To My Eating Disorder:
Consider this a “Dear John” letter of sorts. I think it’s time we go our separate ways.
It’s not you, it’s me.
It’s not you who’s at risk of losing everything. You see, you have nothing to lose. You sustain yourself on loss. You feed on it. In fact, the more I lose, the more you gain.
It’s me. It’s me who’s losing: losing connections, losing myself, losing relationships and pounds and purpose. Losing the person I used to be, the person I could be, the person I deserve to be.
I lose to you because I’m lost in you.
It’s not you who sees problems in the mirror. You see opportunities. Every tiny pinch of fat, every bulge, every spot where thighs touch or skin folds: You use them to thrive, building an irrational rationale that allows you to control my behavior.
It’s me. It’s me who allows my reflection to be tainted by you. It’s me who sees the ugly, because it’s me who feels the ugly. I wear you like a jacket I’ve outgrown: You’re too tight—restrictive, even—but you still cover me. You still hide me.
I keep you zipped up tight to avoid feeling exposed.
It’s not you who’s kept awake at night by a litany of meaningless numbers. You don’t care about numbers. You just want me to care about them.
It’s me. It’s me who obsesses over every plus and every minus. It’s me who has a warped sense of the term, “Less is more.” It’s me who measures my worth by units of loss.
I add to you by subtracting from me.
It’s not you who struggles to find the joy in your children’s laughter. You can’t seek happiness because you don’t know what it looks like. You never knew it. You can’t feel the void because you are the void.
It’s me. It’s me whose soul is slowly withering away, like my body. It’s me who’s allowing the moments— the tenderhearted, fleeting, irreplaceable moments of motherhood—to float by me, like dust motes in a shaft of sunlight. They’re right in front of me, illuminated and suspended in midair, but I just can’t grasp them. It’s me who’s empty.
I’ve become empty by allowing myself to be filled by you.
It’s not you who’s starving. You’re fueled by insecurity, anxiety, and my own hunger for control. You devour my weaknesses and use them to build up your strength.
It’s me. I am hungry—so hungry—for peace, for self-acceptance, for companionship. For one of the damn cupcakes I baked with my boys today.
I choose hunger over fulfillment. I choose famine over family. I choose you over me.
It’s not you who cries yourself to sleep, your hair matted to your pillow with snot and tears, promising that tomorrow will be different.
It’s not you who wakes up the next morning, defeated, because you know that things will be the same.
It’s not you who hates what you’ve become.
But it’s also not you who hears the word “Mama” as you groggily step out of bed.
And it’s not you who gets hug-tackled from either side as you stand at the kitchen counter, filling two sippy cups with milk.
It’s not you who flips pancakes at the griddle, listening to your toddlers as they sing along to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in the next room. It’s not you who smiles, despite yourself, when you hear them call out for “Toodles” because they “need some help” picking up their Matchbox cars.
It’s not you who places your kids’ breakfast plates in front of them, only to have your youngest pluck a pancake off his (before he’s even had a chance to pick out all the chocolate chips), hold it up to you, and sweetly ask, “You want some, Mama?”
And it’s not you who is realizing—finally realizing—that maybe you deserve that pancake; that maybe you deserve to be hugged, squishy parts and all; that maybe you deserve to laugh and smile and do the “Hot Dog Dance” in the living room with your kids.
That maybe you deserve to be called Mama. That maybe you deserve better. And that they—those two perfect little boys that made you one—definitely do.
No, Eating Disorder, it’s not you who deserves to keep living. It’s not you who has something to live for outside of this relationship.
It’s me. And I don’t need you anymore.