Tag Archives: Orthorexia

Picture The Past

I finally saw my ex with a new person. It was from the comfort of my own bed. I was on my phone. A reflex led me to my infrequent but habitual crawl of his photo feed. Sure I would find nothing, I clicked through several tags and there it was. This can’t be, I thought. But she was pictured several times in my place – on a trip, in the car – as if I had never existed at all.
The intense feeling of erasure consumed me.
We have been broken up for years now and we never speak, but I still hadn’t yet been confronted with his “moving on.” At times I’ve anticipated the event with a fear that’s made me tremble. He’s the only person I’ve ever really loved, ever been able to truly imagine spending my life with. Why it didn’t work out is a combination of slightly divergent world views, and traumatic move over long distance, and fundamental immaturity. Maybe alcohol. Maybe depression. We couldn’t save each other, so to speak. We dragged it out for sometime, hauling our attachment to each other through the muddy grey area of wishful semi-commitment.
The woman I believe to be his new partner is pretty and thin and white. So pretty, her life is a magazine. So thin, she can fall asleep comfortably in skinny jeans. (But not too thin, of course. Nice boobs). And so “white,” she rides horses. Simply looking at her pictures made me feel more ugly myself. After crying all morning, I dissolved into the type of constant negative brain chatter which has defined me my entire life.

If only your hair was – straight – blonde – shiny – long…
I can’t believe you are working on loving yourself looking like this…
Please don’t settle for this body. Get to work! You’ve done it before – do it again!
He was pretending to love you that whole time, just waiting for her to show up…
People think you’re annoying…
You’ll never have what she has…

Thankfully I now recognize the Diet Culture and Misogynist roots of all these feelings. We cannot help being conditioned to think that we are in competition with Other Women. We have also been conditioned to think that if we work hard enough we can change our bodies and our looks permanently. This is a waste of our energy and our love. It would be better served in accepting ourselves and helping others. I understand those things thanks to the treatment I received, my sobriety, and reading a ton of books which helped me feel empowered. I don’t want to judge her, or hate myself in comparison.
Despite that, when I feel hurt, threatened, or sad, my default reaction is still to think “I am disgusting and should begin my exercise regimen and skip certain food.” Other reactions are: a tall pint of beer, a bottle of wine or two, and a lot of ice cream or cookies. In other words, right back to where I was last winter.
I am willing to meet myself where I am in my recovery right now. I want all those things, but I can recognize I want them because of my fears and insecurities. I can recognize that I have full permission to act on them to any degree but that acting on them probably won’t make me feel much better.
Five months ago I was already able to recognize this, but now I can clearly feel the difference in my body. Now, it is not just the knowledge that yeah, i guess I feel better when I don’t binge. Now, I finally do feel better when I don’t. I actively choose to sit with feelings because it feels better to feel them than to be drunk or stuffed full of food.
I can’t tell you how much relief I feel in realizing that to be truth.
(To put this stage of recovery into context, I eat three meals and two snacks per day. They are dietician prescribed meals, so they are balanced and plenty of calories. I don’t exclude any food group of type of food. It took that much nutrition – every single fucking day – over the course of the last five months to get me to the point where I can recognize my preference for balance over extremes. Yes, I was worried about gaining weight. I have had large weight swings throughout my life. Now that I am eating everything, never doing strenuous exercise, and am never hungry for long, I am still no heavier than I was when I was at the top of my past weight swings).
I am feeling more lonely than ever, though. My relationship sucks and my confidence is low. My skin is thin. I’m often frustrated and confused about how I got here. I am a little lost and not sure what to do next in my life in order to give it meaning. My eating disorder used to do that for me! I feel like a more powerful woman/person, but I’m highly unsure of where a powerful woman fits into our society. That’s what I feel when I look at the pictures of my ex-boyfriend’s new partner. I feel like she fits – easily – and I just… don’t.

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Perspective on ED Recovery

Much more fueled by anxiety than I thought

I needed to grab whatever was closest in order to ground me. When I was panicking I would need a lifeline, someting outside of myself, in order to change the feelings so they would become manageable to me.

Much more isolated than I thought

Even though I had a lot of information about eating disorders, was reading personal accounts, and had tried to mention things to friends in passing, I myself didn’t even believe I was sick. The shame I felt, the overwhelm I felt for not knowing how to eat normally, was expressed in self-hate which always turned to eating disordered behaviors.

Much more hidden, much deeper than I thought

My eating disorder told me “Until you return to the most painful spot in your history and relive it until it goes right, you are doing yourself a disservice by changing, growing emotionally, or even considering happiness.”

Over the past 10 years I have been very nostalgic. I have trouble throwing things away and have been chiefly directed by an overwhleming sense of loss. I was attempting to navigate back through my past to a place that didn’t exist anymore. Getting somewhere that doesn’t exist and doing it without a map? I now see that as the ultimate in martyrdom. “Sadly, present life, I can’t show up for you,” in other words.

My eating disorder forced me to check out of my life as it was happening at present. With my eating disorder, I had stability.  It appeared to be comfortable and safe there. It was at least familiar. And even with the physical pain, it was better than acknowledging how lost I felt.

The thing I leearned to let myself see is that the places in the past don’t exist anymore. They are not based in geography so I can’t physically go back. They will have changed to a different place in time. My eating disoder tells me all the time that my body cannot, should not, will not be allowed to change. I believe the last of its behaviors are/were hiding in this thinking that (1) my body can stop time by staying the same or (2) my body can take me back to the past to fix things by maintaining the shape it had then .

Ironically, a lot of the things I wanted to fix back there in the past – but am now letting go of and forgiving myself for – are situations that I felt I could have avoided with better personal boundaries and a greater sense of assertiveness. (For instance, paying attention to red flags in relationships instead of staying when I’m getting hurt. Or trying my best to pinpoint my emotions and reach out for understanding from someone who can help).

Unfortunately I didn’t always have good boundaries or assertiveness skills, and at one point I was too young to have the perspective that help is available to me.

That very fact underscores the importance of moving forward now.

Now, I am working on improving these skills and will not stop asking for other perspectives.

I am lucky enough to have met a number of incidents which brought me here, finally, to the place of getting help. A big part of that has meant help in letting go. Letting go of regret for not acting sooner because I AM acting NOW – and now I’m actually ready! Letting go of my judgements (of myself and others) and replacing that with curiosity as best I can. Letting go of telling myself I’m fat and ugly, and instead asking myself how I really feel and what I can do to feel better in this moment. Letting go of knowing best and letting other people take care of me, allowing for the possibility that it could lead me to happiness. That’s what I really wanted after all.