Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Waiting Game

One of the more interesting/uncomfortable parts of seeing R is the waiting room. He is almost invariably behind schedule, so I get the chance to see lots of people coming and going from the office. Several therapists, social workers, dieticians, etc. all work out of the same building, so the waiting room gets a pretty steady stream of patients.

The treatment center specializes in eating disorders so naturally, there are a fair number of teenage girls. I've seen the same two every time I go. One of them comes in with her mother and knows all the receptionists by name. The other one comes in by herself and usually looks close to tears. Although I try not to be, I am acutely aware of their weights. Neither looks anorexic in the stereotypical emaciated way; they look pretty average. Thinnish/normal. Not fat.

This week, however, there were two patients I'd never seen before and they were both SKINNY. One of them was a teenager; she came in with her parents and was bundled up in sweatpants and a sweatshirt, but you could still see her stick-thin legs through the fabric. She looked tired and sick and I couldn't not stare.

The other one was probably in her late twenties, early thirties. I didn't notice her body at first because she was sitting down, bouncing a baby on her lap. It wasn't until I sat down next to her and let the baby play with my keys that I realized how skinny the mother's legs and wrists were. Like, so thin I don't know how she'd been able to lift her baby, much less give birth to him.

I'm not sure how I feel about seeing people like this. It doesn't exactly "trigger" me - i.e. it doesn't make me want to skip my appointment, sprint home, and have lettuce for dinner - but it DOES tend to make me downplay my own ED in my mind. I'm not even close to being as thin as her, so therefore I must be fine and R and J and everyone are making a huge deal out of nothing.

Interestingly, this clinic also treats binge eating disorder. Nearly every week, besides the high school girls, there are at least a couple middle-aged morbidly obese women. Again, this doesn't really trigger me in any way; I don't binge, nor am I particularly worried about it, but it does scare me that there seem to be so many people stuck on either end of the spectrum - loss of control versus hypercontrol over eating. It makes me wonder whether anyone is normal anymore, or if food always has to be a struggle one way or the other.

Usually, I feel like my ED is not that bad, not out of control, nothing to be concerned about, etc., and I get complacent about challenging myself to push forward in recovery. R's biggest frustration lately has been motivating me to actual make changes, rather than me just agreeing to "try" without ever fully following through. When I see people so obviously stuck in their disorders, though, I find myself a bit more motivated - more out of fear than anything else. I'm not jealous of anyone I see in R's waiting room, nor do I aspire to be like them - in fact, I'm thankful that my illness is not visible to everyone. I never want to be gawked at, the degree of my sickness apparent to everyone else but not to me.

Realizations like this don't exactly help me in the moment when faced with adding X to my meal plan or drinking an extra supplement, but sometimes it helps to focus on the big picture. I do NOT want to stay stuck in the same patterns when I'm thirty or forty or fifty. I never want to be so sick that people see my sickness before they see me.

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