A lot of my time spent in Brandes’s office blurs together. I mean, you can only talk about anorexia in so many different ways before it starts to sound like a broken record. But one session still sticks out in my mind. As I sat on her couch nervously twisting and playing with my earring, she brought up this concept. One that was shocking yet, somehow not very hard to grasp: the eating disorder never really goes away. I let the fact that I’d be dealing with this disease to some degree probably for the rest of my life sink in. Sure, it was upsetting, but not all that surprising. As soon as that eating disorder as much as an inch of its foot inside the door of your thoughts: good luck. Its a constant struggle to not think the way that its been deceptively telling you for so long. It’s hard to “unknow” things you already know. I’m always going to recognize half of a banana as having forty-five calories, and an egg as having seventy. Im always going to feel that brief twinge of uneasiness when I eat white pasta, or if my mom uses too much olive oil to coat the bottom of a frying pan. These are all the things that the media and the diet industry tell you that you should or shouldn’t be doing or eating, how could it NOT get inside your head? It’s literally consuming.
The beautiful thing about recovery, though, is that it gives you the ability to restructure those thoughts and push aside the anxiety so that its not at the front of your mind, or as Brandes put it: “The eating disorder’s voice is more like a whisper”. The problem, however; and where I get tripped up the most, is in the action part. Recovering Monica is acting in a way that doesn’t agree with how eating disorder Monica is thinking. I’m breaking the food rules and I’m rebelling against every lie the eating disorder has told me. I’m finally loving my life and I’m happy. But why then, do I still have my bad days? I blame cognitive dissonance. The stress that comes from half of me believing in one thing and the other half acting the opposite way. But I’ve fought hard, and I’ve come a long way. And every time I can say “screw it” and eat a piece of pizza and not have it weighing heavily on my mind all day, I can say I’m kicking a little bit of my eating disorder’s ass.