At the beating heart of my eating disorder, there resided a frightened and quiet question: Am I enough?
This "am I enough"-ness is something that has been with me as long as I can remember. Am I good enough? Am I smart enough? Am I clever enough? Am I pretty enough? It can include "am I worthy?" questions, too--am I worthy of this person's love? Am I worthy of success?
Eating disorders love telling you that no, you are not enough.
I think that to a certain degree, we all struggle with these sorts of feelings in life. But when you develop an eating disorder (and I'd be so bold as to say other disorders, non food related, too), it's a nice and tidy time for the eating disorder to come in and say "NO--JUST AS YOU FEARED, YOU ARE NOT WORTHY!" and simultaneously numb your brain through food, just enough so that it keeps you from feeling the intense pain of unworthiness. It is a cycle: the food or food obsession numbs you from the pain, but the obsession is a problem and ultimately, a terrible way of coping.
Even several years past my last disordered eating behavior, I am still haunted by the thoughts of "not enough".
Allow me to illustrate with an example. Recently, I took a trip to see a loved one, and the visit didn't work out how I hoped it would. I was feeling kind of low. On my way home, I stopped at a bakery chain and got an oatmeal to go to eat for breakfast. While eating it, I started to get worried about the portion size and fear that they had actually put in far more oatmeal than their calorie-counter portion listing had said, and that I was actually consuming more calories than I thought.
That's when I got a little crazy.
I kept the offending oatmeal container, which was unfinished, in the car. It was like a weight on my soul that I had eaten too much. How could I possibly test that the container was the size they said it was? Then I had an idea. Several miles down the road I pulled over and poured a can of diet coke into the container to test that it was really the volume it stated. It was. And as I looked at the oatmeal getting bloated and gluey in the diet coke it was now taking a bath in, I had the self-awareness to think: "you are doing it again".
That easily, food can step in as the distraction when I am feeling badly about a situation or an interaction. That quickly and that all-consumingly.
Happily, I was able to take over that situation after a minor attack of crazy and give myself a stern talking-to. You have done nothing wrong. You are a good person. You are good enough. I took a few moments to remind myself of a bunch of cool things I've done in my life: met Martha Stewart, gone to the Pillsbury Bake-Off, attended the red carpet at the Emmy awards, gone to Bali, done yoga in more US states than not.
The big takeaway is this: you are enough.
Forgive me for speaking in Stuart Smalley-isms, but...
You are good enough. You are smart enough. You are caring enough.
So how do you let yourself know these important facts and keep yourself from falling down a crazy spiral involving diet coke and oatmeal?
For me, reminding myself of the many ways in which I am good enough, and the great things I have done, is a way of knocking myself out of that cycle. Because the fact is this: we all have situations or dealings that make us feel icky sometimes. But it doesn't mean it un-does every good thing and every way in which we are awesome.
No, it's not easy to remember that you are enough. But it's true.