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I Delayed Writing This Letter to My Eating Disorder

Dear eating disorder,

I have put off writing this letter for some time now. Honestly, the idea of treating an eating disorder like a person seemed a bit gimmicky to me. For other people, the language seemed to just flow: “Ed this,” and “Ed that,” but it didn’t feel right to me. I also refused to believe you wielded that much power. After all, people don’t give colds or ear infections pronouns. Why should I do that with you? The truth is, though, you are definitely a force to be reckoned with. As much as I can dismiss that you aren’t an actual person, I cannot dismiss your destructive power.

Admittedly, at one point in my life you did serve a purpose. There was a time I felt like I wasn’t being heard, and I was basically a sponge to those around me. I was in a toxic relationship, I was continuously trying to negotiate my parent’s needs with my own, and all the while I was working full-time, attending school and commuting over three hours each day. Something had to give, and unfortunately it was my mental health. You crept in and you helped create a false sense of control and security. No matter how deceptive this comfort was, it was comfort nonetheless. I felt like you were the one thing that was “for me.” You were consistency and you were control. More than that, though — you gave me a sense of self-worth and purpose. You made me think my worth was measured by time logged on the treadmill and the number on the scale. As maladaptive or inaccurate as this was, you did in fact “help.”

The reality was, though, you were causing so much more harm than good. Not only were there physical consequences, such as weight loss, loss of my period, always being cold, sore hips and a low heart rate, but emotionally I was constantly on edge. I was distracted and could not focus at work, and while I was able to keep up the façade that I was still “doing my job,” I knew I wasn’t giving it my all. I was obsessed with numbers — weight, calories, BMI — and the amount of time I spent on the scale was ludicrous. I could no longer enjoy social situations involving food, and I found myself isolating more and more. I was waking up at 3:30 a.m. just so I could run before work. I was worrying my friends and family, and all the while I kept up the pretense that everything was fine. When I realized there really was a problem, I had to drop everything to deal with you. I left work, went through a couple of cycles of treatment and I shelled out tons of money.

While I have come a long way since the day I entered residential treatment, you still continue to plague me. You still make me overthink what I am going to eat, and I still feel nervous eating or even enjoying some foods. I still don’t have my period back, and I am in a constant fear I have “damaged” myself beyond repair. All the while, I am still afraid my weight is going to go out of control, and therefore, my life is going to go out of control. I continue to feel like if I don’t exercise, I will become obese and lose all of my stamina. I still count calories and I still stick to a ridiculously strict food schedule. Even though I have come so far, I am still caged in by your rules and unreachable expectations. Not anymore though.

Despite the fact you provided me with so much in the past, at this point I am ready to let go. I am ready to have a future where I can enjoy food. I want to feel comfortable with the person I am and confident I am enough just being me. I need to say goodbye so I can say hello to something else: a present and future free of you. Believe it or not, I don’t wish I never had you, because I feel like I have learned so much about myself in this journey. I have learned that I am actually a pretty tough person. I am able to confront my problems head on, and I am stronger as a result. I have also learned I deserve to live a life where I’m not bound to fictitious rules. I deserve to enjoy food without thinking it will hurt me. I deserve to be still and relax — to sleep in and to just lounge around. I deserve to be heard and supported in both good times and bad. I deserve to make myself a priority and do what makes me happy. I deserve to have a family one day and to try to make all of my dreams a reality.

Above all, I deserve to be happy. I am ready to let go of you to make that happen.

Yours truly,

Sam.

Photo by Timothy L Brock on Unsplash