In a lot of eating disorder literature, you might see “control” as a common theme. Many professionals and individuals define eating disorders around that theme, and for many, this may be accurate. Restricting, purging, binging, exercising — these behaviors may be a way of trying to gain control that is lacking in other areas of life when your world feels otherwise very out of control. This is a valid narrative. This story, my personal story, is quite different from what appears in eating disorder brochures, articles, and by professionals.
Disordered eating was never about control.
My eating disorder was about safety.
Disordered eating became a home to me. It became safe. It was my best friend, my comfort, my support, and my go-to. Restricting became something that I felt I needed to survive.
My life always felt very under control. In middle school, I was top of my class. In high school, I excelled and even graduated on time after missing over a year of school due to eating disorder treatment. I went home to a comfortable, clean house, and I never lacked anything in my life that I really needed to survive. Senior year, I received a scholarship into my dream college, and now I’m working towards my Bachelor’s degree in psychology and public health. I have a strong, supportive circle of friends. My life, from the outside looking in, is under control.
Yet, inside, I feel unsafe. This is the prevailing feeling that Anorexia Nervosa sunk its claws into. Anorexia Nervosa consumed me when I realized that my life with an eating disorder felt safe, and my life without an eating disorder did not.
My eating disorder was controlled by fear.
I was afraid of feeling. Afraid of letting myself express the intense emotions that restricting food dulled for me. I was afraid of re-experiencing past abuse in the form of flashbacks and nightmares. Failure and inadequacy scared me. I was afraid of being full.
I was never afraid of my eating disorder, even when I should have been. Even when I saw black spots every time I stood up, even when my heart palpitated, even when my ribs showed through my tank tops — I wasn’t afraid of my eating disorder. I was afraid of my life without the dull monotony it provided.
I wish I could go back and tell myself that a life of color and emotion is my only goal. My goal is to feel alive again, to learn what it means to feel safe without Anorexia Nervosa as my crutch.
My eating disorder was never about control, but now, I need to take back control.
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