If you were to ask my naughty little eating disorder what I deserve, it would say (imperiously): NOTHING.
I am not my eating disorder, and I try to ignore this voice. But sometimes--particularly when my self esteem is low or I am going through trying times--it is hard to ignore it.
Recently I have been experiencing some seriously trying times. First and foremost, I am experiencing a shift in one of the most important relationships in my life. It's messy and complicated. Breakup isn't quite the right word, but I guess it's the most understandable one. For as many ways in which we are ridiculously compatible, our incompatibilities are big ones, and on fundamental issues.
Nobody is to blame, or maybe everyone is to blame.
Add to that the fact that I am buying a house in a different city, moving to a different city, working on two different books, and trying to maintain my regular freelance writing schedule. Oh, and a relative of mine is slowly dying. I don't mean for that last one to seem flippant. My grandfather is very old. Some days it seems like he might die before sundown, other days it seems like he might make it through to next year. It's hard, the not knowing.
Transition is hard.
It's hard for anyone, I think. But an eating disorder adds a particularly interesting dimension to all of it. My eating disorder has had plenty to say lately.
Regarding my relationship, my eating disorder says: "The difference between you and people who are in happy partnerships is that they are all good enough. You, on the other hand, are not good enough."
Regarding everything else, the eating disorder says "This is your lot in life so quit complaining. Just start counting calories again so that we can make everything feel nice and structured. I can give you something that you need right now."
I know that it's not true, but when I'm in bed at night, trying to sleep and not able to...it seems like there might be some truth to my fears, and some truth to the idea that doing things like counting calories could make things feel "right" again.
As you might have guessed, it shows up in the way I eat.
Counting calories has never seemed as alluring. I can't control the outcome of my relationship, or my relative dying, or even if I'll continue getting jobs. I can definitely do the best I can, but to think I can control these things is simply not true.
I can, however, control how many calories I eat. Maybe life is out of hand because my eating has gotten out of hand? Maybe it would all be better if I went back to a strict 1400 calorie diet, or better make that 1200 just to be safe?
To further complicate things? I'm also having trouble eating. I don't want to eat. But I know I must because not eating would trigger eating disorder stuff. So I do eat. Then I feel like I never want to stop eating. But I know I must because that's not the solution and it won't make me feel good. I get stomach aches when I do eat enough, I get them when I don't eat enough.
Lately, I've had to make some big decisions about my next steps in life. Moving! A change in relationship! Family changes! It's a lot. But what has required the most strength has not been dealing with the changes. It has been maintaining faith in the fact that I deserve things, and not just any things, but the things I want in life. I need to be very brave to adjust my life accordingly, even if it really hurts.
It takes bravery to believe that you deserve your dreams. It takes bravery to defy your eating disorder. But I'm going to try to do both.
I can't say I'll always do it perfectly, but I can sleep at night knowing I am fighting the good fight.