I was lying in bed the other night thinking, wondering, why I can’t just “drop” my eating disorder behaviors when they cause me so much distress.

Then I remembered I’ve been in a similar situation before. I was previously in an emotionally abusive, “romantic” relationship that lasted for a couple of years, and I can’t help but see the resemblance between how I was treated by him then, and how my eating disorder treats me now.

I understand they’re quite different concepts and circumstances, but there are major similarities between them.

1. Not feeling good enough.

My eating disorder constantly badgers me that I need to change something or become something else so I can have “true value” — that just “me” isn’t enough.

The same thing happened in my relationship; there were things that bothered him, and I felt like I had to change to fit what he wanted.

2. It’s not always obvious in the beginning.

When my eating changed, I wasn’t distressed; it was easy and I thought it was a choice I had made. After all, I felt in control. It wasn’t until it started to do damage that I noticed something was wrong.

With him, I thought I had a somewhat “perfect” relationship. He was fully invested in me and I presumed his jealousy and overprotectiveness were just a manifestation of how much he cared for me. I actually didn’t realize how bad it was until we had split up.

3. It’s isolating.

My eating disorder made me withdraw from social outings due to fear of eating in front of people, or not being able to eat when the time came. Once I had started to lose weight, I used to avoid people altogether so they didn’t have the chance to judge me; I was embarrassed of myself.

In the relationship, my partner’s jealousy caused me to feel like I had to choose between him and my family, my friends or any other interactions. I was so invested that I chose him and didn’t see the problem, but I ended up either spending my time with him or in my room for the nightly three-hour phone call and constant messaging throughout the day.

4. The standards change.

I was always focused on restricting my portions to the standard my eating disorder had set. However, over time, the standards kept changing; suddenly that amount was “too much” and it gave me a new standard to meet.

He would change expectations, too. One day, he would be happy with me, but the next he would say he didn’t want me to do something anymore, or that he needed more of my time and focus. But every time I would meet those standards, he would ask for something else.

5. It’s hard to leave.

My eating disorder somehow convinces me it knows best — that I need it. I do try to leave it behind, though there always seems to be a part of me that worries how I’ll be without it — whether it will be better or if I’ll just feel out of control.

Leaving an abusive relationship is hard too. I wondered whether anyone could ever love me that much again, or perhaps that I am supposed to be treated like that and this is “as good as it gets.”

6. They’re toxic.

And this is probably the most important point. Both of these things can cause mental, social and physical harm; they’re not healthy to be involved in. And as hard and terrifying as it may be, at some point, they need to be left behind. It does leave a scar; I do still get unsure of what I should be doing, and I’ve realized I actually have to find myself now.

But I know letting them go gives me the chance to be the true me, and a real shot at happiness.

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Author: Laura Zagami