by Madison Higgins
This last year has been incredibly hard on all students. We have been figuring out how to lead ourselves through school rather than having teachers lead us. The time we put into school has almost tripled and all of it has been behind a computer screen isolated to homes. All of that would be hard for someone who has good mental health and positive self image, but for students with mental illnesses and eating disorders, this time has been more than hard, it’s been impossible.
For me, my eating disorder took over my life.
Suddenly, I was around food all day, everyday with no one but myself. For someone who didn’t even really come to terms with the fact that she had an eating disorder, it was detrimental.
Imagine this, you take an alcoholic and fill their house with alcohol. Not just cheap stuff, the good stuff, their favorite stuff. Then take away all their support systems. Take away their distraction of the business of their everyday routine. Now, add stress from worrying about being laid off from their job, having to do online school, seeing people dying at every corner and add in tons of social unrest. You would expect that recovering alcoholic to binge, right? That’s what happened to me. My world was spinning out of control and nothing was there to stop the turning, expect food.
First, it’s good to know what my eating disorder is like because eating disorders (EDs) look different for everyone. They happen to all different types of people, too. My eating disorder looks like this:
Bingeing-Starving-Over Restriction-Over Exercising-Bingeing-and on-and on-and on……
In that, I start to believe all the things that my brain is telling me.
“No one will love you when you look the way you do”
“You ate too much, too bad, too (you fill in the blank), so you don’t deserve to eat today”
“You’re a failure, why can’t you just stick to a diet”
“You’re lazy, get up and exercise”
The thoughts were so loud, it was deafening. With literally no where to go (because the world was completely locked down) everything grew stronger. I was hitting this cycle over and over again. I was completely lost with nowhere to turn except to my drug of choice.. Food.
Now, this is the part where I tell you I’ve got it all figured out, I never struggle and I know EXACTLY how to help you. Well, I hate to break burst your bubble, that’s not reality.
I still deeply struggle. Every day is a battle. However, I can now say I am in recovery from an eating disorder, and man ,that feels good. So, I want to give you 5 things I’ve learned from coming to terms with how severe my eating disorder is and how I can start to heal and recover.
1. Know You’re Not Alone.
Before I started to share my ED, I thought I was the only person who was caught in this never ending cycle. I thought I was the only person who looked in the mirror and not just disliked what she saw but HATED her reflection.
Update- most women feel this way. Infact, EDs are more common and more brutal than ever before. Almost every woman I know either struggles with some type of ED, negative self image or bad thoughts. When I realised it was more common than not, there was this huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. And I finally had some hope that recovery was possible.
2. Your Eating Disorder is Real and That Doesn’t Make You Weak.
I wanted to be perfect. Admit I have everything under control. Wrong. Infact, covering up my ED by pretending that it didn’t exist made everything worse. I lost so much time and energy that I could have been using to recover covering up and hiding. First, it’s not in your head. Your ED is real and it’s a psychological disorder. It usually stems from copping from some type of trauma or from childhood problems. That’s real and it’s okay. Getting help and starting your recovery doesn’t make you weak. It makes you the stronger person you know.
3. Having Others Keep You Accountable is Key.
When I finally told the people around me, that’s when my recovery started. I was so worried about what people would think of me. The one thing that stuck out to me was, “No one is going to believe you”.. “You’re too fat to have an ED”. Man, those are such lies. EDs affect every type of person, at every age in every size and in every gender. When you finally let the people you care and love in on your secret, it holds you accountable. Now, people are in on your recovery and the stakes are higher. It’s also so important to realize that you can’t trust your brain in your current ED state. It is going to lie to you. That’s it. No truth, no hope, only lies. When you have outside help, your behavior is more noticeable and can start to be correct.
4. Recovery is Possible.
Recovery is possible. It’s real and people actually do it. You can too. That’s it, that’s the point.
5. You are Not Your Body and Your Size and Physical Image DON’T Define You.
You are so much more than your physical being. Your size isn’t your worth. Actually, size is a social construct that white men made up to control and have power.. We bought into it for so long. You are smart, creative, compassionate and so much more. None of those things have to do with your appearance. This is one I’m still working on. But, when you start to understand that the only person you need to worry about pleasing is yourself, you may realize that you like who you are. Maybe one day you may even love who you are.
Like I said, things aren’t perfect. Most days are hard. But it’s getting easier. There is hope for you.
The first step is admitting to yourself that you’re in deep and that it’s okay not to be okay. I see you. Your eating disorder is real. There is hope for your recovery.
For anyone who struggles with EDs I highly suggest getting professional help. It doesn’t make you crazy or stupid. Right now, you can’t trust your own brain, so let someone else help. It makes everything safer in the long run.