Well first off, ED stands for eating disorder. It may seem obvious but I promise you, to many it’s not (and that’s okay I am not shitting on them, it takes experience to know it!)
So back to ED 101- what is the eating disorder voice? Generally, all us cool kids in therapy have found such relief in using this analogy to explain our eating disorder. So every day you hear a voice in your head, correct? Telling you to get up when your alarm goes off, reminding yourself to bring out the trash, advising you to call your lovely girlfriend and tell her how awesome she is! That is your voice, it’s the one we all have in our heads. Now get this…people with eating disorders have two. Actually, the science behind it does really blow my mind. You see, we have our normal voice (just like you) and then we have our ED voice. The ED voice is a complete asshole. You can basically think of it as another person (Well now I may actually sound crazy but I promise I am not making this up- it’s a universal thing!)
If you know anyone with an ED, you know how moody we get. When we are happy and approachable, it’s most likely the true us! When we are acting like Satan, although it’s no excuse, you can bet its the ED voice (although I am sure there are still some mean people out there regardless of what voice is in charge).
Nonetheless, the ED voice is the one that is usually in control and that’s what recovery is all about- fighting back to have control, not listening to the ED voice.
The ED voice uses should a lot:
-You should go to the gym
-You shouldn’t eat that
-You shouldn’t go out
-You shouldn’t wear that
From my own perspective, like I said, the science behind it is absolutely mind blowing. One minute I can be myself, my true, honest happy self. And then maybe I catch a glimpse in the mirror or maybe there is no trigger (What’s a trigger? Blog coming soon!) and all of a sudden, I’ve lost control. I am moody, I isolate, I am angry, I am sad. And it is not so easy to just ‘not listen’. That’s SUPER annoying to hear- after 8 years of this hell don’t you think I would have ‘turned it off’ by now if I could have?!!
Sometimes I am aware of who is in control, that’s kind of the first step of recovery- learning who is in control. I am getting better at it- sometimes I can just feel the shift. It’s the worst, I hate when the ED voice is in charge. No matter what I had planned that day, if the ED voice is in charge- I am canceling it. The ED voice is so powerful and a lot of times, we feel helpless. We feel sad because our loved ones can see the change, but we cannot control it (Shout out to my parents and boyfriend for always handling it!). We also feel sad because we feel suffocated, taken prisoner by this terrible voice we can’t seem to get away from. The ED voice controls what we do, unwillingly. I have done hundreds of workouts that I actually never wanted to do, maybe I was sore, or injured or sick or maybe I just didn’t want to go to the damn gym. But when the ED voice tells me to do it, the agony of not giving in, of hearing it get louder and louder is just too much most times.
Sometimes we are not aware we’ve lost control. Last week, 45 minutes into my workout I realized I was suddenly in a terrible mood. I had been in a decent mood when I got to the gym and now I was miserable. And it was then I realized I had just spent 45 minutes pinching my fat, bashing my body and resorting to old thoughts- the ED voice had taken control without me even realizing it for a whole 45 minutes.
And I think that’s the scariest part. I remember watching American Horror Story: Asylum and freaking out about how scary would it be if you didn’t know you were crazy or you thought you weren’t but people were telling you you were. It’s mind blowing that I graduated magna cum laude from BU, and yet, I can’t always control my brain. It makes me grateful though, that I have the ability to get that control back.
So how does that work? How do we get the control back? Damn, I wish I knew. But recovery is a process and each day your loved one must work on deciphering the two and then listening to their voice, not the ED voice. There are multiple theories of thinking about the ED voice. When I first started therapy, I used anger, a lot of “Shut the f%*# up I am not listening to you!” But now, on my stronger days, I am asking the ED what it is protecting me from…that is why a lot of us have ED’s, to protect us from life/stressor/emotion. For instance, last week my boyfriend went on an 8-day hike aka no texting or calling (How did people survive before cellphones!?). I noticed the ED voice was suddenly super loud and I had the awareness to realize, stop and ask what it was protecting me from. Was I just missing my boyfriend? I reminded myself that that was okay, that it’s okay to be sad about it. So some patients may use anger which is totally fine and tends to be easier, but some patients choose to come from a place of compassion. I truly use both!
So what happens when you notice a shift in your loved one? Unfortunately, every patient is different. Some days I am responsive when a support says something like “Hey, I just want you to know I am here if you want to talk about anything” and some days I completely shut them down and run away.
But I will say fighting back, yelling at them or calling them out for being a bitch does not help. For a long time, my friends and family thought I was just rude and moody (ok I am sure I have my moments) but when they got mad at me, it made me isolate even more and feel even more helpless. I would sit alone and wonder why I even just flipped out at them. Now, I can sit down and talk something out with my mom. Does it mean I have an excuse or that I am allowed to be a bitch? God no, but generally when you talk it out you’ll hear a ‘should’ or something that roots from the ED voice and that’s when your love is needed the most!