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It feels weird to start typing, but almost like it’s time to start sharing my thoughts again. As soon as my fingers started to hit the keys, my shoulders relaxed. Maybe this is what I need right now..

Oh, where to start. I’m not even sure, but I’m sure you all want an update. Things are absolutely crazy. I work around 50 hours a week, when you combine teaching, research, and my internship. Outside of that, I train for AIDS/Lifecycle, run a student organization, and try to fit in some activism. Oh, and did I mention I’m a full-time grad student?

Everything that was posing issues before–an eating disorder, gender, figuring out my life–is still an issue. However, everything has moved forward somewhat…

Things started taking a minor turn again, and I started getting the urge to purge or restrict numerous times a day. So, I started seeing my dietitian weekly for nutritional counseling and it has been unbelievably difficult. I’m being pushed way out of my comfort zone, but I’m making progress. Slowly but surely. The past few weeks, however, I’ve realized how freaking scary that is. I literally do not know my life without an eating disorder. At any given point in my memory, my life was somehow interwoven with restricting, bingeing, purging, chewing/spitting, using diuretics or laxatives, or exercising compulsively. Thinking about my life without all of that is so unknown and so scary.

It came to a head a few weeks ago when I, sitting in my dietitian’s office, began to cry. I’ve been in therapy since my Junior year of high school and I’ve never cried. This day, however, I put down my walls, showed my vulnerability, and let go. After trying to mumble out what I was thinking amidst all those tears, my dietitian just looked over to me and said: “So what you’re saying is that you’re at a crossroads?”

I had never thought about it like that before, but yeah, that’s exactly what this feeling has been for the past 6-8 weeks. I am at a crossroads. I feel like I’ve separated myself from the eating disorder too much to ever fully go back, but that I’m not yet fully in recovery either. I’m at this weird, awkward place in the middle, where my mind is telling me to move on with my life and my heart is reminding me of the comfort, solace, and control I find in my eating disorder.

It’s almost like a new grieving process. I feel like I’m looking back at all of the ups and downs with my eating disorder and I’m trying so hard to say goodbye. I don’t quite understand why it’s so difficult (after all, I almost died because of my eating disorder), but It feels like an immense loss. It reminds me somewhat of how people describe walking away from an abusive relationship… But needless to say, regardless of how happy I “should” feel to be in recovery, at the same time, it feels like I’m grieving for the loss of an old friend, something that gave me solace and comfort in my darkest moments.

All of this vulnerability, surprisingly, has pushed me further into recovery. It has forced me to think on a daily basis about my body image, my inner dialogue, and the choices that I make every day. For the first time ever, I found the courage to open up about the role that gender plays in my body image, and how it makes the battle with my eating disorder a walking bundle of mindfucks.

For those who do not know me–I do not look like a female. I am biologically female, but identify as gender queer and feel a whole lot more like a man than I do a woman. I never really thought about how this plays into body image before, but I’ve recently realized how difficult it makes my struggle with body image, creating this duality where I want to be thin (which is common amongst women with eating disorders), but also bulky and muscular (which is more common among men). I have this thin, lean, muscular image of myself that is literally unattainable. I cannot be as muscular as I’d like to be and still be as thin as I’d like to be. I cannot be as thin as I’d like to be and still be as muscular as I’d like to be.

So that leaves me confused and unsure–in the middle of these two extremes, fighting two body image battles at the same time. Which brought me and my dietitian to a new point in my recovery last week. One thing (at least in my disordered mind) that will bring me both thinness and muscularity is exercise. I feel AMAZING when I work out. I feel in control and on top of the world. The constant negative self-talk in my head is gone. I don’t worry, I don’t think. I just am. And, like I was so afraid would eventually happen… after a year of seeing my dietitian, she called me out on it. She looked at me, took a moment of extreme seriousness, and said: “You are addicted to exercise.”

I immediately became anxious and she knew it. I have avoided the topic of exercise because I have kept it for me. I’ll talk about behaviors, I’ll talk about my family or my past, I’ll talk about how far I’ve come since I hit rock bottom in 2007. But I will not talk about exercise. And now, it’s been thrown into the forefront of my recovery. I know, deep down inside, that I do not have a healthy relationship with exercise. When I think about it, I get that same feeling in the pit of my stomach that I get when I think about my relationship with alcohol or my relationship with food. I know it is disordered.

To throw in an additional factor (which probably makes sense to everyone else), I have a torn tendon in my foot. I felt it hurting a few months ago, but could not rest. The thought of not engaging in physical activity, even if its going to the store and walking around, makes me incredibly anxious. I’m sitting here thinking about how the next few months will play out… I’ll either be in a cast or I’ll be having surgery, then be in a cast.. And I can’t bear it. I start to sweat, my anxiety increases, and I get irritable. As soon as I think about the possibility of not being able to exercise, I want to go out for a run.

And thus, although it has been so so difficult, my last session ended with me giving my dietitian a compliment. I told her that, a year ago, when I began to see her, I thought it’d be just like every other treatment in my recovery. I thought it’d be a cake walk. I’d been in treatment since the end of my freshman year in college and I had never had difficult discussions about how I really feel about my body, or about how amazing it makes me feel to engage in eating disordered behaviors. I, in 4-5 years of “recovery” never really found out what “being in recovery” even means. But.. seeing her has been so trying that I can’t even begin to explain it. I have been pushed far beyond what is comfortable.

It’s not easy, and it surely keeps my head spinning. I lay in bed at night, looking back on what my life was. I couldn’t function. I honestly couldn’t tell you who my professors were or where I had class my freshman year, because my days were spent in the gym and not in class. I looked my doctor in the eyes, she told me I had months to live if I didn’t commit to recovery, and I went home and purged. I kept a tally of the number of times I purged in a week next to the toilet so that I didn’t have to think when I saw my “treatment team” the next week and they asked me.

My moments with Ed all blurred together and I had a life with Ed. I didn’t think that I was one of those people. But I was. And I still am.

For the first time ever in my life, I have begun to figure out who I am outside of Ed. Fully.

Recovery seems closer to me than the eating disorder. Really exciting, but very scary.