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What It's Like Being a Model With an Eating Disorder

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Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder or have experienced binging, the following post could potentially be triggering. Please don’t hesitate to call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

Darkness descends upon the room, signaling my arrival. Behind the curtain, I can feel my breath, waiting for permission to exhale. My knees quiver with apprehension as whispers drone from the crowd outside. From my spot behind the platform, I notice the flares from cameras and spotlights, like shooting stars in a strange, forsaken sky. I can already feel the eyes of the people as they stare at the empty runway, waiting for their goddesses to strut. My throat clenches and my mind empties — anxiety has taken control. What will they think of me?

There is no time to think; a lady dressed in black flies to my side and grabs my arm. Her face in a twisted panic, she begs me to step onto the stage. I agree, but deep within, I sense the devil laughing among the restless souls in the crowd, draped in a dark Armani suit.

I prance down the runway like a queen, my body dripping with jewels. Like a lioness, I sway from side to side, moving to entice all who look my way — I am the beast who no one can touch, and no one can tame. As I glance at the rows of curious faces, however, the darkness begins to take over. Before I know it, my worst nightmare has returned — the demons have revealed themselves, with their black eyes and mouths full of jagged teeth. I cannot escape them; they are my masters, and I am their slave.

Voices command me to keep moving. “Look forward bitch and keep walking. Don’t screw it up! They’re all going to laugh at you.” I force my head higher and put my shoulders back as I push through the noise and approach the end of the runway. As my feet carry me to the edge, I hear no sound, experience no sensation. Despite the music and commotion, I am lost in a dreamland. How long have I waited to arrive in this spectacular moment? I never imagined I would feel so numb, so vacant. Dozens of cameras pop and crackle as they capture the magnificent creature before them. I perform, but inside I feel trapped, imprisoned within my mind. I struggle to remember which turn I should take next, and instead act like the beautiful model I am supposed to be.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

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

Stiffening my quivering thighs, I manage to hold my broken body up higher than before. I turn to leave and feel thousands of eyeballs latch onto my back—they’re all stabbing me with their eyes like butcher knives. My brain is on fire, but I continue to sashay down the runway like a glamorous mannequin. The masters hold tremendous power over me — they are my gods. Their convictions weigh upon my back until it begins to shatter. Whispers trickle into the air like a dark swarm of ghoulish obscurities, filled with gossip and mockery. As I turn around for my final pose, the whispers mutate into the buzzing of a million angry, swarming bees.

“Nikki, Nikki, Nikki!”

Sweating, I look out into the crowd once more. I see nothing and can feel only the beating of my heart. Thoughts of my meaty thighs consume my mind, and distress blinds me. Flashbacks of my stomach bouncing under the sweltering lights drive me to the breaking point, and all at once I fear I might implode from insanity.

“Nikki! Nikki! You are unbelievable, just incredible, darling!”

A leggy model grabs my arm as I step off the stage. Thick adrenaline rushes through my veins.

“We were all watching you back here on the monitor, cheering you on the entire time! What are you doing after the show? A bunch of us girls are going out to dinner and dancing.”

The tall, thin redhead joins me in a huddle by the exit. She watches my face, but her smile fades as she realizes that I have no interest in talking.

“Thanks, honestly it was nothing. I — I gotta go.”

I change into my clothes and slip out the side door before the designer can discover I’ve left. I stash the jeweled lingerie in my purse and call a cab. Inside the taxi, I replay the scenes over and over again; the memories are suffocating, far from the life I had always imagined. My moments of fame and brilliance are over. Who am I? I’m certainly not special, but a joke, a clothes hanger for everyone to admire and forget. My only happiness lies in destroying myself.

