A False Reality: The Masterpiece of Eating Disorders

Author: Val Berenshtein

When you design your life around a lie…

– a false reality that looks like truth –, you sentence yourself to the earliest form of death, a form in which you are merely surviving rather than living. I wish I had realized this sooner. I wish I had realized this when I would pass on high school field-trips, when I would audition for local choirs but never partake, when I would decline all of my friends’ invitations to go out after choir concerts. I wish I had realized this when I would quit every part-time job I was employed at, when I stopped seeing my friends outside of school, when I almost dropped out of school. I wish I had realized this when I still could not realize how much I relied on others to provide me with the attention I needed to feel love towards myself, to be happy in myself, and to feel like I had worth.

My eating disorders put these truths into a black box and hid the key so that I could not realize what was going on inside me and all around me.

I have been ill with eating disorders…

for over five years. Yes, I went through hospitalization and treatment. Yes, I saw many therapists and doctors. Yes, I dedicated the latter years of high school to advocating for and publicly speaking on eating disorder awareness: running a campaign, organizing community events, and traveling around the county to speak at different schools, treatment facilities, and community meetings.

Yes, I was ill throughout all of this.

The thing with eating disorders – and any mental illness, in fact – is that once one goes through formal treatment for them, he or she wants to be completely recovered and no longer struggling; however, this is very seldom the case.

I was in treatment for seven months, and it was the hardest thing I have had to go through to date. Weight restoration was painful, both physically and mentally. Trust between me and my treatment team was weak. My family seemed to be breaking more than coming together, which made my journey that much more difficult. When my case closed in the summer of 2015, I was more than relieved; I was ecstatic! I wanted to believe that I was cured, that everything was over, that I had won.

But, I knew that I was still ill.

I told nobody…

I was scared. I did not want to endure anymore physical changes. I did not want to hear specialists telling me I was not done yet. I wanted to believe that where I was at – in terms of weight, in terms of appointments, in terms of therapy sessions and the like – was enough. Yet, I knew none of this was true, that my illness was seducing me into a false reality, holding me captive from taking those last steps towards a complete recovery.

It took me a long time to realize how ill I have been and how much of my adolescence and, now, young adulthood I had wasted because of eating disorders. It took me a long time to realize that I did not want to waste any more time.

I am still scared – very scared…

But, my desire to achieve a complete mental recovery is stronger than it has ever been before. My recovery, this time around, is happening within my own self, without the involvement or help of a formal treatment setting or a team of specialists. I am following the advice and blogs of Tabitha Farrar, recovered anorexia patient and, now, eating-disorder recovery coach. She talks immensely on eating without any constraints, plans and doubts of amount consumed, as these things provide routine for the eating disorder, which is exactly what the patient is trying to break! Two of her blogs in particular, one and two, have helped me greatly and detail what my recovery looks like right now. I encourage you to take a look at these posts, as you will not only build your knowledge of what eating disorders are, but also gain tools on how to better help me and others going through a similar process.

Living life to its fullest capacity, …

exploring dreams, aspirations and adventures, is something I tremendously desire to do. The only way I can do this, however, is by eradicating the one thing that has stood in my way for over five years – the one thing that destroyed the beautiful, happy, ebullient, funny, adventurous and silly girl I had been throughout my entire childhood and early adolescence.

Eating disorders had destroyed me, and I think I am ready to return the favor.

As with any struggle – health or otherwise –, I will need tremendous support, love and understanding. There will be times when my physical and mental pains will prevent me from reaching out for help and times when it will seem like everything is going fine. But, I will still need support. I will still need love. I will still need understanding.

This post is my way of…

not only working towards reducing the stigma around eating disorders, but also reaching out for help. There is a stigma associated with expressing one’s struggles online or through mass media – a stigma that needs to be eradicated just as much as or perhaps even more than that of the an illness itself. There is absolutely nothing wrong with publicly reaching out for help. It does not invoke weakness but rather exemplifies strength and courage.

By expressing our struggles, we are not only helping ourselves, but also giving a voice to all those who, in this moment, cannot do the same.

I am going through recovery for atypical anorexia. Although I am scared of physical changes, I am also ready to destroy this illness once and for all.

What is your struggle?

-Val Berenshtein

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