The Lingering Parts of an Old Eating Disorder

I’ve kept secrets throughout my life concerned with the state of my physical and mental health. I struggled with an eating disorder for years and admitted to it five years after it started-three years after it ended–in the severest sense. I didn’t admit it to my first therapist and I rarely spoke about it to my second.

I wasn’t ashamed to talk about it, at least with my second therapist. I didn’t because I somehow worked through it myself and was ready to move on to other topics. I like to think it just faded away like a dispelled virus, but it still finds small ways into my life today.

The truth is I had an eating disorder and it still manifests today in many unexpected ways:

When I look at my hands. How I crave to see the bones in my hands. When I write, type, draw, put rings on, do my nails, etc., I wish I could see the bones ripple up and down the backs of my hands like they used to.

When I’m wearing clothes. The disappointment when I’m told my clothes would look better on me tighter. I’ve been told to wear less baggy shirts, no baby doll dresses, more tight-assed jeans, which only perpetuates the minuscule yet significant notion that my body is on display and only worthy when shown off properly–something, as a woman, that is frustratingly common.

When I’m asked to go to the gym. I’m healthy now and I miss kickboxing classes, but the gym sometimes reminds me of the miserable hours spent, not in the comfort of a runner’s high, but in the misery of a girl trying to work her way down three sizes in the hot summer before sophomore year of high school.

When my heart skips a beat. Maybe they’re related, maybe not but the erratic heart palpitations remind me when I put my heart at risk after throwing up my meals.

When I tell myself it wasn’t enough. I hesitate to write this because I believe my ED wasn’t severe enough, despite the reality of what I inflicted on my body, my stomach, throat, and muscles. This is the lingering denial I forced myself in.

When I’ve displaced trust. The part of my eating disorder that lingers the most is my loss of trust in people’s friendships, judgments, and cares. I’ve seen it first-hand, the automatic praise one gets for being skinnier–the compliments from friends, the new flirtations from peers. The great feeling of people loving you more when they’re okay to be seen next to you.