Write a Goodbye Letter to Your Eating Disorder
Writing a goodbye letter to my eating disorder was one of the most challenging—but empowering and rewarding—tasks I was assigned while in treatment for anorexia. As someone who has been using the written word as therapy ever since I learned how to form a sentence, this tool immediately resonated deep within my bones and it's been a crucial guidepost in recovery. This goodbye letter to my eating disorder was a break-up of sorts, a severing of the relationship, an epilogue to the abuse and toxicity. It gave closure to traumas, wounds and regrets from the past while extending permission to move forward in the present. If you haven't tried writing a goodbye letter to your eating disorder, I recommend it. This could be just the motivation you'll need to embark on your own path toward recovering from an eating disorder.
How to Write a Goodbye Letter to Your Eating Disorder
There is no precise formula to how this goodbye letter to your eating disorder should be structured—the purpose it serves is for your emotional benefit. This is between you and the insidious illness that no longer has a stake on your life. Nobody else needs to know what you've written. It's a candid, uncensored manifesto of freedom, and unlike with the eating disorder, no rules apply.
But if this happens to be your first time writing a goodbye letter to your eating disorder, here are some guidelines and suggestions to follow:
- Feel all the emotions that surface. Whatever you feel during this process—fear, shame, anger, remorse, sorrow, anxiety, etc.—don't judge, critique or suppress these emotions. Approach them with gentle curiosity instead. Remind yourself that emotions are both permissible and acceptable. Writing this letter can trigger many complex feelings, but you have the right to experience them all.
- Resist the urge to edit and polish. The point of doing this isn't to sound eloquent or impressive. You can shelve those "wordsmith" tendencies for the time being. The purpose of this letter is to write in a stream-of-consciousness, jotting down what comes to mind, uninhibited by filters and eraser strokes. Just allow the words to spew freely and organically—no revisions needed.
- Be entirely honest with yourself. The world isn't reading over your shoulder, so now is an opportunity to unleash the rawest and most authentic version of who you are. Ask yourself difficult, probing questions like: What beliefs or insecurities are holding me back from a sustainable recovery? How long have I been indulging these eating disorder behaviors and thought patterns? What aspects of my life has the eating disorder sabotaged? How could I reclaim what's been taken from me? What are my intentions for healing and growing?
The Goodbye Letter to My Eating Disorder
As I previously mentioned, this letter can take any form—whatever feels the truest for you. But in case you're still unsure of where to begin, here is the goodbye letter I wrote to my own eating disorder. The decision to leave our 15-year relationship continues to be a struggle, but declaring my independence from the grips of anorexia is worth all the difficulty of this message I'm about to share:
Today I am alive. There is breath in my lungs, strength in my bones, laughter on my tongue. But this is not because of you. If our years together are any indication, you wanted me dead. But here I am—still standing, still fighting, still enduring, still living.
You knew the smooth lies to murmur that would penetrate my soul. You learned my insecurities and used them to gain my dependence. You were enticing, persuasive, a master manipulator and a champion debater. You tempted me with the myth of perfection, then enslaved me with the weapon of shame. You weakened me in body and spirit. You were my religion. I believed you'd keep me safe.
I was wrong though. Your endgame was never about my happiness and wholeness. You weren't satisfied until I became just a fearful, fractured shell of a human, barely recognizable to anyone—least of all myself.
You forced my weight to plummet, taking my self-esteem with it. You convinced me a number on the scale dictated my failure or success. You demanded that my bones be visible, my muscles be fragile, my eyes be hollow. I loved you. I hated you. I worshipped you. I resented you. Such is the paradox of abuse. But today marks the end of our toxic, twisted relationship. Today I choose life which doesn't involve you.
Schurrer, M. (2018, April 4). Write a Goodbye Letter to Your Eating Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, December 5 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivinged/2018/04/writing-a-goodbye-letter-to-your-eating-disorder
Author: Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer
I had weight loss surgery last year and had always struggled with binge eating disorder before that. The first 9 months after surgery I didn’t binge one and thought I was cured, but about a month ago I started binge eating again and again and have gained 10 pounds in a month. I feel nothing but hate a resentment for myself and I’m miserable. Your letter brought me to tears because I realize I don’t hate myself, I hate my eating disorder, but that eating disorder has been such a huge part of my life that it feels like we are the same entity. I am going to write my own letter, but I’m also saving your as it is so beautifully written and a wonderful reminder that I am worthy of much more than what my eating disorder decides I’m worthy of.
Thanks so much for reaching out! First, let me just say that I am so sorry you've had to battle poor body image and self-esteem lately. I know the struggle well, and my heart aches for what you're dealing with. I am honored this goodbye letter has touched you so deeply, and I am thrilled to hear that you plan to write a goodbye letter of your own. You are absolutely correct—it's not you who deserves self-loathing. It's the eating disorder, which has stolen so much life from you, that should be hated with a vengeance. Keep reminding yourself that you are more than worthy of healing, and if you need any additional resources to help you feel motivated in recovery, I will point you toward Healthy Place's Eating Disorder Community as a place to start: https://www.healthyplace.com/eating-disorders. Keep up the fight!
I'm noticing that every time that I'm stressed at work I've been gaining weight and I cannot honestly stop eating most especially when I'm on my period. I wanted to correct this bad habit, thank goodness I've found this article. I really love this line Mary, "You forced my weight to plummet, taking my self-esteem with it", I think maybe it's time for me to say goodbye to my eating disorder too... I know help will start with yourself.
Hi, Chloe. That is such a courageous and self-aware step to recognize that your behaviors are causing you harm, and it's time to say "goodbye" to what is not serving you well. Thank you so much for bravely reaching out, and I'm so grateful you found encouragement in this article. As a starting point, I would suggest visiting HealthyPlace's Eating Disorder Community (https://www.healthyplace.com/eating-disorders) where you can find resources and links to treatment options. You are not in this alone!