5 days ago, Mans Zelmerlöw from Sweden won the Eurovision Songcontest, singing the song “Heroes”. I’ve never really followed the ESC, I have occasionally recorded it and then watched it on fast-forward the following day (I find it just goes on way too long…). I heard the song for the first time today, while driving a friend of mine to the airport. While I find the singing to be lacking a little (sorry!), the chorus really caught my attention. So much so that I’ve listened to the song three times and just clicked “repeat” again:
“We are the heroes of our time
But we’re dancing with the demons in our minds”
I have thought about writing another post for my Truth category for a while now, and giving a bit more insight into the person behind all this bloggy goodness. While I don’t plan on laying out my entire past (and its struggles), something about the phrase “dancing with the demons” has been on my mind all day, and I figure I’ll just go with that.
Caution: This post’s a long one! 🙂
I’ve mentioned in several posts that my relationship with food hasn’t always been a good one (as is the case with basically EVERY food blogger on the planet). What it really boils down to is that I got sick, got therapy, and…got better?
That’s not completely comfortable for me to say, “I got better.” You see, starving myself was something I never really set out to do. I don’t think anybody suffering from an ED ever means to starve themself or to actually be so hateful towards their own body, or themselves as a whole. It just kind of happens, at least that’s what it was like for me, and then, all of a sudden, there’s no real way out. You get to a point where your whole being is consumed by thoughts about how to best starve yourself (even though you don’t call it that, you’ll lovingly dub it “getting healthier”, “getting fitter”, “only losing a bit of weight”). Anybody who’s ever been there knows what that’s like, and also knows it’s impossible to snap out of it by yourself.
How do you, then, “get better”?
Well, I think to answer that “getting better” needs a definition. For anybody who has never suffered from an ED or hasn’t been in close proximity to somebody who has (and if that’s you, consider yourself extremely lucky!), “getting better” most likely equals “gaining weight”. Which is far from wrong, after all, starvation is the part that’s real dangerous. In fact, back then I was continuously told that once I get my weight back, everything else (and by that they meant the all-consuming, life-destroying obsession with eating as little as possible) would fall into place. My problems (which, at the time, I didn’t even recognize as being problems) and struggle would end, I would feel better, be fitter, be prettier, be a wholly happy, giddy, perfect person – exactly the type of person I was aspiring so hard to be.
“Getting better” meant gaining, and not only weight. It meant gaining life, gaining the energy to reconnect with my alienated friends, gaining feminity, gaining enough of myself to embrace life. And most of what everybody told me ended up being the truth: I gained so much by kicking the symptoms of my disorder. I got my life back, I was able to smile again (and not just the fake, plastered smile…I mean the real one, that I had to dig out from underneath all those voices in my head who had lied to me about already being happy).
I got better. Much better.
And, at the same time, I didn’t. You see, having lost all that weight, I was able to show there was something horribly wrong with my life, with my way of dealing with it, with me. It was one of the krasser ways to show it, but it was MY way. Not eating, losing that much weight, while being terribly dangerous to both your health and your mind, is one of the most obvious displays of how much you’re hurting inside. And, in that sense, it IS helpful.
I can hear you gasping now. “What? An ED, helpful? That sounds like she thinks it’s a GOOD THING!”
An ED is a good thing. It helps you. Just not in the way a disordered person thinks. It helps you to publicly scream out your pain, it allows you to be inconsiderate of others, it enables you to pick all the fights with those closest to you that you would have never been able to go through with without it. The ED allows you to step outside the boundaries you suffer in your life, it allows you to show up everyone playing by the rules without ACTUALLY breaking them.
I am not in love with my ED. Not anymore. We broke up a long time ago, but, like with any of the big loves of your life, the positive lingers with you much longer than the negative. I am not talking about the starvation part, that part was horrible, horrific even. But the feeling of control and power, of being able to rebel against what was around me – that’s much harder now that I don’t have my ED more.
Being anorexic is easy. It’s incredibly sick, it’s incredibly sucky, and it’s horrible for both you and your loved ones. But it’s easy to use as your weapon, your shield, your hiding place. Anything goes when you’re anorexic. Don’t wanna sit at the dinner table with your parents ’cause you’re hormonal and irritable? Works just fine when you’re refusing to eat anyways. Don’t wanna go to a pal’s birthday party because you actually don’t like the way they treat you? No problem, you can’t go ’cause you’ve got therapy.
I’m being krass to make a point, in case you haven’t noticed. Of course, while I was refusing to eat, I wasn’t consciously making a decision to rebel against anybody or anything. But, in hindsight, I let my ED fight my fights for me. Which is what I meant by saying it’s “easy”.
Dancing with the demons. That’s what happens when you break up with your ED. You tell it to leave, you fight like hell, and you unwillingly, untrustingly trust all those people around you who tell you that if you gain weight, everything will be alright.
What none of those people tells you, though (because they don’t know, not because they’re being untruthful), is that it’s not alright once you gain the weight. On the outside, yes, you’re much better in a more than obvious way. On the inside, you’re struggling just as much as you did before your ED, probably even more. And, the REAL fighting begins only when you’ve fought that first fight of gaining weight.
I am a hero of my time. I fought and “got better”. I gained the weight, I have lived almost 10 years looking just fine. I am a hero.
But, I still dance with the demons in my mind. Oh, do I know how to dance.
Not eating is easy. Not dealing with the real problems is easy. Not telling people when they hurt you, upset you, bother you – that’s easy. It therefore still is much easier for me to obsess over food, to control food, than it is to deal with conflict. My first reaction to stress is to make a plan of my meals for the day. My first reaction to a fight is a horrific wave of “feeling fat”.
Yes, the demons in my mind have never really left. And, eventhough I was continuously told they would leave if I only gained that weight, they still have the power to scream so loud that my ears start ringing.
“I got better”. It just doesn’t sound right. It makes it sound like there is an achievable and reachable state of being where the ED I broke up with escapes my memory. Where all the twisted love and appreciation I felt for it has no more lure. It’s a constant fight. It’s a daily fight. It’s dancing with the demons – over and over and over and over.
I am a hero of my time. I have fought the fight. But demons are much harder to conquer than actual villains. So I choose to dance with them, whirl them around so long that they lose balance, and fall to the ground.