A New Do

14 Apr

For most people, change is hard. Familiar equals comforting in the human psyche. We like to know what’s coming, what to expect. Uncertainty during times of change is trusting that life will hang you over the side of a cliff temporarily, but not let go. Believing that in the end, everything will be okay. Pretty scary. Guess that’s why they call it Fear of the Unknown.

Nothing is scarier for me to change than letting go of the thing that got me through so many hard times in life: my eating disorder. In my head, if I were to let go, life would spin out of control. I would be fat, ugly , horrible, unloveable, and above all… imperfect. The irrational thoughts of the eating disorder try to convince me that I can’t be trusted around food. I am not “normal;” I don’t have the same as the rest of the world’s population to regulate my food intake. The unknown includes  the fear of eating and being unable to stop. So I just don’t. It seems easier that way. Rationally, I know I will be okay at a higher weight, eating three meals a day… I’ve existed at a much higher weight for years before my ED really took over and I was absolutely fine. In fact, I was probably better off than I am today. Yet the eating disorder voice has me convinced that “normal” eating cannot be kept up forever, at least for me, and that I NEED starving or bingeing or purging to cope, to survive. A life without compensatory behaviors frightens me. Life might hang on to other individuals, but me? I won’t get gently dangled during change and then pulled back from the dangerous cliff onto solid ground like everyone else. No, I’m getting shoved over the edge.

I find it very hard to trust and therefore very hard to change. Perhaps the second scariest thing in my life is getting my hair cut. Seriously. I am terrified of trusting someone and walking out looking like someone took ” a hacksaw to my head.” Yes, I’ve gotten that reaction from a mishappen cut and style before. Not pretty, but it pretty much tainted my enjoyment of a new hairdo forever. Now the experience is fraught with anxiety, so I try to put it off until I simply can’t stand how limp my curls from too much weight have become and how split my ends are. Before today, I hadn’t gotten a haircut in more than 8 months.

But I’ve been doing well trusting in recovery this week and during a surge of courage yesterday, I booked a cut with a new stylist at a salon here in Austin called Studio Tilee. Laura, the newest addition to the salon, put me straight at ease with her light-hearted chatter and sweet smile. In a split second decision I, gasp!, handed over all control to Laura and said, “Do whatever you think will look best on me and will be lighter for summer.” She didn’t hesitate for a second. I immediately freaked at my outburst and rendering myself powerless, but too late! Thicks red chunks were already cascading downward from the salon chair.  It was a mental struggle to see my long, auburn locks falling swiftly to the bare tile floor. Would the cut come out well? Would my usually springy curls frizz uncontrollably tomorrow? What if this was a bad idea and I’d have to wear a bag over my head for a few weeks? Were mirrors going to crack? 

Finally, I settled down and calmed my anxiety. There was no going back; I just had to accept that. Reflecting on it this afternoon, taking the chance and making a change was metaphorically healing for me. Not only did I walk away with a fabulous new do and a spring in my step, but I was able to trust and cope with the uncomfortable unknown. Every girl should find a stylist that makes her feel like a million bucks, not a hedge that needed a trimming. But you can’t ever find one until you try. Today I did. I shed inches from my hair, but for the afternoon, I had shed my insecurities, my need to be in perfect control, my phobia of placing trust in others.

It’s time to face the unknown. Believe that life will be okay… more than okay. Yes, my eating disorder served a coping purpose in the past. But now, I’m not hanging over the cliff edge. I don’t need to fear anymore. I’ve been waiting a long time…

It’s time to let go.


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