My own ability to recover might be what terrifies me more than anything else.
Yes, I’m absolutely terrified of losing relationships. That’s what I go back to time and time again. My eating disorder says that if I get better, I’ll lose my friends, my team, everyone who’s ever loved me. I’ll be alone in the world, and why would I want to get better only the end up in the same place that I started? I’ve had this discussion so many times. The people who love me want to see me well. There will be a shift, a necessary shift, but I will not lose them entirely. People will show up for me as I show up for myself. I say, “This is the end.”
Then I think of my educational and professional capabilities. I’m able to do better work when I’m not eating. Food is not a distraction because I can pretend it doesn’t exist for an eight hour work day and get so much accomplished. Food doesn’t exist while I’m writing a paper, or I’ll use it as a reward for finishing. When I enter into a period of recovery – even thinking about recovery – my focus shifts. It appears I am not capable of holding both recovery and school/work at the same time. At least, not to the standard I’m used to holding myself to while I’m slowly digging my own grave. I say that I need my eating disorder to succeed in school, and I’ll get better once I’m done and my grades are good enough for grad school. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way because I don’t have the luxury of getting sick to the point of needing treatment again, not really. I’ve never not had an eating disorder and been a student. I don’t know what that’s like. I’m terrified that I’m going to fail. I would rather fail school and be recovered, than be sick and have my PhD though. I know that for sure. I say, “This is the end.”
I think of my life and all that has happened until this point. I think of the trauma, the lies, the lack of resources. I think of the emotions that I don’t want to feel and the work that I don’t want to do. I think of how overwhelming it is. That’s why I’m scared of getting better. Yes, partly true. But is it really? Am I really afraid of staring my demons in the face and addressing them? I’ve been living with them my whole life…it might be nice to not have them clawing at my back constantly. But, it’s impossible for me to get rid of my eating disorder because how else would I cope with the work that I will have to do? I use the eating disorder to block the pain of the trauma, and I use it to cope with the pain from the recovery. There’s really no winning here. The eating disorder is not an effective method of managing my emotions. I say, “This is the end.”
I think of my eating disorder as my identity. Of course I’m terrified to give this up. It’s been fourteen years. I don’t know who I am without it. Bull. Shit. I have a pretty solid idea of who I am without the eating disorder…and I actually kind of like the idea of being that person. I am an incredible friend. I am compassionate, intelligent, creative, and loving. I am dedicated, strong willed, and hardworking. I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a student. I am human, and I am vulnerable. I’m learning to live authentically, and the eating disorder gets in the way of that. Why would I want to keep something that steals the light from my eyes and the warmth from my heart? I say, “This is the end.”
And then I think of me. I think of all those things. I think of how much I want to be well, and how hard I’ve fought to get to this place. I think of how I literally feel the eating disorder slipping further and further away…and yet I find myself lunging for its coattails. I need to hold on, even if just a little bit. I need to hold on because I’m afraid to stop fighting against myself. I’m afraid to take all of the effort that I’ve spent to make myself small, unseen and unheard, and instead, make myself known. I’m afraid to walk into a room and make a noise that announces my presence. I say that I want to leave a legacy – to leave behind my footprints everywhere I go – but it’s impossible for me to leave my footprints if I tread so lightly that I don’t make a sound. I’m afraid because I know I can do this. I know that I have this untapped power source in the depths of my being that’s just waiting for me to say, “Yes. This is it. This is the time.” I’m afraid because once I do that, there is no going back. There is no holding on to just a little bit of illness. There is no, “You can be sick at home and healthy at school”. The seductive nature of the eating disorder, the allure of being sick…this is the great illusion. The feelings of safety and security, while once true, are now masks for destruction and defeat. The gentle whispers turned into deafening roars. What a tragedy I couldn’t hear my own self think. The illusion is destroyed when I say, “This is the end.”
Isn’t it funny that the one thing that we spend our whole life running from – the one thing of which we are most afraid – can also be the only thing that saves us?
This is just the beginning.