The worst sabatoges ED has played on me have had to do with my clothes. One of ED’s favorite hiding places is in my closet. When I manage to push him out of my head for awhile, I’m pretty sure he goes into my closet to sulk and plan his revenge. That’s where I found him last night. He knew, I know he absolutely knew, what was coming this week at school. So he bided his time, waiting for the moment he knew I would step into my closet to struggle.
It’s homecoming week at Unity. Fun, right? Of course fun. Everyday is a different dress up day. In the past I’ve been Rhonda-isolating-under-a-rock so I never participated in dress up days. Too self-conscious and consumed by how I looked to bother with doing something to build community like dressing up with everyone else. But this year, ED knew part of my spite for him has been reaching out to people, wanting to be a part of the group, loving the sense of being a part of community. He knew I had been excited to dress up, and I know he had been spying on my thoughts as I contemplated what I could wear. Because that is exactly when he pounced. Let’s rewind.
The week after I got back from Melrose I went on that fateful shopping trip in which I bought new jeans. I overcame the fear of changing size and bought 3 new pairs of jeans. I brought home those jeans and promptly stored them on the shelf in my closet and haven’t touched them since. ED knows he has power over me in my jeans. Jeans are my worst nightmare. There is no give in jeans. They have a button and a zipper, denim doesn’t stretch much, the shape of the jeans needs to match the shape of the body in order to find an owner. Even now, I am often bewildered that everyone seems to enjoy wearing bluejeans so much. What the heck? Am I living on a different planet? How can anyone enjoy wearing bluejeans? Jeans have always been ED’s power trip over me. Jeans come with this little number attached to them, preceded by the word size. ED has led me to believe that that number behind the size was the definition of who I am. And that non-elasticized waist told me exactly if I was remaining true to my identity or not. My jeans measured my worth. If the waist started to get loose, ED was ecstatic. If the waist started to feel tight, ED made sure I knew I had lost control and needed him to get it back. It usually only took a matter of days for my jeans to be back to loose and my worthiness to be renewed. ED used my jeans as a trigger and a measure.
After Benj and my sister, Missy, emptied out my closet for me while I was at Melrose, I wonder why I thought it was so important to restock my jeans. Why did I feel like jeans were an essential part of my wardrobe? I hunted and tried to ignore the number on the tag and bought 3 new pairs of jeans. Then put them in the closet and haven’t worn them since the dressing room. I am scared of bluejeans for all the afore-mentioned reasons. I don’t want ED to have control over me through my waist size. So I bought leggings instead. And I have some really cool pairs. Love ’em. They are button-less and zipper-less, they stretch everywhere they need to, they form to the shape of whatever body is in them. Leggings are forgiven. They don’t measure my worth. They love me for who I am in them. And in them, I am fun. ED cannot live in a pair of leggings. He’s cancelled out. No power. Fast forward back to this week.
Today’s homecoming dress up day was simple. Unity apparel day. But Unity apparel day screamed to me jeans and a sweatshirt. I tried to ignore the scream, but I wanted to fit in and be a part of dress up day. I allowed my mind to remember the jeans up in my closet. I sat on the couch after Benj went to bed, and I knew I was going to have to try on the jeans. I dragged my feet. I knew ED was hiding in my closet. I literally heard him laughing at me behind my shoes. I knew he was waiting for me. But I didn’t want to be boring. I wanted to be a fun Unity fan like eveyrone else. I quietly snuck into my closet for the jeans and then into our bathroom and closed the door so Benj wouldn’t wake up. I don’t have a full length mirror anymore, so if I do want to see how I look put together, I have to stand on our toilet to see in our mirror above the sinks. Each pair of jeans told the same story, and ED jeered at me more fiercely with each squeezed button. My new jeans, the ones I had bought after Melrose, the ones that were supposed to match my recovery, the ones that I had fought so hard to find, the ones I had nearly died taking off of the rank because they were up 3 sizes from my pre-Melrose size, those jeans no longer fit. They no longer fit. ED laughed like the wicked fiend that he is.
