To me, today, the idea of Recovery really boils down to two separate issues. One, the huge and seemingly insurmountable, is body image. I need to do more exploring here, obviously, and I will continue to read and research. I think it’s really more of a cultural issue than I’ve let myself believe. I have said time and time again that the magazines and billboards and tv commercials, celebrities and movie stars, none of that influenced me. I’ve genuinely never really cared for pop-culture, fashion, never kept up with the latest music or movies. I have spent most of my time with a book in my hand, building things, making things, learning things, making some sort of music with some sort of instrument. (Fun Fact: As a 4th grader, I tried to teach myself to read and write Swedish, just for fun!) . But what if these cultural standards really did have an influence on me, despite my lack of attention to them? I remember envying even the immature small bodies of some of my peers in elementary school. Why can’t I be pretty like they are? What did I do to deserve to be so big? Why am I so bad? Why don’t I fit in? By middle school, I was keeping a folder of photos of appropriately thin-enough girls from Delia’s catalogues I didn’t even order clothes from, just so I could look back and remind myself what I was aiming for. Same with pictures from Girl’s Life and American Girl magazines. I’d read about their grand adventures and how girls could do anything! Be anything! We were unstoppable! And then I cut out pictures to remind me how small I should be. Where did this desire to be small come from, if not from the messages and images that I observed and heard as a child? Back to the same old idea—I may not have created these conditions, but it’s up to me to rise above them. I did not choose to take on the standards of the thin ideal, but I did nonetheless. Now, I can choose to change my mind. I feel a strong urge to become an advocate for Health at Every Size, to stand in opposition to Diet Culture, but my first order of business is how to change my own standards for myself and learn to accept my own body. Easier said than done.
The other main issue is something that was brought up to me yesterday during a conversation with someone I trust and look up to. I had heard it before (many times), but I don’t know that I really understood before. I have no real idea of what my own expectations are, what really motivates me. I have simply relied on other people’s expectations to define my own since I was a child. How do I begin to untangle my own expectations from everyone else’s that I’ve been assuming were my own for so many years? You’re so smart! You’re so talented! You can do anything! So I tried. Really hard, for years and years. If I was smart, why *wouldn’t* I get A’s? If I was talented, why *wouldn’t* I make All-State, get into the Jacob’s School of Music? Do the hardest things possible to make good use of the smarts and talents I’d been told so often that I had? Despite these constant reminders that I Could Do Anything! why did I feel so overall lousy? Like I wasn’t working hard enough, wasn’t doing enough, wasn’t exceptional enough? Why was I so ashamed of myself that I was shrinking away from life, literally and figuratively? Maybe it’s like she told me yesterday. Maybe it’s because I’ve never really figured out how it is that *I* really want to spend my life. I had never thought of it that way before. If those aren’t my goals and desires, then what do I actually want? How do I deal with the perceived failures might arise if I do things differently, according to what I discover my own dreams and desire might be? How do I change my idea that failure in anything (and by failure, I mean anything less than perfection) automatically means I’m worthless and undeserving and everyone will know how shameful I am? There’s lots to ponder here, too. I seem to be coming up with many more questions than I have answers, lately.
Aside: I’m sitting here at Jittery Joe’s and I just ate a blueberry scone. These blueberry scones are among my very favorite treats in the whole world. Paired with a hazelnut coffee? That combination by itself makes for a phenomenal day. I so enjoyed them. I feel calm of and settled, like I have everything I need in the world. I sat here, and I enjoyed them. I tasted them. I let myself be aware of the consistency, the flavor. This morning I had exactly 124 calories of an egg white omelet with kale and kimchi, which I measured precisely with measuring cups and a food scale. It was pretty good actually, and I enjoyed it enough. But if I’m being completely honest, it’s not what I wanted and the main reason my brain convinced me that I enjoyed it was because I knew it was an absurdly low calorie count for a whole meal. So now I’m trying to convince myself that obliterating the low-calorie, low-carb breakfast with my decidedly not low-calorie or low-carb blueberry scone is really ok. I wanted one, so I had one. That’s normal eating. Normal eating is ok. Encouraged. It does not make me weak or worthless. The scale was down a few pounds this morning (but wait, I don’t want to ruin it! Damn you, scone! Ugh, fine, never mind. The scone was ok. I think.), most likely due to the same ridiculous low-calorie, low-carb foods I’ve been eating the last few days. (But the low calorie stuff has allowed me to eat three meals a day! Success! See? I’m following my meal plan! That’s bullshit, Kristen, and you know it.) There is even a disgusting looking bag in my pantry of some sort of white sludge-like liquid-packed “Miracle Noodles” that claim to have zero calories and zero carbs (to which I can’t help but ask, then what the heck is it??). I even found myself searching Instagram yesterday for super low-calorie meals, the whole time thinking I don’t even believe in diets or “lifestyle changes,” I know they don’t work, I know they’re harmful to your mind and body, I hate diet culture with a passion, I don’t want to perpetuate this nonsense, this is just straight up stupid, what am I even doing?? Oh, but I can be down to XXX by the time school starts! Think of how confident I could be! Well, yeah, I could, but then I’d probably end up sick again, having to leave school, back in Colorado with my life on pause and a tube up my nose. Let me tell you, as pretty as Denver is, I can only imagine how lovely it would be if I could do more than admire those mountains from the fifth-floor window of a treatment center. And NG tubes hurt like a mofo. So yeah, right now, in this moment, despite all the other thoughts swirling around in my head, I enjoyed that scone.
I’d love to know, what is your experience with these kinds of questions? What is your middle like? I genuinely want to know.