We’re not an honest species and I wonder about that. Telling the truth isn’t something we do as a matter of course. Lying is in our genes; we do it well and frequently.
I’ve found myself lying to people for no reason other than the opportunity was there, and the brain went for it.
Little untruths, lies about an upcoming event or something in a similar vein. More prevarication and exaggeration than outright lie.
I saved the outright lying for my eating disorder and associated spinoffs.
An eating disorder is built on lies and survives by feeding you more. It lies about everything – who and what you are, what you deserve, and the harm it’s causing to your body and life.
I like to think of the harm as a race – which will the eating disorder destroy first, body, mind, or soul. I figured on mind. The mental damage caused by the eating disorder and by what lies beneath can be severe.
The degree of damage varies with exposure. Minutes in the cold are fine – spend an hour or two and the prognosis differs.
At least eating disorders don’t turn your nose black.
When you have an eating disorder, you lie to everyone, including yourself.
In television shows and movies about eating disorders, the sufferers are often portrayed as being oblivious to the reality of their physical bodies. Oblivious to almost everything about the eating disorder until a helpful friend or therapist shines a light, in fact.
That’s not usually how it goes. An eating disorder’s victims see the truth. Sometimes. But layered over the truth you can see is the “truth” you believe. I still struggle with this dichotomy.
The “truth” that isn’t based in reality doesn’t respond to logic as well as one might hope.
The arguing tires you out.
There are certain conventions when it comes to writing about eating disorder recovery. There’s a lot of Bruno. We don’t talk about body weight. We don’t talk about clothing sizes. No discussions of body shape or size can take place. You must avoid any and all possible triggers.
I’ve always held that this is a mistake. It’s like my inability to step on a scale. I can do it again after a decade-plus period of avoidance (and using it again leads to a different set of problems), but for years, scales made me panic. Most of my therapists held that this was fine. If you want that safety, take it. They were mistaken. Catering to the eating disorder exacerbated the problem. It interpreted it as winning. Give an eating disorder an inch, and it’ll take ten miles.
You recover by learning to function in the real world, not just in one that’s been curated for your safety. That’s not recovery. That’s just expanding the prison walls.
I find the conventions limiting at times.
Still, I’ll try to uphold them. Mostly because I’m not yet feeling brave enough to buck the system. No doubt it will come. I have a long history of making the right choice that guarantees a lousy outcome. Partly because even though I think the convention is wrong, I don’t want to pull anyone’s trigger.
I’ve been struggling with my body since Christmas. In mid-November, I told myself that I was too thin and should work on gaining a bit of weight. I’ve held myself underweight since I stopped binging and purging – the fear of getting fat still dogs me.
I loosened the reigns over the holiday season, however. It’s been years since I’ve eaten Christmas baked goods, chocolates, appetizers, and the dinner proper. I usually manage to lose weight in December, I’m so on guard. But I managed to go in the other direction this year, only to find that when I got there, I hated it with an almost pathological fervour.
That’s a solid reason to stay in that space. Lean into the discomfort, even if you think you might panic. The only thing fear can do is make you afraid. It’s a shockingly impotent emotion, considering how wary it makes us.
I told myself I was concerned about being underweight. That was a lie. The sneaky bit of anorexia in the back was right thrilled.
I told myself I’d be fine with the weight gain. That was another lie. I did nothing to make it so. I didn’t talk to my therapists. I didn’t try and gain weight by increasing the size of my meals and upping my protein, which is still dismal.
Low protein consumption is common among eating disorder sufferers. Protein is nutrient-dense, which is doctor-speak for “higher calories.”
How did I gain weight? I binged. It was a low-level, month-long binge, but that’s what it was. It’s not the food that makes it such, it’s the mindset.
My mind was not in a good place.
I don’t like living on the knife edge of anxiety.
And now it’s January and I’m fat. I lied to myself about how comfortable I was with a potential weight gain, and now I’m lying to myself about what that gain looks like. At least I’m aware that I’m a big, fat liar. But it takes work to counter negative thoughts. self-correcting one’s thoughts is an energy drain.
It’s why I often gave up in the past. An eating disorder never gets tired and never gets battle fatigue.
But the weight I gained has rendered me elephantine, at least according to my emotional state and feelings of self-worth.
“Have you gone up a clothes size?” asks my counsellor. “No,” I say, “but they’re tight.”
It’s true, some of my pants are. The ones I’ll try on. I’ve become afraid of my clothes.
A problem for another day. Tomorrow, probably.
“You’re so fat,” my eating disorder tells me as I get ready to go outside.
“I’m wearing a small jacket over a small top and a small pair of jogging pants. I can still see my ribs. There’s no world in which I’m fat.”
“Your legs are fat.” The eating disorder doesn’t want to give up. She’s been starved of late, what with my recovery work, and sees in my discomfort a window. She pounces, but I’m unaware. I think the thought is my own.
“Maybe I could get some meal replacement bars.”
The big lie is the one that lets you believe there’s anything good in pathologies like eating disorders.
People without mental illnesses sometimes say things like ‘adversity builds inner strength.’ That’s a lie too. It’s from the same category as, “rich people are miserable.”
Lies we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel better, or something like that.