Today’s topic will be slip ups. Not that I’m wanting or intending to negate last weeks post about the beauty of freedom but the fact is that slip ups can happen, old behaviours can be returned to – however it’s incredibly important to acknowledge and address what has happened so that we may understand ourselves better.
I met with a dear, close friend the other week. We chatted, we shared, we did our normal thing. However, twenty-four hours later I had a message from my friend expressing some concern for me: I had lost a lot of weight – was I okay? Did I need to talk about anything?
In the past this kind of direct approach would have made me panic, scramble back into my safe corner with claws out ready to defend myself and cunningly misdirect them from the truth. I wasn’t as rational as I am now back then obviously.
This time it didn’t phase me. In fact I kind of welcomed and embraced it. It takes a lot of courage, care and love to be honest with the ones close to you and it was heart warming more than anything else to know I have a friend who feels this way about me. And besides – it would be completely ridiculous and naive of me to not expect speculation from others who know my history if they notice my weight going up or down. As much as I hate scrutiny regarding my body from others, I have to accept it will happen. It is because they care.
I replied to my friend and I was completely honest and I will repeat the same honesty to you. Yes I have lost weight. I couldn’t tell you how much because I don’t weigh myself but since November/December I’ve probably dropped a dress size. Although since January I have been making a conscious decision to eat better and get back into a more regular exercise routine which has been doing wonders for my mood and well being – in the run up to Christmas I slipped up. I lost weight quickly because I wanted to eat as little as possible. I was having a difficult time and on the odd occasion this sends me back to my old coping mechanism.
On 7th Dec my tutor from when I studied acting and performance at college passed away. This person was a mentor to me, it was incredibly tragic circumstances, she was a wonderful, spirited person and I can’t believe it happened. I still feel a tremendous pain in my heart as I type this. Only a couple of days after this, I found out some more shocking, painful news about another influential person in my life whom I still care about. It was too much. I just couldn’t handle all these ugly cards the world was dishing out at once. Mortality was at the forefront of my mind and death is the thing I fear most.
So what’s my comfort blanket in these times distress? Not eating.
It’s happened on a few occasions in recent years, the common denominator always being that the circumstances are that I am stressed and upset. And fair enough you my say that it’s a common trait to lose your appetite if you are under pressure or grieving, and maybe initially this is true, maybe I did just lose my appetite. However I know myself rather well and I know what triggers in my brain if I am down, emotional and don’t eat very much: I like it.
I have spoken about Social Learning Theory briefly before and I find the idea of Intrinsic Reinforcement incredibly appropriate here. In the past and on these occasions where I have been distressed, not eating can give me a sense of accomplishment, an internal reward when I feel hopeless, confused or out of control of the things going on around me. As I said earlier it is my comfort blanket and the easiest coping mechanism for me to grab onto and hold tightly instead of actually talking about how I feel. I am aware it is unhealthy and it makes matters worse as lack of food intensifies my negative emotions through irrationality and mood swings.
However, when I have gone through these rare slip ups, they are temporary. They don’t last long – at most a month or two – but most importantly I am not blind during them. I am fully aware of what I am doing which is a good thing because I can get myself out of it by coming to my senses.
Not only that, but my body will not and cannot tolerate food restrictions anymore. I have abused it too much in the past and it won’t accept anything less than it deserves now which is kindness, love and proper fuel and exercise. I’ll give you some examples: I went through a similar situation in Dec 2012 because I was freaking out about my career and future. Not long after I started restricting what I ate I got sick. I recovered from one cold and was instantly was struck down by another one even worse than the previous. My body wanted and needed vitamins and nutrients from food.
This year I had to go to the doctor to have a health problem seen to and the solution was nothing more than eating a good, healthy diet. I was pretty much cueing the doctor to tell me to eat properly because deep down I know I don’t want to live any other way. It was almost as if I needed the doctors orders as permission to keep The Voice away from me. And it’s worked. My body functions normally therefore my mentality is improved too. As soon as I made that conscious effort to eat regular meals with more fruit and veg, it made an instant difference. I have spent so much wasted time fixating on things that I dislike or want to change about my body, I never realised that it is the one in fact with all the answers. My head may have thought it knew what I wanted but ultimately my body knows what it needs and I’ve been rather rude and uncourteous not to listen to it.
This has been a rather difficult and mentally exhausting post to write but it needed to be done. Having an eating disorder is frustrating because you are never immune to hunger despite your best efforts. However I will also never be immune to hurt and pain and grief. I will get stressed. I will become upset and I will need to cope with all these things at times throughout my life.
Thankfully I have wonderful friends and family who are there for me whom I can turn to. The ones I love and care about are my true coping mechanisms and I should always turn to them instead of retreating inside myself. Thank you my darling friend for sending me that message. I am honestly fine and well. I am loving the joy of how good it feels by simply eating properly, dancing in my living room and walking to work.
And this, writing my blog is my coping mechanism as well. Thank you for reading.