During one of my last sessions I was asked a question that left me silent, which isn’t easy to do. I stopped, unsure of how to answer, put in a few seconds of deep thought that I could muster and just said, “I don’t know.” So, here I am to answer the question that has been continuously repeated in my head, “What purpose does the eating disorder serve for you?”
My first response wanted to be, “I guess the cliché, ‘control’ aspect in my life. I don’t know.” Thinking longer, deeper, on this question, I believe it is more than that.
The rational side of me knows there shouldn’t be guilt, shame, embarrassment, attached to eating food, regardless of what it is. What makes one food “better” than the other? Why is it acceptable to eat a salad, but cringe at the word “pasta”?
At twenty two years old, I pretty much have control over every aspect of my life, and the small things I may not have control over, I am learning to cope with, or just let go of if they aren’t important or detrimental. So why am I still struggling over food and why does it continue to control me through all of these years?
– One main reason is that this has been my “go-to” for years, my coping mechanism, what I leaned on in times of anxiety, stress, fear, loneliness, etc (yay feelings- talking about them are my favorite…..). It was also a major way to punish myself. When I wasn’t self-harming as a way to punish myself for my parents’ rocky marriage, and my failures, I was throwing up. These two practically became routine.
– The next would be consistency. Growing up I had two step dads, never met my real father, moved several times, from the north to the south, and went to every school in my county. My parents liked to drink, and I was constantly on guard of how mom was feeling. If she had drank too much and was raging that day, or was still in the loopy “lovey-dovey” stage. I knew one thing though. Being in control and having that consistent crutch to make me temporarily “feel-better” was always there.
– I wanted to be better. A Honor roll. I did sports. Went to our local university in middle school because of my science project to present it. Full scholarship. I wanted to be thinner. Wanted to be skinny. I mocked the cheerleaders, but was slightly jealous because I never had the confidence to try out, even though I would have made the team, I was friends with all of the girls. I was extremely popular in my own way. I was the athletic one, who knew everybody, made friends with anybody and never got in trouble. I so badly wanted my mom to stop drinking, wanted her to appreciate the fact that I worked, went to high school, was part of the Honor Society, Interact, Student Government, the play, and did sports. She never came to any of my games. I thought if only I was thinner, prettier, she would like me better.
At some point in my life it became more than just a “behavior”, it became a lifestyle. Restricting, running, purging, became a lifestyle. Unfortunately one that I am falling back into, which stings to even admit. I want to have my life together, be strong, be recovered, but why do I continue to fall back on something that does not serve me any good?
So, what does my eating disorder serve for me? It is a constant reminder of how I believe I could be better. It is still a way to punish myself for food that I deem “unacceptable” to be eaten. It continues to be my go-to in times of stress and disappointment, and consistently shows it’s ugly face in vulnerable times. My fear is also my identity. What will I do when my life isn’t rapidly revolving around the thought of my thighs and love handles. Constantly consumed with the mere thought of eating and calories. Who will I be? I am jealous of the women who have self-esteem and confidence. I wish I didn’t care what so much about what others think, or be so critical towards myself and my body. It is the constant comparison between me and somebody else, being jealous and envious that I can’t look like them. The comparing has got to stop as well, it is nothing but harmful.
Trust the Process!!