Trigger Warning: Eating disorders
In two short weeks, I will be stepping into recovery. It will be my first time making that choice. And though I know I’m going to want to give up, and there are going to be many tears, and it’ll be difficult, as I get closer to it, I find myself thinking about my eating disorder more often than not. About why and how it ever got such a strong grip in my life. How I allowed it to take over and control me.
You see, It wasn’t a way to punish myself. At least, not at first. It was a way to gain stability as my world began to crumble. It was a way to feel in control when I had zero control in any other aspect of my life. Eating was something I had a say in. I found ways to hide not eating, and every time, I was successful. And it brought a sense of accomplishment. A sense of peace, control, stillness. Amongst the constant spinning, these feelings were welcomed with open arms.
Do you know what it is like when people assume you are thin only because you are tall? It is exhilarating; it is frightening. Sometimes it is almost demeaning. It would depend on what my anorexia was saying to me that day. Sometimes it was the greatest—it meant nobody was seeing through me. Nobody was picking up on what I was doing. Other times, it meant I mustn’t have looked “sick enough,” so I had to try so much harder.
There were many years where my anorexia wasn’t a bully. She was kind and caring. She reminded me I had control and power. She held me close and didn’t leave my side. She wasn’t mean. She said I needed to be thinner, but she didn’t say I was fat.
Anorexia didn’t start as a way to be thin. Anorexia didn’t start because of a person in my life or a circumstance or a situation. She just kind of appeared. And she appeared at the perfect time, like when someone really knows you and they show up for you when they know you need them the most, but you don’t even have to ask. Anorexia was there for me when I didn’t know I was going to need someone who knew me oh-so-well.
She came in and held me close. Was there when I cried myself to sleep and felt lost. Was there when I changed schools and thought I wasn’t going to make any friends. Because being thin was somehow going to ensure I made friends. But I did make friends, which reassured this feeling inside of me that I had to be thin to keep these friends. I knew then what I know now: That is false. But it’s a false belief I bought into at the time. She was there when anxiety was at its peak and depression took over. She was there through grief. She has been my way of coping through everything. Anorexia told me I was good enough if I was thin enough. And it took me many years to realize and truly understand that there was no thin enough. It didn’t exist. So I had wasted many years chasing thin enough in order to be good enough and didn’t understand why I was failing.
Anorexia dug her heels in every time I felt my control slipping away. A decision was made for me? I’m losing control. Someone else chooses what we are having for dinner? Losing control. Dinner plans change and not eating is almost impossible? Losing control. The grip of anorexia only ever got tighter. And with this, my anorexia became mean. A bully.
It was when I began to question why I couldn’t eat things that anorexia started to fight against me, not with me. I didn’t fight very hard, not at first. I was so convinced that anorexia was looking out for me. And if I’m honest, I had never heard of anorexia. I didn’t know anything about eating disorders until I was 20. It isn’t spoken of in schools—at least, not when I was in school. It isn’t a topic of discussion that anybody just brings up to talk about around the dinner table. It is taboo.
Maybe anorexia has held me for so many years because I didn’t know of her and didn’t understand her for so long. Maybe it’s because I’m weak or because I didn’t ask for help. Maybe it’s because anorexia is manipulative. Maybe it’s all of those reasons. Maybe it’s none. Maybe, for whatever reason, anorexia was winning in my life for many years. And maybe I’m going to take my life back. Scratch that, I AM going to take my life back. Just watch me.