Eating Disorders and Suicide- Tragic and Deadly

image of woman facing camera with sun shining from behind her; image is light and you can only see part of her face because of the bright sunlight; for article on eating disorders and suicide

September is National Suicide Prevention month. In 2008, I experienced my first loss from eating disorders and suicide. She was in her 40’s and left behind four daughters. She’d experienced abuse and trauma from youth to adulthood. Her eating disorder became her way of managing the pain that life seemed to constantly throw at her. One day, it became too much. Her name was Tina.

My Friend Tina

I met Tina at treatment when I saw 19. We quickly became close friends. She was one of the kindest, most forgiving, selfless and gracious people I knew. She loved without judgment and her optimism and desire for recovery was apparent. 

I wish I’d known the extent of her depression and pain. I wish she had told me. I’ve now realized how hard it is to recognize the signs because few people saw how serious it was in me. I withdrew, I was self-harming, drinking more, contemplating plans, and becoming increasingly depressed. But so much of that was in my head and you don’t know what you can’t see. 

Eating Disorders and Suicide

Sadly, there is a large overlap between eating disorders and suicide. A scholarly article in the National Library of Medicine listed suicide as the second leading cause of death for individuals with anorexia and estimates that one quarter to one third of individuals with anorexia and bulimia have attempted suicide. An eating disorder is often accompanied by depression and/or anxiety, a history of trauma and abuse, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, and intentional self-harming. All of these are also risk factors for suicide. 

For myself, I had turned back to ED to get through the uncertainty and loneliness of the pandemic. I’d always believed if things got bad, I could just go back to anorexia and lose the weight. However, despite my obsessive exercise and restriction, I wasn’t losing weight. I felt like my eating disorder, the one thing that I “trusted” to deal with pain and emotions, had failed me. The eating disorder and self loathing thoughts were bombarding me and in a moment of panic and hopelessness, I felt like I couldn’t face a lifetime with ED. I didn’t think I could or wanted to go on anymore. In that moment, I didn’t want to be alive. 

Another chance…

I am grateful everyday that my overdose on my anti-depressants wasn’t fatal. That night when I woke up with severe tremors and a racing heart and remembered what I did, I immediately knew I didn’t want to die.

No matter how hard eating disorder recovery is, it is never without hope.

There is hope for each and everyone of us. For me, I clung to my family as my reason to live. They have stood by my side selflessly throughout my long battle with an eating disorder and have never stopped believing in my recovery.

Find your reason– no matter how small it is- to keep pressing on in the face of suffering, difficulty, and what can feel like defeat.

Life recovering from an ED is incredibly hard but it is still a life worth living. 

If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255.

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