Yesterday I woke up feeling happy. I literally had zero anxieties. It was strange. My brain didn’t know what to do.
No anxieties—gave me anxiety.
So here’s a little back story:
I had quite a stressful week.
I had gotten violently ill and had to deal with incorporating food back into my life after almost 48 hours of eating and drinking the bare minimum. This is an extremely difficult task for someone with an eating disorder. Being sick has a psychological effect of wanting to continue to restrict even if the restriction began without your consent. Furthermore, I had to go from Work to Renfrew (16.5 hour days with lots of driving). I made the decision to bail on Renfrew one day which causes me anxiety because I really want to be dependable, but I was putting my mental state first (which typically causes guilt) and I was just too exhausted. I also had to deal with heightening drama, a boss who put an extra load of work on me, and being taken advantage of by co-workers.
Thursday I was able to work through it at Renfrew.
At first, I was having a hard time in my therapists office because I did not want my anger to linger. I felt as though I needed a change in attitude before it devoured me.
I would justify everything as I vented. I’d explain the unfair situation and then say, “But it’s okay because…”
My therapist told me to stop rationalizing it and to trust what I was saying. She told me to get the emotions out without judging them. I rebuttaled:
“I do not want to feed my anger. I don’t like the person I am when I’m going on and on about other people or life being unfair.”
She explained that this was part of the eating disorder. By not talking about it, I am shoving my emotions down and smoothing them over (get it—a direct correlation to what I do with food when I get out of work).
She told me to stick with talking about the reasons why it is unfair.
By removing the judgements (the “buts” and rationalization), I was I able to realize that I can talk about my emotions without being consumed by them. It is therapeutic to spill the emotions out and not just leave them bottled up. I need to either vent to a support or journal in order to recognize why I shouldn’t be treated this way.
Furthermore, it gives me the ability to find a solution. After getting everything out on the table, I can now look at the positives.
Initially, this situation didn’t seem to have a solution which is probably another reason why I tried to cover my emotions up and “just deal with it.”
I want to be compliant, I want to be kind, I want to be able to handle what others throw at me. However, I also want to work to the best of my ability. If I am being taken advantage of, it is not unkind to state the facts and express reasons why I have to say no.
I felt amazing. Venting lifted the world off my shoulders. Being non-judgmental allowed me to forgive myself. And removing the rationalizations eventually gave me solutions.
I continued my day. I was able to be honest with loved ones about my day without crucifying myself for my emotions.
I couldn’t wait for the weekend. I wanted to wake up without any obligations. I wanted sleeeep!
But a complete worry-free Saturday morning? I have to be honest: when I wake up without any worries, sometimes my brain makes up an irrational one:
“My boyfriend’s going to break up with me.” “My mom is going to get sick.” “So and so doesn’t like me.” And then I mentally whip out my Renfrew worksheets. “What evidence do I have to support this?” “If this is true, how will I handle it?” It’s a lot of work calming anxieties.
But I had none. A thought even crossed my mind: “aren’t we worried Rob is going to break up with us…” (ED said)
“No.” I answered.
“Well aren’t you unhappy with your body?” (ED said)
“No, I’m really not. No faking today, I really do like it.” I said.
I got ready and went to Renfrew. Suddenly, in my euphoric moment I realized I didn’t necessarily want to eat. I was feeling afraid of food, like it might ruin my worry-free attitude. Despite the fact that I’ve had no issues with binging and restricing all week.
At Renfrew a memory came up and I went with it…
I was 17 and at the beginning stages of my eating disorder. This particular boy may not remember saying these words; he may not remember the way he looked at me; but 8 years later–the memory was clear as day.
A few friends were gathered around a fire drinking in the woods. I was carefree and laughing, having a great time and feeling good. On the walk out, I jumped on another boy’s back for a ride. The other one was not amused. He seemed offended as he watched my actions unfold throughout the night. Finally, he lashed out. For no obvious reason, he called me superficial. There had been no talk of image or weight during our entire night so I was very confused. He added to this by bitterly saying I was ‘conceited’ and blamed it my body.
(Many people experience their bodies being a spectacle for peers. This boy considered me “thin.” I’d lost weight after being bullied years earlier for being called “fat” by another boy. Don’t you just wish body shaming of all kind would vanish. It clearly has an effect on all ages especially susceptible adolescent minds.)
I was devastated. I shut down. I tried to continue my good time but it was completely forced. I felt really guilty for being happy with my body.
My ‘happiness’ had been labeled ‘conceit’ and according to this boy, my ‘carefree’ attitude was only because I was ‘skinny.’
There are no such things as coincidences. I have been working hard on self-acceptance for many years, and this memory popped into my mind for a reason.
I allowed it to resonate and shared the incident with the supports around me.
I did not manipulate my body to achieve happiness today, but I due to old beliefs, I thought food would ruin my ephoria. I am demeaning myself because being completely content may make others look angrily upon me. Therefore, I can only be content as long as I have an underlying struggle with my weight
I feel uneasy over loving myself.
Is it all because of this one incident? No. But this boy clearly had the same beliefs as ED. And since ED was just beginning to take control of me at that time, that boy validated EDs lies. Lies that were buried deep in my skull until I had the proper education, coping skills and support to dig them up and plant new ones.
Luckily, we had art next and I furiously journaled:
…”you’re only happy because your skinny.” How can this be true? I had cake, cookies, and pizza this week!
I want to exercise to keep this feeling? But I didn’t exercise at all in order to achieve this feeling…
I haven’t restricted so why do I feel guilty for being happy with my body? Do I actually feel guilty that I haven’t been bingeing?
Do I not deserve to feel “skinny?” Because I have an ED? I don’t know if ED even considers this skinny, I’m just at peace with my body?
I hate the way that boy looked at me–like I don’t deserve to be happy. I don’t know if I’m actually working through anything or making any sense, but I hope that writing this down is freeing myself of it…
Happiness is not related to thinness, no matter how many people may hold that belief.
ED gave me a high every time I was happy with my body. But that high was fleeting. It was due to over exercising and restriction.
And I’ve proven many times in recovery that I can experience happiness without focusing on my body or the mirror.
Today’s euphoria was not due to manipulating food or exercising. It was the real thing.
It was due to feelings of adequacy. Feelings of pride that I took care of myself this week. Feelings of contentment for life and love from my boyfriend. It was due to appreciating my kindness both for others and for myself. And my new super-power: venting and finding a solution!
…I was confusing feeling “thin” and feeling “light.”
My ED likes to misinterpret “lightness” as a physical sensation. And often tricks me into restricting and exercising in order to feel “light.” That is why it is a fake euphoria.
I know now that feeling light is a mental state. And food does not affect its ability to come and go…
This feeling will inevitably pass, as do all feelings. But, now I can enjoy it as it comes and not fear losing it because of actions or thoughts associated with food or body.
Being content with oneself is not conceit. It is kindness and we all need to appreciate it when it comes.
Being care-free is a blessing. There are too many worries in life, and when they seem to dissipate for one beautiful Saturday, smile and go about your day, in hopes of it lasting forever. But also knowing, that if it leaves, it will soon return as long as you take care of yourself.