My leg pounds on the ground, ready to pound out the next beat—thump, thump, thump. I can’t help but shake. My leg becomes jittery when I am nervous. My whole body can feel it. I drop my hands, and feel the thump, thump, thump. Stop shaking, I scream. It didn’t listen, dammit. Deja de temblar, I say utilizing my mediocre Spanish skills, hoping my leg understands that better than English. Nope. Then I take matters into my own hands, literally, grabbing my leg for it to stop. Finally, phew.
I feel my nails. They are short and brittle. I can’t help biting them or picking at them. Pick, pick, bite and bite some more. I pick my lip when I am focusing.
“Stop picking your lip,” my husband says–it irks him. I nod my head, as I remain silent focusing on whatever I am focusing on.
“Your head says yes, but your actions say no.”
I whip around and smile his way, knowing he is totally right.
The weird things we do to make ourselves feel better. The weird kinks our bodies come up with to cope.
“Two anxiety disorders in particular, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and social phobia commonly occur with anorexia and bulimia.” I had both. Socially, I would always care what everyone thought about me, and the anxiety would induce me to not go out to parties or other social gatherings. Don’t approach that group of girls; they are going to reject you. My OCD, or rituals, were very particular. I would count numbers, multiples of 13 were considered bad. I couldn’t shut off the light on 13 or do anything for a multitude of 13. I also had to be the last person to shut off the lights and I would chant, “I wish that I was the skinniest and prettiest person in the world.” I would chant this until my eyes would slowly drift into sleep. If I didn’t, I would be afraid I would always remain ugly and fat. If I didn’t stay up until my parents got home on date night, I was convinced something horrible would happen to them. So I pinned my eyes open, staying up till whenever I heard the alarm buzz indicating they were home.
On top of that, I would obsess about every single morsel of food I did or didn’t put into my mouth: calculate the calories, what I was going to eat/not eat, when I was going to binge/purge etc. and between that I was studying, because I had to be perfect. It was all consuming. When you disappear in your thoughts like that you don’t truly live.
We repeat things in our heads over and over again in order to blockade certain thoughts, feelings. We don’t eat to numb ourselves too. That’s one of the many reasons why recovery can be so hard in the beginning. All of a sudden you feel everything again and it’s frightening. You actually have to deal with all the underlying issues. All of the emotions rush to your head making the heat travel to your face. The feelings attack every pore, every inch of your body. You want to punch yourself, stop those feeling—but you can’t without tackling them head on. Instead of numbing out, feeling absolutely nothing—nada, zip, zilch–you will start to confront issues and it’s actually so much better than the temporary Band-Aid you put on everything. Some people are more comfortable stuck in their own traps and webs—but it’s better to step out of that comfort zone. Yes, it’s painful in the short run, but in the long run, you feel relief because you give closure to that open wound.
Then when the wound is sealed you can do a little Irish jig (because why not?) and say in a singsong tone “I am back, bye anorexia and OCD you complete jerks.” And give them a figurative middle finger on the way out. They deserve it!
We need courage to get back on our feet and start again after hard times, but each of us has that courage within. When it seems like everyone and everything is against us, we have it in us to prove everyone wrong, even ourselves, and persevere. To say you are perfect after you choose recovery is what would be categorized as an alternative fact (thanks Donald Trump America for that one), but it gets so much better. Life is messy but once you face reality it becomes easier and you can even see the beauty in it, by actually living, believe it or not. We are all kind of broken, but that’s what gives us depth and makes us beautiful.
So next time you are tap-tap-tapping your leg, and you are trying to get it to stop by screaming in different languages at it—at least that’s what I do–remember why you are really doing it. It won’t make your life better by continuing your rituals. Actually without them, life gets so much better—easier and more enjoyable. Let’s rip those Band-Aids permanently off- or in the language of recovery, let yourself be free.
 Costin, Carolyn. The Eating Disorder Sourcebook, Third Edition (McGraw-Hill Education, 2007), page 31.