In My Mind as I Try to Recover From My Eating Disorder
One, two, three, OK step on.
As I try to calculate the number in my head, my weight is already jotted down. All I hear in that moment is the sliding metal of the scale, and it’s over. I return back to my therapist’s office, put on my shoes, and my heavy sweatshirt and wait for her to recite the number back to me. I am not used to a non-digital scale, but I can read it.
“Leo, you lost again, this isn’t looking good.”
Relief falls over me suddenly, another week another few pounds off me, but then the feeling of guilt comes back. Oh no, I lost, more precautions, more rules, more privileges I have to earn back. I am now an adult, but I sure do not feel like one. If I was asked to go back in time and think about how my first months of adulthood would look, it sure would not be this. I am now not allowed to make my meals, be home alone, and after meals be allowed in the bathroom. I did not choose my eating disorder, but on a conscious level I chose to fight the programs and resort back to my safety mechanism. Why?
Why is it so hard to recover from an eating disorder? Unlike drugs or alcohol, I have to face my “drug” three times a day to survive. I have to sit with the feeling of food in my belly and try to move on from that. After finishing a meal and not restricting I have to fight the urge not to act on other symptoms to get the food out. I have to wait hours for the food to finally be digested.
For some, an eating disorder is the misconception that they have control; they’re controlling what they eat and what they weigh, but in reality the eating disorder is controlling them. For others it could be used as a numbing tool: the more you restrict the more your thoughts become hyper-focused on food. How will I get away with not eating today? What should I eat? How many calories should I consume? If I do eat should I work it off? How much do I weigh? How much can I lose? Having an eating disorder is like having two different minds: the rational and the emotional. The emotional mind says, “Forget it, I feel uncomfortable with my body and my life so I am just going to use destructive behaviors now to get me through this moment,” whereas the rational mind knows acting on symptoms may feel right in the short term but not in the long term.
I still get criticized for being in recovery from my eating disorder. When we are born we learn two things: to breathe and to eat. These are vital for survival. So how come I forgot how to eat? When did eating becoming a punishment instead of enjoyment? Why is our society body shaming people, yet so focused on food? Eating disorders are deadly, so instead of acting like they are a choice, we need to realize that on some level they are not. Just like another addiction, an eating disorder is so powerful; in its depth, you will do anything to get that feeling back, even just for a minute.
I will be walking into my therapist’s office this week, not knowing my weight and terrified of what it will be. I am trying to be strong though. I am trying to eat my meal plan and refuse to let my eating disorder take control of another year of my school. I will not let my eating disorder drown me again. I will rise above. I will turn to my faith, my family, my friends, and myself for reassurance. I am strong. I am strong enough to recover from it.
Relapsing does not represent your strength. I see the hole, I know it’s there, but I walk down. I choose to ignore that ever-so-enticing high and wait for the high of life to come. The joy I will get when I can go on my first run. The feeling of pride I will receive when I graduate from school and the smiles I will witness from my family when we are at a restaurant and I am not worrying about the calories or how much I will have to shake to burn off the meal.
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 by cyano66