Insidious Whispers and Deafening Screams

I mentioned in my last post the the dictator has been whispering in my ear lately, trying to convince me that a relapse into old behaviours wouldn’t be at all a bad thing. I mean, it wouldn’t be a *real* relapse, I’d just restrict and run and life would still run perfectly and I’d have no consequences for my behaviours, I’d just be thin. (Which is totally ridiculous and has never happened to date and, in fact, each relapse is worse than the last, so I’d probably be dead.)

So that has been floating around in my head the past week. Undoubtedly it is related to the stress of the new semester starting, my feelings of utter incompetence when it comes to my chosen field, my highly regimented/probably overbooked schedule, and somewhat overwhelming extracurricular obligations/responsibilities. It has absolutely nothing to do with the food, my body, my weight. Just the stress. (Or so Counselor-Jessica is telling Deranged-Jessica.)

Anyway, that is background for my tale, in which this whisper becomes a wailing siren call on Tuesday. It was the first day of class, so I was already a bit nervous, but our prof for this class is really, really great and very down-to-earth. (She brought brownies! And coffee! And tea! And stress balls!) Early on, she said that she went into counseling because it saved her life. So, ya know, same reason as me.

We were asked to go around and introduce ourselves and tell what drew us to counseling. So I was prepared to just say, “Hey, I’m Jess, I’m a second year CMHC with expressive arts focus and I’m going into this field because counseling definitely saved my life more than once.” For the most part, my cohort (the 15 students I entered the program with last fall) knows about my ED and treatment history and I’m fairly open about it. That said, I don’t generally introduce myself by saying, “Hey, I’m Jess and I’m recovering from an eating disorder.

I was, by virtue of the room layout, the last person to do an introduction. When it came my turn, here is what I said:

“I’m Jess. I’m in the CMHC program with an expressive arts emphasis and I am really going into counseling because it absolutely saved my life on more than one occasion. And I’ve been in and out of a few eating disorder treatment centers and had some really great counselors and some really awful counselors and hope to be one of the good ones.”

So why the mention of the eating disorder treatment?

Competition.

About halfway through the classroom introductions, a young woman explained that she was drawn counseling after her “five year stint with anorexia” (this is actually how she worded it). Alarms started going off in my head. The dictator started screaming.

I needed to defend my ground.

I needed to make sure that everyone knew that I, too, had an eating disorder.

I needed to make sure that everyone knew that it had been so bad I’d had to go to treatment.

I needed to make sure that everyone knew that I’d relapsed and had to go back again and again.

I needed to make sure that everyone knew that I was really sick. (Read: I was thin.)

Because that is just the way the eating disordered brain works. It’s sick and twisted, but my eating disorder still needs to be validated. It still needs that gasp of breath that people do when they hear how much weight I lost in less than a year, that look of pity when I talk about the tube, the almost-jealousy when they hear all the “bad” foods I got to eat freely in treatment to put on weight.

It pisses me off that I feel I so badly “need” this, even after all my time and work in recovery. It pisses me off that some part of me still glamourizes the eating disorder, some part of me still wants it.

I don’t need it and it isn’t glamorous.

It’s hell.

And I need to keep reminding myself of that, but damn if the Dictator isn’t loud these days.

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4 thoughts on “Insidious Whispers and Deafening Screams

  1. I’m really sorry the Dictator’s voice is getting louder. A relapse would be a very big deal and definitely no bueno. I just wanted to state that clearly to try to counteract any of the competing voices going on for you. You have a ton of stuff going on right now and of course this is where your brain goes. Shitty, but well-practiced. Feeling overwhelmed (at least for me) is a really big trigger for the ED. I will say: keep reaching out. I’m really proud of your honesty. Also, self-care, self-care, self-care. I know you’re working a ton, but I think it would be good if you started thinking about being okay with decreasing your work hours if things stay overwhelming.

    As for the competition, as I said earlier tonight, thank you for opening up and writing this. It’s one of the many dirty little secrets about EDs, perhaps one of the dirtiest. You’re right in that it’s not glamourous. But I think there are still ways in which my brain equates anorexia to X, Y, Z “good” adjectives and that makes it tough. It seems like it could be really challenging to be in contact with this other girl often if the competition radar is going up. Make sure you keep fact-checking with people you know and trust! We will tell you what’s what :)

  2. Sorry you’ve been having a rough go lately. Those whispers of shaving a few calories here, running an extra mile there, can be so powerful and seductive, and I still battle them pretty much daily. Sounds like you are being really honest with yourself, and I think it’s actually really healthy and insightful that you are able to recognize the disorderedness in your own head. Re the incident in your class, needing everyone to know the extent of your illness – that’s kind of fascinating because I am the exact opposite. I always want to come across as happy go lucky, not a care in the world, I-can-do-it-all-and-do-it-effortlessly…in fact I think a lot of my current friends (who didn’t know me in college) would probably be SHOCKED if they knew about my eating disorder, because I basically kill myself trying to hide it. I was the same way when I was sick too: wanted to be emaciated, yes, but somehow wanted people to think it was naturally and effortless (?). Like I said, I was sick… Anyway, hang in there, I think you are doing great.

  3. Read your past two posts..
    You are a FIGHTER.

    That being said, if you are fighting harder than usual maybe you don’t cancel therapy? OR is that the ED mind convincing you that it needs it and thus emerging? Ahh. Twisted. Yes. Manipulative. Yes.
    And school starting? “*I gained weight. I both care and don’t care.
    *I like eating, but I don’t want to be “fat” (whatever that means).
    *A lot of times, dietitians will remind recovering anorexics that they aren’t just going to gain weight indefinitely and yadda yadda yadda and become overweight yadda yadda yadda. But I have gone from sick to well to overweight and the thought is a bit scary.
    *Okay, a lot scary.
    *Sometimes, there is this little whisper in my head that tells me I could restrict and run again, but do it better this time – just be thin and numb and no other consequences.<—- THAT.

    I think you may have expressed exactly how I feel, though I may not feel excatly the same? At any rate. I love your writing. Thank you for sharing.

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