Author: Val Berenshtein
I am not sick enough. I am not restricting enough. I am not hurting myself. I am just bored. I need to be busier. I have anxiety and depression. I don’t have an eating disorder. I am fine.
These are the lies…
my illness would seductively whisper into my ear – the lies that would permeate my brain and sink me deeper into sickness. From the time that I reluctantly went into my first, formal treatment program to today, when I have wholly dedicated myself to recovery, my eating disorder has been endlessly trying to convince me that I do not have it “bad enough”, that I cannot possibly be “ill enough” to need recovery or the physical changes accompanied with it.
Despite my desire to achieve a full recovery…,
I often find it difficult to distinguish between the disorders’ lies and my honest recognitions. For the past two weeks, I have felt like I could not stop eating – not because of mental hunger, but rather because of boredom. I have been sitting in solidarity for the majority of my days, picking up one activity after another, far too quickly getting bored of each. Even though I would not feel hungry – whether that hunger be mental or physical –, I would constantly find myself thinking about when my next meal would be. These thoughts would come despite the extreme physical pain, soreness and tenderness my entire body, and particularly my stomach, has been undergoing, which would add to the confusion and doubt I would be experiencing about whether or not I am doing recovery “the right way” and whether or not I need recovery at all.
But, here is the thing. One, there is no “right way” or one way to recover. Two, I have had an eating disorder for the past five years, so no matter how difficult and endless and confusing and frightening the process may be right now, it is worth pursuing and pushing through.
Ask me how I lived the past five years…
and my only answer would be, “In weakness and in denial.”
I have had an eating disorder for 5 years. That is the God honest truth. I do not remember the last time I did not have some form of anxiety after eating a meal. I do not remember the last time I was able to relax – just sit still – after eating an adequate amount of food. I do not remember the last time I did not limit what I wanted and how much I wanted when I would be around my friends and family. I do not remember the last time I felt wholly invested in a project, an event, a conversation, another person or a passion without having thoughts of food floating around my mind.
Thinking back, perhaps the scariest thing that comes to mind is that even when I spent seven months in a formal treatment setting, my illness convinced me to restrict, to compensate, to lie and to mistrust the entire recovery process. They [the treatment team] aren’t trying to make you better, it would whisper. They are only trying to change you physically. You already have your period. You don’t need any more changes. You’re recovered. Just be done.
The illness never left.
It stayed with me through every lie that rolled from my tongue about my “improvement”, through every walk I would force myself to go on after eating, through every eating disorder awareness event I organized and presentation I gave. It made me stop my recovery prematurely, before I could even realize what was going on.
If all of this did not mean I was “ill enough”, then I do not know what else would have gave me that qualification.
What we have to understand about eating disorders…
is that they are not about weight, they are not about food and they are not about eating. One does not have to be overweight or underweight to have an eating disorder. BMI and other “ideal weight” measurements – which are not ideal markers of health or weight whatsoever – have nothing to do with distinguishing between who has an eating disorder or who does not. One does not have to be a certain gender, age, race, shape or weight to have an eating disorder. The disorder will latch on, hold on and destroy no matter what you look like or who you are.
Eating disorders are a mental game for control. They are the poisonous venom of some sort of trauma or inconsistency in one’s life that drives him or her to regulate something in life. Food, weight and appearance happen to be highly used venues of that regulation – that desire for control.
In addition, these illnesses lie on a spectrum. Choosing to recover does not mean you have to fall at one extreme or the other. Experiencing anxiety around food, limiting intake at a particular time of day or when around people, having an uncontrollable relationship with exercise, and following an extremely strict diet with an accompanied fear of expanding the scope of that diet are just several examples of what disordered eating or an eating disorder may look like. The bottom line is that if your relationship with food feels in any way inappropriate or impeding on your quality of life, then you have every right to seek recovery and to dedicate yourself to the process.
There is no such thing as being “sick enough” when it comes to having an eating disorder or disordered eating. That is just an excuse the illness will tell you to keep you from taking back control of your life.