Using Anorexia to Disengage

Things have been pretty calm in therapy lately, at least from a relational perspective.

That’s not necessarily why I haven’t been writing about it more on here, but I think it might be part of it. Mostly I’m just too under-nourished and distracted by my obsession with food and other related numbers to find the time or energy for blogging.

I don’t know how others experience eating disorders, but I must admit it is the most energy-consuming and demanding thing I have probably ever encountered. There are moments here and there where I feel like I’ll start to shake it off, but then something activates me and bam! I’m right back to the usual nonsense.

It’s tough. Using ED behaviors as both a pretty effective coping mechanism and a tool of self-destruction has become more of a habit than anything else. There are moments when I think about pulling out of the incessant self-deprecation. For example, I’ll think, “Okay, so I’m disgusting. But maybe that’s okay. Maybe I don’t need to obsess and panic about it every literal 3 seconds.” Which, for me, is progress. But then I feel the ED tug on me and I reassure it that even if I am less self-loathing, I won’t give up the disorder.

It is stubborn and strong and a LIAR. Yet I love it. It makes me feel safe and powerful and worthy and capable and accomplished. It is what my therapist has not so lovingly started calling my “greatest frenemy”.

Restricting food has the added effect of making me very sleepy. It’s almost like a sedative. It impairs my cognition in a way that can be frustrating, but is also a relief because it gives me a break from all the terrible anxiety that tends to cripple me. I literally don’t have the energy to think about all the scary, awful things that I’d very much like to avoid.

My therapist is not a fan of this.

She’s remarkably patient and kind despite the constant frustration and helplessness I know she feels about my continued descent into anorexia. We had a session two weeks ago where she initiated a very frank dialogue with me about the implications of what is happening. I panicked a little bit and started to imagine she was setting me up for termination. So I asked her outright what she would do if I didn’t stop starving myself. I asked if she would terminate me.

“No. But if you end up in a hospital, I won’t be able to work with you.”

“So that’s when you’d quit?”

“I’m not quitting. But when you do this – when you hurt yourself and put yourself in a state where it’s difficult for you to come in here and do the work, you make it harder on yourself. We can’t do this work together if you’re malnourished and your brain isn’t working properly. We can’t do this if you’re so hungry or so sedated that you can’t engage in the conversation. You are using your anorexia to disengage and pull out of therapy. So if anyone is terminating or quitting, I think it’s you.”

Fuck. She was 100% right.

It pissed me off, but something about the way she phrased that response was comforting. She was so clearly fighting for me and for us and for the work we do, which made me feel incredibly protected and loved. It felt like she was advocating for me in a way I simply can’t or won’t do for myself. And I think she senses that I am trying to shift our trajectory into a place I’m more comfortable with (i.e. inevitable abandonment) and she wasn’t gonna put up with that shit, so she called me out on my own flakiness.


23 thoughts on “Using Anorexia to Disengage

  1. tstromm says:

    sooooooo glad you’re still posting and trying to figure things out and sharing your process. It helps me a lot.. Does some part of you want to go to the hospital? It sounds like you are not getting any traction on the ED and it might hurt all of you if no one is taking a strong stand against it, or can’t find a way to make progress on your own. If there are good resources for this where you live, do you think it could help to make use of them? Even outpatient support of some kind? I think it is hard for one therapist to address all of the issues that multiples bring in. Sometimes it takes more than one. My therapist is fantastic with younger people and adults, and terrible with adolescents. My adolescent now has her own therapist, not very often but as much as I can afford, and it is a big help. My first therapist says working with me is like group therapy, and in the past she talked about the behavior of going to another therapist as “splitting” and “triangulation” and did not like it, but now she relies on it and communicates with therapist #2. She can’t meet the needs of the adolescent, and that’s ok. I don’t need her to wear a cape and try to be everything. But I don’t want to be in therapy forever and this is my way of keeping things moving along. 🙂 Just in case it helps. Let us (those of us who love and read your blog) know if there is anything we can do to help.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Thanks! Yes I definitely think there’s a part who wants to be sick enough to need hospitalization. The idea of that, of being hospitalized again for any reason, is absolutely terrifying to most of us though. Adding anything else to my therapy is not realistic right now in terms of scheduling but I’ve been considering the idea of doing some sort of OP program once I’m done with this internship. I definitely think we need more ED-specific treatment before this gets much worse.


  2. Jean says:

    Oh, Andi, I have lost two survivor friends to anorexia and I sure as hell don’t want to lose you, too. It’s so hard to struggle with, a real bitch of a condition, and I think you are really brave to share.

    I can’t write about it the way you do, partly because I’m not as good a writer, partly because I have no personal knowledge of anorexia. When I get to a good place in writing about ED, can I quote you in my blog? Or maybe ask you to write something just for the blog? I’d be very appreciative.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sirena says:

    Andi, reading this makes me genuinely so sad and afraid. I feel so sad that your descending further into anorexia. I don’t want this for you. I don’t really know what the right thing to say is in these circumstances. But I hope you can fight this and get back on top. Take care x

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rachel says:

    I also really like how she phrased it – very non-judgmental, but accurate and honest. And how she is feeling about what is happening. And that she can hold her own helplessness or frustration without being negative towards you, but I imagine it is hard for her to accept you might go away and there is nothing she can do until you do something different. It is hard to hear that, I imagine it does make you angry.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Yeah it was hard because I think part of me wants her to save me from myself but she really can’t do much more than what she already is. I think she’s accepted that but she is not going to just sit passively either. It was both upsetting and empowering, in some strange way.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Rachel says:

    to add on to my last sentence, I imagine it does make you angry because you don’t want to be hold that “you’re causing this” or “doing this to yourself” when the ED screams HELP ME! I am obviously in distress! And you may be “choosing” to restrict, but it comes from the trauma, which is why it always felt irritating to me when people told me that I was the one causing it, when I wanted to say fuck you, I was raped, etc. I didn’t cause any of this. But you still have to choose how you cope, which is I know what your therapist was getting at. Hope that made sense, it is early here and I have a lot of thoughts about this. Sending care.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      So true! I told her that part of what worries me about truly giving up all forms of self-harm, including the ED, is that there will be no way for me to show people how much internal pain I am constantly experiencing. I think she understands my fears and she is trying so hard to get me to realize that I can be seen without having to scream at the top of my lungs. I think it’s just going to take more time (and more hard evidence) for me to really internalize that possibility. My anorexia is my voice in some ways and I don’t want to be rendered mute ever again.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rachel says:

        That really makes so much sense. Finding a voice, in any way, is so scary. And giving up one that has become familiar and comforting, even if harmful, is scary too.


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