National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2020.
I don’t even know where to begin. I have sat in my bed, in front of a black screen for a while now, not having a clue what to write or discuss when it comes to eating disorders.
Eating disorders are such a complex thing. Restricting calories, excessive exercise, purging, vomiting and starvation- anorexia alone has the highest death rate above any other mental illness.
I have fought my own battles with anorexia for the last two years and during that time, I understood what having an eating disorder like. But more importantly, I learnt what it is not about.
Unfortunately, along with so many mental illnesses, anorexia is something you cannot truly comprehend until you experience it yourself. During the roughest part of my illness, I was equally surrounded by people who did everything they could to understand what I was thinking and feeling, but also around people who didn’t have a clue.
So, straight from the horse’s mouth, here is the truth about anorexia.
This may come as a shock, but deep down, eating disorders aren’t actually to do with food. Having an eating disorder, whether that is anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia, are a deeper issue. They are a symptom of a much bigger battle that you are facing. I have heard many reasons why people develop eating disorders but to be perfectly clear, developing one is never a choice. Eating disorders may be formed through a lust for control, an abusive upbringing, a toxic relationship. There are so many complex and confusing ways in which they can arise.
However, unfortunately, lots of the time, anorexia is glamorised. Its associated with vanity and being thin. Fitting into that size 0 dress. I have heard people say that dieting must be so much easier with an eating disorder. I have heard people wish they had one just so they could drop a few pounds. And nothing, absolutely nothing makes me angrier.
There is no way that I could describe what having anorexia is like in one article, but I have always used the ‘devil and the angel’ theory. I always described my eating disorder as the devil sitting on my shoulder telling me to do things, but it was wearing the mask of an angel. It was tricking me to think that by starving myself, I was doing good. That by isolating myself from doing things with friends and family, that I was giving into the “friend” in my head. It is like being in an abusive relationship with yourself. You know that what you are involved with is toxic and dangerous but the thought of trying to escape is too scary as it (and by ‘it’ I’m referring to anorexia) has too much power and control over you. It tricks you into thinking that you are a better person with your illness and then eventually it leads you further down the hole.
Having an eating disorder is a constant battle inside your head. It is constantly screaming at you, dictating everything you do, who you see and what you eat. The voice never goes away and can be so overpowering that you lose sight of who you are. And the only way to recover, is by doing the scariest most unimaginable thing you can do at the time. And that is to eat.
Recovering from an eating disorder is a long, emotional and sometimes never-ending journey. It takes a lot of courage and bravery, but also a lot of support from friends and loved ones. Coming from someone who has (almost) fully recovered, I know for a fact that it cant be done on your own. You need people around who will pick you up, motivate you and keep you on track. You need love and tough love. Advise and someone to listen. That’s why it is so important, not only for yourself to spot the signs of an eating disorder, but also for those around you.
Lots of the time, these illnesses are caught long after they have implanted themselves, making the whole process of recovery a lot harder. So now, and not just because it is Eating Disorder Awareness Week, it’s time that we talk more and understand more about what they are and how to recognise when someone is struggling.