When I was a teenager and subjected to the multitude of changes that came with confronting my health issues, I handled better than many one could have anticipated. At least, that’s what invalidation, temporal distance, and negative self-talk tells me. It was hard and challenging on a multitude of fronts, but I still handled it – the day-ins and day-outs with no one else fully supporting or understanding me or the situation. I saw food I wanted and I said “no”. My life was primarily a series of various dichomized categories: okay and not okay, safe and unsafe, permissible and offensive. Eventually though, the lines began to blur and moderation was encouraged rather than complete removal of foods.
Moderation has never been my skill.
When I was 17, my diet was restricted to less than 30 foods for three months. It should have felt like my world was collapsing, but instead it felt like I was gaining self-control and determination. My chronic joint pain disappeared and nearly everything became worth it. I would stare into other people’s refrigerators and want what they had – fruit, ice cream, vegetables, and so on. I’d play with the idea of eating the food that was offered and available to me, but then I wouldn’t; I’d close the door or simply say “no thank you”. That was self-control and self-discipline at its finest. I was responsible for my own health and understood the seriousness of the situation.
Carrying all the responsibility though soon turned into deep disappointment and shame.
Now, at 21, I am struggling more than 17-year-old me could have ever imagined. She would perceive this version of me as weak, passive, and deserving of her situation. She would say that I have earned my struggles; the weight gain, the acne and its respective scarring, the returning of joint pain, and the loss of athleticism are all natural consequences for simply not caring enough and giving in to temptations. Fight harder. Be stronger. Care more. Quit less. Be all in or be all out. 17-year-old me would despise 21-year-old me.
21-year-old me despises 21-year-old me.
After being diagnosed with Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome, I finally realized that all the control in the world and all the right decisions in the world would ever be enough overcome my relenting health issues. However, that didn’t bring peace I hoped because that is based on logic. My self-perception is based on emotions that have been skewed by false hope and a lack of results after six years of willing my body to get better, nine years of memorable health issues, and twelve years of believing I am never enough.
Shame, judgement, guilt, grief, frustration, and dejection trump all logic.
I make decisions as my 21-year-old self but judge those decisions based off of my 17-year-old self. There is no winning; there is only losing. The problem is that I want better for myself but the only obstacle that I can see that is preventing me from achieving that is myself. Fight harder. Be stronger. Care more. Quit less. Be all in or be all out. It feels like it never stops; it feels like it will never stop. Through all this, I’ve developed high anxiety and thus disassociation behaviors – including a borderline eating disorder. I am physically tried from all this and I am emotionally spent. Moderation doesn’t exist in my world, only temptation and failure. Shame says I am weak and will never be able to find the strength to fight again; guilt further cements these lies.
I want more and I want better, yet I can’t seem to follow through.
So, here I sit. Writing my story… again. Recounting the “glory days” of self-discipline… again. Asking myself why I can’t just do it right… again. As of now, there is no happy end. I know all the facts of the situation. I know I need to fix my self-perception. I know I need to show myself grace. I know I need to change my expectations. I know all of that; I want to do all of that. Yet the deeply rooted emotions/lies and the 17-year-old-self scream, “try all you want, but you know you’ll fail.” I am not giving up, but I also know that I am not pushing forward with everything I’ve got… But that’s all I got right now.