First of all, may I have a round of applause for how clever that title was? I’m never punny so I had to give myself a little shout out.
Recently, I was a bridesmaid in New Orleans:
Beautiful wedding, beautiful friendship- I knew I really wanted to “be there” for this wedding. And not just “be there” like when you show up to class/work hungover with your hair lookin’ like Lady Gaga with the beehive and the “smoky eyeliner” smudged under your eyes- I really wanted to be present and available- and frankly, as unself-involved as one can be when you’re recovering from an 8+ year eating disorder.
Truth is, I’d been agonizing over this wedding for months – the dress. While this isn’t the first nor the last wedding I’m lucky enough to be included in, this was a wedding that I knew I’d be stepping out of my comfort zone and wearing a dress that I’d never choose to wear, and that admittedly “hugs” the wrong places on me (i.e. my extremely short waist- and badonka-donk.)
I hated the way the lavender-grey dress looked on me from the moment my roommate brought it home (she, too, was in the wedding) Standing in the mirror comparing ourselves in it, I thought to myself “Well this is over. I’ll just be standing up there fretting and having minor anxiety attacks as all of Fort Worth judges me with their eyes.”
Did I know this day wasn’t about me? Sure. I am in recovery. I’m able to differentiate when things are (sigh) not all about me and my eating disorder. I am able to understand people won’t be paying attention to me on the Bride’s big day. But it doesn’t, however, keep me from having that same tick in my head that tells me ”Hey Dumbass, your fault for letting yourself go. This is the consequence for being happy… never feeling comfortable in anything you wear ever again except black, grey, and the occasional white.”
Presently, I can go weeks in my “normal” day-to-day life without fretting consistently over my body and how it looks in what it’s wearing. I don’t think about my ass anymore in my black jeans- I don’t think about my thighs as often or if my arms are splattering out against my body. In my daily life, I can get by because I know how to dress to ease the tension of my recovering eating disorder. And no, I don’t wear XXL sweaters when I should be in a Small- I wear what fits and is looser-ish. That makes me happy. I made an agreement with myself to not force my body into dresses if I don’t want to – I hate dresses frankly so I’ve given them up. And that made me happy. To assert my needs for myself and my recovery.
But situations like this are still very hard and complex for me because I must do them. Typically, my go-to move at weddings has always been to drink too much to numb out the tick in my head. I succeeded at my best friend’s wedding last June in not drinking too much but I also had a partner there with me holding my hand- and my best friend was extremely kind and considerate to me when we picked out bridesmaid dresses. Generally speaking, however, I fail at weddings with my eating disorder. I almost always drink too much – end up feeling stressed, judged, and angry – and then spend the next week either partially relapsing, relapsing once, or being pensive, irritable, and self-loathing.
Fun cycle, eh? Can’t fix everything in a year. I’ve made tremendous strides but up until now, this has not been one of them.
Moping to an ex the other day – I complained about how hard these events are for me, and how so very much I wish I could find a way to keep me distracted and out of my head.
“Make it a game,” this person suggested. “Have you thought of that?”
“Yeah- I mean maybe you should just think of it like the dress and the ED are the dragons you have to slay and then if you do it you get a reward.”
“What’s my reward?”
“I dunno, TREAT YO’SELF!”
And alas, so derived The Hunger Games: Wedding Edition. Sounds too simple, doesn’t it? To just picture a big stress-event like a game, but hear me out.
The more I thought and mulled over it – the more it began to resonate. OK, I decided. I’ll revert back to the days of Donkey Kong levels on Gameboy… and if I win, I’ll reward myself. And not just reward myself with a Facebook status- but actually reward myself like a mother does with their child when he’s first potty trained.
Here’s what I came up with:
Me- clearly being the “Princess Peach” of the whole game would have to take on three ED dragons in order to ‘win’ the wedding games.
Dragon 1 – Eating
Dragon 2 – Self-Preoccupation
Dragon 3 – Alcohol
What did it take for me in order to ‘slay’ the ED dragons?
Dragon 1 – In order to beat this dragon, I had to force myself to eat both breakfast and lunch before the wedding. And also, all three the day before as well. No starving, no restricting, no trying to ‘slender’ down 24 hours before the event. I had to eat like everyone around me was doing…. even if it was only winning by a mini amount. (hey, no one said anything about blowing it out of the ballpark)
Dragon 2 – In order to beat this one, I could only have 2-3 “moments” (because they are inevitable) where I stared at myself in front of a mirror and thought of how different I wish I looked, how everyone is probably secretly glad I look bigger, how short my waist is, how long ago my attractiveness faded. I could have those ”moments” but only 2-3 of them where I actually sat and stared for 3-5 minutes. After that, I’d have to force myself to look away and refocus on the task at hand – getting my friend married.
Dragon 3 – Oh alcohol, my favorite enemy. In order to beat this final dragon, I could only ”cheers” with one glass of champagne in the bridal room beforehand, and I couldn’t have more than 2 drinks at the reception. Does that sound like too many? Well, this is “beginner level” so gimme a break. Usually at weddings I have about 6-7 glasses of wine and am hammered walking out. 2-3 over 5 hours keeps me from losing myself in the drunk realm of my ED. 2-3 over 5 hours keeps me from binging later. 2-3 keeps me from doing weird things like keeping my winter coat on all night, or talking a mile a minute while my head is off in ED Never-Neverland. 2-3 keeps me from waking up already feeling like I’ve relapsed.
In return for dominating all three dragons, I’m doing something I hardly have the money (or time) to do, and that is to treat myself.
Congratulate myself for trying to fix the problem.
Reward myself for being human and getting through another multi-faceted part of recovery.
For me, a reward comes in doing something I’d never do on my own normal time.
So, drumroll please, I’m gonna go to a fancy-schmancy dinner on a Tuesday, and then go see a play.
Haven’t decided which Tuesday yet- or which play- but that’s what I’m doing. A restaurant with a view overlooking Manhattan, music playing, a friend for company, and play with a plot I like.
So often, I spend my life in NYC being poor and merely walking through Times Square- and frankly, every now and then I’d love to have a taste of the Broadway life. The tourist life of Times Square. I get to see it occasionally with my family, but this one’s for me.
I’m going to bring a friend- and I’m going to go to have me some nice fish.
And go see a play that I want to see.
Alladin? Rock of Ages? Phantom? I don’t know yet, but the anticipation is mounting.
Truth is, I “won” this weekend because the excitement of allowing myself to do something “New Yorky” propelled me to keep in line. The excitement of writing this post kept me in line. The excitement of realizing that maybe I’d found an actual way to get through one avenue of the hardships that I endure trying to recover from this blasted ED.
It’s all felt very good – very confident.
No, I didn’t love how I looked this weekend. That has not changed. But I found a way to live in spite of it- even if I am reverting back to a baby being potty-trained.
Maybe that’s all I really am right now with my ED truthfully- a baby being potty-trained.
I forget to be gentle on myself sometimes. I expect perfection. But, tonight, I’m proud of this “game” and I’m proud that I have the memories of her wedding stored safely in a vault in my brain and not mixed in with an eating disorder that has taken so many life memories away from me and replaced them with mush.
Recovery is hard. Finding “tips” that work is harder. And they won’t always work when you want them to- but sometimes they do.
And this one worked for me. So maybe it can work for you at some point.