Last week, I went on a business trip to Idaho and had a full out ED panic in the airport.
Wednesday- 7am in the morning – JFK Terminal 2-
And there I am pacing the airport halls like an Eating Disorder secret service agent.
WHAT DO I EAT? WHERE?
WHAT TIME IS IT?
7?!?!?! 7:00AM. 7 O’CLOCK.
(I CAN’T EAT YET.)
BUT YES, LINDSEY, YES YOU CAN.
(YOU’LL BE HUNGRY BY 11)
WHO CARES IF YOU’RE HUNGRY BY 11-
(SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR FAILURE)
YOU’RE HUMAN AND YOU HAVE TO EAT.
(NOT TILL 12)
JUST EAT SOMETHING AND MOVE ON.
Bagel? I thought, peering towards the cafe beside me.
NO- TOO MUCH TOO SOON.
Croissant? I said aloud, feeling my mouth salivating.
Bagon, egg, and cheese biscuit? I mumbled, pushing forward- past my gate.
GROSS – IT’S NOT EVEN EGG WHITE
Hudson News store? I can grab granola in the bag.
NO- binge food! I corrected, moving past.
Are you even hungry- or just feeling hungry because you’re awake?
I try hard to feel one with my stomach – and fail.
I turn the halls and start back up the line, past the Hudson store, the croissants, the Sausage, egg, and cheese burritos.
Coffee- I decide- veering towards the Starbucks.
WAIT- NO, I say- veering out.
Coffee just helps me not eat.
Throw my bag on the ground.
Throw a mini emotional tantrum in my head.
I’m a hamster on a wheel.
Go back to my seat- sit down – self-deprecate.
Text my therapist.
Start over again.
Start over again and again and again.
One foot in front of the other.
I lop back down the hall.
Sigh for being so difficult.
Sigh because it’s never easy.
Grab a coffee-
“Tall, please” I say.
Find a granola bar. A banana.
A Chobani yogurt.
I walk back towards the gate.
I’m okay, I remind myself.
I think about the hiking I’ll do in Idaho.
You’re fine dude, I think.
I think about how fortunate I am to be in an airport traveling.
I sit down and eat.
I think about all the times I traveled and sipped coffee.
All the views I missed because I was thinking of hunger.
One bite after another, one meal at a time.
I move on with my day.
Truth is, I love traveling. Who doesn’t?
A chance to escape routine- experiment- see some pretty peaks- meet people that rock the surface of how life is or isn’t.
I’ve been a wanderluster my entire life. Admittedly, it doesn’t always serve my bank account well. (but hey, the Instagram pics are bangin’ *insert a-ok finger emoji)
Until recently, I used to think I daydreamed of travels so I could run away from myself – and perhaps it was to do that in a methodical sense – but as I grow in recovery, I think that’s too easy a comparison to make.
Escaping routine with an eating disorder is an oxymoron.
In the past, I boarded plane after bus after subway because I ultimately – eating disorder or not – held onto the rigid, desperate belief that if I kept experiencing life outside my walls, I’d end up placing less emphasis on the vanity that came with my eating disorder.
“I’ll stop looking at myself in every shop window,” I’d say as the plane landed.
“I’ll eat a croissant when I feel like it,” I’d write in my diary.
I thought if I traveled, studied abroad, lived in Spain, bunked up with a lover – that those experiences would wear down the stringent pull of my excessive counting, compulsive exercising, and abusive body dysmorphia.
But at the time, it didn’t-
Climbing Lake LLandundo in Wales didn’t keep me from puking up Chinese dinner that night in 2011 (yes, I still remember my travels by what I ate.)
Living in Spain didn’t mesmerize me enough to stop from finding the nearest gym and spending 1/2 my afternoons on the dusty treadmills- sans air conditioning- running to the latest Katy Perry song.
Studying poems in Ireland didn’t leave me with that Yates realism of the world- in fact, it enhanced my drunkorexia ’cause I had zero interest in eating those potato muffin lamb pies- and Yates was fucking depressing.
