I came across this picture on Instagram recently of a block of text that reads, “It’s okay to miss your eating disorder.” And it was such an important thing for me to read (and came to me at exactly the right time) that I thought I may as well pick up writing on this blog again for the sake of sharing my thoughts on this topic.
A while back, on a smaller, more private, Instagram account than the one some of you may follow, I opened up about the fact that sometimes I miss my eating disorder. I miss the structure that calorie counting gave me, and the pride I’d feel whenever I ate below my limit. I miss the motivation it seemingly pumped into my system. I miss the sense of accomplishment I felt when I dropped another pound. I miss the compliments I’d get from my parents. (I miss that last part, the validation, quite often, I must admit, especially when my mother cooks bland recipes out of diet cookbooks for family dinner). When I expressed these thoughts, however, I received a surprising amount of judgment and backlash. People started texting and messaging me privately, telling me I shouldn’t miss my eating disorder, that my brain was just trying to trick me (which, on some level, is true, but wasn’t the point I was trying to get at with my post). They made me feel like it was wrong of me to miss my eating disorder, and that these personal feelings (which I should technically be the only person capable of judging and expressing, right?) were incorrect.
I never felt comfortable expressing thoughts like those again. They worried people, or at least made them uncomfortable, for how can you miss something that was so harmful to you? And I never got a single response telling me what I needed to hear.
So I’m here now not only to tell you that these thoughts are normal and valid, but to provide you with the phrases that I wish I had heard when I talked about these feelings that I didn’t even know other people had, the missing of something that had ruined considerably large parts of my everyday life. Here are only a few things I wish people had said to me (there are, of course, endless possibilities when it comes to variations and branching out off the general subject, so don’t feel limited to the tiny amount things touched on below):
- “I’m sorry you feel that way, and I know it might not feel like this now, but there are healthier ways to find structure and motivation in your life.”
- “I know your eating disorder felt like a safety net, like something that ensured that you would be happy in the future, but I promise that the promises an eating disorder makes to you are empty. And while the future seems scary and dark now, it will soon be filled with more light and love than you ever could have imagined feeling before.”
- “Just because you’re unmotivated now, doesn’t mean you won’t find motivation again soon. And while feeling like this can be difficult to fight through, you won’t feel like this forever.”
- “Those thoughts and feelings are completely valid.”
And you know what would be most helpful? Taking that person by the hand (either literally or merely metaphorically) and telling them that you’re there to listen to them without passing judgment on them. Refrain from aggressively telling them that those thoughts are completely wrong and lying to them, chances are, they already know that, and it can merely seem like you’re discrediting feelings that are, in fact, very real and valid.
I also feel like it’s worth mentioning that these thoughts are not necessarily a sign that the recovering person in question will relapse in the near future. I have felt this way many times without considering a relapse or falling back into my habits. This longing for a more structured or motivated life (that we thought our eating disorders provided) is merely another part of coping with the major lifestyle changes that come along with recovery.
Lastly, remember that the feeling of missing, or longing for, something is involuntary. There’s no point in judging someone or putting them down for thoughts they have no control over.
So that was the main point I wanted to make tonight, I guess, that we need to stop looking down on people for missing something that was such a big part of their lives for a long time, even if it was bad for them. You can miss something even if it had a negative influence on you. And just because you miss something doesn’t mean you have to or are going to go crawling back to it.
Your feelings are valid, I promise, no matter what the words of others may bring you to believe.
Until next time,
P.S. If you’re interested in reading more about a similar topic, I’d like to direct you towards a Tumblr post which begins with the statement “eating disorders will never make you happy” and then goes on to discuss the things about eating disorders that can easily be missed by those in recovery. I even added in some of my own rambly thoughts at the end, just for fun. Here’s the link to that: https://myjourneywithed.tumblr.com/post/177988912413/they-say-eating-disorders-will-never-make-you