I am in charge! Do you hear this? I am in charge!
I spent last night writing a long post, and when I was done, it wasn’t right. I’ve never had that before. Usually when I’m done I say to Benj, “Wow, that isn’t what I expected to write.” But it’s always what I needed to say. Last night I left the post on my computer without publishing, and the last thing I went to bed saying to Benj is that I felt like when someone plays a horrible chord on the piano without finishing in harmony. That’s how I felt going to bed. I had written, but it didn’t end right. I was too tired to scrap it all and rewrite something, so I had to go to bed with that discordant feeling. But then, then, this morning happened! And I knew exactly why God didn’t want me to post what I wrote last night. It wasn’t the right thing. That post was contemplative, a looking back kind of post. I might still post it sometime, but contemplative is not for today. Today is for here, now, the present, and victory over ED! I feel it in my writing pit, the pit that tells me when I have something brewing, when God tells me that it’s time to write. He always directs my writing, so when it doesn’t come out right, I know it was me trying to push instead of waiting for God to give it to me. And this morning God put it right into my heart! I AM SO EXCITED!
I don’t know if even my writing is going to be able to convey the triumph I feel this morning. But I sure as heck am going to try! We are on our way to the boys’ swim meet in Sioux City right now. It’s 7:03. Normally I go to Snap and exercise with “da girls” right about now. I told them I had to go early this morning by myself instead. No biggie. I’ve gone by myself before. But now I need to back up for a second.
This past week I’ve been worried. I have been having a hard time separating Exercise ED from me this past week. Am I exercising for the joy of it or the ED of it? For the love of getting my blood pumping in the morning or the love of pleasing ED? For heart health or for calorie burn? For stress relief or to relieve the pressure ED puts on me? I’ve been scared of ED. He makes me second guess my reasons for exercising. I worry that I’m falling into my old, albeit modified, exercise rut. I worry that ED is telling me that I have to exercise, that I have a routine now and I can’t mess that up. I swim Mondays and Fridays, go to Snap Tuesday, Thursdays, and Saturdays and do yoga on Wednesdays. Sunday is day off. My need for routine can be comforting and stabilizing, but it can also be debilitating. This week I added swimming on Wednesday because I didn’t have to be at school for our early morning faculty meeting. And I worried that morning. What if I”m going for the wrong reason? What if I’m going to please ED because I’m getting in an extra exercise this week? What if next week I feel like I need to go on Wednesday since I went this week? Exercise is a trap for me like that. I do this today. Then I darn well better do the same amount or more the next day. Never less. Less meant ED could tell me I was a failure, I was lazy and creating bad habits. Skip one day, easier to skip the next. ED made sure that never came true for me.
My therapist brought home the question to me on Thursday. She asked me what exercise is for me. I hadn’t consciously asked myself that before. Separate ED and Rhonda – the key to recovery. I’ve done that for many things, but not for my reasons for exercising. After a pause I started voicing it to her. Exercise gives me a strong, healthy heart. Exercise wakes me up for the day and boosts my mood. It does help me relieve stress. I know that the 30 to 60 minutes I exercise is not going to burn enough calories to make me lose weight. I’ve learned that in this journey. Exercise is only 10% of the calories my body burns in a day. And since I”m eating right, whether I exercise in a day or not is not going to change my weight. Exercise is about overall health and mood.
Here is the other reason exercise has been on the forefront of my ED thoughts this week: the weather. Has anyone around here noticed the beautiful weather we’ve been having? Fifties and sixties in February with sun and little wind? Anyone noticed that? I have. And so has ED. I’ve said more than once that I am blessed that this fight has happened in the winter months. The nice weather draws me out. My walking habits for the past 15 years are not a secret from my community. I wonder how many have seen me walking with my boys and thought, “There she is again.” If the weather was nice, ED said I had to take advantage of it. It’s such a nice day, you can’t let it go to waste. You can’t stay inside on a day like this. That would be a waste. Why would you drive your car when it’s so nice outside? Let’s not waste the weather. We’re walking. My boys came to dread those walks. Now my question is, do I love being outside or does ED love to make me go outside? Back to the key to recovery: I need to separate Rhonda from ED. What does Rhonda think about being outside? I love enjoying the weather, but I don’t want ED to take advantage of who I am again. So as the days have gotten nice this week, without realizing it, I know I’ve gotten scared of ED. What if he tells me to go for a walk? What if he tells me I should be taking advantage of this weather? What if I go for a walk today? Tomorrow he’ll tell me the same, and let me recap my Exercise ED voice: whatever you do today, you better do tomorrow at least the same if not more. It’s a spiral. I am scared of the spiral.
