Trigger warning: Eating disorders
2020 marks 20 years of living with an eating disorder. Only just entering my 30s, I have internally battled this uncontrollable disease while attempting to live as ordinarily as possible. Kind of tricky when you’re also a mom of two young children.
I was 12 years old when I decided I just wasn’t going to eat anymore. Looking back now, I understand the catalysts. But in the moment, I was a pubescent young woman hating the reflection staring back at me. I set myself a mental goal and achieved it—I starved myself close to death.
I spent my teenage years in and out of hospitals for treatment of anorexia. Eventually, I was old enough to determine my own admission. There was always going to be zero chance of me voluntarily seeking help, so I’ve never been “cured”.
Problem is, now I’m a mom of two young children. Being a mom is hard, but being a mom with an eating disorder is even harder. I have ways of hiding my disease from my family and friends, but now, two-thirds into my life, I am so mentally tired.
Just like with any type of mental illness, there are spikes and relapses. Controlled eating is an addiction—my invisible, selfish addiction. My whole life could be crumbling, but the control I have over my eating is almost like mental applause telling me that I’ve got my shit together.
Suffering from a lifelong eating disorder makes social interactions particularly challenging. That person across from me may not know what I’m doing, but in my mind, I’m convinced that they are watching me shuffle the food around my plate without quite eating it. Eating as a family unit is non-existent because I have limited myself to an exceedingly small list of foods. I don’t eat any type of meat, and I certainly don’t eat pasta or take-out. So far, my kids haven’t questioned, “Why, Mum?” But how long do you think I’m going to be able to keep up this “eating breakfast for dinner” charade?
Intentionally restricting my diet means that I don’t know how to prepare meals or cook for my family. I have non-existent culinary skills and I’m not interested in learning. Grocery shopping overwhelms me so much that I’ll have a panic attack and need to leave. My husband’s tolerance of my behavior is wearing thin and I anticipate divorce. If it did come down to getting better or getting divorced, I already know my answer.
Do I want to kick the disease? To answer truthfully, no. My disordered eating is one of few parts of my life I am in complete control of. It is a methodical rhythm that only I can understand. It is the person I have grown to identify with for 20 years. She will always follow me wherever I go.
One thing for sure that I can answer with a definitive yes is that despite my invisible demons, I will forever strive to be the best version of myself for them.