Topic Tuesday: Dating

MFox Photo“Nothing Good Gets Away” (By: Mackenzie Fox)

I have never been the type of person who dates much but this has been especially true during my eating disorder. Near the beginning of the roughest days of my eating disorder, I became involved with a man who was not good for me. He did not give me my eating disorder, of course, but he was fuel for the fire that was already burning in me. He was my work out partner. He echoed the voice inside my own head that said “get up, you have to work out. You have to earn your food. Earn your happiness for the day”.  While I don’t think that he was intentionally trying to drive me into my disorder, he did not understand what was going on when he would comment about my weight or my desire to work out or my food choices. He thought it was ‘tough love’.

The further I went into recovery, the more I was able to distance myself from him as well. While I never completely severed ties, I realized that there was no future with him. I remained single, maybe going on a casual date here and there but during therapy, dating seemed a bit like a trigger. At the very least, it was scary. I didn’t like my body, how could I expect anyone else to? I didn’t understand my mind and didn’t want to put that off on anyone else. How could I expect that romantic love from someone if I wasn’t in love with myself?

I’m three years into recovery now and dating has started to seem like a bit more ‘in reach’. I’ve recently met a guy who is a really good guy. He compliments me. He is interested in me. We share a connection. It makes me feel super sappy and warm hearted just in these first few dates. It has made me think on what I need in a partner. What should I tell them about my eating disorder? And when? It feels like a burden but it is a part of me.  So I sat down to make a list of all the things I want him and future partners to know about my eating disorder and my recovery. This list can also easily apply to friends and family as well.

  • I’m really, really afraid to let you beyond my surface. I don’t want you to know how much I can worry about food sometimes. How it can still consume all my thoughts on some days. I’m afraid to let you see how insecure I still am about certain aspects of my body or my recovery process.
  • I love the compliments and praise. Even if sometimes I try to argue with you about the compliments or praise you’re giving. Sometimes that sneaky voice can appear and tell me I don’t deserve this happiness but I always do. I will always deserve this happiness. Make sure it’s not always physical/appearance driven compliments. I think that we try to over-correct a person’s weakness and think that someone with an eating disorder needs to hear that they’re beautiful. While it’s certainly appreciated, dig deeper to compliment things that you really appreciate about what I bring to the table.
  • I’m going to have bad days. Everyone does but my bad days can involve participating in behaviors that my eating disorder tells me are good for me but I know differently. I just need you to tell me, “Yes. This really really sucks but I’m here for you.”
  • Boundaries are important for me. It helps protect me from relapse and it may not make sense to you but it’s something I need. You can always ask me about those boundaries, but please honor them. Dating makes me worry about falling back into a time before recovery where I had no voice and no boundaries over my ED. Setting boundaries with myself and other people is just another step in recovery.
  • This is a mental illness. Sometimes the weird things I freak out about may seem trivial and silly but my eating disorder is complex. It’s not made up of one simple thing. It’s not just genetic or environmental; it’s a mixture of a lot of puzzle pieces. Patience and love will be your greatest gifts you can give me. I’m going to need them from you even when I can’t find them inside myself.
  • I know I’m worthy of love. This might be the most important. In recovery I’ve found that I am so worthy of love. I am worthy of loving myself, I’m worthy of other people’s love. I want to share this newfound part of myself with you because it’s going to make both of our lives better.

About the Author

Mackenzie Fox is a Nashville native who is happy to share her stories of her eating disorder and recovery in hopes that she can help others. She spends her days weight lifting, mentoring high school students as they prepare for college and spending time with her two cats, Tonks and Maleficent. She is a total cat lady and goof ball who wants to show people that there is absolutely an amazing life after an eating disorder.