I slam the door of my apartment and run to the refrigerator to get my hands on anything that will quiet the painful memories; whatever will kill the maniacal voices… hell, will kill me too. Tearing open package after package of chips and cookies, I shove them into my mouth and fall onto the kitchen floor. After an hour of binging, my swollen stomach signals me to crawl into the bathroom and purge. I need to get rid of the voices, release the misery. Blood rushes to my head and my veins flood with adrenaline. The filth leaves my body in unforgiving streams of regret and terror. I want to look away as my eyes fill with tears, but the insanity demands my attention. “Look at it, you stupid whore. Get it out before it’s too late!” My body, throat and brain cry out in agony as I continue to purge and punch my stomach, each time harder than the last; as I do, scenes of the fashion show flash in front of me. I want to expel all of those memories out — I want to get the demons out. I stare at the vomit as it swirls in the toilet — this is my value, this I am sure of. Coughing and wheezing through each forceful push, I feel torn between feelings of vulgarity and relief as I watch every bit spew out of my aching mouth. Blinded by my tears, I clean up any clues and spray perfume to erase the memories. The voices are exhausting, but I can’t stop succumbing to their callings — at the end of it all, the sickness lets me know I’m alive.

I cleanse my stinging mouth, puffy face and bloated body in the shower, asking a God I do not know to forgive me for the sins I have just committed. I run my hands over my soaking flesh and gasp for air. Already insanity is creeping back, taunting me to consume more food in isolation. I try to ignore the voices, but the obsession grows as I divert my attention to the mirror and brush my thinning hair. For a fleeting moment I recognize myself, but the demonic voices slither in and steal my sanity.

“You ugly monster, you call yourself a model? You’re not even attractive! You’re a worthless piece of shit; that’s what you are. You made a fool of yourself out there tonight. They were all laughing at you; everyone is always laughing at you!” I suddenly travel back to my childhood and my stepfather’s vitriolic insults. I wonder if I have ever been worthy of anything valuable in my life; if anything has ever been real. Despair slices away at my insides slowly, deeply.

My churning desire for food rises to a level beyond anything that I can handle, and my senses radiate with fire as the voices talk to me again, this time taking on a clever, tempting tone. “There’s all that delicious food in the kitchen, you know you can’t wait to get your fat hands on it. What’s the big deal? You’ll just get rid of it.” My heart races with excitement and fear as I think about the food; I cannot separate myself from my delirium any longer.

No amount of food is safe from my frenzy, and I choke on more fistfuls of cookies and cake. I am unrecognizable, a savage seeking to destroy herself. I crawl over to the bedroom and flick on the television as I continue to binge, but can hear no sound over the voices. “Finish your food… now! It’s such a shame you can’t eat this for real, fat ass! If only you could. Hurry up and purge before it reaches your stomach!” The longer it takes to consume the enormous portions, the more I sweat, the harder my heart beats and the greater my stomach swells until it reaches a size I cannot bear. I can barely breathe, and I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand, spreading crumbs, grease, chicken bits and sweets over my clothes and carpet. I sit in my shame and flip through the channels, stopping on an episode of “The Nanny.”

As I watch Fran’s smiling face, I feel sadness come over my body. I yearn to be with Momma, The Momma I once knew long ago. I ache for the day when we will be a happy, healthy family, but as the credits begin to roll, I feel the dream slipping away and fall into a deep sleep.

Suddenly, the evil voices interrupt my rest. “Wake up! Do you know what will happen if you fall asleep? You’ll f*cking die; that’s what!” My stomach feels as if it’s ripping apart; I reach down and notice that the button and zipper on my pants have busted. “That’s because you’re fat, fat, fat, fat, fat!”

I can’t handle the voices any longer. I want to bash my head on the wall and make them stop, but I grab a gallon of milk instead and begin chugging it as I approach the bathroom. I glance at myself in the mirror—my stomach is protruding, and my pants are hanging down around my calves. The milk is nauseating but comforting; my throat burns from the vomit, but I swallow more creamy liquid to control the heat. Blended concoctions of body fluids, foot and milk splash up from the toilet and hit me in the face, but I don’t care — I gladly accept the abuse. I flush, swallow, purge, repeat — until all evidence is gone.

My head pounds like a swarm of heavy-footed soldiers fighting for freedom in my brain, and I collapse on the ground, attempting to cry but unable to make a sound. All I can feel, smell, taste, and know is the putrid universe that traps me. I drag my body back to my bedroom and crash on my silky comforter, faint and unable to move. I open my eyes and for a moment gaze at my surroundings: a lavish apartment with all of the things money can buy. However, on closer inspection, it is evident that my luxurious surroundings are decaying; my velvet curtains remain shut at all times, and I shun anyone from entering, food from Casa Tua is scattered everywhere, and there is the faint smell of vomit in the air. Perhaps I could have a nice life, filled with real friends, love and laughter; instead, I’m a prisoner in a glass cage, but I don’t want to break it — to do so will mean a death of some kind. I’m not ready to face that.

