I don’t know when or if you can ever say you are fully recovered from an eating disorder, but I have come a long way from when I was diagnosed with one in the summer of 2016, after having suffered silently for at least a year before that. I’d like to use that experience and everything that I learned to help raise awareness about eating disorders and break down the stigma, especially around men with eating disorders.
Find the blog posts here: Talking EDs – opening up the conversation about eating disorders
I never imagined my life would be affected by an eating disorder. I grew up in a happy, settled family, I liked school and I was enjoying university life in London. Anorexia was the last thing I ever thought would bring a stop to my life, but it did. “Only girls are anorexic”; “I love food, why would I ever want to stop eating stuff I enjoy?”; “I don’t judge people on their weight, I don’t have an issue with body image”…. I never really understood that eating disorders are not even really about food and that anyone – ANYONE – could be affected by this life destroying illness, no matter their age, gender, size, shape.
What is also important to note is that regardless of the label given to your eating disorder (anorexia/bulimia/ednos…), they are all valid and terrible mental illnesses and share many of the same thought processes. Never feel isolated by what you are struggling with: others can help.
What has become clear to me is that public understanding of eating disorders is not where it should be. There are still many preconceptions, misunderstandings, even stigmas around the subject.
The restriction, the anxiety around food, the self-hate are just symptoms of a much deeper psychological disorder. I never really understood that eating disorders are mental illnesses, just like schizophrenia, or depression. Just like so many people, I thought: ‘why don’t they just eat? Why don’t they just shove a mars bar down them and get on with it?’. If it were that simple, eating disorders would not exist.
This is not something you can just ‘cure’: yes, you can recover, but it’s a long, scary, painful process, one which requires leaving behind something that has become a central part of yourself, and finding a new, better, you.
Eating disorders are not just for girls. Eating disorders are not just about food, weight, body image. They are mental illnesses. People don’t choose to be anorexic or bulimic. But we can choose to fight them, once we have accepted that we need help, that this illness has stolen too much of our lives already. That acceptance will be so much easier when society becomes more aware of the true reality of what an eating disorder is, when people realise that it is not about wanting to look like magazine models, but something far deeper. I hope that I can somehow use my experience with this illness to at least make a small contribution to raising this awareness.
If you have any questions, I’d be more than happy to help. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on the blog.
If you or someone you know may be suffering with an eating disorder, here are some links to find out more information about the illness and treatment. Please don’t think you’re ‘not ill enough’: if you need help, ask for it…