I used to try to be perfect. Perfect is safe. Who can criticize you if you are perfect? Trying to be perfect just sets me up for a stream of self-criticism when I cannot achieve the desired perfection. This week, I fell back into that old pattern when I caught up with my psychiatrist and later went to the movies.
When my psychiatrist asked me how everything has been going, all of my answers had a positive spin. I have been doing better in the last couple of weeks, but not to the extent that I found myself representing to my psychiatrist, which was: No, I do not have any problems with food. Yes, I am completely accepting of my weight. Yes, I am perfectly calm now. No, nothing triggers me. Yes, I no longer feel the drive to exercise.
Compared to when I started treatment, I have fewer problems with food, am more accepting of my weight, am calmer, have fewer triggers, and feel less of a need to exercise, all of which has significantly improved. When my psychiatrist commented that I could be a recovery speaker soon, I smiled and nodded. But, I feel far from ready. I’m still “in recovery”, not “recovered.” Yes, I would love to be recovered, but I am not there yet.
I recently weighed myself, which was the first time since I entered treatment. I was once so proud of myself for making a daily commitment to not weigh myself, and eventually, it no longer had to be a commitment because I no longer felt the need to know my weight. But, I am not completely immune to the desire to step on the scale. Was I perfectly accepting of that number on the scale? No. And, what’s more, I weighed myself another two times afterwards and felt the same old low from seeing a small increase later and high from seeing a small decrease yet even later than that. The disorder is still there, it’s just quieter than it was when I was weighing myself multiple times a day, using the number on the scale to determine whether I deserved my dinner.
Then, last night, when Ben and I went to see Gravity in theaters, I struggled with having to eat my dinner when he was not yet hungry for his own. I could not think of anything that I would want to eat, which is a common problem for me. If Ben is eating dinner too, I can piggyback off of whatever he decides he is craving. But, he was not hungry yet. Growing up, my family operated as a larger unit with needs that were greater than my own. Individual food choices were not factored in as much as what was good for the entire family. If we ate out, we always used coupons or ordered whatever was the best deal. My parents knew the best deals or what the coupon covered and they had an entire family to feed so I did not have a chance to weigh the options for myself. Last night, in those moments of deciding what to eat and then having to eat on my own, I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry (and I later did, at home). I did not want to need dinner. I did not want to inconvenience Ben with my need for food when he was not hungry. Yet, later, when he was hungry for dinner and I was not, I did not mind that we stopped on the way home for the food he needed.
I was also tough on myself for maybe ruining Ben’s experience of watching the movie Gravity for another reason. He had heard that the best way to see the movie is in IMAX 3D. I bought groupons a couple months ago for movies at a theater that does not offer IMAX. Because the groupons are expiring at the end of this month, I really wanted to go to the groupon theater. My preference won out, but when we got to the theater, the screen was tiny. That screen is probably the smallest screen I have seen in a theater in a long time, which is the opposite of what Ben had heard about how to maximize the Gravity experience. And, to top it off, the screen was dirty. I felt terrible that I had ruined his movie experience, all because I had some groupons I wanted to use up. But, we both ended up having a nice time at the movies.
I still need to work on accepting that even if an experience is not perfect, and my actions may cause some of the perceived imperfection, it is ok.