NEDAW16 – Day 4: To those silently struggling

Today I want to talk specifically to those who are silently struggling. First off, I want you to know that my heart breaks for you. It is so incredibly painful to have an eating disorder and doing it alone makes everything so much harder. I’ve met so many people who have spent years or even a decade or more without a single person knowing their pain.

You are not alone. There are 30 million of us just in the US and millions more worldwide. We are all in this battle together! The eating disorder will isolate you and make you feel like you’re the only one in the world who is like you. It will attempt to convince you that no one will understand. It is a liar. There are so many support groups, blogs, and online communities where you can find others going through very similar circumstances. MentorConnect here is an amazing site that connects you to mentors who can help you on your recovery journey. A list of support groups all around the country and world through the NEDA website is found here. I am completely open to anyone contacting me through here as well.

Reaching out is the best thing you can possibly do for yourself. Silence can be deadly when it comes to eating disorders. At best, it isolates you and reinforces the aloneness feelings. There are infinite ways to reach out. Telling a trusted friend, parent, or other person close to you is great for physical support, which, in my opinion, is one of the most helpful forms. Support groups are a place to talk with others going through the same things and help each other along the way. I highly recommend professional help of some kind, most importantly a dietitian and therapist. NEDA has a list of treatment providers of all kinds here. Another place to find therapists is on Psychology Today’s site here. If neither of those have a therapist or center near you, calling a counseling center and asking for someone who is familiar with EDs. Whichever route you go, I know it can be scary. The truth is, however, once you overcome the fear you’ll find how beyond worth it reaching out will be.

Recovery is both possible and worth it. Being trapped in an eating disorder, you may feel broken, hopeless, and destined to be like this forever. This is so untrue. Each day you live in an eating disorder is one where everything you are and all aspects of your life are being consumed in darkness. Eating disorders are absolute hell. Recovery can be as well, but its the kind of hell that will not kill you like an eating disorder will. I have gained more than weight since beginning my recovery journey. I’ve discovered parts of myself I haven’t seen in years, rebuilt relationships, discovered freedom, experienced more joy than I ever thought possible, gained confidence, have begun healing my body, cared about myself more, and lived. I haven’t avoided really shitty days, lots of tears, and numerous relapses, but I still continue to get back up and choose recovery all over again. As a wonderful girl years into her journey told me recently, you can always go back to your disorder. You know exactly how to get there again, so why not try giving it up?

I will end this with one of my favorite songs that encompasses the kind of support and love I want to extend to each of you. Stay strong and give yourself a chance ❤

A few more resources you can explore:

NEDAW16 – Day 3: Real or not real?

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Real or not real? This is the question we need to ask ourselves when it comes to any belief surrounding eating disorders. This certainly isn’t the easiest thing, given how stigmatized eating disorders are. My hope is that this post will help you distinguish between the truths and lies.

REAL – Eating disorders don’t discriminate. When you’re asked to think of someone with an eating disorder, most likely you picture a white, adolescent or early adulthood middle or upper class woman who is stick thing. This image, although true for some, is not true for all. Eating disorder sufferers can be any race, body type, gender, sexual orientation, age, and socioeconomic background.

NOT REAL – You can determine if someone has an eating disorder and how “sick” they are just by looking at them. While there are some physical symptoms (dry skin, swollen cheeks, hair loss, brittle nails, bags under eyes, etc.), in general people with eating disorders look no different than anyone else. We are not all emaciated, and, in fact, most are within the “normal/healthy” range. Body weight and type is no determining factor. You can die from an eating disorder at any size. Even if you never get medically unstable, living each day with an ED is slowly killing you anyways. How sick, or severe the sickness is, is not something you can tell by appearance.

REAL – Treatment is essential to recovery. Just 1 in 10 people with eating disorders ever get treatment for them. Let that sink in a bit. If we were talking about cancer, diabetes, or basically any other illness, this fact would be considered outrageous. Just as treatment is necessary for any other disease its true for eating disorder recovery. Without treatment, most have no chance at all of recovering.

NOT REAL – Body image is the sole cause of eating disorders. Yes, body image can and does play a huge role for plenty of people with EDs. This is far from the only factor in the development of the disorders, however. There are so many possible underlying issues or situations including, but certainly not limited to depression, anxiety, abuse, self-harm, trauma, genetics, low self-esteem, perfectionism, dieting and stress.

REAL – Eating disorders are deadly. Around 20% of people diagnosed with eating disorders will die from either suicide or complications from the disorder. We lose someone to an eating disorder every 69 minutes, 23 people a day.

NOT REAL – Eating disorders go away after the bare minimum amount of treatment. Eating disorders simply don’t vanish that easily. We’ve had some treatment and therefor are expected to go back to a healthy relationship with food. Recovery takes so much more effort. It can be a very long time until you’re at a healthy place again, and that’s okay.

REAL – Eating disorders are NOT a choice. I really don’t understand why people would even consider for a moment that those with eating disorders would ever consciously choose to live that way. Its miserable, time-consuming, harmful to your body, and consumes you, leaving no room for anything in your life. Why would anyone pick that kind of life?

