This probably feels like a strange post to write, especially when comparing it to something like this which I wrote last year.
But anorexia is probably one of the most upside down back to front illnesses in existence. How can I miss something that I loathe so deeply, and that loathes me back?
I don’t know.
That’s the simple answer. I don’t know exactly why I miss it, but I do. It feels like one of my limbs has been cut off. I miss being freezing cold all the time, and not having periods, and seeing the shadows my ribs would make in the many, many hours I would spend body checking in front of every reflective surface I could find over the course of the day. I miss the hollow sound that my hip bones made as I tap tap tapped at them all day, checking they hadn’t suddenly grown a layer of fat that wasn’t there just moments before. I miss drowning in my clothes and the euphoria of seeing the numbers drop. I miss people gasping when they saw me, and being the thinnest person in the room, and seeing people’s concern about how much weight I had lost. These were all signs that I was winning. The more worried people are, the better I am at being anorexic. But most of all, I miss the numbness, and being blinkered to the rest of the world. I heard somebody recently say that living with an eating disorder is like looking at life through a straw, and I can’t think of a more perfect description. My world was minuscule and sheltered and safe. Recovering feels like a layer of my skin has been removed – I feel exposed and vulnerable without my cloak of starvation.
The way I have got myself through recovery is by telling myself that it’s temporary. It’s okay if my body has changed, because in a couple of years I’ll relapse again, as I always do, and I can be thin once more. I will allow myself a window of enjoying food and life and freedom, before I decide that it’s time to fall down the rabbit hole once more. I am hoping, with every inch of me, that once I progress further in recovery I wont want to relapse again. But knowing that I can, that I have a safety net, that anorexia will always be there if I want it, is what helps me to drag myself through every bite, every snack, every meal. Because I know, I know, that there are so many things I don’t miss.
I don’t miss how much my joints hurt, or how my spine used to bruise from sitting in the bath. I don’t miss the lack of concentration or memory or motivation. I don’t miss having to walk around in the dark and the rain, and having feet covered in blisters and cuts. I don’t miss the dizziness and the nausea and the stomach cramps so painful that at times I thought I might pass out. I don’t miss how sad I made people, or how boring I was, or how utterly miserable I felt all of the time. I don’t miss the blood tests and the DEXA scans and the IV’s, or thinking every night when I went to sleep that I might not wake up. I don’t miss the anxiety of going into treatment every day to face what felt like Everest after Everest.
At the moment, if I were to write a pros and cons list for having anorexia, it is fairly evenly balanced. I have a love/hate relationship with it. I don’t want it, but I also feel like I need it. It feels like some innate part of me, and that without it I am incomplete. But a lot of the work I have being doing in therapy is about how I fill the void anorexia leaves with things I value – new experiences, travel, relationships, career, hobbies. All things that also make me who I am. I can exist without anorexia, but it can’t exist without me.
So I hope, as time goes on, the list of things I miss will shrink, and the reasons I want to stay recovered will continue to grow and grow. I hope I will reach a point in which I can say I am ready to leave it all behind for good, to once and for all commit to staying recovered, permanently. I will try this recovery thing, knowing that if it doesn’t work out, anorexia will always have me back if I want her.
Until then I take this recovery journey day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. One meal at a time.