i had no idea

I am not sure how many people are aware, but this week is National Eating Disorders awareness week. It creeps up on me every February, and I usually try to ignore it, but this year it is especially important to me because this year, I can finally say I am recovered from my eating disorder.  You might be thinking, “Huh? What eating disorder?”. Without going into too much detail, I suffered in secret from an eating disorder (ED) for almost seven years. Today, I can honestly and proudly say that I am recovered – something I thought would never, ever happen.
I’m writing about this today because a huge part of my ED staying as long as it did was secrecy and shame. For years, only my immediate family knew about it, as I was too ashamed to admit to even my closest friends what was going on. I’m not sure what you know about EDs, but they are a ruthless, complicated, and deadly illness that affect 20 million women and 10 million men in the US (NEDA, 2011). You can learn all about the different types of EDs and how to recognize them here.

I’ve done a lot of work and invested a lot of money into my recovery, and I think one of the most surprising things I’ve learned is that you absolutely cannot tell from looking at someone if they are suffering from an eating disorder. Most of the people I’ve spoken to who have EDs do not think they qualify as being anorexic or bulimic because they are not ‘skinny’ enough, but that doesn’t mean that they are not at risk for both the mental and physical tolls of an ED. You don’t need to look like you’re suffering to be suffering. During the times I felt my absolute worst, I actually looked pretty ‘healthy’. Thus, it was easy to keep everything quiet and suffer all on my own. Eating disorders are also about perfection, control, immense pressure. anxiety, isolation, and secrecy, and using food and weight to silence those issues. They are NOT about getting attention or being attractive. They are not fixed by a ‘one-size-fits-all’ (pardon the pun) solution, and they are not a phase or a choice. 
{a brief little chart to illustrate how eating disorders develop}

I’ve wanted to discuss my experience with an ED for a while now, and I think there’s no better time than during NEDA week. I’m not writing this to garner pity, nor am I trying to be preachy, but I do think that the more people stand up and admit that they struggle, the more those who are still stuck in their illness will feel empowered to do the same.

Over the years I’ve been shocked to learn of a lot people I know who suffer from EDs or ED-thoughts, but when I was at my worst I truly thought I was the only person with my problem, making me feel even more isolated and ashamed of myself. I wish that, when I was struggling, someone I looked up to had been honest about what they were dealing with, instead of everyone keeping silent, leaving me feeling like there was something wrong with me. If you know someone who might be struggling, please take the time to educate yourself about eating disorders and how to help and support that person. There are a ton of resources available here. If you are struggling, I hope that you know you are absolutely not alone and that recovery IS possible. Start by speaking up, now.


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