As some of you may know, May 8th to May 14th is Mental Health Awareness Week so I have decided to write another article about my struggle with an eating disorder. I first wanted to post this for Eating Disorder Awareness Week in February, but never managed to finish it on time as I first of all drowned my MacBook in orange juice which meant two weeks living without one, and after that I have been busy writing essays and trying to perfect this article, debating whether I should publish it or not. Talking about my eating disorder is not easy, but I am slowly learning to do it in order to raise awareness.
Have you ever heard of EDNOS? I would not be surprised if you had not. EDNOS, acronym for Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, is the most common yet less talked about eating disorder. Basically, a person with EDNOS can either show symptoms of other eating disorders (Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge-Eating Disorder, etc.) combined, or not enough symptoms of one disorder to be diagnosed with it. They are therefore put in the category of an eating disorder not otherwise specified. As you can imagine, this is quite problematic for a number of reasons.
Remember how inactive I have been last semester? The reason for this was not because I was too busy or lacked the inspiration, the truth is that in October/November I relapsed into my eating disorder. I started writing an article about it in December but I never managed to publish it. After my blog post ED RECOVERY AND VEGANISM about how much better I was doing and how my vegan lifestyle was helping me recover, I felt incredibly stupid and disappointed that at 20 years old, after years of recovery and priding myself on being the healthiest version of myself that I could be, I suddenly found myself fearing food again. Unfortunately, that is just how it goes with eating disorders and mental illnesses. So here I am, writing an article about it to not only let you know the real reason behind my absence but also to address an illness that has the highest fatality rate of any other mental illness.
I was going to try and explain what it feels like to struggle with an eating disorder but I could write an entire book about it and it still would not be enough. What is important to know is that it is a mental illness and even though it can be treated, it is often a life-long struggle. My battle against this disorder started when I was thirteen years old, almost eight years ago, and here I still am. What is also important to know is that an eating disorder is a self-destructive coping mechanism. Although when I was thirteen it did start off as a consequence of my low self esteem and a belief that if I lost weight I would be happier, these are not the real issues. My relapse last semester was a consequence of every single bad thing that had happened in 2016 that I had no idea how to deal with. Believe me, I am fully aware that starving is the worst possible way to lose weight and that self induced vomiting only leads to health complications, but unfortunately these things do not matter when I am right in the middle of it. My eating disorder is this sudden phobia of gaining weight and disgust towards food, this uncontrollable voice in my head that keeps telling me that I am worthless and that I have to starve/purge/exercise in order to make myself disappear because I do not deserve to take up space. The worst part? This voice never shuts up. Even when I am recovering and eating well, it’s always there. Eating disorders aren’t about weight loss, they are about control and self destruction.
I struggle with an eating disorder which is known as EDNOS. I show symptoms of both anorexia and bulimia, all the while being at a perfectly healthy weight. The issue with this is that this is a struggle completely invisible to the ones around me, but a struggle that could ultimately lead to my death. Now I know that may sound dramatic, but unfortunately it is the truth. I am currently recovering and healthy but that does not change the fact that for the past eight years I have completely neglected my body. Fortunately, I have received proper treatment early on and the damage that I have caused my body is reversible, however I do still experience some physical side effects of my ED today. The issue here is that not many people are aware of the fatal consequences of all eating disorders; that people with healthy BMI’s also die from this illness, not just the ones who are underweight. Even doctors often minimise a patient’s struggle because it may not look as ‘serious’ as Anorexia. Because of this enormous stigma around eating disorders, most people with EDNOS do not believe that they are ‘sick enough’ to ask for help. However, EDNOS being the most prevalent eating disorder is statistically the deadliest, which is why we absolutely need to talk about it.
We need to raise more awareness for all types of eating disorders. Which is what I hope to achieve by talking about it one here. If you have no experience with an eating disorder I hope this article might have helped you -even a little- to understand it better. If you have experience with eating disorders, know that it does not define you, that you are not alone, and most importantly that you deserve to get help. Recovery is tough, but it is the right way. Also, if you suspect that someone is struggling please reach out to them, talk to them, be there for them. We need to stand tall against this illness and help each other out as best as we can. We need to end the stigma.
Interesting further readings: