Who’s got my back? … I have.

I learned a difficult, but important, life lesson this week. 

I’d had a challenging few weeks at work, where I was put into an assignment that didn’t match my capabilities and had spent a lot of the time trying to be useful and finding it just wasn’t going to happen. My team colleagues were having to put in more to make up for my lack of skills where they needed them … it was awkward, embarrassing and demoralising. Last week I was moved off the project and told there would probably be other things I could contribute to.  

Okay, that situation is part of life – it’s not ideal, it’s difficult for self-esteem, but it’s still just one of those things that happens to us. That would have been okay, I said nothing about it, fearing I would somehow look ungrateful and certainly unprofessional. In a chat with a trusted colleague later, I shared this situation and it was their comment that really hit me …

“… but – who’s got your back? …”

They meant … who can you go to, to discuss this if you think you’ve been treated badly, or just to figure out the best thing for you to do for your career and your own self worth? …

I thought about this for a minute … the answer astounded and disappointed me ..

“Well … nobody”

I already knew that nobody is “there for me” in my relationships – that I learned the hard way … after unknowingly being in an emotionally abusive relationship for ten years that left me with depression and severe anorexia.   I know now that it’s me who looks after my needs.

I learned through several years of therapy that nobody has “my interests in mind” in my family – that’s been demonstrated though decades of negative, dismissive and indifferent behaviour.

So … now this third revelation … nobody “has my back” professionally either.  Perhaps I was naive, but it hadn’t occurred to me regarding my work before. That was hard to realise.

What’s left? 

Silence

These days I appreciate silence. The peace of solitude is attractive to me.  It’s not because I don’t like anyone else, nor that I feel I wouldn’t be welcome with others – but I don’t have anything to contribute, so I don’t.

Most people think silence should be filled … with a distraction – music, television, chatter or activity … but I don’t. Silence is an entity itself – a treasure.

Sometimes I’ll just sit – then suddenly realise I’ve been sitting, without anything in the background, for an hour.  It doesn’t worry me, I find it intriguing.

You might think –  “That’s such a waste of precious time!” 

… but I don’t think that either …

On a recent holiday, a Spiritualist read my “aura” (yes, you need to be a believer to get into that) … she told me she could pick up that I’m very well centred, I know what I want and I’ve come a long way, but I still have a long journey ahead.  This resonates with me – but until she said it out loud, I never really thought about it.

Yes, perhaps I’ve developed a calm core where I feel I know myself pretty well?

Being prepared to sit and mull things over helps me think through the issues in my life. I don’t plan a time, or sit down and I say  “right, I’m now going to think this through and try to come up with an answer …”  – I just let it happen naturally, whenever it happens.

Perhaps others call it meditation?  I’m not sure, I’ve thought about getting to that, but haven’t.  I’ve had some stunning “ah hah!” moments when mulling over my thoughts .  I’ve grown comfortable being alone and being with silence.

Just being.

I hate a rising number

I realised today – out loud this time, not just in my mind – that no matter what weight I am, I just can’t accept a situation where my weight goes up.  I know – that’s just not sustainable, but it’s true.  Over the past few months I’ve had an anxiety-related health problem which has meant my digestion has been disrupted and I couldn’t eat much.  My already frail anorexic body lost 5 kg (about 12 lbs) in three months.  It’s not good, I’m still at that low weight and it’s taking me a while to work through the psychological issues, but I’m getting there. My appetite is slowly returning and symptoms are abating.

You know what’s the hardest though? …. getting on the scales, seeing that VERY low number and knowing (intellectually) that a higher number is “a really good idea” – but … emotionally, I just can’t find a way to make it okay.

Today I realised that no matter what weight I’m at – and I’ve been obese too – my weight is always a struggle to me … it’s just as hard to struggle at 90kg as it is to struggle at 45kg.  I’ve done both …

Will my logical intellect and my emotional mind ever get onto the same path?  … or will I battle these two opposing notions forever?

Even now, at this dangerously low weight, which I know my body will be struggling to operate at – I can’t find a way to accept a rising weight number … 

Solitude and Anorexia … which brings which?

I lead a solitary life – that’s okay, I like it that way. But, this thought has occurred to me …. do I enjoy my solitude because I have anorexia? … or do I have anorexia because I enjoy a solitary life?

Anyone with an eating disorder will know that solitude is their greatest ally, their friend waiting for them, willing to share their secret habits, darkest thoughts and unique eating practices.  I’m no different – my social life is in tatters these days, eating out with a dinner companion is usually fraught with anxiety and I generally shun social occasions because I never enjoy them – there’s too much eating, drinking and losing control of things for my level of comfort.

So … which came first? Did I develop anorexia because I wanted to be on my own and I just slipped further and further down the slippery slope of the ED until it took total hold of me? Or did I seek out solitude more and more because I just wanted to be “alone with my anorexia” so I could do things my way?

I don’t know.

Does it matter?

No … not really.

I know where I am in my life, I know who I am, I know what’s part of my life and what’s gone by the wayside. I’m honest about what I do and who I trust. I know why I behave this way and I know what this anorexia (caused by me) has done to me – both physically and emotionally.

That’s okay … anorexia is part of my life, solitude is too … that’s okay.

It’s all about the “moment”

Like many others with an eating disorder, I think about eating … I spend a lot of my time thinking about it – what I will eat, what I won’t eat, what I just ate, what I just didn’t eat … My internal dialogue coaches me … “Well done, you resisted that ..” – “Go on … just have a little of that … ” – “No, don’t even think about that … ” – “Yes, you’re really hungry, but don’t eat yet – just hold out a little longer, longer, longer …”

What I’ve recently realised is that eating (or not) is all about “the moment”. It’s about the “here and now” – when I eat it’s about the experience right then and there, the taste, the lovely feeling during and after I’ve eaten (before the guilt sets in). 

