Take it away girl!
Until I was six. Then I didn't like it anymore.
But I didn't know why.
Pizza was another favorite.
Until I was eight.
Then, for some reason, I didn't like pizza anymore, either.
At 10, it was chicken. No clue why.
At 13, it was meat.
This time, I knew why.
All my so-called friends became vegetarians, so I did too. Except, when said friends resumed eating meat, I didn't. And a little voice in my head cheered.
That voice became my best friend in a world where I didn't fit. My siblings fit, they were outgoing and popular, with lots of friends. They kept my parents busy with their activities and social life. My parents appreciated the fact that I was low maintenance.
It was that voice that kept me company in high school, when all my so-called friends found teams and organizations. It was that voice that kept me company as I journaled my life away, writing about anorexia, fear of driving, fear of living.... That voice became my constant companion, all through the fad diets, the high school hell, and the chaos of university.
Considering I went from a smiley seven year old to a responsible adult in a span of two weeks, it was par for the course. Feelings got stuffed, emotions were banished, and I began living the outwardly shiny life, comprised of lie after lie. No, I wasn't lying to my parents, I was lying to myself. Sure, I had therapists here and there. My parents even sent me to a dietitian once. They thought that a dietitian would fix me. She was totally ewwww. She had crooked yellow teeth and bad breath. I never went back. My parents didn't care. They were too busy. And anyway, since I was the good kid, they didn't worry. They just expected me to be, well, good.
The expectation of perfection became more and more powerful. I used to think it was my parents that held the expectation, but now I realize it was the voice. The voice that fed me for years, began crippling me once the real world hit. Yeah, I made it through university. I landed a great job that I love. I have a nice car, a home, and a steady income. On the outside, my life looks pretty shiny.
So imagine my surprise when I found myself falling apart at my annual physical. 32 years old. Crippling depression. Plummeting weight. Severe headaches. Irritability. And ever constant exhaustion that began making my job, which I loved, harder and harder. My diet was so limited because of food allergies, and my energy was quickly depleted. I was prescribed anti-depressants, and landed back in therapy.
Mind you, at this point in my life, despite everything, an eating disorder was the last thing on my mind. I went to therapy because of depression. I went to a dietitian to learn how to better deal with my food allergies. That was it. Despite what you might think, being diagnosed with an eating disorder was a shock. Though, the little voice in my head threw quite the party!
That voice had been my best friend for more than 25 years. I now had a team of professionals helping me, and instead of trusting them, I trusted the voice. I was afraid to listen to my team, despite the fact that they held the key that would release me from my hell. I was afraid to live a life without that voice.
Turns out that voice was actually protecting me, well, from me. From the emotions, sadness, anxiety, depression, fears.... from everything... It protected me from being consumed by my insanely chaotic family. It took all my energy to survive them, leaving little energy left for positive self-care. The eating disorder was my shiny armor. Realizing this, and finally deciding to join my team in their fight for my recovery was one of the hardest decisions I made.
But it's what brought me back to life.
My life isn't free from challenges. It isn't free from the taunts that haunted me from the time I was seven. It isn't free from the self-hatred that I perfected, or the anxiety and fears that I live with. But it is free of the shiny, protective armor I used to wear everywhere I went..... For the first time in my life I'm feeling feelings that I thought were buried forever. I'm experiencing the full range of emotions while weeding through the hell I sentenced myself to so long ago.
It's painfully hard work. But my team believes in me. Their voices are becoming louder than the one that I listened to for so long. Through their voices, I am taking steps to reprogram my own inner voice. We're slowly dismantling the old playlists to make room for the new, kinder tracks.
It's been nearly two years actively working with my team toward recovery. I'm proud to say that my weight has remained safely stable for over six months. Eating still takes a ton of planning and energy, but I'm doing it. I'm learning to work with my feelings and emotions as they arise. I might never have a life as shiny as the armor-coated life, but thanks to my team, I'm building one that is a lot lighter to carry.
She blogs over at My Purple Dreams. Go check her out!