Anorexia is a Mental Illness. I swear. And, Oh, How I Wish I Didn’t Have to Convince You
Good morning my loves! J TODAY, April 7th, 2017 is my RECOV-ANNIVERSARY, a.k.a. today marks two months to the day that I was LITERALLY looking the risk of death right in the eye & gained THE MOST INSANE WILLPOWER to tell it to PEACE THE EFF OFF. In honour of my anniversary, I will EAT CAKE & COOKIES & MORE CAKE & COOKIES & ZOMFG, I can’t wait. No but seriously, knowing I have been beating this thing for two months got me feeling all the feels this morning & I had this incessant urge (The same powerful urge I had to devour my overnight oats last night, but then realized I’d have no breaky for this morning so, I resisted) to type away at 5:00AM in an attempt to educate my beautiful (& handsome – YES, I hope I have some male readers too!) blog readers about the stigmas surrounding eating disorders & how they affected me & my willpower (or lack thereof, until two months ago) to recover. SO HERE GOES MY LOVES (Grab a cup of coffee, or tea, or one of my delish SMOOTHIES, because this one is going to be long);
Throughout the course of the progression & degradation of my MENTAL (yes, MENTAL) illness, I have come to know that most people underestimate not only the existence, but also the POWER of an eating disorder, believing that the victim will “grow out of it” and/or that “it’s just a phase”. Let me tell you, FROM HORRIBLE EXPERIENCE, that these misconceptions are a HUGE MISTAKE. My experience with anorexia (AND BEING BLAMED FOR CHOOSING IT) has made me realize how EASILY mental disorders and diseases can therefore go undetected, or worse, be undermined & ignored.
The result of this complete & utter ignorance and these misconceptions & underestimations is that individuals facing the devastating reality of an eating disorder also face the ADDITIONAL stress (And trust me when I tell you that we don’t need it!!) & challenges of serious stigma. “What stigma”, you ask? There is a commonly held view that an eating disorder is a LIFESTYLE CHOICE & that recovery simply means dropping some negative behaviour (Guys, if it were that simple, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I would’ve said “BYE FELICIA!” to anorexia a hell of a long time ago. TRUST ME, just like you do with your tummies). The reality is that eating disorders are one of the most complex & serious psychological disorders that cause significant physical, mental, emotional & social impairment. WORSE, THEY ALSO KILL. In fact, I learned (from my very educated therapist) that anorexia nervosa actually has the highest fatality rate of ANY (yes, ANY) psychiatric disorder… Scary, right?
Now, ask yourselves: WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WOULD CHOOSE TO SUBJECT THEMSELVES TO SOMETHING SO SCARY? Nobody. So, yes I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again; I did not, BY ANY MEANS, IN ANY WAY, SHAPE OR FORM, CHOOSE ANOREXIA. ANOREXIA CHOSE ME. STOP BLAMING ME. (“Ok, but she must be crazy. Anorexia isn’t a person. How could she say anorexia literally chose her? Illnesses cannot make choices regarding who they affect”). You’re right guys, I sound insane. But, the only way to transmit the message & attempt to explain how anorexia LITERALLY takes over your body, mind & soul is to personify her because nothing & I mean, NOTHING, feels worse than feeling like you are dominated, and ergo, have lost TOTAL CONTROL OVER YOUR MIND. And the only way I see it is that something so EXTREME can only occur if SOMEBODY STRONGER, BIGGER, SCARIER BUT MOSTLY, MORE POWERFUL THAN YOU HAS GRASPED THAT CONTROL & WILL DO ANYTHING POSSIBLE TO PRESERVE IT).