This was an excerpt from Nikki’s upcoming book: “Washed Away: From Darkness to Light.” To learn more, visit nikkidebose.com.

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Lead photo: the cover of “Washed Away: From Darkness to Light

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What I Dread Hearing From My Doctors About My Eating Disorder

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Every time I have an appointment with a doctor, I dread the time for it to come. It brings up memories of the not-so-distant past when I was visiting my physician once a week to check my heart, electrolytes and weight. I am reminded of the days when I struggled with my anorexia, before I had a proper care team or had my disordered eating under control. I know the moment they open my chart and see the diagnosis of anorexia nervosa, the questions and subsequent lecturing will begin.

It all starts with that seemingly simple question I know all too well: “How has your eating been going?” The thing is, they don’t actually seem to be interested in my response, because no matter what I say — good, bad, or otherwise — they immediately start talking the moment I stop. Then I get the typical rundown of how my disordered eating behaviors affect my body and the potential long-term health consequences. I listen as they tell me my heart muscle is weakening and my bone density is decreasing due to my restriction. They tell me I’m at risk for a heart attack and anemia. I sit quietly and listen to this lecture I’ve heard many times before. It’s as if they think if they keep repeating it to me, maybe then I’ll understand and truly “get it” — but I do get it. I know the reality of what I’m doing to my body, and continually telling me why what I’m doing is “bad” only makes me feel guiltier and leads to an even greater desire to engage with my urges.

Then comes the next question: “Do you want children?” While I don’t know if I do or don’t want children at this point in my life, I do know this question hurts. Putting on a show of the things I may desire — and may have already lost — is painful. I can’t even imagine how it must feel to hear this question if you want kids and know that possibility is in jeopardy. Hearing this question also makes me feel as though the doctor doesn’t think I have given any thought to my future. In fact, it was thinking about my future that partially put me in the hospital to begin with.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

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

After that comes the spiel about how I need to be eating a balanced diet and three whole meals a day, adding up to some number of calories recommended for my height and age. Again, this frustrates me. It goes against everything I’ve learned in recovery. In my experience, three meals a day has not worked for me. I instead strive to eat five smaller meals throughout the day. Also, giving me a target number of calories to eat immediately gets my disordered eating behaviors going. They have just given me a challenge, a number to avoid reaching at all costs. This contradicts my lifestyle of intuitive eating in which I try to eat balanced meals, eat when I feel hungry and stop when I am full.

I know the doctors are well-intentioned, but I feel their probing reflects a need for increased education about eating disorders. Eating disorders are about so much more than just food. They have a deeper function that can often be difficult to understand — and even more difficult to find a healthy replacement for. Telling me not to do something that would hurt myself isn’t helpful. Instead, please try listening to the person who is or has struggled without interrogating them.

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If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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'Society' Didn't Cause My Eating Disorder, but It Didn't Help

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I cannot speak for anyone but myself when I describe what it’s like to be a girl with an eating disorder. I guess I actually mean “what it’s like to be me (with an eating disorder).” Society seems to have a strong habit of blaming the disorder of eating on models, body-shaming and celebrities. While all of these things can play some part in it, I can personally say society is the least of my worries when it comes to my disorder.

Does it help to see an obvious size six be considered a “plus size model?” No, it does not. However, this surely does not throw me over the edge.

I do not drastically deny myself calories and exercise to the point of exhaustion, lightheadedness and physical pain so I can have the physique of Adriana Lima. For some, that is the case. You become so tired of not being the right amount (or lack thereof) of woman, that starvation and over-exhaustion seem like the best (and quickest) response. When it comes down to it, you don’t care about the consequences.

While all of this is true and being complimented for weight loss and the triumph of going down a few jean sizes does feel great, my eating disorder is far more complicated. Sometimes, I wish it was only what meets the magazines, the tabloids and the television screens. I feel my personal recovery would be much easier if this was the case. I wish my expectation of myself was able to change as quickly as the trends in society. The fact of the matter is, it is not and it never will be.

