(Also known as: This week’s post-counseling word vomit, part 1.)
First on this week’s counseling agenda was to go over last week’s support group meeting. My counselor had helped me a couple of weeks ago in writing out some of my food rules to take to group.
Did you talk about your rules? she asked. I think she always expects me to back out of these things – and sometimes I do too, so it wasn’t an altogether invalid question. I tell her I did. And how did it go? How did you feel?
I hesitate to answer this question, wanting desperately to tell her how wonderful and hopeful I felt after, how free and more able to actively able to pursue recovery. But this wasn’t the case.
I don’t know, I say. It was really uncomfortable. There were only two other girls there and each of them had only five or six rules. And I had like, twenty. I felt a little crazy.
I pause briefly here. We talked last week about how maybe when I say I feel “crazy,” I really mean “vulnerable.” And this is sometimes true, though not always. I press forward in my thoughts, wanting my counselor to know that I did this work already, that I’m really trying outside her office.
But I don’t think I felt crazy in the “vulnerable” or “ashamed” sense. I left feeling…I don’t know…sick.
Sick? she asks.
I struggle to know how to explain it. I guess I’d just been feeling kind of physically sick for days – weak and tired and not well. I went for a hike last weekend and kept thinking, “I’m 24. I shouldn’t be this tired on a hike I’ve done dozens of times.” And then to go to group and have to stare at all my rules and say them out loud and realize how much they control my eating. I left feeling really sick for the first time – like maybe this is more than me just being a little funny about food.
So you think that maybe your friend might be right in what she said?
She’s referring to the friend who confronted me a month and a half ago, telling me point-blank that I have an eating disorder and need to go into treatment. This was met with rather fierce denial on my part, but was a real eye-opener for my counselor. This conversation was the reason that I now have to go to a nutritionist every week, get grilled about it in counseling, join an eating disorder support group, and sign up for group counseling this summer.
(On a side note, the counseling appointment before my first ANAD group meeting, I told my counselor that I felt sort of silly going to an eating disorder support group when – DUH – I don’t have an eating disorder. Oh really? she said.)
And so for months I’ve been fighting the idea that I’m sick, but last Monday it finally hit. I finally realized that I can’t just snap out of this like when I’ve struggled with eating before. Before, logic always helped, I always realized what was happening and was able to stop. But not this time. No matter how much I want to eat, want to be healthy, know that what I am doing is unhealthy, know that I need to eat more and exercise less…I can’t stop.
Yeah, I respond. Maybe she’s on to something. I just think that maybe I’m really sick, you know? I look away, as I have for most of this conversation, afraid as always that she’ll laugh in my face and tell me that I couldn’t possibly be really sick – that I’m just a fat screw-up who needs to get over herself. She doesn’t, of course.
Good, says my counselor with a sort of sad smile. That’s really good.
We leave it at that on Monday, but I can’t help but notice the copy of the DSM-IV-TR on her floor, wonder if we’re moving ever closer to the point where I have to run down that list with her, admit things I have never said out loud and acknowledge the truth.
Yesterday’s Food Successes:
1. I came with 80 calories of meal plan. That makes two days in a row. A goal for this week accomplished! (And a completely freaked out Jessica today!)
2. I left my food log at home yesterday so I couldn’t count and recount and recount again how many calories I’d eaten so far that day. The only time I pulled it out was when I got to the end of dinner without finishing it, and realized I’d have to adjust the calorie count. I did the math, figured out how I could satisfy success #1 above, and left it again. Yesterday’s food log entry only has my calorie count for the day and a smiley face. (And given my freaked out nature today, we’re back to minute to minute counting. But this does not change yesterday’s success.)
Slow and steady.