The Ways My Eating Disorder Made Me a Liar
Most people are familiar with Carlo Collodi’s Italian novel Pinocchio. In the tale, every time the puppet Pinocchio tells a lie, his nose grows. If humans were faced with the same consequence for lying, I’d like to think they’d be more truthful. They’d likely save themselves many arguments and tears during their lifetimes. Unfortunately, lying doesn’t come with such a incentivizing punishment. If it did, my nose would be the length of a football field with the amount of lies I told while struggling with an eating disorder.
Anorexia Nervosa is a paradoxical disease. It gives a person a sense of control through strict dietary measures and “rules,” but it takes over the person’s life, stripping them of that very control they crave. I thought I had great willpower, and I thought I was being healthy. Of course, I eventually realized during my freshman year of college it was not healthy to cry over the thought of eating at a restaurant, skipping a workout, or seeing a barista put 2-percent milk instead of nonfat in my plain coffee. At that point, I became aware that I was not longer in control of my eating disorder; it was in control of me. My awareness of this fact didn’t change my disordered behaviors, however. I felt powerless, as if my eating disorder owned me. In fact, my eating disorder only continued to get worse. Even though people around me suspected something was wrong, the lies I told to protect my eating disorder bought me increments of time that only resulted in my condition worsening.
I lied about everything. My friends would invite me to dinner, and I would say I already ate. My mom would call to see if I finally went to the university’s counseling center, and I would say yes, despite having never set foot in that building. I would make my roommate wait for me as I sat on the sidewalk while we walked back from the gym, but I would tell her it was because I had a terrible migraine, not because I was actually about to pass out. I would give away my snacks and groceries to people on my hall, saying I didn’t like the tastes, when I truthfully just didn’t want any food in my dorm. I lied about everything.
I eventually went to treatment for anorexia nervosa at the end of my freshman year, but being in treatment is not synonymous with being truthful. At first, I lied to my therapist and dietitian all the time because I didn’t want to eat, gain weight, or divulge my insecurities. I lied about my food intake, my fear of weight gain, my anxiety, my depression, my continued exercise, and a laundry list of other things. I wanted to be discharged from treatment and go back to living my numbing, addictive life with an eating disorder. But that didn’t happen.
For whatever reason, I eventually stopped lying.
This turn towards honesty didn’t happen overnight, and the only source I can think to attribute it to is the hours of therapy drilled into my brain during my early days in treatment. I realized I missed being honest. During value identification activities, I began to cite honesty as my favorite value. I finally had honest sessions with my therapist and dietitian (usually). I finally started getting better, both physically and mentally.
These days, I try not to lie in any area of my life. It’s easier said than done, but it’s an important practice to help me maintain my recovery. When I feel my eating disorder creeping back into my life, I’m honest with people I know who will help me. After all, without hearing the truth from me, they might never realize I need their support. Though my nose isn’t as long as it would be if I were a puppet in Collodi’s novel, the rock bottom to which my eating disorder led me is an equally successful reminder to live in truth.
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Photo via Facebook – Pinocchio