Inevitably, there are going to be times when no matter how recovered I get, a small pang of missing my smaller body and anorexia might pop up.
But if being sick was so good, why did I want to recover in the first place? Why did I go back to treatment with my tail between my legs for the umpteenth time? Why did I sit in the day patient dining room four times a day forcing down every bite of food that felt like it was going to kill me?
Maybe what I actually miss is that feeling of determination and control, and knowing exactly what each day would be like. Never having to expect the unexpected, because every day living with anorexia is groundhog day. I enjoyed having a sense of purpose: to be the lightest version of myself that I could be, to exist purely to make myself shrink away to nothing. I miss the feeling of being cared for, of warranting people’s concern – the furrowed brows and the shocked faces at my increasingly smaller body. There is a lot to be said for getting that break from reality that treatment gives. I don’t have to think about the real world, or taking care of myself, because other people are looking after me and taking that responsibility.
Yes, it’s very true that I miss existing in a smaller body than the one I am in now. The feeling of fitting into smaller and smaller clothes, seeing my weight drop on the scale and the tape measure telling me smaller and smaller numbers is one that I have not managed to replicate elsewhere. I’m not sure that there is anything I can do that will bring me that same sense of pride and euphoria. But those feelings are so incredibly short lived because the goal posts are ever shifting.
Convincing myself that I was happier when I was sick is something I have done many times and is a huge part of why I relapse time and time again. It’s the reason I always go back to anorexia – because I must have been happier when I was thinner. But I really, truly wasn’t. I was broken. I was a shell of the person I am today. Thinner = happier is an illusion, but one that tricks so many of us. Diet culture tells us that to be thin is to be the best version of ourselves, but I have never been less myself than when I was at my lowest weights.
Perhaps I am not specifically mourning the loss of my eating disorder itself, but of having such an easily accessible coping mechanism to help me manage navigating the world. It’s hard to feel scared or angry or sad when you just feel hungry and empty.
I don’t miss waking up with an overwhelming sense of dread, knowing my only reason to get out of bed was to count: calories, steps, kilograms. I don’t miss the blood tests and the IV’s and the DEXA scans, or the guilt of lying to people I love and seeing how much my deterioration was hurting them. I don’t miss the endless doctors appointments or therapy groups or forcing myself to choke down my allotted calories at day patient. Nor do I miss standing in my underwear on the clinic scale crammed into a tiny room with a nurse, both of us staring intently waiting for the number to flash up. One of us hoping for it to go up, the other willing it down.
There is nothing I miss about stepping on and off the scales 100’s of times a day, or spending my evenings with my head buried in recipes and cooking videos. I am not sad that I no longer have to walk for so long that I can feel my joints grinding together, or feeling like I was going to collapse every time I stood up, or baths feeling so painful on my bones that I couldn’t sit in them for more than a couple of minutes. And I really don’t miss going to sleep and worrying that I might die in the night.
Maybe, being sick wasn’t so great after all.