It used to be that the scale told me if I was enough. My negative mile splits, total weekly mileage, and race times told me that I was enough. The number of calories I ate in a day and the growling of my stomach told me that I was enough. The concerned comments by friends and colleagues that I was too skinny and imploring me to eat more confirmed that I was enough. I was enough when I was first and best at everything I did, when I knew more than everyone else in the room about every topic discussed, and when I never made a mistake. When I looked perfect, acted perfectly, spoke perfectly, and performed perfectly, then I was enough. But it was never enough.
If I don’t care about any of that stuff anymore and it no longer holds any meaning for me, then what is left? Just me. As I am. Stripped away. Bare. Nothing but the me that I always was deep inside.
If people only knew the truth, they would understand what a fraud I am, what a pretender.
If Kelly, my nutritionist, knew how disordered my thoughts about food really remain.
If my co-workers realized how unfulfilling and unrewarding I find what we do every day.
If my therapist could glimpse just how much time I spend perseverating on my inadequacies, my worries, and the uncertainties of the future.
If my friends, my family, the other women in my eating disorder process group, and my blog readers knew just how unbalanced a life I lead, how judgmental my thoughts are, how critical I am of myself and others, how far away I actually fall from all the beautiful, pie-in-the-sky, wholehearted values I write about over and over and over.
In the process of writing about this way of life that I so long for, it seems tangible, and I start believing that I am almost living it already. Then a day passes, two days, a week, and I wonder how I could still be so incomplete, so distant from my goal, so unbalanced, judgmental, critical, and negative. The cycle repeats itself.
Could Kelly tell how frustrated and anxious I was during our bi-weekly appointment this morning? It felt like those emotions were exuding from me like terrible B.O. To start our session off, I was somewhere between 10-15 minutes late, which is even worse that my chronic habit of turning up about five past the hour. I couldn’t even offer any sort of explanation or apology beyond, “I’m so sorry.” Perhaps, sometimes, that is best. Don’t make excuses, just accept culpability. I didn’t come up with that idea on my own. The credit goes to Harriet Lerner, PhD, and her book, The Dance of Connection. Anyway, how could I explain why it took an extra ten minutes for me to collect myself sufficiently to get out the door and into my car? I myself wasn’t even too sure what happened. All seemed well, and then I was suddenly pushing fluids, struggling to pace my breakfast, and straining to go to the bathroom before my first post-Thanksgiving weigh-in. “Messed up,” I told myself, “I’m so messed up.”
Talking to Kelly usually makes me feel better. When I first started meeting with her, I would sometimes be triggered by our conversations and the challenges that she set before me, but that happens pretty infrequently these days. This morning, the words tumbled out of me like some sort of confused fog. I felt like Elliott dumping his multi-colored Legos all over the floor and then trying to puzzle together a new construction from it. “You would be so disappointed in me,” I confessed, “I ate pretty much the exact same thing every day last week, and since coming back, I ate the same thing for dinner three nights in a row.”
She leaned in toward me in that way that she does when she wants me to pay attention. “You did what everyone else does when they are in an environment that is different from what they are used to. You worked with what was available to you, and you got by. You did what you had to do. You’ll do the same thing during Christmas.”
Why does it make so much sense when someone else says it?
We talked about the holiday season, the parties, food, exercise, family, and flexibility, but it was hard to make sense out of the jumbled mess of Legos scattered all about the beige carpet. Too much. Not enough.
“Not enough might as well be tattooed on the inside of my eyelids,” I think as I drive down the road from Kelly’s office toward my own. That message is always there whenever I close my eyes. Whenever I breathe. During every quiet pause and every busy movement. It is imprinted in my brain. Not good enough. Not trying hard enough. Not reading enough. Not journaling enough. Not working enough. Not going to enough yoga classes. Not keeping the apartment tidy enough. Not drinking enough green tea. Not getting enough sleep. Not drinking enough water. Not eating enough variety. Not regulating my emotions well enough. Not reviewing my skills workbook often enough. Not swimming enough. Not drawing enough. Not painting enough. Not praying enough. Not balanced enough. Never enough. Never. Never.
“Enough of not enough!” my therapist once exclaimed, but it’s as if someone branded it into my cortex and it’s a scarred rut. No matter how many times I try to scrub it out or paint over it, the impression of the words remains.
I need an industrial-strength sandblaster. “Enough, enough, enough,” I am telling myself as I type these last words. “Let it just be enough.”