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Why My Eating Disorder Recovery Is Not About What I Look Like

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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.

It’s not about what you look like.

It’s the fine line between elation and panic; the split second between when the spoon hits your mouth and when you swallow “mental poison.” It’s being five years and more weight since starvation, and yet 15 minutes ago, you laid on the kitchen floor slapping the tile until your palms went red. It’s the irony of recovery, the invisibility of pounds; weight that suddenly makes you “healthy” on the outside.

It’s not about what you look like.

It’s those two seconds just after you roll out of bed in the morning and feel the skin on your knees touch. It’s wanting to seek some quick fix because one more day in this body is your version of hell. It’s wishing you could reach through the skin on your limbs and tear out enough flesh to change the way it feels to take those first steps every day.

It’s remembering the first, second and third time your friend said, “I literally never think about food as the enemy,” and realizing some people don’t go through this every day. It’s hearing you have the most beautiful eyes three times in three hours and wishing you could focus long enough on a compliment to stop hatred from seeping into your skin. It’s loathing who you used to be and wishing you had her back in the same breath. It’s those self-deprecating jokes. It’s trying, over and over again, to explain that this has nothing to do with what you look like.

It’s not about what you look like.

It’s blacking out from breakfast to bedtime because when you spend the whole day entrenched in perceived worthlessness, you remember nothing but that. It’s trashing a perfectly good drink because it’s against the “rules.” It’s telling your therapist you’re good on Monday and that it’s World War III on Wednesday. It’s knowing how much you need your meds, but wanting to smash them into pieces for taking away your self-control.

It’s thinking back to when you couldn’t go five minutes without an obsessive thought; and realizing you can’t go five minutes today. It’s being in the “fun home” of your actual nightmares — with no one but yourself. It’s staring into mirrors that thwart every inch of your reflection. It’s telling yourself it’s OK to break the rules tonight because tomorrow you’ll get it together again. It’s realizing you ascribed to a certain diet for two years without even trying to. It’s being angry at everything because you’re so angry at yourself.

It’s not about what you look like.

It’s being embarrassed to say you’ve gained weight even though everyone claps and acts like you deserve a prize. It’s knowing that right next door, some other girl gained the same weight and no one clapped for her. It’s that first time you break a food rule because you’re having so much fun, and then remembering you don’t deserve to have fun.

It’s regret about last night the minute your alarm goes off in the morning; knowing you’ll have to move the pillows from between your legs now. It’s throwing out pair after pair of leggings because now you just feel naked in them. It’s thinking that women of all sizes are completely stunning, and knowing the same standards you hold for others don’t apply to yourself.

It’s not about what you look like.

It’s trying to explain to someone that you’re not “crazy” just because you can sit down and write three pages about this. It’s trying to give someone who’s never felt a single thing you feel some perspective. It’s clarifying that you know you’re not “fat,” but that you feel like your body is physically just “not right.” It’s hearing your own words out loud and thinking you might actually be “crazy.”

It’s knowing you can order the food you want now, but wishing it wasn’t still so hard. It’s hearing “you eat a lot” from a random dude while you’re on a binge that will keep you up at night in pain. It’s the “for a small person” half of the sentence that you want to shove back down his throat. It’s being ashamed when maybe you should be proud that you can “eat a lot” now, because people are so quick to tell you that you do. It’s feeling self-conscious when you order your own entrée, knowing you used to feel the same way when you ordered nothing.

It’s not about what you look like.

It’s sitting down at a restaurant and seeing only “allowed” and “not allowed” on the menu. It’s feeling your emotions crumble like the bread you’ve just begun to eat. It’s getting laughed at because you “eat weird.” It’s sheer excitement about a restaurant, until you find you’ve lost the courage to eat. It’s laying on the floor — hands over your face — wondering when life will no longer be the fine line between elation and panic.

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 La_Corivo 

Originally published: September 13, 2017
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