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I Felt Like I Wasn't 'Sick' Enough to Get Help for My Eating Disorder

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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 741-741.

Currently, the stigma surrounding eating disorders is what prevents many people who are struggling from seeking treatment and it contributes to the idea that one is not “sick enough” to deserve help. Media displays eating disorders as emaciated young girls refusing to eat anything and continually purging. Eating disorders manifest in many forms and one does not have to be a specific weight, eat a certain number of calories or purge a said number of times per day to deserve support. Given the physiological consequences, the fact that eating disorders are mental illnesses often gets masked.

My eating disorder is the constant voice in my head telling me that I am not good enough, I’m a failure and I will only be loved, accepted and worthy if I get to a certain weight, if I binge and purge or deprive myself of what I enjoy. The voice taunts me saying, How can you eat when you have so much work to do? You haven’t exercised. You are already so fat.

This vicious voice is always reminding me I’m fat. Every time I look in the mirror, every time I get dressed and every time I step on a scale. My eating disorder tricks me into believing I will be happy once I get to a certain weight.

But the difference between a diet and eating disorder is no weight is ever enough for an eating disorder. Weight and food are not the real problem. The issue lies in one’s self-perception, lack of confidence, perfectionism and need for control. Controlling food and weight provide a false sense of control when everything else feels uncontrollable.

Oftentimes, there are two competing sides of my brain. There is the rational side that knows eating disorders are deadly and dangerous and that I don’t want to spend my life like this. However, there are the constant counteractive, disruptive and intrusive thoughts of the my eating disorder that are often more powerful. So yes, eating disorders come with severe physical consequences, but the mental torment is so much more significant. Ultimately, the mental component must be overcome to live a happy and healthy life.

Speaking from experience, some of my most severe relapses have occurred when I was still at a “normal” weight. It does not minimize the severity of the behaviors or my mental wellbeing, but the stigma tricked me into believing I was undeserving of support because I was not as sick as other people struggling with eating disorders. Why must eating disorders be compared?

Ultimately, we should strive to make small improvements each day and get to a place of self-acceptance and freedom without restriction and overwhelming thoughts of food. There is no need to get to a certain point of sickness before the recovery process can begin. Ultimately, recovery is about hope. It is about knowing you are more than an eating disorder and that things can get better. It is about understanding the recovery process, moving forward and taking small steps to to benefit yourself. It is practicing self-compassion and not tackling the battle alone. I want anyone reading this to know eating disorders come in many forms and you do not have to uphold a certain characteristic to deserve recovery. Life is about so much more than food, weight and perfectionism. Seeking help will allow you to live a much happier and fulfilling life.

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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Thinkstock photo via OGri.

Originally published: March 9, 2017
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