I did it. I finally plucked up the courage to see a shrink. I call her that to enlighten some humour into the situation, in reality she is actually psychotherapist & although there is no lying down rambling off about all of my problems, I do sit on a couch.
Initially I went to put other people’s minds at ease. Finally she’s getting help. I genuinely didn’t think I had a clinical problem, until my first session. I thought they’re meant to make you feel better, not worse?
I began by telling her the history of my eating/body issues and why I’m there – as with every health visit. I’m not the sort of person who talks about any emotions or problems so for me, this was a highly uncomfortable conversation which resulted in a lot of fidgeting, stumbling on my words & looking into the distance. But we got there in the end.
Verbalising the thoughts that go through my mind regarding my eating patterns, body image and the habits I have accrued over the years really put into perspective how deep some of these problems really lie and their reality
She told me that had I come to see her prior to trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle, I would have met the clinical diagnosis for anorexia. Really?!
My first homework assignment was a body checking diary. Every time you look at yourself, scrutinise or examine your body in the mirror, write it down. Until this point I really had no idea how pervasive the mirror had become in my daily life. I had considered it totally normal to do these behaviours every single time you see a reflective surface.
Do my thighs look ok? Is my tummy sticking out? Maybe if I suck in I can look smaller. Ugh my arms are so fat. Ooh look at that booty (true story).
These rituals had become so ingrained in my life I didn’t even notice I do them despite the amount of time, energy and effort they sucked from me.
Furthermore, a food diary was prescribed. Pfft, easy. I eat exactly the same thing, day in and day out at exactly the same time so this would be a piece of cake. The only addition was that I was to record the thoughts behind each meal, how I was feeling and what was going through my mind.
Now this was the hard part. My food had become second nature to me, like breathing. But being mindful of how I felt after eating and bringing these thoughts into my conscious mind was a lot easier said than done. After some deliberation, uncomfortable inward searching and emotional-priming, I realised was that after eating I often felt ‘fat’, soft and frumpy, despite the fact that I had just eaten chicken, kumara and vegetables that were all weighed out perfectly to fit my meal plan.
I now see the cycle I had gotten myself into. Eat – feel fat – further restriction – exercise to feel better.
Fat is not a feeling. You can have fat, you can be fat, but you cannot feel fat. Perhaps I was feeling full and in my fucked up mind translated this to feeling fat? I also soon realised that I suffer from an uneasy feeling of anxiety if I could not measure, weigh or calculate my food and if I was thrust into a situation that required me to deviate my from set meals, I felt like a failure, like I was not ‘committed’ enough, or that I would instantly gain 20kg and puff up like a balloon from that single meal (which 99% of the time was still meat, veges and carbs)
What the fuck.
That is not normal.
In my follow up visit we went over these issues and the commonality of them all. I felt stupid that these problems even existed… I was 23, not 13. This shouldn’t be an issue and I shouldn’t have these thoughts or behaviours, but they’re so real and so ingrained in my being that the voice in my head has literally deducted them down to being factual and all-encompassing, life & death if you will. There are so many more screwed up things in the world and here I am anxious, upset and worried about whether a meal fits my macros?!
At the moment it’s worse before it gets better. Bringing these feelings and thoughts to the forefront of my mind is extremely uncomfortable, to say the least. Actively thinking about how I feel about my body is daunting and cumbersome.
My two actions for the week are to instil some variety into my diet, starting with dinners. Secondly, I have removed the full length mirror from my room to reduce the amount of analysing that goes on.
Every essence of my being is fighting for me to revert back to my restrictive ways as I have done for the past 6 years when things become uncomfortable or unfamiliar. Every cell in my body is pushing me back into training 10 times a week. It’s a way of control. It’s a mechanism I use to feel powerful, strong, dedicated, fit and ‘hard core’ but in reality it’s become obsessive and contradictory, unhealthy.
So I’m taking small steps to resume some healthful practice into my life. And not my definition of healthy but a holistic, balanced definition. My whole perspective has been flipped and I have finally realised that yeah, perhaps I do need help.
I need to remember that this isn’t forever and I will eventually be able to train when I want and as often as I want but for now, I need to heal.
Progress is progress. I have a long way ahead of me and I know I will go through patches that are harder than others, but sometimes life’s wildest journeys begin with the wrong turn.
Also means chocolate. And a story that involves chocolate can never be bad.