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How I'm Learning to Forgive Myself for Who I Was With My Eating Disorder


When I first entered treatment for my eating disorder, my therapist and I began the tedious process of teasing out the true Emily from the Emily  consumed by an eating disorder. I was given the metaphor of my brain as two tangled balls of yarn; to recover, I had to untangle my thoughts from the eating disorder’s messages. Initially, I struggled with this concept immensely. How could there be someone in my head other than me? When I was met with comments of “I hear ED speaking right now, not Emily,” I was infuriated. Why could no one accept I was who I was?

As my recovery progressed, I began to look back at things I had journaled while in the early stages of treatment, only to feel confused and alienated by the statements I read. ED believed “skinny” was synonymous with “powerful,” that food determined morality, and that my weight was a significant aspect of my being.

This discovery made me question my idea of myself and my values. I had always prided myself as being open-minded, as being compassionate, as being a feminist. I began to believe none of those things could hold true if I had been so full of disordered thoughts. I felt guilt and shame because I believed I had discovered I was shallow and simply ridiculous.

While in this hole of negative self-talk, a good friend told me, “You are not a bad person for having an eating disorder. Would you call someone bad for having diabetes? Your illness is valid.” I did not choose to believe the things I did. What I am choosing is to distance myself from those beliefs.

If you’re struggling with shame about the person you were in your eating disorder, remind yourself every day that ED is not you. You are not your disease. You are a person of infinite strength and value, and I fully believe one day we will all be able to untangle the yarn for good.

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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Thinkstock photo by demaerre