For the past couple of weeks I have been going on dates with a guy from uni. The dating world is new territory for me and so I am embracing it with caution. I have been for drinks, out for dinner, to jazz concerts and had dinner cooked for me. Whilst I can’t deny that I have been having a great time, it has also presented me with some new challenges. The dating world, whilst exciting, is also quite triggering.
One thing that has become blindingly clear over the past couple of weeks is my fear of rejection. I feel that if this goes nowhere, then it means I’m not good enough, that I need to change and that I need to somehow improve. My friends and family tell me that this isn’t true. Whilst I am trying to tell myself the same thing, I can’t deny the fact that the thought of rejection fills me with dread. It is a perfect excuse for my Eating Disorder to start telling me that I need to be better. It is a perfect excuse for Ed to try and convince me that if I eat a bit less, start restricting again and go to the gym more often, I will be a better person and people will like me more.
All of these thoughts have made me realise that my past therapists were absolutely right when they used to tell me that dating could be a bit tricky in the early stages of recovery. However, I am grateful that I now feel strong enough to be able to cope. I know that restricting wont make me a better person and that anorexia doesn’t make me special. If there isn’t another date and I am disappointed, it isn’t because I am not good enough, but just that this guy isn’t right for me.
The other challenge I am facing is a lack of control. I have no control over how this guy feels about me, I don’t know what he’s thinking, I don’t know if he likes me, and to be quite honest, it’s driving me crazy! Because I feel like I have no control over the situation, my natural instinct is to seek control in another area of my life… Which often tends to be my food. However, I know that this isn’t a solution or a magic cure to my worries.
Going on these dates also made me realise how much my eating disorder has controlled my life for the past few years. When I was asked about my interests and passions, I felt a bit stuck for something to say. Part of me blames my eating disorder for that. For the past year and a half I have been so occupied with recovery and getting better that there has been no time for anything else. Whilst I was sick, my only main concern was restriction, exercise and calorie counting. I am no longer going to let ‘Anorexia’ be an interest of mine. Recovery is part of my daily life and something I need to be mindful of everyday, but it doesn’t need to be all I care and think about. Life is full of so many other more exciting things to do.
The other thing I have learnt is that I no longer feel the need to be defined by my illness. The guy I have been dating knows nothing about my eating disorder and I have no intention in telling him. I no longer want it to be a part of me. I no longer believe that people only like me and care about me because of my anorexia.I am not my illness. I don’t want to be ill anymore. I just want my life back.