“Eating was hard. Breathing was hard. Living was hardest (Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls).”
When you have an eating disorder, you know. Even if you refuse to recognize it or do not feel the urge to do anything about it, you know that your thought processes are somehow different from the average John or Jane Doe’s.
Yet somehow, simultaneously, when you have an eating disorder, you do not know. Even if you know the warning signs and read every first hand account you can get your hands on, you do not know how deeply you are changed.
I know quite a few truths about eating disorders. I can rattle off statistics about rates, races, and types for hours. I can list the symptoms of each complex type and even make my observations regarding who is more susceptible. I hold a lot of facts, but it was not until recently that I could even see my own disorder. It was not until this past year that I could see the negative slant of my own thoughts regarding nutrition.
Slim hips. Flat stomachs. Strong collarbones. Thin thighs. Lean legs. Delicate arms. Tight skin. Angular facial bones. Nearly nonexistent chests.
I wanted so little for myself, yet I thought it was so much.
I wanted so little for myself, and I know it, yet I often stillcrave it.
“That was the thing: Once, the difference between light and dark had been basic. One was good, one bad. Suddenly, though, things weren’t so clear. The dark was still a mystery, something hidden, something to be scared of, but I’d come to fear the light, too. It was where everything was revealed, or seemed to be. Eyes closed, I saw only the blackness, reminding me of this one thing, the most deep of my secrets; eyes open, there was only the world that didn’t know it, bright, inescapable, and somehow, still there. (Sarah Dessen, Just Listen)”
This is the crux of the problem of eating disorders: The reality of them is far from black and white, particularly when it comes to the views of the sufferers themselves. The gray area between right and wrong, and true and false, is ever more dense. The gray area is an all-consuming and sight-blocking fog that, somehow, most people have no notions about.
Eating disorders are not simple, just like so many other situations in life.
In today’s society, most will name Bulimia Nervosa and Anorexia Nervosa as the principle eating disorders. However, it goes much farther than two scientific titles. The gray area.
Disordered eating involves so many different factors. Yes, it can involve continued restriction and dieting. Yes, it can involve recurrent binging andpurging. But, there is so much more.
I am not here to judge. It is not for me to say that all those with eating disorders need to seek treatment or that they should continue with their current ways. I simply believe that eating disorders are far more complicated than they seem, and most of the world’s population do not understand. People as a whole need to be more aware, because eating disorders involve more than food–they involve people. And, people are devastatingly beautiful, complex beings.
“I wondered which was harder, in the end. The act of telling, or who you told it to. Or maybe if, when you finally got it out, the story was really all that mattered (Sarah Dessen, Just Listen).”
Where my own disordered thinking is concerned, I know that I have been wrong. I know that change needs to happen. I know that eating food is not equivalent to catastrophe.
Yet, somewhere inside of me is a nugget of doubt. Somewhere inside there is a need to keep on the same path I have already paved. Somewhere inside there is the poison of disorder.
And while disorder can be beautiful, this disorder is not. It is the child of tragedy and pain. This disorder is in no way lovely.
This is why I will change my own ways.
This is why I will share my story.
I have written this post because I know the complexity of eating disorders and disordered thinking. I want others who have experienced this life, for even a brief time, to know that I am here and I understand. If we band together and show our support, disordered thinking can be changed for the better. If you need someone, I am here.
“I spin and weave and knit my words and visions until a life starts to take shape.There is no magic cure, no making it all go away forever. There are only small steps upward; an easier day, an unexpected laugh, a mirror that doesn’t matter anymore.I am thawing. (Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls)”