Please try to take this information with you. Everyone knows someone affected by an eating disorder and these truths and falsities will shape your interactions with them in a positive way.

NEDAW16 – Day 2: Please understand

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Recovery is a journey, not a destination.

I first began to truly pursue recovery around three and a half years ago. What’s happened since then is probably very confusing to most people. Weekly therapy visits, one month of partial ED treatment, another year of weekly therapy appointments, relapse with countless instances of near-hospitalization, worrying from parents and loved ones x1000, one week  inpatient, weekly dietitian and therapy appointments, very very bad relapse, 5.5 weeks residential, weekly therapy, biweekly dietitian, weekly ED support group.

I’m sure you might be wondering why I have had to go through all of that if I chose recovery so long ago. The simplest explanation is that you don’t just get to be recovered. You have to choose recovery and live that out every single day for either the rest of your life or until it isn’t even a choice anymore.

The beauty in recovery, which also may be considered a downfall to many on the outside, is that it isn’t all or nothing. No one is required or expected to be perfect in recovery. There are good and bad days but the idea is to slowly head in an upward trend.

For me, last night was a great example of this. I have done basically everything “right” since the day I walked into treatment. I used my skills and not behaviors, ate as a whole around 95% of my meal plan, exercised only moderately. I was by no means perfect but I still prided myself in how well I was doing.

Yesterday was fine until sometime between lunch and dinner. That morning I had eaten 100%, as usual. I was dealing with negative body image thoughts and just felt off. In the afternoon I decided to have one of my cookies I baked. That moment something switched in my brain and I suddenly had fear of all types of foods. I went down to dinner but only got what used to be my normal sized meal last semester. By the time I hit pm snack and counted up my exchanges, I had hit a little over half of what I need in a day. Its unbelievable how fast these thoughts can lead to actions and send you back down that dark hole that is relapse. I am not going there, not today. Instead, I cracked open the dreaded Ensure plus and sipped away.

Today, I am continuing to make steps to avoid another slip up the next time I have such strong thoughts. I’m not letting myself feel shame or doubt over a bad day. If you think of recovery as a journey where you follow a very long and winding road, I just went off into the gravel a bit. That doesn’t mean I have to give up and start over. I’ll keep on going, one foot in front of the other.

If recovery were just a destination, you’d think some people would have reached it by now, right? Sometimes I really wish it were that easy. There isn’t some magical point where you hit recovered and never have to deal with any of this again. It is a lifelong commitment. The path has twists, turns, and setbacks unique to each person, but also love, joy, and freedom.

Recovery is a journey, not a destination. I hope you take this to heart. If you’re recovering, know you aren’t in this alone and that you are making the best choice you can for yourself, even when its hard. There may not be an end in sight, but the path you’ve chosen will lead you to a more beautiful and full life than you can ever imagine. To those of you who don’t have an eating disorder, please remember this. Be conscientious of how much work recovery takes and know that it doesn’t ever end. Keep supporting those who are in recovery, whether it be two days or ten years since they began.

 

What one thing would you choose to tell others about living with an eating disorder? Let me know below!

NEDAW16 – Day 1: 3 minutes to save a life

Today is the start of NEDA (National Eating Disorder Awareness) Week! The theme this year is “3 Minutes Can Save a Life.” A free questionnaire screening for eating disorders and disordered eating is available and can alert either of these problems in around three minutes. The NEDA website also has a ton of information on EDs, treatment options, signs someone may be suffering, how to help people you know with an eating disorder, and much more. www.nedawareness.org


 

When I first discovered that maybe my “problem” with food, exercise, and body image was more than it seemed, I was scared. I had no clue what it meant, or if I was one of “those people” with eating disorders. I combed through articles and diagnostic criteria. For a few days, my mission became discovering as much as I could about eating disorders, hoping to disprove that I could ever have one. I read through well over a hundred stories, trying to use them to show I wasn’t sick. I couldn’t be. I saw images of others, of how dead they seemed when you looked in their eyes. Mine matched, but I couldn’t see it.

In the end, none of these things really helped me. Many of the stories resonated with me but none was convincing enough to prove I was sick, at least in my eyes. I am the type of person who needs research, which I had plenty of, but also concrete results. I wasn’t okay with the “well maybe you have an eating disorder” answer. So I sought proof.

What I came up with was a screening on NEDA’s site very like the one made for eating disorder awareness week this year. After wondering and worrying and disbelief I had my answer: yes I most likely have an eating disorder and need to seek treatment. And thus began my recovery journey.

I tell you this little story because I believe it really captures why we so desperately need to share this new screening tool. If I had come upon this sooner, before I was actually told that I probably had an eating disorder, maybe I could have been in treatment earlier. If my mom, dad, or one of my friends who knew had seen this, they could have directed me to it as well. Earlier detection and placement in treatment means a greater chance of recovery. It truly can take just three minutes to change or even save a life, thanks to NEDA’s screening tool. We need only spread the word and make sure as many people as possible gain access.