I heard all the way back in high school, “Once you have an eating disorder, you always have it. You just go through periods of remission.” At the time I didn’t think much of it. After all, I was totally in control of my eating disorder–so much in fact that I couldn’t possibly have a disorder.
My chronic disease of ulcerative colitis helped me hide my eating disorder for months because even the doctors thought that my meds just needed to be adjusted. Movies shown in freshmen health class to scare us into not developing eating disorders just showed me how to hide it from my family. And then after all I had more control than the girls in the movies, so I knew I could handle it before it got to the point of dying. Right?
I ended up asking for help after reading an article in 17 Magazine about disordered eating. It helped me realize that maybe I did have a problem. It showed me my eating patterns were abnormal and unhealthy. I started working with a nutritionist and that helped a lot. I didn’t have problems with food for years. Or so it seemed.
Until I relapsed at the demise of an abusive relationship. I lost a tremendous amount of weight, that I had gained during the relationship, in just a few short months. I managed to keep it off for years. But then, I ended up gaining all of it back plus a lot over the last five years.
After all this time, I thought that my relationship with food was better; however, working with a nutritionist (trying to lose weight the “healthy” way) recently showed me how unhealthy I was/am actually eating. Not necessarily choice wise, but when and why I choose to eat. Restrictions lead to binges which lead to more severe restriction and then additional binges and so on and so forth.
I started seeing a counselor for help with my depression and food issues. (I was on a waiting list for almost four months but that’s another topic.) My counselor was worth the wait and I am so thankful that I called and waited.
At our most recent session though, we discussed something that has shaken my core and hurt my heart in a way that anyone without an eating disorder may not understand: I am not healthy enough mentally to try to actively lose weight. That I should try to let the goal of the past 5 years (weight loss) go and just focus on loving myself and building a healthy relationship with food.
I feel lost in all honesty. I have big events coming up this year and the idea of staying this size for possibly forever is terrifying to me. The idea of never losing another ounce is just baffling and horrifying at the same time. Especially since it seems that everyone and their grandmother are trying to lose weight these days. It’s added pressure to lose pounds when I see other people’s transformations with captions like “I did it and so can you.” Not to say people shouldn’t post things they’re proud of–it just makes me feel like I’m not trying hard enough and that I should restrict more. An unhealthy mindset that I am working on.
At this point I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I do know that I am going to keep seeing my therapist. I know that I’m going to fight ED whispering in my ear to skip lunch or to not eat even though I’m hungry. I’m going to try to give up the idea of losing weight ever again. As long as that takes–I will try.
As it turns out that remission thing I heard years ago about eating disorders is true. Even though for so many years I thought that I had it beat–that I was better. It’s not my identity–just like arthritis and ulcerative colitis are not who I am. BUT they are a part of who I am. I wouldn’t stop taking my meds for my chronic diseases so I’m not going to stop seeing my counselor especially since I am at the beginning of a potential relapse.
My purpose for sharing this is twofold: one as therapy for myself. Writing and talking are tools that help me. And two, to let anyone struggling with an eating disorder know that you aren’t alone. It’s okay to see a counselor. Eating disorders are difficult for most people to understand. Therapists with specialized training in eating disorders are unbiased third parties that can help. Also, don’t wait to ask for help. The earlier you can ask for help, the better.
I know from my past that remission is possible. It is so difficult to get there but to be in a place where I am not constantly thinking about food and eating will be worth it. Not obsessing over my size will be worth it. Loving myself will be worth it.
I may not be able to love myself right now on this journey but I’ll get there one day. In the mean time, I can continue to love others. Maybe while we can’t love ourselves, we can love each other especially harder? We can borrow each other’s love and belief in one another. With that borrowed love and faith, anything is possible. We will reach our goals. We will reach recovery.