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My Eating Disorder Will Never Be My Date for Valentine's Day Again


Gosh, relationships. Hard enough before you have a third party involved. If you watch “Sister Wives,” you know what I am talking about. If you are in a relationship while having an eating disorder, it’s like having an ménage à trois, because the eating disorder voice is always there, looming, as the third party in the relationship. You can’t just focus on the two of you, because that third party is constantly pulling at your heartstrings, like a puppet master, causing complete havoc.

Since I’ve never been one for three ways, my eating disorder became the only thing I had time for. We were exclusive to each other, a monogamous duo. We had “the talk” many times. He was romantic at times. On Valentine’s Day he pulled out all the stops, triggering bulimia with my “favorite” binge, followed by a purge. He was thoughtful like that, knowing this was an ideal date night for me. No one knew the ins and outs of my mind quite like my eating disorder.

At times I did try to date. I made a profile and joined the ranks of New York dating singles on JDate and Match.com. At the time those were the big ones. It was difficult for me to take any “blind” date situation seriously. I felt like a caricature of myself out on these dates. I could never take these meet ups as more than a joke. If I took it seriously, it would mean I would have to face being rejected or worse, let someone in and get my heart broken. My eating disorder kept me safe, so I stuck tightly by his side. For four years during the peak of my self-destruction, he was my everything. He was the only one I had time for because he was extremely demanding. He was bossy and verbally and physically abusive. He told me to work out because my butt was too flabby. Sometimes he would tell me to work out on the elliptical in the middle of the night, when I couldn’t sleep. He told me not to eat anything all day. He told me to wear baggy clothes to mask my shrinking frame.

He taught me so many tricks, he taught me everything I knew. We were so codependent I actually thought we merged into one. I forgot who I was. Six months into recovery was the first time I was able to let someone besides my eating disorder into my life. A year and a half later we were married. I finally started to peel away who Dani was without her eating disorder — what she really liked, didn’t like and most importantly, how she felt. I became the real me, not the me I felt pressure to be or who constantly believed I wasn’t good enough. Because you know what? I am more than good enough, thank you very much!

My husband was not my “cure-all” by any means. I am in no way saying a ring and a wedding cured my eating disorder or made me well, because it didn’t. What I am saying is because I was happy and healthy mentally and physically I was able to let myself be vulnerable and the conditions for true connection were set. So this Valentine’s Day I will be celebrating four years eating disorder-free with my husband and my 11-month-old daughter by my side. We will be at home, in our pajamas, eating takeout and speaking baby babble with food absolutely everywhere — and it will be perfect. I couldn’t even imagine this life years ago, but now I wouldn’t even want to take a peek back out of curiosity.

Recovery has brought me this perfectly imperfect spaghetti and tomato sauce in the hair image of Valentine’s Day and as challenging and sometimes messy as it will be, I couldn’t picture it any other way. I will cheers to my recovery with a spaghetti noodle from my hair. And cheers for having the guts to get rid of my abusive boyfriend.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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