Here’s the thing about eating disorders: they like to kick you while you’re down.
Trigger Warning to whom it may concern.
I’ll tell you something else about eating disorders (something you probably already know): recovery is hard, and it sucks. And when you are in recovery for both an eating disorder and depression, it’s hard and it sucks in a different way.
Good days in depression swing for good says for an eating disorder. Because when you are thinking positively and good things are happening, eating sounds like a great idea. Of course, it is not always as simple as that, but if you want to talk in-depth, it gets more complicated. But we won’t go there right now.
But then there are the days where the emptiness takes over and all the good thoughts are clouded by the numbness. Those are my two favorite words to describe depression: empty and numb. Am I sad? Am I angry? Well, quite frankly, I don’t know. It is these days where you just want to stay in bed and not interact with anyone, binge on your newest Netflix addiction, sleep the day away, and cringe in annoyance at any conversations you hear on the other side of your closed door that you also forget–or actively choose to forget–to do the one thing you know will keep you going: to eat.
Coffee in the morning…an apple at 3 pm…oatmeal for dinner…this is your meal plan of choice. It requires very little work and very little need to leave your bed. Because your bed is your best friend. It is the one thing that will never let you down, and it will welcome you back with the warmest and snuggliest of blankets.
That is when your brain–reminding you of everything you are doing wrong on this Bad Day (or stretch of days, at this point)–tells you, “Look at you, failing at recovery. You are weak.” So you beat yourself up for letting go of your progress, but you listen to your head when it follows up with, “But you are worthless anyway, so who really cares.”
So you don’t leave your bed. So you don’t eat.
And the part of your brain where your eating disorder ruled whispers at you, too. “Just think about the weight you are losing. Just think about how good those pants will fit in a few days.”
So when you Depression Brain tells you to eat a cookie because it will make you feel better, a few minutes later your ED Brain scolds you and tells you to do a hundred sit ups and jumping jacks, maybe some mountain climbers. And it becomes a back and forth between them, bossing you around and playing with you like a rag doll. You don’t even know what your real thoughts are anymore.
You feel so lifeless that you can’t even come up with anything to blog. Or journal. Or even tweet. You just sit in your bed glancing from laptop screen to phone screen to book page, and you look at all the photos of pretty girls and happy girls and smart girls and skinny girls and you tell yourself it’s all real. You convince yourself that they are infinitely better than you, so why even try? So you don’t try.
Until one day, you wake up and tell yourself that you want to go to lunch with your friends today and order a burger and fries. You want to put on a cute outfit and some make up and show the world that you do matter. You want to laugh with your friends about that TSM article they sent you in your group chat. And everything is okay.
Because even when you truly believe that you are worth nothing, that you are a waste of space, that you will never be good enough, your Recovery Brain swoops in to remind you of that sunset you saw the other evening. Or that boy that smiled at you in line at the book store. Or that text you got from a friend back home asking for advice because (she thinks) you have your life together.
And everything is okay.