Monday, February 26, 2018

#EDAW2018 Why can't I talk about anorexia anymore?

I’m going to start #EatingDisordersAwarenessWeek talking about why I believe so many people, who have recovered from an eating disorder, after time, don’t feel they can talk about it during eating disorders awareness week once life has moved on a bit...

Let me explain where my opening post has come from then. I’ve seen a few comments already have people that feel like they are a ‘fraud’ or a ‘fake’ or ‘too fat’ or ‘eat too much’ to talk about anorexia with authority. I feel the same. 

And here is where the problem lies for me. It’s a problem because when you get people who are still willing to talk about eating disorders it is often because they still ‘look like they have one.’ I Include myself in this. Compared to a couple years ago, I feel less genuine talking about anorexia and my experiences now than I did when I was still very under weight and ‘looked’ stereotypically anorexic.

But why? Well, one reason is society still has a misconception of what someone has anorexia looks like - by that I mean anorexic generically and I've found myself conforming to this. This is part of the stigma, living up to a label. For me I looked very different before treatment, in treatment, after treatment but still underweight and now. The same as there is not ‘one size fits all’ for different people with eating disorders, there is also not ‘one size fits all’ for one person who’s had an eating disorder.

We need to get away from the idea that it’s black-and-white. You’re either ill or you’ve recovered, because that is one massive misconception that holds so many people back from taking steps into life after anorexia -and sharing the bit that comes afterwards. You know, life.  The same as it affects whether people get treatment in the first place, you know the old story “I don’t look ill enough to be anorexic." they're both ideas we need to scrap.

This is why during Eating Disorders Awareness Week we need to speak up. Those of us who aren’t the thinnest person we know, not the most restrictive eater, nor are we the most confident body lovers or the completely 'free people ' - those of us, who like me, still have what I often call an ‘anorexia hangover’. Living a life, but with habits we’re working through or learnt to live with - but don’t look skeletal and nine times out of ten are not long defined by an eating disorder. Let's not forget though, everyone is different, and my healthy body and mind is a different shape to someone else. But the people in the middle need to talk about life too. Talk about the symptoms that are still there when 'you don't look like you have anorexia.' We need to not feel like 'we are too fat to help.'

There was a time when I didn’t mind telling somebody I had anorexia or that I was in recovery - and explaining myself out of situations like that, because I still looked pretty ill. But in the last 12 to 18 months I tie myself up in knots trying to explain. Don’t feel valid enough to say I’ve got anorexia, because I don’t identify like that anymore, but also not confident enough to say I’m ‘fully recovered’ in the past tense. Anyone else feel like you're making it up? Yeah, me too. 

So I am guessing I’m not alone, I know this. So to help people move on AFTER the bones disappear, when treatment is over and when we aren’t defined solely by an eating discover anymore - can we all pledge to be more open about overcoming anorexia and battles with bulimia please? At all stages of life after treatment. 

It’s sort of like pushing for earlier intervention, for life, right? Because, after all those of us living a fuller life have more distance from living with an eating disorder, and possibly are best placed to take that bitch down. 

If you need help for an eating disorder please contact Beat @BeatED on Twitter or call the helpline on 0808 801 0677

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