My eating disorder made me a person of many faces and created a secret life. Eating “normally” in front of friends, being “easy-going,” never talking about my anxiety, having impassioned hobbies, and more. But there was the other face, the one that hid, lied, measured, worried, obsessed, calculated, feared.
How many nights did I lose sleep over my eating disorder? How many social events did I attend, only to spend the entire time distracted with the usual eating disorder thoughts? It tricked me into thinking it was my best friend, that it would protect me from anything and everything. It’s What I Did In Secret, that other me I stepped into, that allowed my anorexia to thrive.
What that life in secret looked like
When I was living in denial of the eating disorder being a problem, I never felt alone. It kept me busy and even better, feeling fulfilled when I followed its rules. I was addicted to the relief it offered me and it made me feel worthy and gave me a purpose. When I had to wear one of my public faces, appearing as if everything was “normal,” I wished I was alone with my disorder instead. I didn’t think anyone around me could ever understand, grasp, the power it gave me—that which I craved.
The downslide that eventually led to recovery ultimately helped me stop acknowledging my eating disorder for its so-called “powerful” aspects. The very illness that had gifted me belonging and purpose was the same one fueling What I Secretly Did. It was manufacturing shame, creating an illusion that obeying its voice would make me feel better for even a moment. The eating disorder would take away the brief reprieve to leave me all too soon drowning in shame.
This shame perpetuated the secrecy, the cycle, the suffering in silence. There were times when I had also asked myself whether What I Did In Secret was symptomatic of a larger problem. Some part of me knew instinctively What I Did In Secret was anything but “normal,” let alone healthy. Maybe I felt that I had no choice except to obey the rules it created, even if I didn’t want to. But it was complicated, because those rules did indeed give me a sense of control.
A new way of thinking
I know now there’s no “normal,” but I was correct in thinking that What I Did In Secret was a problem. I felt like a fool when I first realized I was playing a losing game. Shame and craving its release had kept me in denial of What I Did In Secret. I think this is why many of us do not seek help sooner, and continue telling ourselves we aren’t sick enough.
This may not be the answer you want to hear, it’s certainly not the one I wanted to acknowledge and later accept: if What You Did In Secret is impacting your wellbeing, you are sick enough.
Many of my loved ones wondered if they missed signs, and admitted they felt guilty. There’s no point in blaming when, what, or who should have noticed my health implode. Blame would only fuel shame, and in turn empower the eating disorder. What matters now, what I celebrate, is that I am here. I got help. I found recovery. There is nothing to be ashamed of. There is only gratitude for a chance at life in remission, moving forward.