I haven’t been posting in quite awhile because I’ve been afraid to come back here. I started this blog out of desperation and loneliness, out of a desire to connect with others like me. It’s embarrassing to be 40+ years old and battling an eating disorder. We watch the stupid after school specials and either it’s a young girl who dieted too much and became obsessively anorexic, or a competitive athlete trying to shed a few pounds who became bulimic. But I’m not 16, I’m not a gymnast, and I don’t eat a single carrot stick with my girlfriends.
When I started this blog, I found an outlet for the venom that was within my head – the awful inner critic I’d lived with [and praised] much of my life. After all, my inner critic helped me to become successful. She was the drive that kept me going when nothing else would. I couldn’t fail – not only would she decimate me, but the entire world would collapse because people were depending on me. Ok, so perhaps not the entire world, but my entire family would flounder. My inner critic helped me become stronger, more self-sufficient, smarter, more successful. Problem was, as I did, she was fed, and she became stronger too. And soon nothing I did would ever be enough for her, and I fought like hell to get away from her.
When I started seeing T last year after I’d slipped back into purging, I thought about going to Overeaters’ Anonymous meetings, primarily for the support. But my instinct said that I wouldn’t be welcome, as I am pretty thin and I’ve never binged. Purged yes, but never binged. I can’t binge, for a reason unknown to me. T was not quite aghast, but her eye was twitching. Under no circumstances was I to go to OA, and she wouldn’t tell me why, except that for my “flavor” of ED, it would be dangerous. I took her word for it and dropped the matter. Yet still I read and sought support online.
Now that I’ve been in EDA for awhile, I know what she was talking about, because we get a lot of ex-OA’ers and ex-ABA [anorexics & bulimics anonymous] members. We also have members leave EDA for OA and/or ABA. EDA is not for everyone – nor is OA, or ABA, or the various other eating disorder support groups. For me, control and rigidity over food are extremely dangerous. I love to please and to succeed, and if I were on a defined meal plan, I would ROCK IT. I would own it, know it, memorize the caloric values, strip my kitchen of anything else, and I would likely wind up much closer to the target BMI I have in my head, which is 2 pounds over the bare minimum for clinical anorexia. I wouldn’t purge, but I wouldn’t eat anything beyond, and I’d find the lowest calorie options for the meal plan.
I came across this article recently by Sheira Khan, a therapist who has recovered from bulimia herself. She writes what T knew but wouldn’t tell me [probably because I’d see it as a challenge, and then do it just to say I could, and then we know where that would wind up.] In short, rigidity over food is something I must avoid. Yes, I must eat to recover and I do my best to do so – but what I’d love is an excuse to go back to a tightly controlled plan managed by someone else. My inner critic would be so pleased with that.
This isn’t intended as a harsh on any 12-step program. Each program works because people work the program. But eating disorders are different from substance abuse disorders in many ways. I have to “use” to live. I cannot be abstinent. The rest of the programs – acceptance, forgiveness, surrendering to a higher power – work because without God’s help, we cannot do this alone. The support from others like me helps enormously, as does my medical support team. But I cannot white-knuckle this as I’ve done before. I want to stop – completely – and evict my inner critic. I want to enjoy food and life without freaking out over a number. I want to be sane, healthy, happy, and balanced for me and my family. I want the Promises. I want a life.