My Eating Disorder Told Me to Be Ashamed
I’m speaking out as I work toward silencing the voice in my head
I am walking through the snow before sunrise. Pristine, untouched—the first snowfall of the year. Branches bend as the flakes continue to accumulate. Little by little over time, they become powerful. They break what’s in their way. They speak.
I have been told it is my turn to speak. I am crushing the snow with my boots. I’m scared. I’ve never spoken about this before. I walk beneath the arch of a tree, hunched over, its backbone rounded, heavy with snow. My voice is frozen beneath my tongue as I move my lips. I hear nothing. Deep breath. Try again.
Over the past year, I have been recovering from an eating disorder that has been following me around since I was a teenager. For months, I’ve woken up before dawn to unlearn the most basic lessons I had internalized about food and my body. I’ve attended group therapy and individual therapy. I’ve watched my body change. I’ve outgrown clothes. I’ve cried and bought new ones. I’ve talked to myself in the mirror. I’ve fought against the voice telling me this new way of life is wrong and a waste of time and that being thin is more important.
For years, that voice consumed my mind. When I look back at old journals, they are full of numbers: actual weight, goal weight, calories. My fear of weight gain prevented me from complying with medication recommendations to manage my bipolar disorder. My scale helped me determine how to feel about myself and gave me something to obsess about every day. I held that number close to my chest, gripping it tightly, feeling subconsciously that if I could focus on food and weight, I wouldn’t have to experience my raging mood swings. I wouldn’t have to feel loneliness or confusion or anxiety. If being thin could substitute for a true, substantive identity, I wouldn’t have to do any soul-searching.
It didn’t work. My eating disorder and bipolar disorder exacerbated each other. I never felt thin enough, and I was still in emotional pain. I felt so ashamed of my problem—vain and vapid for caring so much about food and my body—that I rarely talked about my struggles with anyone. I hated my body, and I hated my mind for hating my body. I was paralyzed by the simultaneous pressure to…