If you could go back and talk to your younger self, what would you tell her?
This is what I would say to my younger “eating disorder self”…
Letter to my younger self
You probably don’t recognize me now. You won’t recognize me for the happy, healthy person that you see before you. I know that you are not in a good place right now, but I just want to let you know that you will get through this. In fact, you won’t only get through this but you will come out of the other side as a better and stronger person.
It won’t be easy. You are going to want to give up. You will believe that you are the only person in the world dealing with these inner deamons. The ED will hijack your mind. When you look in the mirror, you will only see what the ED wants you to see.
A part of you will want to leave the ED behind, but you will also be afraid of what life would be without it. You won’t want to let go. If you try, your struggle with food might even seem to get worse at first. It’s normal - you are upsetting your inner mean girl, so she will roar up and try to take back control. Now, here’s the hard truth – this voice will never go away fully. But you will learn to disengage from the voice. You will learn that freedom is hearing the voice nag and complain and roar and lecture and diss you, but you won’t believe a word it’s saying anymore.
One of your biggest hurdles and turning points will be to give up the “diet mentality” and practice radical self-love instead. It sounds impossible now, but with daily practice, step-by-step, you will learn to love yourself. Trust me. At times it may feel like you are taking steps back, but trust me when I say this is all part of the process.
What this means in practice is that you will need give up restricting yourself. To stop counting calories and torturing yourself on the treadmill. To stop “making up” for binges. To get out of this vicious binge/purge/restrict/overexercise/beat-yourself-up cycle, you have to start showing up for yourself and do the right things. You need to stop bolting the situation because it is too difficult to deal with and re-parent yourself. The first attempts will be ridiculously difficult, but similarly to how you build muscles when you go to the gym regularly, you will slowly built a strong self-love muscle that will enable you to take the right decision in moments that threaten to burry you.
You will come to realize that being with feelings is not the same as drowning in them. Just you wait until you feel that surge of enthusiasm, elation and joy when you manage to stay with your feelings instead of going into auto pilot and plunging into food, or restrictive patterns. When you become able to treat yourself with gentleness, kindness and compassion instead of feeling like a whipping post in a hurricane.
Now, listen carefully – you will gain weight. It is inevitable. Intellectually you will understand that this is necessary, but your inner ego will rise up to the occasion and want to destroy all the hard work that you have put in. “Just go on a crash diet for 2 weeks, and everything will be fine again.”, the voice will say. “You’ve done it before, you can do it again. You will feel so much better. Nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels.” Don’t let this throw you off your course sweetie, you are already doing so well. Going back to your old ways is the easy way out in the short run, but you know better.
You don’t actually want to be skinny – turns out what you are craving is what you think being skinny encompasses: feeling happy, confident, accepted and like you finally fit in. Let me tell you something: you can feel all those things right now. Right here. It is a choice. Stop believing that change happens through hatred. You cannot hate yourself into loving yourself, it just doesn’t work that way lovely. Start loving yourself today and see the magic unfold.
I want you to understand that all of this is happening for a reason. You wonder “Why?!” and “Why me?!”, but with time you will learn to understand where you ED came from. There is an exquisitely good reason for it. It’s nothing more than a coping mechanism.
In this whole messy process, you will learn to find better, less self-destructive coping mechanisms. And you will learn that your relationship to food is an exact microcosm of your relationship to life itself. By becoming aware of your relationship with food, you will unravel your deepest limiting beliefs and convictions about love, self worth and relationships. You will come to understand that this whole thing actually has nothing to do with food, and everything with how you live your life.
Your work is not to change what you do, but to observe with awarness, curiousity and tenderness. You will uncover the lies and limiting beliefs upon which your compulsions are based on, and it’s this awarness that will see your bad behaviors melt away.
This thing that your struggling with didn’t come to ruin your life - it came to change the way you view it. It will be your best spiritual teacher. It’s not taking your life away, it will add to it. It will give you consciousness like you have never experienced before, it will give you direction, purpose, perspective, drive, confidence. It will help you build resilience and you will come to realise that you are so much stronger than you think you are.
It sounds crazy now, but one day you will tell people that this journey has been a blessing in disguise and that it is the best thing that could have ever happened to you.
It will not happen overnight. Recovery will be the hardest thing you will ever do (until life throws you new curveballs, but by that time you will be prepared for them). At times it will feel like it will crush you, but you have to trust yourself that you are strong enough. Your pain is going to become your power. You will be more normal with food than other “normal” people. It sounds impossible now, but you will even get to a point where you can share your story with others without shame and fear of judgment. Yes, it gets that good. This is going to blow your mind, but in the future YOU will be helping OTHERS in their own struggles. Can you imagine!?
You know what they say – the teacher appears when the student is ready. You might not be ready quite yet, but you will be one day. And when you do, I will be right by your side.
Everything in it’s own divine time. I have faith in you.
PS: While I was writing this letter, I was searching through my laptop to find some old childhood pictures of myself. In doing so, I stumbled on some pretty hilarious gems. Since this is a pretty emotional-laden letter, I thought I'd funk it up a bit with some more advice in the form of pictures. Gotta love my little sister for her epic facial expressions!