I have suffered with an eating disorder for 25 years. This is my path through recovery.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
An Answer A friend asked a really good set of questions on the "What's Eating Me?" post. He asked, "I've heard you discuss this behavior as self-protective in the past, and I've always been puzzled by that terminology. How is it self-protective? Against what (or whom) are you protecting yourself? Are there healthier alternatives available that will give you the same - or at least adequate - protection?"
That's a really good set of questions and I'm going to see what answers I have. The specifics are different for everyone, but eating disorders and other addictions in general are about control. In my case, it hearkens back to my high school years and even before when my entire life was controlled by my parents. I really never felt like I had any kind of autonomy and this was the way I exercised that for myself. They really did try to control my eating as well, but I found some pretty ingenious ways around that - like breaking into the locked freezer in our basement. Yes, they actually locked the freezer for the specific purpose of keeping me out of it.
I could go round and round with the blame game but that also doesn't serve a purpose any longer. It all just is what it is and I'm trying not to hold them responsible for choices I've made as an adult. I'll be honest - some days I still get very angry about things I remember, but I also remember that they did the very best they could. They never set out to hurt me - in fact I know that pretty much everything they ever did was what they felt was in my best interests. Sometimes that makes it worse because how can I be angry at someone who made choices they thought were best for me? It makes me feel like a horrible and undeserving daughter.
So...back to the self-protection issue because I've really not answered that yet. The shortest answer is the strangest - I protect myself from being hurt by hurting myself first. My brain follows a twisted and convoluted logic that is often paradoxical. I don't want to enter the labyrinth because there's a 50/50 chance that there just might be a minotaur at the center, so if I hobble myself at the outset then I never have to face that possibility.
My eating disorder provides me an excuse. "Well, it's not really ME they've rejected, it's my weight, which is clearly changeable, and I could change it any time I want to, so that proves that I don't have to." QED. Make sense? Yeah, not to me either, when I'm in my right mind, but when I'm immersed in my disease, this is a perfectly logical train of thought to me. In the end, I'm really terrified that someone - anyone - will reject ME, not just my weight. As long as I have the built-in excuse, I don't have to face reality - I can just live in that fantasy world where it's all the fault of my weight, not my choices. This is what Attila and I have been battling over for so long.
As for what are the healthier alternatives.... I'm not sure that "alternatives" are what I'm looking for. What I'm looking to do is combat that thinking altogether, not replace one bad choice with something a little less bad. First, I need to be able to recognize these thoughts for what they are when they come up. It's not as easy as it sounds because these thoughts are the disease speaking, and it's good at disguising its voice to make me think this is my good, solid logic speaking. Once I've recognized it, the second thing is to understand that these thoughts are, principally, lies. The next step is to combat these lies with the truth about myself. Then...believe these truths in the moment. This is the trickiest step because that voice is still there insisting that these lies ARE the truth - but I know they are not. I am not an ugly, horrible person. I am a nice, kind woman who has a lot of amazing and wonderful friends who are my friends because they LIKE me, not because they want something from me or because they pity me. (Yes, all these things are actual lies my disease tells me.) Sometimes I'm good at combating that, sometimes not, but every time I fight back, I get stronger and my disease gets weaker.