I can think of no more perfect piece of writing to close this year’s EDAW. It is a letter, written by a client of mine, to her eating disorder. Here she expresses her gratitude and bids adieu to the eating disorder that has maintained a strangle hold on her life for four decades. Let these words inspire you, as I hope this year’s EDAW has instilled greater hope in recovery.
Dear Eating Disorder –
I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to say this, but you have more than overstayed your welcome. It’s time for me to show you the door. You have to leave.
And just to be clear. This isn’t a trial separation. We’ve done that before and it’s never really lasted – almost always at my own expense. This is really it. Over. Done. Goodbye.
As you pack your bags to go, I want you to know that I not ungrateful for the many ways you propped me up and kept me going all these years. In our early days, you gave me a way to express the voice I knew I had but that no one seemed to hear – or at least, to acknowledge. You tried to call out for the help and tender care and love that I needed. You gave expression to the deep, deep sadness that I felt when no one responded. And finally, you could unleash the anger and the disappointment that raged inside me. Yes, you – you did all that. And later in life, when my voice was stronger, but things seemed uncertain or made me uneasy, you offered me comfort and safety and a sense of control. Boy, you were good. So good you made it almost too easy to rely on you – and to return to you – since so much of how we acted – and interacted – seemed so useful, so familiar.
But over time, I have come to realize that our relationship was nothing more than a vicious cycle of need and dependence. You needed me to feed your narcissistic ways, even as I starved myself – physically, emotionally, and spiritually – to do so. You relied on that support and I gave it unwittingly, even as it ate away at me and deprived me of so much of the life that I adored and wanted. In turn, I looked to you to fill the needs that I didn’t know or feel that I could meet myself. I depended on you for things I didn’t think I had, never stopping long enough to wonder and explore whether that was true or how I might set about to change it.
Those days are over. And we both knew that this day – the day of the divorce– was coming. Particularly in the last several years, I have grown more distant as I have come to rely on you less and rely on myself more. I know you want to blame Billy or Deb for getting in the way. There is no doubt that they each had an important role to play. But it wasn’t as simple as that. I wanted to move away more than anyone wanted me to. I wanted to unshackle myself from your destructive clutches. I just had to learn and feel my way through.
I had to accept the fear that comes with not knowing what’s next because I want more than anything to gambol about in the fields of life, to reach for the full range of emotions and opportunities that it has to offer. I want to be present and be whole and lasting for my family. I want the same for my friends. I want I want to taste the salty tears of sadness as much as I do the sweet tears of joy. I want to open my arms wide so that I can receive the love of others as readily as I give love back to them. I want to fully feel and accept my own warm embrace of love as many times as I embrace and love those around me. And I want to do it on my own, out of hope, not fear, without needlessly subjugating myself to your corrupted and lopsided sense of what a real relationship is and can provide.
The sad truth is, Eating Disorder, that we didn’t really love each other. You didn’t love me any more than I really loved you. We just needed each other. Oh, how we needed each other! But now I don’t – and our cycle is dead. I can only hope that some other poor soul doesn’t fall for your charms quite as readily as I did.
So goodbye old friend. Thank you again for what you could do. But good riddance to what came with it – and more preciously for me, here’s to all that will unfold as a result of living without you.