Disclaimer: The following is an uncut edition of the ups and downs of my relationship with Ed, my eating disorder. I would like to forewarn those individuals showing symptoms of an eating disorder to proceed with caution, as portions of my story may be triggering. My purpose in sharing my story is to highlight the reality of recovery.
The treadmill thunders under the soft, orange soles of a pair of worn Nikes. Boom. Boom. Boom. The sun has yet to rise; nevertheless, the soft, orange soles have tallied a little more than four miles. Every morning, I ran 4 miles. Every morning, I ground my coffee. Every morning, I scooped my spoonful of laxatives into my black coffee.
My mornings became ritualistic. My eating disorder, whom I will refer to as “Ed”, liked it that way. Following our morning run, Ed would quietly escort me to the bathroom quickly drawing my attention to the mirror. Here, Ed would offer his constructive criticism:
“Why don’t your cheekbones protrude more?”
“How do your abdominals lack a diastsis?”
These comments, this humiliation would preface my morning weigh in.
Sometimes, suicide notes contain only numbers. However, Ed never read the number. Ed never cared. Because regardless of what number the scale presented, Ed was always quick to point out an area needing improvement. This improvement, of course, was only possible through restrictive dieting.
As my body entered into starvation mode, the artificial attention that Ed craved increased tenfold. This superficial admiration quickly transformed into genuine concern. An old coach, watching me rehearse my floor routine, jokingly asked me if I was eating correctly. Ed coyly dismissed the question with a simple lie, stating that I had spent my weekly allowance on alcohol instead of food. The salon artist expressed concern to my ex-boyfriend, asking him if he had heard how I was doing after I came in for a hair appointment. As Ed tightened his grip, my family soon became aware of my abusive relationship. A weekend spent with my mother ended with my mother in tears. Ed told her that we would stop “as soon as we got rid of all of our body fat.” Staring at her pale, fragile son, my mother was petrified. Threatening to withdraw me from the university, I was coerced into weekly therapy appointments, biweekly dietician meetings, and a monthly physician visit.
Ed hated this. Ed hated Liz, the therapist. Often times creating pseudo-conflicts that would inhibit my weekly attendance. Ed told me that my dietician was jealous, that my dietician was trying to make us fat. When the physician learned of the vicious purge-and-binge cycles that frequented my daily schedule, she examined my esophagus and prescribed medication in order to mitigate further permanent damage. In a vain attempt to discourage purging, or vomiting after eating a “forbidden food,” my physician stated that calorically, purging does not eliminate caloric-intake, as some foods begin their breakdown immediately after entering the mouth. Ed, in response, did his research.
At the time, we worked in a gastrointestinal unit in the hospital. After brushing up on some online databases, Ed concluded that the typical binge-and-purge cycle contained high amounts of carbohydrates, which begin their chemical breakdown in the month via salivary amylase, thus resulting in caloric-intake. In order to avoid this, and to reduce caloric-intake, Ed decided that we would exclusively binge on fats, which are unable to be digested until the duodenum of the small intestine where CCK stimulates fat emulsification, or simply fat breakdown. As a result, Ed was careful with his food choices during binge sessions.
My body’s pleas for freedom were dismissed until my body itself began to fail. What began as benign vertigo during basic tumbling sequences rapidly progressed to a loss of sensation in both feet during my ritualistic, morning runs. Removing my battered, sweaty socks post-run habitually revealed blisters, bruises, blood, etc. However, I was numb to the pain as my nervous system began to shut down. Following my nervous system, my heart rate was the next to go, dropping to that of a collegiate distance runner within a period of 2 months.
As my body began to reject Ed, my mind slowly began to follow suit. The superficial attention sickened me. I felt disgusting when Instagram accounts, promoting health, contacted me asking if they could use my photos. I felt disgusting when my coaches praised my newly-found, aesthetic body. I felt disgusting when my teammates sought to uncover “my secret diet.”
On the surface, I was idolized as the pinnacle of health. Belonging to a top ten, D1 athletic program sporting a lean body, many were unable to see the mental health issues within. This disgust lead to guilt. I would never wish upon my teammates the inner turmoil that is an eating disorder.
It took me a long time to realize that I did not wish to continue this inner turmoil myself. That I deserved freedom. That I was worthy of self-love.
Recovery is not a linear process. Nor does recovery include an designated endpoint. Recovery is a daily struggle. The media inaccurately romanticizes mental disorders, insinuating a start and a stop. The protagonist overcomes her bulimia, the schizophrenic fully recovers, etc. The fact of the matter is that mental disorders, such as eating disorders, do not simply “go away.”
I do not get to wake up in the morning without Ed lying by my side. I do not get to look into the mirror without hearing his voice. I do not get to eat a piece of chocolate without being reminded about the number on the back label. I do; however, get to choose whether or not I allow that voice to dictate my life.
I have not shown symptoms of an eating disorder for four months, but I am not recovered. The word recovered alludes to a finite end. My relationship with Ed does not have an end AND THAT IS OKAY. Let me repeat this, THAT IS OKAY.
Ed may offer his criticism from time to time, but I do not listen. I have separated myself from him. I am separate[ed].