You Can't Have A Relationship With Your Eating Disorder And With Someone Else, Too

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By: Sarah Stewart “I think you should get a cactus, ya know, since it’s a lot harder to kill and all,” my mom joked, picking up a cute little pot that held what looked more like a spikeball than a cactus and was dyed hot pink.

I smiled to myself, repeating the mantra in my head that I had heard so many times before:

Step one: get a plant. Keep it alive for 6 months.

Step two: get a fish. Keep that alive for 6 months.

Step three: get a dog or a cat (a dog, obviously). Attempt to somehow miraculously keep that alive for 6 months.

Step four: get a boy.

It was so silly, just a saying my doctor told little teenage me to make sure I didn’t jump into a relationship too soon after receiving treatment.

Or so I thought.

My mind went back to a few years earlier, to a scene that was way too familiar.

I sat there, alone, my thoughts and emotions swirling faster than I could process.

Why? Every time. You run Every. Time.

I miss him already. No. You don’t get to miss him. It’s your fault. Just like every other time. You messed this up. It’s all on YOU.

Why this time? Why did you push him away? Was he too close? Too close, that was it. He wouldn’t have stayed anyway. Right? Yeah, too close. Way too close. He would’ve seen. He would’ve run.

The thoughts kept coming, darting all over the place, but always coming back to one central thought: it was all my fault.

And then I heard it, the voice I knew was coming but had hoped that for some reason, just this once, it would stay away:

You know you can’t be in a relationship with me and with someone else. There isn’t room for the both of us.

No. No, no, no, no.

I just sat there, curling tighter into myself, my knees digging into my chest as though holding myself tightly enough would somehow stop the thoughts, stop the taunts.

You can’t.

But I have to. If I want him, I have to. I have to do this. I need to do this. I’m slipping. Maybe just reach out, tell someone I’m still struggling, tell him that I --

You can’t.

But he’ll understand. He’ll support me. He doesn’t just see the eating disorder. I know that. I mean, he hasn’t seen me when I’m at my lowest, but still.

But you can’t.

Why? I want him…he’ s so good to me. I can do this. I can. He won’t care that I still struggle, that I have you, too.

He will. No one understands you like I do. He will just be disgusted; he will shut down like everyone else. He will get tired of you, tired of your baggage. You won’t be worth it to him.

You. Can’t.

He was right. E.D. was right. I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.

My internal struggle quieted a bit, then, as Sarah sank a little deeper into the darkness and E.D. smiled softly to himself as his hold on me grew.

I shook my head, coming back to the present, to my mom standing in front of me, now debating on whether or not I should get the hot pink or the bright blue, or what the heck, why not both?

I looked at the scene before me, this one not as familiar, this one filled with uncharted territory, and I felt the stir of the darkness within, squirming with discomfort, fighting against the light that was invading its space.

Here I am, three years later, still not whole, still not anywhere near perfect, and yet I am light years from where I was that day. I still struggle, yes, but this time my voice is no longer overpowered by E.D.

This time I am strong enough to reach out for help, strong enough to show my flaws and failures.

Strong enough to be vulnerable.

And who knows, maybe, just maybe, it’s about time I get a boy.

About the Author: Sarah resides in Stillwater, Oklahoma (but her heart lives in New York!). Sarah is earning a bachelor's degree in strategic communications from Oklahoma State University. At Project HEAL, Sarah is dedicated to raising awareness and providing support through Project HEAL's national social media. She is a total nerd who loves to be social, so she can often be found either reading/writing/editing or out and about living the college life with her friends. Sarah's favorite ice cream is Cappuccino Chunky Chocolate (because can it really get much better than coffee and chocolate?)