Here is an article I wrote for Trinity Western University’s newspaper Mars’ Hill as a follow-up to my first article ‘Freedom‘.
A year ago I wrote “Freedom,” which was an article on my struggles with an eating disorder. Going public about something that was a secret for years was freeing; however, deciding to change was just the first step of a long journey.
Having an eating disorder is like being in an abusive relationship. There is this thing in your mind that tries to control as much of your life as it can. Staring down at you from his thrown of perfectionism and unrealistic expectations, he judges – saying you are weak and insignificant, that everything is your fault. He breaks you down until you are left battered and bruised, feeling too weak to stand up and fight back. He makes you feel inadequate and dominates your attention; you lose touch with friends and family and feel he is all that you have. And when you consider leaving, he laughs, telling you that if you leave, you’ll have no one – and in your insecure state, you will put up with anything to not be alone.
I know this because I felt this way. So I stayed and allowed the abuse to continue. My bulimia escalated to the point where, for fear of purging, I developed a fear of food. Petrified, I confessed to my professor what was happening. I asked him how long I could live like this.
“Without food,” he said, “a human has about thirty days.”
Thirty days? That was only a month. Thirty days was sooner than the summer. Thirty days was simply too soon.
I had two options: get out, or die. So I sought help. I packed my bags, and this time I was leaving for good. There was a part of me that didn’t want to let go; I had become so intertwined with my eating disorder that by rejecting it, I felt as though I was tearing off a piece of myself, but that part was overruled by the part that wanted desperately to stay alive.
I started with small steps – one meal at a time. I told myself, “I will eat this meal without purging, and then I can do whatever I want with the next.” Then I moved on to making it through the day: “I won’t binge or purge today, but tomorrow, I can do whatever want.” And sometimes ‘tomorrow’ I would binge and purge, but the difference was, for the first time, I cared what those behaviours were doing to me and I knew I didn’t want them. So whether or not I had a slip-up or relapse it didn’t matter because I was heading in the right direction – I was trying to change.
Eventually, I found myself making it through two, three, even four days without giving in to the voice. Then, I would start counting weeks, and then weeks turned into months. Sure, there was a slip every now and then, but I learnt from each one. I became more in tune with the manipulative tactics of my eating disorder and was able to recognize and reject them.
The most important advice I received was from my therapist. She told me that I wasn’t born with an eating disorder, that there was a time when food was not an issue for me, so I shouldn’t see recovery as going against what is natural to me; instead, it is going back to what is natural. Once I realized that my eating disorder did not define me, recovery no longer felt like a battle against myself but rather against my eating disorder, which was not Me.
Another thing my therapist said is that eating disorder behaviours are not the problem, they are the symptoms. And so, in order to fully recover, I had to deal with the real issue – I had to learn to love myself. This was the most difficult of all. It took the support of friends and family, and, most importantly, God. People had to remind me on a daily basis that I could do this, I had the strength, and I was worth it – all things my abuser had kept me blinded from. Eventually, I began to believe them. Eventually the positive began washing out the negative and I developed faith in myself.
I fought and I won.
Now I sit here today, one year later, and not only am I recovered, but I am free.