How My Eating Disorder Still Affects Me, Three Years Later
By Camille Bishop
When I stopped actively restricting my eating, I felt like my eating disorder was over. Boom.
Recovered. I still had my moments of insecurity, times where I got a salad instead of a veggie burger because I had a big breakfast and I wanted to ‘make up for it’, instances where I caught my reflection in the mirror and decided I would look better if I was ten pounds lighter. Those things still happen and probably will, occasionally, for years. I have known for a long time that eating disorders are based in habit and like any habit, particularly an addictive one, it is incredibly hard to break. And even with conscious effort and a will to change, it takes years to break. But when I decided I didn’t want to have an eating disorder anymore, when I started eating at least close to a healthy number of calories every day, I thought the hardest part was over. That wasn’t quite true.
In fact, the hardest part is still happening. Because not only do I still feel insecure, lost, and frankly, fat, many days, I have the pain of recovering from an eating disorder. The very real, physical pain. A quote I once read said “Pain is a rather unwanted and close companion as you travel through the maze towards remission from an eating disorder”, and that is so incredibly true. Of course, for different people different things occur - every person and every body is different. But for me, the pain that I have almost every day is something that I wish I could have told 14, 15, 16 year old me about. For me, it’s the stomach pain when I eat, the feeling that no matter what it is (from celery to pasta to apples to cheese), eating it will make my stomach hurt. For me, it’s the horrible acid reflux that keeps me awake at night, that makes me puke from the pain when there is no medicine around, that gives me a significantly higher chance of getting cancer in my stomach and throat. It’s the feeling that even though I’ve “recovered”, there isn’t a meal I get to eat without being reminded of the times when I ate and puked or simply didn’t eat at all. And sometimes it feels easier. It feels easier to not eat so I’m not in pain, it feels easier to slip back into those habits, it feels easier to lose weight instead of accept gaining it.
And it is easier. It’s easier to revisit old mental spaces - your brain still has those pathways. Does that mean it’s the right decision? No. And I believe that I won’t, if for no other reason at times than the people closest to me won’t let me. I don’t *want* to have an eating disorder anymore.
I like to eat two grilled cheese sandwiches and not throw them up. I like to eat pizza and sushi and dessert and not feel instantly, overwhelmingly guilty. I like to not always hate how I look.
But if I could go back and tell younger me how choosing this path would literally change my life for the worse, even after the biggest ‘threat’ is gone, I think I would. I’ve never been a big believer in doing things over again. I’ve always believed that whatever path I take is the path I choose and that path lead me to the good I have today. But never eating without experiencing stomach pain, having a hard time sleeping because of acid in my throat, and knowing that these issues most likely won’t stop anytime soon isn’t a path that I would wish on anyone, and it isn’t a path that I’m happy I’m on.
There are a lot of downsides (to put it mildly) to having an eating disorder. There are a lot of issues with having an eating disorder. There is a lot of stigma, a lot of encouragement, a lot of feelings behind having an eating disorder. And every person is different. For some, a few years after restricted eating they have almost no issues, live a healthy life, love how they look. For me, I have my days where I like my body and my days where I don’t. I eat healthfully most of the time, get my vitamins, and workout when my energy and mental health permit. But even with that, I have pain. Almost all the time. And that’s what I want to make clear. The only thing I have done in my life to give me this pain is have an eating disorder. That’s it. And I’m thankful, so beyond thankful, for how much of a recovery I have made. That can’t get lost in what I am saying. I’m thankful. But I want to share the downsides, the darkside, the part that isn’t new and isn’t going away, as healthy as my mindset gets. Because as thankful as I am, and as much as I try to never regret my life experiences, this is something that is not going anywhere.
This pain is not going anywhere.