If not ED, then what?

This is a question I'm really beginning to grapple with: after so many years of anorexia, what do I do now?

The more important version of that question is: what do I want more than the eating disorder?

When I was ill, I couldn't imagine not being in the thrall of the eating disorder. It was simply impossible. Either I didn't realize I was ill, or I frankly liked being that way, or I found that being anorexic was preferable to not being anorexic. Don't get me wrong- anorexia was and is hell, but it also numbed the incredible and unmanageable anxiety that I had, and allowed me to push through the depression with the hopes that by tomorrow, I would have lost weight. It gave me a feeling of okay-ness that I had never felt before.

And it destroyed my life.

I realize that you will never be able to reconcile an eating disorder with life- an eating disorder is the fast track to death and disability. Life is so much more. The shitty stuff, yes, absolutely: the traffic jams, the stubbed toes, the paper cuts on knuckles (as I type with a Band-Aid on my ring finger), the losses and grief, the bankruptcy and foreclosures. I don't want this part. I really don't. I feel cheated, often, that life in recovery isn't great. I'm still fatigued, I still have trouble sleeping, I still have wild theories for self improvement that border on the self-destructive.

Some people say that recovery could otherwise be defined as "hope" or "life" or other warm fuzzy feeling. I like to think of recovery as "possibilities," all the things that are within your grasp now that you're not clinging to Ed.

And so on days like today, when the anorexia is screeching in my ear that I'm fat and dumb and worthless and oh, yes, fat, I have to ask myself: what do I want more than ED? What is worth more to me than the eating disorder?

I don't know that I have all the answers to that. I know that what can get me through the next five minutes, the next meal, is a promise I made to my kitty never to leave her again. Or my desire to travel. Or write another book.

I might not always embrace recovery with an effusion of enthusiasm, nor do I have to. Right now, I just need to hang on to the fact that there are better things in life than an eating disorder.

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Harriet said...

Here's a quote I have hanging on my office wall. It has helped me through some hard times. I hope it helps you.

"One made a decision with the mind--with the cool logic of a chess player--and then it became necessary to grow to it, to curb the emotional protests, to resisdt the longing to flee. The real enemy was fear." --Dorothy Gilman, The Elusive Mrs. Pollifax

Kim said...

Very timely post for me. Thank you. I have been asking myself this question quite a bit: "What am I eating for?" The days I don't know are the days I restrict. The days I feel attached to the possibilities, I am hungry (for food, and all things). It's on the hard days when I have to keep eating, for no other reason than to get better acquainted with who I am if I am not anorexia.

Just Eat It! said...

Sometimes what my life could be outside of my eating disorder is the only thing that keeps me motivated. I want to go to college, I want to have "normal" life experiences, and I want to go to a restaurant with my friends without worrying about the menu. If I can have that, despite the hardships of recovery, I'll take it.

Kristina said...


I was just in therapy saying how I didn't envision my life right now the way it has shaped up, over the past year. Some good and some bad, but right now things are HARD. However, I am dealing, and that is the biggest change and challenge, and I am not even thinking about behaviors (okay, last week, when I couldn't taste food because I was so congested, I flirted with the idea of not eating because nothing tasted good).

Tiptoe said...

Sometimes we can't see the future far ahead but to know there are certain motivations that keep us grounded, stable, give us encouragement is what it is about for the time being.

Carrie, I think you'll eventually get there, to the point where you want to be.

Anonymous said...

Hi Carrie --

Question for you -- which is tougher, trying to imagine non-ED stuff in life or a life without Ed? I didn't word that very well, but I'm trying to point out the difference between having a life outside of the eating disorder and having a life without the eating disorder. Personally, I have no problem coming up with things in life that I want that are not related to the eating disorder. Most of my goals don't involve the ED. However, it's hard for me to imagine my life without the eating disorder as part of it... because it is a PART of my self-identity (although definitely not how I define myself). I have a hard time convincing myself that I can't have a life AND have an eating disorder. I know that it doesn't work very well... because a bad ED day ruins the rest of your day, and the ED will take over and take precedence over the other (more important) things in your life.

Guess I was just wondering which of the two scenarios was most difficult for you :-)

mary said...

"what do I want more than the eating disorder?"

I hope everything that's good and genuine is something you want more. In fact I hope someday you decide to let go and that's the end of ED for you and the beginning of a life without the creep.
Embrace yourself however you are.... my fat is helping to keep me warm and it's giving me energy so I better appreciate it for the gifts it gives me. Maybe it's time to remove the offensiveness from the word fat.
Sent you some healing reiki. Hope it helps you rest so please...no late night coffee or diet drinks. Perhaps some sleepy time tea will do.

Susie said...

Thank you Carrie, very poinient post for me.


Wrapped up in Life said...

Interesting. You know, it is both exciting and enthralling, devastating yet appealing, to be caught in ed's grasp. Because while you are living a life of horror, you are gaining the attention and so-called 'supremacy' over the carnality of the human species.

To pull ones' self away from that is to extrapolate the facade and peel the onion back: to find the core of your heart.

We think it means having to 'excel' at something.

When truly, it means to have a passion for something.

I Hate to Weight said...

a timely post for me as well. i'm drug and alcohol free and pretty stable with my weight. now, i have to figure out what to do, what to focus on. who am I, without my addictions, especially without a particularly active ED, which kept meso busy and engrossed my whole life?

my mind longs to go back to my ED and my desire to numb out with food and alcohol, but that's knee jerk. i do have a lot of space and time for a life.

i have to figure this out. great post,always, Carrie

Crimson Wife said...

I want to be healthy for my kids, particularly my two daughters. I want to be a good role model for them in terms of my eating and body image. Even if I feel like a hypocrite a lot of the time because the recovering ED patient part of my brain doesn't really believe what I'm saying to them.

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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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Have any questions or comments about this blog? Feel free to email me at carrie@edbites.com

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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