I’ve always thought of my eating disorder as a very personal thing. There were years where I was in my eating disorder and no one really knew.
Because of this, many people have told me (and in some ways, I agree), that it is kind of incredible that I not only let CJ into this battle but also that she has stuck around [insert immense gratitude].
While CJ understands the complexity of eating disorders, I think we both often forget how unpredictable they are. It’s known that no two eating disorders are alike, making it virtually impossible to predict their courses of action.
In fact, the only thing that really becomes predictable over time is that when the eating disorder voice becomes louder, dishonesty and deceit move in tandem and become more prevalent as well. This positive correlation is dangerous as it prevents me from being able to share what’s going on with CJ. (And forces me to act against my core values). The shame I feel around being dishonest only increases the need to be secretive, which in turn leads to engaging in more eating disorder behaviors. It’s a lovely little vicious cycle!
In a way, the unpredictable nature of the eating disorder itself becomes a predictable pattern, albeit not the most helpful and obnoxiously convoluted. It feels like CJ and I are both slightly on edge when I’m going strong with my meal plan: When is the ball going to drop? What’s going to cause the first skipped meal? When is the honesty going to disappear and how long will it take to communicate about it?
When I’m restricting it becomes more challenging for me to use my voice. My eating disorder convinces me that I’m strong, but really I’m emotionally weak and timid. It also pushes me into this insidious cycle of avoidance (conscious and subconscious), denial (conscious and subconscious), and guilt (conscious, conscious, conscious) for having to continually make this eating disorder an unwanted part of our lives (aha, oh, thirdwheel…).
For some time now, I’ve been keeping a list of things I want CJ to know when I start struggling with my eating disorder – those things that my eating disorder doesn’t necessarily want me to reveal. But here’s my honest effort to try and break the cycle of dishonesty:
- I’m really scared. When my eating disorder rears its ugly head at this point, it usually takes me a few days to a week or so to stop being in denial. I’m not afraid of being vulnerable with you, rather, I’m afraid of unadulterated honesty becoming too much for you, and therefore losing you. I’m also afraid of becoming really sick again, despite the unhealthy part of me wanting it so badly at the same time. Gosh, that is so fucked up and I don’t get it. Nothing about being sick again feels appealing but I know that recently my actions have not aligned with that. It’s so hard not to glamorize the parts of the eating disorder that felt good and served a purpose at one point.
- I’m really frustrated too. I know you’re frustrated, and you have every right to be. It’s frustrating when I don’t want to be sick, yet my eating disorder is enticing me with lies. I think from an outsider’s perspective, defeat and exhaustion can often be mistaken for complacency. I know the past two weeks or so, we’ve had multiple conversations in which you expressed your fear that I was complacent with where I’m at in my eating disorder. I promise you, I’m not smug, I’m just so god damn defeated by that voice.
- I don’t want to ask for help, but I probably need it. I don’t want to be any more of a burden than I already have been, but truthfully to pull myself out of a rough patch, I think I need your help around meal prep and following my meal plan. [ED GASP!] I often reject this offer because then I feel like there’s no way for me to give into my eating disorder (a good thing I know). You’re too good of a caretaker and dietitian to let my eating disorder have any space.
- This slip, this lapse (just like all of the others) is absolutely not your fault, I promise. Please know, you do more than I would ever want to ask of you, more than I’ve ever expected from anyone. You are so hard on yourself when really you are wonderfully supportive, and the kindest soul, even when our lives are clouded by the voice of my eating disorder. I am aware of my need to take extreme ownership of my actions and my eating disorder. Despite your desire to, there is no way that you can singlehandedly prevent a slip up even though you constantly berate yourself with “shoulds”. You tell yourself, “I should have been paying more attention, I should have made more meals, or I should have gone grocery shopping, etc.” My eating disorder loves to blame its presence based on circumstances that have absolutely nothing to do with the use of behavior. It’s a false justification that should not grant me the permission to engage in behaviors.
So those, my love, are the very things I want you to know when my eating disorder encourages me to be silent and dishonest. As much as I know my eating disorder is wrong, not helpful, ineffective (all of the above), I still feel an emotional attachment to it. I’m trying to tell myself that this does not make me a horrible person, and the fact that I have slipped does not mean my recovery is hopeless. Today I ate a bagel. Progress is progress, not perfection. 🙂
Thank you for sticking by me through it all – honesty and dishonesty. Thank you for consistently holding hope for us, when I start to have doubt.
In strength and healing,