July 5, 2017

Why I Broke Up with Anorexia.

“Formerly anorexic teenager to fitness champion—Hattie Boydle.” ~ Imgur.

Four years ago, in the middle of my sophomore year of college, I sat in a small, blue hospital bed unable to move.

My body ached all over, and the pain from the IV jabbed into my left arm paralysed me. A nurse took my cellphone from the bedside table, clicked on my “favourites,” and pressed “Mom.”

I could hear the phone ring through the speaker and prayed that my mother wouldn’t answer. I mean, what mother wants to receive a phone call saying their daughter has been hospitalised from anorexia?

My mother answered. I didn’t think it was possible to feel much worse, but I did. My heart sunk in my chest, and disappointment consumed me.

The nurse finished her conversation with my mother and put the phone down beside me. She let out a deep sigh and stared at my weak and bony body laying on the bed. She shook her head and left the room.

Anorexia, despite popular belief, is not about losing weight. Rather, the disorder stems from a lack of control. When our lives feel completely out of control, we will automatically search for something else to control. For me, that was my eating—or lack of.

“Be kind to yourself,” my psychologist tells me after each of our sessions.

As an avid disciple and practitioner of “self-love,” I never thought to consider the idea that I wasn’t being kind to myself. I religiously eat healthy food, keep to a consistent gym schedule, boycott wearing makeup, and laugh often.

But the part that I missed about the “be kind to yourself” remark, was the whole “you” caveat. Sometimes, we all eat ridiculously healthy food, partake in trending diet and exercise plans, and slap fake smiles on our faces as a way to construct the self-love façade.

This daily ritual is exhausting, and is not what true self-love and kindness looks or feels like.

The day I discovered what it was like to actually love, and be kind to myself, was the day I realised it was okay to break up with my past (as well as my boyfriend). Breaking up is hard. But we must learn that it is okay to break up freely, and break up often.

After being diagnosed with anorexia four years ago, every time my eating habits would start to change, or I felt that I was losing control of my life, I became transfixed on the fear of becoming anorexic again. It was the word “anorexic” that clung to me like a leech. Each move I made dictated how close or how far I was to that one word.

Before going to sleep at night, I take half a tablet of a small, oval-shaped, white pill. The little pill, though virtually microscopic in size, reminds me of all my life’s traumas. But like a good patient to my psychiatrist, I take the pill—believing it to be a requirement, rather than an option.

One day when I expressed my fear of becoming anorexic again to my psychologist, she caught me between my own words. I said something along the lines of, “I know I’m going to be dealing with this for a long time,” before she made me realise that, with that statement, I had already decided my own destiny.

And that potential destiny was a young woman constantly battling her own fear.

After that session I had a liberating idea: I’m breaking up with my eating disorder.

Just because something happens to you in the past, doesn’t mean it will consume your entire future. So what if we don’t eat sometimes? That doesn’t mean we’re all anorexic. Labels like “anorexic” only hold power if we let them.

In any relationship there has to be a balance of power, but my relationship with my old diagnosis of anorexia was not in any way balanced. So, I’m breaking up with it.

Breaking up is hard, and breaking up with powerful labels that society gives us is even harder. But once we learn the power of true self-love and kindness, breaking up becomes an everyday practice. Just as our parents taught us to say “no” when we were little, we need to learn to say “no” to powerful labels.

My anorexia was not a permanent condition, and the little, white pill I take every night is merely temporary.

After I broke up with my anorexia, breaking up with my boyfriend felt like shedding old skin. My heart was lifted, and I felt completely reenergised. For once, I did something for myself that actually was kind.

So, I’ll reiterate once again for all of us, like my psychologist does, “Be kind to yourself.”

And learn that it’s okay to break up freely, and break up often.


Author: Kathryn Cleary
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Editor: Leah Sugerman
Copy Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Social Editor: Catherine Monkman

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Kathryn Cleary