Last night I decided to give my eating disorder a name: Mable. So when I feel the need to restrict or whatever I can shift the shame from myself and onto the disorder who is to blame. Mable prevents me from being able to take care of my "fuzzy self", whom I've previously named Emmie.
In talking about all of this, I've received a lot of support. My friends are praising me for my "strength", and they're proud of me for being open about it and sharing my struggles. On the one hand, I'm grateful for this perception and the support of people I love, but on the other hand it makes me sad. I'm not sharing my struggles because I'm strong, if I was strong this wouldn't be a problem. Either it wouldn't be a problem because I wouldn't have it, or it wouldn't be a problem because it wasn't interfering with my life. And yeah, I know, that's not necessarily what strength is about, but Mable thinks that I'm weak and that that's why I need her.
Eating disorders (along with a multitude other self-destructing behaviors) are defense mechanisms. The needs I fill with disordered eating are fairly normal needs: control, mostly, but also wanting to feel special, seeking power, seeking relief from stress and anxiety. Something happened in my life that made me turn to this defense mechanism for help meeting these needs. And, it's not good or bad, it just is. Everyone turns to something else when they're in need, and most people have at least one self-destructive habit that meets a need for them; it's not good or bad, it just is.
So, for me, and a number of other people like me, this is where Mable steps in. She's obsessed with portion control, my weight, how my clothes look, how my profile looks in the mirror, the texture of my skin, whether I'm eating vegetables or sugar... and on their own, these concerns aren't damaging, but put them all together and then obsess over them and you have a destructive habit that plays on insecurities and, in my case, makes me want to vomit pretty much all of the time. (But wanting to doesn't mean that I do it.)
And I go back and forth. It's a difficult journey with a lot of potholes, and I'm grateful for the encouragement I receive because it helps me to get up out of those potholes. But in a few weeks, when the novelty of a friend struggling with her eating disorder fades, I fear that I'll be seen not as strong, but as an attention-whore. (I think that may be the case in some minds already.) Dealing with something that has taken up such a huge part of my life is going to be on-going for a long time, and the front of my mind for several weeks, and I know how people are about things like this. At first it's all "hey, I'm here for you", then after a while you get sick of it and want to say "fuck, aren't you over that yet?".
Or maybe that's just me.
I know that, whatever else happens, I'm going to break more before I can put the pieces back together. This thing is so much a part of me that I pretty much have to be crushed into dust to separate Mable from me. I'm going to keep talking about it so that I can stay on track and not fall into my own "fuck aren't you over that yet?" trap, but I fear it'll wear on people. I know that this is why I need therapy, but I hope that those who have expressed their support will also be able to avoid that trap.