My therapist asked the right questions on Thursday, whether she realized it or not, to make me realize the tension my body has been holding the past week. I’ve grown scared of Exercise ED. I have become scared of his controlling mind games. I don’t want to play them, but I now see that I haven’t been trusting myself to separate Rhonda from ED. I haven’t trusted the strength in who I am, in what I’ve learned in the past four months. And it’s that fear that has allowed ED his small window of power. Because in all things recovery, I’ve been doing well. Truly, I’m doing well. But now I know, ED grasped at my retreating backside and hooked his claws in the hem of my coat. I let him hang there because I’ve been scared to truly let go. Benj asked me the other day if full recovery is possible. Darn right it’s possible. Some say eating disorders are like drug addictions – you can recover but it’s always going to be a fight to keep the addiction at bay. Others say full recovery is possible. Fully recovered means ED is gone. He has no power and no relapse is possible. I believe that. But I wasn’t living my belief. There is a safety net in allowing ED to hang tight in the background. It’s the safety net of not allowing myself to trust in my strength to fight ED. And that statement right there is evidence of lacking that last bit of trust in God that he will fight ED for me. I don’t have to have the strength by myself. In fact, I can’t do it on my own strength. God needs to be right here, wielding the sword and cutting off any finger ED tries to use to entice me or keep a physical contact with me at all times. Full recovery means I trust God completely that I don’t need ED, that I can say no to him, that I can be free from him. I have believed that, but not totally. I let ED stick around so that if I fall backwards I have an excuse.
Oh, I’m not fully recovered yet so there will be setbacks.
I’m recovering, but I’m not all the way there yet.
These are ED’s excuses in my head, and I’ve let him have them. I let ED stick around because let’s face it, ED makes me feel special. He gives me his full undivided attention. I have this special friend that not too many other people around me have. That makes me unique. I’m an overall average person. ED is one thing that makes me un-average. Enough of that crap. Doggonit, It’s time to pry his fingers off and let him loose. It’s time to be done with him. It’s time to completely trust God and know that I will not fall back. ED’s done.
And now I get to come back to this morning! The best part. I woke up at 5 with plans of going to Snap to exercise for 30 minutes. The first ED conversation started with my alarm clock.
ED: Thirty minutes isn’t very long. That’s not really worth it. That’s not going to burn enough calories to keep you from gaining a couple pounds today.
Me: That is one of your illogical lies I have to put up with. Exercise isn’t about calorie burning. It’s health and mood and stress relief.
ED: Then why don’t you just say in bed and forget it if it doesn’t make a difference to calories anyway. See, you aren’t strong enough to fight me. You know it’s true; you know you need me to help you exercise.
And I start second guessing myself under ED’s pressure. Well, maybe I should stay home. Maybe I need to stay home just to prove that I don’t need to exercise. Am I exercising for the wrong reasons? Am I letting ED win? I hate when ED uses reverse psychology on me. Pisses me off. And ED comes in the back door of his little reverse gaming.
ED: Why don’t you just stay home this morning and go tomorrow morning instead? Then you’ve shown that you don’t have to exercise today because it’s your routine day to go to Snap. You can switch things up and go tomorrow.
Me: That’s true. I could just go tomorrow instead. That’ll show ED whose boss. (Are you catching who is boss at this moment?)
I got into the Yukon and starting driving to Snap, all the while this conversation is going on in my head. I’m not joking when I said ED talks to me. This honestly was the back and forth I had on the way to Snap. I was about to turn around to “prove” to ED that I didn’t have to exercise today and could go tomorrow and get in a longer workout because I wouldn’t be rushed. Yeah, that’s really proving ED wrong. Suddenly I snapped out of it. For Pete’s sake. Why would I go tomorrow just because I could go longer? Exercise is not about burning calories, it’s about overall health and mood. I told myself to get my butt to Snap and do my 30 minutes and be done. Tomorrow is Sunday. It is historically ED’s day to get me to over exercise. And he almost got me. But this is key: He didn’t. That was the first small victory this morning, only I didn’t see it as that at that point yet. I was still living scared that I was allowing Exercise ED to run the show. I went to Snap.
I got on the treadmill. Exercise ED told me to run hard on that treadmill for the full 30 minutes I had time to be there. I told him 30 minutes was the limit. If I went over those 30 minutes I would make our morning incredibly hectic in order to get out of the house on time. I knew that. ED knew that. So I got on the treadmill. That wasn’t new. I’ve been doing 20-30 minutes on the treadmill for awhile now. It’s been good. But exercise ED knows that the treadmill is safe. His lie to me has always been that running burns the most calories. No other machine, no other exercise is going to burn as much so that is what I have to do. I told ED no. I told him I wanted to do 10 minutes on the treadmill, 10 on the stepping machine, and 10 on the Woodway. For those first 10 minutes on the treadmill ED and I had a talk.
ED: Just stay on the treadmill; it’s really no different in the calories burned from one machine to the next. Just stay on the treadmill. Then you can read your book while you exercise. That’s relaxing, remember?
Me: But then I”m staying on here because you told me to. I want to get off just to prove to you that you aren’t in charge. I”m going to get off after ten.
ED: But it doesn’t matter. This is just easier. If you get off to switch machines you’re going to be wasting time and you don’t have a lot of time. Don’t waste what you got by switching machines.
This went back and forth. I had a hard time concentrating on my book, which mind you was a book about eating disorders. A really good book, by the way. The timer on my treadmill hit 10 minutes and ED tried to get me not to notice. He told me to just quick read one more page before looking at the timer. He knew ten minutes was coming up. But I said, this is BS. I’m off. I stopped that treadmill, I stepped off, and I moved to the stair stepper. And from then on ED got quiet. He sulked because holy cow, my Rhonda talked back. She got off the treadmill, our machine, our bonding time. She got off and left me spinning my wheels all alone. I could almost see him standing bewildered next to the treadmill trying to figure out exactly what had just happened. And guess what I found out, which Rhonda knew but had allowed ED to lie about – I got a good workout without the treadmill. The treadmill isn’t the only thing that works. I huffed and puffed. I sweat like a river running wild. By the time ED recovered from getting blown off, I was on my last minute on the Woodway machine. But he had quietly skunked over to me and positioned himself for whispering in my ear again.
ED: So you said 30 minutes, right? If you stayed just an extra five minutes, yes, you would be rushed, but you’d still get ready on time. Just go 5 extra minutes.
But this time, I was ready for that jerk. That has been maybe one of my biggest motivators in this recovery process – to avoid the way I had made our mornings because of ED’s “just 5 more minutes” rule. I made our mornings crap. I was rushed which put the boys on edge which made me get crabby which made me yell at the boys which made them go slower which raised my anxiety level which raised the anxiety of the whole house which caused the last minutes at home to be ones of anger, screaming, rushing and stress. I was done with that. I have been done with that and don’t want to do that to my children anymore. The other big motivator: Benj. I was not going to raise the stress in him just because ED convinced me to do 5 more minutes. Benj is more important to me than ED and his 5 more minutes. So on the windrow, I reached that 10 minute mark and ED started whispering. He whispered louder, mad that I had shut him out on the treadmill earlier. And do you know what I did? Do you KNOW WHAT I DID?
I stepped off. I got off. I stopped. I quit. I was done.
And I walked out of Snap knowing for the first time that ED does not control me. I do. Let me clarify – God does. I’m not scared of ED anymore. He can lie to me all he wants. And I’m sure he still will. But the huge, life changing, earth shattering difference – I don’t have to listen. He is not in control. I am in charge of my own brain. I have the power to say no to ED, to leave him sulking and lonely, bewildered, grasping at my backside and getting nothing but air. Nothing but air! Not until this morning have I really sensed what true freedom from ED feels like. I went home giddy, jumping out of my skin, unable to keep both feet on the ground at once because I feel empowered for the first time since I can remember. I finally separated Exercise ED from Rhonda. I know why I exercise. And it’s not for ED. Benj didn’t really know what to do with me as I came charging into our quiet, dark, still sleeping house, ready to conquer the world and this day. I’ll still have words with ED. He’s desperate like that. He won’t know when to quit. So, I’ll keep telling him. Because I can. I am in charge of ED because God is in charge of me. That puts me over-the-top in the successfully saved category! Next step: fully recovered baby!