I Miss My Eating Disorder
I miss my eating disorder.
For 10 years, my life was ruled and ruined by a viscous cycle of starvation and purging. I missed out on enjoying adolescence and spent my days in constant torment by the thoughts inside my own mind. For 10 years everyone’s goal for me was to “get better” or “grow out of it,” but I never thought I would be ready to let it go. I did not believe it was possible to exist without my eating disorder. I did not know who I was and thought I would be worthless without it. For 10 years, I found solace in my eating disorder, in the midst of a chaotic and sometimes terrifying world.
An eating disorder is a horrible plight, cursing those individuals with genetic predisposition and any number of unfortunate environmental factors, together creating a perfect storm. However, it can also feels like a close companion, a friend who others do not understand the power of. A friend who is there in the middle of the night when no one else is, who praises you for self-control when the weight is dropping and who tempts with depression and thoughts of worthlessness when the number isn’t what you’re convinced it should be.
From the outside, this might not sound like a friend. From the inside, my eating disorder was one of the most reliable entities, often the only thing I could count on. Most significantly, it was my voice when I felt as if my words held no ground. Everything I could not find the words to say could be expressed physically, as I made it a mission to destroy myself.
The mission was unsuccessful, as I am now living a life better than I ever dreamed possible. But I was not prepared for how much I would miss my eating disorder. Weight restoration and the ability to resist giving into disordered thoughts are only a small piece of the puzzle. It was such an important part of my life for so long, and although there was joy accompanying strides in recovery, there was also indescribable grief.
If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.
More than two years into recovery, I still grieve my eating disorder, sometimes daily. I miss the control I had over one area of my life. Even when I didn’t feel “in control,” no one else could be either. No one could take my eating disorder away. I miss the sense of victory when weight dropped, and in a strange way, I miss the safety net of hospitals.
When I begin to think I miss my eating disorder enough to go back to those behaviors, I look through folders and binders from previous hospitalizations and treatment centers. Recently, I was in one of those folders and found a list I had written of 15 reasons to fight my illness. It has been more than four years since that hospital stay, and I have already done seven of the things on that list. There are still eight more reasons to fight, and I’m sure I could come up with even more now.
As difficult as some days are, I do not want to be in the depths of an eating disorder again. I have dreams for the future, fueling my desire to stay free. I am fortunate enough to have the continuous support of family and friends.
It is incredible difficult to convey in writing all the complexities of life with and life after an eating disorder. This is only meant to scratch the surface and acknowledge “living recovered” is not necessarily easy and definitely not perfect. Everyone’s journey with an eating disorder is different. This is just a piece of my story. I would also love to encourage those struggling in search of their own freedom to not give up. Recovery is not a simple or straightforward, but even on the bad days, it’s worth it.