This post was written by Kate Matys, a new found friend of mine. In today’s post she is sharing about her battle with anorexia and what she has learned through that. Please find Kate’s links at the end of this post and follow her — she is bound to do big things. Thanks for the fantastic work Kate! xx
In a study done by Brickman and Campbell in the 1990’s dubbed the, “Hedonic Relativism and the Planning of Good Society” the two psychologists coined the term “Hedonic Treadmill”. Now I didn’t go into this expecting to lecture anybody on psychology, but it’s totally relevant. Promise! The term Hedonic Treadmill explores the relativity of happiness to widely accepted “positive” and “negative” events, concluding that even if someone wins the lottery or has astronomical luck in another light, they will always return to a relatively baseline level of happiness (the level of happiness that comes from their original outlook on life itself). In other words, money can’t buy happiness! Even if you keep getting more material wealth or more praise for something, we all continue to have desires. Humans are primarily unappeasable, and this
tends to grow exponentially in the seeking of material gains.
What does this have to do with self-esteem, you ask? Well – it’s taken me 19 years to
realize this (and I’m always still learning), but happiness does not come from anything “out there” or even anyONE “out there,” but instead from within yourself. It is all about your point of view and how you see every moment of your life. You can either A) envy others, covet things, and feel ashamed of your own self, or you can B) appreciate the beauty of others, appreciate things without the need to have them, and be thankful for who you are. If you take a step back and realize that anything beyond something needed for survival is a man-made desire inflicted on us by social pressures, you see that you really don’t need anything but the bare minimum to actually be happy.
As I mentioned, it took me a very long time and several years of destruction to come to terms with this theory. I first discovered the study when I sought out psychology as a way of coping with what I was feeling inside of me. I never really considered it a personal gain, I just wanted to make sense of myself. It sounds so silly, but this is what made sense. I was fifteen, most of what I read was meaningless because my adolescent self couldn’t grasp the crazy theories being laid out before me. I took to reading when I was at my lowest point, and that was in 2013.
2013 was my tenth grade year, and it was also the year I was at the highest weight I have ever been – 152 pounds. The eating disorder came on it’s heels alongside the pressure I felt to fit in at school, and with that, I exceeded any fitness goals and reached a weight of 72 pounds. I tried to attack this demon by visiting a therapist who often suggested that I dig, and dig, and uproot several years of repressed emotion but I had no idea what that meant. I didn’t think I had pushed away any emotion. I wasn’t even sure what motivated me to lose all of the weight originally, at the time.
My life quickly became only me and my eating disorder, I tried to socialize but I quickly realized how terrible it made me feel. What if they invite me out, and there is food and alcohol? It seems so silly that some variable like food is what prevented me from figuring out life but this was my reality. This was my reality for three years. By the end of the tenth grade my health was deteriorating and I was still undiagnosed. I was eventually admitted into the hospital with triglyceride levels so low my doctor could not understand how I was still standing. I remember hearing him, whisper to my parents as if not to startle me – “God willing, we will get her through this.” By the summer of 2013, I was officially diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa and was in dire straits for help. But being told I had an eating disorder was pretty much news to me. I was way too young to understand the body I was striving for was an unhealthy one, and that I was killing
myself, slowly. I remember being approached by family friends when they heard the news and they said, “How could you not know? It was so obvious.”
I don’t blame them for not saying anything, I think a lot of people don’t realize that these worst case scenarios are happening in front of our faces and we like to let the whole word watch. The romantic process of broadcasting a life that is fully together is something almost all of us are victim of. I liked pretending that I was fine. Descartes once said, “I think therefore I am” and if you say it enough it starts to feel like, “I think therefore I will be.” But you can’t think your way into a full stomach, and I would like to think that I tried. Take it from me. My eating disorder and I coexisted with one another for three, nearly four years before I finally found recovery, and if you’re not recovering you are dying.
When you have an eating disorder, you think you want to recover, until you actually need to recover. These were three very sad years of my life and yet I still wondered who I would be without anorexia. I thought frequently of the days where I felt thin enough to be looked at, and brittle enough to be worried about. These realizations of my true mental state came full circle when I sought out a dietitian and psychiatrist who I found trust in. I am excessive. I am always in dire straits for control.
In April 2016, I was pronounced weight restored and my dietitian started crying. Since then I have been on the longest bound of recovery and I am also actively trying to pick up all of the parts of me I lost along the way. These were the ugliest years of my life. I think about my story often and when I do the words escape me. It is so simple to teeter closely to the edge of an instruction manual. I want to share my struggle without sensationalizing it’s existence. But living in a world where being thin is seen as triumph, the concept of anorexia is muddled and hard to understand. Anorexia hides beneath the conversation you have with peers who ask how you did it. Anorexia is lonely. It is awful.
Let me tell you this:
Wanting what you already have to begin with is a huge step in relieving self-consciousness and covetousness. (I partially realize that this is starting to sound like a
dogma but please stay with me, omg.) There is a famous incident recorded by the Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, in which he is speaking with a friend who is eating an orange. The friend puts an orange slice in his mouth, starts chewing, and before he is even finished he puts another orange slice in his mouth. In this case, the friend does not take the time to appreciate what he already has, and simply moves on to what he wants next…(a new bite.) Without appreciation for what we have in front of us, our lives can easily escape us and leave what we already have on our plate unacknowledged.
Alright. I promise I am almost done. In the year that I have been weight restored, I have been working on picking up the pieces of myself that I lost to Ana. I admire Miss Martha Martha’s post where she speaks so gently about translating confidence to more than just your personal physical attributes. During my transition state of pimples and braces I lacked the ability to discover these parts of myself that MADE me feel beautiful by doing, not necessarily by being.
The term self care has been a buzz phrase this past year, and this is so important.
Invest in yourself, and your body by acknowledging what it is you need to do to take care of yourself. (This is different for all of us!)
I like to take walks. I walk a great deal for work, and to work, but I treat walking on my own time particularly different almost as an act of meditation. I try to eat plant-based foods as often as possible. I can’t be too strict with myself right now, as I am still quite fragile, but cooking a beautiful plate of colourful vegetables is probably one of my favourite things to do with my alone time.
Read. Read. Read. I love to read. Right now I am reading a novel by Francoise Sagan and I feel like the Parisian version of Gatsby.
Lend yourself to others. I find it so fulfilling sitting and listening to somebody speak about their life, more often than not I do not try to give advice, unless asked of course, but sometimes it is nice to rant about something terrible only to hear, “You know what? That does suck.” in return.
In the last year my list of requirements for happiness has depleted by many, many, things. I am slowly trying to take my own advice, and find happiness with the basic weight of living. In that, I have discovered that it is completely normal to feel self-conscious of yourself. But it is up to us to progress to a point where we are strong enough to decipher between negative thoughts and the truth.
Thanks for reading.