She was a kind, old friend. One I hadn’t seen in awhile. She asked how I was doing. I jumped right in. I told her that today was a rough day for me and ED.
ED was telling me I looked like crap. Actually, it was worse; on this particular day, ED was treating me harsher than usual and telling me I not only looked like crap, but that I was a worthless piece of shit. He always carried it to that extreme. He was telling me that my fat was indicative of my character. Because of that roll around my belly, it was obvious I was lazy, undisciplined and really just plain disgusting. All lies. But ED is relentless. ED bullies me that way and gets involved in everything I do on those days. ED starts by pointing out every single flaw and with condemnation comes the worst accusation of all. ED points out, “Not only are you disgusting, but you refuse to do anything about it. You just eat and eat and eat and do nothing. You HAVE to do SOMETHING, you worthless piece of…” About this time is when I cringe mentally, scream internally, and tell ED, “Shut the fuck up!”
But it hasn’t always been that way. Not so long ago, I would agree with ED and in an effort to fight against the feeling of worthlessness, I would plan how I could stop the enemy of food from taking over. A demented battle with food would follow. (You see, I always thought food was the enemy. Really, it was ED).
So it has taken a long time to get to this point where I tell ED to fuck off. This point where I know ED spews lies. This point where I can tell ED to shut up. Thankfully, now, most days ED is relatively subdued. But this particular day, ED had shown up with a vengeance in the form of old photo. As I looked at the photo, a common trigger, ED seized the opportunity to prey on me. ED does that when I am vulnerable. I sighed and tried with all my might to push ED away and chanted quietly my truths. But, it is tough. ED is tough. ED just doesn’t disappear. ED is someone I have lived with my whole adult life. ED, is a companion to many, but thankfully not to all. Thankfully, not the companion of this friend who I had just shared with. And that is why she said what she did. She doesn’t know him.
Let me introduce you, in case you don’t know him. ED is short for Eating Disorder; my affectionate name for the condition that has challenged me most in my life.
So my friend, she said, “Get over it. You look great.”
I know she didn’t at all mean it rude. She meant it as a compliment. She meant to encourage. But those words stung.
First, there was … Get over it. That makes it sound so easy and like I am so weak. Just stick your head down and focus. Move on. Geesh already. If she only knew the thousands of times I had thought that thought myself… ” Just freaking get over it already. It’s only fucking food- a carrot or rice- for crying out loud; it isn’t heroin. Eat and chill out. C’mon, THIS is no big deal….calories in calories out. If you don’t want to end with the crazy cycle, don’t start it. To not feel pressure to purge, don’t binge.” Simple.
I wish. For some reason, when there is food in front of me, it is anything, but simple in my head. When, confronted with a mirror or a photo of myself, it is a similar, tangled mind fuck. I don’t get it. I have spent thousands of dollars and even more hours than money attempting to untangle it all and make it simple. I am getting there. Slowly. But the process is anything, but simple.
So her “get over it” reminded me that she didn’t understand and she, thankfully, couldn’t understand because she didn’t suffer from a relationship with ED.
And that’s why, then, there was… You look great. It was a simple statement, right? If I just understood that, then all would be well. Right?! Wrong. I, again, felt the sting. In her tone was some minor exhaustion and it was as if she was saying, “Good grief, you look fine, you shallow human. Relax, it’s only your looks.” My interpretation sounds like a bit of harsh filter. It wasn’t meant harsh. I know she meant it as a gentle reminder that there are more important things in life and I know she doesn’t judge me on my appearance. She was simply saying that I shouldn’t judge myself on exteriors. And I ABSOLUTELY agree with her one-hundred percent, but that’s the tricky part about ED. That tricky part is what I found myself wanting to explain to her, but I couldn’t quite find the words in that moment. And so here they are….
My friend, ED is not simply my vanity. ED is not me wanting to be the prettiest or the skinniest or the most stylish or the most anything. ED pretends to be about appearance, but ED is not about looks. ED is about shame and destruction. ED is not vain at all. ED gets at our worth. ED convinces me and others that suffer from his incessant bullying that we are worthless because we don’t look a certain way. ED is so powerful that ED not only distorts our minds, ED even distorts our sight. Over time, ED begins to give us horrid lenses to see life through. Often, we can see beauty in everything, but ourselves. ED makes us so lonely. It feels as if all the world is gorgeous and strong except me. Those of us who travel through life with ED are often extra sensitive. It’s one of the beautiful things about us, but ED twists that, too. ED wrestles the good out of the sensitivity and masks it as weakness. Those of us that walk with ED try to look good, eat good, be good because then we think we will somehow become good like everyone else.
So, my dear friend, I wish I was just vain. I wish ED was vain. If ED was simply shallow vanity, I could just “Get over it” and “look great.”
But, lucky, for me ED is not so shallow. ED is a vicious companion who has brought out unimaginable depth and strength in me. I will get over it and I do look great, but believing that truth only comes because I have chosen to do so with all that is beautiful and strong in me.