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)