Past Imperfect

This is a question I've always been asked: do you think you will struggle with your eating disorder forever? Will it always be there?

Jenni Schaefer posted this question on her blog, and I thought I would answer it here.

I do believe in full recovery, but I also believe in care and caution. I long for a day when eating disorder thoughts are no longer in the forefront of my mind. Indeed, there are the occasional times when they're not. When I have other, more important things to think about besides food and weight, calories and exercise. Sometimes these things are fairly petty (did I clean out Aria's litter box?); sometimes they're more significant (will I screw up my job interview* tomorrow?).

Then, of course, it's back to worrying if my stomach sticks out in my pants or if I overate at lunch or if I should take a day off from exercising.

So how in the hell can I possibly believe in full recovery?

Because I have to.
Because I've seen it.
Because I've been told it's impossible.

Some of it is pure bull-headed stubbornness that keeps me going, the same stubbornness that Ed used to keep me ill all of these years. I am trying (against all odds) to live my life as if I didn't have an eating disorder.

And there, my friends, is the catch. I might be able to live without the eating disorder in my life, but I would be foolish to forget that it ever existed. I dream of being nonchalant about food, not worry about what I'm eating. But I can't be nonchalant about eating. I have to eat regularly. I can't afford to skip meals. I will never be able to relax about this- nor should I.

An eating disorder diagnosis forever changes you, changes how you relate to the world. But the fact that I will have to remain vigilant for signs of relapse, and vigilant of how I take care of myself, doesn't mean that I can't recover. It doesn't mean the AN thoughts will rule my life.

It just means I had an eating disorder. Past tense. Not present. The past. A part of my history, but not my future.

*Yes, kids, wish me luck. I'm interviewing for a permanent position at the newsmagazine where I'm interning this summer in DC. I'm not going to mention where for privacy reasons. If you want to know more, drop me an email. I will be more than happy to oblige.

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marcella said...

all the very best for the interview - and your continued recovery

fighting_forever said...

Good luck with the interview. I've just been through the terrifying process of applications and interviews, so I can sympathise.

I think it must be possible to recover completely. I'm a million times better than it once seemed I would ever be. I've got to the point where I'm certain I wouldn't be diagnosed with any eating disorder, but it's still there, buried behind my other thoughts. I'm going to trust that that paranoid voice watching my food will also fade away with time.

Libby said...

I've been thinking about this question a lot lately.

My therapist and I have been working with a model/technique called "voice dialogue". It's a sort of "parts therapy" where you see yourself has having many different parts (or in Voice Dialogue they are called "voices"). And for each of those parts that is a dominant feature of your personality, you have one that opposes it -- a "disowned" part. And even the disowned ones are there as part of you, too. Each of those parts speaks to your "aware ego" and influences your thoughts and behavior. That's a very simplistic and not-so-good description of it all.

But what I wanted to get at is, as you change your behavior and your thought patterns, Voice Dialogue has you actually learning to embrace both sides of an issue -- both the dominant personality part and the disowned part. And it's through the accepting of both sides that you can actually get to a place where you're OK with "it," whatever "it" may be. But the big thing is, Voice Dialogue believes that no part ever completely goes away. You're striving to get to a place where the parts who are troubling simply don't trouble you as much because you're able to a) listen to the opposing voice, hear it, and believe it, and b) hear what the troubling part has to say and basically say to it, "thanks for your opinion" and then move on.

Yes... it's a little bit weird. But the model really works for me... really makes sense to me.

BUT... the thing I finally wanted to get to is this. I feel like now that I've been told that I don't have to banish any of the parts... that I don't have to tell the ED part of me to "go away forever," that I'm finally feeling like some of those very loud parts of me are losing a little bit of power.

So in terms of the model, the belief is that these parts (i.e. the ED part) will never go away. But if you step back and look at it from a whole-person perspective, the truth is that you have, indeed, recovered. Does that make sense?

So I guess I believe that there is part of me that will always be eating disordered. BUT, I don't have to let that part be in complete control ever again, AND I will eventually get to a place where I'm not even fighting with the ED part of me anymore. It might still exist within me, and I may have to watch out and make sure it doesn't get triggered (like I believe that even 20 years from now I won't be able to safely "go on a diet" -- not that anyone really can... but that's a separate discussion!). But basically, I believe I will be able to exist without having it be a daily and constant issue. But knowing that I don't ever have to completely banish it has sort of calmed that part of me down.

Does any of that make sense?

Aaaaaanyway... I wish you the very best on your interview -- the BEST!


Sarah said...

good luck with the interview!!!!!!!

I have a lot of thoughts on the rest of your post, too. I"ll be back.


Anonymous said...

Very smart post, Carrie. Good luck with the interview. I'll bet you'll wow them.

mary said...

There's power in remaining vigilant towards something you have no intention of inviting back in. It's a good thing to be mindful and it is different from being sick. AWARENESS is a good thing. Appreciating the healing that's happening a little more each day takes time but eventually you just may notice that you really can stop thinking about food in relation to the ED...lunch will be lunch. Secondie lunch will be just that...secondie lunch. : ) A bowl of ice cream will be a bowl of ice cream.

May your interview work out to be whatever is in your best interest Carrie. If this job pans out I hope you also find it challenging as well as rewarding. I wish you the best, as I know we all do! /*****

carrie said...

I survived. I was an anxious quivering ball of goo (not so much about the food, though. So yay me) but I survived and I'm back home and completely exhausted and behind on my work but phew!

Over and out.

Jeanne said...

I'm so glad you survived, Carrie!!

A huge YAY for you!!

thinking of you with love,

IrishUp said...

*** Making the appropriate sacrifices to the HR gods *****
Hope you've recovered from interviewitis, and that you get what you want!

carrie said...


My cat said she would gladly sacrifice a mouse for me...but once again, I think she is ruled by her own self-interest. :)

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About Me

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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