Do you know someone with an eating disorder?
I hope you answered yes, because you know me. I am a survivor of anorexia nervosa for life. This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week and I hope you all have been bombarded by posts, news segments, and other materials about eating disorders. Kate has been doing some awesome informative posts about all types of eating disorders to break myths and bring awareness. I have been participating in Awareness Week since my first year of recovery, and this week is one of the most meaningful weeks of the year for me and my family. It is because of this week and the efforts of many organizations like NEDA that eating disorders have finally left the closet and people have started talking about it. So let’s talk.
Eating disorders are a mental illness, each eating disorder is individual and unique. Yes this illness shares similarities between cases, but no eating disorder is ever the same. I know a large majority of people believe that eating disorders are about appearance and dieting, but that isn’t the case. Those who develop eating disorders don’t necessarily want to be thin. It took me a long time past reaching my goal weight to recognize that this mental illness 1.) doesn’t go away just because I look healthy again and 2.) the reason for my obsessions with food, diet, and exercise were really just a way for me to deal with other life stressors. Turning to food and restriction and compulsive exercise was/is a way for me to block out the rest of the world, escape from things I wasn’t happy doing.
Now my eating disorder, or my life in recovery really, has taught me how to live my life for me- taking care of myself physically and mentally in order to live a healthy and happy life. I resisted recovery for longer than I would like to admit. Even when I had reached my goal weight there was still a piece of me that wanted to go back. You see, eating disorders take over your brain, they have a separate voice, and it is a strong voice with the potential to ruin your life if you aren’t strong. Recovery gave me strength– once I accepted it. The day I chose recovery became the day I started to live again. I began to live a life that didn’t revolve around food. I started to challenge my perfectionism. And most importantly I began to see the real me again.
Because of recovery, I know who I am. I know how to deal with the stressful moments of life, and I have the tools to recognize when I need to ask for help in any situation. Recovery is more beautiful than any life in an eating disorder ever was. There is no perfection in recovery. There is fear in recovery. There is no escape from life in recovery, because recovery (the good and the bad) is life.
I have found hope in recovery and wish that for anyone suffering today. If you know someone who might be suffering or you are struggling yourself reach out. Don’t stay silent, because one more day of saying and doing nothing is another day you are not living.