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The ‘Unromantic’ Reality of Living With Anorexia

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Editor's Note

If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

The reality of anorexia nervosa is not happy. It is perhaps the most romanticized of all mental illnesses.

A delicate girl, too thin; she is fragile but strong. Quietly and politely declining food, but maintaining a wonderful life in spite of it.


Anorexia is loss and pain and loneliness.

Picture this: you turn down yet another social invitation, terrified someone is going to see through your increasingly flimsy excuses, because what if they’re brave enough to call you out on it? But, of course, they never do; instead, they gradually just stop asking you.

Picture this: terrible arguments as you try to leave your house to walk. Missing your step count is not an option, no matter what the cost. Numbers, routines, rules. Worried flatmates, relationships ruined, phone calls to parents, psychiatrists. Tears and shouting and hiding away.

Picture this: friends who no longer want to know you. Who aren’t friends anymore, not while you’re living like this. Maybe you’ll speak again, maybe even rekindle some form of a friendship one day. Maybe.

Picture this: in and out of what limited treatment is available, the gradual decline continuing regardless. Discharged for being “too well;” discharged for being too unwell. Abnormal becomes normal. Disbelief and frustration from loved ones.

Picture this: the guilt over the hurt you’ve caused. How it fuels the cycle further; wishing you could disappear entirely, remove the hurt you have caused from the lives of others.

Picture this: sitting on the floor in the bathroom. You are at work and the tears just won’t stop coming. The pain and loneliness in your heart. You realize you are losing everything. Friends, career; both on their way out. Your social life is long gone. Your shoulders shake as the reality hits you that there isn’t a lot else left.

All you can do is keep showing up. One day, one hour at a time. Keep trying to talk and keep trying to let people in. Keep hoping for the possibility of better days to come, no matter how impossible that may feel.

I am a work in progress. I am surviving despite it all, and for now, that is enough.

Photo by Lenin Estrada on Unsplash

Originally published: August 22, 2019
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