I never thought I, of all people, would be writing a post on dating and recovery. My eating disorder has robbed me of so much in my life, including romantic relationships. Not because I lost a relationship (broke up) as a consequence of my ED (which I know is true for a lot of sufferers and I sympathize with you) but because I never even had a (romantic) relationship to lose. I’m 32 and have NEVER, I repeat, never, had a partner. My ED kept me isolated and lonely. I hated myself so much that I never even let myself enter the dating world because “who could ever love me, who would ever desire me”. Yet it wasn’t even about ‘letting myself’ date. I wanted to date someone. I longed to be held by someone and connected to them. I was desperate for love but I truly believed I was undesirable I was hopeless and alone. Sad and in despair. I felt rejected without rejection. And I protected myself with being sick and focusing on my size. “Im unlovable/undesirable” didn’t just become a mantra – it became truth. If I was gaining weight then I was able to protect myself – for “if I’m too fat then no one would want to be with me and if no one would want to be with me then i won’t get hurt”. If I was losing weight then “I’m too sick to be with anyone and if I’m alone i can’t get hurt”. If I never dated anyone than I would never get hurt or rejected (when that person would inevitably break up with me because I was too ugly or too fat). Being unlovable, thinking you’re unlovable is a miserable way to live and my ED became the perfect solution to it. I couldn’t fix my life experiences, or traumas I had been through or my relationship history (aka, lack of). I couldn’t fix the ‘fact’ that I was unlovable, undesirable – but I could fix my body. If I lost weight then I’d be desirable! I am 32 years old and ridiculously single. I’ve never been intimate with anyone which, I hope is at least partly credited to my personal convictions influenced by my faith, but I know it is largely due to my insecurities and fear. I am so afraid of intimacy and connection with others. This is true in platonic relationships too, though I have done incredible work to overcome it.
Anyways – I’m going on a date tomorrow. My first date since Ive been in recovery and only my third date in my entire life. As you know, Im in recovery for my eating disorder but do you want to know what one some of my first thoughts were when I said yes to this date:
- “I wish this was happening when I was at my lowest weight”
- “I should restrict the day before and the day of the date so I can look better”
- “I need to run x #km so I can sweat out as much fat as I can”
- “Oh God! I hope we don’t go out for food on this date”
- “If I B/P today then I’ll get any calorically high foods out of the way and eat ‘healthy’ on my date”
- “What clothes make me look smallest”
- “He won’t be interested in me once he sees me”
- “I should just cancel”
(just for the record, points 2 and 3 are COMPLETELY distorted and are not true, so don’t even try to see if they work – they don’t, trust me. It’s just sometimes my brain thinks they do)
I’M SO GRATEFUL FOR MY RECOVERY BRAIN.
Yes, i still struggle with automatic thoughts, especially when something new and scary happens (like a date) but I am able to recognize these Thinking Traps and change the way I think:
- “I’m glad this is happening when I’m healthy”
- “I should pay extra attention to mechanically eating so I can be alert and present”
- “I’d like to go for a run because it helps decrease anxiety and because I love moving my body. And I will hydrate and fuel my body before and after”
- “Going out for food on a first date is scary but you have practiced this a dozen times in recovery and you can do it. Mechanically eat leading up to your date and it won’t be as overwhelming. There is almost always at least one thing on a menu that you are okay with. If all else fails a (________*) will do just fine.”
- “If I B/P today then I’ll get bloated and feel disgusted and defeated and not be present at all. Also B/P does not get ‘calorically high’ foods ‘out of the way’ if anything it increases the changes you’ll have more. Again if you mechanically eat you will be fine”
- “What clothes do I like”
- “He has already said he is interested in you”
- “I won’t cancel! This might be fun, and if nothing else it is a good and positive risk to take”
Oh my goodness, my therapist would be so proud of me!
* I have a couple go-to meals when it comes to eating out at restaurants. I’ve left it blank because on this recovery blog I have chosen not to post details about size, shape, weight or food. Part of my recovery strategy is to be prepared, and part of that preparation is to have a general idea of what to order at a restaurant on the off chance I’ll end up at a restaurant unexpectedly. I have a couple go-to generic meals that most restaurants have some sort of variation of. Usually I will know what restaurant I’m going to, and I will look up the menu online and decide what Im eating at least day in advance. Sometimes (rarely), and this date is a very good example, I don’t know what restaurant we’re going to or if we’re even going to a restaurant…(the date starts in the afternoon and we don’t have firm dinner plans….kind of a ‘lets see how this is going’ type thing.) Because I have this strategy already in play – the possibility of eating at a restaurant tomorrow doesn’t actually totally freak me out. I am anxious about it, yes, but I am prepared and confident. This is one of the most helpful things I have created in my recovery – I recommend it to you.