Dips Aren’t Dives

I don’t know if you journal, but if you do, then you know what a disaster it is to let more than a few days slip by. What you did on Monday gets mixed up with everything that happened on Tuesday and the mini-meltdown you had on Thursday completely wipes out however it was you felt on Wednesday. And then it is Friday and you’re thinking you’re DONE with the damn journal, just done done done; you’re thinking you’ve had enough of journaling. And whose idea was it to write every day, anyway??

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January has been hard. Molly Yeh says January is the Monday of months. Molly is a smart lady. (And a beautiful bride!)

Anyway, I feel like there is an awful lot of pressure to be psyched in January. Psyched about something. Anything. Whether your aim is to eat more avocado toast or build a glass house for under $500 with your boyfriend, or find a new job or conquer your recurring fear of pie crust.

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Yesterday I didn’t feel enthused. Yesterday I felt horribly discouraged. Yesterday I went to the nutritionist and learned I’d lost weight between visits.

If you’re new here: I’m one of the people who have been instructed to plug their ears whenever people start talking about their weight loss goals. This year, whenever people mention their two-pronged plans to eat better and exercise more, I have to fight the urge to hum.

So there was no little sick surge of victory yesterday, when my nutritionist delivered the news. A small slap of shock gave way to complete and utter dismay. Oh no, how did that happen. How could that have happened?? 

Remember a few weeks ago, when I said I was ready to re-introduce some life stress? To see how I’d do? Uh-huh. Yup, me too.

Although really, the answer is: I did the best I could. I had no illusions about the beginning of January; I knew it would be much harder than December had been. Three major things happened:

1. Three of my strongest sources of support in Portland (my therapist, my nutritionist, and my yoga teacher) all went on vacation at the same time, so I ended up going longer than I’d ever had without talking to anyone.

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2. My biggest cheerleader of ALL also left town. Only she left permanently, as in forever, so I had to re-adjust to living on my own. And buck up, and stop being so teary — for goodness’ sake, you’re 24. And then I had to make some serious decisions about Oregon, quickly, and start looking for a smaller place to live. (In this neighborhood, in that neighborhood? On this side of the city, on that side of the city?)

3. I started training for my part-time job. Which looks like it may very well morph into an entirely different new job (and full-time, not part-time!) in less than ten days. We’ll see!

For someone who doesn’t do well with change and uncertainty, it was a lot. For someone recovering from an eating disorder, even just the relatively simple acts of resuming cooking and eating alone would have been a lot.

It might have been a bit too much, for a two-week period. But I’ve learned a lot.

1. Of course it was easier to get better when my only job was to get better.

2. Of course it was easier when my family was here. I can’t tell you how encouraging it is to be around people who know you. People who never tire of telling you you’re doing great; you’re more beautiful every day; you’re so much more you; we’ve missed you; we love you.

3. Of course it is less fun to cook and eat alone, after weeks of remembering what it was like to linger over plates long cleared. Talking, laughing. Now there is none of that. Now there is Tupperware in the freezer. Now there are two spicy tacos for someday — tacos to share, I hope.

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4. Of course it is harder now that there are fewer distractions. It’s no wonder I’ve been getting stuck in my head between meals again.

5. Of course it is distressing to realize that I still can’t trust what I see in the mirror. For all the progress I’ve made, I still can’t trust the way I feel. Take yesterday: I could have sworn I was still trending up, but I’d actually slipped out of my goal range. (Not by much, but enough to make me realize I really hadn’t had enough to eat this week, and that’s why I’d been so grumpy.)

6. Of course it makes sense to want to return to the meal plan and CLING CLING CLING.

7. Of course it is disheartening to feel like I’ve gone backwards.

8. Of course it is still too soon for me to be able to rely exclusively on my hunger cues. I can’t shelve the meal plan entirely. Not yet, and particularly not when I’m stressed. When I feel triggered now, I’m strong enough to override the urge to consciously restrict, but when I plate my portions and I’m unsure, I still can’t seem to shake my tendency to err on the side of too small.

9. Of course it is a good sign that I’m angry with myself for stalling the stabilization process. For dragging out recovery. For being afraid. For losing sight, even temporarily. For all of those things.

10. And of course it’s immensely uplifting that even when I’m down, I can clearly see this dip for what it is. Exactly that — a dip.

That’s all this is.

“The worst part about anything that’s self-destructive is that it’s so intimate. You become so close with your addictions and behaviors that leaving them behind is like killing the part of yourself that taught you how to survive.” -L.L

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