Lying and keeping secrets are second nature to people with eating disorders. I don't really think of myself as a dishonest person, but when I am into my eating disorder, I feel compelled to lie, cheat, hide, and cover things up. A lot of this covering up has to do with protecting the eating disorder--the real problem isn't that I'm hiding food, the real problem is that everyone is watching me eat--but sometimes I don't come clean even after the fact.
And it's that not coming clean otherwise that really cuts to the core of who I am. The reason I keep some things secret is really rather simple: shame. I am ashamed that I have done XYZ. I am ashamed that I screwed up. I am ashamed I lied. So I lie again, rather than face the facts. It's easier--and I don't have to look or feel "less than."
This works in the short term--the very very short term--but in the long run, I just get more and more mired in the eating disorder. So I keep on lying until even I'm no longer sure what's reality and what's the nice little PR spin I've tried to put on my latest fiasco. This, of course, doesn't do me or anyone else any good at all.
In order to stop doing this, I've had to acknowledge two major things:
- I'm not perfect
- It is a big deal
I believed for years that one skipped snack, one missed exchange, was really no big deal. I thought I was even dealing with issue #1 because I was being gentle with myself for screwing up. Which, like, ha! I was deliberately interpreting the statement of "Don't be so hard on yourself, Carrie" with "My snack is hard today, therefore I will skip and not be hard on myself." When I started going to the gym several times each day, I didn't really think it was worth mentioning because it wasn't that big of a deal, really. Or when I started skipping breakfast. It was just once, it's no big deal. But the next day breakfast rolled around again, and I was paralyzed by the guilt of needing to eat today what I didn't eat yesterday. So I skipped breakfast again. It still wasn't a big deal, right?
I've had to learn the hard way that one slip really is a big deal because it can so easily become one. I hate having to say "Mom, I, uh, threw away my snack last week," because it's super embarrassing, it lets on just how seriously flawed I am, and I also feel like I'm making a mountain out of a molehill (a skill for which I am legendary). I don't think I will stop hating having to say this, and so there is really only one logical solution: no more secrets.
I can't keep omitting things to TNT or my family because I'm afraid of looking "less than" or because I don't think it's a big deal. I can't keep up the ridiculous hubris that I will be able to handle it on my own, that I'm fine, that no one needs to know when things go pear-shaped. I would like to be able to handle it on my own, but the fact is that when recovering from an eating disorder, I need all the help I can get. Maybe I can handle it on my own, but maybe I can't. The worst that happens if I can is that I have a lot of people on my side; if I can't, well, let's not go there.
It's hard for me to change like this, to admit I need help sometimes, to admit I screwed up, to admit that the eating disorder might once again have gotten the upper hand. That doesn't make it any less necessary, though. So I can only reaffirm this: no more secrets.