The 2 Big Lies That Kept Me Silent About My Eating Disorder
“We are only as sick as our secrets,” said the woman at the other end of the phone. “So don’t be afraid to reach out when you’re struggling. It really helps.”
“She’s just saying that,” I thought, because I wasn’t used to honesty yet. It wasn’t what I expected in others because although I would have stated otherwise at the time, I didn’t have much of it in myself. I held secrets until they held me. I lied by omission time and time again. I accepted the lies I told myself, and soon they blurred my vision. I was navigating through life wearing warped and fingerprinted glasses, and I could no longer differentiate reality from fiction, though I feverishly searched for truth.
One of the biggest lies I came to believe was: asking for help makes me weak.
The second biggest lie was: I don’t need help. I need to suck it up, I am doing just fine.
These two big, fat lies kept me silent, which continued a spiral of what became life-threatening dishonesty.
Truly, I was dying. I was wandering deeper and deeper into the pit of anorexia, where the only options are honesty or death.
This mental illness thrives on dishonesty. It convinced me I was worth nothing. It diverted my attention from the pain I was actually experiencing and convinced me all I had to do to fix everything was to attain a certain inhuman number on a scale. It kept me sneakily counting calories, exercising on an empty stomach and fabricating reasons to miss meals and avoid social interactions. Most of all, my eating disorder convinced me that all of this was normal and that I was in complete control.
When the same woman I mentioned earlier, who had been through the same thing I was struggling with, called me out on my sh*t, I didn’t know what to do. I had no retaliation, because she called me out by sharing her own story, honestly and lovingly. The pull of my anorexia became stronger after this, but I was becoming aware of it, little by little. And I hated it. Everything I had believed about myself seemed to be turned completely on its head. I was trapped, and all I did was writhe and scream, trying to deflect loving honesty.
But she didn’t give up on me. This woman continued to talk to me, always patient, always honest, gently coaxing me towards life. She showed me that honesty opens us up to true human connection. It shows us that we are all struggling and that even when we feel like we are drowning in a river of loneliness, we really are not alone.
I practiced being honest with her. After a while, I was able to be honest with my doctor, then with a friend, then with my parents. Each time I confessed to someone about my eating disorder, I felt the sting of losing something dear to me. I counted the people who “knew my secret,” and tried to limit it to the number of fingers on one hand.
But I found that impossible. The woman who showed me the power of honesty also told me it’s impossible to recover alone. I believe these two things go hand in hand. I told a couple friends I lived with about my eating disorder, so that I had support surrounding me.
Sometimes, when I was honest with people, I was met with unhelpful comments. But 99 percent of the time, I was met with unflinching support. My eyes were opened to the possibilities of deeper human relationships all around me. When I shared with someone, the honesty was almost like the relief of a floodgate opening. People shared their own struggles with me, returning the vulnerability and humility I showed them, trusting they would be met with love. The warped glasses we had both been wearing fell away. Honesty allowed me to form deeper friendships with the people around me, and with my family.
Honesty becomes scary when we begin to believe our support system feels burdened by us. This is another lie that I have to fight back on a daily basis. When others ask me for support, I don’t feel burdened, but loved. Why would this be any different when I ask others for support? (Clue: it isn’t! And if it is, then maybe this person isn’t a good person to count on for this kind of support.)
As I progress further into recovery from this illness, I attribute most of my success to the support of my family and friends — friends who have had eating disorders and friends who haven’t. Being honest with others helps me to be honest with myself, and once I am honest with myself, I am able to be honest with others. It is a cycle of deeper human connection.
And, above all, honesty saves!
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Lead photo via contributor