It's time to face the facts and brave another diary-esque post...a sort of Part II.
Because you see, I have arrived at the giant STOP sign. It's no longer looming in the distance...it's not even just now slowly coming into focus. It's so close that I can reach out and touch it. I can see the peeling fire engine red paint, the two rusty screws, and the fine coating of pollen marring the white lettering. I'm a stone's throw away from where I was last February, when I really got into trouble.
A quick glance beyond my trusty sign confirms what lies ahead:
-A stack of sports bras that no longer fit
-An unrecognizable reflection in the mirror
-A slow and starving runner
-An unlimited amount of fuel for self-hatred
-An equally never-ending supply of punishment
-An obsessively restrictive diet
-A steadily decreasing number on the scale
I've lost 10 pounds in the month that I've been home from college. And while I initially had some weight to lose from my two month stopover in Emotional Overeating, I'm a mere 5 pounds away from being unhealthy again. Where has everything I learned gone? It dances in and out of reach...and periodically disappears behind a cloud of self-loathing and into a world where harshness and rigidity reign.
Like a person struggling with an eating disorder, I have "fear foods". Pesto, pasta, peanut butter, nuts, salad dressing, cheese, chips, crackers, cereal, candy, cookies, cakes, brownies, and ice cream are petrifying. So I make rules: no chips with lunch, no crackers before dinner, no carbs unless it's the night before a long run, no snacks between breakfast and lunch. 1/2 a cup of Oat Squares for breakfast, 1 slice of cheese on my sandwich every three days, 1 decadent dessert every 2 weeks. I cling to these rules like lifelines. Whether I break them or not, I go to bed dejected. I'm either unhappy that I ate "perfectly" and still feel enormously deprived or distressed that I ate "poorly" and feel overwhelmingly guilty.
The compulsion for control still yanks me around on a chain. After a few months in therapy, I thought I had broken free of its grip. But here I am again - impossibly structured, unbelievably rigid, extremely critical, and generally just miserable to be around. On my worst days, I'm little more than a tense and judgmental monster.
More often than I care to admit, I go to sleep with a rumbling stomach and I run on dead legs. I think about food constantly. I dread taking days off from exercising. I'm scared to go visit anyone because I know I'll have to loosen my control over food, exercise, sleep, and money. I can't help but feel repulsed by what other people are eating. I'm awful to go out to eat with because I'm always silently stewing over the fact that I can't control what everyone else is going to order (read: which temptations will be within reach).
I know, I wouldn't want to be around me either.
I feel like a wild animal still cowering in a recently opened cage...huddled against the cold metal in the back of the trap, only a half a step away from the source of food that tempted me, tricked me, and taught me. I want desperately to run away and never return, but the thought of leaving the confines of my temporary home is paralyzing. Although I'm not visibly wounded, I snap at anyone who comes close. When I'm finally alone again, I pace the silver mesh floor in circles, still vibrating in fear, with one eye trained on the open door.
So more work lies ahead. I have to fight against my tendency to schedule everything, stamp down the anxiety that bubbles up and blinds me when things don't go according to plan, disband my inner critic, and put my feelers out for healthy sources of self-esteem, again. I have to let go of my addiction to setting myself up for failure and then punishing myself by cutting out more foods and by adding in more workouts. And I have to realize that the vicious cycle that I thought I'd left behind for good is more tenacious, more controlling, than I thought.
I wouldn't be surprised if there's a Part III on the way.