(Un)tethered

I have weighed myself every single morning for the last year and a half.

Before that, I weighed myself maybe once or twice a month and it didn’t mean much. I think it was mostly just curiosity. The only scale we had in the house was a cheap dial scale that probably wasn’t even accurate.

But when I relapsed last November, one of the first things I did was order a fancier digital scale from Amazon. And from the moment it arrived at my doorstep, I have been tethered to that bright orange square of doom.

My therapist and I have recently begun tackling my eating disorder in sessions. I should have been doing this a very long time ago, but I refused to even acknowledge it was a thing. It wasn’t until it became concerning (enough) to others that I brought it up with her. I guess their concern somehow gave me “permission” to ask for help or something.

It’s been hard. I don’t make very much progress. Or at least I hadn’t been anyway (or maybe it just didn’t feel like it?). I wrote previously that my psychiatrist prescribed Ritalin to help me gain a more “top-down” way of using my brain, allowing for more executive control and rational thinking. That was about three weeks ago.

And I’ll be damned if that isn’t exactly what is happening.

It’s sorta hard to describe because I just feel more “myself” since starting the new medication. I can think about things other than how horribly fat I am or how much I’ve eaten. And, most importantly, I can make better choices around food and related behaviors.

My therapist asked me a few weeks ago to try and do one very small thing that would move me in the direction of being less hurtful towards myself. She said it didn’t have to be around calorie intake (smart of her) and it could be anything I thought fell into that category.

So the first thing I did was make an executive decision about the spreadsheet that charts the amount of calories I consume each day. I have written here before about the very punitive color coding system that separates my total intake into “good”, “acceptable”, “dangerous”, and “unacceptable.” Red was the color for unacceptable and most toddlers probably eat more than that each day. But, to me, it is a range above what I need (or deserve).

A system like that works wonders for enforcing an eating disorder. It was agonizing to have to enter a number and then change the color, especially if that color was red. My therapist asked me to described what that feels like and I said, “It is basically indicating that my entire existence for that day was a total waste because I ate like a fat fuck so clearly I have no self-control and I am a useless human being.”

She just took a breath and said, “Wow…”

Yeah.

So I got rid of that shit. It’s been glorious if I’m totally honest. I still track my intake (a habit I eventually plan to break as well) but I can simply input the text and then exit the spreadsheet. No color changes. No reminders that I didn’t fall into some arbitrary range that decides my self-worth. No entire days wasted because I “ate too much”.

Then last weekend I finally hit the end of my rope with that fucking scale.

Although I weigh myself in an unnecessarily ritualistic manner each morning, it has never ONCE brought me happiness. There are those moments where the number goes down and I feel a surge of…pride? joy? achievement? I don’t even know. But then that moment dissolves and I’m filled with intense anxiety about how much lower that number still needs to be.

And if that number doesn’t change or (god forbid) goes up? Forget it. It feels like I’m dying. It is literally unbearable to exist inside of my body.

Furthermore, seeing that number then determines how the rest of my day will go. If it’s not what I wanted to see, it puts me in an awful state of enhanced self-loathing. Even if my body has not actually changed size or shape, I become convinced that my clothes will not fit. So although they may fit exactly the same way they did last time I wore them, I insist that everything is too small and then I spend the entire day absolutely miserable because it feels like I’m bulging out of my clothing.

I don’t know if it was the Ritalin, the therapy, or just the space I’m in right now but when I stepped on that scale last Sunday I just decided “Nope. I’m not doing this shit anymore.”

I told my wife I was going to try to weigh only once per week instead. That still chains me to a number, but it will take away the constant emotional rollercoaster ride of daily weigh-ins. On Monday, I shared this decision with my therapist.

She didn’t even attempt to conceal her emotion. I wasn’t sure if she was going to jump out of her chair and clap or start crying.

Halfway through the week I decided that Saturdays would be my official weigh-in day.

For now.

Eventually I’d like to take an actual hammer and smash the damn scale into a million tiny pieces. But I’m not there…yet.

Why Saturday? For one thing, Wife is home so if I completely meltdown (or River freaks out) over my weight, at least someone will be around to provide support. I also consider a lot of factors (such as water intake, time of last meal, amount of sodium/carbs/fiber/etc, and how my bowels have been moving) when I analyze my weight. I then try to control for those factors by doing things like restricting food and water after a certain time, using diuretics and laxatives, and limiting how much I eat certain things (even things I really really need).

Saturday is the one day of the week Wife and I get to spend together. She really loves NYC bagels, so we usually have “bagel Saturday”. It’s also a day where we sleep in, eating late and existing in a completely out-of-routine manner. I love it. It’s the one day I get to relax a little around all the militant rules and rituals I have in place to “be skinny” and feel in control.

