I have always ‘functioned’. And I really think for me, functioning has been a double edged sword. The drive to keep going is the thing that has allowed me to build a life, find someone I love, reach a certain level professionally, develop adult friendships, have (some degree of) understanding of my weak points. It has also allowed me to at times almost completely dismiss my difficulties with eating, definitely to trivialise them. I wonder whether I have been so good at doing this, it has allowed other people to get dragged into that too.
I am at a ‘low’ (but not worryingly low) BMI, where the service I have been attending have surprised me by asking for fairly regular bloods and no exercise. Yet more than one friend has recently told me I ‘look good’ and appeared genuinely baffled as to why I’ve taken a break from running. It’s a well meant but not helpful response to someone constantly trying to work out which part of their mind to is telling the truth. Am I underweight, or do I look ok? Is it ok to ‘let myself off the hook’, or are restriction and exercise (which are much more comfortable) necessary? I function, so surely that means I’m ok?
Weight gain brings with it intense, difficult feelings. I have days where to say I feel mixed up is a dramatic understatement. I suspect I am sometimes so good at seeming ok, that when I tell people, they think I must be exaggerating the intensity of things. I’m not. But intellectually, I know it isn’t rational and I need to protect others from me (and me from their reaction). So I (generally) get on with it. Not that I don’t talk things through, but I am ever so measured.
I am acutely aware of people at lower weights than me, who are not functioning, and feel a failure because I haven’t been that low a weight for years. And even when I was, it wasn’t enough, I still went to work. I passed my driving test in a physical state I doubt I should have been driving. And confusingly, at that time no one ever checked my bloods and no one told me not to exercise. The distorted part of my mind really struggles with that. I’ve always got on with things, so I must be ok. I’ve been underweight for years, but I function, so I must be ‘heavy’ enough. I don’t think I am the only one. If you are the kind of person who is always ‘fine’, who always functions, whose coping strategy is to drive on to be more and do more, how do you judge when you’re not ok?
The truth is, some people will always function, but that doesn’t mean they are ok. Sometimes functioning is part of the problem.