I Miss What Could’ve Killed Me: My Eating Disorder
Eating disorders have the second highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
I Invalidate My Eating Disorder, Even Though I Know It’s Deadly
My eating disorder could’ve killed me. This is something I have to repeat to myself over and over.
Eating disorders, by nature, make those who have them feel “not sick enough” constantly. So, when I say my eating disorder could’ve killed me, I don’t really believe it, even though I know it’s true. Eating disorders have the second highest mortality rate of any mental illness. People who die from them aren’t always emaciated or “clearly sick,” either.
When I struggle with invalidation, I have to remind myself of two quotes:
In an article, Melissa Martini made this important point:
“The fact that I wanted to be sick was a sign that I was sick enough in and of itself. No one should want to be in danger of dying. And no one should want to be unhealthy. A normal person doesn’t want to be ‘sick enough.’”
And Blythe Baird, a slam poet, made another important point in one of her poems:
“If you are not recovering, you are dying.”
Wow. These quotes made me feel called out, but in such a meaningful way. I needed these words. Anyone with an eating disorder can die from it, especially if they’re not working toward recovery. A healthy person doesn’t wish to be sick, and an eating disorder will either end in recovery or end in death.
My Eating Disorder Served a Special Purpose I Miss
Eating disorders are dangerous with a multitude of physical, mental, and social consequences. I know this. I know they can lead to permanent physical damage all over your body. I know they can make you feel ashamed, lonely, and anxious. I know they can isolate you from your friends and hurt those who love you.
But despite all of that I know, I still invalidate myself, and one sentence plays like a broken record in my head:
I miss it.
I miss my smaller body. I miss the familiarity I had with it after engaging with it for years. I miss the euphoria I felt each morning when the number on the scale decreased.
I miss not worrying about people judging my food intake. I miss the power and control and heightened self-image I felt. I miss people feeling concerned for me, reminding me they care. I miss the way my eating disorder served as a comfort and a distraction when I was struggling with abuse and mental illnesses. I miss fitting into smaller clothes and not worrying about a piece not fitting in the dressing room.
I miss so much about my eating disorder. It served a special purpose that other coping strategies simply can’t. Eating disorders are an addiction in their own way; starving, for example, can be physiologically addicting.
But Even Though My Body Is Bigger, So Is My Life
When I miss my eating disorder, I feel sad because I know I can’t go back. But more than that, I know I don’t truly want to go back. For all of those things my eating disorder “gave me,” it took away more.
When I was sick, my stomach would gnaw with hunger and my whole body would feel weak. When I was sick and went to parties, I focused more on food and calories than on my friends. When I was sick, one behavior I struggled with was bingeing, which brought a lot of discomfort and shame.
When I was sick, I felt nervous instead of excited when my friends spontaneously suggested ice cream or Waffle House trips. When I was sick, I felt awkward trying to hide how little I ate when I was in a period of restricting. When I was sick, I couldn’t fully enjoy experiences because thoughts of arbitrary numbers consumed my mind and exhaustion consumed my body.
Now, I’ve been in recovery for a couple years since my last relapse, with only a few lapses in between. Now, I enjoy eating candy after dinner with my girlfriend while we watch “RuPaul’s Drag Race” or another one of our favorite shows. Now, using food to cope with my problems doesn’t really appeal to me anymore, and I don’t worry about calorie counts on menus at restaurants — both of which I still find shocking to this day.
Now, my life is filled with my passions and other life struggles instead of concern over random numbers. My eating disorder didn’t truly fix my problems: It just added another problem into the mix.
I’m reminded of a quote by poet Michelle K., which says this:
“Nostalgia is a dirty liar that insists things were better than they seemed.”
I know, logically, my past eating disorder-filled moments were not beautiful or empowering. But when I look back, that’s what I see, that’s what I remember. I have to remind myself my eating disorder nostalgia is lying to me — while my pant size may be bigger now, I am so much happier. I live a much fuller life.
How I Move on When I Miss It
Part of me believes I’ll never completely stop missing my eating disorder. I may not struggle with it as often or for as long, but the thought will come back occasionally. Reminding myself of ways my life is better now helps, but I wouldn’t say it’s a be-all-end-all cure. The thought is a helpful, logical reminder, but my emotions often overpower my logic. I don’t want to miss my eating disorder, but I often struggle to get the desire and thought out of my head.
Through therapy, I’ve learned when we have thoughts we don’t want to have, judging them or pushing them away only exacerbates the situation. Instead, when we have those thoughts, we should accept and validate them, then move on to new thoughts. We have to look at our thoughts with curiosity, but not so much that we begin to feel negatively toward them.
So moving forward, that’s what I’ll do. I’ll accept and validate the pain I’m going through, remind myself an eating disorder won’t solve my tough emotions, and think of all the ways my life is better now. Because a life with an eating disorder is not one I want — it’s not even a life at all.