So basically I didn’t want to spend Saturdays fretting over everything I put in my mouth because I knew I’d have to face the scale the next day. Plus I consider a new week to begin on Sundays. If I’m going to be miserable over my weight (and I will), I’d rather have that be the way I end my week, rather than how I begin it.

Today is Saturday.

And I did it! I actually did not weigh myself at all until this morning. The number went down, which made me happy for probably 48 seconds before I began panicking over what next Saturday would look like (of course). But even now, I feel kind of okay. I’m still scared of all the things I’m normally scared of, but I didn’t gain weight – even without the scale shouting numbers at me each morning to shame me into submission.

This isn’t recovery. And I won’t always be able to resist until Saturday. But this is a really big step for me and for once I actually feel optimistic about the possibility of recovering from this damn eating disorder.

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26 thoughts on “(Un)tethered

  1. Jean says:

    Wow! That is such a huge change. I’m very happy for you, and I won’t stop being happy for you if you slip back at some point. That would be normal. Actually, I shouldn’t say I am happy for you, because that suggests you aren’t happy for yourself. I’d rather be happy with you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. e.Nice says:

    There are several really big steps here. Glad you are working on it and that you feel optimistic. I feel optimistic with you about recovery! You have mentioned this is a relapse. Any ideas on what triggered the relapse? Just asking because that might be important in moving forward, and in doing relapse prevention work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Thanks! I’m not entirely sure of the “why” but I know I relapsed right after my wife lost her job last October (also the time I was preparing to go to the trauma program in Boston). So, probably has to deal with those fears and anxieties.

      Like

      • Andi says:

        Yes I think so. It’s like I felt transformed back in time by the trigger of wife losing her job – like I was free falling. And I reached out to grasp onto the only thing that I could control in that situation.

        Liked by 1 person

      • e.Nice says:

        That makes sense. Hope its ok to ask, but have you (Andi) had ED before? I was under the impression that that was more River’s domain. Are you able to access the resources that helped overcome the ED before? I imagine its a big learning curve for all of you.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Andi says:

        No I haven’t, you’re right – it was River. My therapist has been talking with her more frequently in session and it would seem that part of the problem is that she never really DID “overcome” her ED. Our parents just forced recovery (which only meant weight gain to them) and then Julia took over and we evolved from starving to self-harm. So there has been this unresolved disorder lying dormant within River since we were about 16. She saw an opportunity to regain control (since Julia was actively working on her own stuff with Zooey and preparing for DBT in Boston, it was easier for River to step forward and engage in her old ed behaviors). I was so dissociated from River and also so focused on cooperating with Julia that I let it slip under my radar until it was in full-blown relapse. So in many ways that is what my therapist is doing now – trying to identify ways for River to cope that are not self destructive.

        Liked by 1 person

      • e.Nice says:

        So many different layers to getting well! I am impressed with how well you are managing it all. It is really sad that River has gone this long without help. Glad she is getting time now.

        Liked by 1 person

      • e.Nice says:

        Is the moving to just once a week weighing and the change in charting because River is healing? Is she feeling better about things? Or is it that you are able to assert more healthy coping skills? I imagine its both, but wonder if you feel there is progress on both fronts.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Andi says:

        It’s more about me making decisions that overrule hers. Which sucks but we need that food and we need to tone down on the punitive behaviors and self harming. I do however believe that there is progress happening on both levels (as per my therapist anyway who thinks it’s really good that River is speaking out more, even if it is to defend her right to have this disorder).

        Liked by 1 person

      • e.Nice says:

        I’m glad you are able to tone down or moderate, you need to nourish your body in order to have the energy to do your day to day stuff as well as the hard work of healing. It is good that River is speaking out, because its way more difficult to heal the hidden stuff.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. La Quemada says:

    I’m not one to believe we have epiphanies and go from ill to healed in a magical moment. Healing happens exactly as you describe it here, small step after small step, hopeful moments, and realistic and non-judgmental acceptance of the moments we falter. I’m so happy to read this post and to know you’ve decided not to punish yourself with the color-coding system or the daily weigh-ins! You deserve more kindness than that.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rachel says:

    Loved reading this – partly because I often think of you and wonder how you are doing. And because I am touched to hear you delving into the ED stuff and making steps towards healing. I say that not because having an ED is bad and if you weren’t addressing it then you would be wrong – but simply because I care about your happiness and know how isolating and soul-crushing ED’s are. So hoping for your continued healing. You’re doing really difficult work, and you’re doing it so skillfully. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. LosiLosLoco says:

    What an accomplishment Andi! That’s fantastic that you’re making these changes to better your mental state 🙂 Hey, one step at a time and eventually you reach your destination. It’s going good and don’t be down if you have a slip up. We’re human. It happens. Kick anxiety in the ass and tell it, “You don’t fucking control me!” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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