I use to collect above-average’s, A+’s, gold stars, and extra credit as if these things would somehow earn my place in the world.
I worked hard to do everything as perfect as possible, but not much was gained besides a load of forgotten information and a stellar transcript from every school I ever attended … that mattered for 5 seconds of my life.
I still like to win, complete things on time or early, and exceed expectations.
This is where my personality, recovery, and eating disorder are at odds. I have to know I’m doing a good job (in recovery) to even entertain that I might be making progress. I unfortunately have to hear things from others first to gain confidence in myself. However, at the same time, every time I hear I’m so proud of you! You’re kicking ED’s butt! I cringe a little. It doesn’t feel right. I can’t completely accept those gold stars because the eating disorder part of me counts those as F’s and suddenly I am in this weird space where I need to know how well I’m doing in order to keep going but if I know I’m doing well I also might sink because the eating disorder needs gold stars too.
Winning at all the number games the eating disorder part of me plays is such an easy checkbox. Inside the eating disorder is the only time I’ve really had the confidence to tell myself hey good job, look at what you did today! It’s the only time I’ve given myself gold stars.
Outside of it, I thrive on others judgment, opinions, feelings. For example; I can only be proud of an accomplishment if it has been made very clear to me that someone else thinks it is, in fact, quite an accomplishment.
But my eating disorder isn’t like that. I cheer myself on, I pat myself on the back, I get after goals and when I exceed them, I am proud of myself. In a torturous sickening way, yes, but it doesn’t matter in the moment. It’s where I derive an ounce of confidence when confidence doesn’t exist anywhere else.
Surrendering the only thing I give myself permission to accept fulfillment from (in the sickest way, I know) seems … abstruse. Impossible. Even cruel at times.
10 weeks ago I signed up for a 5k race, hoping a goal would reset the way I think about running and using it only for punishment. Hoping I could feel fulfilled with an accomplishment. But I wasn’t healthy enough physically or mentally to train properly or get the right fuel. I ran that race and ran considerably slower than was expected by me and everyone else. Consequently, I’ve added it to things I am failing at. It was embarrassing for me really. I didn’t think I deserved the 1st place medal, and contemplated not even going up to get it. The first place time for each age group is said over the microphone as each medal is received, and a picture taken for the website and I cringed at the thought of my time attached to my name and photo.
I received a text later that day from my friend/coach, that said, “You’re the best! Proud of you.” She ran that race with me and coached me through a panic attack at mile 1.25. I didn’t even realize I was having a panic attack until she acknowledged that’s what was happening and we were going to keep running and get through it. I just wanted to quit. If she hadn’t of been there I would have stopped.
I maybe shouldn’t have run the race to begin with based on my nutrition level. Some members of my team thought my coach shouldn’t have condoned racing but I disagree. I am not severely medically compromised. Running that race provided me with emotional support. I would have had a panic attack at some other point during that day and told no one who could offer support in real-time. Instead, it happened with a trusted friend and gave me some confidence in an unexpected way: it’s ok to be vulnerable in real-time.
Following this race, but not because of the race, I strained a tendon in my foot that has forced me to stop altogether. Even walking is painful and making it hard to heal. I am distraught over this. I am positive I am going to gain weight so fast. I am beyond worried about trying to recover without running. I already can’t see any muscle definition in my body and while I realize it’s scientifically impossible to lose muscle that fast, my eyes tell a different story I can’t shake.
The depression I was already feeling before this is heavier because of this. I feel even less deserving of calories, even less deserving of life. I am intensely hard on myself especially at night, and I feel helpless at the thought of my options: stay alive and continue suffering or end things and be the cause of loved ones suffering. At that point, it actually feels harder to settle on staying alive.
My inner dialogue is like this:
Hey, maybe try to be happy today. Maybe eat breakfast. Maybe do some positive things. Maybe be the mom your kids want. Maybe figure out how to help yourself.
Yup, that’s a great idea! I will do all the things and be so happy, eat like a normal human being, and get through one day without needing other people’s support just to eat lunch and dinner.
Wait stop. Who are you kidding? You will never amount to anything. You can’t even eat a solid breakfast consistently. You can’t even go a month without purging. You seriously suck at life. You have sucked for a long time. What is the point?
I am turning into a disgusting mix of cottage cheese and butter. Confusing since I haven’t ingested either recently.
Go ahead and keep using your support. And see what happens. You will hate yourself even more. Your body will be grotesque.
Maybe just take a shower today.
Maybe just try not to cry today.
The eating disorder part of me has set up shop and taken over the tiny bit of confidence I had that things will get better.
If I could just run.