Coping with dating (read 'rejection') in recovery

Posted 07/10/2019

Being rejected is awful.

We all know that being broken up after a serious relationship is earth-shattering. It's no coincidence that the world's greatest music, literature and art have all been inspired by such epic tragedy.

But the consolation with being broken up with after a long-term relationship is that you can walk away safe in the knowledge that the person you were really into was into you too, at least for a time (though I concede this is a small comfort in the short run).

But it's exactly this that makes rejection in the dating world utterly devastating. Whether its imagining thousands of people seeing your face on their phone screen and literally SWIPING it away, or plucking up the courage to message someone, only to be met with silence, or, the worst, meeting someone in real life for a drink, them seeing what you look like in the flesh, seeing your character outside the codes of carefully scripted WhatsApps, and THEN thinking 'nah'.

I suspect this kind of rapid rejection talks to our deepest insecurities.

It's why, after a good three years of recovery from anorexia, my first thought whenever someone rejects me is: 'I wonder if they'd like me if I were thinner.'

It's when this happens that I remind myself how relatively short the timeframe of my recovery has been.

I started having unhealthy thoughts about my body from the age of 10. For the next decade, my obsessive tendencies around food and exercise crystallised at different points and to different severities, but the overarching narrative of a deep discomfort in myself persisted.

So really, the time I've spent thinking more healthily about myself is a mere third of the time I spent defining myself by my waistline. It's no surprise I've defaulted to old habits.

If this sort of 'but what if I were thinner' scenario is ringing true for anyone else, it's this deeper level ('how long have I been recovered?') analytical thinking I'd encourage you to do, rather than the instinctive dredging up of bad habits.

Secondly, I'd ask you to consider all the amazing things you've achieved since your recovery.

It might be physical, like you've learnt to fuel your body, not punish it, or maybe emotional, like being more in touch with friends and family because you're not all consumed by your illness. Whatever it is, it's a force for good and it's because of your recovery.

Your recovery is not the cause of your rejection. One million and one unknowable factors are. Think how many times you've not liked someone. And it's at this point that I'd also like to remind you that obviously anyone not interested in the recovered you isn't worth your time. Any romances I pursued during the years of my ED tended to be ones that satisfied an ill-conceived need for validation.

A therapist once said to me that during years of denial, your brain becomes malnourished. It's why eating disorders are so hard to 'fix'. Your brain is literally broken and your thought paths are following twisted synapses.

And it's this that I'm remembering today. When I'm feeling a little blue and bruised from the battleground of dating in 2019.

Right now, I'm just enjoying the fact that my brain has gotten to a place where I can have these deep level thoughts.

So if you've caught yourself wondering if they'd like you if you were thinner, think again.

Contributed by Summer