Sunday was the launch of this year’s National Eating Disorders Awareness week (Feb 21 – 27). There are few causes I actively get behind (animal rights, historic preservation, the reality of the Star Trek universe), and eating disorder awareness is definitely one of them.
An eating disorder, whether it’s anorexia or bulimia or anything in between (compulsive over eating, body dysmorphic disorder, binge eating, on and on and on), is not something that goes away in a day or two. It’s not a phase. It’s not a diet. It’s not going to be solved by “eating a sandwich”. It’s real, and it’s sad, and the only way we’re going to make it better is by bringing out in the open and talking about it.
I’ve been “well” for maybe three years. I still struggle. I eat. For the most part, I function like a normal person, and am able to handle situations out of my control in a sensible way. But I can’t lie. I am not entirely healthy, and, every once in a while, I question whether or not it might just be easier to slip right back into illness. Of course the answer is always the same, but the question remains. It probably will remain for most of my life, as will the repercussions on my body (and mind) after a decade of disordered eating. I still have my safe foods and food-related rituals (my pre-existing obsessive compulsive tendencies translated well into the realm of EDNOS). Physically, I managed to get away with little more than poor (awful, actually) circulation and countless vitamin deficiencies.
My entire world no longer revolves around food, and I no longer feel like I am the loudest, largest thing in the room. I don’t constantly feel the need to shrink away, but sometimes I do.
I was never hospitalized. I’ve never been in therapy. I still have all my friends. I am fortunate.
And I am better. I will continue to get better. I really do believe that the best way to get better is to bring it out into the open. I did it in baby steps, and I’m still baby stepping. There are still things I will only talk about with one or two people.
It is entirely likely that you know someone who does have or has had an eating disorder. There are ways you can help this person without being overbearing. Educate yourself. Be available. Be brave. Talk.