Earlier this week I drove downstate and did an interview with a local TV station as a part of a piece showcasing the treatment center I went to. After answering what seemed like a million questions, one question is still stuck in my brain, "Do the people closest to you understand your eating disorder? If not, how have you dealt with that."
Even after having a few days to process this, I still don't know how exactly to answer that question. The simple answer is NO; people in general do not understand eating disorders. But WHY people don't understand has been the real question nagging at me all week.
For someone who has never had an eating disorder, food is just food. It's that simple. Sometimes people think eating disorders are developed out of stubbornness or are only for the attention, but they rarely have anything to do with either of those things.
Sometimes for me it's difficult to even understand my own eating disorder. Why is eating so difficult for me? Eating is one of the first means of survival we learn as infants. We cannot survive without it. If I am unable to understand why I struggle with it, then how am I supposed to explain it to others? Unless you have been there and lived with an eating disorder, it is impossible to fully grasp the mind set involved.
My eating disorder was more about control. There was so much hurt bottled up inside me and by controlling my food intake, I was able to channel that hurt. For most people, the decent into an eating disorder is not a conscious decision. Eating disorders don't have a cut and dry process. In the beginning I didn't feel thin enough to have an eating disorder, which is where the denial began for me.
Somewhere along the way I reached a point where I could no longer distinguish myself from the eating disorder. In the beginning I could recognize the eating disordered thoughts and label them as unhealthy, but as things progressed and I began to feel the need for more control, everything got blurry. The more I tried to control my eating habits, the more the disorder began to control me. There is a point where there is no turning back and more often than not, a person has no idea they have crossed that line.
It almost became an obsessive compulsive thing for me. My rituals and habits began to control my entire day. If one of those rituals was broken or I got off track, it was like my whole world was ending. I needed that routine to keep me safe. If the rules were broken I felt as though I needed to punish myself. A part of me didn't even understand why I was doing these insane things, but the one thing I did know for sure was that all hell broke loose if I fell off the wagon. Without the rituals I almost felt worthless, even though saying that now sounds totally irrational.
At this point, the brain becomes so malnourished that it is literally impossible to think straight. Everything that goes on in an eating disordered mind is irrational. From an outsider's perspective I can finally see where this would be a difficult thing to understand.
That may or may not have helped anyone understand my eating disorder or even made any sense, but I'm learning to be okay with that. It can be frustrating to go through recovery without a support system who understands. But I think the bottom line here is - people don't need to understand. I have learned to accept that those closest to me don't understand everything, but I CAN still recover.
I spent quite a few months feeling hurt and insulted that my own parents don't understand, but I have recently learned that they can still be supportive without getting it. Will I ever be able to pinpoint why our society is so clueless when it comes to eating disorders? Probably not. But that does not need to stop me from recovering.