To the person with disordered eating having a relapse right now
Maybe you’re sick right now, and you can’t eat.
I want you to know that this is okay.
Maybe it’s not objectively okay for your body and mind — that you can’t eat — but I want you to know that you didn’t do this or choose this, and that you are not wrong or bad.
You’re sick right now, and you can’t eat. It’s not okay in a lot of concrete ways, but it’s okay that this is your situation right now. Maybe this isn’t your first rodeo, and by now you know that of course you can’t eat at a time like this. If this is your natural response to stress, of course you can’t.
That — not the consequences, but the reality itself, in isolation — that is okay. If life is unkind — you need to leave him, or she needs to leave you, or work is drowning you, or you don’t even know what work is right now — of course you can’t eat.
You know by now that it’s not about food, and you may not even know what you look like anymore, or — contrary to popular belief — even care.
We’ve heard it ten million times before, with the more woke outsiders saying it’s about ‘control’ or ‘trauma’ or ‘coping’ or something else that still involves those maddening and oft-useless concepts of willpower and shame. Either way, there’s always the shame, isn’t there? They really don’t get it, this twisted, mental muscle memory that comes back when we’re sick and can’t eat.
So we can’t eat right now, but let’s do what we can, gently and safely.
Let’s make sure to add a multivitamin, so that what little we can eat right now is supplemented.
Let’s make a point to fill our water bottle one or two more times today.
Let’s be slow and gentle and intentional on any exercise rituals, even if we can’t cut down on them right now.
Let’s be creative with a block of free time today, and add a movie or a cup of a different kind of tea.
Let’s try for a protein bar, low calorie if that’s all we can do for the moment, in a small space that has lost its food. (But only if we can trust ourselves not to replace something with it. If not, that’s okay — we can try again soon. We can start smaller with a chocolate square or even a glass of nut milk.)
Let’s be creative as well with the thing that might be making us sick. If it’s related to another person, do we need to talk to them? Text them? Write a letter? Draw a picture? Maybe it’s too much right now, and we need to break it down. Maybe we’re trapped by the heavy, shameful norm that big conversations have to be in-person and intense and involve perfect eye contact and a cinematic catharsis. If that idea is looming over you, of course you can’t eat. When is there ever a good time to perform that way? Where do you even start?
So this is your permission to be creative — with the sickness, or with whatever is making us sick.
Have that important conversation over text, or even over doodles. And don’t feel ashamed of that for a second.
Have it two weeks from today, when it will happen anyway, and take the calm until then if it’s safe and you need it.
Have something that’s still too small, but bigger than nothing. Make it a liquid if it needs to be.
Have meekness today, and strength that builds — tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day — from a place of acceptance rather than coercion or shame.
Have a break right now, and let real, practical safety start from a place of mental safety.
We’re sick right now, and we can’t eat. That is pain, and in some cases it is acute, and something beyond this writing and its simplified musings about harm reduction. (And when that is the case, we do need to tell someone else.)
In any case, though, I want you to remember that this is a situation. It is not you.
It is a reality, and you are not bad or wrong when the reality around you happens to be.