Tonight I achieved something that was unimaginable to me when I first arrived at residential treatment: my first 100% meal completion. I walked into the kitchen to see that dinner was two beef tacos along with a brownie on the side. I immediately felt my chest tighten and my breath rapidly increase. The ED voice immediately began planning and prodding. “You will eat one taco to appease the staff and two bites of brownie. Then you will stare at your boost for a good twenty minutes and exit the kitchen right when the clock strikes 6:30.”
The voice was incessant and unstoppable. It told me I would be worthless if I ate the whole thing, it told me I would be disgusting if I allowed myself to enjoy the brownie. My stomach rumbled in response. I could not deny the fact that I was hungry, in fact, I was starving.
I sat down at the table to find that I was seated next to my therapist, Danielle. She has been so important to me in my recovery process and is one of the only people who can convince me to take that last bite or drink one more sip of boost. Regardless, I was not planning on meal completion that night, even with her by my side.
I grabbed my fork and napkin and started in on the first taco, taking it bite by bite at the pace of a snail. Once I finished the taco I pushed my plate aside. “That’s it.” the voice said to me, “You are done. No more eating.” I agreed that that would be my stopping point. I believed the voice when it told me I did not deserve the second taco or the brownie, despite the hunger pains in my stomach.
With Danielle’s encouragement I was able to take two bites of the desert. I turned to her after two bites and announced that I was finished. “I am so full” I lied. “I could not eat anymore. I will just take the boost.”
She looked at me and asked simply, “Why don’t we go bite for bite on this brownie?” She then asked me, “Do you have any positive memories of brownies?”
I smiled as I recalled the day my brother and I had cooked brownies and made hot cocoa on a snow day. School had been cancelled and we spent the entire day outside, sledding and having snowball fights. We then returned to the warm indoors to devour the brownies and hot cocoa. I deserved it then, so why didn’t I deserve it now?
My eyes began to water as I recalled this fond memory and explained it to Danielle. For the first time since this process began I really truly wanted recovery; not for my family, not for school, not for my friends, but for me.
Danielle could sense my emotion, and she quickly grabbed a note card. On it she wrote, “Do you deserve to eat 100%?” I stared at that number, “100%”, and then I truly asked myself: “Have I ever done anything to not deserve 100%?” I looked up at her with tears pouring down my face and nodded silently. She then wrote “Do you like it?” and nodded at the brownie before me. I started uncontrollably crying then as I replied, “I love brownies.”
She wrote one last message on the note card and passed it calmly to me: “Then it’s ok.”
With a sudden burst of bravery I turned to the brownie. Bite by bite I completed the decadent desert. And I didn’t stop there. I picked up the taco and finished that as well, all the while tears pouring down my face.
Tonight, I realized that there is absolutely no reason that I do not deserve to eat. I have not done anything to deserve starvation. So what if other people aren’t eating, so what if other people are full? Tonight, I made a huge leap in my recovery journey, and for the first time, I am hopeful for what is to come.