Imagination Land

The feeling to flee gives Riley important information.

A couple years ago, Riley and her husband were on a date. Seated at an Italian restaurant with red wine in their glasses and bruschetta on their plates, they talked about their dreams for the future. Riley remembered saying she wanted to move to Colorado so badly but couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her treatment team.

Riley’s eating disorder recovery put a pause on dreams. The guilt from that settled in her stomach and never left. This morning, she felt the ache from that. A wave of regret washed over her. She’d spent the last 4 years consumed with herself.

She’d spent the last 4 years building relationships with people who didn’t want her in their actual life (only professional) but to Riley, the intimacy felt real and forever. Suddenly, she regretted baring her soul to those people. She felt powerless with the information they held, information she could never get back even with all the record requests in the world, they were witnesses to Riley’s worst moments in the last 4 years and their memories held those moments. Suddenly, it felt threatening that someone who didn’t view Riley as an equal, Riley had given her world too.

It felt like the world was crashing down around Riley as she realized all of the people she invested in emotionally, beyond her immediate family, didn’t feel the same about her. Sure, they cared but not in the same way Riley cared. A part of her always knew this wasn’t quite right, but the other parts couldn’t see reality.

Coming to reality is harsh and feels unforgiving and cruel.

Riley wished they’d moved to Colorado and that she hadn’t been consumed and selfish all this time. She felt sick knowing she could have moved and Tracy and the other members of the treatment team wouldn’t have spent much, if any, time sad over the loss of the relationship. When just the thought of it felt absolutely devastating to Riley.

Reality set in and brought sorrow.

Imagination Land destroyed Riley in so many ways. Not that she wasn’t grateful and respectful of the jobs her treatment team did and the kindness they extended, but that Riley was subconsciously looking for a different relationship and is now irreparably hurt by her own doing: the burning ache of it all felt intolerable.

No direction felt right to Riley. How could she stay with someone she loved who didn’t love her on the same level? Tracy has been doing her job this whole time. Of course she has. Riley had been healing inside an imaginary relationship and it will no longer work.

Maybe a textbook, non-relational, psychodynamic intervention must finish this, so no more parts are hurt, and Riley can then let everyone go.

Riley felt broken as another harsh reality punched her in the gut: her eating disorder, over the last couple years, had served the purpose of meeting social-emotional needs and she wasn’t able to let go of her eating disorder fully because then there would be no legitimate reason to be in treatment. No reason to receive daily or weekly love. No reason for them to talk to her at all, no reason for any relationship to exist. Certainly no reason for mom to play the part of mom. Mom didn’t want to be mom anymore anyway, it’s all just your imagination, Riley, no one will ever care for you like that in real life, Riley thought as tears formed.

She had been so desperate for connection, for love, for care, that the eating disorder manipulated Riley. When she unconsciously felt this happening she created Imagination Land, where she could find ways to connect with people and give and receive love forever outside of the eating disorder.

Oh God, Riley thought. I’m in such a massive emotional mess that I created and the grief of losing so much time and energy and relationships is outstanding. It feels as if I did something to myself I can never recover from.


3 responses to “Imagination Land”

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