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When My Eating Disorder and Chronic Pain Collide

It feels like I’ve been walking on a tightrope lately with my eating disorder recovery. The tiniest breeze will push me off, with no safety mats to cushion my fall.

It seems like it’s been pretty windy lately and the breezes have been turning into storms of anxiety, the kind where it seems impossible to get through the days and hours and minutes. My most recent trigger has been physical pain, which makes me realize just how interconnected our physical and emotional selves are. I have chronic migraines and I’ve had one for over a week now. I just want the pain to go awayand nothing has worked.

I’ve dealt with chronic pain for years now, but pain at this level for this long is obviously anxiety provoking. When I get more anxious, the urge to binge creeps in on me. I don’t even realize it’s happening until it becomes impossible to resist and I find myself mid-binge. I’m in a trance. I know I’ll be inconsolable as soon as the binge has finished, but I can’t feel anything, emotionally or physically.

My head no longer hurts. I’d be able to take a deep breath if I weren’t so numb. But then the respite is over, the panic spirals to a level even higher than it was before. I can’t stop the tears and my headache spikes to a level that’s almost unbearable. My brain tells me I’m weak, I’m useless and I have to compensate for the binge by severely restricting my intake. I know that this will only perpetuate the binge/restrict cycle, but my eating disorder is in control for the time being.

The only way to control the emotional pain my eating disorder causes is to focus on my physical pain. I wish I knew a way to find balance, but for now I have to realize that I’m not ready to stay steady on the tightrope of recovery yet. Maybe I won’t even be able to hop back on. Sometimes it’s enough just to acknowledge where you are in the recovery process, just like sometimes it’s enough to talk back to your pain. Both of these actions show that you refuse to let your physical or emotional discomfort take over.

I know that this migraine will end, even though it feels impossible right now. I have to believe I will recover. This knowledge and this belief are all that allow me to quiet the voice that tells me this pain is all I’ll ever feel.

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 via Design Pics