“I told you so,” he said. “I told you you aren’t worth anything. Look how fat you’ve gotten. You’re never going to stop gaining weight. Your dietitian doesn’t know what she’s doing. She’s having fun with you – she wants you to keep gaining weight and never stop. You think you’re eating proper serving sizes, but you’re overeating on everything. It’s time you started cutting back again, don’t you think? There is nothing special about you anymore. You aren’t the skinniest. Your legs are chubby. Why would anyone think you’re worth their time? Did you really think you could outsmart me? Did you really think you didn’t need me? Because you do. You need me to tell you how much you are worth, and right now, you aren’t worth much.”
In the past, that is when I would have vowed allegiance to the almighty ED. I would have given him back his control over me. I would have made a plan of action – how much more exercise I would do tomorrow than normal, where I could cut out of my already skimpy diet. I knew exactly what I had to do to get back on track. And that’s what I would have done, 6 months ago.
But this is not 6 months ago. This is now.
I didn’t cower under ED’s berating. I got pissed. Seriously, who did he think he was? I didn’t have to put up with this crap. Yeah, I felt depressed and fat and worthless, but I also felt angry. I prayed. First line of defense – I prayed. “God, this is ridiculous. Shut ED up. Please. I can’t handle this.” ED is loud, and he doesn’t often quiet easily, so I prepared to to go bed hearing his tirade over and over in my head, but I kept countering him with God. And then Benj spoke groggily from bed, asking what in the world I was doing. The 6-months-ago-me would have said, Oh nothing. The now-me stormed out of the bathroom, threw the jeans in a pile on the floor, swore a few times, and told him exactly what I thought of ED. Benj doesn’t say much, but he knows when ED is pissing me off. I don’t think Benj really knows what to say yet, but he knows that the fact that I’m telling him is huge. ED can’t have control over me if I don’t isolate from everyone and hide behind his lies. Isolation allows ED to fester. Opening up steals most of his thunder. It doesn’t mean his voice suddenly disappears, but it does suck at his power.
I went to bed hearing ED, and I woke up still hearing him. I went to swim laps. I wore a swimsuit. Grrr. I was mad the whole time because ED was still in my head. He makes me feel heavy and tired. I get so tired fighting his voice in my head constantly. But that’s what I get for not giving in. I have to fight. I want to fight. I’m not going to give in. I’m not going to go backwards. That’s not an option to me anymore. So it’s a constant fight. It’s like driving my Yukon in 100 mile per hour crosswinds. I want to be able to turn up the radio and relax into the drive, but I have to focus constantly on keeping my steering wheel pulled straight. The minute I lose focus, the wind pushes me toward the steep ditch. My arms get tired from holding the wheel so tight, my back gets cramped from the strain, my body just wants to relax and drive, but the minute I do, I will crash. That is what it is like when ED is in my head. It just makes me tired to fight that voice constantly. I only want to enjoy my drive.
But then I got to school in my navy and white striped dress to match our school colors and I felt good because I had confidence in the way I looked. I started walking the halls and I saw the students. I saw the teachers. I listened to conversations. And I felt humbled. Each person is fighting their own battles. Each person has fears and pain and struggles. And I’m upset because my jeans don’t fit? I know this disease is about more than a pants size; it’s way beyond that. But when I get out of my own head and start to see the people around me, my ED doesn’t seem worth my time. My time is better spent reaching out and finding ways to love where there is the need. When my focus is off of myself, out of my own head, and onto those walking beside me each day, that’s when God is at work. Life is about more than me. God loves me. And his love gets to overflow from my abundant reservoir into the lives of those whose reservoir needs to be refilled. As we fill and refill each other, life becomes about meeting the needs around us, and in meeting those needs, miraculously, my needs are met as well. God is beyond our understanding. His infinite wisdom created us for community and relationship. Once again, he saves me through that knowledge. If I were to write a book, my theme wouldn’t be ED. My theme would be God and his gift of community. Community has been my saving grace every single day of this journey. You guys don’t even realize how God is using you in my life. Thank you for filling me and giving my life more meaning than ED and his lies ever allowed me to have. I pray that God will use me in the same way so that this life becomes way more than a pair of jeans.