The past few weeks, I've taken a break from my usual reading fare of late (books about innovation and creativity and better communication - work related topics) and delved back into one of my guilty pleasures - the Twilight series. [hey, no judging there. I realize my drivers license says I'm much closer to 40 than 16. Every one needs light reading now and then. :) ]
Oddly enough, when I was about halfway through Twilight, I was struck by how similar Edward's dilemma was to mine.
I've realized that my eating disorder is boiled down to my discomfort with appetites (all desires - for food, for sex, for companionship, for love, for understanding and trust and all the other perfectly normal human needs and wants.) I was never taught that I was allowed to need, to want and that those needs and wants were valid. I was raised to cater to others' whims. It's what the women in my family demonstrated and the men in my family demanded.
So, after a decade in recovery (the last 5 years more intense than the first due to financial reasons), I see that my battle with these appetites is played out through my ED behaviors. If I'm uncomfortable with the sexual desire I feel for my husband, I abuse myself through food. If I need to take a break from my children to take care of myself, I feel guilty and abuse myself through restricting. Of course, the same ED that tells you not to indulge in that yummy dessert or that extra helping is there for me as well - don't get me wrong. But as everyone who is involved with EDs says - it is NOT about the food.
So where does Edward come into this, you may ask? Well, all through Twilight (and actually, through the next two and part of the fourth books), Edward battles for control over his desire food Bella. First, it's her blood and her body; then more her body. But the conflict is there. If he lets go of his control, he fears destroying Bella, which would destroy his world.
I feel the same fear. If I let go of my control and give into my (perfectly normal and human) desires, I fear that everything will crumble about me. My husband will be disgusted by the force of my needs; the world will be revolted by the power of my desires; I'll be left alone with the pieces.
Edward, eventually, gives himself small tests - little challenges to see how far he can go. First, he sits next to Bella in class. A while later he sits closer. He gradually works himself to a quick kiss, then a hug, and holding, and eventually (well, I won't spoil it for the next generation who hasn't read or seen the Twilight saga.)
My recovery team (I love being able to say I have a whole team behind me now - individual therapist, nutritionist, group therapists, equine therapist - it's awesome support I've found in my out-patient quest to be rid of my demons...) My team is using the same strategy with me. My husband and I fixed our connection so we've been taking steps toward the ultimate intimacy act (sex.) My nutritionist gives me food challenges most weeks to slowly work me through my fear and to prove that there in the ingredient lists of all these foods, not one has guilt, disgust, anxiety, or any other emotion in it. Food is just food.
So like Edward, I'm taking it one moment at a time. One step at a time.
For the first time since I relapsed, I really see a teeny tiny speck of light at the end of this journey.