An Apology to Myself in Recovery From Anorexia
It’s been clear to me for quite some time that I’ve owed you an apology.
Firstly, I want to apologize for putting off writing you this letter, because I felt you weren’t deserving of it. I now realize all of the beautiful things in this life and universe you are in fact deserving of.
I’m sorry I let you believe the parasite assassin of purging anorexia had to rule your life since you were 5 years old. I’m sorry I taught you how to purge away your pain at the age of 7 — allowing this to become not only a coping mechanism for everything in your life but also your best friend and most loyal companion for 20 years.
I let the bullies win. I let them rule your childhood and adolescence, robbing you of the joy and laughter you deserved. Instead, I consumed your mind with thoughts that seemed factual about how fat, disgusting, ugly and terrible you were. Looking at yourself in the mirror, screaming those words back at you, causing you misery and shame. I’m sorry since day one I taught you to poke and pull and prod at your skin and body, wondering just how and why you were born such a “monster.”
I’m sorry I told you love was only found in the form of abuse, judgment, shame and guilt. I’m sorry for letting you fall into the arms of so many abusers who never saw your worth or deserved your love. With thrill, I allowed you to be physically, emotionally and mentally harmed in so many ways, convincing you it was good for you and just what you needed. I’m sorry for compromising the relationships with those closest to you or allowing you to cultivate healthy relationships, by telling you the most important relationship was with your eating disorder. So self-destructive and intimate, but I know you can let this go for good this time.
If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.
I kept you up at night panicking about food and numbers and everything you felt you were out of control of. I convinced you the only thing you could control was your body and what it looked like. I also convinced you that meant safety. I provided mirror reflections for you to fear and hate — to not be able to know the girl looking back at you, the power she embodied and what she was capable of. I know you look inside and you search for that child you were never given a chance to know. I know I took away the voice of that little girl before she was even given a chance. I’m sorry I caused you to hate little Kinleigh, unable to look back on her, even in your adult life, and offer her compassion. To tell her she didn’t deserve the things that happened to her, and they didn’t happen because she was a bad person. I know you think she is dead, but she did not die. The child in you is alive and she is waiting to show you the world in a different light.
I’ve turned you into a glutton for pain and punishment. I told you substance abuse, purging and restricting and over-exercising were the only things that could provide you with validation, love, success, acceptance but most importantly safety in this universe. I told you that you needed to destroy yourself and your life to be worthy, deserving and to be safe. Instead, I’ve left you with an extremely lonely, self-loathing life, with a love for self-destruction. For that I truly am sorry.
I’m sorry for allowing you to fall into a lifestyle of bodybuilding, obeying the orders of an abusive coach and boyfriend. Putting your body through pain, torment and suffering for six hours a day, abusing cocaine and steroids because I said you’d never be enough on your own. As if the voices in your head weren’t enough, I allowed you to listen to a man who believed these things about you, and only pushed you through more physical and mental pain, providing you with nothing but misery. Trophies, judges, coaches and men’s opinions don’t dictate your worth, and I wish I could take back having you believe that.
I’m sorry for minimizing your experiences and telling you the weight of them meant nothing compared to the painful experiences of others. By doing this, I never allowed you a chance to be open and honest about your pain; which would provide you with an opportunity to heal. Instead, I told you to hide behind destructive, abusive relationships, dishonesty, self-harm and your eating disorder.
Since you were 5, I never allowed you to celebrate a birthday. I told you cake, ice cream and food alone were the devil, and you must get rid of that shit. I never gave you the opportunity to celebrate your life. Especially last year, on your 25th birthday when you were so excited to have been in recovery and given a cake for the first time in years — with “Fuck Anorexia” written across the top — I wanted you to enjoy it. I wanted you to be proud of yourself for enjoying it. I wanted you to celebrate with your family, but I just couldn’t let you. Both Mom and Dad bought you cakes, with excitement in their eyes that this year would be the year. The cakes were served and nothing but horror and terror came to break you down just once more. You left in hysteria with a plague of shame and guilt overwhelming you until you couldn’t breathe or see. I didn’t even let you get two minutes down the street without having to pull over, and rid yourself, yet again, of the celebration of your life.
