Misconceptions and my experience of “illness”

It constantly surprises me that the media is so full of stories of eating disorders, but people are so ill-informed of what they truely entail. 

From an outside point of view, an ED is just about a desire to diet, or be thin, or gain attention. While all of these might be somewhat true, the motives that make me want to deny myself food are nothing to do with my body; all my emotions just get related back to food and weight somehow. At the heart of any kind disordered eating is an emotional instability- a feeling of being lost, out of control or unhappy. And as a way to cope and manage my life I, and others like me, SUBCONSCIOUSLY chose to restrict food. Starving the body of what it needs ultimately leads to a binge (even in the most severely underweight people this does happen) and then the stricter diet or purging kicks in to compensate. 

In my own experience, I have found that the “bulimic” blips of my illness make me so much more depressed than the consistent underlying feeling of worthlessness that not eating gives me. Having to purge, over exercise or take laxatives to “fix” how bad I have been by eating is more stressful and emotional than not having eaten in the first place. But of course a hungry body does not have the energy to reason properly and feel happy on the inside, even though I know that I am often perceived to be a laid back and funny individual on the outside.

A day in my life is full of good things and lovely people, yet it is dragged down by this other voice that persists in telling me the way to make my life better is to eat less, be thinner, be in control of everything. The irony is that the eating disorder voice has complete and utter control of me. I no longer have a say in anything, despite my intelligent self telling me that rigid and abnormal food patterns will not take away my negative emotions or the difficult things I have been through in my life. Everything that is logical and justified can always be ignored, as the voice tells me “that’s true for others, but not for me.”

For anybody who thinks I just want to be thin, this is what a day in an eating disorder mind is like:

-Wake up: feel tired, wish I could sleep and not go out so nobody would see how much fat I have.
-Eat breakfast (sometimes) Only feel ok with this if it is the exact amount and nobody else sees.
-Get dressed: spend masses of time looking at every angle in the mirror to determine where I have or haven’t lost weight. Although some days I am too distraught at my appearance that looking in the mirror makes me cry and I have to stop.
-Go to wherever I need to go: notice the body shape and size of almost everyone I see, comparing myself with them and feeling good if they are eating and I am not.
-Think about what and when I have next planned to eat and drink: is it too much? What if people are around? What if somebody makes a comment? Should I really be eating at all? Will I have done enough exercise to earn eating at all today?
-Go through my working/ studying day thinking about when I will have time “alone with my illness” to plan food for the coming days, think about what I can wear or to sit and cry about how difficult things are becoming.
-Go home, and repeat the people observations on the way and have the same thoughts about upcoming food plans for the evening.
-Take some laxatives if I feel too fat, go for a walk.
-Have a anxiety attack if I eat out of the plan or have a binge. Throw up, exercise for 4 hours or do both just to be certain I have got rid of all that disgusting fat.
-Go to bed: wake up several times, and if not, have nightmares where I eat forbidden foods.
Wake up and repeat.

All of the above is worse when things in general life make me feel negative. When bad things happen, I turn to food as a means to numb those feelings and worries. Do I want attention? Rarely. Do I do it just to be thin? No. Do I have some weird power where I don’t feel hungry or crave food? Definitely not. In fact, I think about food 24.7, but my disorder doesn’t let me eat normally. I could have a worse life, in a country full of war, or live in poverty with nobody to care about me. I appreciate that I live in a country where life is comfortable and I have people who love me, but quite frankly, there are and have been many times when my eating disorder has made me feel I would be better off if I didn’t exist.

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