My eating disorder is, for the lack of a better word, a safety net. A very, very, dangerous “safety net.” Life happens. Finances suck. People screw you over. Anxiety hits you like a freight train, and depression takes it upon itself to have a staycation in your home.

The one thing that makes it all seem a little less hectic, if even only for a moment, is my eating disorder. When the world itself seems to be everything but copacetic, my eating disorder gives me control or makes me feel that I have it, at least.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

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

I can’t control the people in my life. I cannot control my current salary. I can’t control the fact that some people clearly do not give a shit about anyone or anything but themselves, but I can control the amount of calories I eat. I can control the amount of miles I force upon myself (even if I happen to faint in the process).

My eating disorder allows me to avoid feeling things I wish so badly to avoid. Not making enough money? Starve. Get screwed over? Starve. Fifth car accident in the last three years? Starve. Sad for no good reason at all? Starve. Scale didn’t show the weight I expected after starving? Starve some more.

Friends, family and doctors, ask me why I do the things I do, and why I have done the things I have done, when each time it lands me in some sort of treatment. It would be much easier to blame my eating disorder on society. It wasn’t until recently that I even had even the slightest idea why I do and have done these things — to control things when everything seems to be falling apart. In reality, I am letting go of every bit of control I had in the first place.

My eating disorder is a seesaw, one end being recovery and the other being relapse. While I spend most days running from one end to the other, I currently reside somewhere in between. I will spend the rest of my life trying to find ways to handle life. Yet, this is better than cutting it short because my body finally gave the last little bit of control it had to the beast I call my safety net.

 If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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To Those Who Love Me When I Can't Love Myself

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First of all, thank you. Thank you for listening when all I do is tear myself apart. Thank you for hugging me when I could crawl out of my skin. Thank you for holding my hand when I think I’m walking alone. But most of all, thank you for seeing my potential in even my darkest moments.

I also want to say that I am sorry. I’m sorry sometimes I can’t see anything positive about myself. I’m sorry sometimes even eating is too much. I’m sorry I have so many internal and external scars you’ve had to see.

It’s hard for me to be friends with people with eating disorders. And I have one. So, I can only imagine how you must feel. I can’t begin to understand how it must feel to watch me, us, starving and struggling. It must all seem so juvenile and simple to you. I don’t understand what it’s like to see a loved one with IVs and feeding tubes. But it must hurt.

Based on those things alone, I wouldn’t blame you if you ran far and fast. But you don’t. And that is one thing I will never understand but will be forever grateful for.

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What Happens After Your Child Is in Eating Disorder Recovery

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I was cooking dinner the other night when my 16-year-old son came up to me in the kitchen, kissed me on the cheek and said, ”What’s for dinner?”

I replied, “Baked chicken with marinara, capers and olives.”

He smiled and said, “Yum, that’s my favorite sauce you make.”

As he walked away to return to his homework, I burst into quiet tears. Now, you might think how sappy and how silly that is. In ordinary cases, it might be. When you have a son who almost died from anorexia just 10 months earlier tell you something you’re cooking is his favorite to eat, it is a pinch me, surreal moment. Suddenly, you realize recovery is working, and his brain is healing to become a healthy teenager again. It is a wonderful thing when recovery is sticking. It is also a scary thing when recovery is sticking.

As we count the days and see life return to our new normal, I live in emotional turmoil controlled by swings of elation at times such as this and fear of another relapse. How can you trust that the media, a friends’ innocent comment or simply a smell or time of year won’t trigger someone who’s recovering? There is perpetual fear that one single event or just a moment can send them spiraling back to the hell in which they fought so hard to get out of.

You work so diligently to get to this point, and then, you reach it. You are victorious yet waiting for the other shoe to drop. You want to protect them from the harsh cruel world and do everything you can to keep them healthy.

When they first return home from treatment, that protectionism is vital to the success of achieving recovery. Once they are in recovery, you have find a happy medium to allow them to be normal teenagers and reclaim their lost freedom. It’s an art, not a science. There is no magic formulas that exist. The one piece that’s so critical is leaning on your care team comprised of a nutritionist, a therapist and a psychiatrist if medications are involved. This team can coach you along the way and act as your “go to” strategists.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

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

I find as time marches on and your child recovers, you are left to your own thoughts, sometimes for the first time in months. Finally, you have time to assess the emotional toll an eating disorder personally has taken on you. Moving forward for everyone is healthy and living in the present not the past is essential for familial healing.

