A Letter to ED
“I lift my arm out of the water. It’s a log. Put it back under and it blows up even bigger. People see the log and call it a twig. They yell at me because I can’t see what they see. Nobody can explain to me why my eyes work different than theirs. Nobody can make it stop.” Laurie Halse Anderson
If there were ever a quote to describe body dysmorphia, it would be this one. I have experienced practically everything on the eating disorder (ED) spectrum and have found many websites rich with advice, support and quotes describing how I feel. However, I firmly believe until you address the problem head-on, you will never fully put your demon to rest. In this letter, I attempt to do just that.
University brought the prospect of new friends, new chances and independence. You were never a part of the plan. However, as I near the end of the journey, I’m writing to inform you that you can leave now. You’ve played your part, and quite frankly, you have more than exhausted your welcome.
I’m writing to tell you I will never forgive you for how you have muscled your way into my heart and soul, at a time when I am still attempting to discover what actually belongs there.
I will never forgive you for the friends, opportunities and delicious meals you have stolen from me. You have convinced me I cannot survive without you. You have been my safety net and my savior, a shield to hide behind when reality seemed so impossible and a voice for me to confide in when my first year was rife with bullies. Although the future may still be uncertain, it’s time for me to say goodbye to you. It’s time to rest, time to eat, time to enjoy life. Can you grant me that right? There were so many birthdays when I wished for a best friend, a companion – but you weren’t what I had in mind. What kind of friend tricks and lies? Clearly my birthday cakes were cursed. Oh, the irony!
I’m tired of waking up at an unacceptably late time that paints me as lazy and unproductive. I’m tired of delaying breakfast to an appropriate time – can I eat now? Is this too much?
I’m tired of doing my chores as energetically as possible in an attempt to burn more calories – do you know how difficult it is to hang out the washing while jogging on the spot?!
I’m tired of wondering how many grams of self-disgust and hatred I should wash away in the shower. I’m tired of studying my list of forbidden foods as though they may kill me, only to wind up bingeing and gorging to the point where I want nothing more than to fall into a lifelong hibernation rather than face the guilt and shame.
I’m tired of feeling inadequate. There are only so many times you can lie and say, “I’m fine,” when people you love ask you how you are. I’m tired of comparing myself to every girl, boy and even mannequin I see. I’m tired of declining dates out of fear for what someone might think of my body, or for how they might judge me if I eat too much or for how they might find it off-putting if I pick at my salad.
Other people say, “You’re so healthy, Sarah!” or “Wow, Sarah, you run half-marathons!” or “I wish I had your self-restraint, Sarah.” No, you don’t.
Saying “no” isn’t an option. Eating what I want isn’t an option. And if I choose to ignore you, then boy, oh, boy, do I suffer the quiet consequences. If people don’t understand what would propel a girl like me into a binge-purge-restrict cycle of self-destruction, despite the price she pays, then good for them. They should consider themselves blessed. They aren’t supposed to understand this. I don’t even understand this. Thank God for ignorance – I pray they never have a glimpse into what it’s like to have a “friend” like you, ED.
Sometimes I listen to my own sanity: “This is an eating disorder. This isn’t me. It’s an obsession. An illness.” However, I’m simultaneously plagued with guilt for feeling like ED makes me “special.” What makes my obsession with food, numbers and exercise different from any other 21st century woman in our diet-obsessed culture? No – I’m done trying to meet the rules and goals that you, ED, have outlined for me. Even if I reach my desired weight, you make me feel guilty for having an accomplishment that was “too easy” to achieve.
You have been with me for more than three years now. When I look back over my life as of late, I see the old photos. I ache to see how I looked at the beginning of our relationship. That thin figure. Empty eyes. Empty heart. Empty stomach. This is what society wants. This is what you want. Is this what I want? Maybe…
I am smart. I am loved. I have potential. Looking back at the photos, I see a lifeless, unhappy shell of the real me. Was it worth it? I’m not sure. The lines are still occasionally blurry in regards to what I’m “supposed” to look like. However, I’m done with routines, rules and seeing nothing but burned bridges and missed chances. Recovery is not a sprint. It’s a (half) marathon. I’m learning, slowly but surely, that I don’t need to make this excruciatingly short life “fit my macros.” I don’t need to have abs to have friends and a boyfriend. I don’t need to have back gains, glowing skin or a grueling workout regime every day. The stomach problems and metabolic damage may perpetuate; however, I can and will go on to do amazing things with my life – none of which involve Tupperware. I may continue to eat my quinoa and chia seeds and do whatever I want with my overnight oats. But I will also eat my cake and fall into peanut butter comas, simply because I want to.
Zero does not equal love. Only in tennis.
ED, you are hereby required to evict the premises, effective immediately.
(No) kind regards,