An eating disorder isn’t really about the body. The problem lies elsewhere. It’s history, nature, both, neither. It makes treatment challenging. Everyone arrives from a different place.
For me, anxiety is a large piece of the puzzle. My history is significant but my basically anxious nature is why I went the way I did. Anxiety feels unbearable. The promise of relief and control was too good to pass up.
Suddenly, the uncomfortable feelings had a focus – physical imperfections.
Because it isn’t really about the body, working on the body doesn’t work. It doesn’t fix anything for more than moments at a time, creating a rather vicious cycle of maladaptive coping mechanism, anxiety, repeat.
The eating disorder doesn’t make things better. It compounds the problem. Once you’re in, however, escape is difficult.
Although you want to get better, you cannot bear to abandon the thing you use as a crutch. And you can’t abandon it practically either. People with eating disorders cannot abstain from their drug of choice. We must eat to survive.
I wish I could simply give up eating. I wish that was a viable option for treatment.
My anxiety is nature but there is nurture in there as well. A long-standing belief that I am fundamentally flawed. Insufficient. Fixing the body was going to fix that too. The perfect appearance was going to fix everything.
I tried hard. I tried for a long time. The conclusion should be that the plan is flawed. That’s logic. The eating disorder doesn’t let you get there. The problem is always and ever you.
It wouldn’t have mattered even if I had managed to get to the shifting goals. Perfect wouldn’t be good enough either. The eating disorder is never satisfied.
The behaviours escalate. They only work for so long. The thoughts come back. The feelings come back. But they “worked” in the beginning. Obviously, the problem is you. Do more. Do better. Get closer to perfect. It spreads. Now it’s not just food. Everything needs to be perfect. Further damaging behaviours ensue. I added cutting. There had to be something that would work.
There wasn’t. You cannot fix an internal problem with an external solution. You don’t know that though.
You don’t realize you’ve developed another problem until much later. The eating disorder breaks the mind-body connection. We are one thing. The eating disorder turns us into two and the body is the enemy. It’s hard to let down the gates, to learn to trust again.
Even when you’re able to let go of the behaviours, putting yourself back together into a cohesive entity is hard. It has been ten months since I’ve thrown up and five years since I started working seriously on my recovery and my body is still “other” to me.