In high school, I was known as the girl who encouraged everyone to speak up about their eating disorder and get help. From my own eight-year battle with an eating disorder, I know first-hand how challenging it is to take that first step and say something. But I can attest that it is worth it. Speak up about your eating disorder because it will save your life.
I heard a quote recently that goes, “If you do what you did, you get what you got.” It’s true. When you continue the same behaviors, you will end up with the same results time and time again. It’s important to speak up about your eating disorder because you don’t need to stay stuck in the cycle of self-hatred and a search for control. There are people out there who are willing to help you get better but you need to take the first step. I promise you won’t be fighting this alone. You have the entire AWS staff rooting for you, for one!
A former classmate recently came to me about her eating disorder and confided that she is afraid that recovery will mean losing everything. This is a common fear because you get so used to the sick routine of starvation, purging and binging symptoms. And you will lose everything. By that, I mean you will lose everything that your eating disorder believes is important. It will be excruciatingly painful to recover because you will be vulnerable for a while, but I promise you it is worth it. You will gain stronger friendships, appreciation for what matters in life and the courage for pushing through and fighting back. You gain a life.
If you wait until you are “sick enough” to receive treatment, then you will be dead. It’s a tough fact but there is not a certain level of sickness that suddenly justifies your illness. If you cannot concentrate without having distortions work their way into your mind, then you deserve to get help. You could be a healthy weight for your height, but your mind can be farther gone than you know. My weight never went below a healthy range for my body relative to the doctor’s BMI calculator. But relative to being able to live and enjoy my life and the people in it, I was sicker than I wanted to believe.
I heard a story once about co-author of “Life Without Ed” and therapist Thom Rutledge. He signed a copy of the book once saying, “You are not special.” When he talks about this, he brings up some valid points that mirrored my concerns for recovery. What if I was the exception and I couldn’t recover from my eating disorder? Anyone who has overcome their eating disorder will tell you how they are living proof that you can get better. Your eating disorder wants you to think that you aren’t special enough to recover which is why it’s so revolutionary when you do. We all thought that we couldn’t do it but like Rutledge points out, you are not special so you are not exempt from being able to recover and reclaim your life.
Recovery will be hard, there is no way round that. But I promise it is worth it. The hard work you put into getting better makes you a stronger warrior than you could have ever imagined. Your eating disorder wants you to think that you can’t live without it but the thing is, you can. You don’t have to just imagine what life without an eating disorder would be like, you can overcome it. There are people who will support you along the way because they’ve been through it too. You are not alone.
One of the reasons I knew my eating disorder was out of my control was my inability to focus. My concentration levels were shot as I spent more time hyper-aware of food than the world around me. This isn’t the life you want to live. Since I have recovered, I’ve been able to enjoy food, get togethers with friends, travel, enjoy music and life more fully than I could before. Speak up about your eating disorder and you can start living your life, not feel confined by it.
The hard reality is that an untreated eating disorder can kill you both mentally and physically. I never needed to be hospitalized because of my eating disorder but I was so far gone mentally it was as if I didn’t exist. The spark that makes me Michelle was gone. I think it is important to look at the health complications and realize the toll it has on your body. It can affect your fertility, bone health, ability to form memories and your organs. Please, say something. Your life and your sanity need you to.
It’s scary opening up about your eating disorder and getting help, but I know from personal experience that it paves the way for recovery. Consider talking to a counselor, trusted friend, family member or someone you feel comfortable with. Say something until someone gets you help. Any messages of support from the AWS community to help inspire saying something?
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