You fight it. You fight it with everything that you have. The one thing that all eating disorders have in common is the fear of getting close to others. Our disorders fuel it, knowing, as they do, that trust and emotional relationships are exactly the prescription we use to kill them. The disorder dictates that you burry the part of you that seeks affection, that wants to be around people, the part that wants you to be normal. Under these rules, we isolate ourselves to the extreme, to the point where we can’t even imagine any other atmosphere. Yet we crave it. We try, but we find it is impossible to completely cut ourselves off from kindness and humanity.
It is human nature to trust others. It makes sense from a religious viewpoint, but also from one of evolution. Quite simply, trust and companionship offer emotional and physical protection. In an increasingly integrated and complex society, this can be an important tool for survival. The social web that we create as we pass through our lives creates a buffer, or insurance, against the ills that plague us, eating and self-esteem disorders included.
So what now then? What do we do when we have an illness pushing us to isolate ourselves from one end and a craving for intimate relationships pushing from the other? We are stuck in a seeming limbo, often oscillating between the two extremes, sometimes minute to minute.
Naturally, we will not seek out relationships. In fact, we often run from them. At least I do. But what happens when someone sneaks in? What happens when someone gets past your defences without you knowing, and suddenly, you are exposed? That very thing happened to me recently. It wasn’t the usual suspect, not a family member or friend, but instead my dietician. What terrified me was when I realised she cared about me. I wasn’t expecting that, to say the least. But it occurred to me one day that she genuinely cares and genuinely believes I can get completely well and live a long and successful life.
Why does this scare me?
She is not an intimidating woman, but rather compassionate. She is intelligent, and is able to argue against my disorder better than I. Maybe that in itself makes her intimidating, I’m not sure. She created and then snuck through cracks in my defence system, and I didn’t realise it until she was already in. It scares me because I’m finding myself trusting her. That means her opinion has merit in the decisions that I make daily.
What does this mean?
It means my life is changing. There is a change, albeit small at the moment, in how I think about my life and the choices I will make. It means that I see myself s-l-o-w-l-y moving away from my eating disorder. That is terrifying. But at the same time, it seems.....right?