In just a few days National Eating Disorders Awareness week will commence. Which means it’s been one year since I came out. I came clean in the name of bravery, compassion, healing, and helping. Or at least I believed those were my reasons. I announced to my little world that for years I was ensnared in the hungry jaws of an eating disorder. For a decade, I played puppet to a master whose commands differed so greatly from one moment to the next that the strings holding me upright were twisted and tangled and hardly even functional. I spent years counting steps and calories; pounds and fat percentages until my body ignored my calculations and stopped responding to my efforts to control it. And probably much like a teenager, it began to rebel and do the opposite despite my hysterical and erratic demands. I put on weight and retained water; my eyes were puffy and blood shot from the strain of purging and my gag reflex built up a tolerance to my bitter efforts to expel any trace of a binge.
So after months of weekly therapy, group therapy, sessions with an ED specific dietician, and a maxed out credit card to fund my recovery, I began to live for the first time in years without ED as my guide. Except that isn’t actually the case. And maybe I’m alone in this, or maybe there are others like me. Even though I was no longer hypnotically obedient to my disorder, it was never not present. I had to guard my developing, healthier mind set in the way that I imagine a drug addict would have to monitor his external surroundings and double check his internal cravings. I had to unfollow fitness and food accounts on social media. I had to leave behind friends and family whose interests seemed to be primarily weight loss or fitness centered. But there were also those that had nothing to do with fitness. Beautiful women who I associated with #3’s ever wandering eyes were a big No for me. Family and friends that I’d lost in the divorce now became painful evidence of all the ways that, for everyone else, the world remained unchanged. And that recognition often led to thoughts of rejection, inadequacy, and the never fully buried idea that I was unlovable. Bye bye, Self Love.
My relationship with food evolved, yet again. Months of encouraging my mind and body to accept the “bad” foods led to a problem of a different sort. I became unable to tell if I was eating a cookie because it’s buttery soft texture and assortment of chocolate and raisins was exactly what I needed or if I was indulging because I’m mental and thought that if I didn’t eat the cookie then ED would win. More often than not I partook to show that I wasn’t sick rather than because of its gooey glory. I worried that if my coworkers didn’t see me eating pizza they’d whisper about me slipping into my old ways. I don’t know, but this still feels kind of broken to me.
My attempts to start dating last summer after 2 years of boycotting boys, has been equally enlightening to my lingering insanity. At times, I had a very sound internal conversation. If a potential date’s bio and pics seemed indicative of a fanatical fitness lifestyle, I swiped left knowing that he would awaken the lightly sleeping demon within. This seemed totally reasonable and what a recovering alcoholic would do should they come across a basement brew master. On those that I dared to swipe right on, I convinced myself that his sufficiently svelte self would undoubtedly find my more regular body wanting. And while I’ve never been one to shy away from tough talk, I found myself blurting out that I’ve been in recovery for an eating disorder and was force fed carbs and had my gym privileges revoked and that’s why I was 20 lbs. heavier than when…well never mind about that because you just met me but still just trust me that I used to be super lean and crazy chiseled, thank you very much. Keep in mind, that this wasn’t necessarily in response to a question posed and that they had already swiped right on me and wanted to meet me…all extra 20 lbs. of me. But also keep in mind that I never considered myself crazy chiseled or super lean nor was I ever tube fed and banned from a gym but this just goes to show that ED was either alive and well or talking from the grave. Y’all know I love me some ghosts…but this homeboy needs to be exorcised.
So today, nearly 1 year to the day that I made loved ones and voyeurs alike aware of my issues surrounding my body and its care and keeping, I am reflecting on the most recent time that someone was brave enough to ask me directly about ED. Two nights ago an old friend reached out and, after the requisite chit chat and catching up, bravely texted “How is ED doing?”. I was surprised and touched. Both emotions for the same reason; no one asks anymore. And why would they? People want you to be good mostly because they love you but also because what the hell are they supposed to do if you’re not?
Wanting to be both honest and light about it, I responded with “Ed is like the old boyfriend that keeps resurfacing”. Given the history with this friend, there was no need to elaborate. But yeah, that’s where ED and I are. We’re no longer in an exclusive relationship, because he sucks. But there are definitely triggers and memories that will cause my thoughts to wander. And moments of embarrassing weakness where I reach out a little and he eagerly draws me back in. I know that I don’t want him in my life and that there is no future with the two of us but just like the literal ex, too many lonely nights, wine, or stupid nostalgia can leave me vulnerable and open to the comfort of the pain I already know in place of the potential for experiencing new.