Four years ago, I was determinedly approaching death’s door. Though they don’t think of it this way for their own sanity, my family would have already buried my body by now if there were no intervention. Because that is what my eating disorder wanted, and it was running the show.
Now I know I have too much to say to the world to leave it any time soon. But throughout this past week, which is National Eating Disorder Awareness week, I’ve been reminded of the stories of those I knew from treatment and reflected on my own story, and realized it’s far from over. I still constantly beat up on myself for not being skinny or pretty enough.
I spoke to my friend the other day about the hate I feel toward myself, and she said something that stuck with me. She said that she hated her teeth until she realized this hatred had nothing to do with her teeth, and by focusing on them, she was blaming the victim of her internal insecurities.
My body hatred has nothing to do with my body. I would have hated my body no matter what it looked like. The voice that says it’s my body that needs fixing is my eating disorder, blaming its own victim.
This eating disorder’s voice will tell you that dieting, overexercising, purging, and all the little things like buying clothes a size too small just to say you can wear it, are for your own good. It will say that these habits serve to make you pretty or even perfect.
But if I had wanted to be perfect, I would have further developed all the wonderful characteristics I already had. If I had wanted to be pretty, I would have strived for health and happiness.
The truth is, at my worst, I did not want to be perfect. I did not want to be pretty. I did not want to be a good person. Deep down, I knew what it took to cultivate these qualities, yet I chose to do the opposite.
My eating disorder told me it would make me a better and more attractive person. It managed to convince me that this meant lying, taking horrible care of myself, depriving myself of basic needs, becoming brain-dead, and making my parents cry.
In reality, my eating disorder wanted only one thing: It wanted me dead. And when I became my eating disorder, I wanted me dead. Everything I did in the name of the things my eating disorder promised me accomplished only one thing. It took me a step closer to my death every day.
But today when I think back on that time, I recognize those empty promises for what they are. And I recognize my self loathing for what it is. It is the eating disorder trying to capitalize on the little power it has left. When I acknowledge that these supposed attempts to help me are disguises, and that all my eating disorder wants or is capable of causing is my death, it suddenly seems a whole lot less powerful.
I asked my friend one last question: If my negative perceptions of myself aren’t grounded in reality, why do I perceive myself this way?
“Because you want to,” she said.
“I don’t! I hate this problem!”
“Part of you LOVES this problem. It lets you hold onto just a little piece of who you used to be, of the life you grew comfortable with. But once it becomes too much of an inconvenience, you’ll release your grasp entirely.”
“It has always been an inconvenience.”
“Great, then call it what it is. It’s not even a problem anymore. It’s just a pesky little inconvenience.”