I’ve learned lately that because my eating is all about the moment, to make sure I don’t overeat all I need to do is “last through the subsequent moment” and get out the other side. 

What do I mean by that? … it means after I’ve enjoyed a mouthful or two of something I first get the feeling of “Yum, that was great, I enjoyed that” … then I get … “I so enjoyed it, that I want to do it again – take another mouthful” .… then, if I take another mouthful I’ll get that cycle again:
 “Yum … Do it again … Yum … Do it again …” 

So … now I know – I put a stop to it after the first feeling of  “Yum, I enjoyed that” ... instead of waiting for the “do it again” I have learned to think “I’m stopping now”. – then I wait and let a couple of minutes pass … the feeling persists … “Do it again…. do it again, you liked it …. do it again” – but I don’t – I just wait … time dissipates the urge … within 10 minutes I’m saying to myself “I don’t need any more, I don’t want any more” – and it’s over. The “moment” has passed. I don’t need to eat anymore then.

When I’m hungry it’s all about the moment too … my dialogue urges me to “just hold out longer …” – “don’t eat yet, just wait …” – “wait until [some random indicator] … the clock strikes the next hour … or … I’ve been to this meeting … or … this TV show finishes … or … this bus I’m on gets home … “ 

Then when that comes I do it again … “Yes, I got through that hunger moment, now how do I get through this one?” … and I set another random target. And so I kill a couple of hours until I eat.  

That’s what I do … 

That’s how I manage my eating disorder, either to eat as little as possible … or to make sure I don’t overeat – it’s all about getting through “the moment” …. the endless series of “moment” after “moment” after “moment” – just making it through one until I have to face and conquer the next. 

Exercise … my friend?

My relationship with exercise is interesting.

I haven’t always been this way but this applies to my life for the past 20 years or so. I love it, I do it a lot, I’m obsessed by it – I would hesitate to say I’m addicted to it (although medical professionals might say that) … but it’s a very important part of my life. In fact, it’s a driver in my life.

I’ve sacrificed most other things to be able to exercise each day … yes, pretty much every other thing – my relationship, sleep, friends, social occasions, business occasions, family – you name it … I’ve probably done it.  I like to be active and feel like I’m leading a healthy, well-managed life as a strong and capable woman.

To me, there’s an important balance between eating well to support a healthy active life and eating too much so I end up getting fat. I navigate this path daily and always strive for what I feel is the right balance. Because of my nature (I’m disciplined and comfortable with routine), it’s easy for me to get into an exercise regime that fits.

But … a problem arises … I also look for positive results which means (even in the face of health risks) I’m unlikely to reduce my exercise load and I feel the constant need to “do more … try harder”.  The only thing that stops me exercising is a bad injury – which, if I tried to exercise, would render me incapable due to the level of pain. Apart from that, I’ll do it – and I have – with broken bones and everything.

Typical exercise activities for me are cycling, walking and running. I keep track (via internet tools) of my daily food intake and exercise done. I like to burn a minimum 1,000 calories a day during the week and 1,500 on weekends.

See what I mean? I see the negatives in this situation, but I don’t have a strong enough urge to change it.

My dilemma … what’s going to have to happen to stop it?

I’m an awful person

This is really, really bad. I was quite conscious of what I was doing and of how terrible it was, but I did it anyway.  I couldn’t stop it – I didn’t want to stop it.  I’ve said before that I’m a creature of habit and routine. One of the stark legacies of this eating disorder and the associated psychological behaviour is that sometimes I can be terrified of change.  But there’s a worse thing, I’ve become a total slave to my condition, so much so that I have hurt other people through my behaviour – it’s unforgiveable, I know that, but I’ve done it.  Here’s what happened to me most recently …

I was doing one of my “usual” things.  I like to do this, I do it regularly – every week – and I keep doing it. This day, I was sitting in my regular café, at my regular table, eating my regular food, doing what I always do – reading my regular newspaper – feeling very content and calm.  With my face buried in my paper, I suddenly heard my name …  “Ruby … Ruby…”  – I looked up and saw a guy standing about a table away from me – I knew him.  In fact, I knew him really well – he’d been a work colleague, then a friend, almost a lover (but we never slept together). We used to eat out a lot together, he moved interstate at one stage and he’d stay at my place whenever he came back to town for a visit. So we had quite a strong friendship at one time. Even after we weren’t working together I’d maintained a kind-of  “friendship” with him – we’d meet for coffee or breakfast, but then it kind of petered out. I hadn’t seen him for about four years.  Anyway – there he was – standing in front of me … he said  “Ruby – hello – how are you?”  … so what did I do?  I was horrified to see him – all these thoughts raced through my head …  “Oh no! … he’s going to ruin everything … he’s going to want to sit at my table with me, disturb me, chat to me … oh no! this is a disaster!  …  my entire morning breakfast, which I love so much, will be totally ruined … I won’t be able to enjoy any of it …. oh no!!!”     So what did I do?  …  I said  “Oh, hello …. yes, I’m fine thanks”  … and I went straight back to my paper.  I didn’t talk to him any further and I didn’t look up at him again either.  After a few seconds he went away, to the counter to order his food.  I couldn’t look then, I realised I’d been a totally rude bitch, but I couldn’t help it – I didn’t want him ruining everything.  Not this, not my favourite thing ….  As I watched out of the corner of my eye, he chose a table and sat across the café from me. Shortly afterwards, a party of four people joined him. He was obviously there to meet them.  They stayed, breakfasted, chatted, then left.  He didn’t look at me, acknowledge me or wave when he left – nothing.  Yep – that’s about what I deserved.