Monday, 27 December 2021 13:31

Healing from Anorexia

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Anorexia, like many mental illnesses, prays on your weaknesses, your vulnerabilities. It hits you where it hurts. For those struggling with anorexia, that place is in food and the thought of gaining weight. To the anorexic, gaining weight is far worse than death. As a matter of fact, the anorexic would choose death over gaining weight if she had the choice.

At the height of my anorexia, when someone asked me what my worse fear was, I almost always said, “I’m afraid of getting fat.” But even in my state of complete denial over how my body looked, I knew this sounded ludicrous.

Gaining weight is repulsive for the anorexic. It means weakness, torture, agony, pain, worthlessness, guilt and shame, defeat, punishment, surrender, giving up, and succumbing to her worst fear.

Anorexia, and any form of self-loathing, will push people away. It spits and hisses like a scared stray cat, daring anyone to get near her unlovable body. Many people would leave, walk away at that point, leave her to wallow in the state of her miserable loneliness.

In some sick way, the anorexic gets a high from keeping people at bay. That person who walked away also recognized her worthlessness and unlovable attributes and it looks like she was right all along. It reinforces the idea that she must wither away to nothing because she is nothing to begin with.

My rage and anger were directed towards my family. I feared them, blamed them for my misery, yet loved them at the same time. I just couldn’t separate all of the emotions at once.

Dad didn’t understand and thought I “was acting weird.” Grandma thought I could “snap out of it.” Both my obese aunts were my worst fear incarnate. Nanny hated her body and inadvertently taught me to do the same as I watched her body bash herself each Sunday as she got dressed for church. My siblings took the attention away from me. Pappy kept trying to “get me to eat something” which I interpreted as “make me fat.”

And Mother, passed away at age 36 from a heart attack, left the world as this perfect, vibrant, beautiful woman who was loved and adored by so many. I could never live up to her. I couldn’t be angry with her.  

At the climax of my disorder, when I would do anything to avoid gaining weight, I thought I was also dodging becoming an adult and all it entailed. Growing up meant being pressured to go to college, have sex, drink alcohol or take drugs. I avoided womanhood and “getting fat and miserable” like the women in my family. I controlled my body, the only thing in my life I could. I had been jipped out of a mother and in some perverse way thought if I stayed “childlike” I could still have a normal childhood.

It took me years to determine how angry I was at her. My mother left me when I was six, a vulnerable age for the development of a child’s core beliefs. She left without giving me any kind of road map for what a little girl is supposed to grow into. She abandoned motherhood and would never be around to teach me what I needed to know.

I blamed her. She wouldn’t take her medicine to get better as she struggled with post-partum psychosis. It was her choice to leave her children, her family. I was the age where a child begins to understand things, bond with their caretakers and trust them. That bond was snapped unexpectedly, and could never be repaired.

With this realization, a wall inside me finally fell and it allowed the love I hadn’t felt worthy of giving myself to enter.

Recovering from an eating disorder is just the physical aspect. You can gain weight, but until you conquer the demons on the inside, all of the myriad emotions and repulsion you feel towards recovery and yourself will still be on the other side of recovery.

To heal from an eating disorder, you have to begin with yourself. You have to determine who you are and see the good you have, see your value and worth, and realize you are more than how thin you can be.

It will feel like a part of you is dying when you leave anorexia behind. It has been such a powerful force within you that you have come to identify with it. Afterall, it is your special skill, your unique ability. Perhaps even your superpower.

After I had abandoned anorexia for good, I compiled a list of all the things I liked about myself and liked doing. It looked something like this:

  • I am spiritual
  • I love animals
  • I love gymnastics
  • I love writing
  • I love traveling
  • I love dancing
  • I love yoga
  • I love aerial silks

Once you get passed the feeling of emptiness, you have the chance to discover something else that makes you unique and special. You have to find healthier outlets for yourself, follow your dreams and aspirations. You have to love who you are currently and who you will become in the future. When you find who you truly are, you also find love for yourself and hope that there is a better tomorrow. With these things comes the power to finally heal.

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