The following is an assignment from my treatment team: a gratitude letter to my eating disorder.
To my eating disorder…
We’ve had a good 17+ year run, and I don’t think I’ve thought much about it until now, but I’m surprisingly grateful for several aspects of our relationship.
For starters, I’m grateful for the fact that you helped me survive for as long as I have. You were my security blanket in an unsafe world; you protected me when others didn’t and consoled me when others weren’t around. What I looked for in those around me, I found in you– comfort, safety, regulation, soothing, reassurance, and validation. As you can imagine, finding these things in you as a terrified 13 year old gave me strength to face the world and day-to-day life. As I got older, my needs became more complex, and almost seamlessly, you adapted. For a time, it felt like you gave me a voice when my own failed me. You’ve helped me communicate through actions and behaviors when it felt unsafe or impossible to use my words. And I think in some twisted way it saved me because I would’ve killed myself a long time ago had there been nowhere for the trauma, pain, and suffering to go.
I’m grateful to have had you by my side throughout high school and college and even grad school. When I felt lonely in college, when I literally prayed daily for death to become me, my only hope came from you– a will to live disguised as a promise that if I lost weight, I would be happier.
And while that saddens me, that my life reached that low, I also am grateful that I can look back at my 20 year old self and feel compassion.
I am grateful for the ugly you’ve shown me– the hurt/suffering/pain/despair– because without it I would have no measure of how beautiful the light/love/connection can be. Because of the darkness, I can appreciate and celebrate and understand and learn to bask in the light.
Thank you for letting me know the utter sorrow of disconnection and loneliness so that I may know the bliss of connection and community and belonging.
Thank you for igniting a stubbornness within me that I may use for good and not just self-destruction and sabotage.
Thank you for introducing me to the deep, bleak pit of shame so that I may know and value vulnerability and authenticity.
Thank you for instilling a deep-seated self-hatred sot hat one day I may not just know but also fiercely practice self-love.
And thank you for teaching me to be distrusting and suspicious of others because it taught me the hard way that no woman is an island, and I, especially, need close, personal, and intimate relationships in order to get by in this life.
Quite honestly, it hurts to be human, but I would choose it a million times per if the other option was to be a perfect robot.
So with deepest gratitude from the bottom of my soul, I thank you for teaching me in 17 years more than some people learn in a lifetime.