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.