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To the Partner Who Has Supported Me Through Eating Disorder Recovery

To my partner,

When I first entered treatment, I had no idea how long we were going to be away from each other. If I had known, I’m not sure I would have signed up for it. It seemed like neither one of us could possibly understand what was going on. We had been through some of this before. We knew mental illness was a part of our relationship, but we didn’t know it would reveal itself in this form again. Not that you can be prepared for it, but neither one of us were ready. We also didn’t realize it, but we were fighting against the same enemy. It didn’t always feel that way since our enemy is a part of me, but we are and have always been on the same team. It has often felt like my eating disorder is more powerful than both of us combined, but slowly we’re catching glimpses that together, you and I are unstoppable.

Together we’ve been frustrated. Frustrated at the mental health system and the available options for care, frustrated at my eating disorder and frustrated at insurance policies. Being separated from each other, it felt like we couldn’t operate like a team as much as we usually do. But you did it. You not only pulled through, you exceeded.

Together we’ve felt unsettled. In a way, we’ve both hit the pause button on life. Life continues to move forward, but we’re kind of stuck in this place where we can’t make any decisions that are too far in the future.

Together we’ve been confused. How did this even happen? One second it was summer and we were kayaking on the Ipswich River after a weekend trip to Maine, and the next, we were saying goodnight on the phone at 10p.m. so I could have my phone charged in the psych ward. I’m still confused as to how something that initially made me feel so in control of everything has left me feeling so weak and helpless.

You are selfless when you refuse to accept my apologies. You are strong and capable of noticing and accepting the differences between me and my eating disorder. I couldn’t thank you enough, but for now I can:

Thank you for continually loving me when I couldn’t love myself.

Thank you for noticing that I was struggling.

Thank you for telling me my feelings were valid.

Thank you for sitting with me and finishing a meal even when I was crying and angry.

Thank you for eating the same thing as me even if you didn’t want it.

Thank you for the lock box.

Thank you for listening to me and my eating disorder, but for knowingly not trusting my eating disorder when I did.

Thank you for supporting me with positivity in all aspects of life (not including food).

Thank you for acknowledging that there are certain battles I need to fight by myself.

Thank you for implicitly teaching me to begin revising and restructuring my relationship with food, and for letting me know that having a positive relationship with food is OK.

Thank you for nourishing me with gifts for my soul.

Thank you for not asking me how long recovery is going to take.

Thank you for making me feel safe enough to feel, break down and trust our relationship.

And most of all… thank you for teaching me that it’s OK to have Indian food and/or a brownie for breakfast!

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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Unsplash photo via Ian Dooley