It’s been fourteen years. Ten of which have been filled with numerous psychological treatments at four different eating disorder services. Now it’s time. Time to finally say goodbye to you. Am I ready?
Not to rush a process that would inevitably lead to another relapse, I begin the farewell journey by writing a ‘Am I ready to let go’ letter.
This is meant to be a goodbye letter, but how am I supposed to say goodbye to you without saying goodbye to my existence? As a pre-teen the numerous failing attempts at changing my personality to fit in with people and situations saw you enter and become stronger in my orbit. My fragile sense of self-worth was escalating with the trails of navigating my teenage years. Weekends of food-restriction, secretive diet pill and exercise regimes as well as increasing episodes of binge-eating blighted me for the next four years. My one remaining ray of light in the form of university proved to be false hope. Having a more profound negative impact on everyone I met, you convinced me that the only way I could remain alive was if you took the reins. After all, what is the point of living when all I do is cause distress, or even worse, make absolutely no (positive) difference to anything?
The short period of rest I thought you were offering me has so far turned into 14 years.
Having to fight you is excruciatingly exhausting, especially when you’ve kept all of your promises.
Within two months of your full take over, I saw an enchanting personality that attracted others to me come out. The attempt to replace you with myself only lasted a few months when (perceived negative) changes to my social world and weight increase saw me run back into your arms.
Your impatience and need to take control ended a three-year cycle of you and I taking the lead of my body and mind.
Anorexia hit hard, but oh, what joy and elation it bought, especially when my life had to be put on hold.
Your physical manifestation bought with it love, care, support and attention from others: everything that I had been crying out for. Yet guilt engulfed me. With a preference to cause myself harm rather than others, I decided to recover and find another way to live.
Not so easy, you whispered to me.
The doubling of weight that occurred within the first term of returning to University saw you change tactics. For now, goodbye Anorexia, hello Bulimia. Unable to expel enough from my body for your satisfaction coupled with a perception of recovery from others due to my normal weight, the toxic world of self-harming and suicide attempts came whirling in. But that was okay, as I still had you by my side and as long as I continued to have a bad, (bordering on the lines of dangerous), relationship with food, then my existence will be safe.
So the following four years was a mind-spin of intermittent food restriction, bingeing, self-induced vomiting, cutting and overdosing.
The ‘If this is what I have to do to survive, then so be it’ mantra that you fed to me day in, day out became tiresome.
Somehow achieving a long-held dream of mine led me to question my need of you.
After three months of going back and forth with you, I took the plunge.
The healthy eating and exercise program resulted in weight loss that was well maintained for two years.
Not to be.
The low humming that you provided for those two years was actually you taking time to further nourish the already embedded seeds you had planted. Taking advantage of a situation that ignited one of my greatest vulnerabilities, you swept me up and pulled me into your grips more tightly than before.
The daily exercises became obsessive and out of control. Allowing only certain foods into my body and only at certain times, the rules soon became coupled with the energetic return of self-induced vomiting.
Taking your revenge a step further, you toyed with my physical health for the first time.
With some fight left in me and from years of treatment, my eyes started to open to you being a false promise. I started to see the truth. That you have never been and never will be able to keep me alive. The only way you hold my existence in your hands is by having the power to take it away, not to keep it.
I am currently on top of the over-exercising, have stopped making myself sick, and become more flexible in the types of food I will eat. Yet your grip is still strong with restrictive eating now taking hold.
Standing in front of two doors, I have a decision to make. You, who can offer me immediate comfort but a bleak future. Or me, where an unknown path awaits but one that screams life.
With you so closely tied to my existence, turning my back on you fills me with fear and dread.
Am I ready to say goodbye to you?
I want to. Desperately want to. But I am not sure.