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Recovery is hard. It’s really hard.

I get so lonely in this city. I don’t know what I’m doing here.

I don’t know what to do. I hope tomorrow will be better.

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Reflecting

Oh, but the self-hate is strong today. A night of drinking will do that.

I have a silly crush on someone. This person is not available, and my feelings are not returned. That’s fine. I can live with it. It is what it is. What bothers me is that I feel so pathetic. Just so terribly pathetic. Wanting intimacy and harbouring silly fantasies. Feeling sorry for myself because I am so lonely. Hating that I feel this way.

I worry that I embarassed myself last night. I worry that I was a tipsy idiot in the company of new friends, and I cringe.

Then, when I got home, I opened my mouth and started pouring out my self-pitying sob story to my unsuspecting (but kind and sympathetic) younger housemate. I told him about my eating disorder and how my weight gain plagues my mind. Again, I cringe. The poor guy.

Yesterday at lunch during choir rehearsal, I was talking about how I intend to study singing next year. I said having done nothing with it is making me angry and bitter. And one of the women said, “And that’s not you.” Isn’t it? I worry that it is me, indeed. Can she see something I cannot? She’s lovely. I want to believe her.

The way forward

I have so many feelings and I don’t know what to do with them. I’m frustrated, I’m scared, I’m angry, I’m sad and bitter. I’m hopeful and grateful and excited and, in some ways, quite happy. I’m healing, but I’m also repeating old patterns because I don’t know what else to do. I’m alarmed that my thinking is so flawed but, that said, becoming alarmed is not helpful either.

There’s a mental health support group nearby and this week I’m going to try to go. It’s not run by mental health professionals but it’s a recognised program run by an international organisation. It aims to create a supportive environment in which people can learn to manage their mental health in order to live a better life. I went to one on the Sunshine Coast, twice, and it was helpful, but it wasn’t convenient. I’d like to make it a habit in Sydney, though, if it feels like a good fit. So that’s my plan for Wednesday night!

I have this week off work and it’s lovely. The sun is shining and the house is quiet. The housework is waiting for me to do it. My sewing projects are waiting patiently until I am brave enough to pick them up again and, maybe, even finish them (finishing things is hard for me).

I feel positive about the future. I do. I am grateful and I have things to look forward to. I have many people who love me. I have exciting creative projects on the go, and big ambitions. I have a beautiful home and a lovely almost-mine cat and sweet, friendly housemates and a stable job that pays reasonably well, even if it’s not what I want to be doing. I have my health, and a brand-new bicycle. I have a wonderful family and an amazing choir and my hair is approaching cute again. I have so much support. I can do this. I can get better.

I am struggling with weight gain, and nobody can help me.

My former therapist diagnosed me with body dysmorphic disorder and suggested we try to treat it. She gave me attention exercises to do to try to reduce my body obsession. But I did not do them. I do not want to reduce my body obsession; I just want to go on a diet.

I know that would be treating the cause and not the symptom. I have the underlying belief that I do not deserve to be slim, and I also use food as a coping mechanism, still. Yes, I don’t overeat the way I used to, but my eating is still causing me to gain weight.

It’s all about framing. I know that. If I could let go of the idea of getting back to my old size then I could relax and be more present in my life and less concerned with something that doesn’t really matter.

But I don’t want to let go. And yes, I’m just another woman bitching about her body on the internet. This is not revolutionary; it is regressive. But I need to express this stuff somewhere because I can’t talk to anyone about it. Sharing with others in my life about this issue is not generally helpful because they do not understand and can’t really do anything anyway. This is not their fault, of course, and it’s fine. I choose not to talk about it because I think it’s best. But inside I am almost a hamster on a wheel. The weight-related panic I feel goes round and round, and has done for years. I am trapped in a labyrinth and I do not see a way out.

I get bored

You know what? I can cruise along without binge eating, or even overeating, fairly easily these days. I really have come so far, and my most self-destructive days are (I hope) behind me.

