Why I Don’t Talk About My Eating Disorder
Trigger warning for discussion of eating disorder behaviours.
So, a couple of years ago, I wrote about my first flush of dealing with my squawling little baby newborn eating disorder. And I really thought, when I wrote that, that I was firmly in recovery, and that I would stay that way until it just became part of my past. And I was in recovery, I really was, and I was committed to it, and I meant it when I said that I wanted to get better.
Until I wasn’t.
The first time you have a relapse with your eating disorder, I think it’s pretty normal not to notice it for a while – you sort of back into it slowly, looking the other direction, until suddenly you’re entrenched in a whole new set of disordered behaviours – or the same ones with a different gloss on them, at least (going from purging to laxative abuse is less glam than I thought it would be, let me tell you). Oh, fuck, you think, trying not to shit yourself in public. I was in recovery. What happened?
I think we all like the idea of linear recovery. I know I do – I quit drinking, I quit smoking, and I was able to move on with those things behind me, nice and neat and ordered. But the problem with recovery from an eating disorder is that you can’t just leave the tools of your disorder or addiction behind. No matter what, as long as I’m alive, I’m going to have to have a relationship with food and with my body and with movement. I’m not required to take a single shot of tequila three times a day, but I do have to eat. And, when food is the tool I used to abuse myself with before – it’s distressingly easy to just slip back into the same old patterns, especially at times of high stress when you’re otherwise distracted and don’t have the time to commit to your recovery.
In the time since I wrote that first article, I have binged, I have purged, I have starved, I have done a lot of eating disorder shit. I have also started therapy, got a diagnosis, had days where what I eat had no impact on the way I felt about myself or the world in general. I’ve been totally committed to recovery, totally committed to my eating disorder, and every place in between. Which is exactly why I don’t write about it.
Not to say that I have something against depicting my failures on this blog – as I would hope anyone who’s been around here for a while would know by now, I use this place as an enjoyable hellhole in which to throw all my interpersonal garbage for your reading pleasure.
But because eating disorders are a uniquely competitive mental illness – everyone with an eating disorder, myself included, wants to be the best at having that disorder. The thinnest, fittest, lowest-calorie, highest-functioning. And I think that even the most well-intentioned recovery spaces can easily turn into a conduit to promote those ideas in an underhanded way, whether intentionally or otherwise: you don’t have to look far into popular online recovery accounts to find people who are still espousing deeply disordered ideas and behaviour, under the banner of recovery and health (which is not to say that there aren’t recovery accounts that truly seem to commit to and espouse recovery in its entirety: What Mia Did Next is a personal favourite of mine).
Which, when you consider the often non-linear path that eating disorder recovery takes and just how easy it can be to slip back into disordered behaviour, makes a lot of sense. To have recounted my own experiences with recovery here would have been to accidentally promote a lot of disordered behaviour that I honestly would not have been able to notice was anything other than recovery, and for me, that’s just not something I can handle putting out there. Any kind of media, whether intentionally created or not, that promotes the idea of certain disordered behaviours being healthy or normal is one that can be used by people with eating disorders as justification for their illness, or as competition to push themselves to even further extremes. I sure as hell have done it myself, and I know I’m not the only person who deals with this stuff who has. It doesn’t even need to be from a source with any authority; if it’s there, if someone said it, the eating disorder brain will take that and run (ten miles) with it.
And that’s why I don’t write about it. Because I know I’m not in a healthy place to do so – not for myself, and not for anyone else who might stumble across those posts when they might have been pushing deeply unhealthy behaviour that I truly believed was part of my recovery. I can look back now on the last couple of years and see the things that have genuinely helped, the things that I thought were helping but didn’t do a thing or made things worse, and the stuff that I told everyone else helped me because I wasn’t ready to give it up yet. But I know my writing about it would have contained all of that, and I know that I would have claimed it was under the banner of recovery because I was too far in denial to accept anything different. And the thought of sharing the stuff that I can see now is so horrible with other people under the guise of ra-ra-recovery makes me fucking cringe.
So, here’s how things stand: I have an eating disorder. I don’t know how long it’s going to be a part of my life, but it’s still here, sometimes dormant, sometimes dominant. My path to recovery has been long and looped back on itself a few times, and I have no idea how far down it I stand right now. Writing about my recovery here on a regular basis is basically going to be a misnomer, because I’m not going to be in recovery all the time, and I need to be honest with myself about that. I would love it to feel more linear, and I would love to be able to share the lovely smooth road to food happiness with you here, and post pictures of me serenely eating expensive pastries and my tummy tolls. But that’s not truthful, for myself or anyone else.
And so, for the time being, I’m sticking to figuring it out on my own time (for the most part). If you’re dealing with something similar, my heart goes out to you, and I sincerely hope you can find the help you need.