Lately, I have begun attending activities with peers in school. Instead of shying away from social events, I am facing them and even – dare I say – enjoying them. Movies, classes, hanging out, walking around campus – there have been numerous ways that I have interacted with friends. Stretching and growing in this way has challenged me but also has brought great joy, excitement, and hope.
However, when food comes out at these social events, I panic. Whether it be the treats my professor always brings to Friday classes, pizza and popcorn at a movie, or a friend offering me part of their snack, terror fills me when food mixes with the already stressful interaction. Suddenly, I transport years back to the awkward, anxious, and clueless teenager who struggled to make (much less keep) any friends.
Logically, I know that I wouldn’t look greedy or weird if I ate. In fact, abstaining from food makes me stand out more. However, comments from the past haunt me and cause me to anticipate the worst. What if someone begins to judge me? Will they all tell me how fat and undeserving I am? Worse yet, what if everyone decides to shut me out of their lives for good?
So I push myself away from the food and the people around me. It might sound stupid but I honestly am terrified of what might happen otherwise. My dietitian always tells me that I can do it even though I repeat constantly that I cannot.
Perhaps she has a point. Yes, I could choose to eat. However, I lower my anxiety enough to attend social situations by not having food. This might not be the best choice but I need it to help me survive the overwhelming environment.
However, I hope that one day I will be able to fully join into a situation. As I watch people laugh and drink a coke or munch on a cookie, I sometimes wish that I could join them. As I take a step at a time toward recovery, I hope to become increasingly healthy and able to enjoy normal things such as eating with others.