I recently heard someone describe what their comfort zone looks like: a nice soft comfy arm chair that is cozy and warm and you never want to get up out of. In that moment I realized that my comfort zone is the exact opposite. My comfort zone is dangerous and frightening.
My comfort zone is restricting, fasting, purging, using laxatives, panic and anxiety, depression, insanity, over-exercise and generally trying to fit into a completely arbitrary mold. My comfort zone is weight loss and fitting into n ever-shrinking body. My comfort zone is retreating to my eating disorder when life gets hard – whether that’s body checking, entertaining old thinking patterns or being full out symptomatic. My comfort zone is a very specific set of attributes that are always changing, always shrinking urging me to eat less, weigh less, be less. It is a place where I know exactly what the rules are and how to play the game, a place where there are crimes and punishment and everything makes sense. It is a chestnut pod, constricted and suffocating on the inside, pointy and hazardous on the outside ensuring that you stay stuck and anyone on the outside avoids you. It is loneliness, insecurity, desperation, comparison and fear. My comfort zone is a prison with an open door – the worst kind of prison because you know you can’t escape even though the way is clear – you know you need this prison to survive and endure the pain is causes because it promises to keep you safe, even though it might kill you and almost killed me.
This past Friday a yoga teacher (the same one who made the comment about what her comfort zone felt like) said an amazing quote from Baron Baptiste out of his 40 Days to Personal Revolution book: “Will you survive your comfort zone?”. Simple question, simple answer – no, and I’m lucky I survived it the first 2 times. The first time I had a cardiac event, I’m lucky I lived through that and the others that followed. The second time I relapsed and continued to lose weight as I passed the weight my heart had begun to fail in the first place.
This whole experience came at the perfect time for me – I have been hitting another wall for the last few weeks, questioning my commitment to recovery and considering throwing in the towel completely (my first wall is described here and this is how I got passed it). I have been struggling a lot with my body and body image especially with 2 dress fittings last week (one which I knew nothing about). I spent 2 days crying over the first one, wailing into my husband’s shoulder. I knew that the only way to escape the embarrassment and shame I was feeling was to take matters into my own hands and fall back into my old routines, my comfort zone.
On Monday night I was walking the fence of relapse and recovery not entirely sure which side I would fall into. On Tuesday I made a promise to have a breakthrough in my acceptance of myself and my body – something I said because I would love more than anything to have a breakthrough in it but I knew it wasn’t really possible, especially with the week I’d had and my silent promises to shrink my body back to an acceptable size as soon as possible, praying that I wouldn’t have to do anything too drastic and promising that I would be able to stop at a reasonable weight.
I left the studio,tears in my eyes and sat in my car thinking, my head swimming with pros and cons of relapse and recovery. I felt so incredibly lost and alone, afraid to move my car for fear that even such a small gesture would shift me to one side of the fence or the other – each equally terrifying, I was trying to stay balanced on the fence as long as possible. I sat and cried for a good half hour before I pulled myself together and drove home feeling so alone, promising myself to not make any decisions yet, wishing my psychologist wasn’t in France and chastising myself for being so selfish.
It is now Sunday and I have not chosen to fall back into relapse, into my comfort zone, into the claws of my disorder disguised as welcoming and understanding arms. I have continued to fight, despite the extreme levels of distress and I have even found a few moments of peace. I know that the chances of surviving my comfort zone are very slim if I fall into those open arms again and there is too much life waiting for me to close myself back into prison.