April 10, 2014

Modern Love. ~ Lauren Stahl


My modern love story is quite different.

It does not involve candlelit dinners or long walks on the beach gazing into the eyes and soul of another person.

My modern love story is one of shame. One of destruction. One of fear.

It is also one of allure. Relief. Instant gratification.

My modern love story comes at the expense of my health, my sanity, my well-being, and my truth.

My modern love story is the one with my eating disorder. Let’s call him, ED.

It all started at the age of 18. I had just finished my freshman year of college. The freshman 15 had snuck its way on me and I wanted to lose as much weight as quick as possible. I had dabbled with disordered eating for a few years before this, but this summer was different. I was on a mission. So I decided to eat as little as possible. ED told me what to eat. What not to eat. When to exercise. How to feel. How not to feel.

I lived to appease ED. I wanted to make him happy and give me the validation I so desperately needed.

When I didn’t have plans at night, I had ED. When I didn’t feel good about myself, I had ED. When things didn’t go my way, I had ED. He was the lover I never had. I had this demon living inside of my head that also had the ability to make me feel whole. Like I mattered. Like I was worthy.

This relationship with ED lasted for years. Throughout college my time was spent restricting my food to binging on everything I could get my hands on to over-exercising. ED provided the blue print of my life for me. He gave me a sense of purpose. A sense of belonging. A feeling like I mattered.

I was not able to get these feelings from anyone or anything else. ED was the only one who could provide it for me. It became a twisted love story.

Pretty soon, my relationship with ED became all consuming. I could not trust myself to feel, react, or trust. I needed ED’s voice day in and day out. He was the lover that sucked the life out of me but had this alluring quality that kept me coming back for more. He told me I didn’t need anyone or anything as long as I had him. He was the best friend I never had.

This best friend also wanted to kill me. Did you know that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness?

I didn’t want to believe it. ED never left my side. He wanted to protect me. Make me feel like I mattered and I was important.

Once I graduated college, I began working on Wall Street and ED came out with a stronger intensity here. I also came out as a gay woman. ED didn’t want me to feel the guilt and shame of not fitting into the binary, so ED took a turn. He told me that binging and purging would make me feel better. And I listened. I listened to everything he told me to because he was always by my side. ED never left me and the thought of being alone with just me was terrifying.

The more my dependence on ED grew, the more I lost myself. The more I doubted myself. I made ED everything. He was my one and only. The shining light in my life. I lost my sense of self in the process. I pushed away the people, places, and things that mattered in the process.

Eating disorders and addictions have the ability to do this. They make your world smaller and smaller until it is just you.

Alcohol and drugs came into the mix as well. ED was a fan of destruction and knew that the destruction would continue with these.

Soon nothing mattered to me anymore. The allure of ED, the drugs, and the alcohol began to dissipate. I became fearful. Fearful for my own life. I didn’t know how much longer I could continue on this downward spiral. I didn’t trust that ED really had my best interest at heart.

So I garnered enough strength to make a change. This change required outing ED, my lover, my best friend, my confidante. ED never left my side but I realized I couldn’t give him all the power anymore.

I knew I needed help. I knew I couldn’t do it alone. So I went away to treatment. I started to let go of these destructive coping mechanisms that for so long were my identity.

I started to peel away the layers of the onion and get to know Lauren. The person that I disconnected from for so long because all I cared about was ED. I lived to appease him and in the process I completely forgot about myself.

I forgot that I matter. I forgot that people love and care about me. I forgot that I love and care for me.

Addictions have the capacity to do this. My addictions removed me so far from myself. I was in a clouded tunnel vision for such a long period of time where the toxic love story with ED was my only love story. I couldn’t truly connect with another human being. There was always an ulterior motive behind the connection. ED made me believe that I was not worthy. That I was not good enough.

That is not the modern love story I want now.

Letting go of ED has not been easy. It is a daily reprieve. My modern love story is the one with myself. For without the love for myself, I do not have the ability to love another person. ED sucked the love and the life out of me. Now, I have brought to life that love, power, strength, and compassion that is innately there.

It all starts with acceptance. I couldn’t accept me for such a long period of time. ED always told me nothing was good enough.

The truth is, I am good enough. I have all that I will ever need infinitely inside of me. And I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. It all starts with trust. And knowing that I am not alone.

This is my goodbye to you, ED. I am not taking your abuse anymore.

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Apprentice Editor: Sue Adair / Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Darren Tunnicliff via Flickr

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