The funny thing they never really talk about having an eating disorder happens after you get better. Whatever ‘better’ means to you. They don’t always make it clear that there will come a time when you will miss your eating disorder. That you will miss being sick.
It’s been over four years since I was diagnosed with anorexia and over three since I was unceremoniously discharged from treatment and, both objectively and subjectively, my life is infinitely better now. I can make and hold friendships – I have the best friend I could have ever wished for as a kid. Compare that to the two years I spent in sixth form, being so obsessed with being sick that I lost almost every friend I had. I enjoy my days without spending 90% of the time worrying over what I’ve eaten and what exercise I’ve done. I remember things about my days, instead of trying to form memories in a foggy brain. I’m not actively checking out of life, or having a tantrum over eating five crackers. But despite these facts I miss being sick. I miss the satisfaction I got in being sick, and that’s something no one ever really told me.
No one ever really makes it clear that at some point, when things get a difficult, or when memories come flooding back, falling back into being sick will look safe. Everyone knows that relapse is often a part of recovery, but they don’t really tell you when relapse looks appealing.
My eating disorder was a way for me to protect against the painful feeling of inadequacy and feeling like a misfit. I didn’t know how to deal with those feelings, and maybe part of me didn’t want to. Being sick meant I didn’t need to deal with anything. Starving numbs everything and I had wanted that numbness. Life is painfully sharp and bright and when I was sick everything was a fuzzy shade of grey. Nothing really mattered and I just kind of floated through the actions of life. Being numb was easier then trying to deal with the jumble of emotions I was handed.
Logically, I know why right now, my eating disorder looks appealing. I’m living in a limbo, in between university courses, feeling incredibly lost, alone, and somehow this combination brings up all the memories of being 16 and 17, and developing an eating disorder. I suppose I’m in a funny place, I’m able to look back and see how my eating disorder helped me whilst simultaneous being one of the worst things that I ever lived through. I don’t know if this tug to fall back into being sick is something that is always going to come up when things get difficult, but I know that I have learnt a lot in my four years since being diagnosed. I have a lot of different coping mechanisms, ranging from useful to plain unhealthy, so 22 year old me is in a better place to deal with these feelings then 16 year old me was.
But it’s a funny thing, to miss being sick, to miss slowly killing yourself because it’s easier then dealing with life.