The things that take the place of ED
One of the things that helped me the most in recovery was finding something that was as interesting and enthralling for me as the AN once was. As I started to emerge from the AN and from starvation, I needed a reason to keep going. It’s one thing to eat in treatment, but I could never keep the momentum going. Most of that was a lack of support and treatment that met my needs as a long-term sufferer. What I also needed that I didn’t have was something to recover for. I found that in my career as a science writer.
It wasn’t a cure-all. I relapsed once hugely and one slightly less huge relapse since then. It didn’t save me or cure me or anything like that, but it did help me at least want to stop a relapse before it became severely life threatening. It was the first time I had something to lose to the ED, something that I truly cared about. And that made a huge difference.
I found my career helped to take the place of the ED. It gave me something to think about instead of food and weight and calories and exercise. It gave my brain something to do. It gave me something meaningful other than losing weight.
It has been almost universally a good thing.
There’s always an “almost,” isn’t there…
I was obsessive and driven and perfectionistic before the ED. I was obsessive and driven and perfectionistic during the ED. So no one should be surprised that I’m still that way.
It’s one of the downsides of being a full-time freelancer: you’re the main person setting your schedule. Sure, there are times when your projects have strict deadlines and you have interviews and such, but you can generally take on as little or as much work as you want. My problem is that there is never enough work for me to do that makes me feel like I’ve done enough. I always feel that I’m lacking, that I have something to prove. It doesn’t matter when I’m basically drowning in work and assignments- the feelings are still there.
The feelings, of course, lie.
But the feelings can eat at you. And the fear- the fear that you will never be good enough, that you will be a failure, that the work will dry up and you’ll be stuck- the fear persists and drives you. It is not unlike the ED. Just as there is no amount of weight loss or exercise amount or number of purges that will appease that voice in your head, there is no amount of writing that can do so, either. I see friends win awards and get their names in big publications…where I haven’t. And so on.
Before the ED, I basically did my best to study myself to death. It sounds absurd, and perhaps it was, but the anxieties about grades and school work drove me mental. I had to study non-stop because otherwise something very bad would happen. Exactly what that was varied depending on the day of the week, but it was always there. I don’t work non-stop, but I do have this ridiculous need to push myself and try harder and publish more and write better and work more and more and more.
Like I said, be careful when you wish for something to take the place of the ED because you just might get it.
Clearly, the beginning part of this post makes me sound like I’m coming unhinged and my job is very bad for me. Let me reassure you: I’m not mental and I do honestly and sincerely love what I do. But like with all things, my job is one of those areas in which my personal demons like to come out and make a LOT of noise. I don’t know if I’ll be able to turn that off, or if trying to turn it off is even really that good of a goal.
I’m working on trying to create an objective set of standards for what a good workday involves and what “being successful” means so I know if I’m doing what I need to do to meet those standards. Or, if I know myself, I’m not doing too much.
It’s far from simple, but at least I get to do what I love while I work it all out.