TRIGGER WARNING: Possible triggers surrounding eating disorders and body image.
I walked into my recent psychiatry appointment with mixed feelings. I was looking forward to it because I was overdue and my mood had been quite low. Plus, I wanted to talk to him about my lack of concentration and what I thought to be nocturnal seizures. Turns out, he doesn’t think they are seizures at all, but instead related to my sleep paralysis. Relief! I just need to, you know, sleep more often – Please withhold judgment here, I know what I’m supposed to do, but unfortunately I’m not perfect so I don’t always do it… however, that’s a whole different blog post – or is it?
But I Was Also Dreading It Because…
Because I knew. I knew my psychiatrist would notice my weight loss, just enough to trigger my husband’s loving nags of concern. About 15 lbs. total in a year’s time. Which, to me, isn’t a lot given the timeframe. But considering that I wasn’t overweight to begin with (logically I know this) I suppose red flags arise.
Admittedly, my thinking is a wee bit distorted when it comes to food and body image. You may remember the letter I wrote to Food? Pretty pathetic, right? But guess what? I’m not. I’m not pathetic, and neither are you…
I’ve tried to blog about it in more detail numerous times. But each time something within me wouldn’t allow it. It was as though, if I shared it with you, it would be true and real. “It” being what my psychiatrist calls an “eating disorder” and what I call “disordered eating.” I’m still not ready to make the leap to saying that I have an “eating disorder,” but after receiving support from The Sunny Shadow: Bipolar Support Group, I feel empowered. Before I felt weak and ashamed. I’m sure those feelings will resurface, but I now know I have a choice, I don’t have to allow them to stay. I can reframe my thinking.
For years I’ve restricted food, off and on, as a means of coping. But even when I don’t restrict, per se, that obsessive mentality stays with me. It’s the whole reason I started smoking. It’s the reason my wedding dress ended up being too big on my wedding day! But the most humiliating incident yet was in early sobriety. It took place outside my old A.A. home group, just after the meeting let out. It was a HUGE group, so the parking lot was full. An old timer, who I’d mistakenly placed on a pedestal, called me out. The problem was that I wasn’t the only one who’d put him on a pedestal. When he spoke, everyone listened. He said something along the lines of, “What’s wrong with you? Are you sick? Did you go back out?… Are you anorexic or something?!” All the breath left my body. My worst fear had just come true. Not only had someone noticed me, but a whole lot of people noticed me! Literally.
Why would someone be so cruel? If any of those things were true, did he think yelling those questions across a crowded parking lot would benefit me?! He obviously had his own issues to work out that had nothing to do with me. But in the process he shed daylight on my issues, and despite how obvious they may have been to the outside world, I was nowhere ready to acknowledge them myself.
But I don’t know why I was surprised, my sponsor had been pleading with me. As well as my therapist and psychiatrist. Friends asked me if I was sick. I would say, “I’m fine, it’s just stress.” And that seemed to satisfy them. That’s the first time the words “eating disorder” and “anorexia” were uttered by my psychiatrist. But since my therapist called it “disordered eating” I minimized it and definitely did not take any of it as a diagnosis. My therapist suggested that I see a dietician, but as you may have guessed, I didn’t.
As I became more stable in my sobriety and mental health, I gained weight and the intensity of the obsessive thinking softened. But it’s always there.
Time passes, stress waxes and wanes. And as it does, so does my need to restrict.
At my recent psychiatry visit, I brought up the possibility of trying an ADD medication. But he had very valid reasons for why I’m likely having troubles concentrating. “Well, you’ve been depressed, you’re not sleeping enough, you’re under a lot of stress, and you have an eating disorder.” He said it again. And so matter of factly, so nonchalantly… like it’s common knowledge. I left his office feeling deflated. Like he just poked a hole in my very last birthday balloon.
I was in such disarray that it didn’t even occur to me to ask him for an official diagnosis… what type of eating disorder is he implying that I have? I have to call him in a couple of weeks to give him a medication update so I plan on addressing it then. Of course I did a little research. The main differences between the two are frequency and duration. Either way I need to get healthier.
This is likely doing lots of damage to my body. I know my past laxative use has.
And still, I’m not ready to let my faithful “friend” go. It feels like sharing this information, saying it aloud, means just that. And though I know I need to, and I want to want to, a big part of me doesn’t want to. Because “it” comforts me. But I know my future self will thank me for pushing past the discomfort to grow and become healthier.
My past experiences have reinforced the notion that we have to change for ourselves, no one else. We have to want it. But I have two teenage daughters and they have two eyes, the same as the rest of us. They clearly see that what I’m teaching them is not inline with my actions. Obviously, I carry guilt over this. So I have added motivation.
For too long life has pushed finding a new therapist towards the bottom of my list, it’s now time for me to move it to the top. I’m not so deluded to think I can do this on my own. But neither am I so deluded to think that this one issue means that I am broken. I will always be a work in progress and I’m okay with that.