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The Challenge of Answering 'How Are You?' When You Have an Eating Disorder

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I’ve been struggling with my eating disorder once again, and the struggle doesn’t only involve food. It’s hard for me to answer when someone asks me how I’m doing.

How can I possibly answer without oversharing, without annoying someone, without being unprofessional? I generally choke on the truth and say I’m fine, or maybe allow myself to say I’m tired or that the weather’s too extreme, as long as I steer the conversation far from the real answer.

I’m not doing fine. Every day feels like 25 days rolled into one since my eating disorder’s begun to cast its cloud over my life once again. I wake up, and the thoughts of food immediately fill my mind. What will I eat for breakfast? Will I eat breakfast? Should I eat breakfast? Do I deserve to eat breakfast?

The thoughts only spiral from there. I spend half of my day counting the calories of the food I’ve eaten, or am planning to eat, or am maybe revisiting a time earlier that day or the night before or 10 years before when I felt like I didn’t have control over my eating.

I’d rather berate myself than be present in the world around me. Foods that used to fill me up fill me with fear instead. So few foods now feel “safe” that it’s hard to remember what I like anymore. I think of going out to eat, of drinking a specialty drink from a coffee shop, of eating a brownie when I want a brownie, or even just eating breakfast and not thinking about breakfast until the next day, and it feels like I’ve swallowed a block of ice.

Most days, that ice is nearly impenetrable. All I can do is see my therapist, my doctor, and my nutritionist, and hope I can chip away until I can wake up and actually take a deep breath, until I can actually tell someone I’m doing fine and mean it.

Until then, I’m going to try my best to do the hard work I need to do, and, if I seem a lot more negative lately, it’s because I’m telling you the truth about how I’m doing. Feel honored.

Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: August 15, 2016
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