Well, it finally happened.
It’s impossible to be as public with my journey as I have been and not make contact with the outside world and all the triggers it contains from time to time. Most of the messages I’ve received from friends, family, and sometimes complete strangers, have all been very supportive, encouraging, and positive. But occasionally I stumble across something far different. And unfortunately, I happened to come across four words that hit me like a speeding train.
“You’re not really sick.”
This is something that has plagued me my entire life: the belief that I am not truly suffering. If I’m smiling and laughing, I can’t really be depressed, can I? If I’m calm and confident, I can’t really be anxious, can I? If I’m open and free, I can’t really have OCD, can I?
And it’s not because I find these disorders shameful. Some of the most beautiful people I’ve met have been afflicted with them, and several of those closest to me happen to struggle with them every day.
It’s because I don’t feel like I’m sick enough to be classified as someone who grapples with them. Part of this is due to the societal stigma surrounding mental disorders; people who deal with them are labeled as weaker; they’re classified as lesser in some way. The image a lot of people have in their heads of someone who has a mental illness usually is on the very extreme end of the spectrum. This serves to further the idea that unless you’re obviously and actively suffering, you’re not really dealing with anything.
My eating disorder started out as a desire to eat healthier and feel better. I didn’t like the way I looked and felt, so I decided to try and adopt a better lifestyle. When I went away to school, it became much easier to take this further and further. Going to the gym a couple times a week turned into going every day. Avoiding certain foods turned into blatantly refusing to eat. My weight dropped like a stone, and before I knew it, I was sobbing my eyes out in my first day of residential treatment, sitting alone on my bed and desperately still trying to convince myself and those around me that nothing was really wrong with me.
Recovery is not easy. Anyone who thinks that it is, is woefully uneducated and deluded. Every single bite is painful. Every time I make the decision to sit with having eaten rather than getting up and trying to burn it off is excruciating. Just because I manage to do both of these things does not make them simple.
And that’s where this message started to sow doubt in my mind.
“You’re not sick.”
I’ve been mostly consistent with my eating since the end of March. That’s about four months now. My weight has started the process of redistributing now that I’ve been weight restored for a while. I’ve pretty much managed to stay sedentary for the moment as required by my healthcare providers.
It’s killing me inside. But on the outside, I feel like I provide a very confident and self-assured demeanor. I fear that I appear like someone who is completely healed and worry often about what would happen if I gave into my urges and started to use behaviors again. In reality, I am scared. I am terrified. I am hurting. And now, I am angry.
I’m here to stand up for myself.
“You’re not really sick.”
Would you like to see the piece of paper handed to me by a medical professional that diagnoses me with anorexia nervosa? Would you like me to recount to you all the times I refused to eat or supplement because the idea of putting anything into my body was physically painful? Would you like to spend some time inside my head with all the torturous thoughts that create a sort of minefield that’s damn near impossible to navigate? Would you like to wake up in the morning and have your first feeling be disgust? Would you like to spend hours agonizing over the shape of your body, trying desperately to convince yourself that you are not doomed to look like this forever? Would you like to want to be acutely ill again, even though that means leaving behind all of the freedoms and experiences that come with regaining health? Would you like to have weekly appointments with a treatment team to try and prevent a full-on relapse? Would you like to sometimes cry yourself to sleep because you’re so upset about having eaten? Would you like to stare at food and watch it turn into numbers and have your brain consumed by calculations? Would you like to believe that you are ugly, disgusting, and worthless? Would you like to often feel so sad that the horrific life you were living when you were very sick seems pleasant and happy?
I may be in the process of recovery. Hell, I’m kicking recovery’s ass. I’m not gonna be shy about that truth. Back in March I decided that I was tired of letting anorexia rule my life. Sure, it hasn’t been perfect. I’ve had slip ups and made mistakes. I’m only human.
But that does not mean that I am not still sick. Having an eating disorder is lifelong. You may physically recover from it, and you may gain the mental power to silence your demons, but it will always be a part of you. This is the sad reality of many mental illnesses.
How dare you insinuate that what I have gone through, and continue to go through each and every second of the day, is not real?
You are the epitome of what is wrong with society’s perception of mental illness. You are misinformed, uneducated, self-absorbed, and ridiculously, ridiculously wrong.
Don’t let anyone speak to you this way. Never doubt that what you are feeling is real, and if you feel as though you need help, please do not be afraid to ask for it. Much love ❤