I think of myself as a pendulum. Are we all this way, or just me? I dive into something head-first, and we all know what happens when you dive into something. You lose yourself, bury yourself, surround yourself and you forget about everything else.
Sixteen months ago, my research advisor (Read: boss) made the announcement that contrary to all expectations, he was being denied tenure by the Pitt chemistry department. Read: losing his job. And you know what happens when your boss loses his job. Yeah, you’re probably not lasting too long either. My situation is/was a little different from a classic employee’s situation because I have a contract with the Department of Chemistry, independent of my research advisor. So, I knew I would be able to finish my degree somehow, under the advisement of someone, but the road would be bumpier and less clear than usual.
And the road to PhD is usually neither clear nor bump-free.
This was the straw that broke the camel’s back and it drove me to dive into something (really anything) head-first. Because it’s easy to ignore how scared you are of the future when you’re constantly distracted. For me, the something that I dove into was a restrictive, disordered way of eating and exercising. I cut my calorie intake much too low for my metabolism to be sustained, let alone for my exercise to be fueled. I completely cut out starchy carbs, fat sources and all sweets/treats/desserts. I used my less-than-sane method of working out every day and just “running till I can’t run anymore” rather than creating an exercise plan. I remember bursting into uncontrollable tears one Friday evening when my husband told me his parents invited us over for lunch the next day. I started to dread parties and get-togethers because I knew I wouldn’t be able to control all of the food being served. But of course, I would usually not eat any of it, mastering the art of subtly picking at food without actually putting anything into my mouth, and throwing away the food on my plate. Restaurants menus were like landmines to me; I started refusing to go anywhere that didn’t have an option for a plain salad with nothing but vegetables and protein. And if it came with dressing on the salad instead of on the side, I immediately sent it back. Most nights for dinner at home, I ate nothing but cucumber slices, spinach and scrambled egg whites. And I became so very unhappy.
The driving force behind my behaviors was a desire to distract myself from how scared I was of the future. It became a way to mask my unhappiness, to mask my uncertainty, and to mask the fact that I was increasingly unsure that I even wanted to get a job in chemistry research even after (Read: if) I got my PhD. As long as my face was buried in my calorie tracking app, and my brain was constantly racing through “What have I eaten so far today?” and “What will I eat next?” and “What can I eliminate from my next meal in order to cut my calorie intake?” I didn’t have to face my fear of the future.
Now, with the help of so many amazing prayer warriors in my life, nutrition counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy, I’m recovering. It’s a process, it’s a journey and it doesn’t happen overnight. But I believe I can find freedom for disordered eating behaviors. Because I’m never too far gone for God’s redemption!
What are you running from today, right now, in this very moment?
What behavior are you using to distract yourself? To hide from reality and the truth?