THE BLOG

Life Without Ed, 10 Years Out

02/28/2014 05:10 pm ET | Updated Apr 30, 2014
Valerie Fremin

I have never been married, but I am happily divorced. Ed and I lived together for more than 20 years. He was abusive, controlling and never once hesitated to tell me what he thought, how I was doing it wrong and what I should be doing instead. I hated him, but I could not leave him. Ed convinced me that I needed him and that without him I was worthless, nothing special, and worse. He told me that he was looking out for my best interest -- that his way was for my own good -- but he always turned on me. He made promises that he never kept. When I hit bottom physically and emotionally, I finally decided to divorce him.

Let me tell you a little more about Ed. He is not a high school sweetheart. Ed is not some creep that I started dating in college. And Ed is not a guy that I met in the supermarket checkout line (although he does hang out a lot in grocery stores). Ed's name comes from the acronym E.D. -- as in eating disorder. Ed is my eating disorder.

You might recognize Ed as the little voice inside that says, "You just need to lose a few more pounds," or, "Do you know how many calories are in that?" Ed is the one who stares back at you in the mirror and says that you should be dissatisfied with your appearance. Ed talks to all of us. While some of us are deeply embroiled in a relationship with him, others are just casually dating him. Maybe you are just meeting Ed for the first time. Whether you are married to Ed or just flirting with him, this book is for you.

I broke free from Ed, my eating disorder, through a therapeutic approach I learned from psychotherapist Thom Rutledge, which involves thinking of the eating disorder as a distinct being with unique thoughts and a personality separate from my own. In one of my first therapy sessions with Thom, he pulled up an extra chair and asked me to talk to the chair as if it were my eating disorder. Thom ignored the you-must-be-nuts look I gave him and continued, "If your eating disorder was sitting in this chair right now, what would you say to it?" Well, he was the professional; I was paying this man to help me, so I decided to give it a try. I looked at the chair and said, "Why do you try to control my every move? Why won't you just leave me alone?" In the few moments that it took me to ask those two questions, I felt a little separation from my eating disorder, and it felt so good. Throughout that therapy session, I continued this conversation with my eating disorder. By the end of the hour, I was referring to my eating disorder by a man's name, and for the first time, I had a feeling that I had just taken a significant step toward freedom.

***

"In ten years, will Ed still come around?" I asked in the first edition of Life Without Ed. Well, it is 10 years later, and I am happy to tell you that the answer is no. To get to this point, I never had to change Ed, but I kept changing my responses to him. Ultimately, I began to just ignore his incessant banter and, losing his power, his voice faded away. Ed and I don't even talk anymore.

The idea of a complete recovery may seem unrealistic to you, and I get that. To get to where I am today -- experiencing a freedom I was never quite sure existed -- I had to remain open-minded (maybe I can fully recover) and keep walking. My hope for you is that you'll do the same.

Thanks to recovery, my eating disorder has been among the best gifts in my life -- albeit one that arrived in the absolute ugliest package. Words cannot adequately describe the pain and frustration that come alongside an eating disorder, and, similarly, nothing can possibly depict the true miracle of recovery. Don't quit before this miracle happens for you.

Adapted from Life Without Ed by Jenni Schaefer, reprinted with permission from McGraw-Hill. Copyright 2014.