the eating disorder within. It’s in the acceptance of what is Now and loving every aspect of it.

I don’t understand it. Hardly at all. But I’ve tried fighting it. I’ve tried ignoring it. I’ve tried a million things. And the only thing I have left to do is surrender.

The bible says in Philippians 4:6, “Do not worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your mind in Christ Jesus.”

I hardly understand this either. But when effort is futile the easiest thing to do is trust the wisest words I know and just allow the peace of God to transcend the pain.

I surrender.

 

The sheet on my mirror…

One of my most powerful experiences during the eating disorder recovery process came when we began to work on body image.

We addressed and explored the behaviour of checking. Checking refers to an obsessive thought and behaviour about appearance. Checking is often done hundreds of times per day – without ever even being aware of it.

What checking behaviours was I engaging in?

There was really only one; I was a mirror-checker. Every reflective surface became my guide – my guide to hell. My mind had formed an ideal of what I was supposed to look like down to every last itty bitty detail. I never measured up.

I looked in the mirror first thing in the morning before I got in the shower. You ugly piece of shit – how can anyone be attracted to you? Women are to wake up in the morning with beautiful flowing hair and dewy, well-slept skin. You’re a fucking horror show!

I looked in the mirror when I got out of the shower. OH MY GOD! Look at your stomach! Fuck, that’s gross! You haven’t even had kids – your stomach shouldn’t look like that. You’ve really let yourself go!

I looked in the mirror as I was putting on my makeup and drying my hair. Fuck your skin is gross. It’s freckled and wrinkled. Do your best, I guess…make sure you eat well today though. You are what you eat! Your skin looks so bad because you eat like shit. You really need to try harder.

I looked in the mirror when I was getting dressed. You disgusting mess of a woman. Look at your thighs and your cratered ass. You are an embarrassment to women. Try to put on something that will cover those thighs, ass, and stomach, would you? Oh my gosh, you are disgraceful. I can’t believe you’re going to go out and make the world look at you today. Tsk, tsk, tsk!

I looked in the mirror between all these tasks too, checking. Checking to see if things had changed, checking to see if things got better, checking to see if I could just get through with this today, checking to make sure it didn’t get worse, checking to make sure everything was staying in place. Check, check, check. And this was in a matter of two hours before I left the house for work.

I looked in the mirror one last time before I headed out the door for work. All I could do was shake my head, exasperated.

At work, I looked in the mirror every time I went to the washroom – about once per hour. I checked the front, I checked the back, I checked the side, I checked far away, I checked close up. Fuck – you are FAT. Your teeth are yellow. You skin is sallow. Your hair is a fucking mess. Oh, fuck, it’s embarrassing. Good luck to you, loser!

By the time I got home I was so wounded and depleted. I would put on my sweats to try to cover my identity. I’d put my hair up. I wanted to stay inside forever. I was exhausted.

I continued to look in the mirror in the evening. Before dinner, after dinner, during commercials, after commercials, during shows, while on the phone, between work at the computer. How is it that one person can be so horribly defective?

Solitude finally comes to me. No one is around. Everyone is sleeping. Now I can escape. I pull out the cereal, the table cream, the toast, the leftovers, the hidden stash of chocolate and cookies, the ice cream finale to make it all come back up smoothly. I have peace for about 45 minutes – the mind is gone, and so is the pain.

Reality eventually surfaces when the food is gone and my stomach is so full and distended that I cannot even stand up fully erect. I hurt so badly. And I’m disgusted once again. I make my way to the washroom, praying that the deed will be quick. At the end, I stand in front of the mirror again with bloodshot, watery eyes and a trail of vomit sliding down my chin and my right hand. Why has God forsaken me?

I climb into bed and pray for a miracle. It begins again the next day.

And that is what the mirror did to me. The mirror was a reinforcement of my horribly negative and completely inaccurate thoughts.

