#ExplainingED: What I Want You to Know about Eating Disorders Is…, Part 3
Today we share part 3 of our #ExplainingED campaign. 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. How would you complete the sentence?
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 it is not about food and eating.
What I want you to know about eating disorders is…
An eating disorder is NOT based on how thin you are. You cannot physically tell if someone has an eating disorder. But yes, some of them may be thin, but most are the normal weight that they should be at. An eating disorder is based on how much time you devote your mind to thinking about food, your body image, and how those thoughts affect your daily life. Also, people do NOT have a choice in that matter of having an eating disorder. It practically is like a person living inside your brain who takes control over your thoughts and distorts them. They cannot just recover by stopping instantly, it takes time. There are many types of eating disorders. Anorexia, where the person restricts. Bulimia, where the person would restrict if not purge, maybe by binging on food. And there’s the eating disorder where you binge on food. They all have the same symptoms and are treated equally with the same amount of care and are all very life-threatening. But nobody controls if they have an eating disorder or not, it just kind of happens.
What I want you to know about eating disorders is that Ed does not control your life.
Day one of embracing company within my mind.
I wrote this passage in my journal on the first day of my treatment program at the Emily Program,
which took place in February of 2014.
It goes: “And so my journey begins, all the flaws and imperfections that I spent years protecting get
exposed to the world. Yet, what I didn’t realize until recovery is that they were never flaws or
imperfections to begin with, just merely distortions of my mind. Better yet, distortions of a
friend of mine, whose name was Ed.”
First of all, let me be polite and introduce Ed. Ed is otherwise known as my eating disorder. Larry, asshole, or all of the above. I refer to him as a male because our relationship is comparable to one
of a highly dysfunctional, unhealthy, and abusive marriage. Ed and I had been together for years
before February of 2014, but our relationship was not an open one. He and I confided in secrecy
because we worked (or failed) better that way.
On this day where I wrote about my flaws getting exposed to the world, Ed was along for the ride
and he was NOT happy about it.
It is almost February of 2016 and I can truly say that Ed and I are comparable to cancer (a bit dramatic
but hear me out.) I was once consumed by the cancerous disease of disordered eating,
and now I am in remission. Very similar to a divorced couple with children that still have to
encounter one another during specific events over time. I will spare you all the detailed orientation
that sculpted my journey through treatment, dropping out of school, losing friends, gaining new friends,
starting over, and discovering myself again. But what I will tell you is this, on that day in February of 2014 when I wrote about disclosing my flaws to the world, I would have never fathomed that by
admitting I had flaws that would make those flaws beautiful. That by being honest with myself and being honest with Ed, I became more beautiful ( and I don’t say that lightly) than I thought was possible.
Ed no longer CONTROLS my life, he just knocks on the door from now and then.
And I’m learning how to acknowledge those knocks, but not invite him in.
What I want you to know about eating disorders is that it certainly isn’t a choice in any way. Living with an eating disorder is like having a mental battle going on in your head all the time. ED isn’t about vanity. People who suffer from Anorexia don’t see their bodies the way somebody who doesn’t have anorexia does. Because of that, we fear with every ounce of our being that we will get fat. Anorexia specifically is a biologically psychologically, sociologically, and spiritually grounded disease. Studies have shown through the use of MRI that the make-up of the brain of somebody with Anorexia is different than somebody who does now. It truly is a mental illness. Society pushes the ideal of thinness at every corner making recovery even more challenging. Personally, I believe spiritual warfare is at play with my eating disorder. The good news is the recovery is possible. I am learning new tools to cope with my challenges rather than turning to ED. I am excited to get me life back and not be focused on every single thing I eat all day long every day. I am already much better thanks to TEP and my support team. I still have a long journey ahead of me, but I have hope now because I know recovery is possible, achievable, and attainable.
What I want you to know about eating disorders is EATING DISORDERS ARE NOT A CHOICE!
A lot of people out there think that having an eating disorder is a choice you consciously make. However, I definitely did not choose to have an eating disorder. People are genetically predisposed to getting an eating disorder, just like people are predisposed to getting diabetes or cancer. Sure, I did choose to restrict what I ate when I first developed an eating disorder, but now my eating disorder is trapped inside my head; it’s a separate voice from my own.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder or mental illness or bullying or abuse or self-harm or ANYTHING, please take this as a sign to reach out for help. I strongly encourage you to do that.
I BELIEVE IN YOU!
-Your friend at the Emily Program
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.