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!
She is beautiful, spunky, a little bit hotheaded, kind, caring, hilarious, sassy, and has the best smile. Oh, and she happens to have cancer.
I vividly remember the day she was diagnosed. It was mid December and I’d just gotten my phone back for the night. The first thing that popped up on my phone was a text from my mom: “Go read Emily’s status.” I did and immediately saw that she’d been diagnosed with leukemia.
At this point I had passed the “why me?” stage when it came to my eating disorder and other mental health issues, but the second I learned about her sickness I began asking why. How could someone so young and full of life end up with a disease that could possibly end her life?
We went to visit Emily the day after I got home. She was in the middle of her first round of chemo. I figured she may be bitter and feel pretty terrible but she was the opposite. Not once did she complain. She was her usual self. It makes a lot of sense, given her personality and zest for life.
We saw Emily just today at the gas station. She was rocking her scarf and looked so happy. She hugged my mom and I and told us about her babysitting in between trips to the hospital. She heads back the hospital tomorrow but she doesn’t seem to mind.
Emily is a fighter. She inspires me. Cancer had nothing on her. I am continually amazed by her drive to get better and grace in such a hard time. I’m not sure I could even handle it. Keep going Emily, I am always here cheering you on!!
Thank God for therapy. I needed it today so badly. Okay I actually needed it Monday, when I was originally scheduled, but then I had to wait three days. Three very long very stressful days. But hey I made it and holy shit did Sheri say exactly what I needed to hear. And now, three takeaways from today’s session:
- I need to get my butt back on track. I’m not necessarily doing badly, more just getting super lazy. I think this also has to do with my depression currently. The past week or so I didn’t even track my meal plan or write anything down for it, haven’t really used skills when I need them, skip out on yoga, let myself sit and wallow, and neglect self-care. Sheri helped me realize that although none of these things are huge problems at the moment, they can and will snowball if I don’t stop. I don’t want that. I have worked so damn hard for my recovery and I am NOT giving it up so easily. Laziness will not lead me to relapse.
- I have some pretty significant decisions to make and opportunities to put myself first in said situations. There are some things going on in my life (surprise, right?). These things are harming me, stressing me out, and causing me to give up some energy I really need to spend on getting better, school, etc. I know deep down what I need and Sheri and I spoke about it. I’ll pull that trigger, hopefully sooner rather than late but we’ll see. Being assertive is tough!
- I am going to learn so much from going through and processing my autobiography/wall work. We started my autobiography today and already I am loving it. I haven’t read or even looked at it since late November. I’m really hoping this will be a great learning tool for her and I. I also want to work through some issues that pushed me towards my ED, depression, anxiety, self harm, etc.
This slipped out yesterday when I was talking with my RA. We hadn’t really spoken about my recovery and how I’m doing for a few weeks and she wanted to check in. To be quite honest, recovery has not been all rainbows and butterflies so I told her that. I explained my wins but also struggles. The thing is, she sees me so much clearer than I can see myself. I am misguided by perfectionism. If I can’t do recovery, or anything, perfect then it isn’t good. My RA isn’t bound by this at all. What she sees is someone who is not at all the girl she met last fall. This one laughs and probably doesn’t stress her out so much and can eat what she’s supposed to without being told. This new girl is someone she’s proud of.
“I am doing the best I can.” I said it. She affirmed it. Most importantly though, I do believe that. I am happy believing that.
I’m not perfect and my recovery process is far from it. I have bad days. Sometimes it’s a whole week feeling less than great and falling into negative thinking. That doesn’t take away from my progress. Despite it all I continue to push forward and do the best I am able with where I am at.
Today in group we had an open art session. I struggled with what I wanted to do but ultimately decided to write “I am doing the best I can” over and over. I so need that right now. There are so many circumstances and responsibilities. Its not limited to just recovery. I can’t do it all and I can’t put that kind of pressure on myself. I will instead press on, meditating and living out this statement.
Yesterday I finally got to meet with my normal therapist at school, S. I was so excited to see her again. I wanted to share all about residential and the growth I’ve made. The first thing she said once we started talking was “You look really, really good.”
I teared up. She didn’t have to explain herself to me. I didn’t fight it. ED thoughts never took hold to decipher what she really meant by “good.” I knew.
I’m not ready yet to look at my body and be okay with the changes. I feel it all of the time: me taking up more space than I used to, more than the ED would ever allow.
What I am ready to recognize and share is that I DO look good. I smile and radiate the joy that everyone at CFD so hoped I could have. The worn out look I had every single day has disappeared. My skin has a little color to it. I look more alive than I have in years.
My appearance does reflect my recovery in this way. It isn’t about the weight gain. That can happen without any change on the inside. I have put in hard work. My soul, the real Emily, she’d coming back more each day. I may have bad thoughts and sometimes give in to them, but my life is not the ED’s anymore. I am truly living.
Three months ago I would have argued with S. I could never accept that compliment, or any. All I would hear is the ED’s voice telling me how fat I must be for her to say that. I would have left her office feeling down and disgusted. I might have still cried but for a much different reason.
Right now I am thankful, empowered, proud, courageous, and so happy. These tiny changes I’m making are truly paying off. Its easy to forget the amount of change that has taken place until someone points it out. Moments like these affirm how much recovery is worth to me.
For now, I will bask in the fact that I do look really, really good. I’ve earned it!