Last year a guy took me out for my birthday. He didn't know anything about my issues with food or struggles with anxiety. He was older than I was, being with him was a break from my real life, and just like Anorexia had helped distract me from things I didn't want to admit were true. As a surprise, he ordered cake at the end of the meal for everyone that was celebrating with us - I remember the panic setting in like it was yesterday. I knew it would be weird to avoid that after all the other things I already said no to and I also knew that everyone around us would find it extremely odd for ME of all people (the one whose birthday we were there for) to not eat the cake. Above all, this guy was trying to be nice, he was trying to make me feel special. He knew I was sensitive to food, but in the dark about all the reasons why. It was the first time I'd had cake in two years.
Thirty minutes later I was absolutely nauseous. I was laying on the bed in agony - emotional distress from the "lack of willpower" I had convinced myself of and physical pain from avoiding sugar and finally introducing it again. Soon after, he dropped me off at my apartment and I spent the next hour making myself throw up. I was angry, crying for giving in, for being in the moment and saying yes. I felt defeated like I was less of a person for having some chocolate.
Some of you may read this and think "really?" That much anxiety over eating one thing? That much regret? That much pain? YES. That is the harsh reality of eating disorders - anorexia, bulimia, binging, etc. irrespective of the specific diagnosis they have a hold on you that is uncanny. It is still the most painful thing I have ever endured, the amount of energy I put into hating myself was excruciating. When I was in it, it didn't feel this way but I see now, I had to hate the person I was if I wanted to keep going.
I bring up this specific cake story because I will never forget the way eating it made me feel. This wasn't the first time I had something I never allowed and tried to compensate for it, nor was it the last. The one thing it was: memorable. I was coming up on my 20th birthday, more concerned with keeping weight off an unhappy girl than enjoying myself - or my life at all. I had little but a scale and a schedule.
As my birthday nears this year, there is still a lot I'd like to change and I know that I have a ways to go before those thoughts don't still occasionally come in first place when faced with a decision. But, unlike last year, I am strong enough to say yes to cake and no to her. Her who made me give up everything to be in a body that I could hardly feel, her who stole the life she promised to make "everything" better, her who told me that my body was the answer to all my problems, and her, who had the power to end me once and for all.
When it's hard, even when it hurts, when it feels wrong and leaves stomach notes, I do my best to consciously choose happiness over all else - in honor of all the time that those urges took control. In honor of a life I want to live, leaving the other behind. When I ask myself;
"Did it ever give you what you really wanted?"
No, it didn't. The fight you are trying to win never ends and what started externally will take on an internal life of its own.
A year ago I was too clouded, too convinced in my safe world of routines to see there were other ways to handle my life. I thought I needed it to be in control, to be different, to be special. I became everything I hoped to and lost everything else in the process. Now, I know there is more, even when that voice tells there isn't.
So, when my birthday comes this year I will eat cake. I will eat it specifically because I am not comfortable with it, specifically because I didn't for so long, and specifically because it is times like those that you can win and the eating disorder won't because YOU didn't let it. Eat the god damn cake.