Monday, February 17, 2014

“Pre-Event Anxiety”

This weekend, my husband and I are attending a family wedding.  Events like this one make me lose my balance and throw me off my mental health horse – which, I should mention, is not very hard to do.  Nonetheless, I still experience extreme amounts of anxiety in the weeks and months preceding special occasions.  Even though I’ve climbed a long way up the slide, I feel like, one of these times, I could easily slip back down to square one.

In the past, before a special event, I would incessantly diet and exercise to try to lose weight.  I would put myself through torture, obsessing day and night over everything I put in my mouth.  Continually, I would belittle my self-worth, bash my appearance in the mirror, and nitpick every perceived flaw.  I treated myself like crap, the whole while telling myself it will be worth it in the end.

You see, I wanted to look good in the eyes of my family and friends.  I was so afraid of people talking bad about me behind my back, “Oh, did you see Mary, she looked like she gained a few pounds”.  I know how people talk.  I’ve heard what people say about others when they’re not looking.  And I couldn’t handle the humiliating reality that they could also be talking about me.

Part of recovering from an eating disorder is learning to not care what other people say or think about you.  Recovery is about being yourself, confident in your self-worth apart from what you look like.  That means making decisions based on what you want to do, not what you think other people want you to do.

Family events, for me, are the most difficult events in and of themselves.  Maybe it is because I want my family’s approval most of all.

These past several weeks I’ve fought and fought and fought eating disorder temptations.  Every day I am tempted to skip meals.  Every time I eat something I’m tormented with shameful thoughts.  It is a constant battle not to slip back into my old ways.

I am not unscathed.  For a little bit, I put myself on a diet I thought would still allow me to eat seemingly normal without anyone noticing.

The tension in my soul is palpable.  I am so afraid of this event that I am beginning to believe the E.D. lies telling me that if I lose weight I’ll be happier, more confident, and able to have a good time.  If I don’t, then the opposite would come true.  I want to practice what I preach, but the other half of me is so desperate, trying every tactic to get me to lose “just a little weight”.  A little bit can’t hurt, right?  Wrong.

Compared to the weddings here in Rural-ville, USA, the wedding this weekend will be extra fancy.  I had a dress I thought would be sufficient, but the more people I talk to about the wedding, the more I am second guessing my original plan.  On top of all my eating disorder temptations, now I am concerned about whether or not I can dress appropriately.

The thought of shopping for a new dress is too much for me to handle.  Trying on things in the dressing room is a recipe for disaster.  Usually following a shopping trip, I get so sad that I give into E.D. behaviors for weeks after.  Also, I have a difficult time spending more money on an already expensive trip.

All this anxiety accumulated and I crumpled into tears while talking to Craig.  I no longer wanted to go.  The overwhelming anxiety seemed too much to handle and I didn’t think it was worth it.  Of course, he was as patient as ever and listened to my thoughts and fears.  He asked me how many of these events I was going to miss because of my anxiety.

Craig helped me realize that I need to take a step back and think about the big picture.  I didn’t want to miss out on things, I really didn’t.  I wanted to conquer my anxieties and fearlessly march into my battles.  Craig was right, if I give in to my fears now then it will only make it more difficult to overcome later.  If I always let my anxieties win, then it’s possible I would miss out on more and more.  It might even cause me to miss my own brother’s graduation or a sister’s wedding.  To me, that sounds tragic.

While taking this giant step back, I need to think about the purpose of this trip.  We are going to support my cousin and his fiancé in this major life decision.  We are going on this trip to pray for their new marriage and to be there for them – showing them we love them by attending their wedding.

It is a lot easier said than done, and I’m still not there yet, but it doesn’t matter what other people think anyway.  If they choose to judge me, then that’s their problem.  I only have to please the Lord.

I just have to be myself.  Sometimes, I struggle to know who this “self” of mine is supposed to be.  For such a long time “me” was all tied up with eating disorders, control, and the “thin ideal”.  It was a road of pain, self-torture, and tears – but I thought I deserved it.  It’s difficult to know who I am without those things.  It is difficult to see my worth apart from my pants size.  I guess I am still trying to figure out who “me” is.

One thing I do know – I know that I am a child of God.  First and foremost, I belong to Him.  Everything I do should be for His honor, glory, and praise.  When I forget this truth, I get caught up in useless anxiety.  When I remember God’s Love for me, I am filled with peace.  And that’s where I want to stay.

While on the subject of perspective, since this anxiety thing runs in my family, I thought that my relatives are probably feeling similar feelings as me.  I highly doubt every single one of my cousins is going to go out and buy a new dress or a new suit.  They are probably just as concerned as me about looking appropriate and avoiding any bad comments flippantly thrown their way.

Just knowing this common fear makes it easier for me to go.

I didn’t care one bit what other people wore to my wedding.  I know everyone wore the best they could to show us that it was an important day.  If their best would have been khakis, then I still wouldn’t have cared.

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