“I am not my emptiness”

Emptiness is hard to imagine unless you’ve felt it. Emptiness sits at the bottom of your stomach, and it creeps in when you least expect it. It feels as though you are hallow, unable to reach into yourself. And if you were able to, you wouldn’t find anything. At times, nothing— food, people, things, thoughts, words— can’t fill the hole inside of you. But when you do find temporary things that can fill that hole, you cling tight. You cling too tight. You cling so tight that you squeeze the life out of it, and it leaves you needing more. It leaves you constantly needing, and it’s exhausting.

Emptiness is a side of eating disorders that is rarely addressed. It’s not as simple as, “Lexie ran 7 miles and ate four crackers— that means she’s an anorexic.” Eating disorders are an emotional disorder; the voyeuristic practices— the binging, the purging, the dieting — is often exploited, leaving the vast range of emotional aspects ignored.

Inevitably, the emptiness I felt was what drove me to food in the first place. The temporary wholeness that being full gave me was a release from feeling void. Binging gave me the freedom I wasn’t allowed in my day to day life; it was a dependable, dangerous secret. But now that I’m in recovery, it’s hard to find things that fill me in the same way. After a seven year struggle with Bulimia and Anorexia, I simply do not have normal coping mechanisms. During the most formative years of my life, purging was how I coped with a mean word or a bad grade. Now, I only have myself. And learning how to feel my emotions is hard. Without purging, I actually have to feel my emptiness. The whole entirety of it. That is not to say that I did not feel emotions before, but in an attempt to dampen them, I would purge them away; they wouldn’t sit in my stomach long. Now, my emotions sit and eat away at me. And it was and it is horrifically painful. As a result, I was depressed for the entirety of my Sophomore year of college, and I currently go through swings of depression and anxiety. But even though it’s painful, I am happy and grateful that I get to learn. Recovery is a process, and I’m along for the ride.”