#ExplainingED: What I Want You to Know about Eating Disorders Is…, Part 1
This week is Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Over the past month we have been gathering submissions from providers who help individuals and families recover, the clients who are currently or have previously dealt with ED, and the families and friends who are impacted and supporting their loved one for our #ExplainingED campaign. For these submissions, providers, clients, family, and friends, were asked to complete the sentence, “What I want you to know about eating disorders is______________.” Our #ExplainingED campaign sheds light on some of the dos, don’ts, insights, hurt, shame, resilience, recovery, and other factors that come with an eating disorder. Make sure to check out part 2 of #ExplainingED to come on Wednesday, and part 3 on Friday.
These are personal perspectives; everyone will have unique experiences on their own path to recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors or symptom use. Please use your own discretion. And speak with your therapist when needed.
What I want you to know about eating disorders is people do recover, there is hope, and you are not alone.
What I want you to know about eating disorders is that an eating disorder is a biological, psychological, social, cultural, and overall very complex mental illness that will kill you from the inside out, if you let it. Developing an eating disorder is not a choice, but recovery is.
I have suffered from anorexia nervosa for six years now, and have been in and out of treatment during these years. I have been hospitalized, inpatient, intensive programming, outpatient; you name it and I have been there. But, even though I have relapsed many times, I continue to stay strong in my recovery.
Eating disorders are medical, as well as, psychological illnesses. Because of my suffering from anorexia nervosa, I have medical complications such as secondary amenorrhea, osteoporosis, bradycardia (dangerously low heart rate), etc. that I am still working on to heal. As well as, psychological issues such as anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and overall the unbearable feelings of misery, loneliness, and being trapped.
After years of hard work, and now continuing to work with an outpatient treatment team to maintain my recovery, I am now recovered. Recovery is possible for anyone who is willing. Eating disorders are complex, but there is a way out of the seemingly endless cycle of obsession and desperation, treatment and support. To anyone who is struggling, know that you deserve help. You are enough.
What I want you to know about eating disorders is…
My mind is at war with my body.
And every day is a battle
Between what my body knows I need
And my emotions:
I don’t want to fight myself anymore.
I want to live.
What I want you to know about my eating disorder is that it is a lot harder than you think to recover.
Most people think it is a choice. Well it’s not. It just kind of starts on its own. My eating disorder has been really sneaky. I thought it was really normal for a teen girl to be insecure. I thought it was normal to always be thinking about my weight and how much I eat. I thought it was normal to compare my body to others, but it is not at all normal. Eating disorders like anorexia start off very, very slow. I didn’t realize it was my eating disorder telling me to quit eating unhealthy foods. I thought I was choosing to watch my weight. I quit eating so many foods I used to enjoy, but then they became huge fear foods for me when I was faced with them. I didn’t believe I had an eating disorder because I am not twig skinny. I thought that I could change the way I ate on my own. I didn’t want help or didn’t think I needed help. I finally realized I had an eating disorder when I went to the Anna Westin House and a plate of food was set in front of me and I started crying. I didn’t want to eat. I was afraid that I would gain weight from eating a meal. It seemed like way too much to eat. I didn’t realize that being terrified of gaining weight wasn’t normal. Eating disorders are like when you have a bad thought about yourself, but we have thoughts constantly. I’ve had dreams about becoming fat. It never seems to go away. It’s a really tough battle and it’s against yourself. Fighting against yourself on how many calories you should eat, what is okay and not okay to eat. Eating disorders are not who we truly are. People with eating disorders are a lot more than that. We are fighters. We have had struggles with other things that we are trying to escape. None of us are self-centered or careless. You can never tell who is struggling with an eating disorder.
What I want you to know about eating disorders is that they are NOT the whole story!
Think of your favorite book…have you read this book and only remembered one important chapter? Or were you captivated by the entire story, with small details of each chapter brilliantly woven throughout? What I want people to know is that my eating disorder is a chapter in my life story. Like other chapters in my life that have come to an end, the chapter that includes my eating disorder is ending now. The closing of this chapter may cause pain, confusion; a sense of being lost. This is where I must keep in mind it is only a chapter. The story does not end here. As the author of my life, I am able to reinvent my story. I can’t be sure of how the next chapters will unfold. Perhaps there will be new characters and some previous characters may take on different roles in the story. What I do know is that with any ending comes a new beginning. The chapter of being a sick, emaciated, anorexic girl is ending. I get to tell everyone my whole story. Everybody has a story worth telling.
What I want you to know about eating disorders is that recovery is possible, no matter how hard it is we all can recover despite the struggle.
Beauty from Within
Beauty on the out,
But is that the definition?
Is that what defines me?
I think not.
Beauty is within,
Beauty is within.
The voice inside
Blocking the beauty from within,
Trying to silence it,
But nothing seems to work.
The beauty from within
But I can’t let go.
He tells me to stop eating.
He tells me to stop feeling.
He tells me to stay far away from fat.
He tells me to stay far away from glucose.
He tells me to feel guilty when I give in,
When I eat fatty foods and don’t go to the gym.
He tells me this is because I learned it.
Little girl asking,
“Mommy, why are you always sick?”
With no reply she just brushed it off.
Little girl asking,
“Auntie, let’s go get ice cream.”
“No there is too much fat in that.”
Little girl with no understanding.
Little girl asking,
“Grandma, why don’t you eat this french fry?”
“It will make me sick, it is too greasy and has too much fat.”
Little girl wonders if she should eat it herself.
Continuous thought with no door to exit.
The little girl growing up
Influenced by her family,
And others around her.
The media says,
Drop 25 pounds in two weeks
With this product.
Don’t eat this
Eating that and
You will be thin.
Thinness is a skill.
Why is it portrayed?
Why do I need to be thin?
Why can’t I be who I am?
Struggle every day to block him,
Find the beauty from within.
It may take time
It may take energy
It may take hard work and commitment,
But I’m ready.
I will find the beauty from within.
Yo soy bonita.
I am beautiful.
Nosotros somos bonitas.
We are beautiful.
I am beautiful.
Thank you to all who sent in submissions for #ExplainingED. Your voice helps bring awareness and education for eating disorders. This campaign would not have been possible without you.