They say the hardest step is admitting you have a problem. Which, if you’ve ever struggled to admit something makes it sound like the following steps will be a veritable cakewalk by comparison.
When I sat down in my therapists office for the first time, I’d admitted to at least five other people that I may be dealing with a little bit of a problem. So I figured she’d walk me through the next few steps and when the hour was up, I’d walk out of her office and leave my eating disorder behind.
I did not know that admitting you have a problem is like breaking up with the man of your dreams-who also happens to be a really crappy boyfriend.
You know the type. Your friends hate him. Your parents hate him. even your dog doesn’t seem that enthused. But none of that matters because oh my god you are so in love.
You are so in love that you don’t notice you’ve changed everything about yourself to be with him. You don’t notice that your friends stopped calling months ago. Or that you’re wearing red lipstick purely because you know he likes it. Or that every time he goes to hold you you’re certain this will be the moment he’ll find something about you not to love.
Which is funny because when he looks at you you feel like you’re the only girl in the world. You feel sexy, beautiful and in control. Stick with him and he’ll give you everything. Then he puts his hands around your waist and laughs that you better not gain any more weight or he’ll have to leave you out in the cold. You laugh too. But you get a sinking feeling that he’s not kidding.
And suddenly you know that he might be the one for you. But you won’t admit it to yourself or anyone, cause only when you’re in his grasp do you feel anything at all.
And that exhilaration of feeling alive becomes more and more sporadic until you’re nearly dead inside.
If you’re lucky, one day you make the escape. But the hardest part isn’t leaving. It’s staying away.
When I walked out of my appointment that day and realized my therapist wasn’t just going to magically cure me, I decided I’d have to take matters into my own hands.
I read books. I did yoga. I took courses. I attempted meditation and tried numerous forms of doctor and self prescribed medications. I got as equally addicted…I mean committed to my recovery process as I had been to starving myself and throwing up.
The first book I read was by a woman who referred to her eating disorder as the shitty boyfriend named Ed that she kept getting back together with until she finally left him once and for all. I read Jenni Schaefer’s words and decided that I would just condense the lengthy process of falling out of love and have a nice clean break. I think I must have forgotten how bad I am at broken hearts.
I’ve never had a real-life shitty boyfriend. I watched my mom’s and decided I’d never have one. Not that they have all been perfect-one did insist on wearing a velour tracksuit-but other than that they’ve all treated me pretty good. But even though they weren’t to blame for it-I would still put on red lipstick if they’d casually mentioned once that they liked it. I’d still twist and bend to fit into the picture I thought they had of me. And even when I became unrecognizable to my former self-I’d still get offended when they didn’t want me to remain forever in their heart. And when I’d leave them before I could get hurt-when they didn’t show up on my doorstep begging me to change my mind-I’d be genuinely crushed and somehow surprised.
If we want to get all Freudian about it it my indignation and utter heartbreak may have something to do with going from being the centre of their universe to feeling rejected and abandoned. Hey, I’m only human- I’ve got some daddy issues.
But whatever the case, the trouble is that my version of Ed keeps showing up even after I’ve told him countless times we are officially broken up. It’s usually in the pouring rain and he usually professes that if I’ve made a huge mistake and if I’d just take him back this time-he promises-things will be okay.
Today he was standing on my doorstep when I got home from work.
He told me I’m getting fat and that if I’d just let him love me again he’ll help me find myself again.
Yes, I realize this is all probably making me sound more than a little crazy, but because I’ve already told you pretty much everything that’s weird about me, I’m going to just keep going.
Whenever Ed shows up I get scared that the hopeless romantic and childish side of me is going to push the stronger woman I’ve become aside. I’ve been waiting for the day when I get tired of putting one foot in front of the other and just give up.
And he shows up and reminds me that being with him was easy. And it was. It was like slowly freezing to death in a cold sea. Floating and numb, I could feel nothing.
This aliveness, this living and breathing-sometimes it’s exhausting.
No one told me that coming back to life again would be the hardest part. That as Ed disappeared the particles of my broken heart would have to form skin and bones and limbs again.
That I would have to learn to walk again; one foot in front of the other again. And then, again.
That new lungs would stretch their muscles searching for the memory of breath. That I would have to find my voice again.
That I would have to slam the door on him over and over again.
That it would at times become exhausting.
But as the blood courses through the map of my veins as it journeys to the heart, I know that even though the road is long its making it whole again.
And I am reminded of how grateful I am to be exhausted. How grateful I am to be alive.