This year I began a new relationship by falling in love with me.
Having shared most of my life with an eating disorder, caught in a cycle of punishing my body and denying it the one thing we all need to survive, food. Not the way that someone who loves themselves lives. It was hard to accept but I hated myself and reached a point where I knew I couldn't continue as I was. I was not the mother, daughter, friend or person that I wanted to be. It wasn't the life I wanted to live.
I created an experiment. Ten daily rules that focused my attention on good feelings. I planned to follow them for six months, blogging honestly as I did and hoped that this would improve my self-esteem and lead to a life that wasn't completely consumed by my eating disorder.
Each night I visualized myself feeling content with who I was and carefree around food, each morning I wrote on my gratitude list and smiled at my reflection. The smile was forced at first but the positive effects were instant and on day 13 something amazing happened- I realised after so long of battling with the negative, critical voice in my mind it was gone- and I wrote the following.
The eating disorder who has shared my life for at least 22 years and I are "on a break".
My plan is for this to be permanent. I know that it doesn't want to leave or share me with anyone. I know it may try to come back when it senses doubt or fear , but strengthened by the knowledge only 13 days into this experiment that if I focus only on what I want and fill myself up with good feelings the power of the entire universe is conspiring to bring it to me.
Eating disorders and addictions want to keep you to themselves, whispering in your ear at every opportunity that you can't live without them, that if people knew what you were really like they wouldn't love you, that they would be disgusted by you.
These are lies. You are strong, and to secretly carry this pain made even stronger.
I was probably about nine or ten when I first began eating sweets in secret. Taking money from the electricity meter and sneaking out to buy chocolate on Saturday mornings while my parents slept on.
Thirteen when I started rigidly recording every morsel I ate and standing in the showers at school seeing other girl's bodies and feeling disgust at my own. At Fifteen I discovered that if my extreme dieting was broken by a binge I could eliminate the guilt and calories by making myself sick. This would give me a short lived feeling of calm followed by more guilt, shame and self-loathing.
Until now it has felt as though I lived my life on the outside, as if everyone else was in a snow globe and I was looking in. Wanting so badly to join them, but always pulled back, trusting my eating disorder when it said that everyone in that globe was different from me, that they wouldn't understand and we were stronger without them. That we were perfect. Together.
Every birthday, meal out, family gathering has been shrouded in guilt and obsession. Sometimes weeks or months before a planned night I would begin adding extra exercise and less calories into my routine.
On rare occasions that I thought maybe I looked good in my outfit and could actually look forward to a night out it would begin whispering doubt in my ear, showing me all the flaws in my body. If this wasn't enough to make me cancel it would tell me to binge, persisting until it was actually easier to give in to quieten the voice. Confirmation that I was as weak and worthless as I thought.
Ironically one evening last year having cried for hours before attending a friend's birthday party feeling worthless and ugly, people later told me that night that everyone had stopped eating the buffet when I arrived in awe of my body and strength to resist the tempting foods.
My food scales just broke and I didn't care. No voice telling me to starve for the day until I knew the breakdown and weight of my meals. Strange but eating disorder must have gone out for the afternoon.
This morning I stood in front of the mirror in my shorts and bra, it still wasn't there and for the first time in my life I felt love for what I saw. I felt gratitude for what I saw. The body that has grown and fed my babies, ran marathons, and been a home for the real me, the part of me that has no reflection, the part that my friends and family see.
I have constantly tried to change it,not believing that the invisible part would be enough, scared to let go of the Eating disorder and jump into the unknown.
That jump was one of the most petrifying things to even consider for a long time, but in the end it was a quiet and calm break up. It just quietly slipped away.
Now 156 days later I've come to realize that the happiness we feel in our lives is a reflection of how we feel about ourselves and can confirm that the break up I documented on day 13 is most definitely permanent.
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.