One of the reasons it took a while for me to seek professional help again was because when I was attending counselling sessions back when I was in an in-patient, then a day patient ED programme, I felt that the psychologist and I were merely going in circles.
Each session would be a poke into my past and each time, it appeared as though there was a new revelation as to why I’d developed ED. It never seemed as though we were going anywhere and eventually, I wondered whether it was even necessary for me to know why I had developed anorexia in the first place. I figured that perhaps, like a tree, there were many roots leading to its growth, and which root supplied the most nutrients? It’d be hard to tell. Similarly, I thought the same with respect to my ED.
So, I left the programme and I stopped attending counselling sessions.
What made me want to look for professional help again was because I felt I needed that extra boost mentally and emotionally in my desire to recover not just physically, but in all aspects, and to maintain that recovery.
Wednesday afternoon, I had my second appointment with Dr. A and as I reflect back on the session, I realise that it is important to identify events in my past that have contributed to my dependence on ED as a crutch in life.
What I appreciate of Dr. A is that she starts from the present and slowly, we work our way backwards rather than take stabs in the dark as to what might have affected me so greatly as to use ED as a coping mechanism. And it’s interesting how suddenly, she will identify a pattern that screams exactly how my mind works. Of course, there’s a side of me that wonders if perhaps it is a case of her putting an idea in my head and then me fitting a scenario in to make it work, rather than the other way around. That’s probably the cynical side of me though.
One of the cycles we identified that I seem to be stuck in is this one:
Triggering Situation -> Overwhelming Emotions -> Avoidance Behaviours i.e. ED, Leaving the entire situation -> Feeling Better; Temporary Relief
So… I may get into an argument with someone close to me and rather than sit with the negative emotions until it tapers off, I get overwhelmed and scared by them. Rather than face up to them, I might choose to run away from the entire situation or/and fall back onto the ED to feel safe and to numb my emotions. It muffles everything from around me and I feel better, only I am aware that the relief is only temporary and I can only run for so long. Eventually, running away may lead to me being left with no one and nothing.
The idea then is to work on preventing or minimising triggering situations, and if they do occur, then I need to learn to manage the overwhelming emotions that might come along with it in a way that is more constructive than destructive.
Dr. A and I spoke about when my high feelings of anxiety may have first appeared and I mentioned how in the past, there were times when I would upset Mum and she would give me the silent treatment. Mum has changed over the years after I mentioned to her how bad it made me feel. However, until today, it is something I cannot sit with when I know that someone might be upset with me and chooses to turn the cold shoulder onto me.
We identified that the feeling of helplessness and the idea of not being able to understand or control the situation in terms of how to make it better may have contributed to this notion that I feel of myself being weak. And again, this idea that ‘I’m weak’ plays out as well strongly when my ED symptoms emerge.
The other evening, I stubbornly refused an extra slice of bread at dinner as much as Flo pleaded. Meal times have been increasingly difficult for Flo, I know, with him often having to coax me into eating more and reminding me the reasons why I want to get healthy.
On hindsight, I could have had it, but in that moment, all I could think about was how ED would berate me the rest of the evening for that extra indulgence. It also made me think that if I had eaten that bit more, I would have lost, and Flo, won. Twisted logic but logic all the same – I am weak.
As such, I overcompensate for my feelings of lacking by using ED to make me feel in control, to make me feel that I am able to be more disciplined than everyone else who shovel spoonful after spoonful into their mouths, that I am somehow, more superior.
When negative emotions hit me, I choose avoidance by running towards ED’s embrace and pretending that I feel nothing by shutting out the rest of the world so that only I exist, with ED. All I need to think about is what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, and that, becomes my escape.
The last form of weakness Dr. A touched on was ‘Surrendering’ and that can be through overindulgence of food. That is, “What the hey! I’m weak anyway so I might as well just give in and eat”. I don’t see this so strongly in me but I can understand how it might be linked to the idea of weakness as well.
Anyway, our next session we’ll be trying to unpack this box that is labelled “I’m Weak” and repack it into a box that is filled with strong emotional reinforcements. In doing so, we hope to enable me to grow into a healthy adult that the helpless child in me is searching for.
And on a more positive note, as much as the thread of weakness threatens to unravel my being and spin into the clutches of the ED forevermore, I am also aware of the latent strength I possess that has yet to come to the fore on a more permanent basis. Still, it does appear every so often, reminding me that I can push ED thoughts away and enjoy the moment. Yes, ED is merely a thought.
Friday evening, I met Flo for a lovely Japanese dinner at Sakuraya Fish Mart at Parkway Parade. If you can’t tell already, we’re quite big fans of Japanese cuisine. This restaurant was cool in that they have fresh slabs of fish laid out at the front counter and you can pick the ones you want and the sashimi chefs will slice them fresh and have them sent straight to your table.
Flo and I chose the Yellowfin Tuna and Shime Saba Sashimi. The tuna especially was so fresh and clean in flavour. So good!
We also shared a portion of Ika Shioyaki (Salt-grilled Squid), Salmon Nigiri and Unagi Nigiri. I decided not to take pictures of every dish we ate because I wanted to bask in the pleasure of Flo’s company and enjoy our time together.
We ended our evening out with some of ol’ MacDonald’s Chocolate Fudge Ice-Cream Sundae. I’ve not had one for more years than I can count!! Ok, so it’s not top-notch quality ice-cream but it was quite nostalgic and it felt good being able to share that little cup of chocolatey, vanilla soft-serve with my man. It felt good being able to tune out the ED voice and not care about calories, even if only for that moment. It felt good just to be… present.
On the way home, I told Flo that even though I know that there is still work to be done with Dr. A in healing myself emotionally, and to some extent psychologically, I already feel more positive towards physical recovery. More so than ever, I am starting to ache for the family I would love to have with Flo. Sure, as we all know, it will not be easy going getting to where I want to be, but as long as I am heading in the right direction, that is most important!