There is something I want to clarify with anyone who is unaware of what an eating disorder is and what an eating disorder isn’t.
First of all, anyone that suffers from an eating disorder wants you to know this:
We would never wish an this disease on ANY one. But it would be wonderful if the non-disordered eating population could understand a few key things.
So with that goal in mind, let me get started…
What an eating disorder is and isn’t
Isn’t: An attempt to get attention from those around us
Is: A mental illness that is all consuming
Isn’t: An attempt to lose weight
Is: An innate fear of food that is secondary to a deep down hurt/trauma/ pain
Isn’t: Strong willpower or lack of willpower towards food
Is: A learned behavior over time that has become a way of numbing out any emotion
Isn’t: A glamorous act
Is: A traumatically terrifying way of living in a hell on earth on a daily basis
Isn’t: A disease that can only be determined by weight
Is: A disease of the mind that can come in any way, shape, or form- it does not discriminate
Isn’t: A selfish act
Is: A deep feeling of lacking self-worth
Isn’t: An easy fix
Is: A long road that takes time, money, professional support, possible medication and hospitalization and sheer grit and tenacity to overcome
Isn’t: A choice
Is: A disorder, a mental illness that can be explained by the phrase “nature loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger”
Isn’t: Widely understood
Is: Made light of or praised because often society deems disordered behaviors as healthy
Isn’t: Understood by most medical professionals
Is: Often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all due to lack of knowledge and training on professionals’ behalf because it is a very subjective disease. There is no accurate cookie cutter definition/test to diagnose eating disorders.
Isn’t: A thin, privileged, white girl problem
Is: Experienced through all sizes, genders, ages, races, ethnicities, and religious backgrounds
Isn’t: “Just a phase” or “normal” or “no big deal”
Is: A disorder that without treatment can end in short term and long term physical and mental harm and in many cases, death.
Isn’t: Easily treated
Is: On average a 45+ days in very expensive, not all insurance covered, hospital stay. Often includes partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient hospitalization, years of therapy, and support groups to boot.
Isn’t: About food
Is: About control
Isn’t: An option to eat or not eat, run or not run, purge or not purge, etc. …
Is: Survival… every second in an eating disorder mind feels like survival with symptom usage as the only means to live
Isn’t: Living life to the fullest
Is: A living hell for those who suffer and those who love the sufferer
What can you do to help?
For someone who has never suffered from disordered eating, and eating disorder, or mental illness, the solution may seem simple.
Yet those of us who have been in or are in the trenches of an eating disorder know that simple does not always mean easy.
So what are you to do? Ask questions, care relentlessly, and love unconditionally.