The questions don’t matter.
In moments of utter raw honesty, I know that as I am now, I am not living. And believe me, I want to live.
In order to live, I must let go of this eating disorder. It’s both that simple and that desperately difficult.
I developed my eating disorder in university. Though I was a late developer by anorexia standards, I had the classic predispositions: perfectionistic, goal oriented, people pleasing, high achiever, deeply sensitive, controlling (or wanting to be), anxious, low self esteem… Throughout my pre-university schooling I was most known for my academic performance. I served as a yardstick for others (“I did better than her on that test!”) which only fuelled my shaky sense of self and belief that I could never be quite good enough. Of course, I didn’t recognize any of that back then.
Flip back to university: I joined a gym with a friend and lost a small amount of weight from my average frame. For once, I got compliments and attention for how my body looked and was changing. With the perfect storm of traits above, it quickly became “hmm, if 5 pounds is good, then 10 must be better”. The spiral continued ever lower.
A complicating factor at all stages of my journey is that I have type 1 diabetes. When I returned home after undergrad, my doctor had me hospitalized (a horror story in itself that I won’t go into here, but let’s just say that this particular physician sorely lacked in bedside manner) due to my low body weight. Then came months of outpatient treatment until I discharged myself from this weight-restoration focused program. I dove into graduate school and “managed” my disorder over the following 10 years. Managed by engaging in a period of overeating coupled with extreme over-exercising, followed by relaxing the exercise by maintaining adequate, but fiercely rigid, caloric intake. Managed by keeping everyone at arm's length and isolating myself. Managed by imagining I could lock out all the uncertainty that life invariably brings.
Over the last year, I decided to enter a new graduate program, which I love, in counselling psychology. However, the stress of work, school, and a shaky romantic relationship led to a distinct worsening of my restrictive behaviour. My destructive path came to a head in January of this year, when I had to take a leave from both work and school and accept that I was not okay. I was not coping.
Over the past few months, I have found a therapist who is helping me to address the many issues that I have suppressed. Nothing dramatic beyond what you just read. I had a happy childhood with a supportive family. No trauma. I suppose the "why" is not so important, but it really is a mystery how I developed such a shocking lack of sense of self.
I am slowing down these days. I am taking time to check in with myself. I am attempting to feel my feelings. I am discovering what I like and don’t like. I am reminding myself that I am worthy. I am learning that I am imperfect but I am trying my best. I am accepting that I will make mistakes. I am reading lots of inspirational blogs. I am reaching out to people, both in my virtual community and in my physical world. I am letting myself be vulnerable.
I am realizing that nourishing my soul means I have to also nourish my body.
I still have a long way to go, but little by little, I am realizing that I will be okay.
No matter what, I will be okay.