Friday, May 3, 2019

It’s Scary Letting Go of ED

*taps mic, or—more literally—computer keyboard*

“Hello? This thing on? Anyone here?”

Greetings to whatever straggling followers I have left out there. It’s been a while since I’ve written anything about ED. If you still follow me on Facebook, you may have noticed that I’ve been dabbling in satire for the last month or two. I felt like I needed to get back to writing, but the prospect of returning to ED-related posts just seemed like a little too much for me to handle. Humor writing is fun, light, easy, and therapeutic. Living with ED is so mentally draining, and sometimes talking (or writing) about it just feels like I’m fueling the emotional incubus that he is.

On the other hand, sometimes getting all that shit out (on paper or verbally) is curative. So here we are.

For the past year-ish, I’ve been spending an hour a week (or every other week, because kids and germs and life in general) with a therapist who specializes in ED. After years of trying to handle everything on my own, I realized it was time to recruit another team member, someone who really “gets it” and could help me navigate my own (often irrational) thoughts. Someone who knows ED intimately, but from an outsider’s perspective.

And—lucky for me—someone who’s not afraid to drop plenty of well-placed “fucks” during our sessions. This woman just gets me.

It was hard for me to finally seek out a therapist. One of the things ED likes to do is convince you that you don’t need other people, that you can handle everything on your own. Or, as my therapist likes to tell me, that “you’re Super Woman.” I tried doing things that way for far too long. And while I’ve certainly had my ups and downs with ED—my strides toward getting better, as well as my relapses—I just can’t keep him distanced the way I need to by myself.

Enter therapy. And hope. And my almost acceptance of that intimidating word I used to hate: RECOVERY.

Getting better for myself AND for these guys.

ED has been such a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember that I now realize part of the reason I was hesitant to enter formal eating disorder therapy was fear. You’ve heard of separation anxiety, yes? Like when your toddler clings to you if you attempt to leave him in the hands of a babysitter or (in our case) in the church nursery? Kids don’t like the idea of leaving the person they’ve grown to love and trust most in the world—the person who's been there for them their entire lives. And who would, right? The unknown: It's scary and uncomfortable.

Well, that’s sort of what “recovery” feels like—like I’m being ripped away from my primary “caregiver.”

Even though the rational part of me realizes ED is never really taking care of me, the emotional part of me has been relying on him for so long that it hurts to let go.

I think there are still a lot of people out there who don’t realize that eating disorders are diseases, not “phases.” As my therapist has told me, an eating disorder literally changes your brain chemistry. ED is not just in my head 24/7 in a metaphorical sense. He has fucked up my brain, the way I think, the way I see myself. 

An eating disorder is not about looking good or being skinny. When you strip it down, an eating disorder really has nothing to do with food or body. It does, however, have everything to do with comfort and control.

My therapist and I have spent a lot of time exploring why I turn to ED when things get difficult—when I’m stressed, or exhausted, or just not feeling good about myself. And I think what it boils down to is this: ED is always there for me when I need him. When I’m having a rough day, when I’ve made a mistake, when I’m too tired to put up a fight—ED is there, waiting with open arms to take me back.

ED makes me feel good. There, I said it. Weird, right?

I know that sounds counterintuitive: Isn’t ED also the one who whispers “You’re not good enough” into my ear on a daily basis? Isn’t he the one who makes me feel shitty about my body? Isn’t he the one that almost killed me about a decade ago?

Yes, yes, and yes. But, he is also this: He is familiar. And he gives me “problems” I can fix.

“You’re fat.” Okay, I’ll  just start restricting again.

“You’re weak.” Well, I can be strong by ignoring my hunger and delaying my meal times.

“You don’t deserve to feel good.” Right, so I’ll isolate myself.

“You’re out of control.” (This is probably the one I hear most often.) I’ll show you control. Watch me cut my intake and up my exercise.*

And so on and so forth.

*Note: Exercise is tricky because it is also one of my “recovery tools.” When I’m in control, it makes me feel strong and in charge of my own body. But when ED is steering, it has the potential to turn into a “job” or compulsive behavior. I’m still working on navigating this.

So instead of dealing with the real issues in my life, the ones I can’t control or the tasks I fear failing at, I turn to ED to offer me problems I already have the tool set to fix. It’s easy. It’s simple. It’s familiar. And—because of all that—it’s comforting.

For as long as I can remember, ED has been my number one cheerleader, encouraging me to push myself to eat less, to weigh less, to be less. And the idea of losing the “support system” that I’ve relied on for so long is honestly kind of terrifying. And it’s definitely not easy.

It’s hard to ask for help. I think it’s hard for anyone to ask for help, let alone someone whose disease tells her she shouldn’t need it. But I think—no, I know, now—that in the long run I’ll be much happier accepting help from the people who care about me than I am when I accept it from ED.

And it may still take a lot of work, tears, and discomfort, but I look forward to the day I can finally look that son of a bitch in the face and just say, “Boy, bye.”

This kid makes a much better workout buddy than ED does.