This war is almost entirely invisible to the outside world which makes leaving my house feel exhausting as I try to keep my thoughts at bay long enough to push my daughter on the swing. I know how to numb these thoughts and calm the storms, all I have to do is skip one snack and they go away for a moment. As my thoughts quiet I feel an instant relief. I pretend that missing one snack isn't a big deal and I deserve a moment of freedom from the voices that never cease. Once I am here, I so easily turn off my logical brain and auto pilot myself into an avalanche of numbness and eating disorder behaviors. This is my danger zone. This is the point of either pushing through what seems impossible or allowing the eating disorder to creep in and take over again. Grounding myself is the only defense I have right now against the lies of the eating disorder.
The voices of the eating disorder aren't talked about very often. I remember going to treatment for the first time and hearing people refer to the eating disorder voices, ED thoughts or thinking with the eating disorder brain. It is common practice to treat the eating disorder as a separate entity outside of yourself and it made me feel slightly less crazy to be around other people who heard the same thoughts/voices that I did.
So the voices, I don't even know how to explain them. I guess, it's like an inner bully. This bully promises to protect you if you do everything it tells you to do. It makes you believe that you are completely unworthy of love or food but if you just lose a few more pounds than you will finally be ok. Somehow he twists it all in a way that makes you believe that he is helping, he has your back and is the only thing in your life that you have control over. But it never stops. He keeps tearing you down, reminds you of all of your flaws and promises to fix everything if you just lose a few more pounds. If you try to stand up for yourself or listen to someone who disagrees, he doubles down and makes you sabotage anything good about yourself. It comes to the point that this is your new comfort. This is your new thought process. This is the new you. A dual personality where you are constantly checking with this inner bully to measure your self worth for the day based on what you did, how you ate, what you accomplished or how royally you screwed up.
There is research now about the eating disorder brain and I wish I was medically inclined enough to explain it properly. What I do know is that retraining the eating disorder brain and creating new neural pathways is achieved through being in active recovery for way too many years.
Recovery. I feel like recovery is some mythical creature in the eating disorder community as I witness so many people relapse over and over again (myself included) and read depressing studies with depressing recovery rates. I never thought I could have full recovery so I was ok with just managing the disorder forever. My idea of recovery is that it requires perfection and in return all thoughts and urges would disappear forever. But I am told over and over again that this process takes years and that lapses and relapses will most likely happen. Recovery isn't perfect, it is doing the next best thing over and over again. Pushing yourself as much as you can, being kind to yourself when you fall and reaching out when you can't do it on your own. This is hard for me, I have always kept my eating disorder close to me and the shame I felt even closer.
This time is different. I am talking. I am sharing. I have slowly let people into my reality and I am staying grounded. I am breaking my cycle of hiding and struggling alone. I am told that if I keep doing the hard stuff, eventually the thoughts aren't so loud. So in the mean time, I have to hear the thoughts amplified louder than ever before as I try to betray my protector/bully and blindly trust my treatment team when they tell me that all of this vulnerability, sharing and eating is my ticket to freedom. I still don't believe them at this point but I have demystified the eating disorder enough now to know that it is not my friend, it is trying to kill me and I want desperately to be free of it. So one snack at a time I am fighting through my danger zone. I may be crawling, but I am moving.