I’m going to be honest with you. I’ve been struggling.
When I was experiencing that intense anxiety a few weeks ago, I had a hard time eating. My stomach was a mess. Well my anxiety is better, but I guess I got into some bad habits. Eating full meals is a challenge again. And it’s embarrassing. I hate to admit it. I didn’t want to write about it. Writing about it makes it real and I feel like I’m disappointing people. If they know I’m struggling, they’ll think I’m a failure. They’ll think my time off from work to go into treatment was a waste. They’ll think I’m going to fail open again. That it’s only a matter of time. And it’s too soon for that.
“It’s too soon for this to happen.” That’s what I said to my psychiatrist when I confessed that I’m struggling again. He told me that struggling and slipping a little bit is to be expected. That’s when I told him it’s too soon for that. And you know what he said to me? “Well, Brittany, just say that. Tell the eating disorder that you can’t relapse today. Tell it ‘Hey, maybe in a few months. Just not today.'”
Just not today. That’s a good mantra. I like it. Sometimes the guy frustrates me, but he always comes up with something useful that puts things into perspective.
“Just not today.”
You know what else he said? He asked me if anyone had noticed. I shrugged my shoulders. My mom’s mentioned it to me a time or two. So I guess the answer is yes. But no-one else has. He asked me if I was afraid people would notice. I said yes. I’d think they were worrying about me. That (again) they’d think I was a failure. If they notice, they’ll think it was all a waste. They’ll pressure me to eat more. And I don’t want any of that. He told me that should be a sign, too. Fear that other people will notice should be another sign of a potential relapse.
Then he said something that really hit home. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Are you sure no-one is noticing?” I looked straight at the floor and said, “Well, I told you my mom has said something once or twice.” He asked me again, “And there’s no-one else that’s noticed?” “Not that I know of,” I say. And then I get where he is going with it. “Well, I guess so. I notice.” “Exactly,” he says…”you notice.” Exactly.
I notice. I notice that I’m not following the meal plan. That I’m missing items. That I’m not always finishing. I notice. And I choose. Every day. Every meal. I can make a choice. I can decide whether or not to tell the eating disorder to wait another day. “Maybe tomorrow. Just not today.” I can say it at any point in time. “Just not today.”
So things haven’t been perfect since that conversation sitting in my psychiatrist’s office. The eating disorder thoughts still run through my mind. I’ve missed an item here or there. My head hasn’t always been in the right spot. But I’m closer and I’m aware. I’m aware that it’s a choice that I can make at any moment. I can choose to wait another day.
When I was in treatment, I named my eating disorder Charles. I used to think it was weird when people named their eating disorders. “Is that really necessary?” I would think. Doesn’t that just give it more power? But then I got to thinking about the movie A Beautiful Mind. How John Nash had a friend named Charles. Charles was a huge part of John’s life. When John finally had the realization that Charles wasn’t “real”, he would yell at him some. Then there would be a scene where Charles stood pacing in the corner while John just ignored him. Charles was there. Pacing in the corner. But John chose not to engage with him. He would either yell at him or distance himself. When he did engage with Charles is when he found himself in trouble. It never ended well when that happened.
So I named my eating disorder Charles. He’s always there. Pacing in the corner. Sometimes I have to yell at him to keep him at bay. And the days I engage with him are the days that don’t go so well. Maybe one day Charles will go away. I don’t know whether or not that’s in the cards for me. He might always be there. But I choose whether or not to engage with him. And now I have a new line to add to my arsenal. “Not today, Charles. Maybe we can talk tomorrow. Just not today.”
John Nash says something incredibly profound in this movie. Well, he says a lot of incredibly profound stuff, but this line sticks out to me today:
“I’ve gotten used to ignoring them and I think, as a result, they’ve kind of given up on me. I think that’s what it’s like with all our dreams and nightmares…we’ve got to keep feeding them for them to stay alive.”
What truth. I want Charles to give up on me. He’s a nightmare. I’ve gotta stop feeing him. Stop engaging. Tell him. Every meal. Just not today.
Linking up with Wine’d Down Wednesday!