Historically my eating disorder has served as an escape for me. When I am hurt emotionally my ED is there to redirect my attention away from the event causing my heart to hurt to something I could tangibly change- my weight. The cycle begins. I start by noticing my body, and the amount of space it takes up. My appearance is inevitably processed as being "unacceptable": too large, too squishy, too bumpy. From there, ED aids my thought patterns by ruminating on the food I have eaten, the food I planned to eat in the future, and the behaviors I could reenlist to solve the "problem" that was my body. At this point in the cycle I may or may not choose to engage in ED behaviors. It may start as skipping a meal here and there, adding an extra night of working out to the already busy week, or purposely choosing a salad instead of the cheesy nachos my cravings are actually calling for. Small acts of deprivation quickly escalate into much more. Not only does the eating disorder distract my thoughts, the behaviors eventually numb the emotions.
This cycle doesn't just begin when something tragic occurs. It always attempts a comeback whenever life gets stressful. Again, the stress doesn't even have to be negative stress, it can be as simple as being over stimulated with life events. Too many good things happening at once can be just as stress inducing as too many negative things. Currently in my life I am experiencing the good kind of stress. Lots of good things happening. I am finally back to work in person, which has been really good for my mental health. Being back in a stable routine, getting out of the house regularly, and having a sense of purpose are all things that help ward off my depression. I am also chugging right along with my graduate studies. I survived my first semester with all As and am working on my second semester. To some that may be a negative stress, but I am a bit of a nerd that loves to learn. I love learning more about my profession and becoming more competent in my field. I get somewhat of a high when I receive a good grade on an assignment that I poured my heart into. So for me, school is a good stress. Now, don't get me wrong, there are times it can cause me negative stress, but overall I would rank it in the "good stress" category. Other than that, my boyfriend and I are about to move! We are saying goodbye to the house we first lived in together and into my childhood home to continue to make new memories in. I'm human and hate the process of packing things and moving, but I also have mild OCD, so having the excuse to purge unnecessary items and start fresh makes me very excited! On top of this, I have multiple good friends that have either just given birth to a baby or are expecting babies. Another great thing! I am so excited to be promoted to Aunt Kristin to these babies and spoil them rotten. But this takes me back to what I was saying earlier, sometimes I experience stress as a result of being overwhelmed with life events. In this point in my life, the overwhelming events are positive.
Nonetheless, ED is taking advantage of the opportunity to offer me some sort of comfort by providing me with the chance to control something, a chance to distract my mind with something familiar and proven to mute out the emotions (whether good or bad). I noticed the other day the compulsive urge to body check. This is part of the beginning of the cycle.
Body checking is different for everyone. For some it is pinching, pulling, poking the skin, weighing yourself multiple times a day, obsessing over the fit of your clothing, and checking your appearance in mirrors from various angles (just to name a few). For me, body checking includes lifting my shirt and viewing my stomach from the side at every trip to the restroom, pinching the "extra" around my stomach, and checking my weight. I list checking my weigh last, because this is typically last resort body checking. I don't own a scale in my house so it isn't something I can do regularly. It is something that only happens when the opportunity presents itself. If I am visiting someone and they have a scale in their bathroom, I have to have a full conversation in my head about whether or not I really want to see what the scale will say or not. Most of the time I am strong enough to convince myself that weighing myself on the scale is not necessary. However, sometimes I am not as strong and I start stripping off the heavy layers of clothes and step on.
I am doing by best right now to fight off these urges. Challenging myself to shift my focus when I find I am about to body check. When I use the restroom, I try to say a positive affirmation in the mirror while washing my hands instead of using the time to pick apart every insecurity. When I think about wanting to step on a scale and make a plan about where I can go to check my weight, I stop myself and ask the simple question "what does it matter anyway?" Whatever number shows up on the scale will never be one I am excited about. It will never accurately measure my worth as a woman, girlfriend, friend, sister, cousin, or daughter. The number will not reflect the hours I spend studying to earn my second degree. It will not measure the love I have for others, or the love I receive in return. The scale will not measure the contributions I make at work to make after school a fun, safe, and educational place for our students to attend. The scale does not measure my dreams and passions in life. It only measures the weight of the vessel carrying my soul through this life. When I can get myself in a logical place in my mind to stop and actually reflect on that, it makes it so unimportant.
Combatting these urges is not something that is easy. I've been actively fighting them off for 11 years now, and while the strategies to fight them off become more natural and instinctual, the effort it takes to do so takes the same amount of energy, dedication to recovery, and time as it did when my recovery was in its infancy. What matters is that I keep trying. I don't give up. If I give in one day, I wake up the next day with determination to make new changes. I rely on my support system. I reflect on all my accomplishments in life, the importance my existence on this earth, and focus on my future dreams and goals. Recovery is not always easy, but I will always promise that it is worth it.
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<3 Stay Strong and Beautiful