I am thankful that today I am able to tell people about your death rather than mine. I am glad that I am here to tell people about the abusive relationship we had rather than my parents telling my friends and family that the eating disorder won.
Today, I will write your goodbye letter, not mine. I am still alive and fighting. I am stronger than you and I have won.
I regret that I allowed you to control me for so long, and that I wasted three years of my life listening to your every command. I am embarrassed that I needed to have staff check my toilet before I flushed because I could not be trusted to go to the bathroom on my own. I am not proud of the fact that I had to have interns that are the same age as me weigh me every day and sit with me while I struggle to eat half a cup of applesauce and listen to them tell me about their freshman year of college, while I spent my spring semester in and out of hospitals and treatment centers.
I don’t tell people that I needed to have nurses watch me take my medications and check my mouth every night to make sure that I wasn’t hiding pills. I am shameful about the fact that I had to spend a week sleeping in a room with only a mattress because with anything else, I might have hurt myself.
When I lost the five pounds I thought would make me happy, you told me to strive for 10. When I ran 10 miles, you told me to go to the two-hour Zumba class afterwards. When I was eating 500 calories a day and surviving off of diet pills and water, you told me that wasn’t good enough. When I looked in the mirror and was able to count every single rib and see my hipbones jut out and told myself that this didn’t look normal, you convinced me that I was obese.
No matter what I did, you were never happy. There was always room for improvement. You told me that I needed to be perfect, and it wasn’t until I starved myself to near death that I realized that the only way I could be perfect is if I was dead.
I could say thank you for bringing me to the place that I am in today; I had to fight like hell and had no option but to be strong, but I don’t think that was because of you. You didn’t help me through the endless flashbacks or the anxiety attacks over one extra crouton on my salad or the fact that someone might have put three tablespoons of peanut butter on my PB&J instead of two so I just shouldn’t eat it because it might be too many calories.
I survived all these things in spite of you.
You are the reason that these situations were so difficult, but you are not the reason that I am stronger today because of them. That is because of me. I chose to not let my entire life be consumed by calculations of calories. I chose to eat the damn chicken even if it looked bigger than the piece a week ago. I keep choosing recovery every day, six times a day, without you.
None of this has been easy. Every time I pick up a fork and nourish my body, I am terrified. I have to fight back against the voices telling me that rice is going to make me fat. I have to try my hardest to not listen to the thoughts that tell me I should go for a run in the middle of the night when nobody would notice. Life in recovery is far from easy, but each day I know that I have more strength and more courage to loosen the ties that I have with you.
I have thrown out my scale and my diet pills. I am nourishing my body with foods that will allow me to think and grow and heal. I have attended family therapy sessions that were harder than I could have ever imagined. I have processed the trauma I went through and have come to learn that it was not my fault that I was raped, because it is NEVER the victim’s fault and I follow that rule along with everyone else.
I made it to the other side of meals that made me want to die because death sounded a lot more appealing than eating a candy bar or a slice of pizza.
It wouldn’t be right to say that I am fully recovered now, because this is something that I will struggle with for the rest of my life. Full recovery seems so unrealistic, just like I have come to realize that being “perfect” is unrealistic. You were never satisfied with me. I will always have some sort of struggle with food and exercise, but I am sure as hell determined to create a life that involves more than me being your puppet.