Yet, there are those moments when you have flashbacks of your journey that are haunting and come over you like a tidal wave. I will ask my husband often, “Did we really just survive this horrific time? Are we still OK?”

In these moments, you have to allow yourself to just breathe, acknowledge them and realize you too have been through a traumatic event. It is normal to have these emotions. It is also rational to have fears and skepticism regarding being able to really trust recovery of a loved one. It is not only from an eating disorder but for any type of addiction recovery.

In order to cope, I have learned recovery is not a linear curve. Success is not measured in days or weeks of being eating disorder free. People with eating disorders may still experience eating disorder thoughts. They still wrestle with body image issues, and they still fight a demon in their head that can call to them as an old friend in times of stress.

Successful recovery for is learning to not act on any of those distractions with their eating disorder behaviors. It sounds simple, but some days it takes an inordinate amount of discipline for the person with an eating disorder.

Learning to observe your loved ones and recognize their signs in times of stress can help them cope. Recognizing the signals and paying attention, even unobtrusively, will aid them best in their recovery. It is a skill that takes time to perfect.

In answering my own question of when do I get to trust my son’s recovery, I would tell myself that sadly, not anytime soon. Possibly, you never trust recovery. I respect how hard my son has worked to get here. I will always love him and support him in any way I can and catch him if he falls.

The reality is his eating disorder will always be a part of him, somewhere deep inside. My role as a parent is to be the guardian and always be watching out, realizing that he may slip and he may have a bad day. That is part of this disease.

My advice to myself is that each day he is in recovery is a gift. Treasure it, protect it and savor each good day you have. Living life in fear and distrust is not productive. You have to keep moving forward and celebrate the positives. It is much healthier and happier existence!

 If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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An Insider's Perspective of an Eating Disorder

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The theme of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week this year was “3 Minutes Can Save a Life.” And while I felt it was well-intentioned and someone struggling may benefit from the 25-question survey, I think it’s missing part of the point of having a week dedicated to awareness: spreading awareness to those without eating disorders.

I feel our society lacks awareness of what an eating disorder really is. I think the vast majority believe it’s an attention-seeking ploy, a diet gone wrong or an overwhelming desire to be thin and pretty. And because that’s the definition that’s conjured in many of our minds, those struggling may face challenges getting the care they need. The average cost of a 30-day stay in an inpatient facility for eating disorders is $30,000. Thirty thousand. For 30 days. I think there is something very wrong with that picture. If you need treatment and your insurance company determines you don’t fit into their criteria, then guess what? You are out of luck. Unless your family takes out a second mortgage. And more often than not, I hear of people either being denied coverage altogether, or being cut after two weeks or so. Because you can undo years and years worth of damage in 14 days, right? I think insurance companies have slightly improved (and I owe mine a huge thank you for the coverage they’ve provided me this year), but there is still a lot of work to be done.

Eating disorders can affect anybody. Anybody. You can be negative three pounds and have an eating disorder. You can also be 600 pounds and have an eating disorder. And anywhere in between. That’s the point I really want to drive home here. You can be any weight, you can be white, black, male, female, transgender — eating disorders don’t discriminate. No, I have not done extensive research, and I don’t have a “Dr.” before my name. I don’t want this to come across as me saying my experience is worse or better than anybody else’s. But truth be told, I’ve struggled with a restrictive-type eating disorder for 12 years. If I can offer any insight into the general function of an eating disorder, at least from my experience, I’d lay it on you like this:

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

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

Eating disorders suck. It’s like having a constant reel of your own self-deprecating thoughts running through your head, over and over again. And they breed in shame and isolation. It can be a very secretive illness.

Relation to gravity (a.k.a. the magical number on the scale) is not an indicator of how “well” or how “sick” someone is. Some of my worst relapses have taken place while I was at a healthy weight — by government standards. And body image has a part in all of this. The reeling, self-deprecating thoughts: “I should be x weight. Or y weight is too heavy. I’m gross, I’m ugly, I should do better than this.” It is not about vanity, it is about control. Control of the number on the scale, control of the choices you make for breakfast. Control over what you deem “good” foods and “bad” foods. While we’re here, a piece of advice. Telling someone who just came from treatment that they look healthy, good, or like they’ve filled out is not something I would recommend. I know you mean well, but for some of us, it may make us think we are “heavy.”

