The holidays can be hard for me and honestly, they’re probably hard for anybody with an eating disorder. The holiday season tends to revolve around food and while I can understand and accept that, I need to be realistic with myself: I need to be careful in a food-centric environment. With family meals and presents of chocolate and candy, my eating disorder screams at me every holiday season telling me to abandon my recovery: “They’ll hate you if you don’t join them”, ED tells me.
I think one of the hardest aspects of the holidays, for me, is that everyone – and I mean, EVERYONE – expects you to eat. I feel the eyes of my loved ones racing to me during mealtime to make sure that I’m not being symptomatic. I feel their worry when they ask me if I want something to eat throughout the day or if I want more on my plate at dinner. They try to hide it and I know they’re concerned, but I’m the one that has to run to the bathroom mid-meal to hold in the tears that show my fears; I’m the one that has to fight ED day after day convincing myself that no one is watching me and judging me while I eat; and I’m the one that has to convince myself to sit back at the table and complete my meal.
Sometimes, I miss being an ignorant child. I didn’t know that the voice telling me to eat all the cookies and candy instead of my dinner was the voice of ED. I would just eat my mom’s homemade cookies and the toblerone that was the size of me until I heard the voice again. “Your parents will hate you if you don’t eat dinner,” ED would say. “You don’t want your parents to hate you, do you?” And off to dinner I would go. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but now I do. I’ve learned how to recognize ED’s thoughts versus my own. I can recognize that Jennifer was stuck in a cycle of binging, restriction and self-harm, and she was ignorant to everything wrong. Yes, sometimes I might miss the ignorance and ignorance isn’t bliss. Recovery is the closest thing to bliss I’ve encountered.
I’m not that person anymore. I’m in recovery and I am determined to make this holiday season different. I don’t want to lose myself in debating whether or not to eat what’s in front of me: if I want a cupcake, I’m going to have a cupcake and if I don’t want a cupcake, I won’t have one. It may seem simple, but listening to what my body needs is essential for me maintaining my recovery amidst the holidays and it’s a difficult task. I know that ED will be there with me and I have to make sure that ED knows that he’s not welcome at our dinner table. ED can wait outside the dining room, in shock that I would disobey his will. “Why would you eat that? Why are you ignoring me?!” Ed screams at the top of his lungs.
And you know what?
I’ll happily listen to ED’s screaming if I get to have a Christmas meal with my family.
In fact, it will be (Christmas) music to my ears.