I was talking to a friend on Monday night, bemoaning the sad state wherein I just started to get a handle on my overworking problem when this whole eating disorder thing reared it’s ugly head years after I’d “dealt with” it when it occurred to me that they’re related.
I know, the fact that my character defects would stem from the same place (namely my character) is probably obvious to a lot of you. I’m kind of kicking myself for how long it took for me to see that, especially considering how much time I spend pondering this sort of thing.
It’s piss simple, and was staring me in the face the whole time. I mean, why did I overwork in the first place except to curb my anxiety? It’s not a coincidence that the year I started eating again and the year I started working, making incredible grades, and getting involved in community work are the same fucking year. Anything to occupy myself enough to tune out the terror.
And that really worked for me. I kept a roof over my head (car roofs count), I got great scholarships to great schools, I got a nice job in a good profession. I had an amazing resume. Never mind that I flipped wildly between engaged and wiped the fuck out. Never mind that I wasn’t always reliable for anything other than deadline hitting. Never mind that I ran myself into the ground over and over because it was easier than dealing with my own insecurities.
So now I work for myself and the last thing I can be is inconsistent. It’s the kiss of death. Getting things out before deadline and consistently goal-smashing can no longer take priority over service, appearance, value, and availability. I have to be here for my clients no matter what, and the first part of that is being able to show up the same every single day.
Overwork finally stopped working. So I started to treat my insomnia, I have more free time for the personal development projects that make me a better creative, and I am well-rested and exercised in order to provide a steady energy throughout the day no matter what happens.
For a second there I was also well fed, but then my old anxiety needed an outlet. And here’s this method that worked really well the last time I had to perform 24/7.
When I was a young girl, I couldn’t make the decision to be tired or grumpy. I was alternately in emotionally or physically dangerous environments all the time, and I had to be able to address issues as they came up no matter what else was going on. So I couldn’t afford to be off my game or distracted by school or anything. And the one aspect of my life that I had control over was food.
Here we are in a similar situation. How good I am at hitting targets doesn’t matter as much as how consistent I am at not becoming one. My most effective coping mechanism for the last 16 years is no longer in play. It’s natural that I would go back to something familiar and easy. Something that doesn’t really effect my performance in this context. I don’t need my brain for most of what I do now. This way I can shut that anxiety right up with obsessive thoughts about food and eating.
Whether I eat or don’t, my goal is achieved. I’m too busy freaking out about ingredients and portions and wrestling with myself on whether to do the easy thing and skip a meal or do the hard thing and eat, but then feel like utter trash for the rest of the day. week. month.
The shame spiral of eating, not eating, feeling horrible and vowing to change, but ultimately justifying my past actions in order to do it all over again is really helping me deal with feeling out of control in other aspects of my life. Fear about the business, worry about taxes or bills or relationships fades away just like it used to when I worked myself into a stupor. Except now I can answer the phone and be very present and accommodating because half my brain is off having really in-depth fantasies about sourdough bread.
Or I’m sleeping. I forgot how much I slept when I was anorexic. It was the only time in my life I didn’t have insomnia. Well, then and now.
Obviously this isn’t any kind of solution, but at least I don’t feel so regressive for having it come up again. There’s some logic here that I can appreciate.