How Eating Disorders Ruin Relationships 3


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Eating disorders are a bitch, and anorexia turned me into one too.

In America, “candy” is what we Brits refer to as “sweets.” Today I’m not writing about sweets; I’m writing about my little sister: Candice.

Below is another Love Fat edit out. I cannot reliably remember why I removed this part from the book. It certainly was not due to the content as such, as Love Fat explains the devastating effect that anorexia had on my relationships with other people. Maybe I thought it was repetitive, and that is why I decided to cut this part. Nonetheless, writing this was hard. No, it was fucking hard.

Basically, all walls down, I am describing how much my eating disorder caused me to act like a complete bitch toward my little sister. Initially, admitting that to myself was difficult enough, to go on and admit that openly—in a book—was actually much easier once I had worked though it myself. And yeah, before you ask: I did feel guilty. I still do feel guilty. But self-forgiveness and all that jazz.

Candy. Seeing her squashed me, depressed me, disgraced me.

I knew that this reaction she caused me to have—despite it being unintentional on her part—would result in me exercising more and eating less; because any form of stress or discomfort had that effect: I barely needed an excuse to starve myself. Seeing Candy was a threat to me because seeing her would cause me to sadden and run; lose more weight.

But. There was more to it than that too. 

I was scared by just how alike the two of us were. Candy and I had always been similar in body shape, attitude and even our interests; she was a keen horse rider also. I worried that she would follow me into thinness, and that would be a dreadful outcome for both her an me. For her: because eating disorders are a living hell. For me: because I knew that any competition would literally be the death of me.

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One thing that I was really “lucky” with in my ten year eating disorder nightmare was that I had no competitors and I was not aware of the pro-ana sites that the internet is now riddled with. One of the other mental aspects of anorexia, is that it is devilishly competitive. Seeing other thin people goads the disease. I was savvy enough to know that if losing weight became a competition I would be unable to resist rising to it, and that I would starve myself to death in order to win. Here, in this truth, brewed my hostility. In a really messed up sense, it was self preservation.

I have this little dog called Werm. Werm knows that she is not supposed to snarl and growl at other dogs. What happens when a strange dog enters the house, is that she has enough control not to lurch forward and snap, but instead she lies in her bed and projects a growl so deep and low that it is barely audible. Her top lip curls up just marginally and her nose wrinkles. If she thinks I have seen her, she does her best to pretend that she was not growing, but she can only control it for a number of seconds before that lips starts to quiver again.

Werm is a bitch, and she and I have a lot in common when it comes to attitude and instinctual reactions.

I would literally bristle as Candy walked into a room. I would go through waves of trying to be civil—because let’s face it, being nasty to ones younger sister is hardly an attractive trait—but I’d often slip up and bite. Regardless of what other people thought, and regardless of my own desire not to look like an unreasonable tyrant, I wanted Candy to hate me and I did a very good job of presenting her with a person who was incredibly hard to like.

Thinking back, there was another facet to this still. After a while I resented Candy for the reaction that she provoked in me and the compunction that followed. I didn’t want to feel those things that I felt, so I was mad at her for enticing them. Then, I was cross at myself for blaming her so irrationally for my own feelings.

That was by no means the only relationship that anorexia put a strain on. Sadly the majority of my best friends at school dissolved as my eating disorder evolved. No blame there: I was horrid. Reclusive, irritable, and angry. I did not want to be around people because I could not trust myself to be civil. A constant state of hunger will do that to you. It will also turn you into a liar.

Don’t worry; my relationship with my little sister healed as my eating disorder healed. In the same way the compulsion to exercise for six hours a day and starve myself seems to foreign and unthinkable to me now, the thought of loathing Candy seems impossible. She is one of the least hatable people I know, and the fact that I did indeed hate her is just one more demonstration of how an eating disorder is a brain-based mental illness.

Thankfully, it is also a treatable one.

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About Tabitha Farrar

I work as Head of Marketing for a software startup in Boulder. As a recovered Anorexia sufferer, I advocate for proper understanding of eating disorders in my spare time. On that note, I wrote a book about my own journey into eating again called Love Fat.


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3 thoughts on “How Eating Disorders Ruin Relationships

  • Anon adult sufferer in weight restoration phase

    I’m glad you wrote shout this, Tabitha. I know this illness has, and still is affecting my relationships and how I behave, particularly at certain times of the day. I too feel guilty about it but I have also admitted it to my mum snd my husband. My disordered eating began as an adult in my twenties and thirties and my mum has said my personality has changed over that time. I am grateful that I can admit this to them despite only just restoring weight at this time. But I do think it’s helped I keep away from negative triggers and unfortunately, like your sister, I avoid extended family and my mum for long periods too as I snap at her. Her odd eating times or avoidance of eating till certain times and giving to remind her to eat or to have something more substantial makes me feel angry and irritable. So I snap. Then I feel guilty for that. So I have decided short bursts and visits or calls at the moment us how I cope and avoid being annoyed and upsetting her. Even with my family I know I get irritable and I feel guilty for being like this since my son was born. That’s how I’m getting through eating more and more at the moment as I keep thinking of how I’ll hopefully become less moody and more like the old he, but hopefully a happier version, appreciating it was my unhappiness and insecurities that got me into this state. Thank you for making me feel I’m not alone. But how long did it take you? Did you have to reach a higher bmi or dud you feel it return gradually? Any tips or help your end would be great too.

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      Hey,

      I found that the longer I stayed at a weight that I knew was proper weight restored the easier and better everything became. Forget BMI, it doesn’t mean anything. Help your body out by getting your weight higher and your brain will follow suit.

      • Anon adult sufferer in weight restoration phase

        Thank you. I feel I’m at that I between stage where I am trying to keep positive about the gaining of weight and not letting myself slip knowing snd having faith that what you say is right. I’m finding the days I feel uncomfortable tough but still trying to ignore the pull.