There’s a scale in my bathroom. On the floor, idly waiting for the next customer to take that fateful step. A numbered dial, a red pointer nudging up and down until it settles upon its answer.
Such a simple invention, and yet it can cause perpetual mental turmoil. For some people, that’s not the case; they could care less what their relationship is with Earth’s gravitational pull. If you have that easy-going mentality, I envy you. How I wish I could turn off my obsessive thoughts with numbers and inches and pounds and calories and pant sizes and grams of fat.
If only mental illness were that easy. Some people can nip their eating disorders with a bout of hard work, hours of therapy, and maybe a stint in a residential clinic. Others will fight and fight until they realize that this ED voice is a long-term occupant. Every day will be a test of resilience, a teeter-totter to keep steady despite every notion to tip toward the left or right.
This NEDA week, a time for eating disorder awareness, I feel compelled to discuss my continual recovery. I don’t have a distinct moment where I can, “I’m cured!” A bathroom scale can still feel like a major hurdle. But my message to you, someone who may feel like a failure for not feeling that “full” recovery persona: you’re amazing. Every day you say no to destructive behaviors is a victory. Do not discredit your progress based off what you assume is “recovered” or not.
There’s a scale in my bathroom. Here’s my experience staying steady…even after knowing my body mass.
set the scene
I never had a scale in my bathrooms at home. Thank goodness for that. However, my grandparents’ bathroom had a scale. I’m sure my mom already knows this, but virtually every time I went in there, I weighed myself. Without fail. This was in middle school and high school, when I didn’t really realize I was struggling. Luckily, I’ve only visited that house twice in the past year.
For a while, I didn’t really know my weight unless they weighed me at the doctor’s office. If that happened, the second I was aware, I was hyper-aware times twelve-million. With body dysmorphia, I’ve never been able to conceptualize how my weight and my body feel, what that looks like from an unbiased perspective. All I knew and drilled into my head: I wanted a low weight, and I wanted to keep it there.
Honestly, I really haven’t changed size or shape in the recent years. Whether that’s recovery progress, veganism, age, or all of the above, it truly is reassuring to feel grounded. To at least have somewhere I can wrap my head around looking like, size-wise. Don’t remind me how irrelevant body size is compared to spirit: I’ve already been preaching that truth from the rooftops. But applying that to myself and actually believing it? That’s a whole other story.
weighing out the costs
Now we arrive to now, to my year living in American Samoa. That experience alone likely makes people feel appalled, amazed, and who knows what else. Consciously deciding to uproot myself to go teach full-time in a developing country requires plenty of ambition and resilience. Those qualities are ones I’ve been utilizing my entire mentally ill life.
The daily challenges of that mental illness—a depression, anxiety, eating disorder jubilee—combined with the daily challenges of life in American Samoa make for an interesting time. Some days I’m all fired up, but others I’m left completely drained and dumbfounded by how people can successfully work full-time jobs.
Now, the bathroom scale. The one I can picture right now, set between the door and the steps leading up to the shower. Spoiler alert: I’ve used it. More than once. I know my number. I know myself well enough that, even if I didn’t know my number, I’d make assumptions and guesses and wonder. It’s probably better to just be aware than wallow in ignorance.
Another spoiler alert: my number has basically been the same this entire time I’ve been abroad. Every time it fluctuates up a pound, I inevitably go into panic mode. And for what? I probably just need to take a dump or something. Or take a chill pill.
There’s a bathroom scale trying to tip over the progress I’ve made over all these years of struggle. News flash, bathroom scale: you are not the boss of me. Some days are worse than others, but in the long run, I’m still going strong. I’m proud of that. Even for as often as I’m questioning everything and wanting to pinch off all the “trouble areas.”
Progress is progress. It looks like a pen blindly scribbling around a piece of paper. If some of us cannot attain that gold-standard recovery status, we can at least try every day to do our best. That’s all you can ever ask for. It’s ugly and consuming (pun intended) and exhausting. Think of existing on a conveyor belt, a carrot dangling just out of reach; that’s what my mental health feels like.
Sure, I’ll likely weigh myself occasionally, but I don’t want it to shake me. If that number random grew, my mindset would be in for trouble. But, as it stands, as I sometimes stand on the bathroom scale, I am strong. Nevertheless, I persist.
Will I toss that bathroom scale aside and start a bonfire? Well, that’s probably somehow a breach of a contract. The bathroom scale continues to sit, and I continue to live.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie