How Naming My Eating Disorder Changed My Recovery in a Good Way

image of the back of a figure who is facing a lake, wearing an orangish/red had, with some red bushing, but the rest of the photo is mostly browns; for article on naming my eating disorder

At the beginning of my journey to recover, my therapist recommended naming my eating disorder. I thought of some names (most of which are not appropriate to share, but may have included the letters b,*,t,c, and h). But finally settled that I didn’t want to name my E.D.

I resisted naming my eating disorder

My reasons were valid (in my own eyes):

-my E.D. didn’t deserve a name for what it did to me
-naming my E.D. would make it seem like a friend, making it harder to recover
-naming my E.D. would permanently ruin that name for me (like, what if my future mother-in-law had that name?!)

So, as my recovery process continued, I stuck to my word. My E.D. remained faceless, nameless, and the enemy. Vaguely referring to it as “E.D.,” I refused to acknowledge the real reason I had not chosen a name:

I was afraid to admit that the voice in my head telling me to restrict, screaming that I wasn’t good enough, counting all the calories and belittling and punishing me if I didn’t, shrinking my body further and further with ever-changing standards, and over-exercising my body to the point of pure exhaustion…

that voice was a part of me.

As misguided and destructive as the actions that the voice took were, its intentions for me made sense in a twisted way: protect me, keep me from rejection, love me.

As I began to understand that voice and give it room to grow and transform for the benefit of my total health, I began to see that my E.D. needed to be named. For me to recover, the part of me that was causing the anorexic behaviors had to be understood and gently (and more often forcefully) corrected.

If I named my E.D., I could get to know it, and by knowing it, I could help it.

Naming My Eating Disorder could be helpful

By no way was it my friend. I would not condone its behavior or encourage it. But, by naming it, I had a physical attribute to root against and correct. For a person who is a visual learner, I begrudgingly decided it was probably wise for my recovery to pick a name.

So, my E.D. received a name: Constance. As my therapist and I dug into my past, we discovered Constance is a version of 13-year-old me. As I have gotten to know Constance, I know she is dramatic, emotional, likes throwing temper tantrums when change is coming, is especially afraid of pizza and ice cream, and has an “all or nothing” mentality.

However, I also known that Constance fears rejection and needs reassurance that 20-year-old me can take care of her. She also loves to be precise and follows all the rules, which can make her useful in another role that she would be much happier in, since this anorexic role is not making anyone happy. Ultimately, what she needs is a hug and a lot of guidance.

Finding what works best for you

I know naming your E.D. and learning more about it as a part of you isn’t for everyone. All recovery stories are different, and that’s how it should be. It might work better for you to not name your E.D. and just keep it as “the enemy.” Whatever works best for you and your recovery is ultimately what should be what you do.

But for me, naming and understanding Constance is helping me understand myself. While she is not my friend at all in this role, she is still part of me that needs a role that better suits her. As I help Constance grow and change, I grow and change as well.

So, bring it on Constance; let’s do this together.

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