This Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I found myself thinking back to the summer of 2013.
I’ll set the scene: I’m eighteen years old, sitting in a cafe whilst chatting with someone I’ve spent every week of my summer with, and, with hot chocolate in hand, I’m in disbelief that, in just 1 week, I will set off on my new journey into University life.
Whilst this sounds like a standard existential crisis moment, common in every adolescent’s life – for me, this was extra special. Because the person I was sat next to was my liaison nurse who, throughout Sixth Form, supported me in my recovery from Anorexia Nervosa.
So, whilst most ‘pre-uni’ summer holidays consisted of friends, parties, alcohol and food; mine consisted of psychiatrists, hospitals, a lot of crying and, well, food, actually.
Therefore, after all that, and having managed to keep myself in University for the past two years, I thought it appropriate that I should share a few home-truths about the reality of eating disorders:
“An eating disorder is just about food.”
So, despite the name, a disordered relationship with food is just one of the symptoms of an eating disorder. Like a tumour, the more you ignore it, the more it disperses, to the point where every organ of your being begins to decay. No longer does one have time to fully immerse themselves in friendships, romances, family or hobbies as eating disorders are about self-destruction, and it will aim to destroy every aspect of your life that previously made you thrive.
“Anorexia and Bulimia are the main forms of eating disorders.”
Whilst Anorexia and Bulimia are important, they are just two amongst the numerous life-threatening eating disorders which exist. Binge Eating Disorder carries the same psychological processes and life threatening consequences as Anorexia and Bulimia; along with EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified), which refers to those with symptoms that do not meet the fixed ‘criteria’ of an Eating Disorder diagnosis. (And don’t be fooled by the wishy-washy medical term: the seriousness of a mental illness is not determined by a medical book.)
“You can see someone’s eating disorder.”
Anorexics and Bulimics aren’t all skinny, and Binge Eaters aren’t all overweight.
People seem to forget that an eating disorder is a mental illness, it’s not purely about the physical side effects that may occur as a result, it’s about your mental stability.
So, in the scene I set you earlier, I had gained, or should I say restored, a substantial amount of weight– but just because one looks physically healthy, and is eating the way their body requires them to, all of that means nothing when a truce in the conflict has yet to be declared within your mind.
So, although it is Eating Disorders Awareness week, an eating disorder – like a chronic disease – requires constant monitoring: where recovery is an on-going journey.
Therefore, it is important to not only acknowledge the existence of eating disorders, but to expand our knowledge so that the people who understand eating disorders are not just those who are victimised and subjected to it, but those who can walk alongside them on their long journey to recovery.
Edited by Georgina Varley