Sexual Intimacy and Starving
I’ve been sexually intimate in many forms of my body. Pre-anorexic, anorexic, relapse, weight restoring, and throughout weight gain and stabilization in recovery. I thought being in a smaller body would make me more confident. But it didn’t. It made me more more self-conscious and full of self-hate. More aware of the pain that comes with the fragility of my body at a low weight. A weight where it did not belong.
I hated the way I looked at my thinnest. Comments were made about how bony my spine and bum were. I shrugged off those comments and hoped that sex would make me feel something. Anything. Anxiety and depression numbed me to my actual bones.
Maybe it would shake the hollow sticks and organs around and resuscitate my emotional capacity for intimacy.
Never did. It was a poor excuse for a way to connect with myself or another human. Because the only thing I was intimate with was my eating disorder. And it doesn’t leave room for anyone else.
Throughout treatment the first time, I didn’t talk about sex. But I did learn that while living with Anorexia Nervosa, it is common for women to suffer a loss of libido (Pinheiro et al., 2010). When I heard that information, I was confused: I was not able to comprehend that I had been trying to ignite emotions through sex, but didn’t physically want it. A very complex thing to grasp when malnourished, and even as I write this, it’s a little tricky to put wording to what I now realize I was experiencing then.
A few months after discharging from treatment, I began relapsing. But I did I feel empowered in my kinda-weight restored but quickly dropping weight- body. And then that confidence began to drain; dripping down the sides of my body in bruises. Everything numb, again.
When I was restoring weight-the second time- I bought some flared, high-waisted denim and a cropped mock-neck top with bell sleeves, delicate embroidery, and an open back. I felt immortal and radiant; and acted that way. And I kept gaining weight. And then I was discharged from treatment and fit back into my favorite pants- the ones whose back pockets hit perfectly on new weight-restored butt. And I met my current partner whilst wearing them.
I was working hard to love that body. The one that felt familiar-like the humid Illinois summer air I felt before I started shrinking. With a filled out face, a little bit bigger but still modest chest, soft belly, strong thighs, and a prominent tush. I tried to love it everyday, that was hard. And letting someone else love it, was hard. What if it was too big or kept getting bigger? What if this body made me undesirable? But what if I worked to fall in love with my own body?
Over three and half years in recovery, and no longer fitting into my favorite asset showing pants, I have come to embrace this body. This body that I no longer use to stimulate emotion, but the one that feels emotions. And is present and engages in those emotions with my partner. My partner who has been with me experiencing the days that I cry and can’t look at myself and the days that I run around the apartment dancing naked, laughing wildly.
I’ve come to accept that my body is not what makes me sexual. My ability to see the beauty in my body - at whatever weight/shape/size- it finds itself in recovery. The beauty that comes with a mind free of the eating disorder that allows space for vulnerability. And the beauty to be seen. For me, I couldn’t and will never hold sexual, emotional, mental intimacy with my partner if I am engaging in my eating disorder.
And to be honest, I enjoy sex far too much to risk that.
Pinheiro, A. P., Raney, T. J., Thornton, L. M., Fichter, M. M., Berrettini, W. H., Goldman, D., . . . Bulik, C. M. (2010, March 1). Sexual functioning in women with eating disorders. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2820601/