Dear Eating Disorder,
We've lived together for a little over seven years now and I think it's time you packed up your shit and left.
You know, when I first met you, I actually liked you. For a 17-year-old girl who was terribly uncomfortable in her own skin, you seemed to understand me.
You understood how chubby and awkward I felt around other girls. You agreed boys would only love and respect me if I were thinner. You consoled me each time I looked in the mirror and pinched my rolls of fat.
You consoled me each time I looked in the mirror and pinched my rolls of fat.
“You'll be happy soon." "You'll have a body the other girls envy and the boys want soon." "I'll fix you little, broken girl." "I'll give you the control those other people took away.”
I believed you, and the dieting ensued.
Measuring cups to make sure my body knew who was boss. Ritual morning weigh-ins to determine whether or not I could feel good about myself that day.
Bottles of water, packs of gum and cigarettes after school and work to quiet my unreliable body when it screamed for food.
Measly portions stuffed into lunch boxes and containers. Miles and miles on the treadmill; rubber burning the soles of my feet and everything else inside of me.
And of course, binges. Delicious, blissful, rapturous, euphoric binges.
Even you couldn't control my ravenous, primitive hunger.
Every week my body would break its chains and run screaming off of the nearest cliff. In that moment, the thoughts would disappear.
But I didn't purge. No. That's what bulimics do.
And not eat? That's what anorexics do. I still eat. I don't have a problem.
“Of course you don't have a problem." "This is just what it takes." "But you did something very bad eating all of that food." "We'll handle this tomorrow,” you whispered.
"I'm sorry,” I thought. “It was a mistake, I'm a mistake. Tomorrow I won't eat and I'll run six miles. I'll fix this.”
Guilt. Shame. Redemption. Repeat.
For a little over a year this restrictive cycle of dieting continued. At the time I thought this was just what people did, I didn't think I had a problem.
But I was also never happy.
Even when I was at my lowest weight sporting defined abs, size-4 jeans and sunken cheeks, I still didn't feel thin enough.
Even when people told me how “good” I looked, I thought they were lying.
The only thing worse than not feeling thin enough, was the constant fear of gaining weight and losing control. Of turning back into a chubby, awkward, undesirable, unenvied, unlovable girl.
The only thing worse than not feeling thin enough, was the constant fear of gaining weight.
During college, things got worse. Restrictive eating and alcohol are like two lost souls, and when they come together they create quite the cluster-fuck.
Binge drink. Binge eat. Restrict. Repeat.
However, this time the restricting wasn't so exhilarating. The novelty began to wear off, and after some time I physically couldn't maintain such extreme levels of diet and exercise.
So, naturally, I started to gain weight. All the while you, my Eating Disorder, observed quietly from the sidelines.
“This is interesting,” you thought. “How can I work with this? She seems to have lost the ability to restrict and punish herself properly, so I'll find a new way.”
At that same time, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. I was terrified, confused and angry. And you comforted me.
You told me my big messy emotions, like my body, could be small.
You showed me that food, the exact thing I avoided at all costs, could sooth me. Just as long as I got rid of it afterwards.
And so my bulimia began.
I remember the first time you told me to purge. It was a revelation. I was relieved. I wasn't lost after all, I was saved.
So I drank, and I binged and I purged. Afterward, I felt good.
My mind and my body were finally empty again. Eventually I didn't even need the alcohol. Just binge and purge when it all gets to be too much. Run away from the pain instead of feeling it. I'd do anything not to feel.
Hollywood makes bulimia seem kind of sexy. But you, ED, knew all along it wasn't like that.
It wasn't sexy and it wasn't the secret to happiness. It was a new, much uglier monster.
Bulimia is wicked. It takes food, a basic human need, and turns it into pure fucking heroin.
Bulimia is wicked. It takes food, a basic human need, and turns it into pure fucking heroin. It's an addiction.
The ultimate binge and purge. A drug. A way to numb out, and leave your body for a few minutes and forget yourself. A way to voluntarily check out of life for a little bit.
It reduces a colorful though confusing life to nothing more than black and white. All or nothing.
Trash bags. Toilets. Showers. Front lawns. Restaurants. Parties. Friend's houses. Parent's houses. Relative's houses. Christmases. Birthdays. Thanksgivings. Holidays.
Bulimia is ugly, messy and degrading. You, my Eating Disorder, convinced me my self-worth was on my knees at the edge of a toilet seat.
You, my Eating Disorder, convinced me my self-worth was on my knees at the edge of a toilet seat.
You stole precious moments from my life over and over and over again, without a giving a fuck.
You made me hate my body. You made me hate myself. You convinced me I didn't deserve a normal, healthy, fulfilled life.
You are unforgiving , but today I'm trying something new. Something you aren't expecting that will shock you.
Today and every day after today, I'm going to forgive you.
Today and every day after today, I'm going to forgive you.
I know where you live now. You live in the dark, in my problems, my struggles and my insecurities. You hide there because that's where you're strong and safe.
But I've found some light. It's not much, but enough to finally cast a little on you. To let myself, and others, see you for what you are.
Yes, I'm angry. Yes, I feel bad for myself. Yes, the pain is sometimes unbearable if I think about it too much.
But, I figured something out: I was never broken in the first place.
I'll admit I'm still wrapping my head around that truth.
After years of looking for a quick-fix, it's not an easy pill to swallow. On the other hand, it's all I have now.
It's the first step of many toward recovery and living again. Toward experiencing all the big, messy, beautiful shit life has to offer.
Love. Fear. Grief. Loss. Joy. Hope.
I'm selfish and I want to feel it all. I deserve to feel it all. I'm worthy of feeling it all.
So Eating Disorder, thank you.
Thank you for showing me the wrong way, so now I know there is no right way -- only forward.
Thank you for teaching me what life is not about. Thank you for showing me light shines the brightest in the darkest places.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to help others who feel alone.
And finally, thank you for showing me the wrong way, so now I know there is no right way -- only forward.