"I can stop if I want to," you say, not-so-confidently. Deep down, you know you're on a downward spiral that you can't stop yourself. Your therapist isn't trained to help you with this, even if you would allow her to help.
You count the scars going down your arm. How many of the worst of them were the results of a binge? How often have you ended up in the hospital since all this started?
Does it feel good to feel like you're going to pass out every time you stand up? Do you like being cold all the time? Do you enjoy being confused and forgetful?
You try to say yes. That the health effects are not only worth it to be a size 0, but are a symbol of your success. But you know that's not true.
The next day, you tell your therapist that you're ready for a referral.
She dials the number for your case manager at the insurance company.
Heart pounding, you take the phone.
Obviously, this story doesn’t apply to every single person with an eating disorder. It’s a modified version of a poem-type thing I wrote last year during a relapse, based on my own experiences.
This is aimed partially at the general public, but mainly for others with EDs who stumble across this page.
There are many different kinds of eating disorders. Not everyone fits the stereotypes. Not everyone with an ED is a catty, bitchy, thin cishet suburban white girl. Not everyone with an ED has anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Binge Eating Disorder (BED) and EDNOS/OSFED have much in common with AN and BN, and are diagnosed far more often.
An eating disorder diagnosis has very little to do with what your weight is and everything to do with your thought processes and habits around food. If you use food or withhold it from yourself as a form of comfort or punishment, if your habits around food are secretive or “shameful,” if it’s interfering with your everyday life, you have an ED. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you weigh, and the professionals who are equipped to help you know that.
I mean, in general doctors and psychiatrists are ignorant and stupid as hell about eating disorders and anything else that wasn't on their exams in school. So many of them have been confused about my diagnosis from res - anorexia nervosa binge/purge subtype - because they think that you either restrict or binge and purge, you can't do BOTH. :eyeroll: Unfortunately, many times this is who you have to go through to get a referral to an ED specialist. Prepare to answer all their stupid questions, remain calm, bring a fucking NAMI handout or something to refer to if you need it.
From July to August 2018, I spent 35 days in residential treatment for my eating disorder. It was one of the most terrifying things I've ever done, and I hated almost every second of it, but now that a year and a half has passed, I realize it's the best decision I ever made for myself.
I wasn't 100% convinced I was making the right choice, even as I was unpacking my bags in my room at the RTC. Going there meant giving up all of my control. I could no longer choose what I ate or how much, or know the nutrition information of what I was fed (didn't even have my phone to look it up, and of course they wouldn't tell me). It was one of the few places that'd tell me my weight, but of course I couldn't control it - the nutritionist chose a weight goal for me (+2 pounds a week).
I was constantly comparing myself to everyone around me. While everyone was congratulating me for completing my meals, the guilt ate me up inside, as I watched the smaller girls who refused to eat, as I covertly glanced at my peers during community meeting, comparing the proportions of my body to theirs. It didn't matter that I was medically underweight, that many of my bones were visible, that I'd come in on a fast track to long-term heart problems; if a single person in the world was skinnier than me, I was a failure.
It wasn't a cure-all. I've had a few relapses since then (though none as severe as before I went to res). While I've gained a lot of weight and I'm eating "normally" now, I still feel disgust over my body, my weight, the amount of calories in my food. I do my best to think of food in the terms they taught me, reminding myself to balance my fats, carbs, and proteins, and remember that I'm taking care of my body. The ED voice is still there in the background, very sneaky and quiet. And of course, I have other mental illnesses and bad habits to address.
Yet, I've never since been as "bad" as the weeks leading up to my stay in res. I spent a long time lamenting over my favorite security blanket and the "progress" I'd lost towards my goal weight. It wasn't until late 2019 that I looked back and realized just how fucking miserable I was when all of my thoughts were about food, when I was constantly measuring and worrying and obsessing. Many of the worst things I've done to myself occurred during that time period. I thought losing weight had given me a reason to live, but truly, it exacerbated my other problems.
I don't want to go on and on about ReCoVeRy Is AmAzInG and all that shit, because I've always found it annoying, especially when I was in the midst of it all and didn't WANT to recover. I'm not going to try to wheedle and persuade anyone. I just hope that sharing my own personal experiences will make somebody reconsider, that's all. Thanks for reading this wall of text.