Eating disorders are #NotWhatYouThink. Trust me…
I’m 20. A student nurse and midwife. I’m kind, loving, funny and a total sassy diva. I also have an eating disorder. Bulimia Nervosa.
Having just one perception of what an eating disorder ‘looks like’ can leave those living in larger bodies feeling invalidated. Sadly, this invalidation is a part of my story.
I’ve had an eating disorder since I was 12. My disordered behaviours presented to others as ‘taking care of myself’, ‘getting healthy’, and ‘focusing on fitness’. I was never given the blueprint for body respect and a healthy relationship with food growing up. In fact, because I live in a larger body, my desire to lose weight was encouraged, celebrated and my eating disorder was left untreated.
At 18, I was in the depths of my eating disorder, in complete denial and believed that a weight loss specialist was what I needed. I am eternally grateful for this doctor. She refused to treat me. She recognised my eating disorder after 6 years and wrote me a mental health care plan. I was confused, yet relieved.
Since then, it’s been tough. Despite outpatient treatment, I wasn’t getting better. Truthfully, I didn’t want to let go of my eating disorder. Those around me struggled to understand my denial and inability to want change. My eating disorder served as my coping mechanism, my anxiety relieving device, I believed it kept me safe. My eating disorder numbed me, stopping me from experiencing challenging emotions and processing trauma.
It wasn’t until the start of this year that I recognised I needed help. More help than I was getting. I finally realised the physical and mental toll my eating disorder was taking on me.
Entering inpatient treatment, I was scared that my body was not ‘small enough’. What I learned was there is no ‘look’, and no ‘size’ to an eating disorder. Eating disorders are a mental illness. They have nothing to do with physical appearance.
After 11 weeks of inpatient treatment and some time being home, I’m working on recovery. What a word…
Recovery means something different to each person, for me, it means peace and freedom. I’ve learned that recovery is a choice.
Every day I wake up and I choose recovery because the glimpses of freedom and peace I have experienced I would not give up for anything. Even if it means I have to go through feeling those big emotions like anxiety – I know it will be worth it. I just need to hold onto hope.
Contributed by Lill for Body Image and Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2020