I have an appointment with a psychologist in the morning, at the ED clinic where i have been attending outpatient treatment since my diagnosis. I have met this lady just once before in the week before Christmas, not long after my former treating psychologist resigned. It was a nerve-wracking experience, but i survived it. I felt my fear, & it did not kill me.
Thinking about my appointment tomorrow, i am again filled with fear – although i didn’t realise that at first. At first i just felt fat. And i am feeling fatter & fatter as time wears on – my thighs suddenly seem much larger, & i am acutely aware in a way i was not previously, of the way they brush together as i walk. My clothes feel tighter, & the thought of picking out something to wear tomorrow that will “fit” me, causes them to squeeze tighter around my body – You don’t have anything to wear. Nothing fits you. Your fat is bulging out everywhere – you can feel it. See it? You can’t go out looking like that. You can’t go out with your fat bulging out everywhere. Disgusting…. neg’s voice (not overly abusive, but niggling) encourages an urge to check my body – to size it up in the mirror & make sure nothing has changed. I resist. I resist for two reasons; 1) I know that if i look in the mirror, i will only see what neg wants me to see, & 2) He’s lying – & i can recognise that without the aid of a mirror.
neg used to win these battles with me time & time again. Mornings were HELL. My ex-partner G. would agree, that getting me to leave the house was painfully difficult. neg had so many rules for me – You cannot leave the house without having a shower. You must shampoo your hair twice, then condition it once. You are only allowed to use this one brand of shampoo & conditioner…. There were many, many others. Picking out an outfit was the most traumatic part of the morning – i would try on dozens of combinations of clothing, checking each one in the mirror as i went, trying to find something “acceptable”. Your stomach is way to flabby to wear that top. Those pants make your thighs look huge. You can’t wear a sleeveless top – look how fat your arms are! Disgusting! After what could sometimes take hours, i would often end up in tears, resigned to the idea that i couldn’t possibly expose the world to my hideous body, & should stay at home instead. If i did make it out of the house, it was usually in black skinny jeans & a baggy black hoodie, hoping i wouldn’t draw any attention to myself.
As time went on, & i progressed in treatment (most notably once i had re-nourished my brain), neg’s voice became softer & less threatening – more of a niggle than the violent & foul-mouthed abuse i had become so terrified of at the height of my illness. It was then that i began to notice a pattern to neg’s abuse – while there was almost always that niggling voice in the back of my mind, there were other times when his “anger” flared up again, & it was back to the screaming criticisms & torment of the past. These days, i found, were usually days on which i had a therapy or dietetics appointment scheduled. neg’s abuse on those days saw me cancel a lot of my treatment appointments.
There was one day though, when i decided to push through the torment – i followed neg’s rules around my ‘leaving the house’ routine, but when he said that i had absolutely nothing even close to acceptable to wear, & that i couldn’t possibly go out looking the way i did, i went out anyway. And that’s when the real trouble started. During my 40 minute trip to the ED clinic, neg hurled abuse at me – You are repulsive! Look at you – you’re disgusting! How DARE you go out looking like that?! But his abuse wasn’t only related to my appearance – You aren’t even sick – you’re just wasting their time. There are so many sick people out there, & you are just taking up their space. You are so selfish! They hate you there you know…
I had always known that if i “disobeyed” neg’s orders, i would face a cruel backlash – that’s why i followed his rules for so long – but for some reason, that once day, i found it rather interesting to observe how this “backlash” was playing out. First he criticised my appearance & told me i should stay home. Then, when i left home anyway, he criticised my appearance again in the hopes of getting me to turn back. When i again failed to react in the way i was “supposed” to, he left appearance & shame aside, & focused on guilt instead, hoping he could convince me that i was undeserving of treatment, & cancel my appointment. I realised that this really was his goal in every case that morning – for me to not attend my appointment. And this left me curious – what was it about going to therapy that day that scared him so much?
Tonight i am asking myself that same question – what is it about attending this appointment tomorrow that has me so scared? Why has neg’s voice reappeared to protect me? Even to me that sounds somewhat strange – this idea that neg is protecting me – considering the violent & foul-mouthed abuse he can hurl in my direction, but that is exactly what he is trying to do right now – he is trying to protect me from my fear, through shame. Trying to make me feel so bad about myself, that i won’t want to leave the house, & will therefore avoid whatever threat awaits me in my psychologist’s office.
Thinking back to the day when i first asked myself that question – what is it that is scaring neg (me) so much? – i remember sitting with my fear in the waiting room. I remember sitting with it in my therapy session. I sat with it, & i felt it – & it was horrible. But when i think back to that day, there is something i remember more than my fear, & that is the freedom i felt after leaving that appointment. But it was not the leaving the gave that me that relief, it was the fact that i had been there. I had talked about some scary stuff, & i had felt uncomfortable while i did so, but they were things that needed to be said, & once they had been, they were gone, & i was free to go about my day in peace. neg was quiet for the rest of the afternoon – in fact i didn’t hear a peep. The threat was gone, not through avoidance, but through confrontation.
I know that getting to tomorrow’s appointment will be hard – i know that it will very likely be a “fat” day, & i know that i will face some of that internal torment & abuse from neg. But i also know, that i can face my fear & feel it – i CAN feel that fear AND go to my appointment. And i also know that, as with everything, this fear shall pass.
How can you confront your fear today?