Dancer and fat activist blogger Ragen Chastain wrote a blog post yesterday about “looking the part” of a dancer. That led, as it always does, to some wonderful tangential conversation in the comments section. A couple of those commenters mentioned eating disorders (EDs), primarily in disparaging tones, and that led me down a rabbit trail of my own. I started to respond.
“So many of us battle EDs. It’s tragic. I’m with you – I’ve been fighting with mine for over 25 years,” I wrote, and then I had an epiphany. This isn’t about fighting or battling – this is about living with. So I started re-writing.
So many of us – men and women; fat, thin, and in-between; old folks, young folks, and the middle aged all mixed together – live with EDs of varying types. I’ve been living with mine (ED-NOS, compulsive eating) for over 25 years.
I could still say that I’ve been fighting with it, but that wouldn’t be entirely true. Oh, I’ve done battle with it in fits and spurts, it’s true, and I’ve fought it for supremacy of my heart, mind, soul, body, and spirit, but here’s the truth: ED has been my best friend and confidante for most of my life. I have loved ED with all my heart. I have wooed ED like a lover and allowed it sovereignty inside of me. I have railed against it, abused it, cajoled it, accused it, and developed a deep and abiding relationship with it. The fighting is only a small part of that. I have used ED to comfort myself, to maintain an illusion of control, and to avoid handling what I didn’t want to deal with. ED has done a remarkable job of doing exactly what I’ve asked it to do time and time again.
Here’s a radical thought about ED: anyone with an ED is to be commended for developing it. You know why? We survived. We were faced with untenable or unpalatable situations and we needed to figure out how to survive, so we developed a coping mechanism all by ourselves to help us get through. We didn’t have help; we had to do it on our own, and we did it. That’s not sickness, that’s ingenuity; that’s creativity; that’s survival. We figured out a way to survive, and we are to be applauded for that.
So here’s another new and radical thought. I don’t need to look at ED as if it were an evil entity out to overpower me and possess my soul. ED is not out to control me; ED was designed to protect me – it’s just doing a lousy job of it these days because it’s worn out. It’s a broken piece of internal machinery that has outlived its usefulness.
Think about a broken clock. A clock is a helpful item and tells us what time it is and helps us get where we need to go on time. A clock is a clever invention and a good thing to have. Once that clock breaks, however, it can’t do its job anymore. It can’t keep us on track, and it can’t get us where we need to be on time. If we stubbornly insist on trying to use that broken clock, we’re going to miss out on a lot of life.
So what do we do with a broken clock? I don’t know about you, but I don’t get mad at it and smash it to splinters or scream and cry about how much I hate it because it’s caused me to miss out. I get a little sad that my nice clock broke, but then I get up and throw the it in the trash and go out and buy a new clock.
Why do I treat ED any differently? Why haven’t I recognized before how much of my precious time and energy I waste when I choose to hate and berate ED and focus on all the pain it’s caused me – as if it were all ED’s fault? (What’s that, Attila? It doesn’t matter why? Oh, yeah. Right.) Ahem. Attila the Ass-Kicking Therapist says that the why doesn’t matter. What matters is that I take my new knowledge and reflect on it and then do something about it. Attila is right. (Don’t tell her I said that.)
So I’m going to take a moment and reflect on what a waste of my precious energy it is to spend so much time and life in hating ED. It’s time to change that paradigm. It’s time to thank ED for all the service it’s done me in helping me cope with and avoid difficult situations for 25 years. It’s not ED’s fault that I haven’t used its services appropriately; it’s done its job to the best of its ability, and I feel like I need to step back and acknowledge that and acknowledge that I loved my ED.
And then I need to let it go.
Maybe I shouldn’t personify ED, but at the moment, that works for me. And I’m not saying everyone needs to embrace my idea of looking at ED the way I’m trying to (I mean – remember the Underpants Rule, y’all), but I haven’t found that hating it has helped me much. In fact, it seems to have kept me obsessed with disordered eating, much to my chagrin. So it’s time to let it go and find something healthier to replace it with.
Anyone up for crocheting?