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What I Hear When You Say I'm Doing Well in My Eating Disorder Recovery

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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 saw my psychiatrist this afternoon, and he said the dreaded words: “You’re doing well.”

I felt my heart skip a beat, my chest tightened, my stomach coiled in knots. No. No. No. No. No.

There is nothing harder for me to hear in recovery than hearing I am doing well. It doesn’t make sense, I know. Wouldn’t I want to be told I’m succeeding and making progress in recovery? The truth is, it feels awful because recovering from an eating disorder isn’t a victorious process. It is agonizingly painful and terrifying.

Every day, I second-guess the food I put into my body. I look in the mirror and mourn the body I once had. I regret the choice to recover. I feel the weight of my eating disorder’s lies pushing against me like the seat of a roller coaster. I can’t breathe, it feels so wrong.

My eating disorder is lying await in the shadows, and perks up when you mention my progress. It starts whispering in my ear, “You’re fat. You failed. Doing well means no one cares about you anymore. You’re disgusting. You need to stop eating. You need to lose weight.”

After giving into the voices for so long, it is hard for me to stop listening to them as I change my direction towards recovery. It feels… wrong, because I am going against every single thing I’ve ever known for the past seven years. The calorie counting, the restricting, the weighing, the lying, the exercising… that is “normal” to me. That is success.

This recovery stuff? It feels like failure because it means I’m choosing something other than the eating disorder. And there is a part of me that is terrified of giving up that part of my life.

So when people tell me I’m doing well, it hits me that I’m giving up my safety blanket: my eating disorder. I shake with the regret of ever letting myself gain the weight back, ever letting myself eat that Mexican dinner out with friends, ever letting myself stop the running and the hiding and the crying.

Well, I still cry. It’s just for different reasons, now.

I run an Instagram account and regularly get messages saying I’m an inspiration, and I’m doing so well in my recovery. I wish I could read these things and feel proud. Instead, I just feel lost. I feel broken. My identity of starvation and weight loss is gone. My new identity is monumentally different, and that scares me beyond belief.

I want to be well, but I don’t want to feel the pain that is in the process of getting there. I crave recovery, but I crave my eating disorder too, and the battle is one I fight with all of the strength I have inside of me. The only reason I’m “doing well” is because I am putting myself through pain. People sometimes don’t realize that this doesn’t feel good, this recovery thing. It feels awful.

I trust that one day, I will hear I’m doing well and I will smile. Today, however, is not that day. All I can manage in this moment is to take a second to distance myself from the urges to just show him I’m not doing well, not doing well at all.

I don’t have to prove my eating disorder anymore. I don’t have to prove anything.

So I sit here at Panera, with my latte in hand, typing this story, so I don’t have to sit with the shame of this alone anymore. I write it out so I can get it out, so I can share my story, so I can touch another person, so we all realize we are never alone.

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 jakkapan21

Originally published: June 3, 2017
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