Yesterday was a particularly rough day for me. It shouldn’t have surprised me, seeing as I’ve been doing relatively well. I’ve been following my meal plan, and I’ve been eating more variety. I even had tacos at the Blazer game I went to on Tuesday night. Tacos that I didn’t prepare, and furthermore did not know the caloric content of. Uncertainty — it’s where the eating disorder finds its footing. It caused it to rear its ugly head yesterday, and while fortunately, the thoughts haven’t been this bad frequently over the last couple of months, I thought it was a good opportunity to share what they can be like. They tend to get worse when I’m adhering to my meal plan and abstaining from exercise (as prescribed).
A peek inside my head (Wednesday, Feb. 1)-
1:00 pm: I feel like I’m going to throw up. I need to text Mom. I look down at the parmesan and herb bagel sandwich staring in front of me, my eyes wide. It looks back at me, gobs of cream cheese staring, mockingly. How am I going to eat this? My brain begins rolling, trying to come up with ways I could get rid of it. There’s not a garbage disposal in this house, so that’s not an option like it is at home. I guess I could bury it in the garbage, but what if one of my roommates see it? What else can I do, what else can I do…
1:07 pm: Bridgette! Get it together! You have your weigh-in in an hour and a half! You need every last morsel you can get! Eat that bagel and cream cheese with turkey, and go get yourself a Gatorade, too. Maybe you should’ve put more cream cheese on that bagel…are you sure that’s two tablespoons? You can’t afford to short yourself any calories here. Remember the deal: your weight needs to be up by Friday if you’re going to keep your providers. Eat, eat, eat!
1:13 pm: Don’t listen to that. You don’t need to gain any weight. What are those people trying to do, make you fat? You’re not going to feel any better about yourself by eating those 500 calories, I’ll tell you that much. You’ll probably feel worse; look at all the grease on that thing. I can see it going straight to your thighs. The pants you’re wearing right now won’t fit you, that’s for sure.
1:20 pm: But think of everything you get to do once you’re at your weight! Who cares if those pants won’t fit you, you’ll get new ones with that Nordstrom gift card! And you’ll get to work out!
1:26 pm: Work out? It won’t even be worth it. You’ll be too uncomfortable with your body to wear athletic gear in public. And those Zella running tights you love? Yeah, forget about it. There’s no way those are going to fit.
1:30 pm: No, Bridgette! You need this! DON’T give in. You are stronger than this! You only have an hour now before your appointment! You need to hurry up and eat or your weight is most definitely not going to be up and you might lose your team!
1:37 pm: Come on, loser. Find a couple pocket weights and stick ’em in your pants. No one’ll know the difference, it’s a win-win. Your weight will be up and you don’t have to get fat. No harm, no foul.
1:45 pm: That’s not true! Harm AND foul! That’s lying! Come on, Bridge, DON’T go backwards! You’ve come this far and your body needs this! You haven’t had your period in almost a year.
1:50: ** Text comes in from Mom **
1:51 pm: ** Begins eating sandwich **
2:15 pm: **Finishes lunch **
So, yes, I ate the bagel. The bagel and the turkey, and the cream cheese and the carrots. I was absolutely certain afterward that my weight had increased, probably a couple pounds. I would’ve bet you money on it. The eating disorder was that convincing. Yet, per usual, I got weighed in and was told my weight hadn’t budged. Not down, and certainly not up. Not even an ounce. It hasn’t been a week since my last weigh-in, so my team isn’t letting go of me. That weigh-in will come on Friday.
The two voices in my head are polar opposites, and I know that. It doesn’t seem realistic that both would be experienced by the same person, let alone in the same day. But they were, and they did, and they do (and will continue to). That’s life with an eating disorder. It can leave a person feeling literally insane, and that’s just how I felt today. That’s what causes the majority of my panic attacks: feeling overwhelmed with the uncertainty of how I feel. I feel both ends of the spectrum, the healthy me and the disordered me, so strongly that it becomes hard to separate what’s real from what’s not. I don’t know how to describe it other than as if I’m witnessing a war, and I’m a third-party to it. It’s like I’m an outsider looking in, but looking into my brain, and the winner of the war determines my behavior. I can separate the rational and the disordered parts of my brain from each other, but I often have a hard time hearing the rational one because the disordered one gets so loud. Not only is it loud, but it’s deceiving. I expressed these feelings of frustration, and really, utter exhaustion, with my dietician at my appointment today, and she gave me an article that related to what I was feeling. It’s a paper entitled, Wisdom from those recovered.
You can’t trust an eating disorder. When I think back to having an eating disorder, it’s what I imagine schizophrenia to be like. Once I had gone through treatment once, I knew what was healthy and what wasn’t, I knew what I needed to do to maintain my weight, but this other side of me – the eating disorder – cared far more about not gaining weight. So I did things I never would have imagined doing. I lied, I hid food, I came up with schemes to avoid eating even a drop of yogurt – looking back on it, it seems insane, and it was, but it was the work of an eating disorder, which is not a sane or rational disorder. You cannot act toward an eating disorder as you would toward a rational person. You have to be firm and unyielding, and the eating disorder will do everything possible to bend and break the rules and wear you down. Parents: take that trust you have in your child and use it to fuel your belief that the trustworthy person you know is still there, but they cannot emerge until you weed your way through the convoluted games of the eating disorder, and to do that you have to stick by what YOU, the rational person, know is healthy.
I’m so thankful to have a dietician (and a psychiatrist and a therapist, not to mention my mom!) who cares so much about me, and who has enough insight into this disorder to understand what I’m saying when I come to her in a panic. I’m going to keep working hard, and keep fighting the voice in my head that tells me not to do what my team has prescribed for me, and I’m going to keep doing just that: exactly what they tell me to.