So, sit in front of your computer screen now & tell me that anorexia is a lifestyle choice, a diet (gone wrong), a selfish attempt to be thin, beautiful & ergo “the talk of the town” (“OMG, she’s so tiny. Did you see how good she looks? She lost so much weight. I wonder how she did it. She must have so much willpower”) & YOU ARE UNDERSTIMATING THE DISEASE THAT LITERALLY TOOK ME ON THE SCARIEST ROLLERCOASTER OF MY LIFE (And that wouldn’t be fair, now, would it?). Oh and side note: I’m scared of rollercoasters. So you can imagine JUST HOW SCARY it was when I realized I had already embarked on the biggest-scariest-most-up-&-down-OMG-I-feel-like-throwing-up-somebody-get-me-off-I-can’t-breathe-rollercoaster & IT WAS JUST TOO LATE TO GET OFF (Yep, I like metaphors & stuff).
No, but seriously, let me tell you, (and yes, once again, I speak from first-hand HORRIBLE experience); those who label anorexia or rather, who refuse to acknowledge that it is inherently a mental illness MAKE THE BATTLE SO MUCH HARDER. “Why”, you ask? Step into my shoes and ask yourselves: How do you tackle an illness if the people you love most literally BLAME YOU FOR THE ILLNESS, refuse to acknowledge that you’re actually suffering & undermine said suffering, refusing to equate it with the pain associated with any other illness or disease? AND MORE SO, How am I supposed to tackle an illness if the consensus is that it doesn’t exist? OR WORSE, “that it’s just a phase, “that it’s a result of my own vanity” or WORST OF ALL, “that I chose it”?
The answer: YOU LET YOURSELF FALL, BUT YOU GET BACK UP. You teach your mind (every single second of every single day) not to let the misconceptions hinder your progress and not to let those who undermine or discourage you get in the way of your recovery. You learn to focus & prioritize YOU (No matter how hard it is & even if it’s something YOU HAVE NEVER DONE IN YOUR LIFE), you WORK ON YOUR MIND 24/7 (You HAVE TO literally talk to yourself & teach your mind that you are stronger than anorexia, even if you LOOK & FEEL LIKE THE WEAKEST PERSON IN THE WORLD), you fight (REALLY FREAKING HARD, WITH A REALLY, REALLY SHARP SWORD) every single waking minute, because you look back at what your life looked like just a few short months ago & you crumble at the thought. You will do ANYTHING, ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING, not to take a step back (even a really, really small one) & not to let yourself fall back into that sinkhole (a.k.a. HELL) because you know how hard it is to crawl out of it. YOU DID IT ONCE & DO NOT WANT TO DO IT AGAIN (It’s kind of like when you eat the entire batch of my Homemade Kale Chips or my Ooey-Gooey Blueberry Muffins… YOU DID IT ONCE, & DO NOT WANT TO DO IT AGAIN, only with these babies, it’s HARDER TO RESIST & YOU DO IT AGAIN ANYWAYS). No, no, but in all seriousness, I won’t be a hypocrite & UNDERMINE anorexia. I think it’s safe to say that it cannot be equated with kale chips or blueberry muffins (LAWLZ) & that it goes FAR, FAR beyond those yummy treats.
Okay, but you’re probably still wondering, if eating disorders are not lifestyle choices, what are they? GUYS, COME ON, SERIOUSLY. EATING DISORDERS ARE MENTAL ILLNESSES. How many times do I have to tell you? TBH, if I have to, I’ll sit here & tell you 3820483204982042 times if it means I will even be able to educate & inspire a handful of people BECAUSE WE LITERALLY NEED TO CHANGE THE STIGMA (And who better to change a stigma surrounding an illness than the person going through it, right?).
