how having an eating disorder is helping me escape an abusive relationship and why refusing to throw up my white flag is actually the ultimate surrender.

alright, i know what you’re thinking. how could i possibly describe my eating disorder as ‘helpful’ in any way, shape, or form? well, bear with me.

my story is messy. messy, traumatic, terribly unspeakable, yet oddly beautiful. my story was written long before I was even born and it was up to me to bring it to life. and if you don’t already know by now, i struggled with an eating disorder throughout my entire adolescence and early adulthood. but the first memory i ever had of my eating disorder was my mother telling me, at age 10, that if i ate dinner at my father’s house throughout their divorce then that meant i no longer loved her. it was in that moment, food became a constant source of anxiety for me. those years of my life were dictated by rigidity, secrecy, and far too many frosted mini wheats. i viewed food, not as the enemy, but as a vehicle for which i could express my emotions, earn love that i never received, and gain control of my chaos ridden life. from severely restricting to obsessively purging each morsel of food that ever crossed my lips and every emotion i was too afraid to feel, my eating disorder felt like the hug i never received, but so badly craved as a child. but a hug that very well could have killed me.

but this is not a story about my eating disorder. those behaviors are part of my past, and this story is painfully my present. i was raised in a household painted with loud voices, muted smiles, and alcoholic narcissism; and to this day, i reside in this household. it was not until 11 months ago when i started work with, in my humble and incredibly biased opinion, the world’s most amazing therapist, that i realized i deserved more. that just because i have spent 23 years existing as a dart board for narcissism and hate to be thrown at, i do not have to remain that target for the rest of my life.

and not until incredibly recently (two weeks ago, today), and through the endless support from my ‘safe people’, that it really hit me that something had to change. i was done being a human punching bag. i was done fighting back. i was done hoping that ‘maybe this time she will understand that what she is doing is wrong’. news flash! there is no changing a narcissist. there is no reasoning, rationalizing, or regrets for her. there is only healing frustration, harsh realizations, and the painful decision to lose another parent for me.

so what the hell does this have to do with my eating disorder? well, because of the life that i have experienced thus far, i am incredibly prone to having control issues. i thrive on the perception that i am in control, hence why i was perfectly susceptible to developing an eating disorder. that same perceptual control, to the point of obsession, that drove my eating disorder, has now been triggered and is relentlessly driving my current behavior.

a narcissist is like a parasite, without a host they cannot survive and thrive in the manner for which they were hardwired. i am on day 14 of actively ceasing to exist as that host. but this time i have not turned to food for means of control, but instead my voice. there is nothing, i mean nothing, that disrupts a narcissist’s status quo quite like the silence of their host. i will not talk. i will not engage. i will not stop. unfortunately, this tenacity within me has proven to be incredibly tiring and sent me into the depressive state that has clouded my thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. it is nothing short of exhausting to wake up everyday, be on guard for every passing second, and actively defy your most terrifying demon. but i am doing it. i am staring that demon in the eyes and not backing down. i have surrendered to the idea that i can ever change or appease her, but have a death grip on the white flag that is my voice that until now, i have been inexplicably robbed of.

so i guess this is a reminder to myself why i started all of this. this 11 month and counting journey to freedom. a reminder that it is okay to fall into depression, and in fact, it’s actually to be expected. a reminder to politely tune out every single person telling me ‘it’s not worth it’ and ‘just stop, you’re making her more mad’. a reminder that this will get harder before it can get easier and i can finally reap the rewards of my silent surrender. a reminder that if i could survive a life threatening eating disorder, chronic physical, emotional, and verbal abuse, as well as a terrifyingly violent sexual assault, i can most certainly survive this. in fact, i will supersede survival and rise above every odd that has been stacked against me and continue to grow as a counselor, student, sister, friend, cousin, granddaughter, niece, and human that refuses to be nothing short of amazingly resilient.

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