What if I Don’t Trust Myself?
By Z Zoccolante
The night before I checked into the eating disorder treatment hospital, I wrote in my journal,
I don’t think I can get better . . .
but I’m hoping I can prove myself wrong.
I’m a smart girl, but up until that point I’d tried for years to stop binging and purging, to stop restricting what I ate, to stop hating my body in the mirror. But daily I failed.
After years of consistent failure it takes a toll on your self-esteem. You learn that you’re not someone to be trusted. You learn that you break promises, hide secrets, lie, and hurt people. You learn that you’re a disappointment. You feel worthless. You feel like what’s the point. You feel small and fragile.
There’s no way you want people to know you feel weak so on the outside you smile. You pretend nothings wrong. You isolate. You distract. You close down parts of yourself. You hide from the people who love you. You harden the soft little beautiful parts of yourself so that you can survive the pain of disconnection.
No one had to bully me, because I was my own Olympic rate bully. I knew all the right trigger points and could cut straight for the jugular.
I didn’t trust myself to be able to handle anything that came my way. The world was overwhelming and I had only one trusty tool – my eating disorder.
But I remember walking into the treatment facility, all the girl’s eyes watching me through the long glass windows, wondering who the new one was. I remember being terrified because they were going to take away the one thing I had to cope.
Here’s the truth. Parts of recovery suck because there are things we like about our addiction. There was a time when I liked being able to eat a bunch of sweets and throw them up. There was a time when I loved that my jeans just barely hung off my hipbones.
There was a part of me that liked the eating disorder that found comfort in it even while it destroyed me. It had become like a friend. A part of me that didn’t believe I could ever recover. A part of me that had no idea who I was without the patterns and the voice in my head.
A part of me that thought I would implode if I gained five pounds. A part of me that thought I might die if from anxiety, depression, discomfort, and fear. A part of me that told myself it was easier just to stay this way, take my chances and see how long I lasted. A part of me that convinced myself my eating disorder wasn’t that bad.
And then there was that still, small whisper,
that mustard seed thought . . .
what if I could recover?
At first, that felt laughable. How on earth was I ever going to recover when I’d been doing this since I was a teen? By now it was ingrained in me. And yes, I hated it but I also craved its comfort. Was it possible to let myself hope even a little bit?
A lot of times we’re scared of recovery because what if we fail again, what if we drown in our emotions? What if everything goes up in flames? If we are alone? If we don’t do it perfectly or good enough? What if we don’t know how to trust ourselves anymore?
Yet we are more than the sum of our parts. We are more than the collection of sinew and bone. We are more than our body parts and we’re more than our emotional parts.
These many fractured parts of ourselves get to meet along the road of recovery. I am grateful to have had an eating disorder because without it I probably wouldn’t have worked on myself, gone to therapy, gotten to know what was behind my smile.
My recovery started with a passing thought, that maybe just maybe I might recover. I still didn’t think it was possible, but I let that be ok. I didn’t have to recover overnight or in some make pretend perfect way.
After recovery, what I do know is that life is so much better on this side. I have tools, friends, and support for the days when life still feels like it sucks. The difference is that life can suck but I longer presses the self-destruct button anytime I’m triggered.
Sometimes I find myself in the kitchen staring at a huge pack of cupcakes one of my roommates has brought home and thinking, “Wow there was a day when I would’ve eaten all of those and gotten rid of it.” And there’s such a peace now because there’s no magnet pull as though I will die unless a cupcake is being shoved into my mouth right now.
Sometimes I find myself crying or screaming in my car to process and clear my emotions. And even though it feels crappy I know that I’m completely ok. I know that this is temporary and, like a wave, I can ride it and allow it to be what it is. I know now that discomfort and emotions will not kill me.
Over time I learned to trust myself because I started trusting myself a sliver at a time. I started loving myself instead of practicing self-hatred. I loved myself by appreciating parts of my day or of what my body allowed me to do in the world. I loved myself by calling friends, watching funny shows, learning to communicate and how to set boundaries, going to therapy. I loved myself by being kind to myself like picking a flower just for me, journaling, taking a hot shower, savoring a cookie, taking walks, speaking nicely to myself as I would to my best friend.
And over time, as I continued in imperfect recovery, I realized I did trust myself. I began to be ok with responsibility, commitment, and accountability – things that gave me anxiety before. I began to trust myself because I realized I did trust myself.
And I thought, “Ha. I proved myself wrong.”
With Love and Aloha,