Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Learning from my mistakes

When things get hard/stressful eating disorder behaviors seem like a great idea to me. It's like that blanket that you had when you were a child that made you feel safe and brave. Just like the blanket (which you eventually outgrew), the eating disorder gives you a false sense of hope and security. If I stop eating, become obsessive about the number on the scale, calorie count, exercise to much or whatever, I will be able to handle my anxiety and everything that is thrown my way.

"With the eating disorder by my side, I am invincible."

False. For me (this may not be true for everyone) the eating disorder behaviors are a way of not handling my anxiety/problems. It's a cop out. Like a get out of jail free card for a stressful situation. When I am deeply enriched in eating disorder behaviors I am practically incapable of doing anything logical, especially problem solving. I pride myself on being a logical thinker and given my major and field of study problem solving is pretty much what I do. However, when the eating disorder comes knocking on my door that ability gets thrown out of the window and I become pretty irrational. My ability to make any decision, much less a logical one just doesn't happen. Every little thing gets blown out of proportion and seems unbearably hard to handle. I consider myself a person with a good head on my shoulders but when trapped in the eating disorder all bets are off.

Yesterday I was stressed and upset/angry about a lot of things going on in my life. Right now I have a lot of changes going on and a lot of future planning and big decisions that need to be made. I am also working through a lot of stuff from my past that isn't exactly rainbows and butterflies. To almost anyone this would all be a bit unnerving, but coming from someone who HATES change it's much worse. Don't get me wrong, it's a wonderful time in my life and I am truly grateful that I have the opportunities that I do however, it's rather daunting and makes the eating disorders plea of give-me-one-more-chance sound plausible.

Yesterday I gave into that request for a few hours and I am here to tell you that it was awful. You know the only thing that restricting does?  Make you feel like crap. In the past I have convinced myself that some positive must come out of it but there really isn't any. Yes, it's a temporary escape from reality, which we all enjoy every now and then. (especially when going through a rough patch) Yes, for a brief amount of time it seems like you are in control and things must be easier. BUT and it's a big but. That feeling is very very temporary and the pain and realizations that follow are much worse then the temporary high.

To add insult to injury, I went and bought a scale. I convinced myself for the umpteenth time that if I had a scale and obsessed about my weight everything would be fixed. Law school applications would magically write themselves, the research that I am doing would become easier and less tedious, job hunting wouldn't be as frustrating, I would become a better girlfriend, I could achieve world peace (OK, maybe not but that is how far fetched this idea is) and everything would just fall into place. You know how above I was talking about my inability to make rational decisions when giving into the eating disorders non-sense, this is exact proof. In the realm of logic how exactly does having a scale and knowing your weight actually make your law school applications do themselves or anything else that I mentioned above? Yet for a brief amount of time, this sounded like the perfect solution. I was high off of the idea that "this time would be different.".

As I am sure you already know, the scale didn't fix anything and this time wasn't any different. I was distracted and unable to focus on the things that I needed to get done, but they didn't magically go away or get better. For those of you who know me well I am a "get it done" no non-sense kind of girl. I enjoy fully packed to do lists with important tasks that I can cross off along the way. I enjoy being busy and down time really isn't my thing. (Although I am learning the true value of play and taking breaks) I value productivity and you don't have to be a mathematician to know that the eating disorder doesn't fit in that equation. Because I am insanely stubborn I was able to get what I needed to done but it took me three times as long as normal and wasn't a pleasant experience.

Restricting and the scale didn't "help" me for very long. It only took me a few hours to realize how much my old trusty coping mechanisms sucked. Everything didn't magically go away and get better. I was still anxious and still had a lot of things left to do. I was still upset and stressed yet on top of that I also had a headache and was pretty much a bitch to be around. (You can ask my boyfriend if you don't believe this. Unfortunately he has seen the worst.)

Yet, this entire thing was a learning experience for me and a very valuable one. I have been in similar situations more times then I can count and have learned absolutely nothing from them. This time WAS different but it was because of how I reacted afterwards. I took the scale back and used the money to take John (my boyfriend) and myself out to dinner. A yummy dinner spent with my amazing boyfriend was much more satisfying and enjoyable then a piece of plastic and metal. Then I did the unthinkable. I DID NOT beat myself up for giving into the eating disorder. The terms failure and screw up weren't apart of yesterdays vocabulary or today for that matter. And this right here is the difference.This is what gives me hope and also shows me the progress that I have made.

For those of you who have struggled with an eating disorder before, you know that it thrives on the self berating. The notion that I "gave" in, so now I am this horrible-awful-person-that-just-deserves-to-be-miserable-and-suck-at-life-and-continue-to-spiral-downward. This isn't true for me or you. Just like everything else in life recovering from an eating disorder is a process. When you were younger and learning how to ride a bike for the first time imagine if every time you fell you cursed at yourself and beat yourself up for falling. Does that make sense to you? Does that sound like a good idea or helpful at all? It doesn't because it isn't and this isn't any different. Responding negatively to negative behavior doesn't equate to a positive. (it's nothing like multiplying negatives in math) Instead it further enables the cycle. When a friend comes to you upset asking for advice about a mistake that she made you wouldn't call her names and tell her how awful of a person she is. Compassion works both ways. Self compassion has been the hardest yet most helpful thing in my recovery.

Slips happen and some days that alluring voice of "this time it will work" sucks you in. Don't dwell on it. I really do believe that sometimes taking a few steps back is necessary in order to remind yourself how far you've come and how much you want to continue moving forward. "Our greatest glory isn't in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail." Instead of further beating yourself up for messing up, treat it as a stepping stone and a chance to stop and figure out what is really going on and then let it go.

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