Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Ultimate Excuse

This is something I've been thinking about writing on for a while, but haven't ever really found the time or  emotional brainpower to put it into words. I want to preface it by emphasizing that anorexia is not a choice, or a conscious coping mechanism, or a deliberate cry for attention of any kind. The following is something I've observed in myself, and I'm of course not projecting my own issues onto anyone else.

When I think about my life as a Recovered Person, which I'm thinking about more and more lately, the part that scares me is not having anything to fall back on. Flunk an exam? Lose my job? Get dumped? That's it. I don't get to console myself with the fact that I've lost weight. I don't get to work off the anxiety by overexercising and restricting. I don't get to tell myself that it's okay, because I have an eating disorder and can't be expected to succeed in real life when I'm sick. I won't have an excuse for not coming through. Without the illness, I should be a perfectly healthy, capable, high-achieving adult.

And that's the part that's killing me right now. Despite feeling like a fraud (not skinny enough, not sick enough) most of the time, I find myself resorting to thoughts of It's okay that Jane Doe won that award and you didn't; Jane doesn't have an eating disorder or Well, you didn't get 100% on that exam, but that's understandable because 50% of your brain is taken up by abnormal food/weight obsessions. How can you be expected to excel in school when your brain isn't functioning properly? I'm using the anorexia as an excuse for my shortcomings elsewhere. And yeah, of course the illness takes away from my ability to be my best self, but I'm also not entirely unhappy about having this handy dandy get-out-of-jail free card ready to flash whenever necessary. (To be clear, this is all going on in my head. I don't actually go around explaining to professors, "No, I did study, it's just that I have anorexia.") And really, who can blame me for not being perfect all the time? I am sick, after all. I've got the medical bills and the osteopenia to prove it.

Anorexia erects walls, but they aren't all bad. Sure, they cut me off from lots of good things: from enjoying friends and family and delicious foods, from restaurants, from being physically healthy, from total self-sufficiency and independence. But the walls also protect me. They keep out rejection and disappointment. Nothing can really emotionally devastate me because I am thin and this trumps everything else. But really, it's more than just that. It's about being in a liminal phase of not-quite-healthy but not completely incapacitated. The eating disorder is manageable enough for me to participate in real life, but present enough for me to opt out when I want to. If I fail as a Normal Person, well then that's because I'm not a Normal Person, I'm a Sick Person.

And honestly, that disgusts me. Not that I have an eating disorder, but that I seem to be okay with settling for Sick and Mediocre. How can I be aware of this line of thinking, but still not pouring my heart and soul into recovery? I'm ashamed to admit this, but I'm terrified of giving up my status as a half-alive, half-functional person. What if I recover and still suck at life? Then what? What's your excuse this time, K?

Recovery means being a real person, even if it's hard and sucky and I sometimes fall on my face. It means accepting dinner invitations instead of turning them down because I have an eating disorder and restaurants are too hard for me. It means eating a sample at the grocery store and sitting with the guilt and not letting it ruin the rest of the day. It means sucking it up and eating the next meal as planned. It means remembering that there are more important things out there, and not resorting to the same old lame cop-out.


  1. This is a tough topic, and I think you tackled it really well! You are not alone in feeling this way, trust me. I definitely wonder what I will have as my "fall-back" when I'm recovered, as opposed to this murky middle ground between sick and well. For me, the ED stuff helps to serve as almost an excuse when I'm not 100% perfect, when I feel I've "failed" myself. I'm not saying it's that way with you (I can only speak for myself here), but I definitely use it when I can't live up to my own impossibly high standards for myself.

    I agree that it's scary to give up, likely because it's been there for so long, and become almost ingrained. It's hard to imagine what life will be like when there's no fall-back. I'm amazed at your insightfulness on this topic, it's tremendous growth to be aware of it and want to work on it! It seems like when you set a goal for yourself, you work hard even through the discomfort, and achieve it, so I truly believe you can do it! Kudos to you for the awareness and insight!

    1. Thanks Alie! It's so hard to think about functioning without an eating disorder when that's all you know. Even when the ED sucks, giving it up feels scary because like, what's left? I'm terrified of recovering and being normal, and realizing that I'm LAME. At least the ED is something, you know? That's a really sick way to think, but I'm trying to be honest with myself about it. So sorry you've struggled with the same fears and I know you can get through this too!