Eating disorder symptoms have one common denominator, and that is isolation. You can't be involved in an eating disorder and fully engaged in a social life at the same time. Instead of staying out to dinner until everyone else is done, you have to make up some excuse to run back to the dorm room to get to the bathroom. Instead of going to the BBQ spot with your girlfriends, you absolutely have to finish something at work (but it has nothing to do with the fact that you're sick of people telling you to eat something other than a salad with no cheese, no dressing). Instead of going on a trip, you need to stay home and stay in your routine because if you change up your routine, you're not sure you can get back into said routine of exactly such-and-such foods for exactly such-and-such meal (because you are of course weak-willed and a bad person), and god forbid you eat different foods than normal on your trip, because that might mean you come back into town one or two pounds heavier, with the hollows of your hips not quite so hollow, or your clavicle just a bit more padded than it was last week (thus coming back a bad person). I opted to engage in life this weekend, and not in my eating disorder. I started kicking myself for that the second I stepped off the plane in Chicago, and I really haven't stopped since.
When I booked myself into BlogHer in the winter, I was doing pretty darn well. I wasn't restricting, and while my mental acrobatic math never stops, I was eating pretty much what I wanted when I was hungry for it, and stopping when I was satiated. I wasn't purging. I wasn't skipping meals. I weighed more than I had in eight years, but my weight was stable, apparently happy with itself, and well within the healthy range. Then came 2009: YHGTBFKM, and I remembered that an easy way to deal with stress is to have a Luna bar instead of a real lunch, and to have some steamed spinach and 2 oz. of lean protein for dinner instead of whatever I really wanted. I lost weight - while remaining within an acceptable range according to those dastardly height/weight charts - and pared down my list of acceptable foods and practices. "This time," I decided, "I'm going to get it right. I'm being 'healthy,' that's all it is." And I knew exactly what I was really doing. I knew exactly where it could lead. As I watched the number drop on the scale and as a detached part of my brain took notes on a clinical clipboard and wondered if she shouldn't just go ahead and become a psychologist and at least make money off all this observation, most of me devolved into thoughts of, "How on earth did I even live with myself five pounds ago?!" And, "As soon as I get to __ pounds I'll feel great. That's the perfect weight for managing stress." Of course "__ pounds" is never static. It always edges lower and it always becomes more crucial and more central to an ersatz contentment. Anything above __ pounds always becomes more ghastly and terrifying.
It's a good thing I booked tickets to Chicago in early January, or I'd never have gone. If I'd never have gone, I wouldn't be sitting here kicking myself for eating more or less like a "normal" person all weekend. If I weren't sitting here kicking myself for it, that would mean I'd never shaken up the new (and yet old) routine.
In addiction the goal is: if you can't delay it, then interrupt the process at any point you can. Think you really have to have that fix? Delay 15 minutes or an hour or a day and distract yourself with something, seeing if the urge passes. Can't wait? Try to stop when you get your hands on the substance. Got the substance already? Try to stop when you have the line cut, or the tourniquet on your arm, or the pill in your palm. Already taken a hit? Try to step away after the first, or the third. As soon as you can interrupt the addictive ritual, you have a chance to extricate yourself for that moment.
In a way, this weekend couldn't have come at a better time for me, medically. I'm right at the weighty tipping point that I know leads, for me, either to a suspension of the relapse, or a mad pirouette that leaves me light-headed (and -bodied) for months. And I hate that I went and interrupted my ritual, and I detest feel bloated and angry and like a giant disappointment to myself. But I am, of course, in corner of myself with the clipboard and the lab coat, immensely glad of all this familiar discomfort.