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  • Erin Messmer

Where Did She Go?

Yosemite National Park in late September

Mental health is so hot right now. My mental health, isn't. All joking aside, it's been a while since I sat down to right or even logged in to the Instagram account linked with this blog. I needed some time away. I needed to try to allow people to see me without being overtly in your face. Starting when I was young, I learned very quickly to adapt to my environment, to figure out who you wanted or needed me to be. Maybe I needed to be demure, coy, and polite. Maybe it served me to be loud and commanding and captivating. Maybe I just needed to blend in, to disappear into the background because I feared taking up too much space; that I was too much for you, or them, or me, or for life. No matter who or what I felt I needed to be, I morphed into that thing with the ease that came with believing my safety depended on it. A sort of second nature chameleon, ready to gradate into the color that would please my audience most.

That's part of what's been going on: a battle between too much and too little. A game of checks and balances and compensation and fighting to take two steps forward and then what seem like hundreds back. This insidious game that fucks with my head and turns me inside out until I don't know what, or who, is real, including myself.

I remember so often fighting with my instinct and intuition growing up. I constantly betrayed a feeling or a thought in favor of comfort and obligation, of placation and avoidance. I remember a time when I wasn't really afraid. A time when I was unapologetically myself, like I pander to in the tagline of this blog. I think it was up until I hit adolescence that I was somewhat comfortable in my skin. I was such an energetic, effervescent, and precocious child. Always acting and performing, finding joy in made up song and dance, a jubilance that was pure and true. All the world was, in fact, a stage and I was the main attraction, without fear or apprehension. One time in pottery class we were tasked with the objective to create a piece of pottery that was representative of where or who or what we wanted to be when we grew up and, naturally, I created a set of Hollywood-style spotlights that I painted with lime green glaze because, of course, I was to be in the lime light! I recall knowing deep into my soul that I was destined for greatness and prestige and the world was really mine for the taking.

Now when I reflect on that young girl and the facts of what really happened, I am kind of sad. I don't have pity on her, but I do have a sense of loss and tenderness for the dreams and aspirations that she had and the truth of how life unfolded instead. It's not shame and it's not sadness, but more of a recognition of the naivete that was so present in her.

But back to what's been going on lately, or at least what I've come to realize: my eating disorder is alive and well and is still out to kill me. It took me a few weeks to uncover and own this truth. Kudos to me for a quicker turnaround time, amiright? At first, like I'm sure some of us can relate, I believed it wasn't that bad. I just needed to check this box, go to this therapist, get more control over this and that, reduce my stress, self-care better, meditate more, hydrate, and blah blah blah and then everything would be better. I bought in to the eating disorder bullshit. Now I don't know when or where or how, but I do know why it slowly crept back into my life. It started when I decided I had to lose weight to look good for my wedding. To put this into perspective, I've now been married for about a year and a half and we were engaged for two years, so this whole saga has been snowballing for a good three years or so. I'm sure there were behaviors even before then, but my argument was that I'm just being "healthy" and I can do that as long as I'm not (insert overt ED behavior here). That means even though I'm restricting my food it's acceptable because I'm still eating three meals a day and a snack and this and that and I'm making all the excuses to avoid, something I'm ever-so practiced at, the truth. The truth that I'm hurting, I'm scared, I'm filled with fear, and my only solution is to count and weigh almost every single piece of food I eat but it's OK because I'm just counting my macros and If It Fits My Macros then I can have it and if it's a re-feed meal once a week it's ok or if I just do more cardio tomorrow or WHAT THE FUCK EVER everything. will. be. fine. And it'll be fine because I'm normal and this is what normal people do, right? This is what health looks like on social media. This is what wellness is. This is what people do to heal, right? I. AM. HEALING.

If that all sounds crazy to you, it sounds insane as I type it, but that is my truth. I'm not here to judge what you do or how you heal or what helps you get well. Different things have and continue to work for different people. I am simply telling you about my own experience and how I have to continue to fight to find roots and stability on my own recovery journey, as confusing and non-linear as it's been.

An image that helps calm me, as suggested by my therapist

So, without throwing shade or pointing fingers, I'll just tell you that I went back to my therapist who suggested I go back to my psychiatrist who suggested I go back to my nutritionist who suggested I get back to basics with the food, and here I am: sitting at this keyboard typing about the insane rabbit hole I descended into over the last three years and the slow progress I've made since I had some Divine willingness take over my life once again.

The short of it is: I was intensely depressed and I didn't even know it. I was stuck and snared in the sneakiness of an eating disorder that took on a new form (hello, Orthorexia) that masqueraded as clean eating and diet culture wrapped in the ever-so-more-appealing wrapping of health and wellness. I was so anxious I couldn't stand doing normal tasks (aka that one time I had a full blown panic attack in the Orange Count DMV) and everything felt like so much and I felt like so much that I had to go to the gym for two hours every day so I could BE BETTER AND LOOK WELLER AND GET SMALLER all so I could just be.

The last time I took a trip back into my therapists chair I was at another emotional bottom. What happened after I got some time, a little space, and a little solution with that particular situation is that I had a hard realization. I truly believe that at that time, had I not reached out for help or been willing to go back to that chair for those 60-minute sessions that I would have A) killed myself or B) picked up a drink or a drug. Being in that state of mind, existing in those moments, and enduring that pain for an extended period of time would drive most people to a variety of less than optimal outcomes. I have been lucky enough to find my way back to mental health professionals, TWICE. I have had the support and resources to explore these service multiple times. I know I am so very lucky to have this opportunity because without it, I would undoubtedly be dead.

There's no real moral or profound conclusion or ah-ha moment that I can really wrap this all up in, shiny and perfect. What I can tell you is what I've been so scared to say and own and share: I am fighting my eating disorder again. I don't know if the fight had ever really been over before. I think that I was just willingly battling for the other side for a few years, even if I was only holding the flag at the back and not attacking at the front lines. Today, I've defected from the bad guys and I'm trying to find my footing fighting for the home team. Some days I'm leading the charge and other days I'm merely still sleeping in a tent on the battlefield while war wages around me. Some days I wake up and look at my body and all is acceptable, while others I claw and ply in disdain at the extra physical shape around my thighs and abdomen. I'm not at the point where I hope to be, a place of peace with my physical being or shape or the space and body I exist in. I'm still working on knowing when I'm hungry or when I want to eat for comfort, the times I crave more or less or nothing sounds appealing or good or satiating. I'm working every day, every meal, every snack to find peace again. I'm fighting the fight and I think my side is getting stronger.

#eatingdisorderrecovery #recovery #orthorexia #wellness #healthandwellness #edrecovery #edwarriors #therapy #transparency #speakyourtruth