Living with an eating disorder is a constant battle between thoughts, urges, behaviors, emotions, etc. It can be claustrophobic where suddenly your entire life is clouded by Ed. Separation may seem impossible. I have felt this way for years. There have been times of strong recovery but also deep relapse.
Even with the eating disorder so intertwined in my life, I refuse to be “that anorexic girl” or “that girl with an eating disorder”(since no one would look at me and think anorexia). Yes I struggle with an ED, that’s pretty dang obvious if you know my story well. Being lumped together with all of the stigma and ideas about eating disorders is not acceptable. Unfortunately, I have been experiencing that more lately.
If the average person were to think about EDs and why they exist, there would be a few very common answers. The first obvious ones would be “they just choose not to eat” or “why would you make yourself sick like that?” I’m sure you get the idea. The characteristics will combine into one generic disorder or split into bulimia and anorexia. This leaves no room for the vast majority of people who struggle with BED, OSFED/EDNOS, etc. It really isn’t helpful to do so. While there are similarities between the different diagnoses, each case is individualized. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to symptoms.
Expanding beyond that, I have many recent examples of what the perceived causes of eating disorders are. As per my abnormal psych prof, the four warning signs/precursors are: perfectionism, not wanting to grow up, avoiding sexuality, and control. My psychiatrist, almost every time I see him, makes comments about how I can’t eat because I think I look fat, as if that’s the only contributing factor. I won’t deny that many of these points are valid. I struggle and see others struggling with some of these issues. The problem I have with it, however, is that there is no room for other explanations. Under these assumptions, how could you ever account for someone who wants to look ugly by restricting, a person with BED who has pretty much none of the factors listed, orthorexia, and a million other circumstances?
This all being said, I do understand that it’s important to have some idea of possible causes for eating disorders. I have no problem at all with lists that begin as “common causes of” or something similar. This offers suggestions and examples to look for (especially helpful in exploring treatment at first). It gives those of us with eating disorders something to possibly make a connection to.
Unfortunately, the negative labels and automatic conclusions come up far too often when someone has an eating disorder. Some that I find most hurtful: “you’re just doing this for attention” “just stop eating/don’t purge/eat your food” “you can snap out of this” “you want people to feel sorry for you” “you don’t have it that bad.” These make me sick to my stomach. I know that the people behind them are most-likely uneducated and fully believe in the stigma behind EDs, but this excuse doesn’t cut it. We are real people with feelings.
Eating disorders are not one-size-fits-all. We struggle with similar thought patterns and behaviors, but you cannot ever lump us into one person. If you hear of someone or find yourself believing these examples and others, please stop and think. Realize how much harm this can cause. Consider our feelings.
I am unique. I am not just some girl with an eating disorder. My story is all my own. Please see it as that.