I think more often than not, eating disorders are hidden. You won’t know someone is affected one just by looking at them. This makes it incredibly difficult to communicate the experience and for people to understand it.
I’ve had disordered eating and many many years of bulimia and no one knew anything until I told them. The biggest challenge of my life has been in terms of not feeling “sick enough” to need help.
Even at my worst (daily behaviours), I would have looked at someone presenting with anorexia with so much sadness and empathy. Because they LOOKED so unwell I felt immediately concerned for them. Their appearance signaled that they were in a terrible place but in comparison I was nowhere near that sick.
I could have days where I ate normally and had no issues at all around food. I could go to work, socialise, exercise, and enjoy life like everyone else. So why would I need help? It genuinely never felt like something I needed to urgently deal with.
Unfortunately this trope (not sick enough) has also followed me into recovery. Once I did open up about the bulimia to my doctor, there was no urgency in getting me any assistance. I think because I was good at articulating my situation and had already started trying to help myself, it was received as I was doing just fine. But all I wanted was for someone to acknowledge how big an issue it was and take control to help me. Granted they didn’t need to admit me to a hospital, but maybe refer me to a therapist or a group or something.
This meant that for me to get to the stage I am now, I’ve essentially had to help myself and go through recovery alone. I don’t think I’ll personally ever use the word ‘recovered’ as I’ve had a few relapses but they are brief, rare, and I know how to handle them.
The only external help I did get was from a fantastic therapist but it was much later in life during a relapse brought on by a separate trauma. I’m sad that I spent so long making myself ill without getting help. Just because I wasn’t at death’s door, doesn’t mean it wasn’t serious or damaging to my body. I was worthy of care and assistance to get well again. I hope others experiencing a similar situation will acknowledge they too deserve and should seek help.
Contributed by Nikki for Body Image and Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2020