It really bothered me that all of a sudden last week all my strides in recovery had seemed to take a nose dive. Not only because ED came barging back into my brain, but because it scared Benj. Maybe scared isn’t the right word. ED hurt Benj too many times, over and over again, in the past 13 years. Benj needs freedom from ED just as much as I do. So for my sake and his, I knew I needed to figure out my trigger. What set ED off when I had been feeling peace?
Swimming laps this morning gave me a half hour of solitude with God to work together to figure it out. The minute I write it down I will feel stupid because it is stupid. But right now in my brain, I see the power it has over me. The minute it moves out of my brain and into black and white, it will only hold ridiculousness. Which is why I’m blogging again.
Pizza Ranch Cheese Stick.
There. I’ve said it. Just a poor, innocent little Cheese Stick. And I allowed this helpless 3 inch piece of bread and cheese to almost ruin me. A Cheese Stick created by the brilliant Pizza Ranch minds as an accompaniment to a slice of pizza, as a quick snack, as a mopper-upper of pizza sauce, as a quick bite when a full slice would just be too much. A Cheese Stick.
But here’s my history with the Cheese Stick. It is a forbidden food. It is on my Do Not Eat Except After Multiple Hours of Exercise And Then Feel Free to Gorge Yourself Because You Deserve It and Have No Ability To Understand Normal Eating Patterns Anyway. The Cheese Stick from Pizza Ranch. A powerful love/hate relationship for me.
On my birthday morning last Thursday, I went to school nervous. On birthdays, another teacher brings treats for the birthday person. I knew I would have treats in the lounge especially in honor of me. I had no idea what it would be and that made me nervous. I didn’t want it to be a dessert because I only have 1 dessert tally per day, and I wanted to save mine for at night with my family. But I didn’t want to hurt the person’s feelings who brought it for me. And I didn’t want the other teachers to think I couldn’t handle eating dessert. And then I told myself I could just swap out for maybe a bread and a fat tally and even it out. And then I started getting stressed trying to figure out if that would equal a dessert tally. And then I worried that teachers would be like, geesh, one day isn’t going to matter, is it? And then I began to work on being okay with having 2 desserts in a day because really, it was just one day. And then I got annoyed that I had to worry about this so much on my birthday. And then I just hoped the person would forget to bring something and I could just eat what I had brought for break. So you see, now that I take the time to contemplate my thoughts that morning, I realized that this birthday treat business truly stressed me out. I started out the day fully conscious of my tallies. They weren’t a normal part of my day like they had become – my tallies became a very conscious and stressful part of my day.
Skip ahead to break time. I went to the lounge, ready to deal with whatever sat on that table, dished out and ready to eat. I walked in and there was nothing. The relief. I immediately relaxed. He had forgotten. Praise the Lord. I could follow my tallies with no problem. But then. But then the secretary announced that my birthday treats were on the way. Ranch Sticks had been ordered and would arrive momentarily. At first, the relief remained. I had been worried by an extra dessert tally. This wasn’t. In fact, my tallies for 10 o’clock snack had been 1/2 protein and 1 fruit (Greek yogurt) and 1 bread and 1 fat (a Sweet and Salty Granola Bar). No problem. Instead of the Sweet and Salty Granola Bar I could have the Ranch Stick for the same tallies – 1 bread and 1 fat. No worries. When I sat down with my Ranch Stick, I felt cool. I was eating in the lounge with the teachers. I was fitting in. I was normal! And then I looked at the little greasy pools on the top of the Cheese Stick. I thought, dang, I wish I had a napkin to mop that up. No big deal. Not a life or death issue. No worries. I picked it up and took a bite of all that gooey cheese and buttery crust. Tasty, right? Then I overheard one of the teachers across the way talking to someone.
