About a week and a half ago, my team had a barbecue at one of the managing directors’s houses out in the suburbs. I work with a great group of people, all of whom I really like and respect and have always felt very fortunate to be a part of. They made it really easy to attend, with a van there at 3:30 and then back into the city at 9:00. They planned pulled pork and mac and cheese and it promised to be a very fun time.
If you are a normal person, with a normal childhood, who is not wildly triggered by being in the presence of drunk authority figures, of course.
First I said I wouldn’t go. I never go to anything work-related where alcohol is served (or at least is the focus of the evening’s activities). Then I got the usual bit of blowback for not going and I talked to my husband and we decided there wasn’t any harm in going and I should just go so maybe everyone will not make any fuss about it when I don’t go next time. Just suck it up and go, like I did three years ago.
So then I was going. Only the ride back into the city wasn’t that convenient for me. I actually live about fifteen minutes from the party, but with the van and then public transportation it would take me at least an hour and a half to get home.
And then I wasn’t going again. Except I ended up subscribing to Uber for an unrelated event and Uber was saying they could get me home from the barbecue whenever I liked for less than $20. So I had no real excuse not to go anymore.
Except that whole triggering thing.
I was going. I dressed for the occasion, I got my work done early. I was totally going.
And at 3:00 that afternoon, half an hour before the van was supposed to depart, I was stuffing myself with bag after bag of potato chips and anything else I could find in my snack drawer, and purging in the bathroom.
Long story short, I didn’t go to the party.
I contacted my therapist and then saw her last Monday. It’s time to dive in. It was all well and good to name the problem and stop hiding it back in July but that’s not proven to be enough. It’s a good sign that I could name the binging and purging behavior for what it really was in that moment — a reaction to the anxiety caused by breaking my own boundary (i.e., not hanging out with drunk co-workers), putting myself squarely between the rock of doing something I didn’t want to do and the hard place of dealing with the potential ill will from my co-workers who might think I am just not grateful or don’t like them. That last bit is not without precedence, by the way. Two years ago I declined the invitation to this same party, and ended up calling in sick that day with a migraine. The next day, my boss at the time called me into a conference room to let me know there had been talk, people were thinking I took too many ‘convenient absences’. Since the only thing of significance I had recently missed by calling in sick was the party I concluded, and then confirmed, that the real message was that they felt I didn’t want to be a part of the group.
In this respect, I am in fact not part of the group. I don’t enjoy hanging out with people I spend forty hours a week with, drinking. Sorry. I think they are all tremendous people with the one exception that some of them don’t seem able to accept that without taking it personally.
I had to go through a whole rigmarole of proving that I did not take too many sick days, and we’ll come back to that later.
Anyway, it was important to put together my binging and purging behavior with feeling very anxious about how to handle a perception problem with my co-workers. It was something I wouldn’t think twice about with friends, but because I am paid to be here, I have guilt about not meeting expectations (reasonable or no).
I went to see my old therapist and it was pretty great to connect with her again and to unload all of this. We made a plan to connect weekly for the next month or so and then look to taking it to an every other week basis. She also gave me a book to borrow, called Overcoming Overeating, by Jane R. Hirschmann and Carol H. Munter.
I am going to do a separate post about my thoughts on the book and what it suggest, but as a sneak peek, and maybe a warning, as a result of reading this book, I am committing to getting off the diet merry-go-round once for awhile. Diets don’t work. All they do is keep us chained into a self-defeating cycle of shame and self-contempt. It’s time to let go of judging myself, of weighing myself, and of worrying what anyone else thinks of me because of how I look in my clothes. I apologize to everyone who tried to tell me this in the past before I was really ready to hear it, and I apologize to anyone who isn’t yet ready to hear it themselves. But those are the last apologies I am going to make about anything related to this topic.