To the Eating Disorder That Promised Me Everything
Note: Ed is a reference to an eating disorder or E.D. He takes the shape of many eating disorders, such as bulimia, anorexia nervosa and binge eating disorder. He is not a real, physical person, but may be portrayed as so to help patients struggling with eating disorders to disassociate from the illness. It’s a tool I like to use to help myself create a barrier between my own person and the illness.
It’s been 10 years and one hell of a ride. I remember when we first met. It was just after I broke my arm in gymnastics. I was alone, lost and in need of attention and comfort. You rushed to my side, this seemingly perfect stranger who promised me happiness, confidence and friendship. And I, the wide-eyed and naïve, little girl who I was, welcomed you with arms wide open.
You gained my trust rather quickly. I followed your every piece of advice, your every command. I believed your word that if I did exactly as you told me, then I would be skinny, perfect, happy and loved. I wouldn’t be a burden to anyone and I would be in control of my life.
Hungry? Well it’s not exactly 12:30 p.m. So you can’t eat until then. Suck it up and suck it in. Your jeans are too tight. No dinner for you tonight. See that girl there? You’ll never look like her if you keep eating the way you do. Nothing but water and carrots for the next day or two. You may have reached your goal weight, but you’re still too big. Lose more. You’ll never be enough looking like that.
I believed your every word. But you blinded me, Ed. How could you? As our relationship grew, I shrank, both physically and spiritually. I was deceptive, running plates of food to the bathroom to flush down the toilet while my family wasn’t looking. I cried after every time I ate, even though I was barely sustaining myself on what I was per day at my lowest point. I lied through my teeth to my doctors, family and friends about how much I ate and how I couldn’t explain the weight loss.
If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.
I couldn’t go out to eat with my friends out of fear and embarrassment for ordering a bed of lettuce as my meal, and then worrying if they put oil or some high calorie dressing on it while I wasn’t looking. I locked myself in my room on holidays out of fear that breathing in the air of the meal was somehow ingesting calories and therefore making me fat.
My hair was brittle. My face was gaunt, and I barely had the energy to walk. Not to mention, I was miserable to be around. My lack of confidence was palpable. My worries of not being accepted and loved written all over my face. My self-hatred replacing every ounce of weight I had left.
How was this anything you had promised me? Yet, I defended you. Anytime anyone threatened to take you away from me, my guard went up out of fear of losing you. It wasn’t until seven years into it that I realized you were costing me everything I ever loved and valued. My friends, my family, my love of life. I was losing everything because I thought you were the only key to happiness, my one-way ticket. So I broke up with you briefly. To be honest, that was one of the most blissful years of my life. I was free from you and free to be just me. Just Britt.
Like any bad, unhealthy ex, you snuck back in somehow. This time, though, you transformed. Not only were you that annoying, mousy, little voice telling me to restrict, but you were also the voice telling me to end it all. You told me I wasn’t going to ever get better and I should just give up. I lost interest in everything that brought me joy, my relationships, painting and running.
With help, patience and hope, I was able to once again overcome you and break free from your deathly grip. I almost lost that time, but I proved I was stronger than you. I am stronger than you.
Now, here we are again. Well, Ed, my old friend whom I once knew so well and loved dearly, your presence is no longer wanted. This is the last time you will ever take up residency in my head. Old habits may die hard, but I can promise you this will be your last attempt to steer me down the path of a sad, eating-disordered, barren life. No, this is not some epiphany or Nirvana I’ve finally reached. This is me finally being fed up (forgive the pun, though I’m sure you’d enjoy it) and tired of you destroying every crevice of my life you’ve seeped into.
Simply put, I’m done. With the counting calories, with the constant anxiety of what I ate, how much I ate and when to eat, with the shame and embarrassment of eating in a public setting, with the destruction of any relationship I’ve ever had. I’m done. To quote one of my favorite bands, Blink-182, “I won’t go down that f*cking rabbit hole with you again.” Not today, nor ever again.
Image via Thinkstock.