My Secret Affair
For those of you who are new here, Frank is my eating disorder. He is horrible. He is abusive. And I’ve finally left him.
When Frank first came into my life he didn’t have to try very hard to woo me. I dove into his arms willingly and that was it. I was smitten. He spent the rest of our affair making up for the fact that he never wooed me in the beginning. This meant taking me away from everything. He loved to hole up, just the two of us. Romantic, right?
Frank (and every eating disorder/abusive relationship) thrives on secrecy. Secrecy is like air to Frank. And Frank is a smooth talker,
“Come with me, Camilla. It will be wonderful. Just you and me. You don’t need your family and friends because you have ME. I love you. I make everything else in your life slip away. I can take you away from everything that makes you crazy or sad. Come away with me. Just us.”
And so I listened to him. I LIED for him. I chose to go away with him. Every time I wound up hurting, and every time he promised that next time would be better. I didn’t believe I was strong enough to leave him.
Which brings me to last week. Last week someone here (at my treatment center) asked me if I thought posting blog entries was a good idea; whether I was sharing too much about Frank and my experience here in treatment. I know they were watching out for my well being and my recovery, but at the time I felt like I’d done something wrong. I promised I’d think about it and really try to examine whether my blog is helping me or hurting me.
I realized something.
Frank is only alive because I kept going away with him, alone. I wasn’t willing to talk about him. I kept our relationship covered and hidden. So now that I’m trying to leave him, why were people asking me to keep it private?
Eating disorders are taboo. We don’t talk about them because they’re misunderstood (i.e. “Why don’t you just eat?”), embarrassing, and because talking about your eating disorder threatens its survival. Frank knew if he could keep me quiet, I would remain in his arms for the rest of my life. And he would make sure that “the rest of my life” would be miserable ... and short.
After thinking and praying about whether sharing my eating disorder, my experience with Frank, is the right thing, I’ve come to the conclusion that I CANNOT HIDE. My affair with Frank can’t keep being secret. Secrets allow the Franks of the world to multiply like a virus. Frank -- and others like him -- become romanticized by the media. Secrets allow them to THRIVE like a parasite.
And treatment shouldn’t be a secret either. We shouldn’t pretend that it’s easy to recover. It’s freaking hard. It sucks some days. But it doesn’t suck as bad as being lied to and beaten down and killed by Frank. It doesn’t suck as bad as losing the trust of your family and watching your relationships die. It doesn’t hurt as bad as knowing you might have squashed any chance you have at having children. It doesn’t hurt as bad as bleeding to death from an esophageal hemorrhage. Or a heart attack. Or kidney failure.
I’m not embarrassed that I’m here. NOT AT ALL. I’m PROUD that I reached out for help. I’m proud of every girl here for accepting help and working hard to be well. I’m PROUD of every person out there who wants recovery!
A friend at Opal (a Seattle-based out-patient treatment center) once yelled in group, “I’M F---ING BULIMIC!” She wasn’t saying it with pride; she was saying it as a release. She was letting her addiction and her disorder OUT into the OPEN where it could be dealt with and killed. You can’t squash a spider that won’t come out of the wall, and you can’t kill a Frank that's stuck in your head and hidden.
I’M FREAKING ANOREXIC!
I WAS NOT ABLE STOP THIS COMPULSION WITHOUT HELP!
I’M AT A MENTAL HOSPITAL GETTING HELP!
FRANK, I’M LEAVING YOU! YOU CANNOT HURT ME OR CONTROL ME ANYMORE!
Having a clear mind and feeling happy is SO MUCH BETTER than running into the arms of Frank every time I don’t want to deal with life. I’m no longer DYING.
Not being able to flush my own poop is soooo worth the life I’m going to have.
Having to eat a lot is so worth the things my body is going to let me do when I gain muscle and energy.
The babies I’m going to have, the relationships that I will have, getting my family back are worth so much more than the massive headaches I get from crying.
LIFE is worth so much more than having to dig into my painful issues and talk about them out loud and feel those feelings.
It’s like opening a wound that didn’t heal right and cleaning out the infection. It hurts like hell, but getting new stitches and starting to REALLY heal is worth any temporary pain. The pain is excruciating, but temporary, and freedom from Frank is FOREVER.
And forever is a WONDERFULLY long time.