Letter of Hope…A Letter to Her…A Letter to My ED
By Denise Kirschner
It has been a while since I have written. We have chatted on occasion, but I think it is time that I really sit and talk to you about me, about us. Do you know you have been with me for 12 years? I was a newlywed whose husband began a slow, insidious attack on my body image. I was 28 at the time, in love and blind. Although I only weighed “x” pounds, I believed his words – I was a pork chop, I did not eat right, I did not exercise and when I did, it was not hard enough. That is when you were born. He helped nurture you, and I encouraged it. You gained more confidence and began to flourish. Together, me being the young bride and you being the young child, we wanted to please him and be that perfect wife. We wanted happily ever after, we wanted acceptance, we wanted security, and we wanted unconditional love… You kept growing stronger using the behaviors he taught us and developing some on your own. I grew more insecure, never happy with who I was as a person both inside and out. You worked in collusion with him, and I didn’t even know what was going on. I just went along with your decisions and his decisions, not questioning anything. I look back on those years and I despise what you both did to my life. The two of you worked together, isolated me from my friends and family, cursed me with a ritualistic, regimented lifestyle, and took my ability away to have children of my own. The two of you taught me to obsess about what I was eating, when I was eating, how much I was eating as I beat my body to a pulp with exercise, poor nutrition. I became you…I lost my identity to you and to him.
And then in 2010, I began to question everything…was I truly living, was I happy, was I in love…the answer to those questions and many more were no… I existed as a person, but I was not the girl, the woman I once was. Miraculously, you backed away and gave me space to begin my journey towards recovery – I moved out, divorced the man who hurt me so deeply, set up a strong treatment team, and eventually entered treatment – all in hopes to find my true self and to live.
So, please listen carefully as you need to know all of this, I need you to understand every word I am saying to you…
I am no longer angry with you. I now know that you were protecting me. I know this and am sure of this. Without you in the marriage I would not be here today. You actually transformed into a buffer between him and me. You absorbed his hateful words, you protected me from his random outbursts, you kept me numb so I would not experience the emotional pain he was inflicting. And then at some point you must have realized I was ready or we were ready to move on. After 8 years, you knew that it was time to ease your tight grip…my voice became louder as yours diminished. It was me, who told my husband that we, both he and I needed help in order to survive. It was me, who walked away when he refused to go to therapy. It was me, who learned to live independently and make important decisions. You kept a watchful eye. When things after the divorce started to crumble, you reappeared. Although you were there, my voice was still present. It was my voice who decided to go to treatment, it was our voice that shared the pain of a terrified body image, the sadness of my inner child whose dreams were stolen, the confusion of a 30 year old who lost her identity to a man who convinced her he loved her…. You gave me room to share my story, and feel my emotions…and so I began to truly heal.
We came home, and yes we relapsed quickly, but again I know you were preventing me from feeling anguish so intense it would have swallowed me whole. Nothing could have prepared me for an unexpected change in my career or the shock of seeing him on a daily basis with his new wife. That shock turned into a deep pain within my soul, when they had a baby, a baby he never wanted, a baby that I had once longed for. You came back so quickly to let me know, that in order to move forward, we had more to share and more to feel.
So here we are, almost two years since treatment…in the past 6 months I have committed to and sustained my belief that recovery is possible. My urges to act on behaviors are less. I am cooking, eating a greater variety, exercising less… I am using my voice to handle situations at work and with him… I am opening myself up to the world and forming new relationships…I celebrated a 40th birthday and for the first time in years did not engage in behaviors…I establish boundaries…I ask for support…I cry, I laugh, I feel anger and disappointment…I experience joy, sorrow, love, and fear. Thank you for giving me this space to breathe and to live. But you must know, I am ready for more, I want more, I need more… I want you to know, I can handle more. Let me continue this journey in recovery so I can do more than live, but experience life to the fullest… You have helped me get to this place… I know a part of you will always be there… I will respect when you reappear. It is just your way of telling me there is something that I need to look at and to learn from. And that is just what I will do.
After all we have been through it is time. It is time for me to let go. I think you recognize that. I think you respect that. So, let me take the reins over and live my life to its fullest
So I may live truly as my self,