By: Simran Bansal
“That’s just the ED talking,” my therapist says.
I roll my eyes. This is probably my thousandth time hearing this, but magically, it only seems to get more and more irritating. How would she even know? If I don’t even know, how could she possibly know the voice wasn’t mine? She doesn’t know what’s going on in my head, so why does she pretend she does? I’ve only known her for a couple weeks, so there is no way she can no more about me than I do. There is no way she can know enough about my intrinsic characteristics to segregate them from a foreign force.
“How do you know?” I blurt out, not even trying to hide, but emphasize, my frustration now. I am sick and tired of these vague answers coming from someone else. It is time I start creating my own answers. I can’t do that if I don’t know how to reach a conclusion by myself.
My therapist meekly smiles at me and says, “Do you think you’re a good friend?” She is not one for just giving answers—she makes me do the self-reflecting, difficult work.
I was searching for such a complex method for differentiation that I didn’t realize the answer could ever be so simple. The answer is simple, and it works every time. When you want to figure out where those thoughts originate, just think: Would I ever say this to a friend? If the answer is “No,” ED is doing the talking for you.
For example, I often find myself in situations where I think, “You’re eating way too much, you are going to get fat.” I don’t think anyone in their right mind would ever say that to a friend, and if they did, they wouldn’t have to worry about apologizing because they wouldn’t have friends for long. Or, if I’m in a bikini and think “You don’t have the body for this,” I can instantaneously realize that this voice isn’t genuinely mine. Unfortunately, though, identifying the harrowing whispers of ED is much easier than ignoring them and making them powerless.
The truth is, even if deep down you know that it is just ED trying to trick you, it is still so hard, almost impossible, to believe the insults aren’t true. In the depths of my disorder, I would often go back to the cliché saying, “The truth hurts.” Maybe this was one of those times when the saying applied, I would question. Maybe, as much as I didn’t want to hear it, I couldn’t pull off a bikini or it couldn’t hurt to shed a few pounds. NO. FALSE. Just because something hurts does not mean it is the truth. The voice of ED will always cause mental distress, yet it will also always hold no candor. The very nature of an eating disorder, after all, is based on deceit and distorted thinking.
Ok, now we have established two facts that will help us cope and silence ED’s power: 1) If you wouldn’t say it to a friend, it isn’t you doing the thinking and 2) ED is full of crap and void of all sincerity. Knowing this, whenever a dark cloud drifts over your mind, automatically think if you would be this rude to a friend. If the answer is no, you know the voice belongs to one who cannot rely on fact, but solely fear to manipulate you. To discover what the truth actually is, just reverse the lie. After all, isn’t true the antonym of false? Thus, here is an example of a recovery-effective thought dialogue:
ED: “You should be ashamed at yourself for eating that slice of greasy pizza. You don’t have any self-control, it’s so pathetic.”
Me: “Nice try, ED, but I would never say this to a friend. The truth is that I should be proud of myself for eating that delicious slice of pizza. I have the will to recover, and it’s so empowering. I refuse to let you mislead me into believing otherwise.”
I know, it may seem silly and tedious to keep doing this over and over. It may seem almost unbelievable that some foreign monster was able to hack into your mind. But, you just have to deal with this seemingly absurd fact. Don’t deny that ED has control over you just on the basis that it doesn’t make sense. Life doesn’t make sense, and love doesn’t make sense, and perhaps that is what makes both feelings so real. Life doesn’t make sense, and yet it exists. Life, with its glories and tragedies and day and night, exists, and by accepting that some of your thoughts are in fact twisted, you too can experience its wonder. Love, with its mysterious appearance and blissful, unspoken sparks, exists, and by denying ED the power to abuse you, you too can learn to love yourself. And as for the tedious thought process—be patient and give it time. With repeated practice, it will become an automatic, natural instinct, one that won’t require much thinking. And once this happens, you will become friends with yourself, and you would never say such hurtful, wounding remarks to a friend you deeply care about. Once this happens, you can become fully and completely you again. Not 60% you and 40% ED, but 100% beautiful and human and genuine and true and you.
About the Author: Currently a senior in high school, Simran Bansal is Project HEAL’s youngest National Ambassador. She currently resides on Long Island, New York. After her insurance denied her coverage to residential because she “wasn’t sick enough,” Simran decided to become involved with Project HEAL to ensure that others wouldn’t be hindered from recovery solely due to inadequate financial means. In addition, Simran is the founder of Numbers Don’t Define Us (www.numbersdontdefineus.com), a site that aims to create a positive environment that fosters recovery through language, imagery, and self-expression. She wants to spread the message that no scale can determine our hearts, our souls, and our minds. On her website, Simran combines her love for writing and photography in her weekly blog posts. In her free time, Simran loves to watch The Office, hang out with friends, and volunteer locally. Her favorite ice-cream flavor is Haagen Daaz cookies n’ cream with lots of caramel sauce on top!