If only…

I wasn’t born anxious. My cousin never lived with us. I loved myself. No one teased me growing up. My aunt didn’t constantly call me “skinny minnie.” I never self-harmed. I didn’t have pectus excavatum or the Nuss procedure to correct it. The media was less focused on the thin ideal. I started therapy years earlier. Someone noticed that there was something very, very wrong. My depression didn’t exist. I had more self-confidence and higher self-esteem. My family didn’t have a history of mental illness. I never had GI issues and lost weight because of it. No one told me that my chest was weird or that I have the body of a gymnast. My family was different. I had more support. I didn’t push myself so hard in everything. I leaned more on my faith. I never dated my ex. I opened up more.  I lived in a different school district. I had more friends. I cared a little more about my own well-being. I had better body image. I wasn’t a major perfectionist. I never signed up for early college. I reached out to someone, anyone.

These things didn’t happen, because then, maybe I wouldn’t have developed an eating disorder.

For a long time, I wanted an answer, a cause. I longed to have this “aha” moment in therapy so I could finally make some sense out of it.

I’ve realized that eating disorders don’t have just one cause. My anorexia makes sense. Because I didn’t love myself, I had no problem harming myself. Perfectionism fed into the need to count every single calorie. I had no healthy coping skills, so using ED behaviors instead was much easier than dealing with emotions and stressors.

When my brain had all of these things coming at it, the response was to turn to food, exercise, restriction, and numbers. Someone else in the same situation may have gone down the path of addiction, or maybe they would have come through just fine.

I’ve often asked why – why did this have to happen to me? Why couldn’t I be strong enough to deal with everything? Why can’t I just be normal? Why can’t I get over this? Why am I so messed up?

I no longer ask these questions, and part of this is because I’ve begun to accept my eating disorder. It happened. I struggle. I can grow through it. There is nothing I could have done differently. It’s okay that I didn’t take more positive steps. I am not a failure because I got sick. This doesn’t need to be the most important, defining aspect of who I am. I will win. I am strong enough to do it.

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