For Anyone with an Eating Disorder and Anxiety
I’ll admit it- I am an anxious person. Actually, I’ve come to realize that I am an extremely anxious person as of late because I no longer really use behaviors to cope. Restriction numbs. Over-exercise burns off adrenaline and quiets my mind. Orthorexic behaviors give me a sense of peace and control over my food and body. No longer using these behaviors to the extreme degree I am used to has honestly thrown me for a loop. I want to yell “NOT FAIR” at my treatment team and anyone who helped make me healthy. Like, GUYS, no one told me that eliminating behaviors consistently was going to make me feel like an actual crazy person. I don’t like to admit it- I’m a nurse, and we are terrible patients. I’ve always been independent to a fault and I feel weak needing medication. Not only that, but I am TERRIFIED of starting any new medication because of the experience I had with anti-anxiety and sleep meds in treatment.
If you haven’t ever struggled with anxiety, let me describe it to you. It’s laying awake until 3AM and having a headache for 24 hours straight after that. It’s a cramping stomach- that kind you get when you’re way past hungry- only hunger isn’t the problem. Constant anxiety is feeling like you drank just a little too much coffee, and your nervous system and brain are in overdrive. Anxiety is shockingly exhausting on the body. It’s sleeping because you’re so worn out from the constant hyper-alertness of your mind. Anxiety is napping all the time because of the tiredness, and to avoid feeling like you’re going to explode. Don’t confuse anxiety with worry! Worry is concern over actual events or potential events. Anxiety is all of the above for seemingly no reason.
As I wrote in my last post, the urges to choose my eating disorder are strong. The thing is- I KNOW my eating disorder will work. I will feel better.
Then what? As much as I don’t want to feel this constant unsettled feeling, I know my eating disorder can’t be a long term solution. It just can’t. I love my life and the people in it. Life is good; I don’t want to lose everything I care about.
Being healthy and nourished forces me to feel. Emotionally, mentally, and physically. My eating disorder took care of those things for me. I was a walking robot (well, with anxiety). Truth be told, I am ten times as anxious now as I was at my sickest. Recovery has a lot to do with choosing what is hard over choosing what is easy. Which honestly, sucks. I want a quick fix. I want an easy button.
But, I have to be patient. I have been through a lot in the past year personally, including the loss of three people I loved dearly. The brain doesn’t just forget that pain and trauma. We live in a world that teaches us “big girls don’t cry, suck it up, get back in the game, keep your head high, get your shit together, and don’t let them see you hurt.” We are HUMAN BEINGS- God created us to FEEL. Some of us feel things more deeply than others and I’ve learned that’s me. I HATE it. I like being the strong one. The tough kid. The one who doesn’t cry; who can shut off her feelings. Recovery has completely blown that safety next for me. I am trying so hard to be ok with it. I feel vulnerable. I feel stupid, I feel like a wimp, a sissy, you name it. Sharing my story about the journey I am on has helped me realize that hiding and walling myself off isn’t as great and helpful as my eating disordered mind made me think it was. I am an emotional person. I am learning to accept that. Next comes learning to deal with that. Baron Baptiste, the founder of Baptiste yoga says: “We hold the past in our bodies.” What a statement. What truth. For me, this statement is freeing. It means that I can heal and someday my anxiety won’t be so present. For now, that means TRULY sitting in the anxiety. “What’s the worst that will happen? Take it one step at a time,” my therapist says. So, I will be present in my feelings. I’ll stop trying to “stop” them. Everything eventually passes.
Friends, you are who you are. You are wonderfully made. Emotional, messy, chaotic- there is no shame in what makes you yourself. We all the the rest of our lives to either learn to accept ourselves and get along with ourselves; or fight ourselves. You choose.