This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness week. I’ve been working very hard this past month. My weight’s continued to go up (at a painfully slow, incremental rate), which it needs to do in order to keep my doctors and therapist, but which continues to increase my anxiety. Per my treatment team’s recommendation, I’ve agreed to be at home as much as is possible without changing my work or school schedule. Being home ensures that I follow my meal plan exactly, as my mom’s watchful eye is never far from my plate! It’s been a long two weeks, and I know the next couple are only going to feel longer, but I know I’m doing what I need to. In my therapy appointment today, my therapist talked about the loss I’m going to be experiencing in the coming months. She compared it both to leaving an abusive relationship, and also to being an olympic athlete, saying, “I’ve had my run, and now I’m done. I’m going to find something different that I can excel and put my energy into now.” I continue to experience more and more of that grief the closer I get to being weight restored. In an effort to help me express this, my therapist had me write a letter to my eating disorder, saying goodbye. I thought I’d share it here.
To my eating disorder-
I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to write this letter. You’ve been partially out of my life for a while now, but in some ways you’re still very present. I can feel myself cling to you with every fiber of my being, not wanting to let you go as you’re being pulled away from me from my psychiatrist, therapist, dietician, mom, supporting friends, and of course, the chemicals helping: Prozac and Zyprexa.
We had a good run, you and I. I honestly can’t imagine the last six years of my life without you. You gave me someone to turn to in the midst of my family’s collapse, something to excel in when I lost my sport and greatest passion due to injury, and most importantly, a sense of calm and numbness unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. But you caused me a lot of heartache, too. Physical heartache, actually – according to the EKG I had to have before I went to Residential, my heart’s already suffered one heart attack, and I know if I keep fooling around with you, I’m at risk of having another one that I may not be so lucky as to recover from. You stole other things from my body, too. I’m embarrassed to wear my hair down because of the way you caused it to fall out in clumps – one of the many side effects of malnourishment – and denied me of having my period (and potentially my ability to have children) for years. You’re the cause of so many missed experiences, as well, more than I can even recount. The many things I said, “No”, to in order to follow your rules, the freshman homecoming dance I spent in the hospital, the cross-country meet I feigned sickness for in order to evade eating, the college scholarship to run track in Alabama I had to turn down because my mom couldn’t trust me to be that far away from home. And let’s not forget about the numerous stress fractures likely compounded by you, either – or Raynaud’s the circulatory disease I developed as a result of you at the young age of fifteen.
Eating disorder, I’ve done so many things for you that I would’ve never done otherwise. You turned me into a completely different person; you made me to be a liar and a cheater. You’ve damaged relationships so badly that I can’t believe they’re still intact. You caused tension to flood places where it never belonged. I’ve been so blessed by the people God has put into my life to support me in this fight. I’m going to utilize them to help turn me against you, to remind me that you’re no good for me.
Despite all these things, eating disorder, I don’t hate you. In fact, I still love you a lot – that’s what makes it so hard to say goodbye. I can’t imagine what it would be like to live without you; you’re my comfort, my security blanket. But in the moments when you’re calling me back to you – when you’re lying to me, saying that I’m nothing without you… I’m going to remind you that in fact, it’s you who’s nothing without me. And unlike you, I’m not fighting this battle to keep me with you alone. I’ve got a ton of professionals on my side as well as my family and friends who love me and who care about me. Most importantly, I’ve got God on my side. And while I know you’re caused by a chemical imbalance in my brain, I serve a living God who tells me to cast all my cares and anxieties on Him. He is stronger than you. And with Him, so am I.
Sincerely, and Farewell,