I have just dropped Gabrielle off with her father for the weekend. We meet at a gas station partway between my house and his, a trip that takes an hour each way, and Friday nights always leave me feeling sluggish and worn. Thankfully, there is a brand-new Starbucks sitting next door that is calling my name; my reward on my phone app waiting to be redeemed. I have been waiting to use this freebie, and I know exactly what to get…A VENTI Java Chip Frappuccino customized with Toffee Nut Syrup and caramel drizzle. It tastes like a frozen candy bar with a tiny hint of coffee. Pure bliss!
The problem with this, is that I’m now on my way to meet my husband and son for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, so ED and I need to have a talk. ED feels it is of the utmost importance to remind me of the insane amount of calories in a VENTI drink full of sugar, and it goes like this…
ED: Okay, its raining, there’s traffic, but we need to be thinking of where and how we’re going to get rid of this calorie bomb once you finish. Make sure you drink it all because otherwise you’re wasting it and it won’t matter since it’s not long for this world anyway.
ME: ED, it’s not logical to do that anywhere, but maybe once we get to the restaurant I can ‘go to the bathroom’ after my long drive. I’m going to go ahead and enjoy this completely and I’ll just deal with it when we get there.
ED: That’s my girl..always thinking ahead.
50 miles later…
ED: We’re almost there (he’s giddy with anticipation), and then you can deal with this little problem.
ME: Actually Ed, my stomach doesn’t feel so bloated now that I let it settle for a bit and since I let you just think I would handle it when we got there. I think I’ll just choose to eat less. I mean, it’s clear I wanted the drink more than the burger tonight, so I think I’ll just be okay with that and nibble at dinner. Now that I’m really thinking about it, I only wanted the burger a little, but fries sound good, so maybe I’ll just eat a few bites of the burger and munch on a few fries. I mean, I know having a drink from Starbucks more or less for my dinner isn’t ideal, but it was what I really wanted, so I’m just not going to sweat it this time.
ED: WHAT! (he continues on for a minute or so, realizing defeat, he stops)
I talk to ED everyday, but the tone and topic is very different from what it used to be. The discussion I just listed is almost identical to what happened last night, except the back and forth about where I could purge was much longer and involved. The end result was intentional and part of my process, and for me necessary at this point in my journey. In the past those discussions would be centered around where to pull over if I’m in the car or how to not make it seem like my trip to the bathroom is for purging. No matter how big a part of my life ED is, I am still embarrassed he is my passenger on the journey.
I know I’m not alone in this, and it’s why it’s so hard to take that first step…we have to acknowledge our loud and noisy passenger that no one else can see and hear but us. We have to let others in on our dirty little secret; our imperfection. For someone with ED that is a huge hurdle, but a necessary one to find the path to recovery. It’s so hard to let anyone in because then we have to acknowledge ED, and that makes it real; a real problem, a real imperfection, and hardest of all it means we have to either own that flaw or face it.
These days, even though ED and I discuss purging, I am the lead, not ED. I choose the path, and I choose carefully. You might think it makes more sense not to have the discussion at all, but to me the act of outright defiance allows me to overcome something that is deeply ingrained within me, and that provides victories on my journey. Those seemingly insignificant victories are what reminds me daily that I am in control, not ED. Defiance reminds me that I have a voice, a say, and that my value isn’t tied to numbers and calories and ED.
My point is that I am as human as the next person, and no matter where you are in your journey, you are human too. I have the same struggles, day in and day out, as every person who reads my words. Whether ED is your companion, or an addiction, or simply the trials of life, we all face choices, but it’s how we deal with them which determines whether the outcome is cathartic or toxic.
So last night I drank the world’s largest and most intense Starbucks ever, but rather than letting ED make my choices, I listened to MY voice and nibbled. Ironically, my husband (who also happens to be my biggest support in recovery) kept trying to get me to eat more, but I stuck to my decision of when my body said to stop, and I avoided old habits. It was especially hard to do that because I’ve been struggling emotionally this week, and good old-fashioned emotional eating has always been my go-to in the past, but my focus is on recovery, and right now learning to intuitively eat and listen to my body needs to be my priority.
I’m not sure about others, but for me I need a carrot. Not a real one, but a metaphorical, dangling carrot to push towards. ED was in my way for so long, that these days with him sidelined, I am able to identify and find ways to improve myself, including learning what my personality is really like. (Side note, once ED is mostly quiet, you’ll be shocked to meet yourself, and learn who you are) One of those revelations was that I am never going to be a person who is satisfied to simply sit-still in life. I am NOT the person content to simply to the same thing every day and watch days go by.
This is both a blessing and a curse. The positive? It means I am an overachiever, a go-getter, and someone who rebounds from the harshest things life throws my way. Unfortunately, it also means that even when life is supremely fantastic, if I’m not cresting some mountain on my personal horizon, then I struggle emotionally. I need that carrot dangling to work towards, but it has to be mine. No amount of others telling me what to work for matters if it doesn’t matter to me, and lately I’ve been unable to find my carrot.
So, as you can imagine, the victory over ED about food and Starbucks was especially important last night. Today, I am proud of my choice. I want to be healed, healthy, happy, but I also recognize that even when I can say I ‘used’ to have an eating disorder that life isn’t always going to be easy, and its in those moments of doubt and self-pity that ED will try to sneak back in. I have to find ways to be okay having a bad day. Lately I’ve had a lot of emotionally rough days, struggling with happiness, but having those discussions with ED gives me strength in the defiance over my old self. Recognizing that its 100% okay to not be okay gives me strength in my future self. It isn’t the struggles we face that give ED power, it is how we deal with the knowledge that it is US who have power over ED that determines the outcome.
I’m going to leave you with a quote:
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character give him power.”
– Abraham Lincoln