Tuesday, June 29, 2010

escaping my abuser...again and again.

how many times have i been told to think of my eating disorder as an abusive relationship?
however many it is, until this week, it was the same amount of times i had the thought below in response:
yes. i am in an abusive relationship. for someone on the outside to notice must mean i'm really succeeding at this.
my mom is going to kill me for this, because she was the ultimate advocate of the abuse analogy. but as with most aspects of recovery, it didn't make sense to me until it made sense to me.
although now i rarely struggle with urges to restrict, my eating disorder still sneaks in the shadows, trying with all its might to maintain some measure of control in my life.
lately, i've trying a bit too hard to avoid feelings of worthlessness and bad body image by adhering to a strict list of to-do's each day. i've found myself worrying that if i were to miss a workout, or wake up late, or take too long of a nap, or use a little too much soy sauce on my sushi and get bloated, that the ominous clouds of self-depricating thoughts would quickly blow in and hang heavily over my head.
it’s kind of like my day is a tent- and my work out, my plentiful but extremely healthy food, my early mornings, my ability to go and go and go without stopping- are the tent-poles holding it up.
on saturday, as i laid in bed, missing my workout, sleeping, eating "sick food" (as in food people eat when they don't feel well, not eating disorder food), and sleeping some more, i felt as though life had been ripped out from under me. like i was going to have to start again, ground-up, to rebuild my sense of self-worth. Because i'd not adhered to my success-standards for one day, i woke up Sunday morning frightened to realize that i wasn't as sure of who i was as i had been before spending saturday in bed.
I would prefer not having to think those thoughts or feel those feelings again. And so I found myself fearing the next time i would (for whatever reason) miss my schedule.
so thinking through all of this, as usual, brought a psychology class to mind. i remember a girl giving a presentation last semester about therapy techniques for battered women. she talked about the criteria for battered woman’s syndrome. there were four of them, but there was one in particular that really got me thinking:
a battered woman lives in constant fear of her abuser.
i thought about this. and i thought about my fear. and i thought about my scampering around as of late, in effort to keep my fear from coming true.
although i'm no longer in the type of relationship that demands restricted eating, visible bones, and my entire existence really, i still think these tent-pole standards of mine look lot like a person in an unhealthy relationship.
(fellow strugglers: maybe some of you are still in the stage of your struggle I just mentioned above. That is OKAY. This can apply to anyone at any place in his/her disorder)
all of this pondering and realization about my abuser led me to do some research on abuse.
I found a site offering post-relationship advice to abuse survivors. (please ignore the lacking chic-ness of the site: the content is truly the best I found)
here’s my favorite sentence on the site:
“[once you get out of the abusive relationship] You won't constantly be running around like a headless chicken making sure everything is 'just so'.”

I started to think about all of the women who are in these types of relationships, forced to “run around like a headless chicken making sure everything is ‘just so’”.
for a lot of these women, their abuser isn’t just in their minds, or their own bodies, it’s a living, breathing, frightening man who can look them in the eye and hurt them in any way he chooses.
I’ve said a zillion times that an eating disorder is the worst thing that anyone could ever have to deal with. and I won’t back off the fact it’s definitely up there on life’s list of most unpleasant things. but the up/downside of our abusive relationship (and any other addiction to substance or behavior) is that once truly we make up our minds to end it, our abuser has no chance of coming back to get us.
there isn’t one ounce of power in the relationship that isn’t in our hands.
It feels completely unnatural at first- to act out in our power and not the eating disorder’s. it doesn’t just feel unnatural at first, in fact, it feels unnatural for a long time. It sometimes still does.
But just this week, I found myself so naturally in the midst of one of the most beautiful nights I’ve spent in college yet. My dear friend, Morgan Read, had just returned from Haiti. A group of us surprised her on our apartment balcony to celebrate her belated birthday which took place while she was away.
The balcony was dimly, sweetly lit with it’s single lamp and the candles from Morgan’s cake. There was music and laughter and blush wine and the air was sticky like summer, but not oppressive. We sat in a circle listening intently to story after story about Morgan’s adventure. I noticed after awhile the utter stillness of my heart and mind. I looked at the bright, beautiful women around me, and I didn’t have to pretend I that I was present or wish that I could be. I just was.
what I’m trying to say is this:
when we continue to relish in the unnatural, to separate from the painful stability of our abuser, and just feel it (sometimes not knowing how or why we continue) at some point, the natural things that we wanted to feel, that we’ve watched other people feel, suddenly envelope us. and the [beautifully imperfect] life we thought we’d never have isn’t just lingering around us…it’s actually ours.
and it's because of this that no matter how difficult it gets, i will continue to escape my abuser...again and again.


  1. im so thankful to do life with you. i'm so thankful we're both present for it. in such a new free way. different, but so very free.

  2. I needed to read your post this morning. Thank you so much for sharing, EA. Truly - thank you.