I am recovering from an eating disorder, which I have been addicted to for the past 7 years. I am 25 years old and have been in residential treatment for the past 3 months. Below is the goodbye letter to my eating disorder, ED. I think there is a common misconception about eating disorders and the intensity and hold they have on someone struggling with one. For me, my eating disorder’s purpose has not only been to alleviate and numb anxiety, pain, frustration, anger, but to alleviate and numb out all feelings for that matter. For the first time, I can say that I am on the road to recovery. I write a lot about the struggles I have had with my eating disorder. The purpose it served in my life for so long. And what it feels like to finally be living without this destructive demon taking over my mind, body, and soul. I think there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way we as a society look at eating disorders, look at body image, look at food. I truly hope this provides some insight into the power and hold an eating disorder has.
A TDL Reader
Dear Eating Disorder (ED),
This is my goodbye to you. It is time. After 7 years, I no longer need you in my life. No longer need you or your toxic nature. You have held me back in so many capacities. You have been a demoralizing force in my life. I finally see it. How enmeshed and tangled you became in me. How you made me a different person. Made me a demon. A destructive person who lacked all sense of self-worth. Who was insecure, untrustworthy, worthless, insignificant, unworthy. You did all of this to me. And I hate you for that. Hate you for making me lose sight of the most important person in my life, myself. No one else did this to me though, other than myself. I created you. And now I am saying goodbye. The control is in my hands. I am the only person that can unravel you, ED. Unravel your lethal pull on my life. I can do that now. I finally believe in myself enough to do it. I never thought I would feel this way. For so long, especially during my time here in treatment, I thought I was living without you, but in reality I was not. You were still there. I could still lean on you and turn to you to alleviate my anxiety, frustration, sadness, anger. I can’t do that anymore though. I am hurting only one person and that is myself. I was still turning to you in times when I felt overwhelmed or scared or hurt. Knew I could restrict just a little and that helped me. Looked to the future to distract myself from the present moment. This all helped to numb and disconnect me. To make me feel entitled and empowered. I can’t do that anymore though. It does absolutely nothing for me and it holds me back in so many capacities. I have me, myself, and I. I don’t have you to turn to anymore. And I feel more enlivened and excited than ever.
I am so scared though. I have never felt this scared in my life. I feel this all over my body. My body aches. My stomach is in knots. It is an encapsulating feeling. Like nothing I have ever felt before. Because I have never allowed myself to feel this way before. I have turned to you, to drugs, to alcohol to protect myself against feeling this way. But I am allowed to feel this way. That is okay. That is life. And I am finally living it. And I want to live it. I don’t want to disconnect or detach anymore. Because the only person I am hurting is myself. And in the end, that is all I have.
I am now looking at you from a completely different angle. I see what you were doing for me. You were protecting me. Protecting me from everything. I developed you because I love and care about myself so much. For so long I thought I was helping myself with you controlling me. But you served your purpose. You really did. You helped me get through the tough times. You stood by my side. You were not only my best friend but also my worst enemy. You were my longest, most destructive relationship. You came into my life for a reason though. There is such a deep love and compassion you have for me. You wanted to protect me, ED. But along the way you destroyed me. You isolated me. You tore me inside out. You hurt me. Made me lose sight of myself. Made me lose sight of the people I loved and cared about the most. With you, I lied. I manipulated. I embraced the ‘f*ck-it’ mentality. In trying to help me, you hurt and tortured me. I don’t need your help anymore. I can finally feel that now. I don’t need you, ED. And I can feel you leaving my body. Feel myself truly forgiving myself for all of the damage I have caused. Yes, I have hurt a lot of people along the way with you, ED. But first and foremost I have hurt myself. And I am not going to do that anymore. It is a game I have finally surrendered to. After 7 years of battle, I feel like I have won. I know I have. Because my life is really just beginning now. And with this, my life will only enhance as I begin to truly embrace the love and compassion I have for myself. The love and compassion you have masqued for so long.
