After battling with anorexia for years, I decided to share my personal experience with it to fight the stigma around mental illnesses.
TW: Eating disorders mentioned
I used to believe that, to be liked, I had to shrink myself, that the skinnier I was, the more my friends and family would love me. Now, I know it’s the exact opposite. I lost friends, pushed everyone away from me and felt lonelier than ever. I used to place a value of my own worth on how much I weighed, and during every meal, I had to prove I was the one eating the least and exercising the most.
It was exhausting.
Having an eating disorder means being bullied by a voice inside your head constantly telling you you’re a failure, no matter what you do. I was never able to meet my anorexia’s standards. It always demanded more from me. Sometimes, despite being in active recovery and being aware of the sufferance my ED created, I still want to run back to it; it’s a constant back and forth.
Eating disorders are manipulative: they lie to you and take advantage of your insecurities and anxieties. They give you an awful reassurance that skipping one meal will numb the pain away. I felt safe in the arms of anorexia, and when everything around me was falling apart, I felt I was a little less of a failure. But what I didn’t know at the time was that the relief was only temporary, and what anorexia wanted, in the long run, was to kill me. Now, despite being aware of it, it’s still difficult not to run back to it whenever things get tougher or I’m having negative thoughts. However, through my journey to recovery, I’ve equipped myself to isolate those voices and fight against them.
It’s sad to say but, luckily enough, my sufferance got to a point where it was visible to others, and I was forced into recovery against my will before it was too late. But I do want to emphasise that it started a lot earlier. I battled with bad body image and non-existent self-esteem since my teenage years, but I had to meet certain physical criteria before I was able to receive the necessary help, when in reality, losing weight was only a reflection of interior sufferance.
Eating disorders are not about losing weight – that’s just a side effect. They have much deeper roots inside your brain. Eating less or over-exercising are awful coping mechanisms for intrusive thoughts. One of the things that used to scare me the most when I first started recovering was to “look recovered”, but not being there mentally. Indeed, you may think I’m fine from the way I look, but I’m still very far from being recovered.
A lot of people – way more than you may think – are struggling with eating disorders, but you might not notice them because of the stereotypes associated with these illnesses. It’s important to remember that eating disorders don’t have a ‘look’, and every day is a fight against a voice in your head. It’s exhausting and draining, and challenging those voices requires so much more power than succumbing to their demands.
Choosing to actively recover from an eating disorder is one of the hardest things I ever did, but also one of the best. Anorexia took away so many years and memories I will never get back, but at least now I can fight to create new ones and build a better future. To everyone out there still struggling: You’re not alone, you have nothing to be ashamed of, and you don’t have to prove to anyone you’re ‘sick enough’ before reaching out for help.