I’m so sorry. I wish I could have somehow told you back then what I know now. That I could have saved you from the graps of ED and everything he has cost you. I can’t do that now though. I can’t change the past…all I can do is write this letter and hope it serves me and others in the future. All I can do now is tell the world the costs of eating disorders…specific to me now…anorexia. I will fight this….I will fight this because we have lost too much to this disorder…and it’s time we reclaim our ground. I love you and each day I fight, it will be me embracing you…giving you the love you so deserved back then.
Love ya, Jess
I’ve been avoiding writing this for a while, but today…I’m pissed at ED. Pissed at where ED has gotten me and what he has stolen from me. So I need to let it out…so on those days I feel a lure back to him…his sweet lies of trickey….I can read the truth and remain in the fight. And that's why I tried to keep with positive pictures to. Because this isn't to glorify ED, but to serve as inspiration to keep the fight!
Dear Future, Tempted Jess—
Right now ED might be tempting you. Telling you something he can provide you by you going back to him. It’s a lie. A complete lie. ED only hurts you and costs you so much. Maybe you are so far down the road of recovery or so overcome with fear you can’t remember the bad…so I am here to tell you what ED costs you. So I’m gonna tell you some stories here of your reality. Documentation of life with ED.
ED has robbed you of a normal relationship with food. Of seeing food as a gift for God. As fuel for your body. It has become mere calculations. A game of your self-will. And it’s a miserable game you can never win. Even if you stick to your calories or restricted exchanges your mind is in a constant worry about what the food will do to your weight. It’s misery. You don’t even taste or enjoy food anymore. You just fear it. The fear paralyzes you and it’s miserable.
You go to the dining hall knowing exactly the meal you are going to have. But your heart longs to allow yourself something else. Not even something “unhealthy” but something simple like beans instead of peas, a roll that’s white, or some grilled chicken. But even these healthy food petrify you. You stick to your plan and you are miserable. As you eat your plate you look around the dining hall at what other people are eating. ED no longer even tries to convince you they are pigs…because it doesn’t work. Because deep inside you want to be like everyone else. You want to be able to just eat whatever you want…but you are so overcome with unworth you don’t allow yourself. Your heart longs to be like all those people. To just eat what you want, what you crave. To trust exchanges, trust your nutritionist and stop obeying the good/bad, healthy/unhealthy, safe/fear foods ED has installed in your brain. But you are chained. You tell yourself it will be different and easier if you lapse…but it only gets harder.
If you even think of the possibility of eating something high-calorie your mind races. You try and add up and see how much more calories it will be than the day before to make sure it balances out and YOU AREN’T EVEN COUNTING CALORIES. You are still doing exchanges and yet calories control you. And not a significant amount. Just a mere extra 20-30 calories can become detriment. Even if it means eating what you want it doesn’t matter. It just can’t be allowed.
You continue to fear more and more foods. ED will tell you by restricting fear foods will get easier…it’s such a lie. You get more and more scared of foods that had become so easy. Because food isn’t fuel…it’s just something that can affect your weight. Every single morsel of food is questioned as to what it will do to your weight.
You are afraid of fruits and vegetables. The very things you tell the kids you nanny to eat more of you are terrified of. You have safe and unsafe list. Rules governing intake of the vegetables. Steamed only once a day and if you do it has to be limited to like 2 times a week. And for fruits you are safely allowed pears and apples, but you can’t bite into them. You have to cut them and not too close to the core because don’t want to have too much. If you have a food scale you weigh them. It’s ridiculous. ED has made even the healthiest food something to fear. And you hate it. Again, your heart longs to just eat the fruits and vegetables….but the fear is so great you cave into ED’s control. It’s misery.
You can’t eat with people. The guilt and control ED has over you keeps you from eating with other people. Plus you have to precisely measure everything you eat and don’t want them to see this habit that you know is so disordered. So you eat alone with your books…surrounded by people in the dining hall but completely alone.
Your heart longs to be allowed to eat dessert and ED keeps you from it. You see people grabbing cookies from the dining hall and your heart cries out to be able to do it. “Just once, Jess. Just this once….come on…just grab one…it will be okay.” But no. ED has you wrapped in your weight being more important that your desires and your freedom. So you sit and watch all those “lucky” people who get to eat cookies. ED tries to convince you they are weak, but it doesn’t work . You want to have the strength they have to be able to just grab a cookie, just eat a dessert.
You even make stockpiles of the food you one day want to allow yourself. Just in case ED loosens the reigns and let’s you have it. But you always end up having to toss it because you never eat it. And when you know there is something you want to eat you don’t tell your nutritionist because you know she will give you permission to eat it. ED knows this would loosen the graps he has on you, so instead he keeps you focused on fears instead of freedom. On hoarding the food and looking at it every day as a reminder of what you aren’t allowed.
