Dear Eating disorder,
You are always there but rarely do I notice you other than when I feel a pang of hunger or when I come to after a bout of binging and purging. Rarely do I talk back to you as I let you insidiously control me. I don’t know what to call you, a friend or an enemy. We have a complex relationship but a relationship that has me dependent, stuck, fearful, and exhausted. I wish I could simplify you and define you in an effort to heal and understand.
You have shown yourself as bulimia, you have shown yourself as anorexia, you have shown yourself as an obsession with exercise and weight but you are more than that. You are a constant conversation in my head about what to do, what not to do, how to be, how not to be— with food, with exercise, and otherwise. You are not merely in the binging and purging itself, you are not merely in the skipped meals, you are present throughout my day.
You are the voice behind my actions. You are perfectionism targeting what seems to be the easiest and most apparent thing for me to project upon and control, my physicality. You attempt to control and attack not only my physical body but my personality, worth, and value.
It’s Been A Long Road
We have been through a lot together the past 10 years, and there are parts of you that I love.
You have been with me in some form since the beginning: since being silenced by dominating older brothers as a child, since being told by my mother’s quirks and anxieties to ignore my own feelings for the sake of others’ comfort, since being told that there was a right way to earn love by fitting into a box of perfection and performance and social status, since the time that I was left unseen and unheard and unknown by peers and teachers.
You have protected me from feeling like I’m too much and not enough, you have provided an outward defense against others seeing into the “imperfect” messiness of my inner world.
The Comfort Of ED
You have remained a consistent to go back to when things feel too new, too out of control, too much for me to handle. When I can’t trust myself I can trust you. You have been a source of stability in the outer and the inner chaos, a quiet place I can retreat to in my mind and in my bathroom. You promise beauty, you promise filling me without the fear of having to take up more space. Space that I have been told I am not worthy to occupy. You promise to always be there whenever I need. Morning or night I can always find a way to come to you to avoid dealing with what is going on outside and within.
You draw me in with promises of relief, of power, of satisfaction without fear of consequences of eating the rich foods that you have told me are “bad”. Cake, cookies, cereal can all be consumed without the fear of the effects on my body. I can experience the freedom of eating what I want without the fear of the costs of that freedom. I love the way that you give me a sense of control and power.
You help me get rid of the things inside. Emotions that I fear would lead to vulnerability or rejection. The guilt I feel when I can’t please everyone around me. But in getting rid of these parts of me that feel bad, you are also getting rid of some of the good. The protection you provide comes with a price. Invincibility or invisibility.
Painted In A Corner
I feel trapped by your promises and the false narratives that you have created about my identity and how I “should” be. I feel trapped by the allure of safety that you provide, if I let go of you will the chaos I fear from within come out and overwhelm me? As I attempt to let go— I find other things and people to control.
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I feel trapped by the allure of comfort that you provide, if I let go of you will the sting of rejection be unbearable? The more I try to resist you the stronger you come back. The more I fight against, the greater my obsessions become. It is easier to keep you a secret from those closest to me because the more I let others in on my relationship with you, the more rejected and misunderstood I feel. You have me trapped and isolated from the connection and people that I want to be known by the most.
You have allowed me to avoid the discomfort of feeling. But for every feeling of pain and suffering and insecurity that you numb, you numb a moment of joy and connection. You cost me relationships, you cost me letting others in by knowing and being known. You cost me countless hours meal planning, countless hours in the bathroom vomiting, you cost me the freedom to think and be and create and live. You have reduced me to a skeleton of myself and who God has created me to be.
You have stolen trust. I no longer trust myself, fearing the binges and purges that I am capable of, fearing the voice of my own hunger. I no longer trust others, that they can handle the depth and breadth and complexity and messiness of my emotions. You have destroyed the light and life in my heart. Making promises that you are not capable of fulfilling. You have promised a forgiveness and identity that is not yours to provide. You have promised a comfort that is only found in freedom and rest. You have promised beauty that is already innately mine.
Fears Overcome Me
I hate the way that you make me fear. Constantly worried someone will call me out, bring it up, notice. I hate the way that you make me feel. You make me feel like a failure because I can never measure up to your standards. I can never eat a small enough amount, I can never work out enough, I can never take up as little space as you would like. I can never be kind enough, funny enough, smart enough, interesting enough.
I hate the way that you make promises you can’t keep. I hate the way that you have stolen precious moments of joy and fun and celebration at dinner with friends with your constant anxiety about losing control of me if I get the dessert, if I get the fries instead of salad. I hate the way that I trade living in God’s light for living with you in your darkness. I hate the ways that you have made my dreams small. That you have tainted every good memory I have with the shadow of your presence.
I hate the way that you make me feel. Weak, dizzy, dirty. You have cost me more than just freedom, joy, and relationship. You have wreaked havoc on my physical body. I feel confused about what is hungry and what is full. What is up and what is down. I can no longer trust to know what my body needs because I have been dependent on you to determine and deny my body’s “needs” for so long. You exhaust me. I feel my body slowing down, deteriorating underneath the weight of your tyranny. Exhausted by the mental battle, the physical implications, and the emotional confusion.
You Exhaust Me
I have spent far too much time and energy on you. I have spent far too much money on you. I have wasted food. I have wasted money on binges I wish I could forget. Imagine the investments I could have made! Investments in people, experiences, growth. But instead I go to the store. Knowing I shouldn’t buy the cereal that ends in a binge. Knowing the trail mix will end in the toilet. Compulsively, I buy it anyway. Part of me says it will be different this time but deep down I know what I’m getting myself in to. You are deceitful. Always helping me find why I am not ready to leave you. If I can’t recover perfectly, why bother? One binge? No one has to know. One purge, not a big deal right? These are the thoughts that keep me stuck in the cycle.
Enough Is Enough
I have had enough. You have served your purpose. Thank you. You have protected me from pain, you have allowed me to numb and avoid, but I am ready to be present to my life. The pain and the unknown are a part of the journey and I want to experience it from now on.
I am enough.