*Mild Trigger Warning for topic (Eating Disorder Behaviors)
Last week was a little rough. Beyond pulling my hamstring, which has still not fully healed, we had an incident involving stimulant laxatives. Apparently River was displeased with our stalling weight loss. So she fronted long enough to both procure and take three times the recommended dose of laxatives. I did not know this until I went to class the next morning and suddenly felt very ill.
At first I thought it was just some strange tummy ailment caused by all the meds I was on. I’ve never taken muscle relaxants before, so I figured it was causing some unpleasant reactions. Then my nausea got worse and worse. I thought I was going to be sick, but then I had to go to the bathroom very urgently. I excused myself from class and after three trips to the public ladies’ restroom, my professor asked if I needed to lay down. My classmates reflected back to me that I looked “a little green in the gills” and everyone told me I should go home. I asked my professor if I could leave and he said that would be fine and to feel better soon.
It was a rocky commute. I just kept begging my stomach to stay calm and wait to get home to completely freak out. Luckily, I made it home without incident. I took some stomach medicine and laid down, willing my intestines to relax.
Once I felt somewhat settled, I pulled out my iPad and stylus. I opened up the System journal I created (using the GoodNotes app). I very nicely asked if anyone had any information or input on why our stomach was so upset. I got a quick reply from another Part (admittedly “tattling”), letting me know what was going on. Eventually River admitted to it, but she didn’t say much beyond that.
I brought this up to the therapist in session later that evening. She asked me if I had any input on why River was “upping her game” in terms of disordered eating behaviors. I honestly don’t know. I thought things were going fairly well, but obviously they’re not. I expressed extreme frustration and distress about this whole situation. I feel so helpless. I hate it when Parts front and push me out of the way, especially when they use that time to do unsavory things.
The therapist said, “You talk about your Parts with a certain quality…as if they are relentlessly destructive.”
“They are. And that’s not to say I don’t blame them, because I understand why they act the way they do. But it also helps me understand exactly why no one wants to be the ‘host’ of this System.”
“Why is that?”
“Because it sucks. Especially for me.”
“Can you talk more about that?”
“It’s as though I’ve been elected president of a tiny nation that hates me – full of people that hate me. I don’t have their history, I’m not part of their story…their tragedy. Yet somehow I am expected to bring peace and order. I’m supposed to fix things and make it better, but I don’t know how because I don’t have the whole picture. It’s so frustrating.”
She offered me some empathy and validation before asking if I could understand why River might be acting this way.
“No. How would I know?”
“Well, if you’ve known someone else who restricts their food, what do you imagine that is about for them?”
“A lot of things. Control, communication…”
“Communication? That’s a good point. What do you think River is trying to communicate to us?”
“I don’t know. I wish I did.”
“That’s probably going to be something really important for us to figure out.”
“Yeah. Probably. But also…I feel as though this isn’t just about River anymore. When this all started back in November, it felt very separate from me. It was this foreign experience. But now, as time passes and passes, it feels less separate and more integrated. What used to feel totally separated from my own experience became more and more intrusive until now it’s how I feel about myself. The way River views this body (as fat and disgusting and horrible), I look in the mirror and I start to think those things, too. I feel more anxious and scared around food. I tell myself awful things – the things I used to hear coming from my head are now my own thoughts. This has become the center – the focal point- of everything. All plans, every decision I make, revolves around food.”
“That sounds very stressful. But, also, I think it might be good that there is less separation between you and River. Even if that means you take on some of the distorted body image and food issues.”
“Perhaps. But how do I fix it?”
“That I don’t know yet.”
She asked if I am concerned. I’m not (yet). I’m what I called “pre-concerned”. Regardless, she urged me to call the psychiatrist she recommended so that I’m under the supervision of a doctor (and also so I don’t run out of medication).
I don’t genuinely believe the Parts of the System are relentlessly destructive. But I do think that things can never get better for us if we can’t replace some of these old self-destroying habits with something a little more productive.