My last symptom was a bingey feeling eating a chocolate pudding at lunch last week. I kept eating it, even though my stomach was telling me I had had enough. At the time, the Emperor and I were talking about my parents and me growing up, and that subject makes me very emotional. I felt sick for a few hours afterward, but I didn't purge.
Before that, I think my last symptom was intentionally missing breakfast, and I haven't done that in at least 5 weeks. I finished my workbook this week, and the last chapter talked about the "slippery slope of relapse", and how you can feel "in for an ounce in for a pound"* once you have one symptom and just revert back to the eating disorder. I think I managed a remarkable amount of self-control after that binge, even though I was exhausted (physically and emotionally), and even though the last several weeks haven't gone the way I wish that they would.
During that time, I've wanted to purge several times a week. Usually in emotionally overwhelming and tense situations, but I don't because I tell myself I won't. I tell myself I don't want to. Part of me reminds another part of me that it wouldn't help, and that if I stick it out in that emotionally overwhelming situation, the next one like it will be a little easier and I will be able to handle it without the desire to run screaming from the room and turn myself inside out. Eventually.
Today though, I did have to run screaming from the room, wanting to turn myself inside out. I had a brave and stark realization, and I wanted to distract myself from reality by changing the subject in my mind to one that I'm much more used to. I'll lay out what happened:
We had a great MK event, and at lunch all the women who were at the spot on the career** path that I am, and above, were learning from the visiting NSD and my sales director (who is the top director in the state, and the driving force behind this particular event). During the training, the visiting National had us cross our arms the way we normally do, then try to cross our arms the other way.
"The first time you crossed your arms, you were sitting in a play pen," she said, "and you've been doing it the same way your whole life." She went on to illuminate the fact that you can't change overnight a habit that you've had your entire life, that you have to keep an eye out and not just go back to being unconscious about your decisions. This was a metaphor for moving up the career path and into leadership.
This is when I lost it. Suddenly I realized that I had not changed overnight a habit that I had kept for 15 years. What I did was decide to improve, work daily at improvement, and struggle toward tiny successes day by day; sometimes minute by minute. I didn't give up and throw away all the work I had done when I had an urge for a symptom or even if I acted on that urge. The reasons behind wanting to get better were strong enough to drive me forward, despite the fact that it has been very challenging, very scary, and that I feel no small amount of shame over it.
I ran out of the room and to the bathroom. I didn't purge though, I just cried. I couldn't get away from this thought:
If I can overcome an eating disorder, and start loving myself as I am (instead of hating myself for what I look like): I can become a sales director.
That is, if I can re-learn how to eat, how to love myself, and become whole through that process, I can do anything. I have been struggling with my career lately, and wondering if I have what it takes to move up, become a sales director, become a leader of women and change lives by sharing the Mary Kay opportunity. I wondered if I have the power to make the decision. I wondered if I have the strength and courage to do the work. But the fact of the matter is, the work involved in becoming a successful businesswoman (especially with this opportunity) is cake compared to what I've accomplished in the last 15 weeks.
Regardless of whether I'm proud of myself or not, I have already achieved something that is ten times more difficult than becoming a sales director. I'm not done yet. I still have to deal with the whole not hating myself part, but what I have already accomplished*' is actually harder than the decision and process of moving forward with my career. Eating disorders kill people because of how hard it is to undo. No career move is that powerful, no matter how difficult it may seem at the time.
The realization that I do have the strength and courage to step it up in my business is what made me lose my shit. Of course, now comes the part where I actually do that, and I guess I just have to approach it how I approached beginning recovery: do I want this or not? what are the short and long term costs? what are the short and long term benefits? why do I want this? how dedicated am I? can I just try an experiment where I work my business like a business for a month? 3 months? a year?
And after everything I've already been through, it doesn't seem that hard anymore. I just have to work up my why, make the decision and move forward. The same way I did when I decided to tell you all that I was battling an eating disorder. That scared me, but I did it. I wanted to give up, but I didn't. I'm still struggling, but it hasn't made me give up.
One last thing: none of this would have happened without Mary Kay. I started down the road to recovering from my eating disorder because I wanted to be able to move forward in my career. I realized that this was a problem because of the richness of character in the women I am surrounded by every week. I am grateful for that, and even if I fall on my face and never ever ever ever ever accomplish another thing in my business, at least I have that. Which means that this whole makeup thing isn't about makeup at all.
*An unfortunate bit of colloquy
**Star Team Builder, if you're curious
***National Sales Director
*'It's a challenge even to admit that my recovery is an accomplishment, and I tearfully admitted to the Emperor on the drive home from our event today, that I am filled with shame over having to take this journey, but that's another post entirely.