Why I Can’t Just 'Let Go' of My Eating Disorder


Why do I continually hold on to an eating disorder that has tried to kill me? Not once, but several times? Why do I continually run back into its warm and loving embrace? Oh, wait, that can’t be right — because anorexia nervosa is far from warm and loving. Why, therefore, do I continually run back into it’s cold and distant embrace, that isolates me, makes me feel horrendous about myself and quite frankly, makes my life a misery?

Is it because I somehow like and enjoy all of this? Or is it something else? I can hand on heart say that it’s definitely not because I like and enjoy this. Anorexia is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy and it breaks my heart seeing so many people trapped in such an awful place, both physically and mentally.

You see, anorexia nervosa has a sick and twisted way of gripping and entrenching those who struggle with it so tightly in its grip, even though they want to escape more than ever, it’s hard to distinguish your own thoughts, from that of the harsh, uninflected, repetition of, “I don’t deserve this, I don’t need this, I don’t want this.” Because, despite how much you do want it, despite the fact that you do need food and that you do deserve to eat, somehow the disorder convinces you otherwise.

And it becomes like a maze that feels impossible to escape. Like you’ll never reach the end. Anorexia somehow convinces you it is a friend, that you cannot survive in the world without it, that you need its presence in your life. I remember writing in my journal these words:

“Anorexia, you are my only friend. And I can honestly say I would be lost without you. I can’t imagine my life without you there. You are the only constant in my life, the one thing that keeps me going.”

And so on. I think those words quite succinctly show how entrenched I had become, how attached I was to something that wouldn’t have minded if I had died the next day – anorexia is not your friend, but your most deadly enemy.

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

So, why do I hold on? I think I’ve established now my eating disorder isn’t something I should want to hold on to, so why? I think the answer lies in this. I have grown comfortable with it. It is all I have known for years now. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to fight it.

Every day I wake up and make a conscious decision to fight anorexia nervosa. Every day I wake up and say, “Today is going to take me one step closer to beating this.” And it is a decision I have to make every day, because recovery doesn’t ever get a day off.

I don’t hold on to my disorder because I want to. In fact, I want to say I am barely holding on at all — rather I am desperately trying to shake it away. For good this time. Life is no fun in hospital appointments, having weekly blood tests or ECGs. None of this makes it any easier to deal with. Because despite my determination to beat this, anorexia has been there for so long it’s hard to fully say goodbye. Who am I going to be without my disorder? What is my identity actually going to be once anorexia nervosa isn’t a part of my life?

I think I’ve now acknowledged I quite often will hold on to anorexia because I have grown comfortable, I am fearful for who I will be without it and it’s uninflected drone is easier to give in to than to fight. But what I do have to say is this. I know Anna without anorexia was fun, musical, crafty, book loving, kind and caring. And what I know more than anything else is this: I would much rather be that Anna, than Anna with anorexia.

This was probably quite a ramble, my initial question may well have not been answered – but hey, I know the me I am working towards restoring. And that is my plan — to get the old Anna back in her entirety!

Follow this journey on A Journey to Self-Acceptance.

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.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via brickrena


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Anorexia Nervosa

painted woman with hair flowing in black and red

Why I’m Finally Getting Angry at Anorexia

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. Or if you have experienced emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. 1:30 a.m. I’ve taken my night meds [...]
a father and daughter walk along a street in the fall

7 Ways My Parents Can Support Me in Anorexia Recovery

It may have crawled up from underneath the table and taken a seat right next to your child while no one was watching. It may have been hidden for a long time. But now it may have taken a place in your life as well — the eating disorder. You might be wondering: what do you do? [...]
Woman in a dress

What Got Me Through the Hardest Days in Eating Disorder Recovery

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 would assume most of you don’t think much about sitting in a chair. You might notice if the chair is particularly creaky. Or wobbly. In general, [...]
woman holding a balloon

7 Reminders for Those New to Eating Disorder Recovery

As I have been embarking on the recovery journey from anorexia nervosa for a few years now, certain sayings and concepts have stuck out to me as some of the most helpful things to remember when fighting an eating disorder. As the school year picks up, we get busier and it can be hard to [...]