You have an amazing nutritionist but ED won’t let you trust her. You so just want to lay down and stop fighting the challenges she prescribes you. You want to be able to eat all the fear foods she says. But you make excuses and don’t. You want to trust the exchanges she gives you….but fat grams, calories, sodium…they control you instead. You just want to eat normally but ED deafens you to the one person who can teach you how.
You have to precisely measure each and every thing you eat and even then you don’t trust the measuring cups you are given. It takes you almost an hour just to prep your meals because everything has to be precisely measured. And even then it’s not good enough. Even then you are eating too much. Because ED never allows you a moment of peace. He robs you of that.
You sneak food out of the dining hall just to weigh it and sneak it back in. And you have a stash of food that are substitutes for the dining hall options all because they are 10 or so less calories. You won’t drink milk in dining hall because you found 60-calorie milk. It’s expensive as heck, but finances, life, normalcy…none of it matters as much as those 30 dang calories.
You don’t trust food or the people who make it. You are always convinced its mislabeled or someone added something to your food. It’s like the whole world is out to get you. Somehow the whole world is so focused on you and making you bigger. It’s even simple things. Like steamed carrots…you are always convinced someone salted them or added butter or something. And always freak that you have gotten too much. IT’S CARROTS! Freaking carrots. This is the extreme level of fear ED brings you.
You can’t go through a drive-through to get a drink because you are convinced they will mess up and give you the wrong drink. At starbuck’s you have to go in and watch them make your drink or you will throw it away. And even if you do watch them make it ED still tells you it’s wrong and you missed the moment they added the wrong thing.
You are afraid of hunger and fullness…basically any feeling related to food. If you are too full you are convinced you ate too much. And you are so scared of hunger you will wait in misery to not start eating till late in the day. Then at night you will be so stuffed trying to get all your food in that you will be in agony. And you promise yourself tomorrow will be better…but it’s not…because you wake up and are scared again that if you eat you will be hungry that night. You are constantly fighting your body. It’s normal signals have become something you fear. And if you are hungry before the right time to eat you sit in agony: stomach pain, nausea, mind racing on food………instead of eating. All because it’s not the right time.
You can’t even allow yourself tiny allowances. You have been craving mustard for weeks but can’t allow yourself the extra calories. So many times you want a piece of gum, but you can’t because of those 5 extra calories. This is your life. Your whole focus. On keeping the numbers and your intake just right. And no..you won’t feel stronger or better because you do it. In fact…you feel more miserable because you feel you will never be normal.
You are obsessed with how “active” you have been. You miss events and even church in order to workout. And you push yourself to the extreme in the exercise you are allowed. It is all about burning calories. And it doesn’t matter if you are sore or tired. You push through anyway. And it sucks. Every second of it sucks and when you finish it is never enough. You always need more.
Because your focus is weigh-ins you literally spend hours of the day in panic if you don’t go poo. Something most people don’t spend a single second thinking of can literally make or break your day. You have literally lost sleep because you don’t poo and been brought to tears by the fear of how that will affect the next weigh-in.
And you freak out about your weigh-ins being “perfect.” You have literally missed class or been late just so you can weigh at the exact same time. And it’s never good enough. If it’s down too little then it’s just a fluctuation and you aren’t really losing. If it’s up the tiniest amount then you are ballooning. The scale only brings peace to you when you are following your plan and letting the number be your concern only in sessions when discussing it with the professionals who need to know it.
You are basically at war with food and your body and you don’t want to be. As much as ED is luring you right now telling you a short lapse will make you feel better…let me tell you from day 1 you will be in misery. I am in a lapse right now and by day 2 my mentality and behaviors were back to my worst days in ED and by day 3 there were even worse and I wanted out desperately. Every day I want to trust my body, my hunger, my cravings. To just let go and eat normally. But ED keeps me held back and beaten down by telling me I am undeserving. The strength you are assured will come by your ED actions never comes. Nope…ED just robs you of the life you want and the normalcy in eating you so crave.
You don’t deserve this misery. You don’t deserve to have to deny your cravings. To spend hours at store just looking at what you wish you could eat or at blogs of food you wish you could have or restaurant menus building the perfect meal you would never allow yourself. You deserve instead to have those experiences. You deserve to be able to trust food, but with ED you can’t. Food is just a number and an enemy. Your whole life is focused on controlling your weight and food is the way to do that. But trust me….as much as ED may be saying that is better than gaining weight or whatever you are facing…it’s a lie. Because every day with ED you want to be in recovery…but most days in recovery you are happy you aren’t with ED.
