An open letter to our Supporters,
We had the fight again — the one that happens when our heroic patience finally deflates, and our frustration comes hissing out until it permeates through the house. You want to know: How long is this going to take? How long are we going to suffer like this?
You are tired. You are trying your hardest and we are draining our resources, but nothing seems to do the trick. You don’t know if there is ever a “right thing” to say. Most of the time, you feel like you’re walking on eggshells, afraid that your well-intended comment is going to trigger some irrational fear or anxiety — or worse — in me.
You’ve tried reasoning with me, but you found out quickly that an eating disorder has its own logic and thus it doesn’t respond to reason. You try to put yourself in my shoes, hoping that empathy might translate to energy and keep us both going. It’s impossible to understand, though. How could I struggle, you wonder, with something so basic as eating, something we’re literally born knowing how to do? How long will it take to just click?
You want to know when are things going to get better — when am I going to better?
You’re frustrated. I understand. Your feelings are justified. (And even if they weren’t, you would still have a right to feel however you do. Lord knows that is what I’m trying to believe for myself.)
But please don’t forget: I feel the same way that you do. By the time you finally lose it and tell me how frustrated, exhausted, exasperated, and scared you are, I’ve already said those things to myself. (Several times. Just that day.)
We have a common enemy in this. It hurts me just as badly to live with this monster as it does for you to watch it wreak havoc on me. I want it gone, too, and I’m trying my hardest to make this stop. So please, whatever you do, don’t ask me how long will this take.
Because I don’t know.
I don’t know.
I. DON’T. KNOW.
Surely you know that if I could simply erase this illness and leave no trace of it, I would do it. No disordered thoughts, no temptations, no lapses whatsoever. No more therapy appointments congesting my calendar. No more signing up for school and then dropping out because I’m still “not well enough.” No more quibbling with this or that doctor just to cling to a semblance of autonomy over my health.
Free from the embarrassment of inching down grocery aisles trying to choose between the “right” foods and the “safe” ones. From the dread I feel when I see a tray of cookies at the staff meeting. From the anxiety that wakes up each morning as I think about another day of fighting the voices, of struggling to find that mysterious balance between forgiving myself and pushing myself. From the unrelenting sense that I must be either insane or heartless for putting us through this.
All of it, just gone. I would do almost anything for that gift.
But I can’t. And so, when you ask me how long this recovery is going take, what I hear in that question is confirmation of my deepest fear: I am a burden. You are as fed up with me as I am.
It’s not that I want you to hide your fear or sadness, or even your anger (at my eating disorder — not at me). I need to know your feelings because I need to be reminded that my life isn’t the only one at stake here. That’s critical, because in the moments when I can’t find it in me to recover for my own sake, I can do it for you.
I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not trying to be stubborn. I’m not trying to hurt you. I’m just trying to get through this.
Thank you for your support, your loyalty, and your faith in me,
Your Loved One
Joanna Kay is a New York City writer and social media professional in recovery from a 14-year battle with anorexia. She is the author of The Middle Ground, a blog that chronicles the period between completing treatment and reaching full recovery. Having encountered many hurdles accessing treatment, she also writes frequently about insurance coverage and other urgent issues facing eating disorder patients. Joanna is a mental health advocate with the National Eating Disorders Association and writes and speaks widely about the recovery process. Visit her blog.