I was asked in Body Image to try to curb the checking behaviours. But how was I going to do that? Mirrors are EVERYWHERE! Well, I gave it some thought and I came up with a plan. First, I would avoid mirrors and force myself to not look in them when I stood before them. Secondly, the one mirror that gave me the most trouble, the full length mirror in my bedroom, I would put a sheet over it. That would prevent the temptation to look.

I draped a sheet over the full length beast and a sort of miraculous thing happened. As I got dressed the next day, there was no voice. There was silence in the room. The voice couldn’t see what was there so it had nothing to say. Instead, I was transported inside myself where a feeling was planted. It was like being blind and feeling my way instead of seeing my way. I felt like I was okay. My clothes matched. My clothes fit okay. I guess that will do…the judgement was gone. You cannot judge what you cannot see. There was something to this, something in this sheet that prevented me from looking to something outside of me for validation.

Over time, a long time, and not without struggle, I began to feel just being. There was no vision or ideal  – because I couldn’t see one. All I could do was feel.

Today, I look not long in a mirror. I am a more authentic self when I immerse myself in being and feeling. I cannot be any other physical form than what I am, and why would I want to be?

I am not you. I am only me.

Starving for Security

I recently acquired a new friend. It’s a “he” and I like him very much. He’s a little eccentric but so interesting and unique. I enjoy listening to his thoughts and opinions and ideas. He’s a lovely, caring person with a special energy about him. His recent presence in my life has created this sense of joy and anticipation and bounce in me. I haven’t felt like this in a long, long, long time. I have this smile on my face that I can’t seem to get rid of. I feel happiness. I feel weightless.

I feel weightless.

I feel weightless and I’ve lost my appetite. I don’t want to eat. My stomach isn’t hungry. I know I need to eat something – I’m feeding recovery from an eating disorder. The food I touch now though scares me a little. I don’t want it. I don’t want to eat. I’m afraid. Tiny whispers float over me, it’s the voice of ED. Food, eating – it will change everything but I want time to stand still.

Something beautiful has entered my life and I don’t want it to go. I want to stay locked in this feeling. I’m not sure why this person has been drawn to me or why he wants to spend time with me but I fear he will go. I fear this joy and happiness will be lost.

I feel an internal shift. What began as a mutual and effortless relationship is slowly evolving into something that I am personally responsible for. I need to maintain whatever it is that brought this person in to my life.

I don’t know what it is that drew him to me but I know one thing for sure – if I eat, I will change. I get this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when food is placed before me. It’s the root of all evil. I want to be small and fragile. I don’t want to be invasive; I want to be small enough to handle. I want to be cared for and loved. I don’t want to need. This is going to hurt like hell when he leaves and it will be my fault.

A nerve is being hit right now. I’m a little shaky as I type this and the tears are starting to well. Years are rewinding in my head at lightning speed. I’m brought back to the age of seven and begin sifting and sorting through the next 11 years.

Abandonment, loneliness, disapproval, isolation, criticism. I spent 11 years experiencing these things. No one wanted me.

I lost 40 pounds when I was 18. Everyone noticed. Boys liked it, others worried. Either way, I was transported to the forefront. What euphoria! There’s nothing greater than being special and now it was my responsibility to keep myself special.

I was too big to care for before so I had to keep myself as small as possible, to not be a burden that would be too big for others to carry. The only way I knew how though was through my manipulation and use of food. If I eat, I will change.

I’m feeling this way all over again and it’s scary. I could go either way here but I’m a little bit stronger now. I don’t want the fear of abandonment to get a grip on me. Abandonment is always a possibility and not one that I can control. I’m trying to to accept that feeling now, that feeling of loss. It’s shameful though to me, to acquire something and then lose it. My fault, my fault, my fault.

Whoever the “you” may be…I want to please you. I want you to be proud of me. I don’t want to disappoint you. I don’t want you to leave me. What can I do so that you won’t leave?

Sometimes, one can do nothing to prevent loss.