“No, I don’t eat those things. They’re just so greasy. I can’t handle eating that. I’d rather have a cookie over those things . . . ”
And that was it. I lost. ED won right there with those words. Those had been my feelings. She said no to a Cheese Stick and stood up for her decision. No one thought worse of her. I could have said no. I could have eaten my Sweet and Salty Bar which would have been much healthier, probably less calories, good fat in the nuts instead of this greasy, disgusting trans fat which will kill all of us in the long run. It may be a bread and a fat equal to my Sweet and Salty Bar, but honestly, this bread and fat are much worse. More calories, worse fat, bad decision.
ED had his in. I let him in. He got in. He got into my head and he dug in his heals and I couldn’t talk him out this time. I went out for lunch that day with my sisters and mom and continued counting calories – kicking myself for ordering the meal with more calories even though it was equal in tallies to the salad. I could scream scream scream right now because I see, so clearly, how ED got in. And I let him. I let him have his power back where he has no right to have it. My tallies are my first defense in learning how to eat again, and he took that away. Now I am still working to win it back again. I still have to force my mind today to think about tallies rather than calories. It honks me off, more than I think I can even describe. And there’s Oprah over on the TV right now talking about being able to eat calories on Weight Watchers and still losing weight. It’s everywhere. ED can get in everywhere. But now I know. My last post unburied that last thought – every time I learn something new about ED, I learn something new about how to fight him. I can’t be scared of food. I can’t be scared of unexpected treats in a day. I cannot allow ED to steal the community built through sharing food.
This is where I need to learn balance. Where is that balance between holding to my tallies, to what I have planned for the day, and being flexible to change things around and swap one choice for another when the situation calls for it? Am I far enough along in my recovery that I should be able to do that? Or should I still remain safe in my tallies until I know for sure ED won’t get back in? When do I push myself and when do I keep it safe? When am I hiding in a cocoon and allowing ED to have control over my fear of food and when am I being smart and using my tallies to fight ED off? Where is the line? Where is my recovery? Where is ED right now? I don’t think writing is going to solve this one for me. Honestly, I think I need a chat with my therapist. This isn’t a Rhonda-can-answer question. This is a time when I need to rely on someone who knows how ED works and can help me understand my recovery. Anyone who thinks going to a therapist is a sign of weakness has obviously never been to one. We go to doctors because they have knowledge about our bodies that we don’t. We go to dentists because they know about teeth better than we do. I can treat a cold by myself. I can brush my teeth by myself. Those things I can handle with my own life experience. When I don’t understand a pain in my body or a pain in my tooth, it’s time to call in the professionals. My therapist is trained to know ED. She is also a dietician and can calculate my tallies correctly. I trust her knowledge because when ED shows up like he did this past week and I don’t know how to handle what happened, she will talk me through it, help me figure out what happened, and give me the advice I need to either avoid or work through it successfully next time.
Fighting ED does not involve an easy prescription. Wouldn’t that be nice. Take this antibiotic for 3 weeks, twice daily, and you should be good as new. Fighting ED involves education, tools, methods of self care – it is practice and resolve. It is steps forward and steps back. It is not an easy fix. It is hard work. It is all the thoughts I extracted in my Clarity blog. And now I know why God gave me that blog two days ago and why he helped me figure out this trigger today. Clarity gave me the tools for understanding my Cheese Stick trigger.
#1: ED sucks
#2: God is my first line of defense
#3: Balance is hard to find
#4: This takes hard work
#5: Fighting ED is worth it
#6: ED is wrong Every. Single. Time.
And now I can get back on track, and using the tools, which include my therapist, to help me realign. God made us for each other. I firmly believe that and believe that recovery is built on community. My downfall is not going to be a Cheese Stick. The Cheese Stick is nothing but an innocent bystander. He doesn’t deserve my wrath. I will save that for ED and reserve the Cheese Stick for a day when I know ED won’t taint my enjoyment of that little morsel of tastiness. Let me regain my momentum and my perspective. I’ve learned something new today. And like that smashed-in-the-back-of-the-elevator thought – ED just gave me new ammunition to fight his sneaky tactics. He obviously has a death wish. Obviously.