As I am sitting here writing this, I am feeling so many emotions going through my body. Excited, anxious, scared, energized, nervous, happy, frustrated, at peace. But I am feeling them all and I don’t want to escape this feeling. I am okay sitting with myself. I know this is just the start of my new journey but I see it is possible now. You did not allow me to see that it was possible. You wanted to control and manage all aspects of my life. That sense of entitlement you had is no longer needed. I don’t need your protection or shield anymore. I have myself and that is enough. The security blanket you provided is being burnt. The sorrows and wounds you have caused are being covered with compassion now. For so long I thought that it was holding onto you that was making me strong. I now see that it is letting go. I have held on so tightly to my darkness. Because it is my light that frightens me the most. But I am allowed to be frightened. That is what life is about. The future is unknown and there is uncertainty there. But that is exciting!
I am alive. I am free. I am present. I never thought I would get here. Never thought I would see life without you. And yesterday was the first day it all clicked and you started to leave my body. You brought me an out of body experience and I witnessed it. I don’t want to go back there. I don’t want your protection. I don’t need it. It is okay to be scared. To be hurt. To be angry. Frustrated. That is what life is about. I can’t numb out to these feelings anymore. I was a prisoner in my own body. A prisoner to you. And I have forgiven myself for it. And I am starting to embrace and love myself. Feed it with compassion and nurturance. What it has deserved all along but you made me lose sight of that.
I didn’t think I could accomplish anything without you, ED. I didn’t feel like I had the strength, the courage, the drive, the motivation, the power. But I now see that it has all been there the entire time. I have accomplished so much even with you in my life. Was a star athlete, graduated from an elite college, got a prestigious job on Wall Street, financially supported myself, made strong connections and friendships with others. I did all of this myself. No one else did it for me. And even though you were present in my life during this time, you held me back to truly embrace what I know I am fully capable. You filled my life with self-doubt, hatred, anger, frustration. Why didn’t you believe in me? I guess all along I believed in myself. Because I was able to do all of that even with you there presiding over me. You did nothing but make me lose sight of the beauty that has been right in front of me all along.
For so long I blamed. Blamed others for my wrongdoings. For my faults. For the fact I have an eating disorder. And I have worked through so much during my time here in treatment. Really took a dive into my family and my relationship with them. My enmeshed and co-dependent relationship with my mom. My lack of relationship with my dad. Yes, that is all reality but has had nothing to do with the fact that I have an eating disorder. I never wanted to take ownership over my life. Never wanted to be held accountable. And I never was as long as I had you. You put up all of the wall and distracted me from actually having to be held responsible. You were only doing this to protect me though because you loved me so much. You didn’t want me to be in pain. Because if I was in pain, you lost. And you hated to lose. But pain is okay. Anger is okay. Being scared is okay.
Now that I can see the true purpose you were serving in my life, I am truly developing a deep love and appreciation for myself. One I never understood or recognized because it has been covered up all of this time. Covered up by ED. He turned my life into a disheveled mess. He was just trying to protect. That is all. Protect me from any bad thoughts. Insecurities. I want to feel all of this now though. And ED, your time has come to an end. All of this time I have enabled you. Used you. Taken advantage of you. I want to truly connect with my life again and I know that with you in it I will never be able do it. I was two separate people with you. And I like who I am much better without you. I have been here all along. I just developed you because I didn’t think I was good enough. But I have been good enough all along. And I will only continue to get better without you.
So it is truly time now. To give you the goodbye you deserve. Thank you for being in my life. Because I would never have learned about myself in the capacity I have without you. Never would have witnessed the amount of love and compassion I truly have for myself. But I don’t need you anymore. You served a well needed purpose for a long time. But enough is enough. I’m ready for what life has in store for me. Truly ready. And I can’t wait. You are no longer controlling my thoughts. No longer part of me.
A TDL Reader