Choosing to seek treatment is a difficult decision. However, when you are are not a cisgender woman, it can be even harder to find the proper help.
Part 1: Accepting That You Are Sick
When I entered inpatient treatment in January 2019, I still hadn’t accepted that I have an eating disorder:
I wasn’t a walking skeleton. I didn’t need a feeding tube, or I didn’t need the intensive medical treatments that I’d seen in the media.
Just days before I started the partial hospitalization program, my doctor had commented on how “healthy” I was. The nurse at my endocrinologist asked me for my weight loss secret. But my body was falling apart and my mind was suffering.
Taking the First Steps to ED Treatment (but I’m not a woman)
I called the intake assessment line for a local eating disorder clinic late at night using a spotty cellphone signal from a cabin in the woods. I was visiting my parents and we’d decided to take a trip up to the mountains to go snow hiking. On that trip, I was wracked by anxiety. Separated from my rigid exercise schedule and having to eat food that I deemed “dangerous” and “unsafe“, I could barely control my anxiety.
I lived alone, with no one to notice my obsessive exercise or the severely limited range of food I ate. On the rare occasions I went out to eat with others, I ran extra miles before and after, passing as a “normal” eater for the duration of the meal. And then I’d go back to my destructive habits.
Accepting I Needed ED Treatment (but I’m not a woman)
But this trip was different. For the first time, I realized that what I was doing was dangerous. It wasn’t “healthy” or a sign of self-control. When I did a solo hike before sunset in December without food for fear of taking in any calories, I was putting myself in danger. When I didn’t wear enough layers to make myself burn more energy, I was putting myself in danger. When I lied about the route I would take to sneak in extra miles, I was putting myself in danger. And I had been doing that for years. Years of depriving my body of food and living in a state of starvation were also putting me in danger. On the snowy mountain, though, it came into sharp focus. This disorder could kill me.
Part 2: Seeking ED Treatment When You Are Not A Cisgender Woman
Acceptance of Help Can Be Hard, But Finding It Can Be Harder
There was only one treatment center near me that took non-female patients. So choosing a provider didn’t take long. Once I made the initial call, things moved quickly. I got blood and urine samples taken and made an intake appointment. Less than a week later was filling out the intake paperwork, while a nurse talked me through their program. It was the first time that somebody had looked at me and told me that I was sick. Very sick.
For people who aren’t cisgender women, eating disorders can fly under the radar.
Some people live for years in the weight range around being underweight, flirting with starvation but avoiding setting off any alarms for doctors. Self-denial and mastery over pain are celebrated in male culture. Here’s the thing: if you think you have a problem with food and exercise, you probably need to look into it. If you can’t fall asleep until you FitBit reaches a certain number, you may need to talk with an expert about where this is stemming from. And if your friends are constantly worried about you, take the time to listen to their concerns.
Not only skinny teenage girls suffer from eating disorders.
You Deserve to Heal
I’m still struggling to accept that I am “sick enough” for treatment, for weight restoration, and to stop being sick. But knowing that you deserve to heal is the first step to doing so. So call a therapist, call your clergy, call a treatment center, call a friend and start. Begin now before it is too late.