The Promises and The Reality

Disclaimer: This post discusses eating disorders, anxiety, body image/distortion/dysmorphia, and other mental health illness and difficulties.

My eating disorder promised me a lot.

My eating disorder crept into my mind and my body, when I was trying to find some way to cope with a dysfunctional environment and trauma imposed upon my life, and planted seeds deep in there that, when they sprouted, made me believe it was about to offer me so much more than I could ever imagine.

I was vulnerable and susceptible, and my eating disorder knew it. And, in that knowledge, it was able to fill me with false promises, which led to a difficult future reality.

When I was unwell, as I have written before, I was a frequenter of Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia sites, which are dangerous eating disorder communities with their aim being to promote eating disorder maintenance and development, but are often held under the guise of a place for people with eating disorders to support each other. These sites held a common belief that your eating disorder could promise you a life of being free from your problems and feeling the ultimate sense of control.

For me, that’s all I wanted. I wanted to be special. I wanted to have control of my life. I wanted to be free from my fears and my environment. I was heavy with low self-esteem. I felt like a failure, like no one wanted me around, and I would never amount to anything good in the end. I already had an undiagnosed mental illness (an anxiety disorder.) I craved a sense of peace and happiness, and, the eating disorder I developed (which I was already exhibiting before I had realised I was experiencing an eating disorder voice or an eating disorder) made me feel like I was attaining these feelings and experiences, and would continue to do so the more I appeased it.

As I began to control my eating and exercise patterns, restricting one and increasing the other, I was oblivious to what was happening, yet my eating disorder was indirectly making me think that, by controlling these areas of my life, that I was going to be a lot happier and freer. The more control I had, the more control I demonstrated, the more control I handed to my eating disorder, the better I was fooled to believe I was. With the manipulation of the eating disorder, as well as the content I was consuming online from other people also manipulated by their eating disorder, I was becoming deeper and deeper entranced and entrenched by the promises my eating disorder laid out for me.

I was about to be so special. I was going to be so important. I was going to be beautiful. Smart. Loved; both platonically and romantically. Appreciated. Successful. Free.

As long as I listened to my eating disorder, stuck to the rules set out, and kept going.

But, that never came.

Because, here’s the reality.

Your eating disorder does not think you’re special. Your eating disorder does not believe in you. Your eating disorder does not think you have potential. Your eating disorder does not want to help you. However, it does know you think all of that. And that’s what matters most to it.

When I was unwell, I was made to think my eating disorder wanted the best for me. So, I set out goals and rules to follow, and believed that the better I was at my eating disorder, the more goals I achieved, then the greater I was going to become. However, all that happened was every time I reached a goal, no matter if it was a goal considered small or considered big, my eating disorder denied me the chance to celebrate, or even mentally rest. Instead, it would tell me I needed to work harder, that what I had just done was not worthy of a celebration. It didn’t warrant praise; the one thing I so desperately wanted.

Instead, it would berate me. Why did I think what I did was good? Who did I think I was? I could do better. I did this thing, sure, so I can do more, and that’s when I can celebrate. But, yet, when I got to the next goal I had set or extended, my eating disorder would push the goal posts out further. I wasn’t worthy yet.

And, so it went on.

My eating disorder promised me a lot. It paid me an insurmountable amount of lip service. I wholly believed everything it said. But, once I went into recovery, I could see what my reality was then and what it is now. My eating disorder wrecked my life with its promises. Because, all it cared about was burrowing its way into my brain and pushing me out. It only cared about hurting and, basically, trying to kill me.

Now, I live with the aftermath of an eating disorder. Yes, I am recovered, but there is lasting damage, and my eating disorder thoughts will always darken the corners of my mind. It took me years to figure out how to eat properly again, and how to exercise without being excessive. My confidence plummeted. My self-esteem and self-worth were so warped by my body image, my weight, and my eating patterns that I didn’t know how to be myself without it. I didn’t have a solid identity anymore. Or, at least, I didn’t know how to rebuild my identity. I no longer liked myself. I didn’t know myself.

All the while I had an eating disorder I was still going through an undiagnosed mental illness. I was still dealing with family trauma and dysfunction. I was still dealing with academic difficulties. I was still dealing with all the things my eating disorder promised it would stop.

Every day, I have to remind myself I am more than my weight, and I can demonstrate control in other ways that have nothing to do with controlling food and exercise. I had to unlearn that the coping mechanism of controlling my food and exercise was not a good one. It was not going to provide me the safety, comfort, and trust that I wanted. I have had to work on pushing away eating disorder thoughts every time my anxiety overwhelms me. I had to understand what to do should I have a situation or environment that my eating disorder would have provided so-called support and a shoulder to lean on. I am still learning to accept my body for what it is. I want to be body neutral, at least, and continue to be okay with it no matter how it is.

I was manipulated to believe that the better I was at restricting and using other methods to lose weight then the happier I would be, the more special I would feel.

My eating disorder promised me so much. Yet, what it actually gave me, and knew it was doing so, was much worse and much more difficult.

*

If you have been affected by an eating disorder, please visit these sites for further advice, information, and support:

Beat

Eating Disorder Association NI

PEACE Pathway

SEED

ABC – Anorexia and Bulimia Care

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