I was born with a very harm-avoidant personality. I struggle with pretty severe anxiety (social and general) and episodes of depression. So in a nutshell, I don’t deal well with “the feels.” I don’t do well with change. And so I use a supposed “anesthetic” I discovered at 15 years of age, starvation. It’s a chain reaction. Something out of my control happens. I experience anxiety and/or depression. I want to not feel those emotions. I numb them out by restricting my caloric intake. This provides temporary relief until the next event. Rinse and repeat.

Why does starving myself give me the illusion that I feel better? Good question. As mentioned above, control is a major function of the eating disorder, so if I cannot control what is going on around me but can control what goes into my body, then voila, a temporary fix. I fill my void by feeling my void. Emotions become the enemy, and an eating disorder is supposedly the numbing agent.

Why does starving myself actually ruin my life in the long run? Because restricting your caloric intake is like tripping the breaker in your basement. The body is a smart machine. If you aren’t fueling it, it starts to shut down the functions that don’t seem as necessary, solely to conserve energy — until it shuts down the important functions, like say, your heart. It can hijack your brain. Your anxiety can become magnified, your thinking less rational. When I’m in the depths of it, my brain feels like a puzzle that has been thrown into the air, with all of the pieces landing in a mess on the floor. And I don’t know where to even begin to put it back together. So that reeling tape begins again, and it’s up to maximum volume: “Here you are again, in a mess. People are sick of you. You don’t deserve help anymore. You will never get anywhere in life. You’ll never recover. What’s the point?” And do you know how I take care of those reeling thoughts? You guessed it; the chain reaction starts all over again.

It is a vicious cycle, that way of thinking. And after years and years of it, you can start to become a bit exhausted. It can get exhausting to the point that your “anesthetic” just isn’t cutting it anymore. You may become immune to it, so you look for another escape. For some, the choice is a permanent one. I get really heated when people label those who have committed or attempted suicide as selfish. I’m sorry, but until you’ve lived in the absolute hell of a mental disorder, please do not pass judgment. For some people, the pain of living can seem far greater than the fear of dying.

Let me follow up with something lighter. Four years ago, I moved to Washington, D.C. A change! I’ll let you do the math. Anyway, I relapsed and had a friend who helped me find a fantastic therapy practice in the area. Fast-forward to now. I’ve been with the same therapist and dietitian for four years (they are the dream team, I may add). They’ve sent me to treatment a multitude of times, and each time, they’ve saved my life by doing so.

Recovery is never a linear process. It’s not as simple as throwing a Band-Aid over a cut, letting it heal and watching the scar fade as the years go on. To me, an eating disorder can be like a stubborn weed; you cut out as much as you possibly can, but nobody can predict if that bastard is going to grow back or not. And if it does, you aren’t going to stand there and say, “Mmm, yeah. You’ve been removed. We already tried once, so sorry. Should have gone away the first time! Nothing we can do.” No, you’re going to go in there and attack that stubborn thing as many times as you need to. See my point?

So to wrap things up, eating disorders suck. They aren’t a hobby we just decided to pick up one day. There are genetic and environmental factors involved. Just because somebody goes to treatment once does not mean they are cured. In fact, there is not really a “cure.” It can be a matter of letting those reeling thoughts be in their little home (your head), but slapping the mute button on them. Eating disorders breed in shame, guilt and isolation. It might be a little embarrassing to tell people you’re afraid of the bean dip at the party when they ask why you aren’t eating it, so you might just avoid the party altogether. But what I have learned is it is possible to get into a better headspace. It’s possible to get to a place where your debilitating thoughts do not consume every aspect of your being. What we need is for people who have no idea to have an idea. Three minutes may not necessarily save a life. But becoming a little more accepting and understanding that an eating disorder is a mental illness, and that mental illness is real… Well, that just might.

Image via Contributor.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

A version of this post originally appeared on Other Than That, Things Are Great.

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