This shouldn’t be a thing that stresses me out so much.
Every time my coworkers start talking about our staff Christmas dinner, my stomach knots up and my mind starts racing and worrying. Every part of the situation makes me uncomfortable. I’m a lot younger than everyone else in the office, and this year I won’t have a date. So already, the social part of the evening is a bit weird for me, especially considering what an awkward human I can be.
I’m not too concerned about the people part of things though – I’m scared about the food. My boss pays for everything, and as a lawyer who charges hundreds per hour, he spares no expense on this dinner. Last year, this meant a three-course dinner at a very high-end restaurant, and the same type of thing is planned for this year. Instead of being excited for an excuse to dress up and be fancy, I’m thinking of ways to avoid going.
Last fall, my eating disorder was probably the worst it’s been since being discharged from inpatient at age twelve. I was living on my own, and it was just so easy to restrict my eating to a bare minimum, and avoid any foods that Ed didn’t like. Obviously a three-course gourmet dinner was not something I was okay with.
It was about a year ago that I first stumbled upon the book Life Without Ed. That was a huge wake-up call to how disordered I’d gotten. After reading it, I believed for the first time that maybe I wouldn’t have to follow Ed’s rules forever, and maybe there was hope for me to be healthy and normal. I was inspired and decided that it was finally time to do something; I was going to “recover”.
I say “recover” with quotes because looking back I can see what a joke it was. In my mind I was going to get better, but I definitely wasn’t going to change anything. I didn’t change any of the foods I ate or try adding things in. I wouldn’t consider going to a doctor or any other professional. Gaining weight wasn’t even up for discussion. Not much was up for discussion, honestly – I didn’t dare talk to my parents or friends about my recovery plan, because that meant no backing out if I changed my mind.
Somehow, I got through the Christmas dinner. Fully unprepared, and after changing nothing else in order to get better, I went with a mindset of “I’m in recovery, so I have to prove it”. I remember being so proud of myself for ordering an appetizer, and an entree, and an actual grownup drink. I forced myself to eat everything, and a coworker even commented, surprised at how much I ate. Even now I don’t think I could handle the sheer volume of food I crammed into my then-starved body.
I went home felt miserable. Never mind a food baby, I had a huge food monster of guilt and shame and discomfort inside me. I really cannot remember a time I felt worse about myself, or even physically worse, after eating a meal.
So with those cheery memories of last year, no wonder I’m feeling apprehensive of this year’s dinner (to say the least). Even though I’ve been attending Meal Support, and adding fear foods into my diet, and overall eating much better, I feel like I’m not at all ready for this. Everything on the menu is pushing past the limits of my comfort zone, and three courses means triple the food, and triple the stress. Is three courses even normal?? It sounds like such a terrifying amount of food.
I don’t want to be so stressed out over a single meal. After months of work in recovery, shouldn’t I be able to just enjoy going out with my coworkers and having a nice dinner? Ed’s voice is still pretty loud when he’s telling me that I’m not allowed to do that.
Times like these I’m extremely thankful for my dietitian (especially now that I’ve gotten past my prejudice towards all medical professionals and have grown to love her). I know she’s full of wisdom and advice, and talking to her is going to get rid of a lot of this anxiety. Between her and the rest of my recovery team, I know I have the support to get me through such a stressful night and maybe even enjoy it.
I’m still pretty nervous about it though…Is it too late to change my mind on bringing a date, and take my dietitian with me?