He said its not my fault. He told me over and over again that I shouldn’t blame myself for having an eating disorder. Its nothing to be ashamed of. I shouldn’t feel embarrassed. The problem is, I do, and he says that’s one of the last hurdles in my recovery and its the one I keep falling at.
Having an eating disorder makes me feel disgusting and weak and embarrassed. I can handle my disabilities, they’re physical and I can’t help having them. But my eating disorder? I can’t accept it. There has to be someone to blame and it has to be me. I can’t admit to many that I have these issues with eating because I feel that it is something to be ashamed of. There’s a stigma to mental health and I can’t admit to myself more than anyone else that I have a problem.
Its difficult because I know I have one but for years I tried to kid myself otherwise. Tried to convince myself I didn’t have an eating disorder. I mean how could I? How could the fat girl have an eating disorder? Me? The girl called Hippo at school. The girl pushed and shoved around. No way she could have an eating disorder. She was fat. She couldn’t have one.
But I did.
I thought I had accepted it but I haven’t. I realised that today. I thought I knew where I stood but I didn’t. He asked me why I blame myself. I told him that there’s no other option. I told him I’m weak and worthless for having an eating disorder. I’m an embarrassment for having these issues. For having days where deciding what to eat takes me hours on end. For having days where I don’t eat at all. For having days where I spend half my time bent over the toilet with my fingers down my throat. It sounds so bad to write it out but that’s exactly what most of my days are like.
I told him I choose to do these things so therefore its my fault. I chose to comfort eat and gain weight all those years ago just like I chose to start losing it and eventually losing it by making myself sick. I choose to eat nothing or to eat to much. I choose to exercise too much or too little. I choose to purge.
He told me to take a moment and to consider that perhaps I don’t choose at all. He referred to it as autopilot, a word I have used before myself. He told me I can’t blame myself. My eating disorder is part of me but it isn’t me. I need to start realising that I am ill. That there is a part of me that’s unwell, that tells me to do all these disordered things. The voice that overpowers all logic to the extent that logic no longer exists is the part of me thats ill. Most importantly, he told me its not my fault.
I remember when I told my boyfriend. He said to me, ‘that’s not you, that’s your eating disorder, and I like you.’
I relived that moment in therapy and couldn’t stop crying. He asked me what I was feeling and I knew it immediately. I couldn’t believe that someone could care about me in that way. From the ex refusing to help and using my disorder to manipulate me, to family who wouldn’t let me talk about it, I had experienced something completely different during that evening, and I also experienced it on Tuesday Night. Compassion. Something I don’t give myself.
I never take a step back and let me like me. He says, that’s also not my fault. He said its something that was engrained into me since being a child and I developed an eating disorder as my defence mechanism. Everything would be alright if I was slimmer. It all made sense. No more bullies. No more disapproval. No more not making GBR teams. Less weight. More happiness. But I still blame me. We briefly went over all the stuff I’ve gone through over the years. He asked me how I feel about that. I told him it hurt but I should never have let myself develop bulimia.
He got me to sit in a chair and look at the one I had sat in. He asked me to tell the empty chair, I had sat in, what I felt about myself. Fat. Disgusting. Weak. Ugly. Fat. Stupid. Fat. The words of hatred came pouring out all too easily.
He took me back to my original chair and said that the now empty chair contained a hypothetical person. He said this person had been bullied since she was a child. She had been told by her family she was useless, ugly, fat, and an embarrassment to the family name. She had been bullied physically and mentally by kids all her life and her first serious boyfriend emotionally manipulated her. She had spent years in sport only to be told she was the wrong shape and a freak because of her disabilities. She’d been called all sorts of names and had been made to feel ashamed and weak and as if everything was because she was fat. They picked on her because she was fat as that was the easy option. She had tried her best to get the highest grades but someone always beat her to it and her teachers called her stupid. She was one of the hardest working athletes but was prevented from competing at the Olympic games because she was deemed too fat even though she was British Record holder.
They used to call her Hippodopoulos.
And now she was bulimic.
He asked me what I would say to her. Would I blame her for her epilepsy? Her cerebral palsy? Would I say it was her fault the bullies chose her? Would I be cruel and call her names? Would I tell her it was her fault she inherited rheumatoid arthritis? Would I call her weak? Do I think she should be ashamed? Would I tell her she was an embarrassment?
Would I call her fat?
Would I blame her for the fact she resorted to sticking two fingers down her throat?
Would I tell her that her eating disorder was all her fault?
Or would I understand? Would I accept that her surroundings had caused her to act in ways that she felt ashamed of?
What would I say to her?
I told her she was beautiful. I told her she had gone through so much pain, had fought so many demons that she should be proud. I told her that she needed to keep going, that it would all be alright in the end because she had people who cared about her, people willing to take as much time as she needed to get better. I told her she wasn’t fat and that she could lose weight healthily. I told her she was better than what everyone had told her, that it wasn’t her fault. I told her it was a mental disorder and there was nothing to be ashamed of. That she wasn’t broken but rather a work in progress.
I told her it would get better. That she wasn’t to blame.
There was a piece of cloth behind the chair and he moved it. My eyes were so blurry, I hadn’t even seen it. The mirror behind it was revealed and I was looking right into my own eyes. Tears running down my face but there I was almost ready to crack a smile when I saw me. I would have hugged myself if I could have done. I would have picked myself up and squeezed so tight, whispering that everything was going to be alright.
That’s when I realised.
I’m not to blame.