Oh, this is a big topic. It’s pretty much a requirement that if you write about an ED, you have to address Control. Everyone under the sun says that EDs are a response to a need for control in one area of our lives. I get it, I really do. I’ve read the books, I’ve seen the videos, I’ve heard the mantras. “Let go and let God,” or “You only lose what you cling to,” or a billion or so other quotes and phrases. I am a control freak, a perfectionist, an overachiever. I love control. I live for control. I love to track everything I do, from fitness to food to steps. I adore charts and all sorts of metrics and trend analyses.
I love the movie Mr. Mom. Yes, it’s an old movie and it’s dated, but it’s fun and harmless. There’s a great scene where the dad accidentally vacuums up the little boy’s blankie, which he calls his woobie. All sorts of things happen to his woobie – it gets smaller and smaller until finally the boy and his dad agree it’s time to let his woobie go. Sort of like in Peanuts with Linus’s blanket, but Linus is much tougher.
Through the work that I’ve done with T & D, I’ve given up a lot of woobies. I’ve stopped purging (mostly), I’ve tried to stop self-harming (eh), I’m trying not to eviscerate myself whenever I make a mistake, and I’ve started talking about my ED and my depression with a select few friends and my husband. With my team’s encouragement, I also gave up tracking my food and my online membership with Weight Watchers. I also gave up counting and calculating WW points.
But then, like the kid in Mr. Mom and Linus, I started to freak out. I felt like I was careening down a mountain with no brakes. We were going much too fast for me, and I was losing far too much control. I started to gain weight, and tried to be okay about it. But then I gained more weight, and though logically it wasn’t much and it shouldn’t matter, I couldn’t handle it. In my brain, I understand that I may have to change my ideal weight. But when my clothes stopped fitting well and I had to break out the Spanx, I had visions of me trying to squeeze into size 12 jeans, and I wigged. I started restricting and self-harming more. My self-harming became worse – from bruising to cutting to burning and scarring – all within a span of about 3 weeks.
I accept that at some point I will replace most of my woobies with healthier things. I just can’t do it right now. Surprisingly, T & D were okay with that, and we came up with a compromise – no WW points or WW tracking, but I had a new detailed meal plan based on food exchanges, and I could track to that. What I’m learning is that I can’t fix myself with a wish and a prayer. Recovery really does suck and it doesn’t happen overnight. And many of us will relapse. A lot.
But that doesn’t mean I’m not getting better. My thinking is (marginally) clearer. I am (somewhat) more engaged. I am purging (a little) less. I am eating (a few) new foods. I’m (trying to be) okay with eating carbs. I’m sharing (some of) my feelings with others. And I’m accepting a little (tiny) bit that I don’t control my world. I’m aiming for the day when my ED voice will shut the hell up, even if she still has a bullhorn in my ear. But hanging on to a few woobies is okay. I don’t think I’ll ever be like the kid in Mr. Mom and give up all of my woobies forever. I think I’ll be like Linus in Peanuts and find a way to use my woobies to make me stronger and safer.