Pathway to Change [Part 1]
Trigger warning: mentions of eating disorders, imposter syndrome
There are times when everything seems like it’s crashing down upon me, even though I’ve done nothing to change. Maybe that’s just life telling me that there has been a problem that I had been ignoring for too long and the walls that I’ve been holding up are too thin to keep them inside. I couldn’t write this story as it happened, so I’m retelling some of my darkest times with some hindsight. This whole series will be raw and possibly a little confusing, but I believe that sharing my story will also help me with my recovery.
About a year ago, I knew that something wasn’t going right. At one point, I wasn’t eating enough, and at another point, I was eating too much. There was no in-between. What started out as a harmless attempt to get more fit in order to be healthy turned into a self-destructing mechanism that tore me apart physically and mentally. The worst part is that I didn’t recognise the severity of it until my mom pointed it out to me. Up to a point, I would have been considered keeping a great regime that was both nutritious and balanced. However, the portions got smaller and smaller to the point where I was happy to eat around 700 calories a day and would be devastated if it went over 900.
The way I come to see it now is that the so-called ‘clean eating’ that I was doing (and took pride in) had put me under constant stress. There was no way I could continue this form of dieting but I just pushed through. But I didn’t want anyone to think that I was constantly restricting myself from eating what I wanted to. This thought eventually led me to indulge in the food I labelled ‘bad’ (any food that had added sugar, made of flour, like cookies or cakes) in a very short window of time. Because I told myself I could only have them at this moment, it made me want to finish the whole thing — no matter how big the portion was — to be satisfied.
I only thought there was one key symptom of bulimia that is throwing up to compensate for a large amount of food consumed, but after talking to a dietitian who I was able to contact online, I realised that my excessive exercises were also a symptom. After I was told that I was on the verge of developing bulimia and that I almost certainly had a binge-eating disorder, I thought that this might be the time I changed my thinking.
Since I was failing at the most basic human behaviours (eating), a lot of my confidence deteriorated and that sparked another problem. For as long as I could remember, I had always been the ‘top student’ and there was evidence to support this claim. But my lack of self-confidence made me doubt my successes and thought that there was nothing that I had done to achieve this. That people will soon discover that I have nothing to offer and that will be the end of my ‘golden child’ streak. I was terrified at the thought of people thinking I was a phoney. So even when I was appointed to be the Big 8 and Head Girl, I was always cautious of every word I said and how I presented myself.
Whilst learning psychology and reading books, I realised that my situation could be explained through a term called ‘Imposter Syndrome’. This was when people doubt their abilities and think they will be exposed as fraud. It’s not a mental disorder per se (more like a psychological thought pattern) but these thoughts drained me.
It felt that there was nothing I could do to stop my life from falling apart. I didn’t know why these thoughts and events were taking place in the first place, either. With some hindsight, I think it was my maladaptive perfectionism taking a hold of me and inducing fear into the things I did. If I had talked to someone about this, I probably would have gotten a sincere response saying that what I’m thinking about isn’t true and that there are so many things that I have done in my own right. But to be honest, I wouldn’t have believed them in my state of mind. Still, one thing was for sure: I had to do something about this.