Therapist. There is a stigmatism associated with the word. A sign of weakness? A source of embarrassment? The reason for jokes? My view of the word: everyone should have a therapist and visit on a regular basis. Why? Maybe I should stop talking in the plural and personalize this discussion.
I internalize and isolate in my thoughts. Sometimes how I feel gets all tangled in my head and bogs me down, bogs down my emotions, makes me feel heavy because I can’t untangle them and figure out why I feel the way I feel. I look forward to every visit I have with my therapist. I think deep down everyone just wants someone to ask the right questions and dig out the buried answers. We want someone to cut to the heart of the matter and find the center of the web we’ve weaved in our head. I want to be able to talk to someone who understands, who wants to help me figure things out, who knows how to help me figure things out. I can talk to Benj, my friends, my mom, my sisters – and I love to do so. They listen and empathize, but there is something about my therapist that allows me to completely let my guard down to unbury what I can’t uncover any other way. She knows the questions to ask to get to the heart of the matter. She speaks truth, logic, and reason. She doesn’t sugar coat, she doesn’t tell me what I should be feeling, she doesn’t try to fix. She listens, she asks the right questions, she helps me reach the understanding I need to move past the bumps, and walls, in my road. She untangles what I’ve put into knots in my head. She does it by allowing me to figure it out myself as I answer the questions she knows exactly when and how to ask. I walk in the door an unruly mess and walk out smoothly combed with my hair-balled brush in my hand. Gross, but oh so true.
Here are my tangles we worked out this past week:
- I am scared of summer. Summer means a whole new wardrobe of clothes that show a whole lot more skin than my winter one. Summer means it’s nice enough to be outside, out of the safe confines of Snap Fitness walls, watching eyes, and ticking hands on the clock. Summer means Saturdays on the boat, living in a swimsuit. Summer is a drastic change from the world of my recovery up to this point. It is a part of recovery I’ve never done before. It’s the uncertainty of what ED will do when he has the changing of the guard to manipulate.
- I am at the point in my recovery when I slipped back into the grip of compulsive exercise the last time. It’s when one step became five, when 30 minutes became 90, when exercise for fun became exercise for calories again. I don’t want to slide into that dark pit. I don’t want to get caught in that slippery slope. I don’t want to drag Benj and my family back into that black hole again. I don’t want to be there again. But it happened last time. What if it happens again?
- I felt fat. I didn’t trust my tallies anymore. Since November, my tallies have been helping me gain weight. And now that I am at a healthy weight, I didn’t trust that my tallies were at a point that would settle me into my normal weight. I felt like I would always be gaining, that it would never stop, that I should have been able to stop gaining at Christmas, in January, in February. Now.
- I felt defeated by my hormones. Every month it’s a guarantee now that they’ll be back. What will ED allow them to do to me next month? And the next? Will this cycle continue forever? Will I always have to claw my way back out of ED’s darkness every single month because my hormones side with him rather than me?
- I felt guilty. There are children in Africa starving, and here I am obsessing over gaining weight and eating food. What a dumb thing to worry about. What a waste of precious energy when so many are dying because they don’t have enough to eat. I felt shallow.
Here is the hair ball I left with:
- Summer is not the enemy. I am not a 16 year old who wears short shorts and tiny tank tops. I am a 40 year old mother who can dress appropriately and comfortably. I can keep my Snap membership and use it when it becomes necessary. I can continue to exercise with my friends and use their accountability to stay in a healthy mindset. Summer Saturdays on the boat are our family’s best memories. Summer is baseball games and picnics, trips to the park and suntans and the smell of freshly cut grass. Summer is a new step in recovery that I don’t have to conquer alone.
- I am recovering now, not 3 years ago. I have knowledge, tools, community, determination, self-preservation, and God one day at a time. I am not me 3 years ago. I am Rhonda with new hope, deep joy, and a love for life that I am not willing to give up. Backwards is not an option. God is standing before me, holding my hand and pulling me forward. God is next to me, whispering words of encouragement and hope as we travel forward together. God is behind me, taking up the rear so that nothing in my past can grab me from behind and drag me down. He can push me forward, out of the grasp of the past. God carries me, lifting me out of the muck and mud to keep me moving forward when the mud only wants to suck me down. I can’t go backwards. God won’t let me. One day at a time.
- Fat is a feeling. Fat is a lie that ED uses to gain control. I started to feel like I should be able to intuitively eat and let go of my tallies. But I can’t. I’m not ready yet and that’s okay. That does not make me weak. I have come a long, long way from Melrose’s tallies. My therapist has lowered my tallies numerous times since Melrose. I don’t need what I needed in the beginning. My body is adjusting, and readjusting, and coming to its optimal me. I am loosening my grip on my tallies; I’m able to adjust without much thought anymore; but I have safety in in the knowledge of what healthy eating for me is right now. For 17 years I destroyed my ability to know what intuitive eating is. I’m not going to relearn and realign my thinking in 5 months. I can use my tallies. That is okay. Every acrobat needs a net, unless they’re stupid.
- I know when my hormones are coming. I can power up and brace myself for the lies they and ED will attempt to throw at me. I will be ready each month and use my knowledge to combat my feelings.
- There are people starving in this world, but that doesn’t make me shallow. ED is not about weight. ED is about control and fear. ED is about compulsion and comparison. Food and exercise just happen to be his means to suck me into his trap. I don’t have to feel guilty. I have to recover. I have to get my mind back. I have to relearn healthy. I have to give control to the One who has it anyway.
And just like that, perspective returned. I realized what I walked into my therapist carrying needed to be talked out, understood, re-catergorized, and given over to God. I was trying to carry it all alone. I took my eyes off the God who brought me to this point. I allowed ED control he doesn’t ever, ever deserve. God gives peace in letting go. My therapist allowed me to let go of all the tangles in my mind that I was holding onto instead of brushing out. I was not made for that mess. I was made for shampoo and conditioner. I was made for curls and bobby pins. I was made to be beautiful to the One who created me. When I turn my eyes outward and upward instead of inward and downward, when I open my mouth to let out the ugliness, I leave the path open for God to work instead of blocking him out. I will say it again: everyone should have a therapist and visit on a regular basis. Let it out so God has room to move back in without getting cut off by the tangles. Freedom lives in letting go. I thank my therapist for giving me that brush and teaching me how to use it. And I thank God he gave some the gift of therapying! We are all part of His body. I’m going to use that arm he gave his family body to pick up my brush and go to town.