I remember being so in love with my disease. I wrote her a million love letters in a little pink diary bookmarked with a red ribbon. I specifically remember one day in late March, standing in line at the snack bar in the school cafeteria, blurting out “I wish I could have the eating disorder without the depression” to my best friend. I don’t remember how she reacted. She probably just laughed it off, but I was serious.
I remember depression always being the devil on my shoulder and the eating disorder being the angel. “Don’t eat” she cooed. You could hardly even tell where her throat had been scratched from her pointy white nails. “No! Eat! Eat yourself to death then punish yourself!” depression boomed. I suppose when you’re caught in between the barrel of two guns, it’s easy to rationalize that one bullet might hurt a little less than than the other. Love causes people to be blind to all the faults of a person. Maybe it does the same with sickness.
When I was younger I’d spend hours online reading blogs and forums where the skinniest girls taught other skinny girls how to get even skinnier. I had hidden food stashes around my room where I stored all the candy my mom gave me on Holidays that I’d sooner die than so much as smell. I hid a little glass scale under my old stuffed animals in my bedroom closet which I only pulled out late at night, once everyone had drifted off to happier worlds. I put my journal inside my textbooks and during class would read and reread the notes I’d taken every day for weeks: Current weight. Highest weight. Lowest weight. Goal weight. Anorexia was my dirty little secret, and I cherished her like a child. I loved finding sneaky ways to drop my weight into conversation and hear the worries and pleas of my friends. I loved the satisfaction of seeing everyone around me grow up while I just got smaller. Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels: A common phrase in the world of eating disorders that I truly took to heart.
Throughout the years of my illness I’ve had several people come to me for “advice.” They’d ask me how I did it, knowing very well that I was sick. They’d ask me for tips and tricks to avoid eating around family and friends. They’d ask me my opinion on throwing up, or laxatives, versus simply not eating. They’d ask me how to curb their cravings and how many calories I thought were in the chicken parm and green beans their moms had made for dinner. On my bad days I’d give them the information they were looking for. On my even worse days I’d stay silent, not because I cared for their health but because I didn’t want to give up my secret. I wanted to be the skinniest girl in the world.
What I’d say to those people now is this: I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I helped you in your unhealthy quests to lose weight, but I’m even more sorry that you got to a point where you felt that you needed to ask someone who was dying for advice on how to get the illness that was killing them. I’m sorry that you, too, thought you could get the eating disorder without the depression and I’m sorry that I didn’t know enough to stop you. I’m sorry that I loved being sick more than I loved you.
I think, to a certain degree, I’m still in love with my disease. I see the faults and I know that it’s wrong but I still find myself praying to hear her sweet whispers in my ear. I still find myself wondering if the (exactly) 210 calories in those California rolls were worth it. Like really, truly worth it. I find myself begging the universe for the strength to practice again what I once thought was self control. The thing about eating disorders is they don’t exist without the depression. You don’t get the weight loss without the self hatred. You don’t get the body you always wanted without the hair loss, the mood swings, the lack of focus, the organ damage… You don’t get to just get skinny and have your world turn back into sunshine. Mental illness doesn’t just turn off when you’re done with it. Once you’ve accepted a life of sickness, there’s no turning back.
National Eating Disorder Awareness Week takes place between February 26 – March 4 in 2017.
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