Meeting exotic lovers – walking the streets with someone holding my hand – didn’t help me articulate my needs, demand respect, or be assertive when I needed to be.
It took me a long time to understand that changing your external surroundings doesn’t necessarily release the grip on your internal ones.
Sorry Cheryl Strayed, you don’t get to hike a trail and expect permanent mental results – memories, sure. Confidence that you can do things alone as well.
But, ultimately, as enlightening as traveling is for the soul, it doesn’t rewire it- and you can’t expect it to.
In the past, I traveled waiting for that “Eat, Pray, Love” moment to happen to me. I traveled and waited for the places to change me.
You see, I’ve never enjoyed sitting with my feelings. And in the past, I never wanted to take the time to untangle the insides of me that were crossed.
I wanted a quick fix. A new scene. A different chapter.
I’ve always wanted quick fixes – whether it be a glass of wine after a long day or a 8 mile run after a piece of cake- I’m impulsive by nature.
When relationships go awry, I ghost out of them to not deal with discomfort.
When I eat too much and my stomach is full, I want to get rid of it instantly. I want to run at my fastest speed and make it pass.
When someone hurts me, I swallow it instead of allowing time for the pain to settle.
I want people to forgive me instantly when I mess up- I want to lie to get out of acknowledging mistakes.
Innately, I’m impulsive in order to not deal with discomfort or shame.
And travel doesn’t rewire the innate.
As I contemplate this trip, I realize that boarding a plane doesn’t come with complimentary free therapy- but it can help- once the basics are down.
As I recover into someone who understands the value of self-care, I understand that my present need to travel is less about the metaphoric “running away,” and more about living out the rest of my life in the most fulfilling ways possible.
Changing scenery has always been hard for my eating disorder because it means I can’t rely on my chickpea salad from Whole Foods for lunch, or my banana and granola bar for breakfast. (Hence, airport meltdown)
At this point in my recovery, I have a pretty articulate hunger meter that expires at around 9:30, 12:30, and 7:30 every day (with a snack around 4). I look forward to my meals- I don’t dread them. I don’t feel annoyed at myself for acknowledging my hunger. I don’t pretend to eat less because “I’m just not that hungry today.”
I just eat, let my 45-minute lunch period that I feel a little too heavy and antsy pass, and move on.
When I go away, however, even now I still feel that sense of unease- not knowing what to expect for my next meal or when it will be.
Often, you travel and you lose yourself in your surroundings. I mean- there’s no other way to do it right?
But what about the FOOD?
I still have a tendency to place loose “rules” on eating- such as when you eat and where and what- and when you travel, food rules and regimes go out the window.
When I’m out of my comfort zone, I still have that impulsive urge to control food, which made it hard for me at the airport because I’m not usually awake at 5am and walking around by 7.
I didn’t want to eat 2 1/2 hours earlier than usual. I didn’t want to have something other than my granola bar and banana- and the ED side of me absolutely did NOT want to compromise.
It truly is like you have two conversations going on in your head when you have an eating disorder, and perhaps it will always be that way to some degree.
But the truth is that you can manage it. You can.
You can manage the fuzz.
I allowed myself to sit with my feelings that morning in the airport. I allowed myself to throw a tantrum- walk up and down the gates like a crazed person- and then I let myself admit to it with a call my therapist.
And it’s funny sometimes, how you can laugh about your own ticks. I called my therapist and in a moment of self-deprecation, just started giggling.
“This is so ridiculous, isn’t it?” I asked her.
She said no of course, but as I listened to my own anxieties and “rules” come out of my mouth — I realized how trivial it really all is.
Here I was, sitting in an airport, getting to do my most fulfilling activities (travel, hike, bike) and I’m freakin’ out about the exact time I’m allowed to eat (coupled with the 3-hour time difference in Coeur D’Alene)
I just giggled. And sighed.
Mostly, I let ED run its practice lap around my head- and then I shut it down before the race.
And today, that’s enough for me.