I never thought that at 16 years old I would forget who I was. I want to emphasize the word ‘forget’ because I did not choose to transform into someone I could not recognize. I did not choose to have my brain so thickly clouded that I could not remember what it felt like to eat without eating disorder behaviors. I did not choose to have an eating disorder (and neither did you).
An eating disorder has the innate ability to disguise. I won’t dismiss the fact that I knew something was different, but my eating disorder assured me that there was nothing wrong. I suppose my eating disorder liked to disguise as an unqualified medical professional. Anyhow, my point is, sooner than expected the person I had been for 16 years, was nowhere to be found. I felt as though my eating disorder had buried me six feet under and there was no way to come up for air. This may sound dismal and it was, but I was to discover that progress would begin by shedding a single piece of my eating disorder.
In preparation for writing this entry, I went through prior posts on The Diary Healer website, hoping to spark ideas. Rather than appreciating the unbelievably insightful words I was reading, the stories left me feeling inadequate and unqualified. Basking in these emotions I became aware of something vitally important. This seed of doubt within myself is an antagonist I know well. Being honest with myself, I know this seed is what led me to the darkest point of my life thus far. Even after two solid years of recovery, I can recognize pieces of my eating disorder which I have yet to let go of. This truth is hard to swallow but it has opened a new perspective for me.
My eating disorder no longer feels like myself; it exists as a foreign object inside me.
At the beginning of my recovery journey, I often yearned to return to my pre-ED life and pre-ED self. This seemed my ultimate goal. However, when I was in residential treatment, I had an epiphany. Upon reflection I realized that these self-deprecating thoughts, that developed into an eating disorder, have always been looming over me.
I had been indoctrinated my entire life with noise in the form of media, family members’ comments, literature, diet culture, and simply existing as a female. This part of me that has been trained to dictate my body was not natural, it was learned from a young age by society capitalising on youthful naiveness. This is the moment I began losing compassion for my eating disorder. At first, I didn’t know how to feel about this shift in attitude. I was scared! I didn’t want to lose something that had become a significant part of myself. I concluded that mourning the loss of something deeply comfortable is valid; however, celebrating the loss of something not aligned with my being is also valid.
Like many people, I was terrified to ignore my eating disorder. I knew that resisting my eating disorder meant being bullied by my own thoughts. I also knew that to some extent I did not have control over my eating disorder. My brain was too starved to be able to function properly. This seemed incredibly daunting at the time, but taking small first steps has led me to where I am in my recovery today. I often was asking myself “why?”:
Asking myself these types of questions always brought me to the set of values that my eating disorder represented. My eating disorder held the values of deception, narcissism, isolation, fear, and hypercriticism. If I met a human who embodied these values, I would run the other direction. So why was I allowing my eating disorder to live inside of me?
I learnt that once I reached a certain point in recovery, the choice became mine. I could remain stagnant and pretend to be recovered, or I could take that big jump into the space free from the chains of the eating disorder. I had to want to recover for myself. I realised that my eating disorder no longer deserved my compassion. It no longer deserved to inhabit any piece of me.
A compass in my recovery was created by establishing my own values. I have a long list of them, but my most prevalent values are:
This last value has come to the forefront in the past year. Although having anorexia had endless negative effects, it gifted me an undeniable positive aspect — the ability to help others. I began speaking in a parent group for people who have loved ones going through recovery. The group is run by Michelle Morales, a parent-peer mentor who kept my parents’ heads above water through my recovery journey from inpatient to residential to home.
As my recovery begins to stabilize, I have begun engaging in more opportunities to be an advocate. This summer, with the help of the amazing Dr Richard Kreipe, I hope to attend the 2023 ICED (International Conference on Eating Disorders) in Washington DC to continue learning and connecting with the recovery community. To be able to reach this point in my recovery is a privilege that many do not receive due to a plethora of factors. This notion is something that I do not take lightly. With the tools accessible to me, and what I have learned from recovery thus far, I aspire to show other people why their eating disorder does not deserve compassion.