How to hate your eating disorder

Okay, this sounds pretty basic. I know my eating disorder is not me, and that I am not my eating disorder. I know that I didn't choose to become anorexic and that it wasn't my fault I got ill. My disease was the result of genetic predisposition, a culture of avid dieters and thin-is-in, and some really bad luck. I get that. And yet, I still feel almost no emotion towards having had anorexia. I feel plenty of emotion towards ME for being short-sighted enough for starting down that primrose path turned sewer, but not towards the illness.

I mean, my eating disorder has made a mess of my life, and I still can't get angry at my illness. Me, yes. Ed, no.

Which is why a blog post titled "Hating the illness, not the afflicted" likely struck home with me. Christine Stapleton writes:

It has taken years, and many raging swings of a foam bat against a pillow, to separate the disease from the nasty words, neglect and embarrassment caused by my own alcoholism and the alcoholics in my life. I think of my parents’ cancer, and how easy it was to hate their cancer and not them. But I hated my father’s alcoholism - and sometimes I hated him. I wish with all my might that I had been able to separate his alcoholism from him, the father who loved me immensely - the very best he could.

Today, as I wade through the wreckage of another alcoholic in my life, I will try to separate the disease from the person. Alcoholism is an explanation, not an excuse. I will carefully walk that line between allowing myself to be hurt and hurting the still sick, and suffering alcoholic. And I will pray that I can see that line today and stay on it.

Separating yourself from an illness that seems like you but isn't, that causes you to behave irrationally, to distance yourself from loved ones, won't be straightforward. Because the eating disorder? It seemed like me. It was me. A sick me, but still fundamentally me. Now, it's a recovering me, the same me that was sick and demented and angry and irrational.

I haven't forgiven myself for my eating disorder, and maybe it's about time.


Kim said...

Yeah, I hate myself way more than I hate my ED. I look at anorexia as a weird little coping mechanism. I look at myself as a big failure for turning to it. That doesn't really help matters! Thanks for bringing up this topic!

licketysplit said...

This is an excellent point. For me the starting point was seeing the havoc it wreaked in other sufferer's lives. I saw so many strong, beautiful people that had lost so much to this illness, occasionally even their lives and it infuriated me. I saw so much potential in them and I watched them hurt so badly at the hands of ED. That's when the anger started for me. It wasn't until much later that I realized it might actually be applicable to myself as well. That just maybe I was also one of those strong, beautiful people that had a future and a reason to fight.

Gaining Back My Life said...

Thought provoking post. I agree with Kim - I hate myself more than I hate my ed.

Anonymous said...

This is similar to a post I wrote yesterday (Writing...and the shifting self) and I read that entry about alcoholism earlier this week. I related to it as well.

While I know I've come very far from when I was "really sick" I'm not recovered. But what bothers me is my family still doesn't even know I have an eating disorder. My mom blatantly tells me "pish posh you're just dieting/watching your weight/health". So how can I forgive the ED which made me so hard to be around, if I know nobody else will know to hate the ED and not me?

Laura Collins said...

I figure one thing families can do is hate the illness FOR you until you feel like taking it on.

We keep loving YOU, however, no matter what!

Peregrine said...

I completely relate to this post, Carrie. It's been an interesting evolution watching my brain try to grapple with separating myself (huh? who's that?!) from anorexia, then developing bulimia in recovery, resisting refeeding the entire time but sticking to it anyway in the hope of recovery, then finding this 'new,' 'healthy' me even more entwined with Ed than before. I haven't ever managed to forgive myself for developing anorexia, and I HATE myself for developing bulimia; interestingly, bulimia, and not anorexia, seems like the ultimate sin. (The 'thinness is next to godliness' stigma strikes again--it's okay to starve yourself, but not to binge&purge...) The closest I have come to forgiving myself happened recently when I was looking at photos of me when I was at one of my lowest points. Seeing how frail and sick that girl was, and how HAPPY she looked in those photos. It was heartbreaking. I could forgive her in an instant for trying to use food/absence of food as a way out for something. She looked like a starved baby bird. And now that she/me is smack-back in the middle of my 'healthy weight range,' I cannot forgive myself for how 'huge' I am. And I cannot forgive myself for developing bulimia, even after years of self-starvation, because I blame the bulimia (and not the anorexia, ha!) for how 'big' and 'ugly' I am now. It helps to remind myself that when I was in those photos at my lowest weight, I thought I was an elephant. Ah, the mental games of human subjectivity. Working towards full recovery seems overwhelming most days (luckily, my therapist never gives up on me!). Working towards self-forgiveness, though, now that's a goal.

shannon said...

it is easy to think of an eating disorder as an identity.
it essentially is the scapegoat of all of the things we hate about ourselves.
i have a hard time hating my illness because i realize that in a warped way it was/is a coping mechanism and essentially i do have the power to stop it.
maybe it's easy for me to spout that off now that i'm on a different plane in my recovery.
i'm trying to see life beyond my ED.
it's more difficult now because i have to deal with all of the things that were underneath my behaviours to begin with; mainly, myself and the parts of my self that i don't like.

maybe i don't allow myself to get angry with having an ED.
even as i type this, am i blaming myself?
it's such a fine line.
i know the ED is not me - yet i also know that i am stronger than it and therefore have a responsibility to myself to fight it.
yet, what am i fighting?
ahhh. this post got me thinking on things i haven't delved into in quite some time.

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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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