The First Rule of an Eating Disorder Is...


The first rule of eating disorders is: you do not talk about eating disorders. The second rule of eating disorders is: you do not talk about eating disorders. The third rule of eatin — you get the idea. I got the title for this post from one of my favorite movies, “Fight Club.” In the movie, there’s this thing, this secret, that I can’t talk about because that’s the first rule. And that reminded me of the first rule of eating disorders.

A rule I am breaking and am going to continue to break. Every. Single. Day.

Why? Because I have to keep the channels open. The thoughts and feelings must continue to flow because if they don’t, then I start to regress. I become this person who has so many secrets, she almost isn’t a genuine person anymore. People begin to hate me, and stop wanting to hang out with me. OK, maybe not so much anymore (I don’t hang out with anyone, haha!), but when I was younger I didn’t talk to anyone except therapists and my parents about my eating disorder, anxiety or depression. My problems were this huge secret to me… ones that everyone knew about but that I was so ashamed of, so scared of revealing, that I would just push people away.

It wasn’t worth it to me to look like a “freak” to people around me, so I just gave up. They didn’t really give up on me though. I had friends who would ask me to hang out with them; I’d usually blow them off. My sisters would ask me a bit timidly if I wanted to do such and such an activity with them. I usually said no, simply because I was pretty sure they hated me and wouldn’t want me around anyway. The funny thing is, I was only making things worse. The more I pushed people away, the more they started to realize something was wrong, that I wasn’t my usual self. And then they started to worry and talk about me behind my back with my mom (don’t get me wrong, this was a good thing mostly. If not for certain people in my life at that time, I probably would not be where I am today). Things started to get messy. All of the little rituals and rules I had established started to seem like something way beyond what they were to me. They became an illness, something afflicting and killing me. And I didn’t want to talk about it. Because the first rule of eating disorders is: (say it with me now) you do not talk about eating disorders.

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If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

There is something about anorexia that is so foreign and scary. When I was 11 years old, I read a book that mentioned a girl intentionally starving herself. I thought, “How could a person even do that?” It seemed unnatural.

Even I think it’s a weird disease, and I have it. I didn’t stop it before it got so bad I couldn’t go back. I didn’t ask my mom what the hell was wrong with me. Why was I so sad, so tired, so mad at myself? Why didn’t I like to be around people anymore? Why was this sandwich so scary? Why did pizza make me want to bash my head against the wall? I didn’t ask for help. Even when I knew I needed it.

Thankfully, my mom was there to step in and try to take the reigns… I say “try,” because I wouldn’t let her help me. I saw her coming, and I jumped off that wagon seat and snapped those reigns right off. I ran and ran until I was so tired and defeated, that I cried and cried and held out those tattered pieces of leather to my mother. I showed her where they were cracked and worn, and she said she would help me repair those reigns so they weren’t so tight and restricting. But I didn’t trust her. Again, it comes back to me. Me, me, me. And sometimes I would talk about my eating disorder, when I felt like the listener was in my ultra secret “club.” But I cringed when I broke those rules. The first, second, third, fourth…

I’ve already said that the first rule is “you do not talk about eating disorders.” Thankfully, this rule seems to be getting broken by not only me, but by all kinds of professionals and individuals who see the benefits of speaking up. I never wanted to ask for help, because I wasn’t ready. I didn’t know where the hell to start, and I was such a mess. So find someone you trust, and bounce ideas off of them. Breaking the first rule won’t make you weak, or “bad.” In fact, just the opposite. Breaking these rules makes you strong, courageous and beautiful. You are worth it. Start the conversation. Speak up. The rules end with you.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: What’s one secret about you or your loved one’s disability and/or disease that no one talks about? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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