Most of the time when we pick up a coping mechanism it's to deal with fear... or at least that's how it seems. We push people away because we're afraid of getting hurt by them (and by "we", I guess I mean "I"); even children cover their eyes to avoid being seen (I read some research or saw a TED talk about this recently and I thought it was interesting). And so, there's an idea in my head that a lot of this eating disorder stuff has to do with fear.
I'm not afraid of spiders or snakes; darkness or ghosts or going to Hell*. I'm pretty much not afraid of anything that could actually hurt me**. I am afraid of gaining weight, though. I am afraid of all of the research linking "obesity" with "increased mortality" and "metabolic diseases". I'm afraid that I'll get or already have some kind of cancerous legions in my insides because my Celiac went untreated for so long. I'm afraid of ending up in the hospital, not being able to pay my bills and losing everyone and everything that I love because of an illness I couldn't control.
I'm afraid that all the horrible things said about me in my youth are true. Things like how I'm lazy, how I'll never amount to anything, and no one will ever love me. I'm afraid of backbiting, and being called out for being fat. I'm afraid that the people I love will reject me for my shape and size, even though it's not like my habits or style of dress hides my body at all***. I'm afraid that my fatness - not my health, my fatness - will prevent me from being able to do my job, advance in my career and ever make anything of myself.
Every time I feel the digestive grumblings caused by food going through me and having its nutrients absorbed to give energy to my body, I'm afraid. My workbook calls it the "washout period", where soon after you start trying to normalize your eating, you experience a lot of intestinal distress because your body got so used to the infrequent use of these vital organs, so it produces a lot of gas and discomfort. It hurts a lot, and has made the last few days a little extra awful.
I'm afraid that I'm wrong about everything, and that the tapes are right. That the people who recorded those tapes are right. That my value really is tied to the number on the scale. That "fat acceptance" is just a thing that lazy stupid fat people parade about to make themselves feel better, and that if I try to accept myself the way I am, I'll just get fatter and stop caring about my appearance, stop being loved, stop getting laid, and not be able to have the life that I want.
I'm also afraid that my eating disorder will keep me from having the life that I want. The people I love don't want to be around someone who obsesses over food, dieting; who can't keep up because she doesn't eat enough, or who secretly eats all of the ice cream at once, then feels like the worst person in the world and throws it all up. No one I know who cares about me at all wants to see me spiral into a place where I'll intentionally eat so much gluten that I make myself sick (and actually, the amount isn't that much); they wouldn't want to be around a person who would do that to herself.
So, I'm stuck between being afraid of never being loved because of my size and shape, and being afraid of being abandoned because the thing I chose to deal with that first fear will make me so sick I'd be impossible to be around, let alone be capable of returning any emotional investment. Which leaves me with one option: recovery... but that just brings up more fears. Fear of gaining weight, of never coming out of it, of not being able to hold on and actually going crazy not just feeling crazy; fear that I'm not ready to take charge, fear that seeking help through therapy would just send me back on a spiral downward because I have almost never met a doctor who didn't tell me that I was too fat and needed to lose weight****; and I've certainly never met a therapist whose competencies included working with eating disorders. I'm afraid to do it all on my own, and I'm afraid to ask for help.
Sometimes - no, often - I'm afraid to eat. Right now, I'm kind of afraid to go to sleep.
But, I decided before I started talking about this that I needed to face those fears. Because the thing that is worse than me going through it, being stuck in the place between two fears that is so scary it creates a third, entirely different set of terrors; the thing worse than that is knowing that there are people who are or will be in that place and in need of my help. I have the mind to make this make sense, not just for me, but for others as well, and I'm tired of knowing that other people feel this way too and they don't have a way out because they were never "sick enough" for anyone to notice that their lives were falling apart.
So, I expand the rituals and include a date with myself everyday to eat one meal. Some days, that will be the only thing I eat in any structured sort of way; other days, I'll have that meal and two others, maybe even a snack or two and it'll be okay because I gave myself permission. And I expand the social rituals to include a few new people or events, hope that I don't get too terrified when someone touches me. And I expand the rituals around my vulnerabilities, hoping to make them meaningful expressions rather than self-flagellating appeals for attention.
My fear of not being loved is out-matched only by the fear of not completing my mission and leaving the world a better place for my having been in it. What scares me most is not being abandoned for my condition, but being unable to change it and thus unable to challenge the status quo that created it.
*Boom, Jewish, already taken care of.
**However, I am fairly risk-averse.
***And usually by the time I am in love with someone, they've already seen me naked at least once.
****The doctor responsible for the "Independent Medical Evaluation" I was ordered to get after a car accident a couple of years ago even wrote in the goddamn evaluation that I was too fat and needed to exercise more and lose some weight to alleviate whiplash. Fuck that guy in a ear. Seriously. Dickbag. I'm still mad about it.