Sunday, April 1, 2007

How Are You?

How are you?

A perfectly innocent question.

Seemingly simple to answer, isn’t it? We all have our pat answers – “I’m fine.” “Hanging in there.” “Cosmic.” These phrases get us through when we need to make idle chit-chat with an acquaintance. But friends want to know more. When a friend asks, “How are you?” the question takes on a whole new meaning. They may let your pat answer slide for awhile, but if you never talk about what is happening inside your mind and heart, they will start to wonder and perhaps pull away. What may have been a deep and caring relationship (platonic, of course,) withers.

This has happened many times in my life.

Until I started therapy.

The first counselor that I saw picked up on my pat answer right away. “But how are you feeling?” she’d ask.

I don’t think anything confuses an eating disordered person more than that question. The whole point of starving, stuffing, and/or purging is to NOT feel. I don’t want to have feelings, especially the “bad” ones like anger and sorrow and sadness and worry and guilt.

My first assignment was to stop answering queries about my well-being with a pat answer and start answering with the truth. The point was to get me to label the feelings that I had, when I had them.

Needless to say, the concept freaked me out. My first attempt was like opening a floodgate and I got washed away. I spiraled – restricted severely and exercised incessantly.

Over a year later, the question does not necessarily send me spiraling, but it still disturbs me. Some days, I am able to create my laundry list of feelings and analyze the reasons behind the feelings. Other days, I just can’t seem to get past Edie. It’s like she has set up an armed guard on the door to the feelings vault and won’t let me pass unless I’ve done as she asks. Her toll is modest in her mind. Restrict down to practically nothing and be sure to consciously burn off every calorie that you ingest.

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