It’s a weird phenomenon that I first learned about in one of the rehab centers I went to; that during my recovery process, I would miss my eating disorder.
I found that to be a crazy concept.
How could I miss something that created so much anguish in my life? A disease that plagued my mind and caused me to starve my body to the point of losing my period; that ended in countless nights of me sitting on my bathroom floor, balling my eyes out, with that night’s dinner floating in the toilet next to me.
How in the world would I ever miss something that caused me to self-harm? That caused me to miss out on enjoying college. That created numerous health issues when I finally decided to try and recover.
How the f*ck could I ever miss that?
Well, on some days, I do.
Because in the end, my ED was a significant part of my formative years.
I’ve struggled with disordered eating on and off since middle school, and it was a full-blown eating disorder from the time I was 20 to around 25 years old.
At the age of 27, that’s a pretty significant period of my life thus far. And sometimes, I miss my ED like I miss an old friend.
For several of those years, I strongly identified with the habits that manifested from my eating disorder. People joke about knowing someone is a vegan or does CrossFit within one minute of meeting them, and I was that person.
I got into the vegan lifestyle before “clean-eating” was trendy. My friends knew me as the vegan girl, and I proudly identified myself by my diet.
I was also the friend that did CrossFit six times a week. I may not have looked like I did, you know because of good ole anorexia, but I sure as hell let everyone know I was weightlifting in my spare time.
So then, I guess it makes sense that I had such a hard time letting go of my eating disorder because I only held on to my diet and exercise regime as a means to perpetuating my ED.
Recovery meant I needed to let go of my strict rules with food. I remember being ashamed and hiding the fact that I re-introduced eggs into my diet. That was blasphemy in the vegan community for obvious reasons, and that community was all I knew.
Quitting my long days at CrossFit was easier. I ended up moving abroad and I sure as hell wasn’t going to spend my days trying to find a CrossFit gym in China if they even had one.
But diet and exercise aside, I sometimes miss the comfort my eating disorder gave me. I want to add in a warning here: this can be triggering for some people in recovery. I don’t want to glamorize my eating disorder, but I am going to acknowledge the feelings of comfort I received from it.
I only say this because I know I would get triggered from other depictions into the eating disorder world. Hello, To The Bones — a movie starring Lily Allen about life at an ED recovery house. I’m not sure how I feel about an actress that once had an eating disorder in real life, losing weight for a role in which she plays someone in eating disorder rehab.
Regardless, after watching that movie, I promptly went into a spiral and binged/purged. So, as I said. Trigger warning.
When I have days where I’m feeling sad or alone, there are moments where I remember what it felt like to numb those feelings with starvation or purging. I remember the sense of fullness it gave me, even though I was quite literally empty inside.
To be frank, it was easier. Partaking in my ED behaviors was easier to do than to sit with my emotions. It felt better than trying to work through the sadness.
For a while, those behaviors were my only coping mechanism. Think of them as a friend to talk to about what’s going on. But instead my friend was my fingers, and the talking looked more like them being shoved down my throat.
When I lacked any control in my life, my ED gave me control. A horrible fight with my boyfriend, unexpected bills to pay, questioning where my life was going, college papers piling up that needed to be written — those I didn’t have much control of. What I could control though, was what went into my body.
So sometimes I miss the comfort, control, and familiarity that came with my anorexia and bulimia.
But on those days that I miss my ED, I remember what I don’t miss.
I don’t miss the feeling of being light-headed all the time.
I don’t miss 90% of my thoughts being consumed by food.
I don’t miss the cuts on my hands from my teeth.
I don’t miss the feeling of my throat continually burning.
I don’t miss not having a period.
I don’t miss the secrecy.
I don’t miss the comments that further perpetuated the idea that my looks equated my value.
I don’t miss the numerous injuries I got from excessive exercise.
I don’t miss wasting my life away.
My eating disorder was like an old friend but one that caused way more harm than good. Yes, I miss it some days but more like a distant memory that I refuse to relive.