Playing the Part: The Urge to Prove It

It is a common fear in the eating disorder treatment process that if a patient is not at a low enough weight, then her disorder will not be taken seriously (translated to a more basic and generally accurate level, that no one will give a shit about her).  The fear isn't entirely baseless; there is a wide-ranging misconception that if someone is not gaunt, she is not sick, and the misconception isn't confined to those who are unfamiliar with eating disorders.  A fellow patient of mine once said to me, "What do you think about Paris Hilton?  I don't think she has an eating disorder.  I mean, she's never looked emaciated to me."

I spent the weekend of BlogHer with some of my best friends, all of whom are aware of and well-versed in the basics of eating disorders.  If there's anyone on the planet who will be concerned about my well-being regardless of my weight/shape, it's these women.  But from the word "go," any time we were around food I was distracted from the conversation and the experience of just being with them by whether or not I was eating - I kid you not - too normally.  Friday lunch I was horrified to find that I'd finished the perfectly healthy protein portion of a salad because I was paying attention to my hunger and satiety cues.  Thursday night I did my usual weird food ritual where I remove all the protein/dairy from a salad and eat it last (Friday lunch I ate it first!  Because I wanted to!  How hideous!), and then I actually finished the protein and dairy which were, again, not huge portions.  You'd think I'd be glad to be eating in such a way that wouldn't leave me starving and distracted later, but no.  On some level I was always preoccupied with whether I was playing my part and proving my disorder.  To women who had ALL seen me eat multiple times before, and who couldn't care less, in the best possible sense.

So it shouldn't have surprised me that Saturday was a Bad Day.  At lunch I felt acutely uncomfortable with - again - a salad and some protein.  I could feel the stirrings of anxiety, but set it aside and tried to invest myself in the company instead.  A cab ride later, I was awfully car sick, and I did the only thing that works to alleviate my motion sickness:  I got some sparkling water and some crunchy snacks.  It worked on my nausea, but I began to get very concerned with how much cracker stuff I'd just consumed.  By the time we got to dinner I was feeling pointedly squirmy, and when the waitress made kind of a thing about what I wanted to order, that was it.  I ate my house salad and was able to get through about half a sushi roll and maybe a dozen pods of edamame.  (For reference, the nutritionist's take on appropriate sushi consumption is "two rolls and two pieces, in addition to vegetables and/or other protein, depending on the composition of the rolls.)  I had a rolling panic attack later, which is exactly what I didn't want to happen on our last night together.

So over the whole weekend, I missed out on being fully with my friends multiple times, and I enacted a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy of twitchiness.  Since it was an event whereby I can measure concrete time (like a holiday or a birthday), I was all too aware that last year I had no such attacks or severe preoccupations.  I considered what I ate in Chicago, but I didn't let it consume me (pun intended, har har har).

This week I have a call set up with an intake counselor for a program of support groups.  (Free ones!)  If I needed evidence that it was time to make this call, I certainly have it now.


  1. i'm so proud of you. i am doing EMDR now and its painful and uncomfortable but i know i need it, and its helping. making positive choices for ourselves is a total fuck you!!! to that self destructive side that mental illness/trauma/ed/addiction cause. i want to find a support group too!! love you hon.

  2. Oh wow, EMDR is kind of new, isn't it? I think they've been using it for some of the Afghanistan and Iraq vets? Tell me more about it.

  3. Oh, how I relate to this. I have guilt (ranging from fledgling to extreme) about eating normally in front of people because then, in my head, I never had an eating disorder and I was just faking it. Or, conversely, that I had an eating disorder but now it's Magically Cured By Just Eating And Stuff, which would render the whole "having an eating disorder" period of my life a silly, minor diversion.

    And yeah, I have these feelings while out with girls/women from IP. And it's RIDICULOUS because whenever I see THEM eating a normal amount, it makes me happy and relieved and inspired. The key for me is repeating to myself that it's my recovery and no one else's, and that people generally mean well. I mean, sometimes cookie cutter mantras like that don't cut it on a bad day, but repeating it to relieve my anxiety in the moment sometimes helps.

    That is GREAT that you're being proactive and calling about support groups, btw.

    (Oh, and I hope this is okay -- I linked your blog on the right hand side of my new ED related blog. If it's not okay I totally understand!)

  4. TLG, I am more than happy that you linked here on your blog. As amateur as my little blog is, the whole point is to get the word out to fellow ED patients and former patients so they know there are plenty of people out here in the blogosphere who understand them. I'll link to you too, if that's okay.


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