I Have An Eating Disorder

I have no hesitation about owning the label ‘self-harmer‘. No shame about ‘depressed‘, ‘anxious‘, ‘suicidal‘. I excel at all of these things. I have hospital admissions, medications, surgeries, stitches and scars to prove that they’re true.

But for over a decade, I’ve been too ashamed to admit, even to myself, that I have an eating disorder.

At first, I thought it didn’t count, because I didn’t throw up after I binged. And that was shameful, because I should be making myself throw up. I was a disgusting pig, and I deserved to throw up.

Then I got a little older, into my late teens, and I started to realise that maybe there was a little more to eating disorders than the lectures about anorexia and bulimia we got in high school. But I was afraid to think too much about it, and anyway, I was a ‘normal’ weight, so I couldn’t have an eating disorder.

And now I’m in my mid-twenties, and getting more and more aware of the times that I eat even though I’m not hungry. Even though a voice in my head is telling me ‘I don’t want to eat this‘. Even though I feel full, and sick. I’ve been characterising it as an unhealthy coping mechanism, a way of dealing with emotions, and mostly just ignoring it. Never, ever mentioning it to therapists, because it’s not extreme enough for me to be proud of it, to own it. I am not ashamed of self-harm, because I have to suffer for the relief. And I hate this, I hate it, because all I’m doing is losing control and stuffing my face.

When I was a teenager, my mother was obese and miserable about her weight, and she used to call me a pig and pinch my hips, seeing how much fat she could grab. Even now that I’m an adult, and science tells me I’m a little below the “ideal” weight for my height, if she sees me eating something she doesn’t approve of she’ll look me up and down, a pinched, disgusted look on her face, and say “Well, you don’t need any dinner“.

And I so didn’t want her to win. I didn’t want to have any body issues; I wanted to sail through it, unaffected. But the truth is, she is winning. She’s made me so ashamed of eating, so ashamed of not being underweight, that I can’t even confess to myself that I might have a problem. (Another one.)

Last night, I went and read the diagnostic criteria, and the verdict seems pretty conclusive. I still hate it. I’m still ashamed. But I might as well admit it.

I have an eating disorder.

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I Have An Eating Disorder

17 thoughts on “I Have An Eating Disorder

  1. Wow Rea. Supper proud of you! The messages we tell ourselves are so difficult to overcome and here you are breaking the shame and the silence. Huge step. So darn proud of you! And ugghh your mom. Not okay. Not ever. I am sorry.

    I’ve kinda realized I have an unhealthy relationship with food. Its a tough one.

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    1. It is tough, especially when you have other more “serious” self-harm behaviours like we do – having an unhealthy relationship with food seems like a good alternative in some ways.

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  2. It’s so hard when those tapes we play in our heads about weight and food and size and body image are messages our mothers gave us, not just indirectly but directly. My mom gave very direct messages, too, and they still run in my head. Admitting it is the first step, as PD said. This is a big thing. Good job, I know it was not easy to do. 💟

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    1. It was harder than even I realised it would be – but hard to deny I have a problem when writing about it intensifies the urge to eat unhealthily! Ugh, I have so much therapy ahead of me.

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  3. First, this is a really big deal. I feel so honored to read about your process and awareness into the eating disorder. So thank you for sharing with us.
    Second, what you write about not thinking you have an eating disorder because of your weight, reinforces my critiques of the DSM (IV and others); the textbook eating disorders don’t encompass everyone. And the way the media portrays eating disorders, and the way the medical community (including mental health) continues to be overtly weight biased (biases against larger bodies) leads people of all sizes and shapes to invalidate their experiences. If you aren’t a certain weight, you have no problem with food. If you are a certain weight, you must have a problem with food, etc. I care about your internal experience. I care about your shame, and the function food serves for you, in helping cope with the distress you feel. I care about how you relate to your body and your sense of self and worth attached to your body. Eating disorders are so incredibly painful and isolating, particularly and kind of binge-eating (speaking from my own experience). I know that pain so well, and the shame so well from the inability to stop eating. I’m so glad that you are starting to talk about it, to yourself, and us, and hopefully others in your life who can support you through this.

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    1. I seriously thought about taking this post down – apparently I’m struggling with admitting this even more than I initially realised. But your comment made me feel better. Thanks, Rachel.

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  4. It took a lot of strength to share this, Rea.
    It’s funny how we feel that we “don’t count” as having a problem, just because our problem doesn’t present the exact same way as other people. For a long time, I thought I “didn’t count” at having BPD because I don’t have angry and impulsive outbursts. My ex-therapist still thinks that, but by this point, I know better. Even though I sometimes still doubt myself.
    Having the strength and insight to realize that you have a problem (and I hate to say problem, because when I think of you I don’t think of problems, I think of your eloquent writing and sense of humor and beauty and strength! Really!) is the first step to finding healing, as others have mentioned. Hugs to you xxx ❤

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    1. That’s exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you. I didn’t realise until now how important it is to me to be recognised for my strengths as well as my “problems” – I so appreciate your comment.

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  5. Hi Rea, I am slowly getting back into the blogging world. I have been thinking about you though. I have missed you.

    It’s a big deal to come to this realization. I hope the feeling of shame will go away soon, since really having an eating disorder is no more shameful than being depressed or anxious. It just is. You are still the same loving person regardless.

    I see that this was now already 10 days ago, and I am wondering what this realization has meant for you. Have you brought it up in therapy? Or are you planning to?

    Sending you hugs, care and support.

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    1. I missed you too, Q. I don’t think the shame is going anywhere soon, but I get to acknowledge what’s happening now – to name it while I’m doing it, even if that doesn’t actually change it yet.

      I’m nowhere near being able to bring it up in therapy, but I sent Nikki a blog post which mentions body issues (though not the eating disorder specifically). And told her we aren’t allowed to discuss it ever. I don’t know how everybody is able to be so vulnerable with their therapists. It feels so beyond me at the moment. All I end up doing is sitting and colouring with mine, even though I need to talk to her so badly.

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