By Brenna Topham, RDN, LD
The Awful Trip to ED Town is a series of analogies that show the deceitfulness of an eating disorder and trickiness of recovery. This was written for everyone to interpret, find your own unique meaning!
You’re driving home from work one day. You take your usual route, going along the creek and through the forest. Suddenly, there’s a storm! It’s too dangerous to drive- you need to pull over. If you stop along the creek’s bank, your car might flood. But, if you take cover in the forest, the wind might blow branches and crack your windshield. There’s a third option- a little dirt road you’ve never noticed before- even after years of driving down this road. So you make the decision to take the dirt road.
This makes sense- you need to get out of the way of the storm. This is self preservation.
As you continue along the road, you notice it gets drier and drier. The trees go from green and lush to brown and brambly. You can see ahead that the trees are completely dead. You have a decision to make; do I keep going down the desert road, or do I turn around and head back into the storm? You can’t go back - you’ll surely drown or get battered by branches.
You decide to take your chances and keep driving along the dirt road, and eventually come across a town. There’s a big open gate with a cobblestone paved road. The townspeople are gathered to greet you. “Yay! Civilization- I’m saved!” you think. As you pull your car in, they motion for you to park it and immediately unload your things. They promise to take great care of you. You believe them- you’re so relieved to be away from the storm.
The town is so quaint. There’s a long street lined with little shops that sell everything you can imagine, lined with flower gardens that are in bloom year-round. The gate extends into concrete walls that grow with ivy. It’s safe here. You are protected. At the end of the cobblestone street, there’s a little cottage with a comfy bed. They tell you it was built just for you.
The townspeople are nice. They bring you housewarming presents and buy you supplies. They give you what you need before you even know you need it. The townspeople just seem to get you. You grow friendships that make you feel good about yourself; they give you something to do, somebody to talk to after having driven on the lonely dirt road for so long. You’re so happy to be here- away from the storm, loneliness, and vague unknown. So you decide to stay.
Days, weeks, maybe even months and years go by. Time passes quickly here, you’re not sure how long ago you arrived. Friends try to send you letters, but they’re not sure where you are- so only a few letters reach you. They try to call, but the phone lines are down. The gates are locked tight. They want to hire a private investigator to search for you, but don’t have enough information to follow a trace. You can see friends and family calling to you outside of the gate, but you hide. You’re not really sure if you want to be found. The town is just so serene.
But, you start to think about your life outside of the town.
You miss having Saturday brunch with your best friends. You long for the days when you ate tacos at 1 am with your boyfriend. A slushie sounds nice in the summer heat, but the town doesn’t have slushies. They are outlawed here.
The town has lots of rules. You have to follow them; there is no choice. If you leave town for a day and break one of the rules, the townspeople call you names and shame you. It’s probably best if you didn’t leave town anymore, even if you must follow rules to stay. You aren’t sure why the rules are necessary, but the town is comfortable and they give you everything you need, so why question? Time passes, and you learn to love the monotony and patterns.
You start to notice the townspeople more. They were so keen to compliment you when you arrived- but they didn’t know who you were yet. Why did they want you here, but wouldn’t let any of your friends in through the gate? How did they have everything you need, when you needed it?
Something feels off. There’s no thinking here, just doing. You need something and the townspeople bring it to you- there’s no time to think about why you need it or if you actually want it. You’ve fallen into a blind pattern with the townspeople. You feel like you’re one of them. You don’t know who you are anymore.
You recall the moment that you decided to continue down the dirt road instead of turning back. You beat yourself up about the decision. “I’m such a wuss for not being able to brave the storm”, you think, “Now look what I’ve gotten myself into”.
The feeling of discomfort grows stronger- you miss your old life. You want it back.
A voice inside you says RUN.
The townspeople aren’t looking, so you run full force into the gate. It jolts- but doesn’t open. You try again and again and again. Your body is bruised and aching from trying to break the gate. The townspeople begin to surround you. They tell you that they will let you live in a bigger house, give you an even comfier bed. They’ll plant more flowers and make the concrete walls taller, safer. Even if you did leave, would the world still be the same? What if the storm hasn’t passed? Would your friends and family accept you back? So you decide to stay, try it again and see if it’s better this time.
A large part of you wants to stay. You’ve made a home here, you know what to expect. But there’s one whispering piece of you that’s desperate to leave. You want to see your friends and family again. You want to follow rules that you consciously choose. You know that now is your last chance to ever go home.
You make one more sprint for the gate. You slam your body into the weakest point- it throws you back 10 feet. The townspeople have electrified the gate!
You come to the devastating realization that you are trapped.
You don’t want to be in this town for the rest of your life. You have to escape.
“HELP!” you scream.
Then, someone appears...