Over the past few weeks I've had a relapse with depression and disordered eating. I'm pretty sure that last week there were a few days where, collectively, I probably ate about 500 calories. How easily I fell into it, how comforting it felt, and how much I didn't want to admit to it or ask for help was upsetting. I did, though, and my husband has been great.
I'm not exactly sure what triggered it, although stress and worry are certainly big factors. Anyone who freelances will tell you that it's not an easy way to make a living, and I think I got discouraged and judgy about the fact that I've started nannying part time to give us peace of mind and a weekly income. Intellectually, I know it's a good thing and I enjoy working with kids. And I know that nannying is important, honest work, in some ways more essential than editing or writing the funny books. Emotionally, I feel a little like a failure that I didn't magically make writing and editing "work" as my sole source of income. I'm still doing both, of course, so I'm wearing three hats and scheduling the hell out of every day. It's taken me longer to find a balance and, again, I get judgy with myself. And my fail safe is always "forgetting" to eat or getting obsessive about weight, to avoid the more complicated things I'm feeling and simplify it all down to: don't eat.
I think the problems with that are rather obvious. So I thought I'd make a list of things that my ED has kept me from doing to get a better sense of how destructive it is and to help myself keep a sense of perspective...and basically to tell ED to fuck off and leave me alone so I can get back to the things I want and love to do. It may seem odd that body anxieties would effect my creative life so much, but they do. It leaks into everything.
1. Work. Focusing on food and hating my body distracts me from writing, drawing, and editing, and ends up requiring a lot of time dedicated to judging it, starving it, and feeling bad about it. This impacts my work, makes me tired and angry, and sets up a really shitty cycle of self-loathing that is not creatively stimulating or productive.
2. Travel. I still haven't gotten a passport or been able to realize my goals of traveling outside the US because I keep wanting to be thinner to take a crummy passport photo that will look terrible anyway. Because I hate pictures that make me look bad and fat that much.
3. Confidence. When I'm feeling like this I have a hard time advocating for myself and achieving any other goals. It sucks the absolute life out of me and I get extremely critical of my work and abilities. I get so overwhelmed with feeling bad about my body I don't feel I have the right to want to share my work and that just ends up in a vicious cycle where I don't think I've accomplished anything and will die never mattering or sharing what I want to share.
4. Swimming. I have not gotten into a pool or stepped in the ocean to swim since I was about 24 years old. That was 8 years ago. I love to swim. My fear of being in a bathing suit has led me to stop doing something I really find a lot of joy in and it bothers me so much that half my dreams are about the sensation of plunging into water, the rush of it around your body, the whoosh of it in your ears. I miss it.
5. Pants. I'm so leery of sizing and freaking out about how I look that I can't buy pants or anything non-stretchy anymore. Also, clothing sizes in general have become kind of panic inducing/triggering. Everything I buy is now huge because I'd rather deal with things being oversized than have any more crying jags over it. The problem with that is that wearing things that don't really fit makes me look larger than I actually am and thus creates a further distorted view of my size. Not to mention constantly reaffirming my conviction that, unless I am thin, I am gross to look at. I don't feel that way about anyone else so it's especially frustrating that my mental illness is so myopic and self destructive still.
6. Socializing. I've been avoiding spending time with people I like and care about because I can't handle how much I worry about how I look when I'm around other people. I nearly panicked the other night when I went to my husband's companies 2 year anniversary party and knew I'd meet new people and spent the whole time worried they thought I was fat and ugly and gross. I'm not sure that showed on the outside, but it made me feel shitty and awful on the inside. I've also avoided at least two fun events I really wanted to go to because I didn't want to leave the house, or was afraid to meet people I like/admire and be convinced they'd think I was a horrible troll person.
7. My face. One of my biggest body anxiety related habits (or "checking" behavior in ED speak) is a sort of poking/pulling obsession with my double-chin. I hate the fucking thing and I cannot stop trying to minimize it, angrily poke it, or more recently, scratch and pull at it. The reality is, my body image is so warped I have no idea how "bad" it really is, and regardless, it's a damaging preoccupation. Wanting to pull pieces of your body off is not healthy.
8. Food. I actually like food. I like cooking, I enjoy making it for others, and I feel so much better when I'm eating. This whole relapse has severely limited my diet again and makes me feel physically crummy, tired, and weak.
I'm going to refer back to this list from time to time to remind myself that these are NOT things I want to be doing and that they aren't fair to inflict on myself. I really, really, really want to travel, for instance...and I need to get on that and make plans and stop letting one fucking photo govern my goals. Likewise I need to eat to live and I -want- to live. I want to live a full life, a healthy life, and I can't do that if I'm starving myself.
Fuck you, ED.