Dear Eating disorder,
We’ve been together for a long time now. It’s been 14 years since I first became aware of you, but looking back I can see that you were silently developing ever since I was a child. You saw that I was vulnerable, a prime candidate. You saw that I needed a friend and you pretended to be mine. At first, you whispered softly in my ear, so subtle that I didn’t notice at first. At ballet you scrutinized my body in the mirror, pointing out all the flaws. You pointed out another girl that was long and lean and told me that I should look like her. When my ballet teacher told me I was losing too much weight, you were delighted and praised me highly. But it wasn’t enough, you wanted more.
When I went to the hospital to check on my health, you reared your ugly head. You told me not to eat, food was bad. I would get fat if I ate and there was nothing worse than being fat. You told me to hide food in my locker, to flush it down the toilet and to purge. When the nurse sat me down and I told me I had anorexia, you were so angry. You told me that she was wrong, that she didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. I believed you and dismissed what she said. After all, you said, I wasn’t thin enough to have an eating disorder.
For the next few years, I kept denying you. I didn’t want to believe that I had an eating disorder. But when I went to drug treatment for the first time, I couldn’t deny you any longer. I admitted that I had a problem but I wasn’t sure I wanted to give you up. You were like my best friend, a constant companion who I thought I couldn’t live without. Then you brought along your friend bulimia. Unlike anorexia bulimia was invisible, she told me that she had found a loophole, that I could eat and not gain weight. She taught me how to purge. This became my new addiction.
You have consumed me ever since. Every waking moment my mind is filled with thoughts of weight, food, and numbers. You told me I was fat but in reality, I had the body of a male child. You have turned from being my best friend to being my worst enemy. I think of you as an abuser. Like an abuser, you groomed me and lured me in with false promises of happiness. But once I was held captive you showed your true colors and how evil you really are.
You crept in yo my life like a thief in the night and like a thief you stole so much. You took my health and sapped my body of any energy it had and left me with the body of a pre-pubescent child. You stole my hopes and dreams and any plans for a happy future. You latched on to me and drained me of any self-confidence, self-worth, and self-esteem. You isolated me from family and friends and left me alone and lonely. You left me paranoid, anxious, depressed and hating myself, so self-conscious that I didn’t want to leave the house. My peace of mind is gone, sleep is the only release I get. You stole my education and any plans to make something of my life. But most of all you stole my will to live and left me with a passive death wish, thinking I would be better off dead. You took a young woman and left her with the withered face of an old woman and a cold brittle body.
I have no doubt that you want me dead. You are slowly poisoning my body and mind. But I won’t let that happen. I won’t let you take me like you have taken so many others. I’m fighting so very hard and every day I get a little bit stronger. I will do the opposite of what you want me to do. I will drown out your voice and try to live my life. Having you in my life is like having the full-time job with no days off. I work hard for you all week ie restricting and exercise and at the end of the week, you expect a big fat paycheck in the form of weight loss. But I have learned the hard way that thin does not equal happiness. I was just as sick and miserable at my lowest weight as I was at my highest weight. You’ve been in my life for so long that I don’t know life without you. But I am willing to take the risk to find out. You left me like a scared, sick child but now I’m growing into the young woman I was meant to be. I’m learning to like myself and not measure my worth by the numbers on a scale. As a good friend once said to me, it’s not a choice between anorexia and recovery, it’s a choice between life and death and I choose life.
Nousaibah El Hariri