Now that my brain has begun adjusting to European time, I'm going to begin a series of blog posts that digest and explore many of the interesting talks I heard while in Salzburg.
In one of the introductions to this year's award winners, the winner was mentioned as having said (rather tongue in cheek) that the main cause of anorexia was the lack of the "Oh, sod it!" gene. I laughed, of course, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there probably was something to that.
Long before the AN showed up in my life, I had trouble knowing when to stop. I remember studying many times in high school, as I was falling down exhausted and swilling countless cups of coffee, thinking "I need to study some more." I was aware on some level, that I knew the material pretty well, at least well enough to get an A-, but that wasn't good enough. The thought of anything less than knowing every single answer (and then some!) caused this terrible anxiety that would kick in with the mantra I need to study more.
As the clock ticked later and later on these nights, I often wished that I could let myself go to bed. I desperately wanted to stop caring about every last answer to every last question (or the placement of every last comma on term papers), but I just couldn't do it. I literally didn't have the ability to say "Oh, sod it!" and get some rest. It really didn't occur to me as a valid option.
This, of course, meant good grades and scholarly success, so it wasn't all bad. But this extreme studying was a harbinger for the eating disorder. Even as I started to recognize that self-starvation was killing me, I couldn't say "Oh, sod it!" and pick up a fork. I couldn't say I'd lost enough weight or exercised for enough hours or eaten few enough calories--I couldn't ever feel "good enough." When you combine that never-good-enough feeling with an intense, obsessive drive to achieve a goal, you have the mental disaster that can result in OCD, anorexia, and just obsessive behavior.
I still struggle with learning when to say "Oh, sod it!" and just go to bed or focus on something new. I have gotten better in honoring exhaustion-laden apathy (as in "I don't care, I just want to sleep") but my behaviors are still probably fairly extreme. I've started blogging many times, knowing full well I'm exhausted and need sleep, but feeling compelled to write anyway. Much of my struggle has lessened when I realize that I'm not ever going to naturally say "Oh, sod it!" very often unless under duress. So I need to practice this: practice accepting less than the best, practice listening to my body's cues for food and rest, practice throwing in the towel before I drop over. It's a skill, a skill like many others.
I was going to add something else to this post, but what better time to say sod it, right?