If you have, or have had, an Eating Disorder (ED) you’ll be familiar with this ‘voice’. That part of you that screams internally at you to binge, purge, starve, exercise, punish yourself.
Very early on in therapy I was taught to separate the ED voice from myself, to name it, and to fight it. I filled journal after journal with a written war on the ED.
You don’t deserve to eat. You don’t need food. Skip that meal. No one will know if you skip it. You’ll feel so much better if you skip it. If you eat it you’ll have to make up for it later. You’ll have to be punished.
Everyone deserves to eat. I’m not different to any other person that deserves to eat. I need to eat just like every other person on the planet. If I skip the meal I’ll feel guilty, and will confess it to [therapist] anyway. I won’t feel better if I skip it. I’ll begin to feel physically unwell. I don’t have to make up for eating it. I need this meal. No one deserves or needs punishment for eating, me included. Eating is necessary for life.
That kind of journalling helped me fight the ED and move towards recovery.
For the family, friends, and loved ones of someone with an ED it can be very hard to know what’s going on inside for the sufferer. The ED silences me. I sit and watch quietly, or avoid people all together. There’s a very loud argument going on in my head.
Imagine having a conversation with your loved one with an ED. You’re standing facing each other and chatting about what you did over the weekend. Your loved one is quiet, withdrawn, and responding with single words or short sentences.
What you can’t see is the ED voice. Imagine a person standing directly behind your loved one. They’re shouting responses at your loved one.
You: What did you get up to over the weekend? Did you see that new movie?
Loved One: Oh, no-
ED: Nothing! See, you did nothing! You’re useless and boring and everyone hates you.
Loved One: Oh, I didn’t do much.
ED: See! You’re hopeless and pathetic. If you lost weight it’d be better. People would like you. You’re useless, hopeless, and pathetic! Everyone hates you!
Every single time I interact with someone this is what happens. I’m trying to pay attention to the conversation with a friend, but the ED voice is louder, and more persistent. It’s hard to focus on the conversation. Every social interaction ends with me feeling defeated, trapped, and hopeless.
If you can imagine a mean, cruel, vindictive person standing behind your loved one with an ED yelling at, and taunting them you’ll have some idea what it’s like to live with an ED.