Mirror Mirror On The Wall…
who is the thinnest of them all? What a horrible question to be plagued with. It’s queries like this that exaggerate the situation to such a level that you must either be emaciated or feel yourself a complete and utter failure. Why doesn’t the “funhouse” mirror inside the anorexic mind ever respond with a simple: “Who the Hell cares? now get on with your day!” Instead, the mirror, another manifestation of ED, always has the same sad answer on the tip of its tongue: “It’ll never be you dearie, but keep trying.”
A still better question: how can one go about changing these thought patterns for the long term? Here’s the strategy that works best for me – in fact it came up again in therapy today – write it down. How can you take ED seriously when he’s more vindictive than the classic fairy tale stepmother? This becomes (atleast momentarily) clear when his editorial comments are written in ink. I have two entire notebooks full of ED commentary from last winter. At this point in my recovery, it’s not necessarily a lasting solution. The thoughts do come back and need to be confronted time and time again. While it’s a transient fix, it gets easier to work through a negative or triggering thought each time I force myself to scribble it down. While it’s trapped inside my mind the idea that: “you’re too fat to wear a belt, belts are for skinny girls!” is horrifying. It is the whisper that causes an avalanche of self-doubt; look at what I’ve done to myself, why didn’t I exercise longer, I have no self-control, why am I so stupid? etc, etc, etc. Write this down and try to take it seriously. Trust me, it looks utterly ridiculous when put on paper.
When I look back at months of ED thoughts it’s embarrassing. How can one person hate herself so very much? Why would I dedicate so much of my energy to fighting with myself? How can I concurrently be on the Dean’s List and believe ED when he tells me that I will never be a capable student? Naming the disorder allows you some distance; it alleviates a bit of the guilt (the idea that this is a part of you and that you brought the anorexia upon yourself). Recording these “messages” does something similar. First of all it’s cathartic to spill this onto a perfect expanse of notebook paper. Secondly, for me at least, once formally recognized in this proactive way my most harmful thought are no longer an integral part of my mental landscape. I’ve ‘fessed up, so to speak, the burden is no longer mine to bear alone. Writing the thought down also brings me one step closer to being courageous enough to discuss them honestly.
With practice and continued dedication to getting disordered thoughts out in the open I hope my mental mirror will one day pose a new question. For example: “What are you going to do to take care of yourself today?”