Change. We all experience it – it happens. As humans, many of us are creatures of habit. We have routines that we follow. These routines can be anything from how we get ready for work (shower, let the dog out, eat, get dressed, brush teeth) to how we arrange paperwork on our desks and how we even drive to work. What happens when they are broken? We are thrown off? If our spouse goes out of town and he/she is the one who always lets the dog out… now you have to — oops… you’re driving faster to work because you’re nearly late – increase the stress-o-meter! Routines are comfortable to us and they are consistent. They are what we know, and we know what to expect out of them. That’s the purpose of them, right? When change happens we are thrown off and have to adapt. I wanted to write this post because this is a very huge issue surrounding eating disorders – routines and change. (this could get very long and wordy, so buckle your seat belts). Warning – you’re about to realize just how crazy Rachel is! Welcome to crazy town!
For a person with an eating disorder, routines are very important. I’ll speak mostly from my own experience, and only allude to other experiences based off of those I’ve met. For me, I had a set routine of how I got up, ready for work, got there, and what happened at work and most of all – where food was involved. If there was food, and if there was not food – it was always on my mind. When I was very sick (and by sick I mean restricting my food intake for days and at my lowest weight before going into treatment) I had routines that I had to follow and if they were broken I felt like my world was crashing down. I had a routine at lunch and if it was the slightest bit altered I would nearly go into a panic attack with increased heart rate and feeling like I couldn’t catch my breath with racing thoughts. Now, my lunch routine could have been interrupted by me going to the teacher lounge sitting down and preparing to eat, and another teacher saying something “wrong” to me, or a student knocking on the door to talk to me (crazy, I know!!!). I had to protect this routine because the eating disorder was that much in my head! It got to the point where I began avoiding everyone and eating alone (if I ate) so that my routine couldn’t be broken.
At this point you’re probably thinking – “Wow, I think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew with this friend!” (pun intended….hahaha)
We all know routines are comfortable and to somebody with an eating disorder, it is what we know – it is comfortable. When things seem crazy or out of place, we turn to that because it is “routine.” We know what to expect from it, and it will yield the results we want – typically a feeling of control, avoidance of something and a reward of weight loss. When change happens to us — if I may state it bluntly — we freak out!!! I will give you a fine example below:
This winter I was planning on a shopping day. I had decided that I was going to X, Y and Z store and I was going to look for a few items. I was going to spend a certain amount of time there and I was excited to listen to my music along the way. My thoughts were, “Rachel, you’re going to rock out some singing and then buy something awesome.” This was a Saturday, so naturally my husband Mike would want to spend time with me and said, “Great – I’ll go with you, and on our way home we can stop by Kara’s and see little C” (the cutest little guy on the planet!!! And he gives the best hugs in the world!). Now, I love that little guy, and I love Kara, but I freaked out. Those weren’t the plans. I had been planning for 2 days what my Saturday was going to look like and I had known what it was for all this time and now HE was changing it! This was not okay!!!! [insert heart rate increase and increased breathing + racing thoughts of how to handle this]. I didn’t know what to do. As a person with an eating disorder, we are also people pleasers so I just nodded and tried to wait for the time to come to leave, but I didn’t make it….. I freaked out… Imagine that — out of nowhere a person coming in screaming, “you can’t just change all of my plans when I already had it all planned out for days.” [thinking back now, this is hilarious – but sometimes this still happens]. Mike was so confused! To him, he didn’t change my plans, he just added a stop along the way and was spending time with me. But to me – here is what happened:
– He changed my drive to the store (I’m no longer alone – we like to be alone)
– He changed my shopping time – boys don’t like to shop for shoes
– He changed my song choices – who wants to hear a chick scream music at the top of her lungs
– He changed my store choices – he will want to stop somewhere else too (maybe)
– He changed the time I will spend in the stores because he will shop as well.
– He changed my ability to freely shop because he’ll be bored looking at shoes and he will see how much I’ll spend on them.
– He changed my “alone time” (we isolate, isolate, isolate)
– He added a stop to my time – now I have to socialize (although I love those people dearly)
– Most likely, how am I going to get my meal plan in?
Sounds crazy right??? But this is what we deal with. One small change like that can mean the world to us.
Change is hard to accept at times – whether we lose someone in our life, a new job, a changed relationship….anything. It can be hard, but it can also open new doors for new things. When I was furloughed from my school district 2 years ago I was crushed. I loved that district and I couldn’t believe after bleeding my heart into it, that I was let go as a number and meant nothing (hence the super fast spiral downhill of anorexia). That change was hard and I didn’t want it, but it led me to a district with a principal whom I adore and it left me somewhere where I’m so happy. Granted that same scenario might happen again (fingers crossed for it to NOT happen). This time around, I’m learning to accept change (although I may not like it, I can accept it). Now, I eat lunch with an awesome coworker and we “change” up where we eat on a regular basis. Somewhat “the same” but a little different here and there. 🙂
So, in honor of “change” I’m going to invite change into my life this morning! I’m going to change up my breakfast!!! YIKES!
This may not seem huge, but when I’m done with this I will feel like had just moved a mountain! [You’re probably thinking “this is a piece of cake!” — (pun intended… hahahaha) The last time my dietitian tried to invite me to “change” my snack at the end of the night, I became overwhelmed and I burst into tears because it was too much. That’s what we’re working with, people!!!
Now, typically, I will have pineapple Chobani yogurt + a granola bar with coffee (teachers need coffee!). But today, I’m going to have my pineapple yogurt and an apple! I still have my carb, but it is in a very different form!!!
Before I end this, and if you feel like thinking about it — how has change affected you? In a good way or a bad way? As things have changed, would you have responded to them differently? Did you learn anything about yourself based on the change that has happened?