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You Can’t Fix My Bulimia, but You Can Be Patient With Me

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Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder or have experienced trauma, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the eating disorder Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741. You can contact the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

I find that, a lot of the time, when I disclose my struggle with bulimia to someone, they immediately start thinking about how to fix the problem — things I could potentially do to stop engaging in behaviors. I have lost a lot of friends and relationships over the years when people become frustrated or discouraged that I am “not motivated” enough to fix it or stop. Or maybe I’m not making the progress in reducing symptoms they want to see. I know wanting to fix it or to see me better comes from a good place. I love these people for it. But please trust me when I say I have thought of all the potential solutions you are suggesting, I have tried most of them before.

It is not as simple as getting rid of my scale or just eating what I want at a restaurant without purging. My eating disorder is far more complex. It is only something that can be “fixed” by me. This is my own internal battle I have to, and will, fix on my own. Yet there are days when I feel like I still need to use symptoms to make my life manageable.

You will never fix my eating disorder or “save me” from how I feel about myself because my eating disorder has always been my safe, protective place. My eating disorder has been a constant companion. It has numbed me from the pain of emotions and the shame I have associated with my body. It has continued to save me from feeling and processing the trauma I experienced so many years ago. It has kept me safe for so long, and for that I have a lot to thank it for.

You will never fix my eating disorder for me because you cannot change the fact that my body was violated when I was so young; that someone took away my control over it. That someone made me think I was going to die there. That someone made me feel like I lost every shred of value I had. That someone made me feel worthless in a few moments.

You will never fix the fact that because of this, I feel as though I need to have total control over my body.

I feel as though I need to measure my value from numbers on a scale. Because then maybe I have value.

I feel as though I need to become as small, invisible and unnoticeable as possible. Because then maybe someone won’t target me again.

I need to not remember what happened. Because then maybe I can pretend it never happened.

I need to feel safe. Because then maybe I can make it to the next day, and the next.

It has been so long, and I still haven’t allowed myself to properly process or feel what happened in the past. When I do try, the flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, depression and suicidal ideations take over. My eating disorder is my distraction from reality. Removing my safe space, despite how destructive it is to my body, is something I cannot figure out how to fully do yet, and not something you should do for me.

A lot of the time, I feel too connected to my body. Feeling full reminds me my body is there. The anxiety becomes unbearable. Purging, starving, over-exercising and all the other behaviors are the only way I can properly detach again and not have to feel. When anything triggers me, reminds me of that time, or someone notices or comments on my body, I need to hide it. I need to make it small. I need to disconnect and be invisible, or not care about it once again. Being too far in my body is dangerous, scary and threatening. All these behaviors allow me to feel like a shell, like I am out of my body. It allows me to disconnect from reality, and distract myself from anything triggering, as I focus purely on how I can manipulate it. This destruction of my body is much safer.

This year was the first time I started to admit the trauma of my past in counseling and I am slowly working on telling people in my life. I realized I was truly never going to get anywhere in recovery, despite claiming to be in recovery or working on it for several years, if I didn’t talk about it. But now, by talking about my past, trying to process it, and attaching any value to it has resulted in constant triggers. By saying it out loud, it became real, and now I have to deal with the fact that it actually happened.

So when you don’t hear from me for weeks at a time, even though you have tried to reach out — I’m asking you to help me. When you provide potential solutions or get me out of the house and I push back, it’s not because I’m trying to be a bad friend. When I can only make it two weeks without purging and not three, it’s not because I am “not motivated” to get better. It is never because you failed as a friend in supporting me.

It is because I am so deeply triggered that everything is threatening because it reminds me of what happened. I am exhausted of fighting the anxiety of the constant reminders. I sometimes feel so unsafe in my own body that I can’t move unless it is to use behaviors. You cannot fix the overwhelming feeling of not being safe, even though I know you would not hurt me.

Instead of trying to fix me, I need you to be patient with me even if I am not making the progress you hoped for. The process of coming to terms with what happened, moving forwards and finding value in myself is something that only I can do. And it is going to take a long time. I have come to terms with how long it could take, even though I know you wish you could fix it for me right now.

Trust me, I wish that too.

But this is why you will never fix my eating disorder.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorder Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

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Thinkstock photo via V_Sot

Originally published: July 6, 2017
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