Last week after the presentation, I was interviewed by a reporting student about my eating disorder. Along with many other questions he asked me “describe your worst day with the eating disorder” After thinking about it for a few minutes I realized that I could do that without mentioning a single eating disorder behavior. For me, this was 100% mental and had nothing to do with how much I was engaging in behaviors.
Imagine a tape player stuck on play in your room. (in my case, my head) This tape is feeding you garbage. Telling you 24-7 about how you are not good enough, pretty enough, thin enough and just suck at everything. On top of that, it’s luring you with its sweet music that it can help you be all of those things and more if you continue to listen to it. Constantly berating and punishing you for all of the things that you did wrong, which include eating, getting a B on something, asking a friend for help, mostly things that are NECESSARY to live. Instead of being able to focus on whatever you are doing, you are 150% enriched in this tape. Although those around you can’t hear it, it’s far from background noise to you. Maybe you are hanging out with your boyfriend or in class, but the only thing you can truly hear is this tape that runs in a continuous loop.
My worst eating disorder days are days that I am wearing headphones with this tape. Things exist around me and I am actively engaging in them, but the only thing I can hear is the eating disorder. The tape is on repeat and there is absolutely no way to turn it off.
Kind of like when your roommates or neighbors are playing loud music, you can shut your door or try some ear plugs, but unless they turn it off, you still hear it. It’s like that, except the volume is on full blast and there is no escaping.
I am thankful to say that days like this are no longer very frequent. I’ve traded in my headphones and speakers for something a lot less noisy and annoying. I’ve learned how to recognize this tape and even replace parts of it. The tape is still there but it’s a lot quieter and it’s pretty hard to take seriously. Some days the music sounds wonderful and it’s tempting to listen, but the soothing effect only lasts for so long and I know better than to fall into that trap. Other days it’s like a person occasionally tapping a pencil while you are taking a test; you can hear it and it’s annoying but it isn’t constant. Even occasionally I can go a day without hearing it at all and those days are happening more and more.
For me, recovery has been about learning to ignore this tape. Not only ignore it, but replace it with better music. Replacing the self berating and negativity with kindness and compassion, the luring behaviors with new better coping mechanism etc. It has also meant sharing my head phones with someone; allowing people to hear the music and to help me turn it off. Also, allowing others to play louder better music when necessary.
It’s a work in progress. It takes a lot more then a pause/stop button to erase a tape that has been playing for years, no matter how awful the music is but it can be done. I am learning to change my taste in music and control the volume. I’ve also upgraded from a tape to an mp3 and thankfully those come with a skip button.