When you have an eating disorder, people think that because they can’t see your bones anymore, you’re fine. I’m anything but.
I once heard a quote by Blythe Baird that said, “If you develop an eating disorder when you are already thin to begin with, you go to the hospital. If you develop an eating disorder when you are not thin to begin with, you are a success story.”
I used to be a success story: “Girl loses her Freshman 15!” the headlines would have read. But then the voice in my head got greedy, and I kept losing weight.
Then, I got caught.
“I know your friend has an eating disorder. But you don’t, do you?”
I had an out. It could’ve been so simple. One word, two letters, and I would’ve been free.
But I didn’t say no, I answered honestly.
That was 3 years ago.
4 treatment centers ago.
XX pounds ago.
I suffer from atypical anorexia. The voice in my head hates that there’s another word in front of anorexia. “You couldn’t even do that right,” it hisses. Atypical anorexia covers all the diagnostic criteria for anorexia except that the individual’s weight is within what is deemed healthy limits. And according to BMI, my weight was never abnormal/unhealthy. Thus, the atypical anorexia diagnosis. “There’s still some time. You can lose some weight and get down to an anorexia diagnosis,” it continues.
Author Marya Hornbacher describes this in her book, Wasted:
“You eat your goddamn Cheerios and bicker with the bitch in your head that keeps telling you you’re fat and weak: Shut up, you say, I’m busy, leave me alone. When she leaves you alone, there’s a silence and a solitude that will take some getting used to. You will miss her sometimes…There is, in the end, the letting go.”
But telling that voice to quiet so I can try to move on with my day isn’t easy these days. There are so many things I’m trying to distract myself from—primarily the cancer diagnosis my mother recently received.
And I’m just not OK.
Sometimes I wish that my body looked like the pain I feel on the inside. Changing my body, losing weight, would provide the illusion that I’m in control of my seemingly out-of-control life.
Disordered eating makes my world smaller. When I’m sick, I have a hard time focusing on anything else because my brain is so focused on calories and numbers and weight and all the foods I’m depriving myself of. It makes sense that I would want to go back to my eating disorder and its small world considering my current world is bursting with things that hurt.
I wish I could say that after 3 years and 4 treatment centers, I’m completely recovered.
I mean, I could say that. It just wouldn’t be the truth.
So here’s the reality of the situation: I’m coming up on the third anniversary of the day I entered eating disorder treatment for the first time. And I’m still struggling.
But I’m trying.
I’m falling and rising again. I am the (wo)man in the arena, as Brené Brown would put it. I’m fighting and getting knocked down, but I’m getting back up, day after day. I may not be the strongest, but I’m resilient as hell.
And I’ll rise again.