I wrote previously, about my eating disorder. I wrote about it in the past tense, because I haven’t had a full relapse since my teens. The truth is, it’ll never go away. More specifically, the dysmorphic element of Anorexia will never leave me.
Four weeks ago, I was selected to visit my company’s head office. The company I work for, is an online fashion retailer and I work in one of the warehouses. I’m a member of my site’s people forum, which is a kind of staff council. I and two other members of the site people forum, were invited to meet one of the company directors; to discuss our current projects over a coffee.
Because of the nature of the business I work in (fashion), I didn’t feel it was appropriate to wear my usual work attire. Instead I opted for a pair of skinny black formal trousers, a smart top and a blazer. On the morning of my meeting, I slid on my outfit and found the trousers were a lot looser than when I last wore them, some four months ago. Hmmm…. I like this. I thought. Then the voice of dysmorphia chimed in. Let’s play a game its silky voice purred. You haven’t even been trying to lose weight. Let’s see how much you can lose when you try. Challenge accepted, I replied.
Don’t get me wrong, I could do with losing a few pounds. I could do with eating healthier, cutting back on the weekend booze binges, the caffeine and cigarettes; and generally cleaning my act up. I walk two miles a day to work, but that hasn’t helped me to shed the excess weight. I thought about joining the gym, but I find the act of jumping up and down on a treadmill, in a sweaty, airless room a very self conscious and tedious method of exercise. How can I get more active and enjoy exercising, at the same time? The answer came. I enjoy my twenty-five minute walk to work everyday. The problem is, that it isn’t a long enough walk. So three weeks ago, I began walking for an hour, every weekday morning.
The other reason I’ve decided to switch to a healthier lifestyle, is to put the theory of “healthy body, healthy mind” to the test. I have an illness, which is said to be caused by a chemical imbalance in my brain. As you already know, my body doesn’t like having my brain tricked into releasing these chemicals via prescription drugs.
So the best and most natural way of getting my brain to produce the happy chemicals, is through exercise. I’m already seeing some differences in my body, three weeks in. My legs are firmer, my arms are becoming more toned and defined. I feel like a sculptor, chipping away at a piece of marble with every mile I walk. I come home from my walk, feeling energised and ready to take on whatever the day has to throw at me. Where I used to skip breakfast and find myself stuffing biscuits into my mouth at 11am; I’m now eating a healthy breakfast and snacking on fruit. My new found healthy routine is great and I’m proud of myself, for breaking out of my comfort zone. But what has this got to do with my eating disorder?
Right now, I’m on a mission to get healthy. But I haven’t yet located the dysmorphia off-switch. I’m acutely aware of the fact that my determination to be a healthier, fitter me could descend into unhealthy obsession. I’m already calorie counting and reading up on how many calories I’m burning off each morning. This is fine for now, as I need to monitor my intake and output; in order to reach my health and fitness goals. But what happens when I reach my target weight? Will I strive to maintain it? Or will I set myself a new, dangerous one? I hope it will be the former. There’s also the fact that my body changes will become noticeable to other people. When the complementary remarks come, will I be able to shut the voice out, that whispers: just another stone, and you’ll be perfect?
I’ll let you into a secret: I don’t and never will own a set of scales. I might be burying my head in the sand with this, but I can’t risk the consequences of having a set of scales in my house. Whenever anyone asks me how much I weigh, and I tell them that I honestly have no idea; I’m met with some very strange looks. You see, that’s how we, as a society, have become conditioned to think. We’ve been told that we have to know how much we weigh, in order to pigeon hole ourselves into a category. It really pisses me off. And the other thing that pisses me off, is people assume that because I don’t know exactly how much I weigh, it means I don’t care about my health and wellbeing.
The truth of the matter is, I don’t know how much I weigh because I care about my health and wellbeing. I know that if I stepped on a set of scales, the figure on the dial or analogue screen would push me into a deep, dark hole. And the silky, seductive voice of dysmorphia would become my permanent internal dialogue. I’d be back where I was, almost seventeen years ago. The difference is, I now have people who depend on me. I have to be a positive role model to my children, especially my eldest son, who’s approaching the age I was, when I had my first episode of depression. If Silent D decides to add my children’s sanity to her trophy cabinet, I want to be strong enough to help them. I can’t help them, if I’m drowning in the lake of dysmorphia.
Yesterday, a realisation dawned on me: I’m at a pivotal point in my recovery. This is make or break time. I’ve avoided diet and exercise for a long time, through fear of spiraling into a relapse. I was naive in thinking that I could find natural solutions to my depression, without needing to change my lifestyle. If I’m going to have a good chance of overcoming depression, I have to take a risk. And to balance out the risk, I need to take damage limitation measures; like not purchasing a set of scales. In the long term, I need to retrain my conscious mind to identify potential risks, and come up with effective long term solutions to them.
If you have any recommendations for books, YouTube videos, articles or anything else on the subject of mindfulness, critical thinking and cognitive behavioural therapy; I would be very grateful.
Photo credit: Jairo Alzate, courtesy of Unsplash