Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Promise I Can Keep

The Best Husband Ever took this photo of me in late November 2007, just before I had some minor surgery done. This was only months before I reached my lowest and most unhealthy weight, but I was already experiencing some bad side effects of over-exercising and restricting my food. For the surgery I was going to be knocked out with anesthesia, but the nurses had a difficult time knowing if I could receive the drugs because my heart rate kept dropping too low. Already I was too sick to maintain a normal resting heart rate, especially after skipping meals (on the doctor's orders). I remember feeling so cold and having to get some extra blankets.

Eventually I was put under (which was a rather fun experience!) and got through the surgery without complications, much to my husband's relief. I can't say that I was relieved because I didn't think there was anything wrong with my exercise and eating habits at that point. Even when my surgery "wound" continued to pop stitches and bleed because my body couldn't heal itself properly, I didn't admit to myself that something was up. As with most people who live with eating disorders, it took quite a lot of treatment and therapy before I could recognize that something was wrong with me, much less do something about it.

Have you ever been told to look in the mirror and tell your reflection, "I love you"? Thankfully, I never have, but I've heard of the practice. This is not something I could ever honestly say to myself. However, during a recent visit to a eating disorder recovery forum, I read a post that offered an alternative. I'm not the only woman, disordered eater or not, who has had trouble declaring undying love of herself. I could say the words, I suppose, but I wouldn't believe them. The writer of the post I mentioned, though, does something different. Instead of speaking a lie to the mirror, when she is feeling the need to restrict/over-exercise/binge/purge/choose-your-own-disordered-behavior, she tells her reflection, "I promise to try to take care of you."

That's a promise I can get behind. I can't promise that I'll always love myself -- be it my actions or my physical appearance, faults and all -- but I can vow to try. To be responsible with this body and this life. To pursue health when the disordered voices are whispering other suggestions in my ear. To maintain balance and health even when I don't want to, or when it doesn't come easily or naturally. To try, and to care. Those are promises I can keep.

5 comments:

  1. Heather Iacobacci-MiMay 11, 2010 at 8:14 AM

    I think that's a great promise we should all give to ourselves!

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  2. Oh I definitely agree with you. I have self-esteem and self-confidence problems that would prohibit me from saying "I love you." I guess I could force it out, but I wouldn't believe it or mean it. But I love the promise you found!

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  3. I'm about to tear up and that sounds so cheesy or whatever but I just relate to the not loving yourself so much. that is what the struggle for me is all about- the rest of it is just a way to punish myself or control my circumstances. thank you so much for sharing these thoughts. I needed this so much in my life...

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  4. yogiclarebear.comMay 12, 2010 at 2:44 PM

    Hi Beth,I read this yesterday and it resonated so strongly, touched me so deeply...I had to sort my feelings and thoughts before I commented. First, I want to say how courageous you are for opening up here. I love the smile in your picture Beth, but I have to say, there is a craziness to it. I remember during my sickest times thinking, "If I just get a little sicker, if I hurt a little more...then I'll be forced to stop." Of course, I didn't stop. I wonder if this is how you felt in the hospital...thinking you were "free to rest" because you were in for surgery, giving you that giddy smile...yet the minute you get out you go back to over exercising. It was never enough was it? And it never will be. That's what we finally come to realize as we start to recover. “It” always wants more exercise, less food, more hurt. One more push, yadda yadda. Anyways, on to your point...I have tried the "I love you" and I cannot do it. I can and have looked myself in the mirror, in the eyes and spoken terrible hate. But if I open my mouth in love, nothing comes out. It is truly a supernatural demon that is blocking it; I can't describe it any other way. I can croak and squeak but I cannot say the words. Ok, actually I did once, but it was sickeningly sarcastic and mocking. It wasn't even my face looking back at me. Isn't that insane? So, I LOVE your promise option, and I actually did something similar this past weekend. I did a bodymind meditation from a book I just finished and I spoke to all my body parts with gratitude and peace and I also apologized to my body, each part, for the damage I've inflicted. It was not in front of a mirror, but it was a big step to reconciliation with myself. I'm really glad to have this promise mantra now, and even more glad that you do too. Strength in recovery numbers!

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  5. That's so well put! It's all about the effort that goes in, really.

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"I am glad you are here with me."
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King