Leaving Behind An Empty Life
On Sunday morning I opened an email from a fellow blogger, sent to me in response to this post. It contained a sentence that really stood out to me, and also inspired me to write this post, which has been brewing in some form or another in my head for the last few weeks. The sentence was: “… I realized that the weight I had previously been was in no way sustainable unless I lived a life that was isolating and inherently quite empty.”
That photo of me was taken in August 2010, soon before I sought help for an eating disorder. 100% honesty – I love how I look in that picture. I felt confident that day. I felt attractive. But do you know what else I felt? Hungry. I remember I packed a wrap for lunch (I’d skipped breakfast) using a 90-calorie FlatOut wrap. After I finished it, I barely felt a dent in my hunger, but I didn’t eat again until dinner. I’d skipped breakfast and worked out that morning. While my friends bought ice creams at the beach, I tried not to watch them enjoying their summer treats. I tried to give myself props and tell myself it was all worth it.
This photo was taken during the fall of my senior year of college, when I was in the position of having just entered recovery and was still getting weekly weigh-ins – and threats of inpatient treatment for anorexia. I look really happy. I also woke up the next morning and called my mom sobbing because I had gotten drunk and eaten several slices of pizza.
And THIS photo was taken this past Friday night at Plan B Burger Bar in Glastonbury. I went with my good friend Rachel to split the latest special burger, the Georgia Peach (beef burger topped with local bourbon-braised peaches, pulled pork, and BBQ sauce). How could I not try such a unique burger?! Every bite was (a phrase I’m using too much lately) life-changing. We had drinks with dinner, and continued the imbibing afterwards, upstairs at Rooftop120 (where I had a snack). I had fun. I got home after midnight and had another snack. I woke up the next morning, ate a banana with SunButter, and did a weight lifting class only – no cardio.
My life now is more physically sustainable; I no longer have a resting pulse in the 40s and I no longer have doctors threatening to send me to in patient treatment. But mentally, sometimes this sucks. I cannot stop finding flaws in my appearance, and even the smallest of flaws seen just for a moment make me feel worthless. I feel the need to “check my stomach” in the mirror several times a day and use it as a measurement of my own self-worth. With every lack of definition I see, I berate myself for a lack of discipline. I ask myself why I didn’t skip breakfast, why I didn’t do cardio, why I drank wine with dinner.
I have to admit that I sometimes miss the days when I was not certain whether or not my doctor would be satisfied (after a weigh-in appointment) that I weighed enough. I miss hearing someone tell me I was too skinny and the relief I felt that while I was in recovery, I had a cushion and could gain weight and still look okay. I miss the security and sense of ultimate control my eating disorder gave me.
I miss knowing for sure that I could see definition in my stomach. I miss knowing I had to put my belt on the tightest notch…and even then, my pants felt a little big. I miss being pleased with my body more often than not. I have to remind myself constantly that I DON’T miss the anxiety I felt before weigh-ins, the constant photo-deleting from my camera that I did when an angle made me look dangerously thin, the stares I got in public.
Now more often than not, I’m NOT pleased with my body. I judge myself based on how it looks. I seek out its flaws and use them to tell myself I’m not good enough. Please do not tell me that I am thin. I know I’m a thin person. But ED also tells me my body COULD look like a Victoria’s Secret model if I worked out more often, drank less, never ever ate dessert, and didn’t snack after dinner. So I beat myself up for living my life the way I do now…the way I live it when I am happy. I beat myself up for not living a life that is ONLY geared toward body perfection, and nothing else.
As I wrote this post I felt inspired by the words I read in that email. I used them to squash the feelings of worthlessness I have over the holiday weekend. My life under control of my eating disorder was isolating and empty…like how my stomach always felt. Yes I liked how it looked. I admired how toned I was. But whenever I did something “wrong” that I viewed as jeopardizing to how it looked, I cried. I had panic attacks. I lived in fear. That’s no way to live.
So I need to work on not using my body to judge my self-worth. I need to work on accepting how my body looks as someone free of an eating disorder. I need to realize that perfection does not equal happiness, and that living life is more important than looking like a Victoria’s Secret model. So I’ll keep at my recovery journey. I’ll continue to attempt to give myself props for leaping over mental hurdles and get to the finish line I need to get across to get through recovery. I’ll try to remind myself that I may not look exactly like this chick at the end of my journey, but I bet I’ll be a hell of a lot happier than her.
Do you struggle with body acceptance? What helps you?
Do you pressure yourself to be perfect, be it with your body or other areas of life?