I May Be at a 'Healthy' Weight, but I Still Have Anorexia
Personally, I find it difficult to move away from the stereotype of eating disorders. It feels as if I’m under scrutiny for no longer “looking” anorexic.
And this is a problem.
Although I do in fact have the primary diagnosis of anorexia nervosa, the fact I feel I need to justify my eating disorder is wrong. There shouldn’t be the need for “buts” and “used to,” as we begin to break away from this detrimental stigma because ultimately, anorexia is a disease of the mind. The need to gain weight to not only better my physical health but my mental health is and was crucial, and this aspect shouldn’t make my anorexia feel any less invalidated.
Yet people seem to need justification I was physically unwell, whether it’s the general public or even professionals. The urgency of a dietician was always established at a lower weight. But where was this urgency as I stood at a healthy BMI, sobbing at meal times because I just “couldn’t do this anymore?” It’s this attitude that’s problematic. A low weight doesn’t necessarily transfer itself to meaning a more severe eating disorder, yet it’s the image that is always portrayed.
This helps perpetuate mindset that before you can get better, you must get worse. Without getting worse, you were never really ill. It’s this particular attitude that keeps me trapped to this day. My eating disorder forever yearns to be sicker in its monotonous, monosyllabic monologue and sometimes, people consolidate that mindset of mine by sending me the message that weight loss is the paramount of eating disorders.
But it’s not, and it never was. When I get the flicker of realization that in fact, my struggles were the same if not greater than at my lowest weigh, I must remember it completely with all my heart. Because it was my mind giving me torment, and my body happened to buckle under the tiredness of it all.
Then, there are people who struggle with eating disorders and have never been underweight. We need to represent them. They might be left feeling isolated and invalidated by others, but often they are most invalidated by themselves.
If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.
And this is problematic. Because above all the affliction and anguish is the unwavering fact that irrespective of weight, eating disorders are killers. When people with eating disorders invalidate themselves, it’s dangerous. All pain is valid and we cannot always visualize that pain on someone’s exterior. People with eating disorders are not only likely to die from medical complications, but suicide.
So we need to start taking people who live with eating disorders seriously. All people, not just a singular group of people. Everyone. Everyone’s pain. Because this problematic attitude is a barrier to people’s recovery, and can also be a factor in death.
Yes, I may not “look anorexic” anymore, but my pain was never shown on my appearance. I’m still a person with anorexia nervosa, my pain is real, my pain is bottled internally. And no one should ever underestimate this value based solely on a physical examination.
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Thinkstock photo via Marjan_Apostolovic