One of the ED’s rules since the very beginning is that I have to eat where I can’t see other people watching me. I was so consumed with the thought that other people were judging me solely on what I ate or didn’t eat. Before I knew I had an eating disorder and prior to even some of the restriction I was already living by it. I was constantly eating facing walls whenever I was alone. When with others I would sit where the least number of people possible could watch me eat, but in general eating with people tends to distract me enough to calm the fear some.
Last year, not getting to sit in one of my preferred spots for lunch meant either skipping it all-together or eating in the bathroom stall. My fear was that real. This fall, I completely freaked out in the dining halls. I had to eat alone every lunch and if I couldn’t sit where I wouldn’t see people watching me, eating was exponentially harder. I sometimes didn’t take more than a bite. My fear of being watched grew so severe during that first semester.
At CFD, I came to sit down at snack one night and was blindsided by this fear once again. We had a table where one side faced a wall and the other the foyer. Either way I was facing the same amount of people, but when I was switched to face the foyer it sent me almost into a panic attack. It was like I was back in that dining hall with everyone staring at me. It was similar to some other flashback-like experiences I’ve had and I just froze. That was one of the only times I broke down so much at the table.
I’ve really tried to challenge myself since being back at school in so many ways. I hadn’t even thought of breaking this rule until today. There have been days where I moved a tiny bit out of my comfort zone and forced myself to sit facing a few people, but other than that its strictly facing a wall or empty section.
Today I chose a booth towards the back. I like the booths because I easily can calm my fear and face away from everyone. At the last second, I realized that I wanted to break out of my comfort zone. I had to sit facing everyone on that side of the dining room. It brought back all of the anxiety and negative thoughts about people watching me eat, but I was able to push past them. It slowed my eating some without actually stopping me from getting the nourishment I needed. I even had some ice cream which could never happen before. Yes, it was scary and challenging and uncomfortable, but I got through it. Now, the “you must eat facing away from other people” rule has a little less hold on me.
Another day, another little step against the ED!