Failing at my eating disorder.

I’m failing at my eating disorder and my eating disorder reminds me of that fact incessantly. She’s a bitch that way.

I feel bad about failing, which is odd, considering it’s mourning the absence of destructive behaviours. We miss what we know, even when it’s negative: we miss the loss of the familiar.

I’m failing because I’m eating. That’s a huge failure when you have an eating disorder. The goal of my eating disorder, consumption-wise, is zero. It regularly reminds me to eat less. ‘Less is more’ because the eating disorder is in it to win it, even if “winning” means starving to death.

I’m failing because I’m not purging. I’m failing less often with binging. That behaviour is one I still struggle with. It’s mostly on food I’ve not been allowed to consume without repercussions (vomiting). I suspect the bingeing is a big, angry, “fuck you” at the years of restrictions and purges. That I’ve not purged in response to these lapses in control and ingestion of extra calories is irritating my eating disorder no end: unfortunately, when she’s irked, her language can be unkind.

Fat. Pathetic. Failure.

She’s not happy with the way my pants fit today. It’s a chink in my armor.

Part of the problem comes from the gap between what I thought recovery would be and what it is. More specifically, what I thought I’d look like in recovery and the reality.

In my mind, in recovery, I look thin. Very thin, eating disorder thin. In my mind, in recovery, I eat normally, indulge occasionally, and keep baked goods in the house, all with a perfect body.

That’s not recovery. That’s letting my eating disorder dictate the terms of its faux surrender – a bizarre proposal to be sure.

Calling successes “failures” is also not recovery. That’s letting the eating disorder describe things.

Unfortunately, I’m a little conflicted about letting it wholly go. I want to be free. I’m tired of my eating disorder, more tired than I can explain. I want my brain back. I want to stop connecting my sense of self-worth to the size of my jeans. I want to stop wasting time on irrelevant and pointless trains of thought. I feel petty and shallow in my disorder. I feel sad that I’ve given such time and space to something that’s ultimately irrelevant, though writing my eating disorder off as only vanity minimizes its helpfulness in my survival.

You find examples of people’s weird and untenable behaviours everywhere and they all have one thing in common – they help the architects carry on. We do what we need to do to survive: sometimes that manifests in actions strange and hurtful. Our choices may not serve us well, but they do save us. For a time. In the end, we have to let maladaptive coping tricks go before they destroy us.

But I digress.

I know I need the eating disorder gone. I know I need to keep failing. I get it: eating disorders kill. Even so, a small piece of my brain is asking if it was all really that bad. Can’t we just peacefully co-exist? Just so we can be thin. Just until we’re perfect.

You have to admire the eating disorder’s tenacity.

Her will to live is why letting my eating disorder decide what recovery should look like is a bad idea. But it’s hard to pull free from her tentacles; it’s hard to identify who’s speaking sometimes, me or the bulimia. We’ve lived together so long, we’re enmeshed and entwined.

My eating disorder tells me I’m failing at recovery, but among the myriad of things I don’t know, there are some things I do. I know the disease doesn’t dictate the cure. I know recovery isn’t deciding today will be horrible because the waistband of your pants feels tight, and you should cut back on what you eat, and why aren’t you on the elliptical already?

I know that recovery is being willing to let the harmful things go. Sometimes, I even am. And that’s winning, regardless of what my eating disorder tries to say.

(original post January 22, 2019, revised January 2, 2021)

By Em

I like writing. Words help me unpack my thoughts so things can start to make sense. Once I have both myself and the universe figured out, I plan to take up macrame. "Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing, and learn as you go." E. L. Doctorow

23 comments

  1. Do you participate in any social events where people like yourself show up, narrate their stories, progress, etc and share tips alongwith someone qualified (to handle issues) supervising it all on a regular basis?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. no currently. i’ve done group sessions in the past and i’ve given thought to developing a speaking program around eating disorders and recovery for schools, but thinking is about the extent of my progress.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Awesome to hear that you have done it in past and that you have certain positive thoughts (or planning to do) about your future. All of us have our own speed towards any progress. Take all of your time without ever being hard on yourself. You seem to have a come a long way and headed very successfully towards your ultimate goal.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This resonates with what I discussed in my dietary session this week so deeply. She said “what are you waiting for to let go of your Ed?” I said “for it to get bad one more time” she said “but that’s the easy way. It requires no effort”. And she’s right. Recovery is so much harder than being sick. It’s the right way but feels so wrong at times.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I may not understand exactly how you feel because we are all different and all have different ways of dealing and feelings, but as another person suffering with an ED and trying to recover i totally understand that difficulty of wanting to let go but finding it difficult and thinking of eating or not throwing up as failure. I was once told we must feel like a failure before we can move on we just have to be persistent and know that this feeling of failure will later evolve to being a feeling of success.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you. the ED is really hard to let go of. it’s sneaky, always trying to find its way back in. I like that idea, that we have to be persistent and wait for the feelings to evolve. i’m impatient, i suppose.

      Like

    1. It is a challenge, for sure, for me, it’s the hardest part. Get better, but stay really thin. Not realistic, but realism isn’t really part of the ED. I was thinking about it today before I got up, how it would be so much easier to recover if I could just lose five pounds.

      Like

  4. I can so relate to all of this. Many years on, I wonder if we somehow need to allow ourselves not to hate, perhaps even to love our eating disorders too, since we can shrink them (hmm) back a lot (I eat, and I haven’t binged or purged in a long time), but we’re still going to have our ways in which we’re kind of strange around food and body issues. Just my 2 cents. hugs, Elisabeth

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the thought. Loving the ED for what it’s given is a hard one, but definitely food for thought, since hating it doesn’t seem to send it running for the hills.

      Like

  5. This is a really good post and it perfectly captures how I feel like my thoughts would be if I were in recovery. Actually, these thoughts are exactly why I’m scared to go into recovery. I feel like I’ll never be able to let this go, even though I don’t actually want it. I don’t want to be like this forever, but am I willing to give up control? I’ve started sharing my story on this new blog to see if I can help myself and others, but I’m relieved to see that other people have these thoughts. Please feel free to check out my journey if you’d like 🙂 (www.blurrythought.com) Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. The “getting your brain back” part is really hard. It’s what keeps me stuck. I totally relate to the fear. Giving up control (which is actually taking it back from the ED) is wholly scary.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No problem at all! Right?? It’s like you have to give up control to get control back, but it feels like you’re free falling without the ‘control’ of the ED. Thank you for taking the time to share and respond!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I have never met you, so know nothing of your body. What I have gotten to know, reading your blog, is your brain and your heart. They are so powerful and need to stay that way. Your body is important, in that it carries these treasures around, but will never be the best thing about you. Stay strong, in body and spirit.

    Liked by 1 person

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