Emotional Disorder Not Otherwise Specified

You need to eat. Only slightly less literally, you also have to socialize. These things can be impacted in similar ways by disordered thinking.

The main parallel is the cycle formed by the waxing and waning of two competing pressures. There’s the need: you have to eat/talk to people. And then there’s the disorder: eating is bad/you’re wasting people’s time. The longer you go without doing the forbidden thing, the more the need mounts; simultaneously, the guilt wanes as it’s been longer since you sinned.

And so eventually you crack. Depending on the terms your disorder sets you, maybe you only crack a little – you eat, like, one pop-tart, or you send one anodyne text, and you feel only a little bad for giving in. Or perhaps too much has built up, or your resolve is weak, and you binge – you eat too much, you open up a lot. This probably actually feels good, at least in the doing, but then you’re left with a proportional hangover. So you stew in guilt and shame, swear to do better – next time you can’t abstain any longer, surely you’ll eat less, you’ll impose less. Your shame is inversely proportional to your satisfaction.

The goal is similar in both cases: take up less space. Be smaller, physically or mentally. Take up less space in the world, in the minds of the people who know you. You should be not seen as well as not heard. Your appearance is a burden, and so is having to talk to you.

You have to handle other-initiated circumstances similarly, too. When someone offers you a snack, you always conveniently just ate. When someone invites you to a party, you’re always conveniently busy. If you must show up, you’re conveniently only interested in hearing about others, not talking about yourself. You can sit around and smile and sip your drink and not impose on any of the conversations around you. If someone directly involves you, you’re polite until you can make someone else the focus again. If someone insists you eat, you have a bite or two before the offerer is satisfied and the situation passes.

This parallel breaks down a bit at one important part: you can “socialize” virtually, but there’s no fake way to eat. Broadcasting yourself on the internet doesn’t feel quite the same as texting someone, or, god forbid, asking them to spend time with you. You’re just shouting; nobody has to listen. It still counts a little bit, though; maybe it can tide you over and prevent you from forcing any innocents to directly pay attention to you.

After all, I’m just shouting. Nobody has to listen.

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