I let you believe emptiness equated comfort and worth. I told you to internalize your pain and allow it to manifest in you cutting up your body. I’m sorry that in previous weight restorations I never left you alone to heal and find acceptance within your new, healthy body. Once again, telling you to cut it up because it was shameful, unsafe and undeserving of love. Causing you to relapse again and again, keeping you in hospitals and treatment centers, rather than allowing you to go out there and find the love, acceptance and happiness you truly deserve. All of this seemed exhilarating to me at the time, but now I realize I was doing nothing but nearly costing you your life every day. I’m sorry for not allowing you to give a shit when doctors told you how you were at risk of a heart attack or death.
I’m sorry I nearly cost you your life on several occasions. I’m sorry I told you “healthy” meant weak and was something to be scared of. I’m sorry that whenever you saw a sign of improved health in recovery, you became so afraid and felt so weak, it kept you so petrified of recovering. I’m sorry I ultimately wanted you to be perfect, but to me, perfection from you equated death. I’m sorry for not giving you a voice in your previous recovery opportunities to speak up and ask for help, not letting you know what your needs were. Depriving you of self-accountability, rather I let you struggle in darkness and silence. I allowed you to dishonestly go through so many treatments, outpatient and day programs, lying about your symptoms in fear of what might happen, in fear of the reality of what you were actually going through. I never allowed your head to be in a space to entirely let go and go all the way. I had a latch on you and held you hostage, dangling the key in front of you, yet always out of reach.
So here you sit again, on a bed in an inpatient program for eating disorders, trying to gain a life and a true sense of identity. I can’t apologize enough for costing you your teens and 20s in nothing but a struggle, where you wished every day you could just lie your head down and not wake up the next. I never allowed you to have a sense of self, or even gave you the opportunity to know or find yourself. I’m sorry I constantly had you convinced you were never enough and never could be, turning you into the most self-centered person you’ve ever met, where nothing else mattered more than killing yourself to survive. I gave you a big fake smile to hide behind, wrapped with a pretty bow on top, when behind it all you couldn’t stand being with yourself or stand to be alive. With nothing but elation, I’ve watched you struggle through agony and drown in your own sorrow.
I’m sorry just a few weeks ago — when you had reached your goal weight and were trying to be accepting of your new body — I pointed out the cellulite you now have and had you then question whether or not this recovery thing really was for you — if you could really do it. I’m done convincing you cellulite or a number on the scale makes you a bad person, or unsafe. And it certainly doesn’t make you any less deserving or worthy of anything in life, especially recovery. For you, cellulite means life. I want you to know you’re capable of everything you aspire to be and I won’t allow the simple fact of cellulite to tear you down anymore. You deserve to be proud and feel safe in your body, your mind and everything about you that you challenge on the daily. You are working so hard.
I know you’ve heard ample “sorrys” in your life, and to you they mean nothing. I wish I could fix that. After all, apologies mean nothing without action. This time, I promise you that action. “I’m sorry” doesn’t even begin to cover the pain I feel when I think of what I put you through, and what I owe you. I promise you, you don’t need those things to exist. You needed those things to endure. I could call you a survivor, but surviving wasn’t an option. I don’t want you to just endure or survive anymore; I want you to live. I want you to flourish, mentally and physically. I want you to run so fast in the direction of happiness and fearlessness across the bridge you’ve built by your own desire to heal. I want you to look in the mirror and be able to recognize the girl looking back at you, not as broken or as a monster, but as a beautiful woman who deserves to live. I want you to treat her with the compassion and love she deserves. I want you to be proud of her for all she has done for herself and continues to do for herself. I hope you’ve noticed I’ve given you a voice this time in recovery, and I’m so proud of you for beginning to use it. I know pride in yourself is something I’ve never allowed you to have, but this time, I want you to run with it. I want you to be proud of yourself for letting your guard down, being vulnerable and actively trying to get better. This time I promise to let you know how much you deserve to smile – real genuine smiles — rather than smiles you use to hide your pain behind.
I’m done with not allowing you to believe you were enough, and I’m done watching you endure.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Thinkstock photo via domoyega