…that is the question.
TW: This post will be a detailed account of my current restriction urges.
When friends and family members ask me to explain why anyone would possibly want to deny themselves food to the pathological extremes I have reached, I never know what to say. If I’m feeling cranky, I’ll usually snap something along the lines of “I’m sick; that’s why!”, thereby ending the conversation. Sometimes, I really try to explain what draws me towards restriction and away from food. But after countless hours of therapy, I am still unearthing more functions of my eating disorder, so I will probably never be able to sum up the complexities of my illness in a twenty-minute conversation. I can say that restricting gives me a sense of control; I can say that losing weight makes me hate myself a little bit less; and these statements are true. But if I could count my reasons for restricting on one hand, I would have overcome them all by now.
Currently, I am not feeling cranky, but I am experiencing strong restriction urges. So I figure I am in a good position to begin to explain the disordered thinking that sometimes convinces me not to eat. Specifically, I want to explain the disordered thinking that is making me not want to eat TONIGHT. This will provide a snapshot of my illness, but certainly not an all-encompassing view of its every feature.
Reason 1: I feel depressed, and I think that restricting may help to lift my mood.
Obviously, this approach does not work in the long term; it has been demonstrated scientifically (and anecdotally by hangry people everywhere) that malnourishment LOWERS you mood. But it does make me feel better in the short term. When I restrict, I feel more confident, I feel in control, and I look forward to the drop in weight I can expect if I keep the self-destruction going.
Reason 2: When I am actively recovering, I tend to develop a romanticized view of my eating disorder.
I forget that I would sleep as much as possible just to get through the days more quickly; I forget that I was so irritable, I would silently scream at people doing nothing wrong; I forget that I never, not once, stopped thinking I was fat.
I do remember that moment one time when everything felt right with the world; I remember the five-minute high I experienced whenever I found out my weight had gone down; I remember the few days I met my impossible goals and didn’t hate myself. And I convince myself that these rare moments were the entirety of my disorder. Who wouldn’t want to feel those things all the time, especially after not feeling them for so long?
Reason 3: I am convinced that my Eating Disorder is the only interesting thing about me.
Logically, I know that I had friends and family members who cared about me long before I ever developed this illness. But I am filled with such a pure, violent hatred for myself that I can’t possibly imagine that that will be the case again when I am fully recovered.
In my mind, the friends I still have are either in the process of slowly drifting away, or they’re sticking around in case I relapse and become interesting again. And my doctor, who clearly demands to see me every couple of weeks because she is entertained by my soap opera of a life, will stop caring about me and my health altogether.
Reason 4: I can’t shake old patterns of thinking
I currently don’t feel hungry. When I am in the throes of my disorder, this situation is a rare opportunity to restrict with minimal suffering (and without causing binge urges), and it must be taken. I have had trouble abandoning this mindset, so it is still difficult for me to eat when I have little appetite.
I also feel scared that tonight’s dinner will cause me to gain weight. Even though my metabolism is functioning properly again, even though I have learned how much food it really takes to gain a pound, I somehow believe that tonight’s dinner will make my weight increase substantially.
I could probably list twenty more reasons if I had enough time, but I should probably start working on having my dinner now, so I’ll wrap it up.
I hope that those of you who deal with restriction can relate to some of these thoughts, and that those of you who don’t deal with restriction understand those who do a little bit better.
I hope everybody is well, and I will try to write again soon.