It is truly mind boggling to me how people will treat other diseases with biological, genetic and/or socio-cultural influence factors AS REAL DISEASES & will empathize with the person suffering, but when it comes to eating disorders, they will accuse the victims (YES, WE ARE VICTIMS) of selfishly choosing to restrict in order to look like a catwalk model (EW. GUYS… I mean the clothes are nice & stuff, but do you really think I look in the mirror and think I’m pretty? If you do, THINK AGAIN. I look in the mirror & I want to throw up (BUT I DON’T. Because I need to keep those calories!!!!). I hate myself & the way I look. I do not find myself pretty. I do not think I look like a “catwalk model”. I do not want to look like a “catwalk model”. I want to look like a normal HEALTHY 26-year old woman with curves – a.k.a. boobs & a butt – and I DON’T CARE ABOUT LOOKING PRETTY, I WANT TO FEEL PRETTY). ALL THIS TO SAY, there is a difference between the desire to look a certain way and the desire to feel a certain way. For me, LOOKING pretty has become so overrated, seriously. What matters most to me now is feeling (Guys, it still feels so crazy for me to use the word “feel” and to actually let myself “feel”, no matter how nuts that sounds!) pretty. “What does that entail”, you ask? For me, feeling pretty has become about EMBRACING WHO I AM, HOW FAR I’VE COME & HOW ANOREXIA HAS CHANGED MY LIFE (YES, IN SOME WAYS, FOR THE BETTER). IT’S ABOUT COMMENDING MYSELF FOR FACING MY FEARS, FOR OVERCOMING OBSTACLES, FOR GRIEVING MY MOM’S DEATH WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY TACKLING AN EATING DISORDER & HOW I HAVE NEVER FELT BETTER & HEALTHIER THAN I HAVE IN THE PAST TWO MONTHS. That, my loves, is the definition of PRETTY.
SO (I’m almost done, I swear!), my loves, what can you retain from this post? Take it from someone who went through HELL & BACK, WENT TO HELL AGAIN & IS FINALLY BACK FOR GOOD, like ANY & I MEAN, ANY, other disease, victims of eating disorders NEED all the SUPPORT in the world to gain the willpower to step into recovery (ESPECIALLY from the people they value & love most in their lives). They need recognition. They need care. They need love. They need a shoulder to cry on. They need help. BUT MOST OF ALL, THEY NEED ACKNOWLEDGEMENT. Of what, you ask? Acknowledgement that what they are going through is genuinely HELL, that it goes far beyond the scope of a wedding-diet turned uber-restrictive, that they are LITERALLY suffering every single second of every day, that their illness is REAL, that it is a disease the body, BUT ALSO OF THE MIND (LIKE ANY OTHER PHYSICAL OR MENTAL ILLNESS) & that it is one THAT THEY MOST CERTAINLY DID NOT (AND WOULD NEVER) CHOOSE.
So please, guys, if you can retain one thing from this post, it’s not to fall into the trap of misconceptions, underestimations and ignorance surrounding eating disorders (LOVE how I used the word “trap”… I LITERALLY FELT TRAPPED BY ANOREXIA. ANOREXIA TRAPPED ME. YES, I PERSONIFIED ANOREXIA AGAIN). Eating disorders are mental illnesses & are most-certainly-200%-guaranteed NOT lifestyle choices made by extremely selfish individuals motivated to “look & feel pretty”. We are not “one size fits all”. We are not all attention seekers. We do not wish to lash out or harm those around us. We are not trying to transmit a message. Eating disorders reach FAR DEEPER than vanity & are far more complex. WE ARE VICTIMS. WE ARE SUFFERING. WE ARE FACED WITH THE RISK OF DEATH EVERY SINGLE SECOND OF EVERY SINGLE DAY. WE WANT TO GET BETTER BUT WE CAN’T. And trust me, as a victim of anorexia, if eating disorders were as simple to understand as, “Okay, Kelly, just get over yourself. You don’t need to look like the models. Just eat that cookie dough”, I WOULD’VE DEVOURED IT INSTANTLY (THE SAME WAY I AM PROUD TO SAY THAT I INTEND TO MAKE & DEVOUR AN ENTIRE BATCH OF MY COOKIE DOUGH BALLS TODAY, not to mention all the cake I will eat, IN HONOUR OF MY BEING TWO MONTHS INTO RECOVERY!!!!!!!!! HOLY CR*P!). (OH & in case you were wondering, now that I am off that biggest-scariest-most-up-&-down-OMG-I-feel-like-throwing-up-somebody-get-me-off-I-can’t-breathe-rollercoaster & THAT I SURVIVED IT, it is safe to say FACING MY FEARS THE. MOST. REWARDING. ACCOMPLISHMENT OF MY LIFE.