Dear Eating Disorder

 By Geoffrey Geddes

Saying goodbye is often difficult, especially to a long-time companion. We’ve been together for nearly 60 years now, since long before I could even speak. You comforted me when Mom first had to abdicate her feeding duties to my disabled father and my babysitter in order to support our family. I quickly learned to find solace in the substance rather than in the provider. You comforted me when Mom or Dad or the babysitter or Grandma or my aunts or my uncles or the neighbor would (always with good intentions) pacify my yearning for attention with a cookie or a donut or a candy bar. I quickly learned that I could snatch a little more attention and a little more comfort by asking for just one more (and maybe just one more).

I learned to count on you after Mom and Dad divorced and I found myself frequently alone and moving from school to school. With your help, I could always relieve the pain of loneliness or awkwardness or anxiety or fear. With your help, I could replace those unwanted feelings with the physical distraction of flavor, followed by the discomforting distraction of an overly full belly. The closer we became, the faster and more regularly I looked to you for relief at the first sign of a bad feeling.

I don’t hate you. In fact, I’m grateful for your help during my vulnerable years. Loneliness and fear can disable the strongest of us. They can paralyze. They can dash dreams and ruin relationships. They can thwart any hope of happiness. You were there when I needed protection from my loneliness and fear, and for that I’m grateful.

Yet, your methods of soothing and distracting have taken their toll. Ironically, you have steered me toward all of the consequences that can spring from loneliness and fear, including the paralysis, the dashed dreams, the ruined relationships, and the unhappiness. In fact, you added your own catalogue of sorrows to my lot, including regret and shame and self-hatred. Worst of all, our association has fashioned in me a poor model for my children.

So, long-time companion, it’s time to bid you farewell. I know now that loneliness and fear are not fatal. I know now that avoiding negative feelings does not relieve them, it merely delays and often magnifies them. I know now that I can choose in each moment whether to run from a feeling or confront it – whether to hide from an uncomfortable situation or stride courageously into its midst.

I realize that you may not go willingly. I realize that you have become attached to me and that you may continue to knock at my door. I also realize that, through reflex or familiarity or habit, I may let you in when you knock. But please understand that from now on I will always gently but firmly show you the door. Soon, you will understand that you are no longer welcome. Soon, you will stop knocking and I will remember our relationship as a valuable lesson and a prized part of my wisdom.

Thank you, and goodbye.