During my trip to London, I did fairly well with food. Sure, it was difficult dealing with my eating disordered thoughts during the day. However I was able to stay strong for the most part and enjoy my trip.
However on Saturday afternoon with mom, my stress finally boiled over. That evening we were planning to go back to the wonderful little Indian restaurant where we had dined our first day. Although I had loved being there, I worried about having too many of the “fat” tallies in my meal plan. Anorexic thoughts hissed in my ear “You can’t have fat at lunch and supper!” Tension built up inside of me as my mom and I searched for lunch.
Now, it was already a hectic morning. Unknown to us, a huge football game between two German teams was taking place in London that evening. And who would have guessed where the meeting spot was for the fans of one team? In Trafalgar square right outside of the National Gallery that we were visiting that day. Needless to say, both my mother and I were a bit taken aback (and amused) by the hundreds of cheering, singing, and drinking people around us.
Anyway, so my mom’s stress about our unexpected situation built while my anxiety about lunch grew. Finally we found a Pret A Manger which is a wonderful cafe-like place. Since we had been to one before, my mom assumed that I could quickly and easily find a vegetarian meal. Simple, right?
Wrong. I ended up freaking out and almost in tears as I begged for an option with no mayonnaise. The poor worker spoke little English but tried her best to help me find something to eat. Waiting by the checkout counter, my mother motioned for me to grab anything before pursing her lips and turning to face the other way.
After panicking in a public place, you don’t think things can get much worse. But they can, as I too often figure out, because next I froze. Now, when I freeze, it usually is partly because of a combination of my aspergers (over stimulation, social anxiety, etc) and my eating disorder (anything to do with food). When stuck like this, I lose my ability to think or react. It is as if someone has switched me off. Luckily, this usually lasts ten minutes max if someone (like my mom) pushes me to action. Still it sure makes life difficult for my support people and myself.
In the end, I shakily grabbed a sandwich but pretty much demolished it trying to get off the mayo. Note to self: Mayo is a normal food not the enemy. Although it sounds stupid, sometimes food terrifies me so much. Even the thought of dying does not scare me the way certain dishes do. Because of this overwhelming fear, I tend to sob, freeze, hyperventilate, and/or ask others to choose for me when deciding what to eat.
I become “consumed by food” according to my mother in London. She went on to describe as acting like “someone in love who had eyes for nothing else.” But, wait, I thought. I hate food! Why would I be acting like I loved it?
Yet I can see part of my mom’s point. In that Pret a Manger, I fixated on the food to the point where I couldn’t physically move myself away. Does that mean I was in love with it? No. Because does it mean that I let it consume me? Well, it depends on how you use that word.
Too often struggles consume my life. These can range from perfectionism to fear of men to anorexia to aspergers to not wanting to grow up. Every day I fight a battle to not only function but to stay alive. Many women and men that I have met in treatment are also consumed by their unique struggles. Sadly, I have seen some who seem unable, unsure, or unwilling to keep pushing forward toward recovery. Yet most of those I know continue to hope and work for a better future. Despite being momentarily consumed by our illnesses and trials, we refuse to give up.
Thus, I want to dedicate this post to all of the amazing people I have met during treatment as well as every person who is struggling with mental illness. You are true heroes who have a special gift to offer this world with your insight, strength, and perseverance. Sometimes struggles with consume you; this is a normal part of recovery. Please do not ever give up!