But then I get bored. I want something to happen in the great enormous struggle that is constantly playing on the cinema screen inside my head. And I do mean constantly. I used to be naturally model-thin and I have, through overeating, deliberate or no, made myself gain weight and go up several dress sizes and I am TERRIFIED. I don’t want to make myself sick. At the base level I am shaking and crying because I fear for my very life.

My dad, who was also slim as a youth, has made himself ill because he too has turned to food for comfort for so long. I wrote a line of poetry about how I feel but never used it, so here it is: a shrinking, cringing creature. I am a terrified and shrinking, cringing creature… I am so scared. And some kind of action, something, some change — yes, even weight gain — somehow feels productive to me. As though I am somehow doing something to help. This is so messed up.

How can I possibly heal when my brain thinks this way? How can I possibly win? How can I possibly defeat the fearsome villain that is mental illness when it makes no sense at all?

I have been told again and again and again that I have an impressive level of insight into my own disorders and my own disease. Insight, great — 10 points to Gryffindor, gold stars all around. But where is it getting me? Is it helping? Gosh, I bloody hope so.

I used to feel that I was like a cupboard full of tangled electrical cables. With the door closed everything seemed peachy, but behind the door was a terrible terrible dangerous unholy mess. Maybe writing this stuff is helping me start to untangle the cables, finally.

Other things are helping, too. Being more open with my loved ones is helping a lot.

These relapses feel somehow necessary because they feel like another round of the enduring battle with myself — a battle the “good” Marnie very much wants to win. They are more pivotal scenes in that constant inner movie, where hero and villain meet and I once again go face-to-face, head-to-head with myself. Like my own personal Godzilla showdown. There is significant anger inside me and these fights feel like my only way to express it, my only way to grapple with it, my only way to show myself and the world how very angry I am. How I am glowing positively incandescent with rage and terror because I have hated myself so deeply and completely for so fucking long. How furious and fearsome I feel because this is how my life has turned out, even though an inner wiser part of me doesn’t think I deserve it. (The injustice! I am so indignant.) This self-hate has changed the course of my entire life. My precious human life — the only one I get.

Anger is one of the stages of grieving; I know that. I also know that grief can be like a dance, where one steps back and forth and back again between stages, or has one foot planted or shuffling in two or more stages at once. I am grieving and I am healing, but this anger at the moment feels like Niagara Falls in its force and consistency — as though springing from the centre of the very earth. Which is fine. (A bit disconcerting, if I’m honest, but fine.) I need to truly feel and release this anger. I can tell it will not damage me if I just express it; I am but a glowing vessel that cannot be tarnished by the flames of rage. (Gosh I do have fun finding words for these feelings. I know the content here is grim, but I really do love to write.)

I am like Carrie at the end of the book, when she’s given in on the main street and is fucking shit up — but I am not fucking shit up. I can allow myself to feel these feelings, yes, because I have to, but I don’t think this is a necessarily a destructive force. I will allow this anger to be here for as long as it wants to be. I have to allow it; I have no other choice.

Maybe I just need to let myself glow and vibrate and throb and hum for a while. Maybe that will lead to something else. I expect it will. If Buddhism has taught me anything, it has taught me that.

Anicca… impermanence.

Changes.

My overeating is a misguided attempt at self-care, I know that. A maladaptive coping mechanism. A bumbling fumbling effort at self-preservation. Desperate, panicked and hapless, but genuine.

It would be so nice if I could cut out the middleman once and for all and actually, you know, just look after myself.

The payoff

Overeating offers me:

  • Familiarity
  • [The convincing illusion of] safety. If I push my slim figure further and further away, I’ll never have to worry about losing it because I’ll have already lost it. It’s a pre-emptive strike, yeah?
  • A profound sense of release and freedom — both of which are real, if self-destructive
  • Certainty and a sense of control. If I can’t make myself lose weight, at least I can make myself gain it
  • A means of punishing myself and thus the sense that I am doing the right thing (as part of me believes I deserve to be punished). All I ever wanted to be was good. I just want approval. (Is it any wonder I’m sexually submissive?)
  • A way of expressing my anger… because lord am I angry. And I still don’t know what to do about it.

It probably offers me more than that, but this list will do for a start. Now, what are some healthy ways of attaining all that shit?