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

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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.

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.

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Thinkstock photo via brickrena

Originally published: November 5, 2017
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