I am starting a new job on Wednesday. It’s the first time I’ve gone into a new job without the eating disorder to lean on. It was, I am beginning to recognise, a big part of my defence against the world and so I feel rather exposed venturing out on my own. If it all goes wrong, I will have nothing to make me feel better and nothing else to blame.
It is a little hard to acknowledge these thoughts.
I’ve been digging around rather uncomfortably to see if I can find out what they mean…only I already know the answer. They mean that I have to stop pretending that I don’t care.
Over the years, I’ve picked up a particularly destructive little voice. It likes to tell me that I don’t care. “I don’t care what they think of me”; “I don’t care if they don’t like me”; “I don’t care what they say”. It is intimately entwined with the eating disorder; in fact, it is possibly the closest that the eating disorder comes to having its own voice.
The “I don’t care” voice has served a number of purposes. At first, I think it was a childish response to hurt or disappointment or anger: the kind of thing you say when you care too much. Later, it got a bit twisted, and the eating disorder commandeered it to pass through whichever behaviours it wanted me to act out. “I don’t care what people think” (if I am walking through the streets bingeing); “I don’t care if people stare at me” (because it looks like I’m going to collapse); “I don’t care if I am on my own” (because the eating disorder is more important than anything else). That kind of thing. At some point, the two parts merged: hit me with your worst world, because I don’t need you when I have food.
My eating disorder was my fuck off shield. It was marble hard and shoulder thick and cold as ice and absolutely nothing got through.
So, anyway, up until now, I’ve gone through any major transitions (and everything in between) with the protection of this rather warped shield. Yes, I’ve been nervous and things have kind of mattered; but there’s always been the food to immerse myself in and there’s always been a little voice in the background re-iterating the fact that it doesn’t matter what happens because “I don’t care”.
Only it does matter and I do care.
Bitterly, I care bitterly. I care that the job works out and that I do it well. I care that the people there like me and that I make new friends. I care that I’ll meet expectations and that it will all turn out alright…
I care a huge huge amount.
I have been kind of numb to this experience. I have dampened the panic with food and taken the edge off the caring with defence. I have prickled at people rather than left myself open and taken refuge in my eating disorder because it provided a place for me to hide. Or that was the illusion.
That was an illusion.
The “I don’t care voice” has not served me well. I get that it thought – at first – that it was acting in my best interests, but it has denied and weakened myself. It has pretended that I didn’t care about the things that actually matter, and it has inferred that I could not cope with the stuff that caring brings.
This time I’m going properly in.