Dear Eating Disorder: I Miss You
Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.
I know you are already confused just by the title.
Why? How on Earth could you possibly miss something that could’ve killed you?
If you haven’t ever struggled with something like this, it may not make sense. And if it does make sense to you, my heart goes out to you because I know it’s hard. I began my eating disorder as an obese woman, so when I lost weight, I completely transformed. I lost a very large amount of weight.
By the end, I looked like a completely different person, who I’m not going to show you. It was horrible though because I wasn’t truly aware of it. I experienced such severe body dysmorphic disorder that most days I couldn’t tell I had lost weight. My brain knew I had, because of the numbers. And I could see it when I posted comparison photos, which I did constantly to social media, just for reassurance I had actually changed. But just looking in the mirror, I couldn’t see it. That’s surprisingly common for body dysmorphia.
Anyway, I’m sure this still doesn’t make sense. What exactly am I missing here? Not actually knowing what I look like?
Well, no. I don’t miss that.
For the first time in three years, I actually know what I look like, which is pretty great. But there are other things I miss. Unfortunately, our society treats people differently based on size. You may swear up and down that it isn’t true, but it is. By default, if you lose weight, people compliment you. They admire you, and they may even be jealous.
As someone who really never stood out — an awkward girl on the sidelines — the attention was addictive.
The rush of losing weight was also addictive.
I struggle with a perfectionist personality type, so seeing the numbers get lower and lower actually set off endorphins for me. It was the equivalent of drugs, a rush of euphoria.
I had orthorexia, and unfortunately, it also tricked me into thinking I was superior with my food choices.
My disorder led me to believe I was morally a better person for starving myself. I look back at me then, and kind of want to smack myself in the face. I even got as far as trying to educate others on my food choices, because people asked me to. I had no place doing that. I’m so ashamed of it, but I can’t exactly take it back now. It’s an illness. I really wasn’t completely in control of my actions. Orthorexia controlled everything.
But there are things to be missed, right?
I miss not getting the glances in public because people do look at you differently when you are overweight.
I miss being able to blend in.
The catalyst for stopping my disorder was a pregnancy. Once I became pregnant, I knew I could not continue what I was doing, so I was able to stop. But I also ended up having from life-threatening complications, which were not related to my eating disorder. Those complications caused me to gain a lot of extra weight, which ultimately saved both my daughter’s life and mine. But some people can’t see that or don’t see it that way. There are people who think I “threw away the body I worked so hard for.” There are people who believe I’ll someday get it back.
I don’t really plan to — most certainly not in the way I achieved it. I didn’t look sick, but I was sick. I was very sick. I was afraid of sugar, afraid of carbohydrates. I avoided social engagements because other people’s food or restaurant food wasn’t “clean” enough.
So while I do think I miss some of the attention, I realize it’s because of warped societal standards.
I also realize that the disorder still lives inside me. It hasn’t been so long, not really. It’s there. I ignore it most days. I go to therapy, I work hard not to rank certain foods above others. I unfollowed all the harmful “fitspo” and “clean eating” nonsense.
But it’s still in there.
And while it may try to trick me into missing it, while it may try to guilt trip me into giving it another chance, I won’t. I’ll keep shoving it away and putting in earplugs until eventually, I won’t hear its screams anymore.
Because I don’t actually miss it.
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Thinkstock photo via Rively