**I have said it before, but this time of year is very difficult for people who are in recovery from an eating disorder, who are currently in their eating disorder, or are even in denial about anything eating disorder related. Jess wrote this beautiful post about the abusive relationship between the person dealing with an eating disorder and the eating disorder itself. It’s a love/hate relationship, and it often steals our identity. When you are so involved in a eating disorder, it steals everything we found joy in, everything we love, it’s stripped away. We don’t know who we are, and it scares us when we are in recovery and often scares us back into a relapse, we forget how to live, so we end up going back to what we see as “normal”. Please be kind to everyone. Just because someone may not look sick doesn’t mean that they aren’t. Sometimes they are actually sicker. It’s not easy to be transparent with people about the things we held secret for so long.”
You waltzed into my life when I was coming apart at the seams. You wrapped me in your warm embrace and promised to keep me from falling apart. You said you would be my friend and I, painfully alone, agreed to be your friend. I was a shy and self conscious child. I was heavily weighed down by my negative self image and non existent sense of belonging. I had just started a new school and I didn’t know a single soul. “Stick with me,” you told me, “I will make people like you.”
At first you were helpful. You were the coping skill I didn’t know I needed. When I would start to feel anxious you would give me something to distract myself. “How many calories did you eat yesterday? Maybe we can do better today.” And it worked! You rid my mind of all anxious thoughts and instead gave me a distraction to focus on. When I felt depressed you gave me something to look forward to. “Think about how great you’ll look when you get to your goal weight! Everyone will love you!” You convinced me we were on this journey of “health” together. You told me that by eating “good” foods and avoiding the “bad” ones I was on my way to becoming a better person. I committed to you. I gave you everything I had. And you, the only one I was able to rely on, you turned on me.
I don’t remember exactly when your warm embrace began to fade into an icy grip around my throat. It happened so slowly that I didn’t really notice it. I thought we were still working together. I thought you were still coaching me on how to live my best life. I was fully committed to living by all the rules that you taught me. I was doing everything in my power to maintain control as you were slowly morphing from a friendly coping skill into a dangerous and violent abuser. The words you whispered in my ear turned from encouraging to demeaning. The negative emotions you once helped to ward off you were now fueling. You began to tell me that without you I was a worthless low life piece of garbage. You convinced me that I would never be able to accomplish anything without you. And I was so committed to you that I eagerly believed every message you sent me. I continued you give everything you demanded from me and you began to take more and more. You planted these seeds of negative thinking in my mind and you sat back and laughed as they grew and flourished and consumed me. I was blind to what was becoming of me. You moved in and completely took over my mind. I wasn’t in charge of my thoughts or actions anymore. You were calling all of the shots and I didn’t have it in me to out up a fight. I was submissive and obedient to all of your demands and yet I still believed that I was the one in control. I believed that by controlling what went in and out of my body, that I was truly in control of my life. That I was in control of you. But the truth was that your grip had never been tighter and my friends began to fear for my life. From an outside perspective it was obvious that I was headed toward my deathbed. However I was completely oblivious to how bad things were.
One of my friends stepped in. She began speaking to me about treatment and possibly breaking free from your paralyzing grip. She wanted me to see that I was no longer the one in control and that my life was not my own. I of course would not listen to a word she said. She was threatening the one thing that brought me comfort and I jumped to your defense. However she refused to give up on me and eventually she did have me questioning whether or not I wanted to live this way…
I admitted to McCallum Place in November of last year. I stayed for only 4 weeks, but they were the most trying weeks of my life. In treatment you are completely stripped of your access to your eating disorder. They take away the only way you know how to cope with the tragedy of the world. They break you down and then they build you back up. Piece by piece you learn a little bit more of who you are without the disorder that has defined you for so long.
As soon as I discharged I went back to my disorder. I once again welcomed the sharp embrace of my oldest friend. It was comfortable. It was familiar. I was happy. I realized that I needed my eating disorder to survive. I didn’t know who I was without it. I fell back into my negative behaviors and I fell hard. I was once again on a downward spiral. Within months my friend was once again pushing me to go back to treatment. This time was different. Maybe it was the weeks of therapy I had endured, but I could see myself losing control this time. I saw my sanity and my life slipping away from me. I knew what I needed. I knew I needed help. But I wasn’t ready to let go.
The stress of the possibility of treatment really began to wear me down. I kept putting off making a decision until I got sicker and sicker. One day the pressure became too much to bear. In march I attempted suicide and was very nearly successful.
I was ready to die before I was willing to make the decision to give up my disorder. Luckily my attempt wasn’t successful and it was then I realized what a monster you truly were. I was devoted and committed to you and you tried to kill me. It was time to move on with my life. In June I readmitted to McCallum Place and I decided to give recovery all I had. I felt safe and protected in their care. I’ve never had much support in my personal life so it was nice to be able to spend time around such amazing people. They erased all the negative core beliefs you had instilled in me and they made me feel like I was worth fighting for.
And here I am. Once again, in another relapse. I have once again re embraced the most toxic relationship of my life. You are once again in control of my life and it honestly brings me comfort. I know the path I’m headed down, I’ve been here before. I do not want to end up back in the hospital and especially not treatment. However I am so reluctant to let you go. Even though our relationship has been nothing but toxic, you have been with me since I was 13. You’ve been by my side longer than anyone. No one knows me better than you. And the truth is that I don’t know how to exist without you. I don’t know who I’m supposed to be without you. And that’s why it’s so hard for me to let you go.