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When Your Eating Disorder Isn’t Actually About Control

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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 741741.

In a lot of eating disorder literature, you might see “control” as a common theme. Many professionals and individuals with eating disorders centralize eating disorders around control, and for many, this may be accurate. Restricting, purging, binging, exercising — these behaviors may be a way of trying to gain control that is lacking in other areas of life when the world feels very out of control. This is a valid narrative. However, my narrative is quite different from what we are taught in eating disorder brochures, articles and by professionals.

My eating disorder was never about control. My eating disorder was about safety.

My eating disorder became a home to me. It became safe. It was my best friend, my home, my comfort, my support and my go-to. Restricting became something I felt like I needed to survive.

My life always felt very under control. In middle school, I was top of my class; in high school, I excelled; I even graduated on time after missing over a year of school due to eating disorder treatment. I went home to a comfortable, clean house, and I never lacked anything in my life that I really needed to survive. I was privileged enough to receive a scholarship into my dream college, and I’m working towards my bachelor’s degree in psychology and public health. I have a strong, supportive circle of friends. My life, from the inside out, is under control.

Yet, inside, I feel unsafe. This is the prevailing feeling that anorexia nervosa sunk its claws into. Anorexia nervosa consumed me when I realized my life with an eating disorder felt “safe,” and my life without an eating disorder no longer did.

I was afraid of feeling. I was afraid of letting myself express the intense emotions restricting dulled for me. I was afraid of re-experiencing the abuse I experienced in the form of flashbacks and nightmares. I was afraid of failing. I was afraid of not being good enough. I was afraid of being too much. I was afraid of being full.

I was never afraid of my eating disorder, even when I should have been. Even when I saw black spots every time I stood up, my heart palpitated — I wasn’t afraid of my eating disorder. I was afraid of my life without the dull monotony it provided.

I wish I could go back and tell myself a life of color and emotion is my only goal. I want to come alive again. I want to learn what it means to feel safe without anorexia nervosa as my crutch.

My eating disorder was never about control, but now, I need to take control back from anorexia nervosa.

Photo by Ana Francisconi on Unsplash

Originally published: February 19, 2019
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