This week, Buzzfeed has been doing Mental Health Week. Included in their videos and articles was a video of individuals speaking about what they would want someone to know about having an eating disorder. The video was very short and I felt that it could have been much more detailed. Therefore, I have decided to make my own post where I speak to what I would want someone to know about living with an eating disorder. It is somewhat specific to my personal feelings/journey but I hope it can still be helpful.
I didn’t choose this – Thankfully, I have not experienced too many people directly telling me that I chose to have an eating disorder. However, I still see people think it is a choice, often, and that frustrates me. Eating disorders are an actual mental disorder and involve actual physiological issues. Research is showing possibilities that the brains of people with eating disorders have brains that function differently than other people.
Also, let me tell you that I would never choose this because having an eating disorder is hell. Why would I choose numerous health risks where I could have died, fainting, being in the ICU, missing out on holidays because of being in treatment, and changing the lives of everyone I know? I didn’t.
Don’t comment on my body, even in a positive way – I can see that this could be a difficult thing to understand. You think, “wow, _____ looks so healthy and amazing now that they’ve gained weight” and you make a comment. You mean well, but most individuals with an eating disorder are hyperaware of their bodies. Personally, when I am in a large group of people I struggle with worrying constantly about how others are seeing my body, and that they could judge me.
What is a good comment to make? A good comment could be, “you seem so happy these days” is a much better thing to say. Basically, avoid things regarding their body. Or simply let the person know you are glad to see them.
It is not all about weight – My eating disorder is not just an extreme diet, vanity, or just an obsession with the number on the scale. Eating disorders are a way to cope with deep issues. Personally, focusing all of my attention on losing weight meant I could avoid my actual problems in life. Yes, I struggled severely with body image but it is more complicated than just wanting to be skinny.
My eating disorder has been a way that I have dealt with issues of identity, severe depression and anxiety, and various instances of trauma. It was the only way I knew how to deal with things, at the time.
Being a healthy weight does not mean I am not struggling – Other than dealing with the eating disorder voice telling me I’m fat, gross, etc. when I gained weigh, it can also be challenging to have many people assume that I am OK because I look healthy on the outside. Before I went back to TK the second time, I appeared healthy on the outside and most people would not have ever guessed that I had an eating disorder, but I was severely struggling. Eating disorders are more mental than just about the physical.
It is OK if you do not know what to say to me – Eating disorders are complex issues and can be difficult to understand. I do no expect you to put yourself in my shoes. I have heard the same feelings from my fellow recovery warriors. What we desire is simply you supporting us and encouraging us. Also, asking questions in a polite manner shows that you care. My best friend, LCM has asked my questions because she cares about me and wants to understand. The best thing is just for you to tell me that you care.
Recovery is a journey, not a destination – There is not a point in recovery where *bam* you are officially recovered. Recovery is not a straight line and it is a lifelong journey. Eventually, I will get to a point where I am behavior free and living free from my eating disorder, but I will still be journeying to discover more about myself and creating a new life for myself.