I wasn’t really alive when I was deep in my eating disorder. I didn’t want to live but I couldn’t face the guilt of any consequences for my loved ones if I choose not to. Being stuck between a rock and hard place is an understatement. I was depressed yet I had one thing going for me; I was only hurting myself. Or so I thought.
I was aware that I caused my family worry in the past and that I had been a nightmare to live with at times. But I convinced myself I had everything under raps and that my impact was minor.
I no longer lived with my siblings and parents so they didn’t have to hear my purging or see my depression. I no longer lived in close accommodation with flat mates or friends who could hear my purging and see my binges and have to walk on eggshells. I had moved almost 10 thousand kilometers from those who loved me most.
But then I met my husband and I convinced myself this time would be different. Old patterns repeated themselves and he had to see me killing myself in front of him. He had no idea how to help and I was in a tug a war mentally, pushing him away then vowing to manage things better. I finally convinced myself it would be ok if I just didn’t purge in the house. I believed that by hiding all my symptoms as often as possible, I was protecting him from harm.
Denial protected me from seeing the truth
I look back now and can see that my illness affected every part of my life and everyone I came into contact with. My actions and reactions were all driven from fear, anxiety and the need to keep my secret. This is not a recipe for happiness and is certainly challenging in when it comes to connecting with others.
To get my ‘fix’ of food and purging, I would visit multiple restaurants before coming home at night. My husband would text to see where I was and I would ignore, lying about being stuck at work.
My husband was amazing through it all and we tried to communicate often but I was always weary of letting him in on the full truth. I thought it was to protect him from worry but in reality it was to protect my eating disorder being exposed.
Post binge or purge I was a shadow of myself. I felt weak, preoccupied, angry, shame, sadness. I was not able to engage with my husband or friends. I often cancelled dates and catch-ups last minute and was totally unreliable socially.
My mental illness effected my physical health which had an impact on my attendance at work. I made up for this by doing additional work at home and aiming for perfection or that extra mile on every project. This may have made up for the tasks or time missed but it left me stressed and tired. I would railroad others to get tasks done and my patience was very low. I was emotional and super sensitive to criticism. Work didn’t get my best during this time.
I thought I protected my family and friends back home but my radio silences caused worry and I wasn’t there for them in their times of need. I was totally taken over with the disease and was just playing along with life, doing the minimum with what I had been given, so as to meet my obligations. That isn’t living.
Isn’t everyone like that from time to time?
Yes, everyone can become overwhelmed with a personal sadness or obsession and have an impact on others. That doesn’t make it right though. I have so much more to offer than my illness to this world.
Relationships in recovery
I will do another article sometime to really get into how relationships can and do flourish in recovery but I want to wrap up by saying that the personal skills and coping tools I am learning in recovery have not only helped me stop impacting others but has opened my eyes to how rewarding relationships and connection are.
If you are trying to limit the impact of your eating disorder on your life and your loved ones, then I know how that feels. You don’t have to recover for someone else but your recovery can bring more joy to you and your loved ones than you can imagine right now. You can contribute to the world and to life.
If you are living with someone with an eating disorder, then I encourage you to look after yourself and choose what is and is not acceptable for you. You should not have to walk on eggshells around someone’s illness. Helping them does not mean you need to harm yourself. Seek professional guidance on the best ways to approach your loved one and don’t let the illness be brushed under the carpet.