Relationships and Life
Anytime you travel either home, to family’s, or when you went to Denver you are terrified of what food will be there. Your brain can’t even think about the fun you might have or the time you will get to spend with others. Nope…it’s completely focused on the food. What will be there? Will it make you gain? What will people think? You have lost such precious time spent with people because the whole time you are thinking about food….letting food control you.
You have lost countless holidays with family. Again…it’s all about food. Heck, when you go to easter service at church you are terrified if they will make you do communion. And when you went to visit your dying grandpa ED made you so scared about having to go to a resteraunt and how you were going to avoid eating that you missed the time with your grandpa. Food has become more important than family. It’s all you can think about.
And when you do go to holidays others are so scared that you won’t eat they make you special meals but you can’t even trust that. People are so scared to hurt you they don’t even speak to you. And you are so scared they will ask about your food or weight you don’t even talk to them. So while other people laugh and experience life together you sit in the corner and text your support in desperation because you can’t let go of food thoughts. You are with your family in body….but your mind…it’s with ED.
ED has cost you a normal college experience. You can’t eat with people so you eat alone in the dining hall every day and have since freshmen year. People go out to eat at restaraunts on Sundays and you so want to, but can’t bring yourself to. You turn down opportunities to go out with people because you know you will have to get food and it won’t be your safe options. You so want to go get fro-yo with friends, but ED stops you. Instead of eating out with people you research menus of restaraunts and plan what meals you would have if you were “allowed.” You live vicariously through pics people take of themselves out with friends…living life, being social with food….and yet you are trapped because ED has you bound in fear.
ED has kept you from relationship with friends. Reality is people eat when they are together and you are so scared by the possibility of being offered food you just avoid it altogether. And your day is so regimented and focused on meal times that you only allow small windows to be with people. And when you are with them you are usually worrying about what you just ate or will ate or how much you weigh or if you are burning calories. You don’t get to experience time with people and so you just stay alone. Shut away in your room longing to be a part of the world but held back by ED.
You want to ask these people to push you and go out to fro-yo or restaurants with you, but you are scared they will push you or that maybe, just maybe, you will enjoy yourself. And you are scared because ED tells you they will think you are weird or abnormal and so he keeps you hidden away. You are never given the chance to experience time with friends. You don’t even ask for the experiences you want or the freedoms you want to fight for.
ED has kept you from dating. First off every guy becomes off limits because you aren’t good enough. And then…even if they were to ask you on a date your fear of their being food on this date would freak you out. Plus you go through every day focused on food and exercise and check lists and to-dos. There is no time to even make relationship with a guy. Yet, again, your heart longs to. But ED holds you back.
And your relationship with God…it’s not immune either. In fact, ED makes God’s love of you be dependent on the scale or on whether you poo. God is the first to blame if your weight is up and the last reason you acknowledge if it doesn’t balloon. You so want to give Him control of your weight and just trust, but ED says He can’t be trusted. You want to allow Him to guide your cravings and food choices, but ED tells you you can’t push that far. God wants to make you a conqueror and to see how strong He can be through you, but ED keeps you beaten down.
You deserve to experience life, love, laughter. You deserve to be able to live the life and eat the foods you want. Not to live through food blogs and restaurant websites. Not to have your only friends be the ones you have met in treatment or on websites. Yes, they are amazing support, but you deserve the chance to make real relationship. You deserve to be able to ask for support with meals and to be able to express that you are scared to go out to eat with people, but are going to do it anyway. You deserve to use relationship to push you out of ED. You deserve a life focused on living and on serving God instead of on food and weight. There is so much more out there for you than food and weight…don’t let ED keep robbing us of seeing that.
So what does ED rob you of…that can be summed up quite easily…he robs you of the life you want. When it comes to food, notice that each thing ED makes me do is exactly what I don’t want to do. I want dessert so ED doesn’t allow it. I want to eat with people so ED makes that my fear. I want to break free of fear foods so ED makes me fear even more of them. I want to be able to eat whatever I want so ED holds me back to only experiencing this through others. I want relationship with others so ED makes me too exhausted and scared to be with others. Even when I am with others ED keeps me from truly being there.
So no matter what is scary right now Jess. No matter how much the fight seems like you should give up. Please, please fight. I am in a lapse right now and I don’t want to be back here. I am exhausted and living in this misery over a lousy .2 lbs. That is how desperate ED is to keep you beaten down. I went to the doc and have a deadly low heart rate and pulse…but .2 lbs is more important. We don’t deserve this and it’s up to you and the strength God gives you to keep fighting. Fight for us Jess. Trust and fight. Reach out and fight. Do whatever you have to, but DO NOT GIVE UP!
Counting on you,