Glimpses of the Girl I Was

I fell asleep reading the other night. I woke up in my little cabin in the woods at 1 am and the lamp was still on, the book I was reading cuddled up next to me. When I realized I had fallen asleep reading, I wanted to jump up and down for joy.

It seems like such a small, insignificant, silly thing — falling asleep while reading. It is actually the sort of thing I used to get in trouble for when I was a kid. There was always a book under my pillow in the morning, always at least three nights a week that the bedside lamp in my room was still on when I woke up in the morning. But in the past three years, I haven’t fallen asleep reading even once. And the few times that I have read late into the night, I have been reading eating disorder memoirs or blogs. Reading was just another part of the obsession that ruled (and still rules) my life.

I’ve read three books in the past four days. Sure, they’re young adult fiction*, but the point is — they’re NOT eating disorder books. I am reading books that have nothing to do with psychology and loving them. I am spending every free moment with my nose in a book and rediscovering how fabulously happy and stress-free that makes me.

Do I eventually want to read the classics, theology, politics, poetry? Sure. Eventually, I’d like to be able to read those things and find them well within my cognitive reach and enjoy them as well. For now, however, I’m happy to have a coping skill that allows me to escape the stress of work, the stress of my own morbid and distressing thoughts. For now, I am happy to read well-written children’s books that require me to do little else than slip into an alternate world and experience another life.

I’m glad to have this coping skill. To be honest, going back to work has been hard — far harder than I thought it would be. I cried most of the first week. Any time my coworker, T, and I would evaluate my performance, I would burst into tears. Finally, he very carefully asked, “Why are you so….like, emotional?”  (I think the unspoken concern in this was a, “You’renotpregnantright?” which made me laugh.  When I was done crying.)  He has offered a few times to be there if I need to talk about anything or just vent, but it’s not as if the issue is work so much as it is all the mess in my head.

I need to talk about how I’m terrified that I’m gaining a billion pounds, that I’m going to get fatterfatterfatter, that I’m going to get thinnerthinnerthinner, that I’m going to wind up in treatment again, that the pain in my chest is more than just anxiety, that maybe my family and friends and team were all right when they told me not to go back to work.  I can’t tell him any of that. And I certainly can’t tell him that the reason it’s so difficult to take criticism from him is because I like him and I don’t want him seeing me as incompetent, overly emotional, fat, whatever.  I can’t tell him that it’s totally screwing with my mind, the fact that he and I haven’t hung out like we used to do, the fact that the new girl (my co-counselor) wears pants one size smaller than me.  These last two worries are utterly insane and totally ridiculous, I know.  I can only assume that time will make these two things not matter so much — at least, that’s what I hope.

Food at work looks basically like it did before I left.  I’m better about using my time off to prep food to bring, but really, that just means I spend time making salads to get me through the next 5 days.  I eat string cheese and tuna and yogurt as if my life depended on it (and I suppose it does) and I’m eating two or three snacks a day.  I’m not even walking as much as I used to and we cut down the kids’ recreation time, so I’m not playing basketball or football for hours a day.  I’m terrified of gaining weight and terrified every week that when I get home and get on the scale it will show me a number higher than the week before.

It hasn’t yet.  Every time I step on the scale, the number is lower.  Not significantly — it’s not as if I’m losing dozens of pounds every week.  A pound here, a few ounces there.  No big deal.  Like I told my dietitian, I’m not necessarily trying to maintain my weight, but it’s not like I’m using every behaviour in the book trying to lose, either.  I’m still restricting, still taking a few pills here and there, but nothing bad.  Nothing like it was this time a year ago.

Monday will mark one year since I checked into Renfrew and began this crazy recovery journey.  One year ago today, I was making packing lists, going for walks in the snow, getting in the last few days of behaviours before I was forced to give them up.  One year ago, I weighed exactly what I weigh right now.

This thought is so strange to me.  The amount of weight I gained and then lost in one year makes me wonder how much longer my body can do this.  Surely it can’t be healthy to lose that kind of weight and then gain it.  And then lose it.  And then gain it.  And then…ad infinitum.  I’ve been gaining and losing and gaining and losing for almost two and a half years.  How much longer before my body simply refuses to gain or lose any more?  Before  the perpetually shifting internal balances can’t balance any more and those imbalances spell serious trouble?  Before the organs that depend on nutrition they’re not always getting just decide to quit?

Who knows.  I’m just thinking out loud here.  It’s just strange to think how far I came (and then how far I fell) all in the course of a year.  Hopefully 2012 brings more steps forward and fewer steps back.


*In case you were wondering, I’m reading the Shadow Children Sequence by Margaret Peterson Haddix.  SO GOOD!


5 thoughts on “Glimpses of the Girl I Was

  1. Read. Screw reality for a while. It will be there waiting. But sometimes….we just have to ignore things. I get it.

    Hand it over to God for the night and escape. He has a way of enveloping us in His Presence and slowly…his light infuses us. Fortifies us. Reaches us in the darkness. The wilderness.
    He gives us Rest.

    Consider it a re-charge.

    Oh, and boys suck. Let’s be nuns.

  2. Hi Jess – It feels amazing to fall asleep reading. That’s something I’ve lost since having an ED too, my attention span sucks and I can’t focus on a book for more than five seconds. I’m really glad that you have that outlet again.

    I’m no doctor, but I think you’re probably right that constantly shifting weight can’t be good for your body. It seems like you did come really far in recovery earlier this year, and you deserve to get healthy again. Take care and reach out anytime for support!

  3. You have been on my mind so much the past few days. I am glad to get an update. Glad you are reading. Glad you are not having thoughts of self-harm (You’re not, are you?).

    If you need more young adult books to keep you happy and sleeping I’ve got plenty to send you!

    Major love to you, Jess.

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