Another piece of the puzzle

Today I had planned on posting about fall weather because it’s finally here!! It’s a beautiful clear and crisp day here in Ithaca – perfect for sitting out on the patio at our favorite local hangout Collegetown Bagels, going for a refreshing walk on campus or attending Ithaca Brewfest. There are so many lovely things to do here in the fall, and I can’t wait to enjoy (and post about!) all of them.

The reason I’m not going to post on those today is because I need to write about another piece of my “ED” puzzle. My ED started out with me not even being able to admit to having a problem at all. Even when I finally admitted I had a problem, I claimed to myself and my therapist that the only reason I was engaging in these behaviors was to swim faster. However, over time new pieces were added to my overall picture of how my ED had become such a sanctuary – a place where I could avoid the feelings that came with each piece. There are quite a few pieces, representing people and events. But today I want to talk about a big one – my ex-boyfriend.

The reason I need to write about him is because he texted me last night for the first time in a month of two. We dated for two years in high school pretty seriously, and – long story short – I ended it when I was a junior and he was a senior. I ended it because he was constantly jealous of my friends, swimming and school. Just to frame it (and not sound obnoxious – hopefully) I got a lot of recognition in high school. I got really good grades and was close with many of the teachers and staff. It was a smallish, Catholic school (about 800 kids total) and so if you were one of the “favorites” your name was in the newspaper for sports, you received awards, your name was announced over the PA, you could walk around with your shirt untucked and skirt rolled without getting detention or demerits. Yes, I was that girl. Unfortunately, a lot of that attention resulted in some issues with my boyfriend (at the time) and my older sister. My sister is another piece of the “puzzle.”

For the record, if I could go back and erase all of that recognition I would. The attention made me feel like all people cared about was what I did in the pool or what grades I got. I lost part of myself back then and have had to fight hard to get it back. Regardless, what happened is that my ex would says things that hurt my feelings, but I wouldn’t admit it because I was afraid to get in arguments and be a “bad/high-maintenance” girlfriend. Unfortunately, this strategy backfired and I ended up being irreparably hurt and had to (unexpectedly from his end) break it off. He was extremely hurt and we went through periods of trying to be “friends,” having arguments, and even hooking up/ going on dates. This went on for four and a half years, culminating in me paying him a visit this past May. I was under the impression we were getting back together (because he told me we were) but he ended up taking advantage of me. I was vulnerable and didn’t have much self-respect at the time, so I am partially at fault. But I promised myself, then and there, that I wouldn’t let the cycle continue.

So last night he texted me. It started off with small talk, and then he told me he “needs to lose ten pounds.” The last time I saw him I told him about my ED, so I thought this was pretty insensitive, but I tried to be supportive and said “I don’t think you need to lose weight but maybe try some consistent exercise.” For the record, he used to swim and so maintained the strong shoulders and overall good physique, and really doesn’t need to lose weight. He eats pretty unhealthily, but I know I shouldn’t be giving out advice on how to eat so that’s as far as I would go. About five minutes later, he said “I miss talking to you.” This is how our cycle of talking, flirting, dating/hooking up, and ultimately fighting ALWAYS starts.

Last night, I decided to end the cycle. I told him that he misses talking to me because I would listen to him complain for hours on end and without regard for my own emotions. I tried to be the perfect girlfriend/ex/friend/whatever and lost part of myself in the process. I let him take the lead because I was so afraid he wouldn’t like/love me if I showed him who I really was. I told him that he is a good person (because he is) but I think it’s better this way. He said “ok I guess” and didn’t text me until this morning, when he said he was sorry to bother me and I didn’t need to worry about having him in my life anymore. I said “please stop” and he said “I’m serious, goodbye.”

I told him to grow up. He said “I have.” And that’s where the cycle ends for now, after seven years of being involved one way or another. I know I’m being true to myself, but I still feel guilty because I do care about him. At one point in my life we were best friends. I am still best friends with his sister, who is my age. His mom is like my second mom. There’s a lot of emotion and time that we both invested in each other, and it’s hard to ever let go someone that means that much to you.

That’s why he’s one of my pieces. And that’s why I need to change it – for both of us. I have enough respect for myself now to know that there are things about me that are lovable and I don’t have to be perfect anymore. There are people that know me and love me, and I don’t have to try to please people all the time. All I have to do is stand up for myself and what I value – and for the first time, my actions show love for myself instead of love for my ex.

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